As I have before observed, Jonah seems here indirectly to intimate, that he had been previously called to the office of a teacher; for it is the same as though he had said, that he framed this history as a part of his ordinary function. The word of God then was not for the first time communicated to Jonah, when he was sent to Nineveh; but it pleased God, when he was already a Prophet, to employ him among other nations. It might have been then, that he was sent to Nineveh, that the Lord, being wearied with the obstinacy of his own people, might afford an example of pious docility on the part of a heathen and uncircumcised nation, in order to render the Israelites more inexcusable. They made a profession of true religion, they boasted that they were a holy people; circumcision was also to them a symbol and a pledge of God’s covenant; yet they despised all the Prophets, so that their teaching among them was wholly useless. It is then probable that this Prophet was taken away from them, that the Ninevites by their example might increase the sin of Israel, for in three days they turned to God, after Jonah had preached to them: but among the Israelites and their kindred he had, during a long time, effected nothing, when yet his authority had been sufficiently ratified, and thus, as we have already said, in their favor: for Jonah had predicted, that the kingdom of Israel would as yet stand; and however much they deserved to perish, yet the Lord fulfilled what he had promised by the mouth at his servant. They ought then to have embraced his doctrine, not only because it was divine, but especially because the Lord had been pleased to show his love to them.
I do not indeed doubt, but that the ingratitude of the people was in this manner arraigned, since the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and that for a short time, while the Israelites ever hardened themselves in their obstinacy. And hence some have refinedly expounded that passage in Mat_12:39, ‘This perverse generation seeketh a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah the Prophet,’ as though this intimated, that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, inasmuch as Jonah was taken away from his own nation, and was given as a teacher to foreign and heathen nations. They therefore suppose, that we are to understand this as a prophecy respecting the future call of the Gentiles, as though Christ had said, that he would hereafter go to the Gentiles, after having found the wickedness of the chosen people past recovery. But as Christ expressly applies this comparison, we ought not to draw his words here and there. (10) He indeed confines the similitude to one particular thing, that is, “As Jonah had been three days in the whale’s bowels, so also he would be three days in the bowels of the earth;” as though he had said, that in this he would be like to Jonah, for he would be a Prophet brought to life again. And this was said designedly by Christ, because he saw that he was despised by the Jews, and that his labors were in vain: “Since ye now hear me not, and regard me as nothing, know that I shall be hereafter a new Prophet, even after my resurrection; so at length I shall begin to speak more effectually both to the Jews and to the Gentiles, as Jonah converted Nineveh, after having returned again to life.” This then is the simple meaning of the passage. Hence Jonah was not a type of Christ, because he was sent away unto the Gentiles, but because he returned to life again, after having for some time exercised his office as a Prophet among the people of Israel. They then who say that his going forth was a token of the call of the Gentiles, adduce indeed what is plausible, but it seems to be supported by no solid reason; for it was in fact an extraordinary thing. God, then, had not as yet openly showed what he would do at the coming of Christ. When Naaman the Syrian was converted to the faith, (2Kg_5:15) and a few others, God changed nothing in his ordinary proceedings: for there ever existed the special call of the race of Abraham, and religion was ever confined within the ancient limits; and it remained ever true, that God had not done to other nations as he had to the Jews, for he had revealed to them his judgments, (Psa_147:20.) It was therefore God’s will that the adoption of the race of Abraham should continue unaltered to the conning of Christ, so that the Jews might excel all other nations, and differ from them through a gratuitous privilege, as the holy and elect people of God.
Those who adopt the contrary opinion say, that the Ninevites were converted to the Lord without circumcision. This is true; but I know not whether that was a true and legitimate conversion, which is hereafter mentioned; and of this, the Lord being willing, I shall again speak more fully: but it seems more probable, that they were induced by the reproofs and threatening of the Prophet, suppliantly to deprecate the impending wrath of God: hence God once forgave them; what took place afterwards does not clearly appear. It is certainly not probable that the whole city was converted to the Lord: for soon after that city became exceedingly hostile both to the Israelites and the Jews; and the Church of God was by the Ninevites continually harassed with slaughters. Since it was so, there is certainly no reason to think, that they had really and from the heart repented. But I put off a full discussion of this subject until we come to another passage. Let us go on now with our text.
Now; or, and. Some have argued from this commencement that the Book of Jonah is a fragment, the continuation of a larger work; but it is a common formulary, linking together revelations and histories, and is continually used in the Old Testament at the beginning of independent works; e.g. Jos_1:1; Jdg_1:1; 1Sa_1:1; Est_1:1; Eze_1:1. Jonah the son of Amittai (2Ki_14:25).
Now the word of the Lord – , literally, “And, …” This is the way in which the several inspired writers of the Old Testament mark that what it was given them to write was united onto those sacred books which God had given to others to write, and it formed with them one continuous whole. The word, “And,” implies this. It would do so in any language, and it does so in Hebrew as much as in any other. As neither we, nor any other people, would, without any meaning, use the word, And, so neither did the Hebrews. It joins the four first books of Moses together; it carries on the history through Joshua, Judges, the Books of Samuel and of the Kings. After the captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah begin again where the histories before left off; the break of the captivity is bridged over; and Ezra, going back in mind to the history of God’s people before the captivity, resumes the history, as if it had been of yesterday, “And in the first year of Cyrus.” It joins in the story of the Book of Ruth before the captivity, and that of Esther afterward. At times, even prophets employ it, in using the narrative form of themselves, as Ezekiel, “and it was in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, and I was in the captivity by the river of Chebar, the heavens opened and I saw.” If a prophet or historian wishes to detach his prophecy or his history, he does so; as Ezra probably began the Book of Chronicles anew from Adam, or as Daniel makes his prophecy a whole by itself. But then it is the more obvious that a Hebrew prophet or historian, when he does begin with the word, “And,” has an object in so beginning; he uses an universal word of all languages in its uniform meaning in all language, to join things together.
And yet more precisely; this form, “and the word of the Lord came to – saying,” occurs over and over again, stringing together the pearls of great price of God’s revelations, and uniting this new revelation to all those which had preceded it. The word, “And,” then joins on histories with histories, revelations with revelations, uniting in one the histories of God’s works and words, and blending the books of Holy Scripture into one divine book.
But the form of words must have suggested to the Jews another thought, which is part of our thankfulness and of our being Act_11:18, “then to the Gentiles also hath God given repentance unto life.” The words are the self-same familiar words with which some fresh revelation of God’s will to His people had so often been announced. Now they are prefixed to God’s message to the pagan, and so as to join on that message to all the other messages to Israel. Would then God deal thenceforth with the pagan as with the Jews? Would they have their prophets? Would they be included in the one family of God? The mission of Jonah in itself was an earnest that they would, for God. Who does nothing fitfully or capriciously, in that He had begun, gave an earnest that He would carry on what He had begun. And so thereafter, the great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, were prophets to the nations also; Daniel was a prophet among them, to them as well as to their captives.
But the mission of Jonah might, so far, have been something exceptional. The enrolling his book, as an integral part of the Scriptures, joining on that prophecy to the other prophecies to Israel, was an earnest that they were to be parts of one system. But then it would be significant also, that the records of God’s prophecies to the Jews, all embodied the accounts of their impenitence. Here is inserted among them an account of God’s revelation to the pagan, and their repentance. “So many prophets had been sent, so many miracles performed, so often had captivity been foreannounced to them for the multitude of their sins. and they never repented. Not for the reign of one king did they cease from the worship of the calves; not one of the kings of the ten tribes departed from the sins of Jeroboam? Elijah, sent in the Word and Spirit of the Lord, had done many miracles, yet obtained no abandonment of the calves. His miracles effected this only, that the people knew that Baal was no god, and cried out, “the Lord He is the God.” Elisha his disciple followed him, who asked for a double portion of the Spirit of Elijah, that he might work more miracles, to bring back the people.
He died, and, after his death as before it, the worship of the calves continued in Israel. The Lord marveled and was weary of Israel, knowing that if He sent to the pagan they would bear, as he saith to Ezekiel. To make trial of this, Jonah was chosen, of whom it is recorded in the Book of Kings that he prophesied the restoration of the border of Israel. When then he begins by saying, “And the word of the Lord came to Jonah,” prefixing the word “And,” he refers us back to those former things, in this meaning. The children have not hearkened to what the Lord commanded, sending to them by His servants the prophets, but have hardened their necks and given themselves up to do evil before the Lord and provoke Him to anger; “and” therefore “the word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying, Arise and go to Nineveh that great city, and preach unto her,” that so Israel may be shewn, in comparison with the pagan, to be the more guilty, when the Ninevites should repent, the children of Israel persevered in unrepentance.”
Jonah the son of Amittai – Both names occur here only in the Old Testament, Jonah signifies “Dove,” Amittai, “the truth of God.” Some of the names of the Hebrew prophets so suit in with their times, that they must either have been given them propheticly, or assumed by themselves, as a sort of watchword, analogous to the prophetic names, given to the sons of Hosea and Isaiah. Such were the names of Elijah and Elisha, “The Lord is my God,” “my God is salvation.” Such too seems to be that of Jonah. The “dove” is everywhere the symbol of “mourning love.” The side of his character which Jonah records is that of his defect, his want of trust in God, and so his unloving zeal against those, who were to be the instruments of God against his people. His name perhaps preserves that character by which he willed to be known among his people, one who moaned or mourned over them.
Arise, go to Nineveh, to that great city. Nineveh is called a great city, and not without reason; for it was in circumference, as heathen writers say, 400 stadia: and we shall see that Jonah was three whole days in going through the squares and streets of the city. It hence follows, that it was a very large city, and this all allow. Profane writers call it Ninus, and say that it is a name derived from its founder; for it was Ninus, the son of Betas, who built it. But more correct is their opinion, who think that נינוה Ninue, is a Hebrew word: and hence what Herodotus and Diodorus, and others of the same class, say, is certainly fabulous, both as to the origin of the city and as to the whole progress of the kingdom, and their legends can easily be disproved by testimonies from holy Scripture. It is at the same time admitted by all, that Nineveh was a very large and a well fortified city. Babylon was afterwards built by Semiramis, who had been the wife of Betas: after her husband’s death she wished to show that she also excelled in mind and industry, and that she had wisdom above her sex. But with regard to the founder of Nineveh, it is certain that the city was first built by Asshur: whether it was enlarged by Ninus, I know not: this, then, I leave as uncertain; for I wish not to contend about what is doubtful. But it is certain, from what Moses has said, that the founder of this city was Asshur, (Gen_10:11.)
As to the largeness of the city, even if profane writers had not said a word, the testimony of Jonah ought to be sufficient to us. Now, since he is bidden to go and proceed to Nineveh, the Lord gives him some hope of success. He indeed wrought effectually by the hand of his servant, Nahum; who, though he continued at home, yet prophesied against the Ninevites; but with a different view, and for another end. For as the people were then miserably distressed, and saw the kingdom or monarchy of Assyria in a flourishing state, they must have despaired, had not some solace been afforded them. Hence Nahum showed that God would be a judge against the Ninevites; that though he for a time favored and spared them, there was yet impending over them the dreadful judgment of which he speaks. Nahum, then, was not given as a teacher to the Ninevites, but was only a proclaimer, that the Jews might strengthen their faith by this comfort — that they were not wholly rejected by the Lord, as he would some time avenge their wrongs. The case with Jonah was different: for he was sent to the city itself, to exhort the Ninevites to repent. Now the Lord, by speaking expressly of the largeness of the city, intended thus to prepare him with firmness, lest he should be frightened by the splendor, wealth, and power of that city: for we know how difficult it is to take in hand great and arduous undertakings, especially when we feel ourselves destitute of strength. When we have to do with many and powerful adversaries, we are not only debilitated, but our courage wholly vanishes away. Lest, then, the greatness of Nineveh should fill Jonah with terror, he is here prepared and armed with firmness. “Go thento Nineveh, and let not the power of that monarchy prevent thee to fulfill what I command thee; which is, to show to the Ninevites their sins, and to denounce on them destruction, if they repent not.”
