Jonah 1

 

 

THE MISSION OF JONAH.

HIS DISOBEDIENCE AND PUNISHMENT

       (vs. 1-17)

 

 

Jonah is sent to Nineveh to cry against it; but he tries to avoid the mission,

and to this end takes ship to Tarshish.  (vs. 1-3)

 

1 “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai,

saying,”  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. Joshua 1:1; Judges 1:1;  I Samuel 1:1; Esther 1:1; Ezekiel 1:1.

Jonah the son of Amittai (II Kings 14:25).

 

2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their

wickedness is come up before me.” Nineveh, the capital of the kingdom of Assyria,

is first mentioned in Genesis 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 Shalmaneser 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 ch.3:2-3; 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

neighborhood of each other, 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 right 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. ch. 1). Cry against it. The message is given in

ch.3:4. Thus the knowledge of the true God is made known among

the Gentiles. Their wickedness; i.e., their evil doing towards others, as in

Nahum 3:19. Is come up before me, and appeals for punishment, as Genesis

4:10; 18:20-21; Septuagint, jAne>bh hJ kraugh>th~v kaki>av aujth>v pro<v me> -

Anebae hae kraugaetaes kakias autaes pros me - The cry of its

wickedness is come up unto me.”

 

 

A City’s Sin (v.2)

 

By its very nature sin is individual, personal; for it is the estrangement of

the spiritual being and life from God. Yet, as men live in communities, and

as these communities possess moral qualities and habits determined by the

character of the component units, there is such a thing as the sin of a tribe,

of a city of a nation. This is more obvious when it is remembered that

states are personified in their rulers and representatives, whose words and

actions must be taken as those of the community at large. The Scriptures,

from the record of the Tower of Babel downwards, exhibit NATIONAL

RESPONSIBILITY as connected with NATIONAL ERROR and

UNFAITHFULNESS.   Among the lessons of this Book of Jonah, this

lesson regarding a nation’s moral life and accountability is not the least valuable.

 

  • A CITY’S SIN IS COMPATIBLE WITH ITS POLITICAL

GREATNESS. Nineveh was “that great city.” It was situated upon the

noble river Tigris; it boasted a splendid and ancient history; it was of

enormous extent, being, according to the historians, eighteen leagues in

circumference; it had a population reckoned by hundreds of thousands; in

short, it was one of the greatest and most famous of the cities of the

ancient East, and was the capital of one of the most powerful of kingdoms.

Recent discoveries have familiarized us with the civic life of the population

of the city of Nineveh. Yet the wickedness of Nineveh was great.

Magnitude, population, wealth, luxury, splendor, power, — all are, alas!

consistent with forgetfulness of God, and with rebellion against His

authority who is King of kings and Lord of all the nations upon earth.

How signally was this the case with pagan Rome! And are there not cities

in professedly Christian lands, the abodes of power and of pleasure,

whose sin cries aloud unto God?

 

  • A CITY’S SIN IS OFTEN DISREGARDED BY HUMAN

OBSERVERS, AND EVEN BY RULERS. The citizens take pride

in their “gorgeous palaces,” their “solemn temples,” in magnificent public

works, in stately ceremonies, in all the complicated apparatus of civilization,

luxury, refinement, and enjoyment. The men in authority are content if

outward order is observed, if regulations of police are respected, if the

reports of health are satisfactory, if trade flourishes. But it is often

forgotten that beneath this outward show of prosperity there may exist

moral corruption and religious indifference, or even DEFIANT

INFIDELITY.   God may not be glorified; He may be hated and

disobeyed. And yet no concern may be awakened, no contrition felt.

 

  • A CITY’S SIN IS OBSERVED BY THE ALL-SEEING GOD. What

graphic language is this, “Their wickedness is come up before me”!

Under this old Hebrew idiom a great religious truth is discernible. Nothing

escapes the notice of him who searcheth the hearts of the children of men.

“All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we

have to do.”  (Hebrews 4:13).  Not only so. God looks upon the sins of the

citizens, not as a statistician or a politician might look. He is grieved with

men’s irreligion; he is “angry,” i.e., “with the wicked every day”

(Psalm 7:11).  We must not attribute to the Deity any emotions which

would be unworthy of a human ruler. But it is not derogatory to God,

it is honoring Him, to think of Him as distressed and dissatisfied with

human rebellion, and to remember that His regard is that of a wise and

righteous Ruler, who is concerned for the spiritual state of those

whom He rules for their own good and for His glory.

