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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Jonah 1

 

 

Verse 1

Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

Now - literally, 'And.' This 'and' marks that this book was joined on to the other sacred books-also Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the books of Samuel and of the Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Ezekiel-and formed, with them, one continuous whole. The same conjunction joins together the first four books of Moses.

The word of the Lord came unto Jonah. "Jonah" means, in Hebrew, dove. Compare Genesis 8:8-9, where the dove in vain seeks rest, after flying from Noah and the ark: so Jonah. Grotius not so well, explains it, 'one sprung from Greece,' or Ionia, where there were prophets called Amythaonidae. The name was either given prophetically, or assumed by Jonah himself, as a watchword of his feeling. The dove symbolizes mourning love. He desired to be known among his people as one who lovingly mourned over them. Even his unloving zeal against Nineveh, which was to be the destroyer of his people, was due to the intense love he bore to his own people. His truthfulness in recording so faithfully all that was unfavourable of himself shows that he was truly the son of Amittai in the sense of that name. His faith was strong; but his zeal, like that of James and John, against the adversaries of his people, was in a wrong spirit (Luke 9:51-56; see note, Amos 4:2, end).

Amittai - Hebrew for 'truth,' 'truth-telling:' 'the truth of God,' appropriate to a prophet.


Verse 2

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

Arise, go to Nineveh - east of the Tigris, opposite the modern Mosul. The only case of a prophet being sent to the pagan. Jonah, however, is sent to Nineveh, not solely for Nineveh's good, but also to shame Israel, by the fact of a pagan city repenting at the first preaching of a single stranger, Jonah, whereas God's people will not repent, though preached to by their many national prophets whom God hath sent, rising early and sending them. Nineveh means the residence of Ninus - i:e., Nimrod (Genesis 10:11, where the translation ought to be, 'He (Nimrod) went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh'). Modern research into the cuneiform inscription confirms the Scripture account, that Babylon was founded earlier than Nineveh, and that both cities were built by descendants of Ham, encroaching on the territory assigned by God, in his divinely-appointed distribution of races, to Shem (Genesis 10:5-6; Genesis 10:8; Genesis 10:10; Genesis 10:25, "By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, afar their families, in their nations. And the sons of Ham, Cush, etc. And Cush begat Nimrod ... And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel ... In his (Peleg's) days was the earth divided").

The great city - 480 stadia in circuit, 150 in length and 90 in breadth (Diodorus Siculus, 2: 3). Taken by Arbaces the Mede, in the reign of Sardanapalus, about the seventh year of Uzziah; and a second time by Nabopolassar of Babylon and Cyaxares the Mede in 685 BC See my note, Jonah 3:3. Just before Jonah were the victorious reigns of Shalmanubar and Shamasiva. Then followed Ivalush or Pul, the first invader of Israel. This was the time of Assyria's greatest power: whence it is here called "that great city."

And cry against it - (Isaiah 40:6; Isaiah 57:1, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression").

For their wickedness is come up before me - (Genesis 4:10; Genesis 6:13; Genesis 18:20-21; Ezra 9:6; Revelation 18:5, "Her (mystical Babylon's) sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities") - i:e., their wickedness is so great as to require my open interposition for punishment. The mission of Jonah to Nineveh was an earnest of God's subsequent opening of the door of repentance and faith to the Gentiles also (Acts 11:18; Acts 14:27). Israel had enjoyed the ministry of many prophets, but had not repented. This very Jonah had borne a message of love to the people from the Lord who pitied their distress, and prophesied the "restoration of their coast" from the entering in of Hamath to the sea of the plain, which came to pass under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25-26). But God's kindness and threats alike failed to move his people. So now the Lord sends the same prophet to the Gentile Nineveh, to warn them of the consequences of their "wickedness" - not sin in general, but violent and evil doing toward others [ra`at] (Nehemiah 3:19, "Upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually").


Verse 3

But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

But Jonah rose up to flee. Jonah's motive for flight is hinted at in Jonah 4:2 - fear that, after venturing on such a dangerous commission to so powerful a pagan city, his prophetic threats should be set aside by God's "repenting of the evil," just as God had so long spared Israel, notwithstanding so many provocations, and so he should seem a false prophet. Besides, he felt a repugnance to discharge a commission to a foreign idolatrous nation, whose destruction he desired rather than their repentance. Jonah had been for some time in exercise of his prophetic office and was sent on this mission in the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II, or even later. Amos had already prophesied that through the third of the Assyrian monarchs Israel was to be destroyed. Hosea, too, had foretold of the ten tribes, "They shall not dwell in the Lord's land ... they shall eat unclean things in Assyria" (9: 3).