We now then understand why Nineveh was calleda great city: for had it not been for the reason just stated, it would not have been necessary that this should have been said to Jonah. The Israelites, I doubt not, knew well that it was a large city, and also possessed of strength and of a large number of men: but the Lord intended to set before his servant what might have been a hindrance to him in the discharge of his office; Go then to this great city. In short, God designed in this way to try Jonah, whether he would prefer his command to all the hindrances of this world. And it is a genuine proof of obedience when we simply obey God, however numerous the obstacles which may meet us and may be suggested to our minds, and though no escape may appear to us; yea, when we follow God, as it were with closed eyes, wherever he may lead us, and doubt not but that he will add strength to us, and stretch forth also his hand, whenever need may require, to remove all our difficulties. It was then the Lord’s purpose to deal thus with Jonah; as though he had said to him, “remember who I am, and be content with my authority; for I have ready at hand all resources; when any thing stands in your way, rely on my power, and execute what I command thee.” This is the import of the passage. Whenever then God demands any service from us, and we at the same time see that what the discharge of our duty demands is either difficult or apparently impossible, let this come to our minds, — that there is not anything in the whole world which ought not to give way to God’s command: we shall then gather courage and confidence, nor will anything be able to call us away from our duty and a right course, though the whole world were fighting against God.
It now follows, Cry against her; for ascended has their wickedness before my presence. Cry, he says, against her: it was an unpleasant undertaking to cry out against her immediately at the beginning. We indeed know that men take pride in their power: and as there was then but one monarchy in the world, the seat of which was at Nineveh, a teacher could hardly expect to obtain a patient hearing, though he excelled in gracefulness of manner, and had acquired reputation, and brought an agreeable message. But Jonah was a foreigner, one unknown, and destitute of authority; and still more, he was immediately to denounce destruction on the Ninevites, to cry aloud, to reprove, to make a vehement proclamation, to threaten. How difficult was all this? We hence see how hard a command it was when God charged his Prophet to cry against Nineveh.
It is now added, For their wickedness has ascended to me. By this clause God strengthens his servant Jonah; as though he said, “Thou wilt not, as an individual, have to contend with them, but I constitute thee as my herald, to summon them to my tribunal.” And no doubt it must have served much to animate Jonah, that he had not to deal with the Ninevites as an individual, but as the messenger of God: and it might also have had an influence on their minds, to know, that though no mortal inflicted punishment for their crimes, they yet could not escape the vengeance of God. This then is the reason why the Lord here declares that he would be the judge of Nineveh. And at the same time he reminds us, that though the Ninevites felicitated themselves, and also gained the plaudits of the whole world on account of their power, yet all this was of no moment, because their wickedness and iniquity had ascended into heaven. When therefore we are reproved, there is no reason that we should turn our eyes here and there towards men; we ought instantly to present ourselves to the scrutiny of God; nay, we ought ourselves to take in hand that voluntary examination which God requires. By so doing, we shall not feed our vices by foolishly deceiving ourselves, as hypocrites do, who ever look around them to the right hand and to the left, and never raise up their thoughts to heaven. Let us go on —
Nineveh, the capital of the kingdom of Assyria, is first mentioned in Gen_10:11, as founded by Nimrod. It stood on the left bank of the river Tigris, where it is joined by the Khosr, opposite to the present town of Mosul. The Assyrians had already become known in Syria. In B.C. 854 Shal-maneser II. had defeated at Karkar twelve kings confederate against him, among whom is reckoned Ahab King of Israel. Long before his time, Tiglath-Pileser I. had made a great expedition to the west, captured a town at the foot of Lebanon, and reached the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Jehu was compelled to pay tribute to the Assyrians; and Rimmon-nirari, who reigned from B.C. 810 to 781, held the suzerainty of Phoenicia, Samaria, Edom, and Philistia. Jonah, therefore, knew well what his country might expect at the hands of this people.
That great city. It is thus called in Jon_3:2, Jon_3:3; Jon_4:11; and the epithet is added here in order to show to Jonah the importance of his mission. The size of Nineveh is variously estimated according to the sense attached to the name “Nineveh.” This appellation may be restricted to Nineveh proper, or it may comprise the four cities which lay close together in the immediate neighbourhood of each ether, and whose remains are now known as the mounds of Kouyunjik, on the southwest, directly opposite to Mosul; Nimrud, about eighteen miles to the southeast; Karamless, twelve miles to the north; and Khorsabad, the most northerly, about the same distance both from Karamless and Kouyunjik. Khorsabad, however, was not built till some hundred years after Jonah’s time. These cities are contained in an irregular parallelogram of some sixty miles in circumference. The following account of Nineveh proper is derived from Professor Rawlinson, ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ 1:252, etc.: “The ruins consist of two principal mounds, Nebbiyunus and Kouyunjik. The Kouyunjik mound, which lies nearly half a mile northwest of the others, is very much the more considerable of the two. Its shape is an irregular oval, elongated to a point towards the northeast. The surface is nearly flat; the sides slope at a steep angle, and are furrowed with numerous ravines worn in the soft material by the rains of some thirty centuries. The greatest height above the plain is ninety feet, and the area is estimated at a hundred acres. It is an artificial eminence, computed to contain 14,500,000 tons of earth, and on it were erected the palaces and temples of the Assyrian monarchs. The mound of Nebbi-yunus is at its base nearly triangular, and covers an area of nearly forty acres. It is loftier, and its sides are more precipitous than Kouyunjik, especially on the west, where it abutted on the wall of the city. The mass of earth is calculated at six and a half millions of tons. These two vast mounds are both in the same line, and abutted on the western wall of the city, which was some two and a half miles in length. Anciently it seems to have immediately overhung the Tigris, but the river has now receded to the west, leaving a plain of nearly a mile in width between its bank and the old rampart which evidently once followed the course of the river bank. The western wall is joined at fight angles by the northern rampart which runs in a straight line for seven thousand feet. At its other extremity the western wall forms a very obtuse angle with the southern, which impends over a deep ravine, and runs in a straight line for about a thousand yards, when it meets the eastern wall, which is the longest and the least regular of the four. The entire length of this side is sixteen thousand feet, or above three miles. It is divided into two portions by. the Stream of the Khosr-su; which, coming from the northwest, finds its way through the city and then across the low plain to the Tigris. The town is thus of an oblong shape, and the circuit of its walls is somewhat less than eight miles, and the area which they include is eighteen hundred acres. This, at the computation of something less than one hundred inhabitants per acre, would ascribe to Nineveh a population of one hundred and seventy-five thousand souls” (Rawlinson, ‘Anc. Men.,’ 1. Jon_1:1-17).
Cry against it. The message is given in Jon_3:4. Thus the knowledge of the true God is made known among the Gentiles. Their wickedness; i.e; as Pusey notes, their evil doing towards others, as in Nah_3:19 (see Introduction, § I). Is come up before me, and appeals for punishment, as Gen_4:10; Gen_18:20, Gen_18:21; Septuagint, Ἀνέβη ἡ κραυγή τῆς κακίας αὐτής πρὸς μέ, “The cry of its wickedness is come up unto me.”
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city – The Assyrian history, as far as it has yet been discovered, is very bare of events in regard to this period. We have as yet the names of three kings only for 150 years. But Assyria, as far as we know its history, was in its meridian. Just before the time of Jonah, perhaps ending in it, were the victorious reigns of Shalmanubar and Shamasiva; after him was that of Ivalush or Pul, the first aggressor upon Israel. It is clear that this was a time Of Assyrian greatness: since God calls it “that great city,” not in relation to its extent only, but its power. A large weak city would not have been called a “great city unto God” Jon_3:3.
And cry against it – The substance of that cry is recorded afterward, but God told to Jonah now, what message he was to cry aloud to it. For Jonah relates afterward, how he expostulated now with God, and that his expostulation was founded on this, that God was so merciful that He would not fulfill the judgment which He threatened. Faith was strong in Jonah, while, like Apostles “the sons of thunder,” before the Day of Pentecost, he knew not” what spirit he was of.” Zeal for the people and, as he doubtless thought, for the glory of God, narrowed love in him. He did not, like Moses, pray Exo_32:32, “or else blot me also out of Thy book,” or like Paul, desire even to be “an anathema from Christ” Rom_9:3 for his people’s sake, so that there might be more to love his Lord. His zeal was directed, like that of the rebuked Apostles, against others, and so it too was rebuked. But his faith was strong. He shrank back from the office, as believing, not as doubting, the might of God. He thought nothing of preaching, amid that multitude of wild warriors, the stern message of God. He was willing, alone, to confront the violence of a city of 600,000, whose characteristic was violence. He was ready, at God’s bidding, to enter what Nahum speaks of as a den of lions Nah_2:11-12; “The dwelling of the lions and the feeding-place of the young lions, where the lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses.” He feared not the fierceness of their lion-nature, but God’s tenderness, and lest that tenderness should be the destruction of his own people.
Their wickedness is come up before Me – So God said to Cain, Gen_4:10. “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground:” and of Sodom Gen_18:20 :21, “The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, because their sin is very grievous; the cry of it is come up unto Me.” The “wickedness” is not the mere mass of human sin, of which it is said 1Jo_5:19, “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” but evil-doing toward others. This was the cause of the final sentence on Nineveh, with which Nahum closes his prophecy, “upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?” It bad been assigned as the ground of the judgment on Israel through Nineveh Hos_10:14-15. “So shall Bethel do unto you, on account of the wickedness of your wickedness.” It was the ground of the destruction by the flood Gen_6:5. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth.” God represents Himself, the Great Judge, as sitting on His Throne in heaven, Unseen but All-seeing, to whom the wickedness and oppressiveness of man against man “goes up,” appealing for His sentence against the oppressor. The cause seems ofttimes long in pleading. God is long-suffering with the oppressor too, that if so be, he may repent. So would a greater good come to the oppressed also, if the wolf became a lamb. But meanwhile, “ every iniquity has its own voice at the hidden judgment seat of God.” Mercy itself calls for vengeance on the unmerciful.
Jonah now relates how he sought hiding-places, that he might withdraw himself from the service of God; not that he deceived himself with such a gross notion, as that he would be no longer under the power of God, after having passed over the sea; but he intended to shun, as it were, the light of the present life, by proceeding to a foreign country. He was, no doubt, not only in a disturbed state of mind, when he formed such a purpose, but was utterly confused.
It may be asked, why Jonah thus avoided the command of God. The Jews, indulging in frigid trifles in divine things, say that he feared lest, when he came to Nineveh, he should be deprived of the prophetic spirit, as though he were not in the same danger by passing over the sea: this is very frivolous and puerile. And further, they blend things of no weight, when reasons sufficiently important present themselves to us.
It was first a new and unusual thing for Prophets to be drawn away from the chosen people, and sent to heathen nations. When Peter was sent to Cornelius, (Act_10:17,) though he had been instructed as to the future call of the Gentiles, he yet doubted, he hesitated until he was driven as it were forcibly by a vision. What then must have come to the mind of Jonah? If only on account of one man the mind of Peter was disquieted, so as to think it an illusion, when he was sent a teacher to Cornelius, what must Jonah have thought, when he was sent to a city so populous? Hence novelty, doubtless, must have violently shaken the courage of the holy Prophet, and induced him to retake himself elsewhere, as one destitute of understanding. Again, doubt might have had an influence on him: for how could he have hoped that a people, who were notorious for their licentiousness, would be converted? He had indeed before an experience of the hardness of the chosen people. He had been faithfully engaged in his office, he had omitted nothing to confirm the worship of God and true religion among the people of Israel: but he had effected but little; and yet the Jews had been called from the womb. What then could he hope, when the Lord removed him to Nineveh? for unbridled licentiousness ruled there; there was also there extreme blindness, they had no knowledge of divine worship; in a word, they were sunk in extreme darkness, and the devil in every way reigned there. Doubt then must have broken down the spirit of Jonah, so that he disobeyed the command of God. Still further, the weakness of the flesh must have hindered him from following his legitimate call: “What then? even this, — I must go to the chief city of that monarchy, which at this day treads under its feet the whole earth; I must go there, a man obscure and despised; and then I must proclaim a message that will excite the greatest hatred, and instantly kindle the minds of men into rage; and what must I say to the Ninevites? ‘Ye are wicked men, God can no longer endure your impiety; there is, therefore, a dreadful vengeance near at hand.’ How shall I be received?” Jonah then, being still surrounded by the infirmities of the flesh, must have given way to fear, which dislodged the love of obedience.