 

  • A CITY’S SIN MUST BE MET BY A RIGHTEOUS TESTIMONY,

REBUKE, AND WARNING. It must not be forgotten that men’s sins are

often attributable to evil example, to common custom, to the force of habit,

to forgetfulness and carelessness. For this reason is it needful that the

preacher of righteousness should exhibit a just and lofty standard of

national and individual virtue; that he should faithfully expose and

denounce prevailing errors, follies, and injustice; and that he should

 remind men of their amenability to the tribunal of an Omniscient and

Almighty Ruler. There is too little of this frank and fearless treatment of

social corruption; the pulpit is to blame for this; and it is to be desired that

Christian preachers should hear the Word of the Lord bidding them go and

cry against” the wickedness of great cities, and warn the citizens of the

ruin they are bringing upon themselves. And above all is it important that

the wicked should be summoned to repentance, and that the penitent

should be directed to THAT SAVIOUR who is the assurance of Divine pity,

and THE CHANNEL OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS to all who come to

Him with contrite sorrow and with lowly faith.

 

3 “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the

LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to

Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go

with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”

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” (II Kings 17:20, 23; 23:27);

or, from serving the Lord as His minister (Deuteronomy 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 loathe to interfere in Gentile

business, and partly, as he himself says (ch.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 Joshua 19:46),

a town on the seacoast thirty miles in a northwesterly direction

from Jerusalem. “Jaffa,” says Dr. Thomson (‘The Land and the Book,’ p.

8, etc.), “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 harbor 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 port of

Caessarea was built by Herod .... The harbor, 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 harbor than

anywhere else on this coast.  Went down into it;  -ajne>bh - [ejne>bh

Alexandrian Septuagint] eijv aujto> - anebae eis auto - “went up into it”

(Septuagint). Went on board; or, as Jerome says, sought a hiding place in the

ship (compare v. 5). With them. With the crew. Jonah had told them (v. 10)

that he was flying from God’s service, but, knowing and caring nothing about

Jehovah, they took him on board when he paid his fare, and thought nothing of

his private reasons for joining them.

 

 

                                   Fleeing from the Lord (v. 3)

 

There is something wonderfully simple in this language, and something

wonderfully childish and naive in the action here described. Yet when

Jonah, who should have gone eastward, turned his face towards the west,

when he went down to the port of Joppa and took ship for Tarshish,

though he was acting in a way sinful in itself and most disastrous for him,

he was teaching for all time and for all readers of Scripture a lesson of

human infirmity which is to us chiefly precious as preparing the way for a

lesson of human repentance and of Divine forgiveness and acceptance.

 

  • THE MOTIVE WHICH LEADS MEN TO WISH TO FLEE FROM

THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD IS BAD. There are various impulses

which may tend to drive men away from the all-searching eye of the

Supreme. Some, like Jonah, may wish to avoid a service to which they

cherish repugnance; for which, perhaps, they feel personally disqualified.

Others may wish to hide their sins from One who, they know well, must

regard them with displeasure. In any case, though the degree of culpability

may vary, the motive is unworthy. The child should hide nothing from the

Father; the Christian should never ask — Where shall I hide from thy

presence? but should rather rejoice in the nearness, the interest, the favor,

of his Maker and Saviour.

 

  • THE METHOD WHICH MEN ADOPT IN ORDER TO FLEE FROM

THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD IS ABSURD. Change of place cannot

take us out of the territory of the Omnipresent King. Jacob found that

when at Bethel; the Lord was in that place, though he knew it not

(Genesis 28:16).  Jonah learned that God’s hand held in its hollow the raging

sea; the same hand that fashioned the dry land from which he fled. It is now

more common for those who would flee from God to betake themselves to

the society of the profane, the licentious, the ungodly; thus they seek at

least to banish the thought of God, if they cannot escape from His

all-regarding eye.

 

  • THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF FLEEING FROM THE PRESENCE OF

THE LORD IS OBVIOUS. That is to say, obvious to all who reflect upon

the nature and the attributes of the Eternal. And it is well that all who are

tempted to wish that relations between themselves and their Creator were

suspended should reflect upon this impossibility. In God we live and move

and have our being (Acts 17:28).  We may forget Him, but He does not

overlook us. We may be out of harmony with His highest purposes, but we

cannot cease even for one moment to be subjects of His kingdom, whether

contented or discontented, loyal or rebellious.

 

  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF ENDEAVORING TO FLEE FROM

THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD ARE AFFLICTING. In his favor is

life. It is well to walk in the light of the Lord. They who depart from God

forsake their true happiness. The presence of the Lord of all is necessary in

order to strength and success in our work. A messenger from God above

all men needs the consciousness of the Divine favor; for him to flee from

God is to sacrifice his life, to throw up his vocation, and, except God have

mercy upon him, to destroy his spiritual prospects.