Ivalush III, or Pul (Rawlinson, 'Herodotus,' 1: 466, 7), probably was then king. It was not unnatural that Jonah should dislike carrying a warning to Nineveh, which might eventuate in the sparing of the city by which his own country was to suffer. Pul was the very king by whom, under Menahem, king of Israel, the first weakening of Israel was about to take place. The instinct of self-preservation, and the natural love of country, caused him for a time to disobey a higher claim, the command of his God. 'Jonah sought the honour of the son (Israel), and sought not the honour of the father (Kimchi, from an old Rabbinical tradition). Having had the privilege of being God's instrument to foretell the restoration of Israel under Jeroboam II, after its prostration by Syria, he shrunk from being the instrument of saving Nineveh, the fore-appointed scourge of his country, from its doom, threatened because of its violent sins. Rather would he have desired to make its sudden overthrow, like that of Sodom, a solemn example to rouse Israel, his own people, from their impenitence-an effect which all the verbal warnings of the prophets of God had heretofore failed to effect. This is the only case of a prophet charged with a prophetic message concealing it. From the presence of the Lord - literally, 'from being before the Lord' (cf. Genesis 4:16, "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord" - i:e., from the vicinity of the cherubim and flaming manifestation of God at the east of Eden). Jonah thought, in fleeing from the land of Israel, where Yahweh was peculiarly present, that he should escape from Yahweh's prophecy-inspiring influence. He doubtless knew the truth stated in Psalms 139:7-10 - "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or where shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me," - but virtually ignored it, just as "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8-10; Jeremiah 23:24, "Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord"). The prophets often showed a reluctance to take on them the difficult and responsible office of ministering in the name of the Lord. Compare Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 1:6; Jeremiah 1:17; Exodus 4:10. So Jonah, while not supposing he could escape from God's omnipresence, yet fled away from standing in his immediate presence as his ministering prophet. So Elijah uses the phrase, "The Lord God of Israel, before (in the presence of) whom I stand," for 'whose prophet I am,' 1 Kings 17:1. [ milipneey (Hebrew #6440) Yahweh (Hebrew #3068), not mipneey (Hebrew #6440), is the phrase here.] So 1 Kings 8:25, Hebrew, 'There, shall not be cut off to thee a man from before me.'

And went down - appropriate in going from land to the sea (Psalms 107:23, "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters"). Jonah went down from his native country, the mountain region of Lebanon, to the sea side. A strong impetuous will, reckless of consequences to himself, was his failing.

To Joppa - now Jaffa, in the region of Dan, a harbour as early as Solomon's time, and to it were borne the cedars for building the first temple (2 Chronicles 2:16).

And he found a ship going to Tarshish - Tartessus in Spain, at the farthest west, at the greatest distance from Nineveh in the northeast.


Verse 4

But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

But the Lord sent out - literally, caused a wind to burst forth. Coverdale translates, 'hurled a greate wynde into the see' [ heeTiyl (Hebrew #2904)], cast along, caused to sweep along.

Was like - literally, 'thought to be broken.' The heaving, creaking, quivering ship seemed to have a vivid sense of its danger, while Jonah's slumbering body and conscience had no sense of his danger.


Verse 5

Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

Then the mariners were afraid - though used to storms; the danger, therefore, must have been extreme.

And cried every man unto his god. The idols proved unable to save them, though each, according to Phoenician custom, called on his tutelary god. But Yahweh proved able: and the pagan sailors owned it in the end by sacrificing to Him (Jonah 1:16).

But Jonah was gone down - before the storm began.

Into the sides - i:e., the interior recesses (cf. 1 Samuel 24:3, "David and his men remained in the sides of the cave;" Isaiah 14:13; Isaiah 14:15).

Of the ship - literally, 'of the decked ship.' Those conscious of guilt shrink from the presence of their fellow-men into concealment.

And he lay, and was fast asleep. Sleep is no necessary proof of innocence; it may be the fruit of carnal security and a seared conscience. How different was Jesus' sleep on the sea of Galilee! (Mark 4:37-39.) Guilty Jonah's indifference to fear contrasts with the unoffending mariners' alarm. The original, therefore, is in the nominative absolute: 'But as for Jonah, he,' etc. Compare spiritually, Ephesians 5:14 ("Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee flight"). Jonah's hurried flight to Damascus producing weariness, combined with sorrow and remorse, produced heavy sleep. Men who have taken a wrong step try to forget themselves (Pusey).


