Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jonah 1:6 The ship’s captain

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 14, 2018

6 The ship’s captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”

The events in the book of Jonah took place during or shortly after the reign of King Jehoahaz of Israel (one prophecy Jonah made is about Jeroboam II, one of the successors of Jehoahaz). The reign of Jehoahaz in Samaria was plagued by trouble with Aram. It was early in his reign that the prophet Elisha passed away, and now, late in his reign, the Lord had provided “a deliverer” (2 Kings 13:5) which freed Israel from the dominion of the Arameans.

This would not really concern us much with the text of Jonah, except that some Aramean (Aramaic) terms made their way into the Hebrew language. One of these was the form of the verb ’ashat translated here as “take notice.” Some translators like John Calvin mistook this to mean “show oneself shining” (cp. our term, “rise and shine”), but it seems to be an Aramaic expression used also in Job 12:5 (“consider, take notice”) and Psalm 146:4 (“plans”).

Another interesting term here is the one translated “ship’s captain.” The full expression is rab hahobel, “prince of the rope-pullers.” This term for rope occurs often as a “cord, territory measured by a rope” (Deuteronomy 3:4; Psalm 105:11) or “band, men tied together by some unifying factor” like the “band of prophets” in 1 Samuel 10:10. Sailors might be bonded by their ship, by their conscription, or this really could be a reference to the rope used in a ship of this type. At least one translation prefers “bosun” to “captain” here—the bosun was the officer concerned with a ship’s sails and rigging.

The captain’s concern for Jonah is a contrast to Jonah’s unconcern. The prophet was sleeping, oblivious to the storm or to the danger he had brought on the sailors, but the captain was concerned for everyone under his care. This is what Jesus is like for everyone, everywhere. Jesus wants everyone to come to faith; he wants “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus is our true captain, shaking us awake from the death-sleep of sin, to rise and shine in the hope of eternal life.

You were their rock, their fortress and their might;
You, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight
And in the darkness drear their one true light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
(Christian Worship 551:2)
  William W. How (1823-1897)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive