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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Jonah 1

 

 

Verses 1-17

Jonah 1:1. The word of the Lord came to Jonah. The word of prophecy, delivered by Christ, the preëxistent Word, as appears from his reasoning with the prophet when angry that Nineveh was spared.—Jonah was born at Gath-hepher, and was the eldest of the twelve minor prophets. He was contemporary with Hosea, Joel, and Amos, which shows that he lived to a great age. His father, Amittai, is named because he was a man of note and honour. Of his birth and residence we know nothing more. Some of the rabbins say that he was the son of the widow of Zarephath; and others that he was the young man whom Elijah sent to anoint Jehu to be captain. Jonah, in the time of Jeroboam the second, prayed for his country in distressing wars, and the Lord said that he would not blot out the name of Israel. 2 Kings 14:25; 2 Kings 14:27.

Jonah 1:2. Arise, go to Nineveh. This city is described in the first chapter of Nahum.

Jonah 1:3. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish; that is, to Carthage, then a rising city in Africa, which maintained against the Romans the sovereignty of the seas, till the time of Scipio, who rased it by command of the Roman senate. They had passed the cruel decree, Delenda est Carthago; let Carthage be destroyed, or blotted from the earth. The LXX read Carthage in most passages, and their reading has the appearance of being correct, because when the Chaldaic paraphrase was made, which read Ocean for Tarshish, that great city existed no more.

Jonah 1:6. What meanest thou, oh sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God. What a melancholy sight, to behold a prophet of the Lord insensible to impending danger, which appalled every other heart with fear; and to see him reproved by a heathen mariner, who could find no better name for him than that of a sleeper, a man given up to sloth and insensibility. It is probable that being exhausted with grief and chagrin, the prophet needed some repose; yet at such a time, and in such circumstances, his self-indulgence was highly inexcusable. Jonah was however in this instance but too faithful a picture of that carnal ease and security in which unregenerate men in general are found, who in spite of all the dangers which surround them, and all the threatenings of the divine law, still continue in impenitence and unbelief, braving the terrors of an eternal world, or leaving the issue with fatal indifference, till ingulphed in endless misery and despair.—The admonition of the mariner to this infatuated prophet, Rise, call upon thy God, not only indicates that even the heathen themselves in times of great extremity invoked their imaginary deities, but as contrasted with the conduct of the Hebrew stranger, the name of whose God was known in all the earth, it administered the severest reproof. Rise then, oh sinner, and call upon thy God. He is still seated on a throne of grace, ready to hear and able to save. If you call not upon him, it will be in vain to look elsewhere for help; and if you call not upon him now, it will be in vain to do it when destruction cometh as a whirlwind, and when distress and anguish shall come upon you. Proverbs 1:24-28.

Jonah 1:7. The lot fell upon Jonah. No doubt, they had precedents for this act in times of extremity. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” It appeared evidently so when Haman’s lot to destroy the jews fell on the last month of the year, which gave the jews time for defence. Esther 3:13. Joshua 7 :1 Samuel 10:20. The only objection which at that time could be made was, that it compelled the Lord as it were to give an answer to the enquiry.

Jonah 1:17. The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. This is the literal reading of the Hebrew, דג גדול dag gadol. But the LXX read κηντει μεγαλω, “a great whale.” St. Matthew wrote his gospel in the Syro-Chaldaic language, or vulgar tongue, and his translator has followed the LXX, which must be incorrect, for the gullet of the whale is too small to swallow a man; and whales cannot bear the warmer seas of the Mediterranean. We do not know what this great fish was; it was what God had especially prepared to save the life of a misguided prophet, and to make him a figure of Christ, who on the third day was raised up from the tomb, and as Isaac on the third day was raised from the altar.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jonah 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/jonah-1.html. 1835.

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