JONAH CHAPTER 1.
Jonah's Attempt to Evade the Call of the Lord.
JONAH’S COMMISSION AND FLIGHT. — V. 1. Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah,, the son of Amittai, in a vision or by a direct revelation, saying, v. 2. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, by preaching a call to repentance; for their wickedness is come up before Me, as had that of Sodom and Gomorrah hundreds of years before. Cp. Gen. 18, 20. The name Nineveh was applied to a complex of four ancient cities, including Nineveh proper, which lay between the Tigris River and a low range of hills, about 500 miles northeast of Jerusalem. The entire length of the compound city was about twenty-five miles, while its breadth was fifteen. At that time it had more than half a million inhabitants and was the capital and metropolis of the entire heathen world. V. 3. But Jonah, instead of showing the proper obedience to the Lord, rose up to flee unto Tarshish, Tartessus in Spain, one of the westernmost cities of the ancient world and always considered as lying on the very boundary of the earth's inhabited area, from the presence of the Lord, from before the face of the Lord, who was thought of as having His habitation in the Temple at Jerusalem, and went down to Joppa, the harbor of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean Sea. And he found a ship going to Tarshish, for there was a lively commercial intercourse with the western metropolis even at that time on account of its trade in metals and fine products of the soil; so he paid the fare thereof, he engaged passage, and went down into it to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, thus deliberately denying his services to Jehovah, the King of Israel, chiefly because the idea of preaching repentance to a heathen nation was repugnant to him, since he feared that the Lord might show the Gentiles mercy. V. 4. But the Lord, whose presence was by no means confined to the Land of Promise, sent out a great wind into the sea, a very severe storm, which caused the billows to rise in dangerous mountains; and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken, it was on the point of foundering. V. 5. Then the mariners, the sailors on the boat, were afraid and cried every man unto his god, for the seamen were from various countries and worshiped various gods, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship, the freight which she was carrying, into the sea to lighten it of them, so that she would ride higher in the water and no longer be in danger of foundering. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship, into its cabin, or hold; and he lay and was fast asleep, thinking himself secure from all danger. V. 6. So the shipmaster came to him and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Why should he withdraw at the time of this great peril? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us that we perish not, by lending them His assistance and rescuing them from the impending destruction. V. 7. And. they said every one to his fellow, after Jonah had obeyed the call of the captain, Come and let us cast lots, a common method of determining the guilt of men at that time, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us, who was to blame for the present condition of affairs. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah, the Lord Himself directing this method of determining the guilty one. V. 8. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us, who and what was responsible for this condition of affairs. What is thine occupation? his business, which might have been of a nature to arouse the wrath of God. And whence comest thou, from what nation and people? What is thy country? And of what people art thou? The questions are shouted in a confused mass, as always under the stress of a great emotion. V. 9. And he said unto them, in an open confession of his guilt, I am an Hebrew, the usual name applied to the people of Israel by the surrounding nations; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, worshiping Him alone, which hath made the sea and the dry land, the one Creator of the world and all it contained. V. 10. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, filled with terror at the scope of this confession, which showed them that they were, although unwittingly, assisting Jonah in his effort to escape the Lord, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? a cry of horror and fear more than a question, for the God of the Hebrews was known as a powerful Deity. For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them, this statement having been included in the confession which he made before them. Even unbelievers quake at any evidence of the wrath of God, much as they otherwise scoff at those who worship Him.
JONAH AND THE SEA MONSTER. — V. 11. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee that the sea may be calm unto us? What would Jonah himself suggest or advise in order to turn away the wrath of God from those who were not implicated in his guilt? For the sea wrought, continued to rage, and was tempestuous, still rising in angry billows. V. 12. And he said unto them, showing the right spirit in offering himself up as a sacrifice in their behalf, Take me up and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you, be quieted down; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. V. 13. Nevertheless the men, not desiring to carry out the prophet's suggestion, rowed hard to bring it to the land, that is, they tried everything they knew in the line of seamanship in order to break through the billows which hemmed in the ship; but they could not, for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them, so that they could make no headway against the surging waves. V. 14. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, in this case addressing Jehovah, the true God, and said, We beseech Thee, O Lord, we beseech Thee, let us not perish for this man's life, be held accountable for the fact that they would now deliver him to what appeared to them a certain death, and lay not upon us innocent blood, by imputing it to them, since Jonah had not harmed them in any manner; for Thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased Thee, He had determined it, the lot, as directed by Him, made the execution necessary. V. 15. So they took up Jonah and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from her raging, it stood still and no longer rose in such tremendous billows. V. 16. Then the men, seeing in this sudden change of the weather the almighty hand of God, feared the Lord exceedingly and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord and made vows, as men will under the stress of such a sudden fear and emotion, although there is no real change of heart in them. V. 17. Now, the Lord had prepared a great fish, not a whale, but a special sea-monster, to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, being alive and conscious through the power of the Lord, whose plans called for a further use of this prophet. In the entire story there are many elements of the miraculous, but not a line which makes the narrative appear unreasonable. It is for us to believe what the Lord has here recorded.