 

  • GOD’S FORBEARANCE AND COMPASSION MAY BRING BACK

THOSE WHO TRY TO FLEE FROM HIM. The narrative tells not only

how Jonah. fled, but how God followed him; how God did indeed chasten

His servant, but did not forsake him; how Providence overruled his sinful

conduct and secured his spiritual good. We need not despond, even if we

have, as it were, turned our back upon God. “He restoreth our soul.”

(Psalm 23:3).  He so reveals His grace that, instead of fleeing from His

presence, we come to find in that presence fullness of joy.  (Psalm 16:11)

 

 

Jonahs Foolish Flight is Arrested (vs. 4-10)

 

In the midst of his fancied security God sends a great storm, and the ship is placed in

imminent jeopardy. The crew try all means to save the ship, and at length cast lots to

discover by this means for whose sake the tempest has been sent. The lot points out

Jonah as the guilty person.

 

4 “But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a

mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.”

Sent out; Septuagint, ejxh>geire exaegeire - “raised;” literally, cast forth,

or hurled, a great wind, like the Euroclydon of Acts 27:14, and what is

called nowadays a Levanter. Josephus’s account of the harbor of Joppa and

the neighboring sea, which, he says, is rendered very dangerous by the sudden

 rise of “the black north wind” (‘Bell. Jud.,’ 3:9. 3). Here we see wind and storm

fulfilling God’s word (Psalm 148:8). As Tertullian says —

 

“Si Dominum in terris fugiens, invenit in undis.”

“Flying the Lord on earth, He found him in the sea.”

 

Was like to be broken; literally, thought to be dashed in pieces.

Wordsworth contrasts the living consciousness and apprehension of the

ship with the lethargy of the prophet now lying fast asleep in the hold (v. 5).

Septuagint - ejkindu>neue tou~ suntribh~nai edinduneue tou

suntribaenai -  “was in danger of being broken up.”

 

The mistaken secular view of things is that Nature is a reality and thay God

is fiction.  The rational Divinely revealed view is that God is the Author of

Nature’s laws. “The sea is His, and He made it; and His hands formed the

dry land” (Psalm 95:5).  Divine purpose, intelligence, wisdom, benevolence,

are to the thoughtful and pious mind manifest in all the scenes and operations

which Nature presents to us. We need not be pantheists, and identify God and

Nature, in order to see and to glorify God in all His works.

 

5 “Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his God,

and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten

it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and

he lay, and was fast asleep.” The mariners (mallachim). Those who have

to do with the salt sea. The word is used by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:9, 27, 29).

Cried every man unto his god. They were either Phoenicians from different

localities, or men of various nations; hence the multiplicity of their gods. The

heathen are represented throughout the book as devout and sincere according to

their lights. They cast forth the wares; Septuagint, ejkbolh<n ejpoh>santo

tw~n skeuw~n ekbolaen epoaesanto ton skeuon -  “cast out the furniture,

or wares,” as Acts 27:18-19; Vulgate, miserunt vasa. They threw overboard

probably both all spare tackling and movables, and the cargo. The freight may have

been corn, which was exported in considerable quantifies from Joppa (compare

Ezekiel 27:17), or manufactured articles from Tyre, which were exchanged with

Spain for silver and other metals. To lighten it of them; literally, to lighten from

 against them; i.e. to ease the ship of its burden, or to ease them of their trouble,

as Exodus 18:22. The Septuagint akes the former interpretation, tou~ koufisqh~nai

ajp aujtw~n tou kouphisthaenai ap auton -  “that it might be lightened of them;”

Vulgate, ut alleviaretur ab eis. The sides of the ship. The innermost parts

(interiora, Vulgate) of the ship; (Septuagint); th<n koi>lhn taen koilaen

the hold” (compae I Samuel 24:3). Jonah hid himself there before the storm arose.

The Hebrew word for “ship” (sephinah) is found nowhere else, and, probably from

its derivation (saphan, “to cover”), implies that the vessel was decked. He lay, and

was fast asleep; ejka>qeude kai< e]regceekatheude kai eregchi -  “was asleep

and snoring,” (Septuagint); dormiebat sopore gravi (Vulgate). The word used

implies a very deep sleep, as that of Sisera (Judges 4:21) or of the Assyrians

(Psalm 76:6). He was fatigued and worn out with mental anxiety, and now being,

as he thought, secure, and longing for solitude, he lay down to sleep, unconscious of

danger. Contrast this sleep in the storm with that of Christ (Mark 4:38), and that

of the apostles who slept for sorrow (Luke 22:45).

