They Cast Lots
They Cast Lots
Chapter 1:7-12 7 And they said everyone to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 8 Then said they unto him, tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; what is thine occupation? And whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou? 9 And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. 10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then said they unto him, what shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. 12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
Verses 7-9 – Many cultures are represented in the ship. They have individually called upon the names of their gods – yet the seas will not be calm – there is but one last thing they can do – as a last resort to ascertain whose guilt has caused such divine anger – they cast lots. God could reveal His will by controlling the lots, which He did. This method of discernment by casting lots was not forbidden in Israel.
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
Joshua 7:14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man.
Jonah is found out. It would appear that it pleased God to interfere in this matter, to direct it to fall on Jonah, with whom He had a particular concern, being a prophet of His, and having disobeyed His will.
It’s confession time. They surround Jonah – I guess they didn’t fall upon him at once in an outrageous manner, and throw him overboard, as it might be thought such men would have done, considering what they had suffered and lost an awful amount because of him. On the contrary, they treat him with great respect, tenderness, and kindness, and implore him to tell them “what have you done”? What sin it was he had been guilty of, which was the cause of it”? For they supposed some great sin must be committed, that had brought down the vengeance of God in such a manner – and how right they were huh?
“What is thine occupation”? “Where do you come from”? “What country do you come from”? “Who are your people”? They probably put these questions to him to determine whether he was employed, or was an idle man; or perhaps whether it was an honest and lawful employment. Whether it was by fraud or violence, by thieving and stealing, he got his livelihood; or by conjuring, and using the magic art. They also wanted to know what he was going about. What he was going to do at Tarshish when he got there? Whether he was not upon some ill design, and sent on an unlawful errand, and going to do something bad, for which vengeance pursued him, and stopped him. They were eager to learn what countryman he was, that they might know who was the God he worshipped, and guess at the crime he had been guilty of. They were extremely frightened for their lives, and when the lot fell on Jonah, they began to question him. They thought he might speak for himself, and perhaps, repent of whatever he was guilty of, so as to appease God. They gave him an opportunity to explain, by answering these questions.
Praise God – Jonah does not deny Him – “I am a Hebrew”. The LORD, the God of heaven is the one I serve and worship. This title that was used from earliest times may have been specifically chosen by Jonah to express the sovereignty of the LORD in contrast to Baal, who was a sky god. Jonah speaking to sailors who were most likely from Phoenicia, the centre of Baal worship, the title bears significant weight, especially when coupled with the phrase “who made the sea and the dry land”. This was the appropriate identification when introducing the true and living God to pagans who didn’t have Scripture, but whose reason led them to recognize the fact that there had to be a Creator. Jonah was proud of the fact he was a Hebrew. He even says, he fears the LORD. One thing in his favour, he does acknowledge God. Jonah told them that he “fears the LORD” – In this Jonah was faithful. He gave an honest testimony concerning the God he served,
Verses 10-12 – He also honestly told them that he was fleeing from the presence of this God, whose call he had refused to obey. It appears, when he booked his passage, he had admitted to some of the sailors that he was running from God. Now, they want to know why he had brought this terrible storm upon them. Unwilling to go to Nineveh and feeling guilty, Jonah was willing to sacrifice himself in an effort to save the lives of others. Apparently, he would rather have died than go to Nineveh.
They knew him to be a prophet; they ask him the mind of his God. The lots had marked out Jonah as the cause of the storm; Jonah had himself admitted it, and that the storm was for his cause, and came from his God. They had a problem – now what is the solution to the problem that the sea may be calm, and the waves silent, for the sea wrought and tempestuous – it was agitated – to and fro and grew more and more stormy and tempestuous? Jonah’s confession of his sin, and true repentance for it, were not sufficient – more must be done to appease an angry God; and what that was – the sailors desired to know. It is interesting to me, that they had enough respect for Jonah’s God, that they asked Jonah to speak his own punishment. They knew something must be done to save their lives.
“Cast me forth into the sea” – What was Jonah really saying here? Could it be (1) His repentance and heroic faith? (2) Does it indicate the intensity of his disobedience – he would rather die that repent and go to Nineveh?
Jonah was aware that God had brought this storm, because of his disobedience. He also realizes if he stays on board, they will all perish. He offers to give his life to save the sailors. He will not take his own life, but will take the rightful punishment for disobeying God. He asks them to throw him into the sea.