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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Jonah 3

 

 

Verse 1

JONAH CHAPTER 3

Jonah, being sent again, preacheth the overthrow of Nineveh, Jonah 3:1-4. Upon their repentance, Jonah 3:5-9, God repenteth him of the evil, John 3:10.

And, after that Jonah had been well disciplined for his contumacy, and was set at liberty,

the word of the Lord came; the command, or the prophetic Spirit: see John 1:1.

The second time; the first time Jonah rebels against the command, now, better prepared and humbled, he is tried again, God doth give him the gift of prophecy, and by that signifies his reconciliation to him, and admits him into his old station.


Verse 2

Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city; see Amos 1:2; great in extent of ground, in strength of its fortifications, height and breadth of its walls, and multitude of its towers; great in the multitude of its numbers, and riches of its citizens, and every whit as great in the multitude of its sins: but let nothing retard or discourage thee, arise and go.

Preach, publicly, plainly, boldly; cry, Amos 1:2.

Unto it, i.e. against it, publish the near approaching ruin of it, preach to them the necessity of their repentance, and awaken them to it by the terrors of the Lord.

The preaching that I bid thee; either which I did bid thee at first, as Amos 1:2, or what I shall suggest and communicate to thee when thou art come thither.


Verse 3

So, Heb. And; as God commands and directs, so Jonah with ready, resolved, and obedient mind sets about the work.

Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh; though it was a long journey, yet three weeks’ or three months’ travel by land is more eligible than three days in the belly of hell.

According to the word of the Lord; every way complying with the command of God, speeding thither resolved to preach whatsoever sermon God should put into his head, encouraged with assurance that God who did send would be with him whithersoever he was sent.

An exceeding great city; the greatest city of the known world at that day; it was then in its flourishing state greater than Babylon, whose compass was three hundred and sixty-five or three hundred and eighty-five furlongs, but Nineveh was in compass four hundred and eighty, her walls a hundred feet in height, and broad enough for three coaches to meet and safely pass by each other; it had fifteen hundred towers on its walls, and these towers two hundred feet high; and one million and four hundred thousand men employed continually for eight years to build it, if our author be not mistaken. There is some difference in accounting how this city was

three days’ journey: if we account the length of it at one hundred and fifty furlongs, this will amount to eighteen miles and three quarters; this seems too little to be three days’ journey, unless it be supposed the prophet accounts his leisurely progress, and takes in the many stops that would necessarily and unavoidably retard him in his walking and preaching such strange news; if we consider this, it is not unlikely six miles would be as far as he could go in a day, preaching to all and discoursing with many. Others will account it three days’ journey to go through the streets and lanes of this city; but on the supposition it was eighteen miles in length, and eleven miles in breadth, it will be more than three days’ journey, or a week’s journey; for supposing in a mile’s breadth but eight streets, from end to end, through eighteen miles’ length, it will amount to four hundred and sixty-four miles. Others account by the compass of the walls sixty miles, and allow twenty miles to each day’s journey, too far for any one to walk, preach, dispute or reason, and account for himself: the first account seems most probable.


Verse 4

The former verse gives us intelligence of Jonah’s arrival at Nineveh; now, so soon as come, he preacheth.

Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said; to walk through and to preach the dreadful threats of God against Nineveh, and he proclaimed openly and plainly what God commanded; he feared not to tell all what concerned all; he did it with earnestness, as deeply affected with what he spake from God against this mighty city.

Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown; a very short time, some might think, for this great city; but it is more time than God was bound to give, or than they could deserve, or than God gave to Sodom and Gomorrah, the sins of which cities were no doubt found in Nineveh now Jonah preached, and grew ripe by that time Nahum came to foretell their ruin; see Nahum. The threat is express and peremptory in its form and words; though there be a reserve with God on condition of repentance, which operated in due time, and manifestly proved that God intended mercy to repenting Nineveh, though he threatened an overthrow to impenitent Nineveh. How it should be overthrown is not expressed; some conjecture by a foreign enemy, which carrieth unlikelihood with it; others guess by fire from heaven: but since it was not destroyed we need not inquire how it should have been, and had they not repented the event would have informed us fully.


Verse 5

So, Heb. And,

the people of Nineveh; the inhabitants who heard; they first believed who first heard, and successively others as soon as they heard.

Believed God, speaking by his prophet; they knew their own sins. Though Jonah were a stranger to them, yet because, coming in God’s name, he did very particularly, fully, and to the life enumerate, decipher, and lay open their sins, with what they deserved, what might be expected, what God threatened from heaven, all which concurring wrought them to believe their danger, God’s mercy, and the possibility of escape if they repent. Whether the fame of Jonah’s deliverance came to Nineveh before him appears not, nor is it likely it should come so far and so fast, though it were known on the Syrian coast, and about Tyre and Zidon; possibly Jonah might publish it in Nineveh.

Proclaimed a fast; every one called upon other to fast, of cried out it was high time to fast, repent, and supplicate God, so some think; but this passage is an anticipation, tells us what was done, and will tell us afterwards on what grounds, authority, and example it was done.

Put on sackcloth; a ceremony very usual in mournings, private or public, in those countries, and a token of their true mourning; this all did, great and small, rich and poor.


Verse 6

This now accounteth for the people’s proclaiming a fast, Jonah 3:5, they did it because it was commanded, and they had the king’s example herein.

Word came to the king: whether Jonah did particularly speak to his hearers to send word to the king, or whether the strangeness of the thing might move some or other to report it to the courtiers, and they to the king, is not specified; certain it is that the king had word brought him, and it was considered by him: nor is it said who this king was; Sardanapalus seems too early, Pul-belochus is with more probability thought to be this king.