 

Man is powerless in the presence of the great forces of nature — the hurricane, the

earthquake, the volcano — man feels his own physical feebleness and helplessness.

The lightning may smite or the waves may swallow up the healthiest frame and

close the most useful and beneficent life.  But instead of worshipping the

unknown, these forces should drive the sinner to seek God’s mercy.

To many the hour of peril is the only hour of prayer. Lips that have only used

the name of the Eternal Majesty in ribald profanity, when white with fear

utter that name in earnest entreaty for pity and for deliverance. When

human help is vain, then the godless call upon the great Helper, God. How

worthless such prayer often is experience sadly teaches. “The river past,

the saint forgot.” Yet it is well that men should be awakened, however

rudely, from their self-sufficiency and false security.  Danger causes

God’s people to pray.  How many are the records of shipwreck

which tell of the peace and trust, the fortitude and hope, of the true

Christian, when those around have abandoned themselves to despair!

The Apostle Paul in trouble prayed and the Lord delivered him.

“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no

small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then

taken away.  But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them,

and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed

from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.  And now I exhort you

to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you,

but of the ship.  For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am,

and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar:

and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.  Wherefore, sirs, be of

good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.  Howbeit we

must be cast upon a certain island.”  (Acts 27:20-26)

 

6 “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest

thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will

think upon us, that we perish not.” The shipmaster; literally, the chief of the

 ropemen; Vulgate, gubernator; Septuagint, oJ prwreu>vho proreus

 the look out man.” The captain.  What meanest thou, O sleeper? How canst

thou sleep so soundly when our danger is so imminent? If thou canst help us in no

other way, at least ask the aid of Heaven. It was the duty of a prophet of the Lord

 to take the lead in prayer; but here the prophet’s stupor is rebuked by the

heathen’s faith. Call upon thy God. The sailors’ prayers had not been answered,

and they arouse Jonah, noting something special about him, perhaps his

prophet’s dress, or observing that he was an Israelite, and therefore a

worshipper of Jehovah, of whose power they had heard. If so be that God

will think upon us. They use the word “God” with the article, ha Eiohim,

as if they had, in spite of their Polytheism, a dim notion of one supreme

Deity. Vulgate, Si forte recogitet Deus de nobis; Septuagint, o[pwv

diasw>sh oJ Qeo<v hJma~v hopos diasosae ho Theos haemas -  that God

may save us.” From the apparent use, of the Hebrew word (ashath) in Jeremiah

5:28 in the sense of “shining,” some translate here, “if perchance God will shine

upon us,” i.e. be favorable to us. But the meaning given in the Anglican Version

is best supported. So the psalmist says, “The Lord thinketh upon me” (Psalm

40:17), implying that God succors and defends him.

 

7 “And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots,

that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they

cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.” Finding the storm still violent, the

crew come to the conclusion that it is sent by Heaven in punishment of some

crime committed by one on board; and they proceed to cast lots to discover

the guilty person. Jonah doubtless had meantime complied with the captain’s

request, but, as the sailors saw, without visible effect. The belief that temporal

calamities are often connected with the presence of culprits, and are sent in

judgment, is found in classical authors. Thus Plautus, ‘Rudena,’ 2:21 —

 

 “Little I wonder if the ship is wrecked

Which carries thee and thy ill-gotten wealth.

 

The misfortune of the Israelites at Ai was consequent on the sin of

Achan (Joshua 7.). Let us cast lots.  Jerome says here, “The fugitive

was taken by lot, not by virtue of the lots, especially of the lots of heathen

men, but by the will of Him who guided the uncertain lots.” For whose

cause; Septuagint, ti>nov e[neken tinos henekenwho is responsible.

The unusual nature of the tempest showed them that it was sent in judgment.

Commentators cite the story of Diagoras told by Cicero (‘De Nat. Deor.,’ 3:37).

The lot fell upon Jonah.  Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap; but

the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (compare I Samuel 10:20-27;

14:41; Acts 1:26).

 

8 “Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause

this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest

thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?”

The mariners having, as they supposed, discovered the culprit,

proceed calmly to investigate his guilt; amid the roaring of the tempest and

the peril that surrounded them, they give him every opportunity of clearing

himself or confessing his crime. For whose cause. Some manuscripts of

the Hebrew and the Greek omit this clause as unnecessary; but, as Keil

remarks, it is not superfluous, the sailors thereby wishing to induce Jonah

to confess his guilt with his own mouth. In their excitement they crowd

question upon question, asking him about his business, his journey, his

country, his parentage. Jerome notes the pregnant brevity of these

inquiries, and compares Virgil, ‘AEneid,’ 8:112, etc. —

 

 

“Warriors, what cause constrained you thus to tempt

A path untrodden? Whither are ye bound?

