Jonah 1:4. Since Jonah has refused to defend Yahweh’s honor when called upon, and in fleeing westward to Tarshish has done the opposite and inflicted more shame upon God, God responds as expected: he apparently sets out to kill Jonah, and the unlucky sailor who happen to be with him at the time. The text says that Yahweh hurled a great wind upon the sea. While most people at the time believed that some deities ruled over certain sections of land, and other deities ruled over the sea, and yet others ruled the weather patterns, God is shown here to be in control of the sea and the storm.[ref]Ellison, 370.[/ref] He is the God of all creation, and it appears that He is out to destroy Jonah for his blatant rebellion and shameful behavior.
The great wind caused a great storm. This was no minor storm, but a tempest, a violent burst of wind and waves and pelting rain, the like of which these seasoned sailors had probably never seen. In antiquity, storms were seen to be one of the primary ways that the gods exacted discipline upon people who sinned. Sometimes, if a person’s sin was so great, the gods would wait until that person boarded a ship, and then sink the ship in a storm, along with all the other innocent people who were unlucky enough to be on board.[ref]Sasson, 90-92.[/ref] This is not necessarily how Yahweh disciplines people for sin, but God is using this belief of the sailors to help them discover the sin of Jonah.
The storm was so great, the ship threatened to break into pieces. As indicated in the GEB translation notes on this verse, the Hebrew almost sounds like the ship is groaning, creaking, shivering, and splintering. The Hebrew is a rare construction, implying that the ship “thought” it was going to break up.[ref]Alexander, 102; Sasson, 97.[/ref]