Arose from his throne; came down from his royal seat.

Laid his robe from him; put off his rich, gorgeous, and luxurious apparel.

Covered him with sackcloth; put on the rough and uneasy garments of a mourner.

And sat in ashes, as Esther 4:3 Job 2:8 42:6.


Verse 7

And he, the king, caused it to be proclaimed; took a particular care to have speedily a fast ordered, and notified to the people by those public officers who were wont to proclaim the decrees and edicts of the king and his council.

And published: this ingemination confirms the thing, and adds somewhat for showing the deep sense the king had both of his oral and his people’s sins, danger, and duty in this exigent.

By the decree of the king and his nobles; it was an act of the king and council, and that which passed them with good liking, they relished the thing, as the Hebrew phrase importeth.

Let neither man: men have sinned and provoked God to this high displeasure, it does most principally concern them to repent, fast, and mourn for their sins, that God may pardon and spare them.

Nor beast: these, comprised ill the threat, and likely to be involved. in the common danger, are put under a fast; this the general, which is afterwards expressed more particularly,

herd and flock; let none of these, whether at home in the stall, or abroad in the fold and herd.

Taste any thing: this is referred by some to the strictness with which men were bound to keep this fast; but this may be a general prohibition, explained by what follows, let all, man and beast, forbear to eat or drink, that the fast might be most solemn, that the cry of man, seconded with the cry of hungry cattle, might enter the ears of God, who preserveth man and beast.


Verse 8

But let man, every man, from the greatest, the king on the throne, to the least, the beggar on the dunghill, put off his usual and softer habit, and afflict himself in coarsest garments.

And beast; their horses, in which they gloried much, their camels also, both which they adorned with rich and costly clothing in their stables, and with as rich furniture for saddles, bridles, and trappings when they were used abroad, now all, in testimony of a hearty repentance, must clothe with sackcloth; the clothing of beasts must witness for men.

Cry mightily unto God: beasts in distress and starving cry to God, as the young ravens and hungry lions, and so here beasts of the herd and flock cry. But it is to be referred to men lamenting their sins, deprecating judgments. imploring mercy with all earnestness and vehemency Of desire, called here a crying mightily to God, as Amos 1:5.

Let them turn; the inhabitants of Nineveh, whether traders, or who live at their ease and pleasure there, let them reform and amend their doings. Every one: the edict for ceasing from violence is as full and particular as the edict for fasting, alt are commanded to be just and righteous.

From his evil way; not cease from single acts only, but change the course and habitual manner of life, called here their way: every one was vicious, and each one almost had some particular method of sin, which was his way of sinning; this must they turn from. Violence: oppression and rapine, as a chief sin, is here particularly mentioned: compare this with Nahum 3:1.

That is in their hands; which acted by them is still in their bands, both in the guilt of it, the effects of it, and as publicly known as what is seen in a man’s hands: see Psalms 7:3.


Verse 9

Here is the ground of the Ninevites’ fasting and praying, there is a possibility that they may escape; there is fairly argued a probability, for why should the ruin beforehand be threatened, but to give warning so many days ere it come: unless it be to try us, whether we will fast, pray, repent, and amend? and though Jonah had no commission to promise them a deliverance, yet it is very like he acquainted them with the merciful and gracious nature of his God. This speech of theirs see Joel 2:14 2 Samuel 12:22 includes both faith and doubt, yet faith prevailing to the use of means.

Who can tell if God will turn and repent? if we return by repentance, to which God would now call us by this minatory admonition, he may perhaps return to us in mercy, and by the event show it was not an irrevocable sentence passed against us.

And turn away from his fierce anger; forbear to execute that terrible menace of overthrowing us in his just and hot displeasure against. our sins: this explains that which he had called repenting before, which being here, as elsewhere it is, attributed to God after the manner of man’s speaking, must be interpreted as becometh his immutability and majesty.

That we perish not; suddenly, exemplarily, temporally, and eternally, all which impenitent sinners deserve, Ninevites were in danger of, and the provoked justice of God would have brought upon them if they had not repented.


Verse 10

God saw; not only with naked and single intuition, hut he saw and approved, was singularly well pleased with that he saw.

Their works: works, not words, are sure signs of what men are humbling themselves to the dust, extraordinary fasting, and crying unto God, these were some of their works; but God saw more than these external, professing works.

They turned from their evil way: see Jonah 3:8: they did heartily, presently, and universally turn from the ways of impiety against God, of injustice against man, from the ways of luxury and pride, from all their violence against man; without this all the rest had been not worth the observing, nor would God have regarded it. God repented: this is spoken as before, Jonah 3:9, (and as his seeing is attributed to him,) after the manner of man, and must be applied unto our unchangeable God so as may not reflect any blemish upon his truth, constancy, or immutability. Though he is said to repent, it is not as man doth, who may, through frailty of his nature, lie; but our God is not a man, or as the son of man, that he should change or lie.

Of the evil of punishment,

that he had said, threatened by Jonah’s mouth,

that he would do unto them; to sinning Ninevites, who did rightly conjecture that it was possible this dreadful message might be a minatory warning and might be big of a merciful condition of pardon if they repented, and there was no other way to make the discovery of this but that they took. For he will not deal with penitent sinners as with impenitent; though his justice would not have spared unrepenting citizens, his mercy is so great he will not destroy repenting sinners.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 3:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/jonah-3.html. 1685.

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