What is your race? Where dwell ye?

Peace or war, Come ye to bring?”

(Comp. Homer, ‘Odyssey.,’ 1:170.)

 

What is thine occupation? His occupation, they thought, might have

been one to excite the wrath of the gods; or his country and family might

have been exposed to the hatred of Heaven; hence the succeeding

questions.

 

9 “And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the

God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.”

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

Genesis 14:13; 39:14; 41:12; Exodus 1:16; I Samuel 4:6, for the former use;

and for the latter, Genesis 40:15; Exodus 2:7; 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 Septuagint, reading differently, renders, Dou~lov Kuri>ou

eijmi< ejgw> - Doulos Kuriou eimi ego -  “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. (se>bomai sebomai  - I worship, reverence

Septuagint) 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 (Genesis 24:7), and Daniel (Daniel 2:37,

44) uses the same expression (compare Psalm 96:5; Jeremiah 10:11).

 

Jonah witnessed a good confession – it was a reverent confession – “I fear the

Lord;” i.e. – revere, worship, and honor Him.  They who know God aright may

well offer to Him the veneration and adoration which angels delight to present.

However, Jonah’s confession was inconsistent with his conduct.  How was it that

he, who so honorably confessed his God in the tempest, had fled from that God,

and disobeyed His plain commands? Could he use this language and not feel

that it censured himself for so acting as he had done?  The knowledge of God

may bring us to the knowledge of ourselves; and confession may lead to penitence,

and so to reconciliation.

 

10 “Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why

hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of

the LORD, because he had told them.” 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 Exodus 15:15; Joshua 5:1; I Samuel 4:7). Why hast thou done this?

better, What is this that thou hast done? (Genesis 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 v. 3).

 

 

An Effective Hue and Cry (vs. 4-10)

 

We see here a man who ought to run for God endeavoring to run away

from Him, and also how he speeds. The flight was illogical, a fatuous

attempt to get outside the sphere of omnipresence, as much of our sin is a

practical endeavor to get, or imagine ourselves, beyond the cognizance of

omniscience. And it was made in the blindness of egoism and carnal self

will — the qualities which are generally to be found at the bottom of

ministerial unfaithfulness to the message of God. A lorry off the lines

attracts attention, when a whole train on them might pass unnoticed. A

large proportion of the heterodoxy extant originates in or is exaggerated by

a desire to catch the public eye. The evil it does to the souls of men will go

on so long as there are nominal servants who have a private interest dearer

to them than the Master’s work. And the personal disappointment and

suffering and failure of the prophet are the experiences bound to be

repeated in all cases of a spiritual renegade like him.

 

  • THEY RUN HARD WHOM GOD’S JUDGMENTS CANNOT

OVERTAKE. Jonah scarcely hoped to get away from God. But he did

expect to get away from His work. It lay northeast, and he went southwest.

He was determined not to be near the place where duty lay, lest by any

chance he should be compelled to do it. In this he succeeded for the time,

and he succeeded still more fully in getting morally and spiritually away

from the Most High. Not depths of sea or wilds of desert could have taken

him so far from God as the moral elements implied in that flight. But he

found that desertion, however possible, can never be satisfactory. God’s

authority is not to be run away from. He makes storms His artillery, and

thunders after the runaway. He makes heathen sailors His officers, and

captures him in his flight. He makes a fish’s belly His dungeon keep, and

puts him in durance there, Do not for a moment dream of evading God. If

you run away from His spade, you run against His sword. You can run away

from sobriety, but not from the white liver and empty purse and premature

grave that drunkenness brings. You can run away from purity, but not from

the debilitated frame, and the cloyed appetite, and the hell of a

strengthening lust with failing power to feed it. You can run away from

charity, but not from the heart hardness and bitterness and gnawing unrest

of all loveless souls. Disobedience accomplished means judgment on the

way, and judgment on the way means judgment ahead of the transgressor,

and waiting for him as the angel for wretched Balaam (>Romans 2:3).

 

  • THE JUDGMENTS SENT AFTER THE GUILTY OFTEN FALL ON

THE INNOCENT AS WELL.Sin,” says Chrysostom, “brings the soul

into much senselessness.” It brought Jonah to think that he could play off

nature against its God, and escape him by the help of His own winds and

tides. It brought him to pit one of the great ships of Tarshish — the East

Indiamen of that time — against God’s east wind (Psalm 48:7). But

mighty merchantman or tiny skiff, it is all one to the hurricane’s blast. The

prophet, so far from getting out of trouble himself, got others into it (vs.