Verse 6

So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God. The ancient pagan in dangers called on foreign gods, besides their national ones (cf. Psalms 107:28, "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses"). While they pray, he sleeps; while they are all active, he does nothing who is the guilty cause of all the danger. Maurer translates the preceding clause, 'What is the reason that thou sleepest?'

If so be that God will think upon us - for good (cf. Genesis 8:1, "God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle, that was with him in the ark;" Exodus 2:25, "God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them;" Exodus 3:7; Exodus 3:9; Psalms 40:17, "I am poor and needy ... the Lord thinketh upon me;" Jeremiah 29:11, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end"). God - literally, 'the God.' The shipmaster, having found his own gods powerless to save, turneth to THE GOD of Jonah as the true God.


Verse 7

And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots. God sometimes sanctioned this mode of deciding in difficult cases Compare the similar instance of Achan, whose guilt involved Israel in suffering, until God revealed the offender, probably by the casting of lots (Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord;" Acts 1:26, "They (the disciples) gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias: and he was numbered with the eleven apostles"). Primitive tradition and natural conscience led even the pagan to believe that one guilty man involves all his associates, though innocent, in punishment. So Cicero ('Natura Deorum,' 3: 37) mentions that the mariners sailing with Diagoris, an atheist, attributed a storm that overtook them to his presence in the ship. [Compare Horace's 'Odes,' 3: 2, 26:

`Vetabo, qui Cereris sacrum Vulgarit arcanae, sub isdem, Sit trabibus, fragilem ve mecum Solvat faselum.']


Verse 8

Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us? ... of what people art thou? - "For whose cause?" literally, 'For what to whom?' - i:e., For what evil? and done to whom? Their questions must have stung Jonah to the quick: "What is thine occupation?" A prophet, yet a runaway! 'Whence comest thou? what is thy people?' A fugitive from the country of God's people, to take my portion among pagan, not in order to convert them, but to avail myself of their help to flee from God. The guilty individual being discovered, is interrogated so as to make full confession with his own mouth. So in Achan's case (Joshua 7:19).


Verse 9

And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.

And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew. He does not say "an Israelite." For this was the name used among themselves; "Hebrew" among foreigners (Genesis 40:15; Exodus 3:18).

And I fear the Lord - in profession; his practice belied his profession; is profession aggravated his guilt.

The God of heaven, which hath made the sea - appropriately expressed, as accounting for the tempest sent on the sea.

And the dry land. The pagan had distinct gods for the "heaven," the "sea," and the "land." Yahweh is the one and only true God of all alike. The pagan had thought Yahweh to be the mere local God of Israel. The title "the God of heaven" claims for Him the supremacy above the heavens, which they worshipped as a god, and over all things. Hence, Daniel uses it to the pagan Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:37; Daniel 2:44 : cf. Genesis 24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:23). Jonah at last is awakened by the violent remedy from his lethargy. Jonah was but the reflection of Israel's backsliding from God, and so must bear the righteous punishment. The guilt of the minister is the result of that of the people, as in Moses' case (Deuteronomy 4:21). This is what makes Jonah a suitable type of Messiah, who bore the imputed sin of the people.


Verse 10

Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

Then were the men exceedingly afraid - when made aware of the wrath of so powerful a God at the flight of Jonah. They had known previously, from his own information, the fact that Jonah had fled "from before the presence of the Lord:" but now first they learned that God's power extended to the sea, on which they were now in such peril, as well as to His own special land-namely, that of Israel. Hence, arises their 'exceeding fear.'

And said unto him, Why hast thou done this? If professors of religion do wrong, they will hear of it from those who make no such profession.


Verse 11

Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee? They ask this, as Jonah himself must best know how his God is to be appeased. 'We would gladly save thee, if we can do so, and yet be saved ourselves' (Jonah 1:13-14). Herein appears their humanity, though they were pagan, as contrasted with Jonah's inhumanity, who, lest the pagan Nineveh should repent and be saved from destruction, would not at God's command go to give it warning.

The sea wrought, and was tempestuous - literally, 'was going and whirling.' As though it were a conscious agent, it seemed to demand the surrender to it of its fellow-servant, who had been a rebel against his and its God.


Verse 12

And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.

Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea. Herein Jonah is a type of Messiah, the One Man who offered Himself to die, in order to allay the stormy flood of God's wrath, which otherwise must have engulfed all other men (cf. Psalms 69:1-2 as to Messiah). So Caiaphas, by the Spirit, declared it "expedient that one man should die, and that the whole nation should not perish" (John 11:50). Jonah also heroin is a specimen of true repentance, which leads the penitent to "accept of the punishment of his iniquity" (Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43), and to be more indignant at his sin than at his suffering.


Verse 13

Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.

Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not - (Proverbs 21:30, "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord." "Rowed hard" - literally, dug. Wind and tide-God's displeasure and God's counsel-were "against them."


Verse 14

Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.

Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life - i:e., for taking this man's life.

And lay not upon us innocent blood - do not punish us as thou wouldst punish the shedders of innocent blood (cf. Deuteronomy 21:8, "Lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge"). In the case of the antitype, the Saviour unjustly condemned to death, Pontius Pilate washed his hands and confessed Christ's innocence, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person." But whereas Jonah, the victim, was guilty, and the sailors innocent, Christ, our sacrificial victim, was innocent, and Pontius Pilate and all of us men were guilty. But, by imputation of our guilt to Him and His righteousness to us, the spotless antitype exactly corresponds to the guilty type.

For thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee - that Jonah has embarked in this ship, that a tempest has arisen that he has been detected by casting of lots, that he has passed sentence on himself, is all thy doing. We reluctantly put him to death, but it is thy pleasure it should be so.


Verse 15

So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from her raging. So at Jesus' word (Luke 8:24). God spares the prayerful penitent-a truth illustrated now in the case of the sailors, presently in that of Jonah, and, thirdly, in that of Nineveh. "The sea ceased" - literally, "stood" still, like a servant who stands after he has fulfilled his master's command. The sailors took him up reluctantly, and with respect, as he was the prophet of God, without resistance on his part.


Verse 16

Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows - they offered some sacrifice of thanksgiving at once, and vowed more when they should land. Glassius thinks it means only, 'they promised to offer a sacrifice.'


Verse 17

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights - not created specially for the purpose, but appointed in His providence, to which all creatures are subservient. The prophet, in the simplicity of faith, does not stop to tell us how God performed the miracle. It is enough for him that God willed it; and what God wills He has no lack of means for accomplishing. Miracles were as much fore-ordered by God as the ordinary course of so-called nature. They are no more incongruous interruptions of nature than are the acts of man's freewill, whereby he modifies nature's course. Nature is simply God's will. If a man will not believe until he has solved all difficulties by his reason, he will never believe; and eternity, with all its momentous issues, will overtake him before he has settled on what is to be the main principle of his life. God could as easily have kept Jonah alive in the sea as in the fish's belly. In the first instance, he did sink to the "bottom" of the sea, and felt 'the seaweed wrapped about his head.'

But then God "prepared" a great fish to be his living grave, in order to prefigure the three days' burial and resurrection of the Saviour. The fish, through a mistranslation of Matthew 12:40, was formerly supposed to be a whale: there, as here, the original means 'a great fish' [ keetos (Greek #2785)]. The whale's neck is too narrow to receive a man. Bochart thinks the dog-fish, the stomach of which is so large that the body of a man in armour was once found in it ('Hierozo.,' 2: 5, 12). Others, think it was the shark. The white shark, having only incisive teeth, has no choice between swallowing its prey whole, or cutting off a portion of it. It cannot hold its prey or swallow it piecemeal. Otto Fatricius ('Fauna Gronlandica,' p. 129), says 'its custom is to swallow down dead,' and 'sometimes also living men whom it finds in the sea.' Its cartilaginous skeleton adapts it for swallowing large animals.

Jebb, the cavity in the whale's throat, large enough, according to Captain Scoresby, to hold a ship's jolly-boat full of men. A miracle in any view is needed; and we have no data to speculate further. A "sign" or miracle it is expressly called by our Lord in Matthew 12:39-40, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it but the SIGN of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Respiration in such a position could only be by miracle. The miraculous interposition was not without a sufficient reason; it was calculated to affect not only Jonah, but also Nineveh and Israel. The life of a prophet was often marked by experiences which made him, though sympathy, best suited for discharging the prophetic function to his hearers and his people. The infinite resources of God, in mercy as well as judgment, are prefigured in the devourer being transformed into Jonah's preserver. Jonah's condition under punishment, shut out from the outer world, was rendered as much as possible the emblem of death-a present type to Nineveh and Israel of the death in sin-as his deliverance was of the spiritual resurrection on repentance; as also a future type of Jesus' literal death for sin, and resurrection by the Spirit of God.