And I have no doubt, in my own mind, but that Jonah discussed these things within himself, for he was not a log of wood. And doubtless it was not to no purpose, as I have already said, that he mentions that the city was great. God indeed sought to remove what might prove an hindrance, but Jonah, on the other hand, reasoned thus, — “I see that I am to have a fierce contest; nay, that such a number of people will fall on me, enough to overwhelm me a hundred times, as the Lord has not in vain foretold me that the city is great.” And though he might have had some hope, if they had been chastised, that they would give God his due honor; yet he confesses, that this hindrance came to his mind, which prevented him to proceed in the course of his calling. Hence doubt, as well as the fear of the flesh made Jonah to stumble, and novelty also, as I have already said, must have perplexed him; so that he preferred to go down, as it were, to the grave, than to undertake an office which apparently had no reason in its favor. For why were the Prophets sent, except to effect something by their labor, and to bring forth some fruit? but of this Jonah had no hope. Some authority was also allowed the Prophets, at least they were allowed the liberty of teaching; but Jonah thought that all entrance was closed up against him: and still more, Jonah thought that he was opposing the covenant of the Lord, who had chosen one people only; and he also thought that he was, as it were, fixed to his own land, when he was appointed a Teacher in his own country; he therefore could not remove elsewhere without feeling a great repugnance.
I hence think, that Jonah disobeyed the command of God, partly because the weakness of the flesh was an hindrance, partly because of the novelty of the message, and partly because he despaired of fruit, or of success to his teaching.
But he doubtless grievously transgressed: for the first rule, as to all our actions, is to follow the call of God. Though one may excel in heroic virtues, yet all his virtues are mere fumes, which shine before the eyes of men, except the object be to obey God. The call of God then, as I have said, holds the first place as to the conduct of men; and unless we lay this foundation, we do like him who would build a house in the air. Disordered then will be the whole course of our life, except God presides over and guides us, and raises up over us, as it were, his own banners. As then Jonah subverted the first and the only firm foundation of a right conduct, what could have remained for him? There is then no reason for us to extenuate his fault, for he could not have sinned more grievously than by forsaking God, in having refused to obey his call: it was, as it were to shake off the yoke; and this he confesses himself.
They therefore very childishly write who wish to be his apologists, since he twice condemns himself — Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of Jehovah —to go unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. Why does he the second time repeat, from the presence of Jehovah? He meant, no doubt, to express here more distinctly his fault: and the repetition is indeed very emphatical: and it also proves clearly that it was not a slight offense, when Jonah retook himself elsewhere when he was sent to Nineveh. He could not indeed have departed from the Lord, for God fills heaven and earth; and, as I have said already, he was not fascinated by so gross an error as to think, that when he became a fugitive, he was beyond the reach of God’s hand. What then is to flee from the face of Jehovah, except it be that which he here confesses, that he fled from the presence of God, as though he wished, like runaway servants, to reject the government of God? Since then Jonah was carried away by this violent temptation, there is no reason why we should now try, by some vain and frivolous pretenses, to excuse his sin. This is one thing.
With regard to the word Tharsis, or Tharsisa, I doubt not but that it means Cilicia. There are those who think that it is the city Tarsus; but they are mistaken, for it is the name of a country. They are also mistaken who translate it, Sea; for Jonah intended not only to go to sea, but also to pass over into Cilicia, which is opposite to the Syrian Sea. But the Jews called that the Sea of Tarshish, as it appears from many passages, because there was very frequent sailing to that place. As then that transmarine country was more known to them than any other, and as they carried there their merchandise, and in their turn purchased their goods, they called that the Sea of Tarshish, as it is well known, as being near it.
Jonah then intended to flee into Cilicia, when the Lord would have sent him to Nineveh. It is said that he rose up to flee, and then, that he went down to Joppa, that he found there a ship, which was passing over to Tarshish, that he paid the fare, that he went down into the ship,to go with them into Cilicia: (12) now by all those expressions Jonah intimates that he was wholly fixed in his purpose, and that it was necessary that he should have been brought back by a strong hand; for he was touched by no repentance during his journey. Many things may indeed come to our minds when the call of God appears to us too burdensome. There is none of us, when service is to be performed to God, who does not roll this and that in his mind: “What will be the issue? how wilt thou reach the place where thou expectest to be? See what dangers await thee.” For Satan always comes forth, whenever we resolve to obey God; but we are to struggle in this case, and then repel what we see to be contrary to our calling. But Jonah shows that he was obstinately fixed in his purpose of fleeing: for he not only intended to go into Tarshish, but he actually went down to the city Joppa, which was nigh to Judea; and, therefore some think that Tarshish was Africa; but this is strained. Others divine it to be Thunetus or Carthage, as though indeed these cities were built at that time; but men are very bold in dreaming. But what need of giving a new meaning to this word against the most common usage of Scriptures when it is evident enough that Tarshish is Cilicia?
Now, when Jonah went down to Joppa, it was evident that he intended immediately to migrate from the land of Judah, and to pass over the sea: but by saying that he paid the fare, that he went down into the ship, that he might go, — by this gradual progress, he sets before us, as I have said, more fully his own perverseness; so that he admits that he not only resolutely purposed to reject the call of God, but that he also confirmed himself in it: and though there were many things to be done, which might have sometimes forced him to stand still, he yet constantly followed where his perverse and blind impulse led him. There is no doubt then, but that Jonah, in these distinct words sets himself forth as a fugitive, not only by one act, but by many acts.
Now, as to his flight, we must bear in mind what I have before said — that all flee away from the presence of God, who do not willingly obey his commandments; not that they can depart farther from him, but they seek, as far as they can, to confine God within narrow limits, and to exempt themselves from being subject to his power. No one indeed openly confesses this; yet the fact itself shows, that no one withdraws himself from obedience to God’s commands without seeking to diminish and, as it were, to take from him his power, so that he may no longer rule. Whosoever, then, do not willingly subject themselves to God, it is the same as though they would turn their backs on him and reject his authority that they may no more be under his power and dominion.
It is deserving of notice, that as Jonah represents himself as guilty before the whole world, so he intended by his example to show how great and detestable a sin it is, not to submit to the commands of God, and not to undertake whatever he enjoins, but to evade his authority. That he might then enhance the atrocity of his sin, he shows by his own example that we cannot rebel against God, without seeking, under some pretense or another to thrust him from his throne, and, at the same time, to confine him within certain limits that he may not include heaven and earth within his empire.
Tarshish; probably, Tartessus, a Phoenician city on the south coast of Spain, and therefore in the opposite direction to Nineveh. He was sent to the far east; he flees to the distant west.
From the presence of the Lord; literally, from the face of Jehovah. This may mean, from God s special presence in Jerusalem or the Holy Land, as banishment from Cannaan is called “casting out of his sight” (2Ki_17:20, 2Ki_17:23; 2Ki_23:27); or, from serving the Lord as his minister (Deu_10:8), Jonah preferring to renounce his office as prophet rather than execute his mission. The former seems the most natural explanation of the phrase. Kimchi says that Jonah supposed that the spirit of prophecy would not extend beyond the land of Israel. He could never have thought to escape from God’s all-seeing eye. His repugnance to the duty imposed upon him arose partly from national prejudice, which made him loth to interfere in Gentile business, and partly, as he himself says (Jon_4:2), because he feared God’s compassion would spare the Ninevites on their repentance, and that thus his prediction would be discredited, and mercy shown to heathens already inimical to Israel, if not known to him as the future conquerors of his people.
Joppa. This is the modern Jaffa (called Japho in Jos_19:46), a town on the seacoast thirty miles in a northwesterly direction from Jerusalem. “Jaffa,” says Dr. Thomson, “is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was given to Dan in the distribution of the land by Joshua, and it has been known to history ever since. It owes its existence to the low ledge of rocks which extends into the sea from the extremity of the little cape on which the city stands, and forms a small harbour. Insignificant as it is, and insecure, yet, there being no other on all this coast, it was sufficient to cause a city to spring up around it even in the earliest times, and to sustain its life through numberless changes of dynasties, races, and religions, down to the present hour. It was, in fact, the only harbour of any notoriety possessed by the Jews throughout the greater part of their national existence. To it the timber for both the temples of Jerusalem was brought from Lebanon; and no doubt a lucrative trade in cedar and pine was always carried on through it with the nations who had possession of that goodly mountain. Through it, also, nearly all the foreign commerce of the Jews was conducted, until the artificial pert of Caessarea was built by Herod … . The harbour, howewer, is very inconvenient and insecure. Vessels of any considerable burden must lie out in the open road-stead—a very uneasy berth at all times; and even a moderate wind will oblige them to slip their cables and run out to sea, or seek anchorage at Haifa, sixty miles distant … . The road-stead is liable to sudden and unexpected storms, which stir up a tumultuous sea in a very short time … . The landing also is most inconvenient, and often extremely dangerous. More boats upset, and more lives are lost in the breakers at the north end of the ledge of rocks that defend the inner harbour than anywhere else on this coast.”
Went down into it; ἀνέβη [ἐνέβη, Alex.] εἰς αὐτό, “went up into it”. Went on board; or, as Jerome says, sought a hiding place in the ship (comp. verse 5). With them. With the crew. Jonah had told them (verse 10) that he was flying from God’s service, but, knowing and earing nothing about Jehovah, they took him on board when he paid his fare, and thought nothing of his private reasons for joining them
But (And) Jonah rose up to flee … from the presence of the Lord – literally “from being before the Lord.” Jonah knew well, that man could not escape from the presence of God, whom he knew as the Self-existing One, He who alone is, the Maker of heaven, earth and sea. He did not “flee” then “from His presence,” knowing well what David said Psa_139:7, Psa_139:9-10, “whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? 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.” Jonah fled, not from God’s presence, but from standing before him, as His servant and minister. He refused God’s service, because, as he himself tells God afterward Jon_4:2, he knew what it would end in, and he misliked it.
So he acted, as people often do, who dislike God’s commands. He set about removing himself as far as possible from being under the influence of God, and from the place where he “could” fulfill them. God commanded him to go to Nineveh, which lay northeast from his home; and he instantly set himself to flee to the then furthermost west. Holy Scripture sets the rebellion before us in its full nakedness. “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah, go to Nineveh, and Jonah rose up;” he did something instantly, as the consequence of God’s command. He “rose up,” not as other prophets, to obey, but to disobey; and that, not slowly nor irresolutely, but “to flee, from” standing “before the Lord.” He renounced his office. So when our Lord came in the flesh, those who found what He said to be “hard sayings,” went away from Him, “and walked no more with Him” Joh_6:66. So the rich “young man went away sorrowful Mat_19:22, for he had great possessions.”
They were perhaps afraid of trusting themselves in His presence; or they were ashamed of staying there, and not doing what He said. So men, when God secretly calls them to prayer, go and immerse themselves in business; when, in solitude, He says to their souls something which they do not like, they escape His Voice in a throng. If He calls them to make sacrifices for His poor, they order themselves a new dress or some fresh sumptuousness or self-indulgence; if to celibacy, they engage themselves to marry immediately; or, contrariwise, if He calls them not to do a thing, they do it at once, to make an end of their struggle and their obedience; to put obedience out of their power; to enter themselves on a course of disobedience. Jonah, then, in this part of his history, is the image of those who, when God calls them, disobey His call, and how He deals with them, when he does not abandon them. He lets them have their way for a time, encompasses them with difficulties, so that they shall “flee back from God displeased to God appeased.”
“The whole wisdom, the whole bliss, the whole of man lies in this, to learn what God wills him to do, in what state of life, calling, duties, profession, employment, He wills him to serve Him.” God sent each one of us into the world, to fulfill his own definite duties, and, through His grace, to attain to our own perfection in and through fulfilling them. He did not create us at random, to pass through the world, doing whatever self-will or our own pleasure leads us to, but to fulfill His will. This will of His, if we obey His earlier calls, and seek Him by prayer, in obedience, self-subdual, humility, thoughtfulness, He makes known to each by His own secret drawings, and, in absence of these, at times by His Providence or human means. And then , “to follow Him is a token of predestination.” It is to place ourselves in that order of things, that pathway to our eternal mansion, for which God created us, and which God created for us.
So Jesus says Joh_10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand.” In these ways, God has foreordained for us all the graces which we need; in these, we shall be free from all temptations which might be too hard for us, in which our own special weakness would be most exposed. Those ways, which people choose out of mere natural taste or fancy, are mostly those which expose them to the greatest peril of sin and damnation. For they choose them, just because such pursuits flatter most their own inclinations, and give scope to their natural strength and their moral weakness. So Jonah, disliking a duty, which God gave him to fulfill, separated himself from His service, forfeited his past calling, lost, as far as in him lay, his place among “the goodly fellowship of the prophets,” and, but for God’s overtaking grace, would have ended his days among the disobedient. As in Holy Scripture, David stands alone of saints, who had been after their calling, bloodstained; as the penitent robber stands alone converted in death; as Peter stands singly, recalled after denying his Lord; so Jonah stands, the one prophet, who, having obeyed and then rebelled, was constrained by the overpowering providence and love of God, to return and serve Him.
