As Jonah sinks into the sea he thinks of the idol worshipping pagan sailors that threw him into
the waters. “Grace” is the word hesed which is the word for the covenant relationship Israel had
with God. This word is translated “mercy,” “kindness,” “grace.” Hesed is the kindness, mercy or
grace a person receives because they are loved by God who has offered them a relationship, or specifically, a relationship that is sealed in a covenant. Miles Coverdale coined the phrase “lovingkindness” in 1535 to translate the Hebrew word hesed (or, chesed) for his English
translation of the Old Testament in the Coverdale Bible. Other translations use the phrase
“steadfast love” or “constant love” to communicate the meaning of the word “hesed.”
It is interesting that Jonah is thinking about the hopeless state of the pagan sailors who are
currently safe and secure on the ship, while Jonah himself is sinking into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. In his desperate state of rebellion Jonah turns confidently to the “grace,”
or hesed, he has in God, but recognizes that those who embrace false philosophies and false religions are forfeiting a covenant relationship with God. This is true even in this case where
the idol worshippers are pagans heading to a foreign land. The offer is still available. In fact,
as the story of Jonah goes, Jonah has been sent by God to the pagan people in the city of
Nineveh in the land of the Assyrians to call them into a relationship of right standing with
their creator. So, in 759 BC the people of Ninevah did receive hesed from God.
The Hebrew word translated “idols” is “lying vanities,” vanities of vanities,” or “vain things” which identify not merely stone or metal images, but the empty, false and destructive philosophies
and world views that accompany these empty views of reality. People who cling to false
philosophies or corrupt world views are missing out on the offer of “grace,” “mercy” and “lovingkindness” God desires to bestow upon them.