4-5). The sailors suffered fatigue and alarm; the ship owners suffered loss

of freight; other vessels near suffered dilapidations; indeed, many interests

were harassed before Jonah himself was reached. That is the rule with all

sin. In almost every offence against the second table of the Law our

neighbor suffers first. Then, after the offender begins to suffer, his

suffering in turn involves the family and social circles in which He is.

The spendthrift’s poverty, the debauchee’s disease, the felon’s disgrace,

go down infallibly to children, and it may be children’s children. Sinning

against God you are indirectly sinning against man, and sinning against one

man, you are practically sinning against all his friends and all your own.

Such a following of evils does the transgressor drag after him in AN

EVER LENGTHENING TRAIN.

 

  • THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THE OCCASION OF GREAT PUBLIC

EVIL ARE OFTEN THE LEAST CONCERNED ABOUT IT.

Jonah was the coolest man on board while the big storm was raging. It was

due to him, sent after him, meant to arrest his thought and step, and yet,

when hardy sailors were frightened, and ignorant heathen were driven to

pray, the erewhile God-fearing landsman was making himself comfortable

below, and curled up fast asleep. So the men who provoked the Flood

were cool and calm about it, even when Noah and his family were flying to

the ark. To the Sodomites also righteous Lot, preparing to fly the coming

doom, seemed but as one that mocked. The hardness produced by recent

rebellion had not yet worn off. The murderer does not regret his crime nor

fear the gallows while his blood is up. The excitement sustains him for a

time in reckless disregard of both. But when he has had time to cool down

and think, when he gets the cold iron on his wrists, and sees the outer

world through iron bars, when dreams recall his victim’s death struggle or

forecast the scaffold and the dangling rope, then his crime begins to look

like itself, and his doom to put on its proper terrors. Jonah was still in the

earlier stage. He did not see his sin yet, and he was too hot and rebellious

to fear the punishment. After sin and before repentance there is an interval

of unnatural insensibility, and in this interval Jonah’s sleep was taken. It is a

horrid sight to see judge and jury and the court affected to tears, and the

criminal as hard as iron. Yet that is the analogue of a state into which we

have only to defy God in order to fall.

 

  • A PRAYERLESS BACKSLIDER IS AN ASTONISHMENT EVEN

TO A HEATHEN. (v. 6.) The skipper, a responsible man, and pious

according to his lights, thinks Jonah, sleeping there in the crash of the

storm, must be either sick or mad. Prayer, whether to false gods or the

true, is a universal and instinctive religious act. And so when the great

wind guns began to boom and the billowy mitrailleuses to roar in chorus,

when the helpless vessel tossed like a log and creaked and strained as about

to break, then began every man to cry unto his god. Even the heathen

could see that it was the thing to do, and the time to do it; and when the

only worshipper of the true God aboard lies silent and indifferent, the

captain and crew are alike astonished. Yet it is just what a little knowledge

of the human character in its relation to spiritual things would lead us to

expect. The iron that has been heated soft, and cooled again in water, is

harder than ever. The process has simply tempered it. So the man who has

been softened in the fires of grace, and plunged again into the waters of

sin, is a harder man than he was at first (Hebrews 6:4). There are Canas

and Chorazins among us, and it will be more tolerable for the Tyres and

Sidons in the judgment than for them.  (Matthew 11:21-24)

 

  • IT IS IN THE CRISES OF LIFE THAT FALSE CONFIDENCES

FAIL AND THE TRUE GOD COMES TO THE FRONT. The captain

sees appeal to his own gods to be vain, and he surmises that prayer to the

God of Israel might be more successful. “Call upon thy God, if so be that

God will think upon us.” He knew of the true God as distinguished from

the gods many whom he served, but only in extremity does he think of

approaching Him in prayer. The other gods were fair weather deities, good

enough so long as you wanted nothing from them. But only the God who

holds the winds in His fists will serve now. And thus, in a new sense, the

extremity of man is the opportunity of God. Beliefs, moralities,

observances, are made so many substitutes for the Christ of God. And they

do to live with after a fashion. BUT YOU NEVER KNEW A MAN TO

DIE COMFORTABLY WITH THEM!   The last hour is apocalyptic.

It unveils things. The bubble of conceit in personal merit bursts. The filthy

rags fall off. The soul is flung naked, loathsome, undone, BEFORE THE

MAJESTY OF GOD!   Take God in Christ for your trust this hour, and you

will never know the withering curse on him that maketh flesh his arm.”

(Jeremiah 17:5)

 

On hearing. Jonahs confession, the sailors (vs. 11-16) appeal to him, as a

worshipper of Jehovah, to tell them what to do to him that the storm may cease.