“Being a prophet, Jonah could not be ignorant of the mind of God, that, according to His great Wisdom and His unsearchable judgments and His untraceable and incomprehensible ways, He, through the threat, was providing for the Ninevites that they should not suffer the things threatened. To think that Jonah hoped to hide himself in the sea and elude by flight the great Eye of God, were altogether absurd and ignorant, which should not be believed, I say not of a prophet, but of no other sensible person who had any moderate knowledge of God and His supreme power. Jonah knew all this better than anyone, that, planning his flight, he changed his place, but did not flee God. For this could no man do, either by hiding himself in the bosom of the earth or depths of the sea or ascending (if possible) with wings into the air, or entering the lowest hell, or encircled with thick clouds, or taking any other counsel to secure his flight.
This, above all things and alone, can neither be escaped nor resisted, God. When He willeth to hold and grasp in His Hand, He overtaketh the swift, baffleth the intelligent, overthroweth the strong, boweth the lofty, tameth rashness, subdueth might. He who threatened to others the mighty Hand of God, was not himself ignorant of nor thought to flee, God. Let us not believe this. But since he saw the fall of Israel and perceived that the prophetic grace would pass over to the Gentiles, he withdrew himself from the office of preaching, and put off the command.”
“The prophet knoweth, the Holy Spirit teaching him, that the repentance of the Gentiles is the ruin of the Jews. A lover then of his country, he does not so much envy the deliverance of Nineveh, as will that his own country should not perish. – Seeing too that his fellow-prophets are sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to excite the people to repentance, and that Balaam the soothsayer too prophesied of the salvation of Israel, he grieveth that he alone is chosen to be sent to the Assyrians, the enemies of Israel, and to that greatest city of the enemies where was idolatry and ignorance of God. Yet more he feared lest they, on occasion of his preaching, being converted to repentance, Israel should be wholly forsaken. For he knew by the same Spirit whereby the preaching to the Gentiles was entrusted to him, that the house of Israel would then perish; and he feared that what was at one time to be, should take place in his own time.”
“The flight of the prophet may also be referred to that of man in general who, despising the commands of God, departed from Him and gave himself to the world, where subsequently, through the storms of ill and the wreck of the whole world raging against him, he was compelled to feel the presence of God, and to return to Him whom he had fled. Whence we understand, that those things also which men think for their good, when against the will of God, are turned to destruction; and help not only does not benefit those to whom it is given, but those too who give it, are alike crushed. As we read that Egypt was conquered by the Assyrians, because it helped Israel against the will of God. The ship is emperiled which had received the emperiled; a tempest arises in a calm; nothing is secure, when God is against us.”
Tarshish – , named after one of the sons of Javan, Gen_10:4. was an ancient merchant city of Spain, once proverbial for its wealth (Psa_72:10. Strabo iii. 2. 14), which supplied Judaea with silver Jer_10:9, Tyre with “all manner of riches,” with iron also, tin, lead. Eze_27:12, Eze_27:25. It was known to the Greeks and Romans, as (with a harder pronunciation) Tartessus; but in our first century, it had either ceased to be, or was known under some other name. Ships destined for a voyage, at that time, so long, and built for carrying merchandise, were naturally among the largest then constructed. “Ships of Tarshish” corresponded to the “East-Indiamen” which some of us remember. The breaking of “ships of Tarshish by the East Wind” Psa_48:7 is, on account of their size and general safety, instanced as a special token of the interposition of God.
And went down to Joppa – Joppa, now Jaffa (Haifa), was the one well-known port of Israel on the Mediterranean. There the cedars were brought from Lebanon for both the first and second temple 2Ch_3:16; Ezr_2:7. Simon the Maccabee (1 Macc. 14:5) “took it again for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea.” It was subsequently destroyed by the Romans, as a pirate-haven. (Josephus, B. J. iii. 9. 3, and Strabo xvi. 2. 28.) At a later time, all describe it as an unsafe haven. Perhaps the shore changed, since the rings, to which Andromeda was tabled to have been fastened, and which probably were once used to moor vessels, were high above the sea. Perhaps, like the Channel Islands, the navigation was safe to those who knew the coast, unsafe to others. To this port Jonah “went down” from his native country, the mountain district of Zabulon. Perhaps it was not at this time in the hands of Israel. At least, the sailors were pagan. He “went down,” as the man who fell among the thieves, is said to “have gone down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Luk_10:30. He “went down” from the place which God honored by His presence and protection.
And he paid the fare thereof – Jonah describes circumstantially, how he took every step to his end. He went down, found a strongly built ship going where he wished, paid his fare, embarked. He seemed now to have done all. He had severed himself from the country where his office lay. He had no further step to take. Winds and waves would do the rest. He had but to be still. He went, only to be brought back again.
“Sin brings our soul into much senselessness. For as those overtaken by heaviness of head and drunkenness, are borne on simply and at random, and, be there pit or precipice or whatever else below them, they fall into it unawares; so too, they who fall into sin, intoxicated by their desire of the object, know not what they do, see nothing before them, present or future. Tell me, Fleest thou the Lord? Wait then a little, and thou shalt learn from the event, that thou canst not escape the hands of His servant, the sea. For as soon as he embarked, it too roused its waves and raised them up on high; and as a faithful servant, finding her fellow-slave stealing some of his master’s property, ceases not from giving endless trouble to those who take him in, until she recover him, so too the sea, finding and recognizing her fellow-servant, harasses the sailors unceasingly, raging, roaring, not dragging them to a tribunal but threatening to sink the vessel with all its unless they restore to her, her fellow-servant.”
“The sinner “arises,” because, will he, nill he, toil he must. If he shrinks from the way of God, because it is hard, he may not yet be idle. There is the way of ambition, of covetousness, of pleasure, to be trodden, which certainly are far harder. ‘We wearied ourselves (Wisdom 5:7),’ say the wicked, ‘in the way of wickedness and destruction, yea, we have gone through deserts where there lay no way; but the way of the Lord we have not known.’ Jonah would not arise, to go to Nineveh at God’s command; yet he must needs arise, to flee to Tarshish from before the presence of God. What good can he have who fleeth the Good? what light, who willingly forsaketh the Light? “He goes down to Joppa.” Wherever thou turnest, if thou depart from the will of God, thou goest down. Whatever glory, riches, power, honors, thou gainest, thou risest not a whit; the more thou advancest, while turned from God, the deeper and deeper thou goest down. Yet all these things are not had, without paying the price. At a price and with toil, he obtains what he desires; he receives nothing gratis, but, at great price purchases to himself storms, griefs, peril. There arises a great tempest in the sea, when various contradictory passions arise in the heart of the sinner, which take from him all tranquility and joy. There is a tempest in the sea, when God sends strong and dangerous disease, whereby the frame is in peril of being broken. There is a tempest in the sea, when, thro’ rivals or competitors for the same pleasures, or the injured, or the civil magistrate, his guilt is discovered, he is laden with infamy and odium, punished, withheld from his wonted pleasures. Psa_107:23-27. “They who go down to the sea of this world, and do business in mighty waters – their soul melteth away because of trouble; they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man, and all their wisdom is swallowed up.”
Jonah declares here how he had been, as it were, by force brought back by the Lord, when he tried to flee away from his presence. He then says that a tempest arose in the sea; but he at the same time tells us, that this tempest did not arise by chance, as ungodly men are wont to say, who ascribe everything that happens to fortune. God, he says, sent a strong wind on the sea. Some give this renderings God raised up, deriving the verb from נטל, nuthel; but others derive it more correctly from טול, tul, and we shall presently meet with the same word in the fifth verse. Now as to what took place, he says that there was so great a tempest, that the ship was not far from being broken. When he says, ‘The ship thought to be broken the expression corresponds with the idiom of our language, la navire cuidoit perir But some take the ship for the passengers or the sailors; but this is strained; and we know that our common language agrees in many of its phrases with the Hebrew.
Jonah then meant, that a tempest arose, not by chance, but by the certain purpose of God, so that being overtaken on the sea, he acknowledged that he had been deceived when he thought that he could flee away from God’s presence by passing over the sea. Though indeed the Prophet speaks here only of one tempest, we may yet hence generally gather, that no storms, nor any changes in the air, which produce rain or stir up tempests on the sea, happen by chance, but that heaven and earth are so regulated by a Divine power, that nothing takes place without being foreseen and decreed. But if any one objects, and says that it does not harmonize with reason, that, for the fault of one man, so many suffered shipwreck, or were tossed here and there by the storm: the ready answer to this is, — that though God had a regard only, in a special manner, to the case of Jonah, yet there were hidden reasons why he night justly involve others in the same danger. It is probable that many were then sailing; it was not one ship only that was on that sea, since there were so many harbors and so many islands. But though the Lord may involve many men in the same punishment, when he especially intends to pursue only one man, yet there is never wanting a reason why he might not call before his tribunal any one of us, even such as appear the most innocent. And the Lord works wonderfully, while ruling over men. It would be therefore preposterous to measure his operations by our wisdom; for God can so punish one man, as to humble some at the same time, and to chastise others for their various sins, and also to try their patience. Thus then is the mouth of ungodly men stopped, that they may not clamor against God, when he so executes his judgments as not to comport with the judgment of our flesh. But this point I shall presently discuss more at large: there are indeed everywhere in Scripture, instances in which God inflicted punishment on a whole people, when yet one man only had sinned. But when some murmur and plead that they are innocent, there is ever to be found a reason why God cannot be viewed as dealing cruelly with them; nay, were he pleased, he might justly treat them with much greater severity: in a word, though God may appear to deal severely with men, he yet really spares them, and treats them with indulgence. Let us now proceed —
But (And) the Lord sent out – (literally ‘cast along’). Jonah had done his all. Now God’s part began. This He expresses by the word, “And.” Jonah took “his” measures, “and” now God takes “His.” He had let him have his way, as He often deals with those who rebel against Him. He lets them have their way up to a certain point. He waits, in the tranquility of His Almightiness, until they have completed their preparations; and then, when man has ended, He begins, that man may see the more that it is His doing . “He takes those who flee from Him in their flight, the wise in their counsels, sinners in their conceits and sins, and draws them back to Himself and compels them to return. Jonah thought to find rest in the sea, and lo! a tempest.” Probably, God summoned back Jonah, as soon as he had completed all on his part, and sent the tempest, soon after he left the shore.
At least, such tempests often swept along that shore, and were known by their own special name, like the Euroclydon off Crete. Jonah too alone had gone down below deck to sleep, and, when the storm came, the mariners thought it possible to put back. Josephus says of that shore, “Joppa having by nature no haven, for it ends in a rough shore, mostly abrupt, but for a short space having projections, i. e., deep rocks and cliffs advancing into the sea, inclining on either side toward each other (where the traces of the chains of Andromeda yet shown accredit the antiquity of the fable,) and the north wind beating right on the shore, and dashing the high waves against the rocks which receive them, makes the station there a harborless sea. As those from Joppa were tossing here, a strong wind (called by those who sail here, the black north wind) falls upon them at daybreak, dashing straightway some of the ships against each other, some against the rocks, and some, forcing their way against the waves to the open sea, (for they fear the rocky shore …) the breakers towering above them, sank.”
The ship was like – (literally ‘thought’) To be broken Perhaps Jonah means by this very vivid image to exhibit the more his own dullness. He ascribes, as it were, to the ship a sense of its own danger, as she heaved and rolled and creaked and quivered under the weight of the storm which lay on her, and her masts groaned, and her yard-arms shivered. To the awakened conscience everything seems to have been alive to God’s displeasure, except itself.
Jonah did not without reason mention this, — that the passengers consulted together about casting lots; for we hence learn, that it was no ordinary tempest: it appeared then to be a token of God’s wrath. For, if strong wind arose, it would not have been so strange, for such had been often the case; and if a tempest followed, it would not have been a thing unusual. It must then have been something more dreadful, as it filled men’s minds with alarms so that they were conscious that God was present as an avenger: and we know, that it is not common with ungodly men to recognize the vengeance of Gods except in extreme dangers; but when God executes punishment on sins in an unusual manner, then men begin to acknowledge God’s vengeance.
This very thing, Jonah now bears witness to, They said then each to his friend, Come, let us cast lots. Was it not an accustomed thing for them to cast lots whenever a tempest arose? By no means. They had recourse, no doubt, to this expedient, because they knew, that God had not raised up that tempest without some very great and very serious cause. This is one thing: but I cannot now pursue the subjects, I must therefore defer it until tomorrow.
