Jonah 1:6. It is likely that as the sailors pulled up the cargo from the hold of the ship, they saw Jonah sleeping and reported this to the captain. So the captain went to him to find out how it was Jonah could fall down to sleep in such a storm. His question is full of incredulous amazement. “How can you possibly sleep in such a storm?” In effect, the captain is asking, “What is the matter with you?” [ref]Bryan D. Estelle, Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah, The Gospel According to the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2005), 43.[/ref]
The captain tries to spur Jonah to action. He calls on Jonah to “Rise up!” and “Cry out to your god!” The call of the captain for Jonah to arise and cry out echoes God’s call for Jonah to arise and cry out against Nineveh (1:2).[ref]Alexander, 103.[/ref] The captain’s words remind Jonah of his “dastardly desertion from his prophetic duty.”[ref]Allen, 208.[/ref] But beyond this, the reader of this story is supposed to share the shock of the ship captain. What kind of man sleeps during such a storm? What kind of person seems not to care whether they live or die? What kind of man does not pray to his god in the face of imminent death?
Of course, the reader knows something the captain does not. The captain thinks that if Jonah prays, perhaps Jonah’s god will pay attention and they will not be destroyed. But the reader knows that Jonah is disobeying God, and that the reason they are all about to die is because of Jonah’s God. Jonah’s God sent the storm, and in this situation, praying to Him will not help. What God wants is obedience; not prayer.
So does Jonah pray? It appears he does not. Though the captain woke Jonah up, and pled with him to pray, the text says nothing about Jonah crying out to God. Ellison makes the unlikely suggestion that Jonah did not pray because he had never been at sea before and did not know that anything out of the ordinary was going on.[ref]Ellison, 371.[/ref] No, the reason Jonah does not pray is because Jonah knows that such a prayer is pointless and may only anger God further. In this situation, God does not want prayer; God wants obedience—God wants Jonah to go to Nineveh.
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