Three days and three nights. Probably, like the antitype Christ, Jonah was cast forth on the land on the third day (Matthew 12:40); the Hebrew counting the first and third parts of days as whole 24 hour days.

Remarks:

(1) This book of Jonah is the first sample and earnest in the Old Testament of God's purpose, in the fullness of time, to offer to the Gentiles also, as well as to the Jews, "repentance unto life." It brings forth, in vivid contrast to Israel's impenitence, notwithstanding all her religious privileges, the readiness of the pagan to obey the first call of God. As the children hardened their necks against God's loving appeals, He would show them their exceeding guilt by the one instance of Jonah's mission to Nineveh, and its marvelous and immediate effect upon the Ninevites. Surely, if the penitent Assyrians condemned Israel's hardness of heart, much more will the pagan now, being gathered into Christ's fold out of uncivilized lands, rise in judgment against professing Christians who "neglect so great a salvation." Our privileges, being manifold greater than Israel's, bring with them the greater condemnation if neglected or abused.

(2) When we read of Jonah's disobedience to the command of the Lord to go to Nineveh, let us remember Jonah's temptation; and then, instead of too hasty condemnation of him, let us mourn the sinful weakness of our fallen nature, even in the true servants of God when they are left to themselves. Jonah loved his country, and so gave way to unloving zeal against her enemies. What he desired was, to see the fall of her fore-appointed destroyer Nineveh. There was no want in him of animal courage as he proved by his readiness to give himself up to apparent death in the tempest, as well as by his subsequent boldness in proclaiming Nineveh's doom, though alone in the midst of her violent and warlike citizens. He was ready, as far as himself was concerned, at God's bidding, to enter that "dwelling of lions," as Nahum describes it (Nahum 2:11-12). But he feared the effect of his proclamation would be, Nineveh would repent of its sin, and so God would "repent" of the threatened evil, according to God's own gracious character, as "merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Jonah 4:2).

Thus the consequence would be, Nineveh's repentance would prove Israel's ruin. Nineveh would be the instrument of destroying impenitent Israel. Hence, Jonah, at God's command, "rose up," not to obey, but to disobey and to flee. Not that he, who so vividly realized God's might in his prophesying to others, thought he could escape beyond the reach of God's presence and power. His object in fleeing was, to escape from standing in the presence of the Lord as His prophet. When we substitute our own will for the will of God, we run into inextricable perplexities and dangers. Fleeing from imaginary evils we fall into real and fatal ones. Our safety as well as our duty is to leave future events in God's hands, and to give ourselves unwholly to be His instruments to do by us and with us as He will. Instead of self-will, let us pray that, when "the word of the Lord comes unto" us, the Spirit of the Lord also may make us ready to obey heartily and immediately. Our cry to the Lord should be, Work for me by Thy providence, work in me by Thy grace, and work by me for Thy glory!

(3) As David stands alone among the servants of God, who after conversion have been murderers and adulterers; and Peter stands alone among the apostles in having denied his Lord, and then being restored: so Jonah stands alone among the prophets in having obeyed the Lord's command to prophesy, and then disobeyed, and, lastly, being constrained to obey once more. How the love of God transcends the highest conceptions which man can form of it!

(4) Jonah, we read, "went down to Joppa" (Jonah 1:3). When men turn their backs on the word and presence of the Lord, what a suicidal descent they make! They go down from a place of honour and safety to the region of humiliation and destruction. However strongly-built the ship was, and however complete were Jonah's arrangements for escape, nothing could be for him where God was against him. Jonah had done his all. Now began God's part. God lets the sinner seem to have his way up to a certain point. God waits in the calmness of His omnipotence until the sinner's plans are all but accomplished, and then He scatters them in a moment to the winds. When all appeared going on smoothly, God "hurled into the sea a mighty tempest" (Jonah 1:4). What were the troubles which Jonah feared as likely to ensue from his going to Nineveh, as compared with those which now he has brought on himself by fleeing in the opposite direction? Sin is, therefore, the one thing to be feared as the source of all trouble, rather than any outward trial.

(5) The mariners cried in their distress to their false gods, while Jonah, the prophet of God, cried not to the true God. They were alive to the danger who were comparatively innocent, while he who was the guilty one lay fast asleep (Jonah 1:5). How often great sin brings with it great insensibility! The sinner tries to drown thought, stifle conscience, and forget God and himself in the sleep of carnality and worldliness. They who are most dead to fear are just those who are nearest destruction.