Come, and let us cast lots – Jonah too had probably prayed, and his prayers too were not heard. Probably, too, the storm had some unusual character about it, the suddenness with which it burst upon them, its violence, the quarter from where it came, its whirlwind force . “They knew the nature of the sea, and, as experienced sailors, were acquainted with the character of wind and storm, and had these waves been such as they had known before, they would never have sought by lot for the author of the threatened wreck, or, by a thing uncertain, sought to escape certain peril.” God, who sent the storm to arrest Jonah and to cause him to be cast into the sea, provided that its character should set the mariners on divining, why it came. Even when working great miracles, God brings about, through man, all the forerunning events, all but the last act, in which He puts forth His might. As, in His people, he directed the lot to fall upon Achan or upon Jonathan, so here He overruled the lots of the pagan sailors to accomplish His end. “ We must not, on this precedent, immediately trust in lots, or unite with this testimony that from the Acts of the Apostles, when Matthias was by lot elected to the apostolate, since the privileges of individuals cannot form a common law.” “Lots,” according to the ends for which they were cast, were for:
i) The lot for dividing is not wrong if not used,
1) “without any necessity, for this would be to tempt God:”
2) “if in case of necessity, not without reverence of God, as if Holy Scripture were used for an earthly end,” as in determining any secular matter by opening the Bible:
3) for objects which ought to be decided otherwise, (as, an office ought to be given to the fittest:)
4) in dependence upon any other than God Pro_16:33. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing of it is the Lord’s.” So then they are lawful “in secular things which cannot otherwise be conveniently distributed,” or when there is no apparent reason why, in any advantage or disadvantage, one should be preferred to another.” Augustine even allows that, in a time of plague or persecution, the lot might be cast to decide who should remain to administer the sacraments to the people, lest, on the one side, all should be taken away, or, on the other, the Church be deserted.
ii.) The lot for consulting, i. e., to decide what one should do, is wrong, unless in a matter of mere indifference, or under inspiration of God, or in some extreme necessity where all human means fail.
iii.) The lot for divining, i. e., to learn truth, whether of things present or future, of which we can have no human knowledge, is wrong, except by direct inspiration of God. For it is either to tempt God who has not promised so to reveal things, or, against God, to seek superhuman knowledge by ways unsanctioned by Him. Satan may readily mix himself unknown in such inquiries, as in mesmerism. Forbidden ground is his own province.
God overruled the lot in the case of Jonah, as He did the sign which the Philistines sought . “He made the heifers take the way to Bethshemesh, that the Philistines might know that the plague came to them, not by chance, but from Hilmself” .
“The fugitive (Jonah) was taken by lot, not by any virtue of the lots, especially the lots of pagan, but by the will of Him who guided the uncertain lots”
“The lot betrayed the culprit. Yet not even thus did they cast him over; but, even while such a tumult and storm lay on them, they held, as it were, a court in the vessel, as though in entire peace, and allowed him a hearing and defense, and sifted everything accurately, as men who were to give account of their judgment.
Hear them sifting all as in a court – The roaring sea accused him; the lot convicted and witnessed against him, yet not even thus did they pronounce against him – until the accused should be the accuser of his own sin. The sailors, uneducated, untaught, imitated the good order of courts. When the sea scarcely allowed them to breathe, whence such forethought about the prophet? By the disposal of God. For God by all this instructed the prophet to be humane and mild, all but saying aloud to him; ‘Imitate these uninstructed sailors. They think not lightly of one soul, nor are unsparing as to one body, thine own. But thou, for thy part, gavest up a whole city with so many myriads. They, discovering thee to be the cause of the evils which befell them, did not even thus hurry to condemn thee. Thou, having nothing whereof to accuse the Ninevites, didst sink and destroy them. Thou, when I bade thee go and by thy preaching call them to repentance, obeyedst not; these, untaught, do all, compass all, in order to recover thee, already condemned, from punishment.’“
After the lot fell on Jonah, they doubted not but that he was the guilty person, any more than if he had been a hundred times proved to be so: for why did they cast lots, except that they were persuaded that all doubt could thus be removed, and that what was hid could thus be brought to the light? As then this persuasion was fixed in their minds, that the truth was elicited, and was in a manner drawn out of darkness by the lot, they now inquire of Jonah what he had done: for they took this as allowed, that they had to endure the tempest on his account, and also, that he, by some detestable crime, had merited such a vengeance at Gods hand. We hence see that they cast lots, because they fully believed that they could not otherwise find out the crime on account of which they suffered, and also, that lots were directed by the hidden purpose of God: for how could a certain judgment be found by lot, except God directed it according to his own purpose, and overruled what seemed to be especially fortuitous? These principles then were held as certain in a manner by men who were heathens, — that God can draw out the truth, and bring it to the light, — and also, that he presides over lots, however fortuitous they may be thought to be.
This was the reason why they now asked what Jonah had done. Tell us, then, why has this evil happened to us, what is thy work? etc. By work here I do not mean what is wrong, but a kind of life, or, as they say, a manner of living. They then asked how Jonah had hitherto employed himself, and what sort of life he followed. For it afterwards follows, Tell us, whence comest thou, what is thy country, and from what people art thou? They made inquiries, no doubt, on each particular in due order; but Jonah here briefly records the questions.
Tell us, for whose cause – Literally “for what to whom.” It may be that they thought that Jonah had been guilty toward some other. The lot had pointed him out. The mariners, still fearing to do wrong, ask him thronged questions, to know why the anger of God followed him; “what” hast thou done “to whom?” “what thine occupation?” i. e., either his ordinary occupation, whether it was displeasing to God? or this particular business in which he was engaged, and for which he had come on board. Questions so thronged have been admired in human poetry, Jerome says. For it is true to nature. They think that some one of them will draw forth the answer which they wish. It may be that they thought that his country, or people, or parents, were under the displeasure of God. But perhaps, more naturally, they wished to “know all about him,” as people say. These questions must have gone home to Jonah’s conscience. “What is thy business?” The office of prophet which he had left. “Whence comest thou?” From standing before God, as His minister. “What thy country? of what people art thou?” The people of God, whom he had quitted for pagan; not to win them to God, as He commanded; but, not knowing what they did, to abet him in his flight.
What is thine occupation? – They should ask themselves, who have Jonah’s office to speak in the name of God, and preach repentance . “What should be thy business, who hast consecrated thyself wholly to God, whom God has loaded with daily benefits? who approachest to Him as to a Friend? “What is thy business?” To live for God, to despise the things of earth, to behold the things of heaven,” to lead others heavenward.
Jonah answers simply the central point to which all these questions tended:
I now come to his answer, He said to them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear Jehovah the God of heaven, Who has created the sea and the dry land Here Jonah seemed as yet to evade, yea, to disown his crime, for he professed himself to be the worshipper of the true God. Who would not have said, but that he wished here to escape by a subterfuge, as he set up his own piety to cover the crime before-mentioned? But all things are not here in the first verse related; for shortly after, it follows, that the sailors knew of Jonah’s flight; and that he had himself told them, that he had disobeyed God’s call and command. There is then no doubt but that Jonah honestly confessed his own sin, though he does not say so. But we know, that it is a mode of speaking common among the Hebrews to add in the last place what had been first said; and grammarians say, that it is ὕστερον προτερον, (last first,) when anything is left out in its proper place and then added as an explanation. When therefore Jonah says that he was an Hebrew, and worshipper of the true God, — this tended to aggravate his fault or crime rather than to excuse it: for had he said only, that he was conscious of having done wrong in disobeying God, his crime would not have appeared so atrocious; but when he begins by sayings that known to him was the true God, the framer of heaven and earth, the God of Israel, who had made himself known by a law given and published, — when Jonah made this introduction, he thereby removed from himself all pretenses as to ignorance and misconception. He had been educated in the law, and had, from childhood, been taught who the true God was. He could not then have fallen through ignorance; and further, he did not, as the others, worship fictitious gods; he was an Israelite. As then he had been brought up in true religion, his sin was the more atrocious, inasmuch as he had fallen away from God, having despised his command, and, as it were, shaken off the yoke, and had become a fugitive.
We now then perceive the reason why Jonah called himself here an Hebrew, and testified that he was the worshipper of the true God. First, by saying that he was an Hebrew, he distinguished the God of Abraham from the idols of the Gentiles: for the religion of the chosen people was well known in all places, though disapproved by universal consent; at the same time, the Cilicians and other Asiatics, and also the Grecians, and the Syrians in another quarter, — all these knew what the Israelites gloried in, — that the true God had appeared to their father Abraham, and then made with him a gratuitous covenant, and also had given the law by Moses; — all this was sufficiently known by report. Hence Jonah says now, that he was an Hebrew, as though he had said, that he had no concern with any fictitious god, but with the God of Abraham, who had formerly appeared to the holy Fathers, and who had also given a perpetual testimony of his will by Moses. We see then how emphatically he declared, that he was an Hebrew: secondly, he adds, I fear Jehovah the God of heaven. By the word fear is meant worship: for it is not to be taken here as often in other places, that is, in its strict meaning; but fear is to be understood for worship: “I am not given”, he says, “to various superstitions, but I have been taught in true religion; God has made himself known to me from my childhood: I therefore do not worship any idol, as almost all other people, who invent gods for themselves; but I worship God, the creator of heaven and earth.” He calls him the God of heaven, that is, who dwells alone as God in heaven. While the others thought heaven to be filled with a great number of gods, Jonah here sets up against them the one true God, as though he said, “Invent according to your own fancy innumerable gods, there is yet but one, who possesses the highest authority in heaven; for it is he who made the sea and the dry land. ”
We now then apprehend what Jonah meant by these words: he shows here that it was no wonder that God pursued him with so much severity; for he had not committed a slight offense, but a fatal sin. We now see how much Jonah had profited since the Lord had begun severely to deal with him: for inasmuch as he was asleep yea, and insensible in his sin, he would have never repented had it not been for this violent remedy. But when the Lord roused him by his severity, he then not only confessed that he was guilty, or owned his guilt in a formal manner, (defunctorie — as ridding one’s self of a business, carelessly;) but also willingly testified, as we see, before men who were heathens, that he was the guilty man, who had forsaken the true God, in whose worship he had been well instructed. This was the fruit of true penitence, and it was also the fruit of the chastisement which God had inflicted on him. If then we wish God to approve of our repentance, let us not seek evasions, as for the most part is the case; nor let us extenuate our sins, but by a free confession testify before the whole world what we have deserved.
I am an Hebrew. This is the name used by foreigners in speaking of Israelites, or by Israelites in speaking of themselves to Gentiles (see Gen_14:13; Gen_39:14; Gen_41:12; Exo_1:16; 1Sa_4:6, for the former use; and for the latter, Gen_40:15; Exo_2:7; Exo_3:18). Convinced that God had miraculously pointed him out as the culprit on whose account the storm was sent, and goaded by the stings of conscience, Jonah loses all his previous indecision and spiritual stupor, and in a manly and straightforward way confesses the truth without disguise. The LXX; reading differently, renders, Δοῦλος Κυρίου εἰμὶ ἐγώ, “A servant of Jehovah am I.” This makes a tautological statement with the next words, and leaves one of the sailors’ questions unanswered. I fear the Lord. I worship, reverence Jehovah, who is not a local deity like the false gods whom you adore, but the Creator of heaven and earth, the Maker and Ruler of sea and dry land. So Abraham calls the Lord the God of heaven (Gen_24:7), and Daniel (Dan_2:37, Dan_2:44) uses the same expression (comp. Psa_96:5; Jer_10:11).
I am an Hebrew – This was the name by which Israel was known to foreigners. It is used in the Old Testament, only when they are spoken of by foreigners, or speak of themselves to foreigners, or when the sacred writers mention them in contrast with foreigners . So Joseph spoke of his land Gen_40:15, and the Hebrew midwives Exo_1:19, and Moses’ sister Exo_2:7, and God in His commission to Moses Exo_3:18; Exo_7:16; Exo_9:1 as to Pharaoh, and Moses in fulfilling it Exo_5:3. They had the name, as having passed the River Euphrates, “emigrants.” The title might serve to remind themselves, that they were “strangers” and “pilgrims,” Heb_11:13. whose fathers had left their home at God’s command and for God , “passers by, through this world to death, and through death to immortality.”
