This is only a verse and a half. I wanted to get three verses, but I ran out of draw-juice. And it's quite a dramatic place to break off! Those poor sailors, trying to supplicate someone else's god. What can you do in a situation like that? You can only try to reason with him. And this situation is particularly weird because once you are in the awkward position of standing between a foreign god and the object of his wrath, how often does it then happen that you are told to appease that god by killing one of his followers? No wonder the sailors are beseeching God so earnestly in the first verse: this seems like a big setup, and God's going to say HOW DARE YOU HARM ONE OF MY CHOSEN PEOPLE! as soon as Jonah hits the water.
So that probably explains, at least in part, why the sailors are so reluctant to throw Jonah overboard: you don't appease the Hebrew god by killing a Hebrew, do you? That can't be right! But here's a question: why doesn't Jonah jump? He knows that the only answer is for him to go over the side, and that if he doesn't everyone on board will probably die, yet he lets the sailors waste valuable time trying to row to shore. At first I thought this was yet another example of his refusing to do the right thing until there's no other choice, and of his insistence upon seeing himself as the victim when really he is victimizing others. I won't jump, you have to throw me! You're all mean to me, just like God! I hate you!
But there's another explanation that I think might fit better. In considering how Jesus compared his future three-day death with Jonah's three days in the fish, I began to wonder if being sacrificed might be a necessary part of this ritual. Because let's be clear: Jonah is symbolically dead while in that fish. He speaks of himself as being in hell (I assume that's the Hebrew sheol, the grave, the abode of the dead), and emerging from water is a symbol of rebirth that's probably as old as humanity. Like Jesus, Jonah dies and is reborn to save others -- though he complains about it a lot more; is it possible that he is also like Jesus in that he must not only die but be killed?
And then I realized that Jonah is who Jesus would be if he didn't like people. And if the guys who crucified him were really sympathetic. Jonah is Bizarro Jesus!