He bids them cast him into the sea, which, after some demur and after renewed

efforts to escape, they proceed to do. Upon this the storm immediately abates.

 

11 “Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea

may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.”

What shall we do unto thee? They recognize that the tempest was sent as a

judgment on account of Jonah’s sin; at the same time, believing him to be a

prophet of Jehovah, under whose wrath they were suffering, they ask his

advice in this emergency; if it was a crime to receive him, what shall they do

to him to expiate the offence and to appease the anger of God? That the sea

may be calm unto us; literally, may be silent from upon us, so as no longer to

bear down upon us (compare Mark 4:39). Wrought, and was tempestuous;

literally, was going and was tempestuous; Septuagint, jEporeu>eto kai< ejxh>geire

ma~llon klu>dwna Eporeueto kai exaegire mallon kludona  -  The sea was

 moving and lifting the surge still more;” Vulgate, ibat et intumescebat. That is,

according to the Hebrew idiom, “grew more and more tempestuous” (compare

Exodus 19:19; Proverbs 4:18).

 

12 “And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea;

so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this

great tempest is upon you.”  Jonah, brought to a better mind, perhaps divinely

inspired, pronounces his own sentence. “I know,” he says, that the fault is mine,

and I serve death, therefore “take me up, and cast me forth into the sea.”

He will not be his own executioner, but will patiently bear a death righteously

inflicted by others, whoso safety he was endangering by his continued presence.

 

13 “Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they

could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.”

The generous sailors, however, are loath to execute thissentence on a prophet

of the Lord, and make a supreme effort to reach the land, and thus obviate this

severe alternative. Rowed hard; literally, digged (Job 24:16; Ezekiel 12:7);

Septuagint, parebia>zonto parebaizonto - used violent efforts.” They

endeavored to force their way through the waves with oars, as the use of

sails was impracticable. The expression is like the classical phrases, infindere

sulcos, scindere freta, arare aquas, and our “to plough the main.” To the land;

to get them back to land. The wind was off shore, and they had taken down the

sails, and tried to row back to the harbor. Tou~ejpitre>yai pro<v th<n gh~n

Tou epistresia pros taen gaen -  to return to the land (Septuagint). The sea

wrought (see note on v. 11).

 

14 “Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee,

O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and

lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it

pleased thee.” They cried unto the Lord. They prayed no longer to their

gods, as before (v. 5), but unto Jehovah, the God of Jonah. Let us not

perish for this man’s life. Let us not incur death for taking this man’s life.

They seem to know something of the Noachic law that punished murder

(Genesis 9:5-6). Lay not upon us innocent blood. Charge us not with

the guilt of shedding innocent blood (Deuteronomy 21:8). For thou, O

Lord, hast done as it pleased thee (I Samuel 3:18). The whole affair

has happened according to thy will. The tempest, the lot, the sentence, are

all the working of thy providence. The prophet throughout brings into

prominence the contrast between the behavior of these heathen and his

own, and would teach his nation a lesson thereby.

 

In times of difficulty and danger, there is no resource so proper and so

precious as prayer.  The conduct of these heathen sailors, as here described,

is very noteworthy.  What they did was to put forth every effort for their

own and their fellow voyager’s safety, and then to commend themselves to

the guidance and the mercy of the Most High.  They prayed with much good

feeling towards man, with much submission towards God; and with much

fervor, and committed themselves to the hands of God.

 

15 “So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea

ceased from her raging.”  They took up, with a certain reverence. Ceased

from her raging; literally, stood from its anger; Septuagint, e]sth ejk tou~ sa>lou

aujth~v estae ek tou salou autaes -  stood from its tossing.” The sudden

cessation of the storm showed that it had been sent on Jonah’s account, and

that the crew had not sinned by executing the sentence upon him. Usually it

takes some time for the swell to cease after the wind has sunk: here there was

suddenly a great calm (Matthew 8:26).

 

16 “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a

sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.” Feared the Lord. They recognized

the supernatural element in the transaction, and conceived an awe and fear, of

Jehovah, who had wrought these wonders Offered a sacrifice unto the Lord.

Many commentators think that they sacrificed on reaching shore, as they had

thrown the cargo overboard, and would have had no animal to offer. The

Chaldee renders accordingly, “They said that they would offer sacrifices.”

But the text implies that they sacrificed immediately on the cessation of the

storm. They may naturally have had some animal on board fit for offering.

And made vows. Vowed to make other offerings when it was in their

power. Henderson compares Virgil, ‘AEneid,’ 3:403, etc. —

 

“And when thy fleet hath safely crossed the seas,

And, raising altars on the shore, thy vows

Thou shalt perform.”