And I fear the Lord – , i. e., I am a worshiper of Him, most commonly, one who habitually stands in awe of Him, and so one who stands in awe of sin too. For none really fear God, none fear Him as sons, who do not fear Him in act. To be afraid of God is not to fear Him. To be afraid of God keeps men away from God; to fear God draws them to Him. Here, however, Jonah probably meant to tell them, that the Object of his fear and worship was the One Self-existing God, He who alone is, who made all things, in whose hands are all things. He had told them before, that he had fled “from being before Yahweh.” They had not thought anything of this, for they thought of Yahweh, only as the God of the Jews. Now he adds, that He, Whose service he had thus forsaken, was “the God of heaven, Who made the sea and dry land,” that sea, whose raging terrified them and threatened their lives. The title, “the God of heaven,” asserts the doctrine of the creation of the heavens by God, and His supremacy.
Hence, Abraham uses it to his servant Gen_24:7, and Jonah to the pagan mariners, and Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar Dan_2:37, Dan_2:44; and Cyrus in acknowledging God in his proclamation 2Ch_36:23; Ezr_1:2. After his example, it is used in the decrees of Darius Ezr_6:9-10 and Artaxerxes Ezr_7:12, Ezr_7:21, Ezr_7:23, and the returned exiles use it in giving account of their building the temple to the Governor Ezr_5:11-12. Perhaps, from the habit of contact with the pagan, it is used once by Daniel Dan_2:18 and by Nehemiah Neh_1:4-5; Neh_2:4, Neh_2:20. Melchizedek, not perhaps being acquainted with the special name, Yahweh, blessed Abraham in the name of “God, the Possessor” or “Creator of heaven and earth” Gen_14:19, i. e., of all that is. Jonah, by using it, at once taught the sailors that there is One Lord of all, and why this evil had fallen on them, because they had himself with them, the renegade servant of God. “When Jonah said this, he indeed feared God and repented of his sin. If he lost filial fear by fleeing and disobeying, he recovered it by repentance.”
It then follows, that the men feared with great fear, and said, Why hast thou done this? for they knew that he had fled from the presence of Jehovah, for he had told them. And this is not unimportant — that the sailors feared with great fear: for Jonah means that they were not only moved by what he said, but also terrified, so that they gave to the true God his glory. We indeed know that superstitious men almost trifle with their own idols. They often entertain, it is true, strange fears, but afterwards they flatter themselves, and in a manner cajole their own hearts, so that they can pleasantly and sweetly smile at their own fancies. But Jonah, by saying here that they feared with great fear, means that they were so smitten, that they really perceived that the God of Israel was a righteous judge, and that he was not such as other nations fancied him to be, but that he was capable of affording dreadful examples whenever he intended to execute his vengeance. We hence see what Jonah means, when he speaks of great fear. At the same time, two things ought to be noticed, — that they feared, because it was easy for them to conclude from the Prophet’s words, that the God of Israel was the only creator of heaven and earth, — and then, that it was a great fear, which, as I have said, must be considered as serious dread, since the fear which the unbelieving have soon vanishes.
But with regard to the reproof which the sailors and other passengers gave to Jonah, the Lord returned to him this as a reward which he had deserved. He had fled from the presence of God; he had thus, as we have said taken away from God his supreme power: for what becomes of God’s authority when any one of us rejects his commands and flees away from his presence? Since Jonah then sought to shun God, he was now placed before men. There were present heathens, and even barbarians, who rebuked him for his sin, who were his censors and judges. And the same thing we see happening often. For they who do not willingly obey God and his word, afterwards abandon themselves to many flagrant sins, and their baseness becomes evident to all. As, then, they cannot bear God to be their Master and Teacher, they are constrained to bear innumerable censors; for they are branded by the reproaches of the vulgar, they are pointed at every where by the finger, at length they are conducted to the gallows, and the executioner becomes their chief teacher. The case was similar, as we see, with Jonah: the pilot had before reproved his torpor, when he said, Do thou also call on thy God; what meanest thou, O sleeper? thou liest down here like a log of wood, and yet thou sees us perplexed and in extreme danger. As, then, the pilot first so sharply inveighed against Jonah, and then all reproved him with one mouth, we certainly find that he was made subject to the condemnation of all, because he tried to deprive God of his supreme power. If at any time the same thing should happen to us, if God should subject us to the reproaches of men when we seek to avoid his judgment, let us not wonder. But as Jonah here calmly answers, and raises no clamor, and shows no bitterness, so let every one of us, in the true spirit of meekness, acknowledge our own sins; when charged with them, were even children our condemners, or were even the most contemptible of the people to rise up against us, let us patiently bear all this; and let us know that these kinds of censors befall us through the providence of God. It now follows —
Keil & Delitzsch
Jonah begins by answering the last question, saying that he was “a Hebrew,” – the name by which the Israelites designated themselves in contradistinction to other nations, and by which other nations designated them (see at Gen_14:13, and my Lehrbuch der Einleitung, §9, Anm. 2) – and that he worshipped “the God of heaven, who created the sea and the dry” (i.e., the land). יָרֵא has been rendered correctly by the lxx σέβομαι, colo, revereor; and does not mean, “I am afraid of Jehovah, against whom I have sinned” (Abarbanel). By the statement, “I fear,” etc., he had no intention of describing himself as a righteous or innocent man (Hitzig), but simply meant to indicate his relation to God – namely, that he adored the living God who created the whole earth and, as Creator, governed the world. For he admits directly after, that he has sinned against this God, by telling them, as we may see from Jon_1:10, of his flight from Jehovah. He had not told them this as soon as he embarked in the ship, as Hitzig supposes, but does so now for the first time when they ask about his people, his country, etc., as we may see most unmistakeably from Jon_1:10. In Jon_1:9 Jonah’s statement is not given completely; but the principal fact, viz., that he was a Hebrew and worshipped Jehovah, is followed immediately by the account of the impression which this acknowledgement made upon the heathen sailors; and the confession of his sin is mentioned afterwards as a supplement, to assign the reason for the great fear which came upon the sailors in consequence. מַה־זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ, What hast thou done! is not a question as to the nature of his sin, but an exclamation of horror at his flight from Jehovah, the God heaven and earth, as the following explanatory clauses כִּי יָדְעוּ וגו clearly show. The great fear which came upon the heathen seamen at this confession of Jonah may be fully explained from the dangerous situation in which they found themselves, since the storm preached the omnipotence of God more powerfully than words could possibly do.
Exceedingly afraid. They understand now the greatness of Jehovah and the terrible risk incurred by one who offends him. There was a widespread acknowledgment of the power of Jehovah among the heathen (see Exo_15:15; Jos_5:1; 1Sa_4:7; and comp. Judith 5:21). Why hast thou done this? better, What is this that thou hast done? (Gen_3:13). This is not a question of inquiry, for he had already told them that he had fled from the presence of the Lord; but rather an exclamation of horror and amazement at his folly and sin. That one who worshipped the Almighty Creator should disobey his command seemed to them outrageous and inexcusably criminal. The prophet does not spare himself in giving the history of the transaction. To be thus rebuked by heathen sailors must have added to the poignancy of his remorse. The presence of the Lord (see note on Jon_1:3).
Then were the men exceedingly afraid – Before, they had feared the tempest and the loss of their lives. Now they feared God. They feared, not the creature but the Creator. They knew that what they had feared was the doing of His Almightiness. They felt how awesome a thing it was to be in His Hands. Such fear is the beginning of conversion, when people turn from dwelling on the distresses which surround them, to God who sent them.
Why hast thou done this? – They are words of amazement and wonder. Why hast thou not obeyed so great a God, and how thoughtest thou to escape the hand of the Creator ? “What is the mystery of thy flight? Why did one, who feared God and had revelations from God, flee, sooner than go to fulfill them? Why did the worshiper of the One true God depart from his God?” “A servant flee from his Lord, a son from his father, man from his God!” The inconsistency of believers is the marvel of the young Christian, the repulsion of those without, the hardening of the unbeliever. If people really believed in eternity, how could they be thus immersed in things of time? If they believed in hell, how could they so hurry there? If they believed that God died for them, how could they so requite Him? Faith without love, knowledge without obedience, conscious dependence and rebellion, to be favored by God yet to despise His favor, are the strangest marvels of this mysterious world.
All nature seems to cry out to and against the unfaithful Christian, “why hast thou done this?” And what a why it is! A scoffer has recently said so truthfully : “Avowed scepticism cannot do a tenth part of the injury to practical faith, that the constant spectacle of the huge mass of worldly unreal belief does.” It is nothing strange, that the world or unsanctified intellect should reject the Gospel. It is a thing of course, unless it be converted. But, to know, to believe, and to DISOBEY! To disobey God, in the name of God. To propose to halve the living Gospel, as the woman who had killed her child 1Ki_3:26, and to think that the poor quivering remnants would be the living Gospel anymore! As though the will of God might, like those lower forms of His animal creation, be divided endlessly, and, keep what fragments we will, it would still be a living whole, a vessel of His Spirit! Such unrealities and inconsistencies would be a sore trial of faith, had not Jesus, who (cf. Joh_2:25), “knew what is in man,” forewarned us that it should be so. The scandals against the Gospel, so contrary to all human opinion, are only all the more a testimony to the divine knowledge of the Redeemer.
The sailors asked counsel of Jonah; and hence it appears that they were touched with so much fear as not to dare to do any thing to him. We hence see how much they had improved almost in an instant, since they spared an Israelite, because they acknowledged that among that people the true God was worshipped, the supreme King of heaven and earth: for, without a doubt, it was this fear that restrained them from throwing Jonah immediately into the sea. For since it was certain that through his fault God was displeased with them all, why was it that they did not save themselves by such an expiation? That they then delayed in so great a danger, and dared not to lay hold instantly on Jonah, was an evident proof that they were restrained, as I have said, by the fear of God.
They therefore inquire what was to be done, What shall we do to thee, that the sea may be still to us? (27) for the sea was going, etc. By going Jonah means, that the sea was turbulent: for the sea is said to rest when it is calm, but when it is turbulent, then it is going, and has various movements and tossings. The sea, then, was going and very tempestuous We hence see that God was not satisfied with the disgrace of Jonah, but he purposed to punish his offense still more. It was necessary that Jonah should be led to the punishment which he deserved, though afterwards, he was miraculously delivered from death, as we shall see in its proper place.
Jonah then answers, Take me, and throw me into the sea, and it will be still to you. It may be asked whether Jonah ought to have of his own accord offered himself to die; for it seemed to be an evidence of desperation. He might, indeed, have surrendered himself to their will; but here he did, as it were, stimulate them, “Throw me into the sea, ” he says; “for ye cannot otherwise pacify God than by punishing me.” He seemed like a man in despair, when he would thus advance to death of his own accord. But Jonah no doubt knew that he was doomed to punishment by God. It is uncertain whether he then entertained a hope of deliverance, that is, whether he confidently relied at this time on the grace of God. But, however it may have been, we may yet conclude, that he gave himself up to death, because he knew and was fully persuaded that he was in a manner summoned by the evident voice of God. And thus there is no doubt but that he patiently submitted to the judgment which the Lord had allotted to him. Take me, then, and throw me into the sea
Then he adds, The sea will be to you still Here Jonah not only declares that God would be pacified by his death, because the lot had fallen upon him, but he also acknowledges that his death would suffice as an expiation, so that the tempest would subside: and then the reason follows — I know, he says, that on my account is this great tempest come upon you. When he says that he knew this, he could not refer to the lot, for that knowledge was common to them all. But Jonah speaks here by the prophetic spirit: and he no doubt confirms what I have before referred to, — that the God of Israel was the supreme and only King of heaven and earth. This certainty of knowledge, then, of which Jonah speaks, must be referred to his own consciences and to the teaching of that religion in which he had been instructed.
And now we may learn from these words a most useful instruction: Jonah does not here expostulate with God, nor contumeliously complain that God punished him too severely, but he willingly bears his charged guilt and his punishment, as he did before when he said, “I am the worshipper of the true God.” How could he confess the true God, whose great displeasure he was then experiencing? But Jonah, we see, was so subdued, that he failed not to ascribe to God his just honor; though death was before his eyes, though God’s wrath was burning, we yet see, that he gave to God, as we have said, the honor due to him. So the same thing is repeated in this place, Behold, he says, I know that on my account has this great tempest happened He who takes to himself all the blame, does not certainly murmur against God. It is then a true confession of repentance, when we acknowledge God, and willingly testify before men that he is just, though, according to the judgment of our flesh, he may deal violently with us. When however we give to him the praise due to his justice, we then really show our penitence; for unless God’s wrath brings us down to this humble state of mind, we shall be always full of bitterness; and, however silent we may be for a time, our heart will be still perverse and rebellious. This humility, then, always follows repentance, — the sinner prostrates himself before God, and willingly admits his own sin, and tries not to escape by subterfuges.
