1Now the Word of Jehovah came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying,2Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it; for their evil has come up before Me.3But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. And he went down to Joppa, and he found a ship going to Tarshish. And he paid its fare and went down into it in order to go with them to Tarshish, from the presence of Jehovah.4But Jehovah hurled a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that they thought the ship would break in pieces.5And the sailors were afraid, and each man cried to his god. And they threw out the ship's implements into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship; and he lay down, and was sound asleep.6And the captain came near to him and said to him, What is this, O sleeper? Rise up and cry out to your God! Perhaps your God will think on us, and we will not perish. 7And they said one to another, Come and let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us. And they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8And they said to him, Please tell us on account of whom is this evil upon us? What is your occupation? And from where do you come? What is your land, and of what people are you?9And he said to them, I am a Hebrew. And I fear Jehovah the God of Heaven, who has made the sea and the dry land.10Then the men were terrified with great fear and said to him, What is this you have done? For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Jehovah, because he had told them.11Then they said to him, What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us? For the sea was going on and being stormy.12And he said to them, Take me up and throw me out into the sea. And the sea will be calm for you. For I know that this great storm is upon you because of me.13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they were not able, for the sea was going on and being stormy against them.14Therefore they cried out to Jehovah, and said, We beseech You, O Jehovah, we beseech You, do not let us perish for this man's life, and do not lay innocent blood on us. For You, O Jehovah, have done as it pleased You.15And they lifted Jonah up and threw him into the sea. And the sea ceased from its raging.16Then the men revered Jehovah with great fear and offered a sacrifice to Jehovah, and vowed vows.17Now Jehovah had appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary 1
JONAH'S COMMISSION TO NINEVEH, FLIGHT, PUNISHMENT, AND PRESERVATION BY MIRACLE. (Jon. 1:1-17)
Jonah--meaning in Hebrew, "dove." Compare Gen 8:8
, where the dove in vain seeks rest after flying from Noah and the ark: so Jonah. GROTIUS not so well explains it, "one sprung from Greece" or Ionia, where there were prophets called Amythaonidć.
Amittai--Hebrew for "truth," "truth-telling"; appropriate to a prophet. 2
to Nineveh--east of the Tigris, opposite the modern Mosul. The only case of a prophet being sent to the heathen. Jonah, however, is sent to Nineveh, not solely for Nineveh's good, but also to shame Israel, by the fact of a heathen city repenting at the first preaching of a single stranger, Jonah, whereas God's people will not repent, though preached to by their many national prophets, late and early. Nineveh means "the residence of Ninus," that is, Nimrod. Gen 10:11
, where the translation ought to be, "He (Nimrod) went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh." Modern research into the cuneiform inscriptions confirms the Scripture account that Babylon was founded earlier than Nineveh, and that both cities were built by descendants of Ham, encroaching on the territory assigned to Shem (Gen 10:5
, Gen 10:8
, Gen 10:10
, Gen 10:25
great city--four hundred eighty stadia in circumference, one hundred fifty in length, and ninety in breadth [DIODORUS SICULUS, 2.3]. Taken by Arbaces the Mede, in the reign of Sardanapalus, about the seventh year of Uzziah; and a second time by Nabopolassar of Babylon and Cyaxares the Mede in 625 B.C. See on Jonah 3:3
cry-- (Isa 40:6
; Isa 58:1
come up before me-- (Gen 4:10
; Gen 6:13
; Gen 18:21
; Ezra 9:6
; Rev 18:5
); that is, their wickedness is so great as to require My open interposition for punishment. 3
flee--Jonah's motive for flight is hinted at in Jonah 4:2
: fear that after venturing on such a dangerous commission to so powerful a heathen city, his prophetical threats should be set aside by God's "repenting of the evil," just as God had so long spared Israel notwithstanding so many provocations, and so he should seem a false prophet. Besides, he may have felt it beneath him to discharge a commission to a foreign idolatrous nation, whose destruction he desired rather than their repentance. This is the only case of a prophet, charged with a prophetical message, concealing it.
from the presence of the Lord--(Compare Gen 4:16
). Jonah thought in fleeing from the land of Israel, where Jehovah was peculiarly present, that he should escape from Jehovah's prophecy-inspiring influence. He probably knew the truth stated in Ps 139:7
, but virtually ignored it (compare Gen 3:8
; Jer 23:24
went down--appropriate in going from land to the sea (Ps 107:23
Joppa--now Jaffa, in the region of Dan; a harbor as early as Solomon's time (2Chr 2:16
Tarshish--Tartessus in Spain; in the farthest west at the greatest distance from Nineveh in the east. 4
sent out--literally, caused a wind to burst forth. COVERDALE translates, "hurled a greate wynde into the see." 5
mariners were afraid--though used to storms; the danger therefore must have been extreme.
