6.8 Jonah -- Jonah's Ordeal
Running away was not so easy as Jonah thought. In the ancient world, it might have been possible to escape a local deity by fleeing from his or her territory. But that did not work with a God who claimed to rule the whole earth. God sent a violent storm against the ship, threatening to sink it.
There follows a telling series of contrasts between the chosen prophet of Israel and the pagan sailors on the boat:
-- Jonah was not a man with a troubled conscience. While the sailors were frantically tossing the cargo overboard to lighten the ship, he slept through the storm (Jon 1:5). Each of the sailors cried out to his god for deliverance. They believed that the storm had a spiritual cause, and cast lots to see who among them was at fault (Jon 1:7).
-- The lot pointed to Jonah. When the sailors heard that he was a Hebrew and that his God was the God of heaven, they were terrified (Jon 1:10). Jonah told them to cast him overboard, and the sea would become calm. Even though Jonah's disobedience had threatened their lives, the sailors resisted throwing him into the sea (Jon 1:12-13). They valued his life more than he had valued theirs.
-- after finally pitching Jonah overboard, they feared God, asked for forgiveness, and made sacrifices and vows to Him (Jon 1:14-16).
Jonah was swallowed by a large fish, and spent three days and nights inside it (Jon 1:17). As Elijah fled from Jezebel and hid in a cave (1 Kings 19), so this fish was Jonah's sanctuary, a place of refuge, a "time out" from life -- and a meeting place with God.