And it was no wonder that Jonah thus humbled himself; for we see that the sailors did the same: when they said that lots were to be cast, they added at the same time, “Come ye and let us cast lots, that we may know why this evil has happened to us.” They did not accuse God, but constituted him the Judge; and thus they acknowledged that he inflicted a just punishment. And yet every one thought himself to have been innocent; for however conscience might have bitten them, still no one considered himself to have been guilty of so great a wickedness as to subject him to God’s vengeance. Though, then, the sailors thought themselves exempt from any great sin, they yet did not contend with God, but allowed him to be their Judge. Since then they, who were so barbarous, confined themselves within these bounds of modesty, it was no wonder that Jonah, especially when he was roused and began to feel his guilt, and was also powerfully restrained by God’s hand, — it was no wonder that he now confessed that he was guilty before God, and that he justly suffered a punishment so heavy and severe. We ought then to take special notice of this, — that he knew that on his account the storm happened or that the sea was so tempestuous against them all. The rest we defer until tomorrow.
Keil & Delitzsch
Fearing as they did in the storm the wrath of God on account of Jonah’s sin, they now asked what they should do, that the storm might abate, “for the sea continued to rage.” שָׁתַק, to set itself, to come to a state of repose; or with מֵעַל, to desist from a person. הוֹלֵךְ, as in Gen_8:5, etc., expressive of the continuance of an action. With their fear of the Almighty God, whom Jonah worshipped, they did not dare to inflict a punishment upon the prophet, simply according to their own judgment. As a worshipper of Jehovah, he should pronounce his own sentence, or let it be pronounced by his God. Jonah replies in Jon_1:12, “Cast me into the sea; for I know that for my sake this great storm is (come) upon you.” As Jerome says, “He does not refuse, or prevaricate, or deny; but, having made confession concerning his flight, he willingly endures the punishment, desiring to perish, and not let others perish on his account.” Jonah confesses that he has deserved to die for his rebellion against God, and that the wrath of God which has manifested itself in the storm can only be appeased by his death. He pronounces this sentence, not by virtue of any prophetic inspiration, but as a believing Israelite who is well acquainted with the severity of the justice of the holy God, both from the law and from the history of his nation.
What the Prophet here briefly relates ought to be carefully weighed by us. It is easily passed over, when we read in a few words that Jonah was swallowed up by a fish, and that he was there three days and three nights: but though Jonah neither amplified or illustrated in a rhetorical manner what is overlooked by us, nor adopted any display of words, but spoke of the event as though it were an ordinary thing, we yet see what the event itself really was: Jonah was cast into the sea. He had been previously not only a worshipper of the true God, but also a Prophet, and had no doubt faithfully discharged his office; for God would not have resolved to send him to Nineveh, had he not conferred on him suitable gifts; and he knew him to be qualified for undertaking a burden so great and so important. As Jonah then had faithfully endeavored to serve God, and to devote himself to him through the whole of his past life, now that he is cast into the sea as one unworthy of the common light, that he is cut off from the society of men, and that he seems unworthy of undergoing a common or an ordinary punishment, but is exiled, as it were, from the world, so as to be deprived of light and air, as parricides, to whom formerly, as it is well-known, this punishment was allotted — as then Jonah saw that he was thus dealt with, what must have been the state of his mind?
Now that he tells us that he was three whole days in the inside of the fish, it is certain that the Lord had so awakened him that he must have endured continual uneasiness. He was asleep before he was swallowed by the fish; but the Lord drew him, as it were, by force to his tribunal, and he must have suffered a continual execution. He must have every moment entertained such thoughts as these, “Why does he now thus deal with thee? God does not indeed slay thee at once, but intends to expose thee to innumerable deaths.” We see what Job says, that when he died he would be at rest and free from all evils, (Job_14:6.) Jonah no doubt continually boiled with grief, because he knew that God was opposed to and displeased with him: he doubtless said to himself, “Thou hast to do, not with men, but with God himself, who now pursues thee, because thou hast become a fugitive from his presence.” As Jonah then must have necessarily thus thought within himself of God’s wrath, his case must have been harder than hundred deaths, as it had been with Job and with many others, who made it their chief petition that they might die. Now as he was not slain but languished in continual torments, it is certain that no one of us can comprehend, much less convey in words what must have come into the mind of Jonah during these three days. But I cannot now discuss what remains; I must therefore defer it to the next lecture.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
prepared a great fish — not created specially for this purpose, but appointed in His providence, to which all creatures are subservient. The fish, through a mistranslation of Mat_12:40, was formerly supposed to be a whale; there, as here, the original means “a great fish.” 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 armor was once found in it [Hierozoicon, 2.5.12]. Others, the shark [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 Mat_12:39. 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, through sympathy, best suited for discharging the prophetical 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 (Mat_12:40); the Hebrew counting the first and third parts of days as whole twenty-four hour days.
Now the Lord had (literally “And the Lord”) prepared – Jonah (as appears from his thanksgiving) was not swallowed at once, but sank to the bottom of the sea, God preserving him in life there by miracle, as he did in the fish’s belly. Then, when the seaweed was twined around his head, and he seemed to be already buried until the sea should give up her dead, “God prepared the fish to swallow Jonah” . “God could as easily have kept Jonah alive in the sea as in the fish’s belly, but, in order to prefigure the burial of the Lord, He willed him to be within the fish whose belly was as a grave.” Jonah, does not say what fish it was; and our Lord too used a name, signifying only one of the very largest fish. Yet it was no greater miracle to create a fish which should swallow Jonah, than to preserve him alive when swallowed . “The infant is buried, as it were, in the womb of its mother; it cannot breathe, and yet, thus too, it liveth and is preserved, wonderfully nurtured by the will of God.” He who preserves the embryo in its living grave can maintain the life of man as easily without the outward air as with it.
The same Divine Will preserves in being the whole creation, or creates it. The same will of God keeps us in life by breathing this outward air, which preserved Jonah without it. How long will men think of God, as if He were man, of the Creator as if He were a creature, as though creation were but one intricate piece of machinery, which is to go on, ringing its regular changes until it shall be worn out, and God were shut up, as a sort of mainspring within it, who might be allowed to be a primal Force, to set it in motion, but must not be allowed to vary what He has once made? “We must admit of the agency of God,” say these men when they would not in name be atheists, “once in the beginning of things, but must allow of His interference as sparingly as may be.” Most wise arrangement of the creature, if it were indeed the god of its God! Most considerate provision for the non-interference of its Maker, if it could but secure that He would not interfere with it for ever! Acute physical philosophy, which, by its omnipotent word, would undo the acts of God! Heartless, senseless, sightless world, which exists in God, is upheld by God, whose every breath is an effluence of God’s love, and which yet sees Him not, thanks Him not, thinks it a greater thing to hold its own frail existence from some imagined law, than to be the object of the tender personal care of the Infinite God who is Love! Poor hoodwinked souls, which would extinguish for themselves the Light of the world, in order that it may not eclipse the rushlight of their own theory!
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish – The time that Jonah was in the fish’s belly was a hidden prophecy. Jonah does not explain nor point it. He tells the fact, as Scripture is accustomed to do so. Then he singles out one, the turning point in it. Doubtless in those three days and nights of darkness, Jonah (like him who after his conversion became Paul), meditated much, repented much, sorrowed much, for the love of God, that he had ever offended God, purposed future obedience, adored God with wondering awe for His judgment and mercy. It was a narrow home, in which Jonah, by miracle, was not consumed; by miracle, breathed; by miracle, retained his senses in that fetid place. Jonah doubtless, repented, marveled, adored, loved God. But, of all, God has singled out this one point, how, out of such a place, Jonah thanked God. As He delivered Paul and Silas from the prison, when they prayed with a loud voice to Him, so when Jonah, by inspiration of His Spirit, thanked Him, He delivered him.
To thank God, only in order to obtain fresh gifts from Him, would be but a refined, hypocritical form of selfishness. Such a formal act would not be thanks at all. We thank God, because we love Him, because He is so infinitely good, and so good to us, unworthy. Thanklessness shuts the door to His personal mercies to us, because it makes them the occasion of fresh sins of our’s. Thankfulness sets God’s essential goodness free (so to speak) to be good to us. He can do what He delights in doing, be good to us, without our making His Goodness a source of harm to us. Thanking Him through His grace, we become fit vessels for larger graces . “Blessed he who, at every gift of grace, returns to Him in whom is all fullness of graces; to whom when we show ourselves not ungrateful for gifts received, we make room in ourselves for grace, and become meet for receiving yet more.” But Jonah’s was that special character of thankfulness, which thanks God in the midst of calamities from which there was no human exit; and God set His seal on this sort of thankfulness, by annexing this deliverance, which has consecrated Jonah as an image of our Lord, to his wonderful act of thanksgiving.
When Jonah says that he prayed from the bowels of the fish, he shows first with what courage of mind he was endued. He had then put on a new heart; for when he was at liberty he thought that he could in a manner escape from God, he became a fugitive from the Lord: but now while inclosed within narrow bounds, he begins to pray, and of his own accord sets himself in God’s presence.
This is a change worthy of being noticed: and hence we may learn how much it profits us to be drawn back often as it were by cords, or to be held tied up with fetters because when we are free we go astray here and there beyond all limits. Jonah, when he was at liberty, became, as we have seen, wanton; but now finding himself restrained by the mighty hand of God, he receives a new mind, and prays from the bowels of the fish. But how was it that he directed his petitions then to God, by whose hand he saw that he was so heavily pressed? For God most rigidly handled him; Jonah was in a manner doomed to eternal ruin; the bowels of the fish, as we shall hereafter see, were indeed to him as it were hell or the grave. But in this state of despair Jonah even gathered courage, and was able to retake himself directly to God. It was a wonderful and almost incredible example of faith. Let us then learn to weigh well what is here said; for when the Lord heavily afflicts us, it is then a legitimate and seasonable time for prayer. But we know that the greater part despond, and do not usually offer their prayers freely to God, except their minds be in a calm state; and yet God then especially invites us to himself when we are reduced to extremities. Let this, then, which Jonah declares of himself, come to our minds, — that he cried to God from hell itself: and, at the same time, he assures us that his prayer proceeded from true faith; for he does not simply say that he prayed to Jehovah, but he adds that he was his God; and he speaks with a serious and deeply-reflective mind. Though Jonah then was not only like one dead, but also on the confines of perdition, he yet believed that God would be merciful if he fled to him. We hence see that Jonah prayed not at random, as hypocrites are wont to take God’s name in their mouths when they are in distress, but he prayed in earnest; for he was persuaded that God would be propitious to him.
But we must remember that his prayer was not composed in the words which are here related; but Jonah, while in the bowels of the fish, dwelt on these thoughts in his mind. Hence he relates in this song how he thought and felt; and we shall see that he was then in a state of distraction, as our minds must necessarily be tossed here and there by temptations. For the servants of God do not gain the victory without great struggle. We must fight, and indeed strenuously, that we may conquer. Jonah then in this song shows that he was agitated with great trouble and hard contests: yet this conviction was firmly fixed in his heart, — that God was to be sought, and would not be sought in vain, as he is ever ready to bring help to his people whenever they cry to him.
Keil & Delitzsch
“Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God out of the fish’s belly.”