cried every man unto his god--The idols proved unable to save them, though each, according to Phśnician custom, called on his tutelary god. But Jehovah proved able: and the heathen sailors owned it in the end by sacrificing to Him (Jonah 1:16
into the sides--that is, the interior recesses (compare 1Sam 24:3
; Isa 14:13
, Isa 14:15
). Those conscious of guilt shrink from the presence of their fellow man into concealment.
fast asleep--Sleep is no necessary proof of innocence; it may be the fruit of carnal security and a seared conscience. How different was Jesus' sleep on the Sea of Galilee! (Mark 4:37
). Guilty Jonah's indifference to fear contrasts with the unoffending mariners' alarm. The original therefore is in the nominative absolute: "But as for Jonah, he," &c. Compare spiritually, Eph 5:14
call upon thy God--The ancient heathen in dangers called on foreign gods, besides their national ones (compare Ps 107:28
). MAURER translates the preceding clause, "What is the reason that thou sleepest?"
think upon us--for good (compare Gen 8:1
; Exod 2:25
; Exod 3:7
, Exod 3:9
; Ps 40:17
cast lots--God sometimes sanctioned this mode of deciding in difficult cases. Compare the similar instance of Achan, whose guilt involved Israel in suffering, until God revealed the offender, probably by the casting of lots (Pro 16:33
; Acts 1:26
). Primitive tradition and natural conscience led even the heathen to believe that one guilty man involves all his associates, though innocent, in punishment. So CICERO [The Nature of the Gods, 3.37] mentions that the mariners sailing with Diagoras, an atheist, attributed a storm that overtook them to his presence in the ship (compare HORACE'S Odes, 3.2.26). 8
The guilty individual being discovered is interrogated so as to make full confession with his own mouth. So in Achan's case (Josh 7:19
I am an Hebrew--He does not say "an Israelite." For this was the name used among themselves; "Hebrew," among foreigners (Gen 40:15
; Exod 3:18
I fear the Lord--in profession: his practice belied his profession: his profession aggravated his guilt.
God . . . which . . . made the sea--appropriately expressed, as accounting for the tempest sent on the sea. The heathen had distinct gods for the "heaven," the "sea," and the "land." Jehovah is the one and only true God of all alike. Jonah at last is awakened by the violent remedy from his lethargy. Jonah was but the reflection of Israel's backsliding from God, and so must bear the righteous punishment. The guilt of the minister is the result of that of the people, as in Moses' case (Deut 4:21
). This is what makes Jonah a suitable type of Messiah, who bore the imputed sin of the people. 10
"The men were exceedingly afraid," when made aware of the wrath of so powerful a God at the flight of Jonah.
Why hast thou done this?--If professors of religion do wrong, they will hear of it from those who make no such profession. 11
What shall we do unto thee?--They ask this, as Jonah himself must best know how his God is to be appeased. "We would gladly save thee, if we can do so, and yet be saved ourselves" (Jonah 1:13
cast me . . . into the sea--Herein Jonah is a type of Messiah, the one man who offered Himself to die, in order to allay the stormy flood of God's wrath (compare Ps 69:1
, as to Messiah), which otherwise must have engulfed all other men. So Caiaphas by the Spirit declared it expedient that one man should die, and that the whole nation should not perish (John 11:50
). Jonah also herein is a specimen of true repentance, which leads the penitent to "accept the punishment of his iniquity" (Lev 26:41
, Lev 26:43
), and to be more indignant at his sin than at his suffering. 13
they could not-- (Pro 21:30
). Wind and tide--God's displeasure and God's counsel were against them. 14
for this man's life--that is, for taking this man's life.
innocent blood--Do not punish us as Thou wouldst punish the shedders of innocent blood (compare Deut 21:8
). In the case of the Antitype, Pontius Pilate washed his hands and confessed Christ's innocence, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person." But whereas Jonah the victim was guilty and the sailors innocent, Christ our sacrificial victim was innocent and Pontius Pilate and nil of us men were guilty. But by imputation of our guilt to Him and His righteousness to us, the spotless Antitype exactly corresponds to the guilty type.
thou . . . Lord, hast done as it pleased thee--That Jonah has embarked in this ship, that a tempest has arisen, that he has been detected by casting of lots, that he has passed sentence on himself, is all Thy doing. We reluctantly put him to death, but it is Thy pleasure it should be so. 15
sea ceased . . . raging--so at Jesus' word (Luke 8:24
). God spares the prayerful penitent, a truth illustrated now in the case of the sailors, presently in that of Jonah, and thirdly, in that of Nineveh. 16
offered a sacrifice--They offered some sacrifice of thanksgiving at once, and vowed more when they should land. GLASSIUS thinks it means only, "They promised to offer a sacrifice." 17
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 Matt 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 Matt 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 (Matt 12:40
); the Hebrew counting the first and third parts of days as whole twenty-four hour days.