1:14. Before they cast Jonah into the sea, they cried out to Yahweh. Up until now, they have been crying out to their own gods (1:5), which has not worked, and they have even pled with Jonah to cry out to his God (1:6), which he has not done. So now, they take it upon themselves to cry out to Yahweh.
They are uncomfortable about casting Jonah into the sea, and so they pray to God, asking that He would not destroy them for this man’s life. They know that what they are about to do is wrong, even though Jonah told them that this is what would appease God. Nevertheless, they want to make sure that God does not charge them with innocent blood. Based on what Jonah has told them, the sailors do not believe Jonah is innocent.[ref]Bewer, 39.[/ref] They know that he has committed the worst of all possible sins in refusing to defend God’s honor. Some believe that their statement about innocent blood means that they fear putting Jonah to death without a trial.[ref]Stuart, 463.[/ref] But this is modern notion of law and justice. Jonah has freely admitted his sin, and told the sailors what his punishment must be.
Therefore, by asking God to not charge them with innocent blood, the sailors are reminding God that Jonah is not innocent. They are in effect saying, “God, we are putting your man to death, but you heard him, he is not innocent, and he told us how you want to punish him.” Inherent in their plea, of course, is the implication that while Jonah is not innocent, they themselves are innocent bystanders, and God’s attempt to discipline His wayward prophet has threatened their lives. They pray that when they give Jonah up to the sea, that God will leave them alone, and not destroy them along with Jonah.
The sailors recognize that God does what pleases Him, and though they know very little about God (and the little they do know is terribly wrong), they recognize that God is powerful and is in control of the sea and the storm, and that their only chance of survival is to do what Jonah has said. The contrast between Jonah and the sailors is stark. Though the sailors have done nothing wrong, they are praying to God and are asking for deliverance. Jonah, who is the one rebelling against God, and who is causing the threat to the sailor’s lives, has not prayed to God and is not asking for rescue, but continues to seek his own death so that he might escape the will of God for his life.
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