The prayer which follows (Jon_2:2-9) is not a petition for deliverance, but thanksgiving and praise for deliverance already received. It by no means follows from this, however, that Jonah did not utter this prayer till after he had been vomited upon the land, and that v. 10 ought to be inserted before v. 2; but, as the earlier commentators have shown, the fact is rather this, that when Jonah had been swallowed by the fish, and found that he was preserved alive in the fish’s belly, he regarded this as a pledge of his deliverance, for which he praised the Lord. Luther also observes, that “he did not actually utter these very words with his mouth, and arrange them in this orderly manner, in the belly of the fish; but that he here shows what the state of his mind was, and what thoughts he had when he was engaged in this conflict with death.” The expression “his God” (אֱלֹהָיו) must not be overlooked. He prayed not only to Jehovah, as the heathen sailors also did (Jon_1:14), but to Jehovah as his God, from whom he had tried to escape, and whom he now addresses again as his God when in peril of death. “He shows his faith by adoring Him as his God” (Burk). The prayer consists for the most part of reminiscences of passages in the Psalms, which were so exactly suited to Jonah’s circumstances, that he could not have expressed his thoughts and feelings any better in words of his own. It is by no means so “atomically compounded from passages in the Psalms” that there is any ground for pronouncing it “a later production which has been attributed to Jonah,” as Knobel and De Wette do; but it is the simple and natural utterance of a man versed in the Holy Scripture and living in the word of God, and is in perfect accordance with the prophet’s circumstances and the state of his mind. Commencing with the confession, that the Lord has heard his crying to Him in distress (Jon_2:2), Jonah depicts in two strophes (Jon_2:3 and Jon_2:4, Jon_2:5-7) the distress into which he had been brought, and the deliverance out of that destruction which appeared inevitable, and closes in Jon_2:8, Jon_2:9 with a vow of thanksgiving for the deliverance which he had received.
Then he says,I cried, when I had trouble, to Jehovah, and he answered me. Jonah no doubt relates now, after having come forth from the bowels of the fish, what had happened to him, and he gives thanks to the Lord. This verse then contains two parts, — that Jonah in his trouble fled to God, — and the latter part contains thanksgiving for having been miraculously delivered beyond what flesh could have thought. I cried, he says, in my distress, to Jehovah; I cried out from the bowels of hell, thou hast heard my voice. Jonah, as we shall hereafter see, directed his prayers to God not without great struggle; he contended with many difficulties; but however great the impediments in his way, he still persevered and ceased not from praying. He now tells us that he had not prayed in vain; and, that he might amplify the grace of God, he says, from the bowels of the grave He mentioned distress (angustiam — straitness) in the first clause; but here he more clearly expresses how remarkable and extraordinary had been the kindness of God, that he came forth safe from the bowels of the fish, which were like the bowels of the grave. שאול, shaul, derived from corruption, is called the grave by the Hebrews, and the Latin translator has almost everywhere rendered it hell, (infernum;) and שאול, shaul, is also sometimes taken for hell, that is, the state of the reprobate, because they know that they are condemned by God: it is, however, taken more frequently for the grave; and I am disposed to retain this sense, — that the fish was like the grave. But he means that he was so shut up in the grave, that there was no escape open to him.
What are the bowels of the grave? Even the inside or the recess of the grave itself. When Jonah was in this state, he says, that he was heard by the Lord. It may be proper to repeat again what I have already slightly touched, — that Jonah was not so oppressed, though under the heaviest trial, but that his petitions came forth to God. He prayed as it were from hell, and not simply prayed, for he, at the same time, sets forth his vehemence and ardor by saying, that he cried and cried aloud. Distress, no doubt, extorted from Jonah these urgent entreaties. However this might have been, he did not howl, as the unbelieving are wont to do, who feel their own evils and bitterly complain; and yet they pour forth vain howlings. Jonah here shows himself to be different from them by saying, that he cried and cried aloud to God. It now follows —
He introduces the prayer with the tact that he cried to God in distress and was heard. By reason of mine affliction; better, out of my affliction. This may be a reminiscence of Psa_120:1 or Psa_18:6; but from such coincidences nothing can be established concerning the date of the book. Like circumstances call forth like expressions; and the writers may have composed them quite independently of one another. Hell (Sheol). The unseen world (Eze_32:21). He was as though dead when thus engulfed (comp. Psa_18:5). Cried I (Psa_28:1, Psa_28:2). Thou heardest my voice (Psa_130:1, Psa_130:2).
In this verse are set forth his difficulties: for Jonah, for the sake of amplifying, refers to his condition. It was a great thing that he cried to God from the bowels of the fish; but it was far more difficult for him to raise up his mind in prayer, when he knew or thought God to be angry with him: for had he been thrown into extreme evils, he might yet call upon God; but as it came to his mind that all the evil he suffered was inflicted by God, because he tried to shun his call, how was it possible for him to penetrate into heaven when such an obstacle stood in his way? We hence see the design of these words, But thou hadst cast me into the gulf, into the heart of the sea; the flood surrounded me, all thy billows and waves passed over me.
In short, Jonah shows here what dreadful temptations presented themselves to him while he was endeavoring to offer up prayers. It came first to his mind that God was his most inveterate enemy. For Jonah did not then think of the sailors and the rest who had cast him into the sea; but his mind was fixed on God: this is the reason why he says, Thou, Lord, hadst cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea; and then, Thybillows, Thy waves He does not here regard the nature of the sea; but he bestows, as I have already said, all his thoughts on God, and acknowledges that he had to do with him; as though he said, “Thou Lord, in pursuing me, drivest me away; but to thee do I come: thou showest by dreadful proofs that thou art offended with me, but yet I seek thee; so far is it that these terrors drive me to a distance from thee, that now, being subdued as it were by thy goads, I come willingly to thee; for nowhere else is there for me any hope of deliverance.” We now then see how much avails the contrast, when Jonah sets the terrible punishment which he endured in opposition to his prayer. Let us now proceed —
For Thou hadst (“didst”) cast me into the deep – Jonah continues to describe the extremity of peril, from which God had already delivered him. Sweet is the memory of perils past. For they speak of God’s Fatherly care. Sweet is it, to the prophet to tell God of His mercies; but this is sweet only to the holy, for God’s mercy convicts the careless of ingratitude. Jonah then tells God, how He had cast him vehemently forth into the “eddying depth,” where, when Pharaoh’s army “sank like a stone” (Exo_15:5, add Exo_15:10), they never rose, and that, “in the heart” or center “of the seas,” from where no strong swimmer could escape to shore. “The floods” or “flood,” (literally “river,”) the sea with its currents, “surrounded” him, encompassing him on all sides; and, above, tossed its multitudinous waves, passing over him, like an army trampling one prostrate underfoot. Jonah remembered well the temple psalms, and, using their words, united himself with those other worshipers who sang them, and taught us how to speak them to God. The sons of Korah Psa_42:7. had poured out to God in these self-same words the sorrows which oppressed them. The rolling billows and the breakers , which, as they burst upon the rocks, shiver the vessel and crush man, are, he says to God, “Thine,” fulfilling Thy will on me.
In the first clause of this verse Jonah confirms again what I have said, — that when he sought to pray, not only the door was closed against him, but there were mountains, as it were, intervening, so that he could not breathe a prayer to God: for he did not so much think of the state in which he was; nay, but he chiefly considered his own case, how he had provoked the wrath of God. Hence he says, I have said, I am cast away from the sight of thine eyes. Some give this frigid exposition, that he had been only expelled from his own country, that he might not behold the temple. But I have no doubt but that Jonah tells us here that he suffered extreme agonies, as though every hope of pardon had been cut off from him: “What! shall I yet hope that God will be propitious? It is not to be hoped.” This then is the casting away of which he speaks: for it is said that God casts us away, when he allows us no access to him. Hence Jonah thought that he was wholly alienated from God. Were any to object and say, that then his faith must have been extinct; the obvious answer is, — that in the struggle of faith there are internal conflicts; one thought is suggested, and then another of an opposite character meets it; there would indeed be no trial of our faith, except there were such internal conflicts; for when, with appeased minds, we can feel assured that God is propitious to us, what is the trial of faith? But when the flesh tells us that God is opposed to us, and that there is no more hope of pardon, faith at length sets up its shield, and repels this onset of temptation, and entertains hope of pardon: whenever God for a time appears implacable, then faith indeed is tried. Such then was the condition of Jonah; for, according to the judgment of the flesh, he thought that he was utterly cast away by God, so that he came to him in vain. Jonah, then, having not yet put off flesh and blood, could not immediately lay hold on the grace of God, but difficulties met him in his course.
The latter clause is differently explained by interpreters. Some take it negatively, “I shall no more look towards the temple of thy holiness:” but the words admit not of this explanation. אך, ak, means in Hebrew, truly, nevertheless; and it means also, certainly; and sometimes it is taken dubitatively, perhaps. The greater part of expounders render the clause thus, “But I shall see the temple of thy holiness;” as though Jonah here reproved his own distrust, which he had just expressed, as the case is with the faithful, who immediately check themselves, when they are tempted to entertain any doubt: “What! dost thou then cast away hope, when yet God will be reconciled to thee if thou wilt come to him?” Hence interpreters think that it is a sort of correction, as though Jonah here changed his mind, and retracted what he had previously taken up, as a false principle derived from the judgment of the flesh. He had said then that he had been cast away from the presence of the Lord; but now, according to these expositors, he repels that temptation, But I shall see thy holy temple; though I seem now to be rejected by thee, thou wilt at last receive me into favor. We may, however, explain this clause, consistently with the former, in this way, At least, or, but, I would again see, etc., as an expression of a wish. The future then may be taken for the optative mood, as we know that the Hebrews are wont thus to use the future tense, either when they pray or express a wish. This meaning then best agrees with the passage, that Jonah as yet doubtingly prays, At least, or, but, I would again, O Lord, see the temple of thy holiness. But since the former explanation which I have mentioned is probable, I do not contend for this. However this may be, we find that Jonah did not wholly despair, though the judgment of the flesh would drive him to despair; for he immediately turned his address to God. For they who murmur against God, on the contrary, speak in the third person, turning themselves, as it were, away from him: but Jonah here sets God before his eyes,I have been cast away, he says, from the sight of thine eyes He does not remonstrate here with God, but shows that he was seeking God still, though he thought that he was cast far away.
Then he adds, I would at least see again the temple of thy holiness. And by speaking of the temple, he no doubt set the temple before him as an encouragement to his faith. As then he had been cast away, he gathers everything that might avail to raise up and confirm his hope. He had indeed been circumcised, he had been a worshipper of God from his childhood, he had been educated in the Law, he had exercised himself in offering sacrifices: under the name of temple he now includes briefly all these things. We hence see that he thus encouraged himself to entertain good hope in his extreme necessity. And this is a useful admonition; for when every access to God seems closed up against us, nothing is more useful than to recall to mind, that he has adopted us from our very infancy, that he has also testified his favor by many tokens, especially that he has called us by his Gospel into a fellowship with his only-begotten Son, who is life and salvation; and then, that he has confirmed his favor both by Baptism and the Supper. When, therefore, these things come to our minds, we may be able by faith to break through all impediments. Let us go on —
I am cast out of Thy sight – , literally, “from before Thine eyes.” Jonah had willfully withdrawn from standing in God’s presence. Now God had taken him at his word, and, as it seemed, cast him out of it. David had said in his haste, “I am cut off.” Jonah substitutes the stronger word, “I am cast forth,” driven forth, expelled, like the “mire and dirt” Isa_57:20 which the waves drive along, or like the waves themselves in their restless motion Isa_57:20, or the pagan (the word is the same) whom God had driven out before Israel (Exo_34:11, and the Piel often), or as Adam from Paradise Gen_3:24.
Yet (Only) I will look again – He was, as it were, a castaway, cast out of God’s sight, unheeded by Him, his prayers unheard; the storm unabated, until he was cast forth. He could no longer look with the physical eye even toward the land where God showed the marvels of His mercy, and the temple where God was worshiped continually. Yet what he could not do in the body, he would do in his soul. This was his only resource. “If I am cast away, this one thing will I do, I will still look to God.” Magnificent faith! Humanly speaking, all hope was gone, for, when that huge vessel could scarcely live in the sea, how should a man? When God had given it no rest, while it contained Jonah, how should tie will that Jonah should escape? Nay, God had hidden His Face from him; yet he did this one, this only thing only this, “once more, still I will add to look to God.” Thitherward would he look, so long as his mind yet remained in him.
If his soul parted from him, it should go forth from him in that gaze. God gave him no hope, save that He preserved him alive. For he seemed to himself forsaken of God. Wonderful pattern of faith which gains strength even from God’s seeming desertion! “I am cast vehemently forth from before Thine eyes; yet this one thing will I do; mine eyes shrill be unto Thee, O Lord.” The Israelites, as we see from Solomon’s dedication prayer, “prayed toward the temple,” (1Ki_8:29-30, 1Ki_8:35 ff) where God had set His Name and shown His glory, where were the sacrifices which foreshadowed the great atonement. Thitherward they looked in prayer, as Christians, of old, prayed toward the East, the seat of our ancient Paradise. where our Lord “shall appear unto them that look for Him, a second time unto salvation.” Heb_9:28. Toward that temple then he would yet look with fixed eye for help, where God, Who fills heaven and earth, showed Himself to sinners reconciled.