(6) But God would not allow his servant to sleep the sleep of death. The pagan shipmaster (Jonah 1:6) is used by God as the instrument to awaken the drowsy prophet. Jonah, who was about afterward to call the pagan to the prayer of penitence, is now himself called to prayer by a pagan. The zeal of the pagan and Mohammedans in their false religions virtually appeals to many a professing Christian, "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God"

(7) When earthly means of deliverance fail, men at last have recourse to God. He is a "very present help in time of trouble." His providence overruled the casting of lots whereby Jonah, the culprit, was detected. Ordinary casting of lots without necessity, or in the spirit of unbelief, which makes a god of chance, or in prying curiosity concerning the future, to which God hath not revealed, is a tempting of God. 'Satan may mix himself unknown in such inquiries, as in mesmerism. Forbidden ground is his own province' (Pusey).

(8) The reverent carefulness which the pagan mariners showed in behalf of the one life of Jonah, which they would not sacrifice, though the sole cause of their danger, if they could possibly avoid it, was a tacit reproof the reckless zeal of Jonah in wishing, in spite of God's command, to leave no opening for repentance and escape to the hundreds of thousands in pagan Nineveh. Alas! how much more zeal we all are apt to have for our party or kindred than for the glory of God and for the cause of the merciful Redeemer's kingdom throughout the whole earth!

(9) Jonah's confession, when he was at last roused to spiritual feeling, was as unreserved as his sin previously had been scandalous and monstrous. He now awakes to the penitent fear of the Lord God, who hath made sea and land alike (Jonah 1:9). Well might the mariners ask, "Why hast thou done this?" (Jonah 1:10.) The inconsistencies of Christians are the great stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of unbelievers. To know God, and yet to disobey Him, is the greatest of all marvels. 'A servant flee from his Lord, a son from his Father, man from his God!' (Jerome.)

(10) Jonah by inspiration directs (Jonah 1:12), and through penitence accepts, the punishment of his iniquity. The sea, which he had meant to make the instrument of his flight, is by God made, in just retribution, the instrument of his punishment. And the tempest raised through the wrath of God against Jonah's sin ceased when the divine wrath was satisfied in Jonah's punishment. The mariners now that all earthly fears were removed, "feared the Lord exceedingly." The prophet's punishment was overruled to their conversion; and the account of their deliverance, in connection with the wonderful circumstances of Jonah's history, prepared the way for the conversion of the pagan Ninevites at the subsequent mission of the prophet.

(11) All difficulties concerning the preservation of Jonah in the fish's belly are simply resolved by the consideration of the omnipotence of God. Self-wise rationalists are rebuked by the simple faith of the once-pagan mariners - "Thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased Thee" (Jonah 1:14). He who preserves the embryo in its living grave could as easily "prepare" a suitable fish, and preserve Jonah within it unto the time appointed for his typical resurrection. Faith laughs at impossibilities, where God is the Worker.

(12) The correspondence between Jonah the type and Christ the antitype is most minute. Man was ready to be swallowed by the waves of hell, stirred up by the tempest of God's wrath against sin, when Christ, as one of us, volunteered to give up His life to save our lives; just as the mariners were about to perish in the waves, until Jonah gave himself up as the victim to appease God's righteous anger. But the sin in Jonah's case was inherent: in Christ's, not inherent, but voluntarily imputed. As the Gentile mariners prayed that innocent blood should not be laid upon them, so the Gentile Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the death of Christ, saying, "I am clean from the blood of this man." The conversion of the Gentiles flowed from the death of Jesus, as the conversion of the mariners, and subsequently of the Ninevites ensued upon the casting of Jonah into the sea. From Christ's vicarious sacrifice there results to believers the settled calm of heartfelt peace. As Jonah, after a three days' entombment, through his return to the land of the living, became a prophet to the Gentiles, whom he was the instrument of converting, whereas he had failed to convert Israel: so Christ, through His resurrection out of death, became the power of God to the salvation of the Gentiles, after the Jews had rejected Him. The life of Jonah illustrates how wonderfully God can overrule history to be covert prophecy. Thus the infidel is rebuked, who would make nature the master instead of the servant of the God both of nature and of grace: and who 'would extinguish for themselves the Light of the world, in order that it may not eclipse the rushlight of their own theory' (Pusey).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/jonah-1.html. 1871-8.

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