 

 

Fear, Sacrifice, and Vows (v. 16)

 

Times of danger are often times of devotion; but times of deliverance are

not always times of thanksgiving. It is to the credit and honor of these

seamen that when the storm ceased they acknowledged JEHOVAH as the

Author of the calm, as the God of salvation. Three aspects of religious

exercise are here presented to us.

 

  • REVERENCE. We cannot say that there was no superstition in the

feelings and the conduct of these mariners. Probably the piety of most

good men has an element of superstition. In any case, they feared the

Eternal, feeling themselves to be in the presence and at the disposal of

Him who holds the waters in the hollow of His hand.

 

  • SACRIFICE. It was a thank offering, no doubt, which they presented.

If they were sincere, this sacrifice was a symbol of the consecration of

their whole nature, their whole life, unto God.

 

  • VOWS.   Mercy experienced in the past should lead to the expectation of

mercy in the future. The season of deliverance is a suitable season for

resolutions and for vows. But be it remembered, “Better is it that thou

shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:5). 

 

It has been supposed that these sailors embraced Judaism and became

proselytes. At any rate, they showed themselves in the light of believers on

this occasion.

 

 

The Sailors Conduct (vs. 11-16)

 

Look at those swarthy sailors. They were among Jonah’s teachers; they,

too, may be among ours. From age to age in this chapter they sail the sea

— Jonah’s friends; ours also if we will let them be, having much to say to

us if we have but ears to hear. Mark:

 

  • THEIR REVERENCE. There is nothing rough and rude about them.

The storm has subdued them. What they hear from Jonah affects them. Is it

not the hour of their conversion? They cease from idolatry and worship

Jehovah. Hearing of Jehovah as God of heaven, earth, and sea, they were

exceedingly afraid.” He must indeed be the Lord! And that Jonah should

have sought to flee from Him! “What shall we do unto thee?” they ask; for

through Jonah they would learn the will of God concerning him. They have

no grudge against him, no scorn for him, no words of insult, no deed of

violence. They reverence his God, and so show kindness to him. A pattern

in this to us. Have we an offending brother — one who has offended us?

Let us wrong not ourselves, nor wrong him, the better man in him, by

bitterness. The wrong doer will have self-reproach enough, bitter

memories enough.  (“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him;

if he thirst, give him drink:  for in so doing thou shalt heap

coals of fire on his head.”  - Romans 12:20)

 

  • THEIR SELF-DENYING GENEROSITY. Those sailors did what they

could to save the prophet. When Jonah was at his best they were at their

best. His unselfishness called out theirs; their nobility answered to his. Thus

is it ever. Be kind, pure, generous, and you will help others to show

kindness, and to be pure and generous. What inspiration is there in

goodness! Supremely is this seen in OUR BLESSED LORD! 

 What an encouragement to copy Him that we may quicken others!

 

Honour to these whose words or deeds

 Thus help us in our daily needs,

And by their overflow

Raise us from what is low.”

 

  • THEIR PRAYERFULNESS. As heathens they had “given themselves

to prayer,” Hearing of JEHOVAH, THEY PRAY TO HIM!   They

cannot save Jonah; but before they do the deprecated deed they cried

 unto the Lordall of them, earnest, importunate.

 

o       They recognized God in this series of events;

o       they would be submissive to Him;

o       they would be clear of this man’s blood; and

o       they would take no step without prayer.

 

Nor let us. Let it be the “key of the morning and the bolt of the night.”

When have we not requests to offer? needs to be supplied? When do we

not need God?

 

  • THEIR GODLY FEAR ATTESTED. At the sight of the sudden great

calm “the men feared the Lord exceedingly.” Their fear, their faith,

evidenced itself. By “a sacrifice unto the Lord” they expressed in act

thankfulness for the past and present; by their “vows,” their resolution of

service in the time to come. As from themselves, must have come the

knowledge of the sacrifice offered and vows made, we may believe that

that sacrifice to Jehovah was the first of many, and that the vows made

were paid; otherwise they had not cared to have remembered or spoken

of them. In these days of Christian light may we offer a daily sacrifice of our

time, means, faculty, influence, to Him who for us “even dared to die,” and

in His strength perform the many vows that we have made.

 

 

17 “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.

And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

They cast Jonah into the sea and he is swallowed by a great fish, in whose

belly he remained for three days and three nights.  Had prepared; Septuagint,

prose>taxe prosetaxe - “appointed;” so in ch. 4:6-8;  (compare Job 7:3;

Daniel 1:10-11). The fish was not created then and there, but God so ordered

it that it should be at the place and should swallow Jonah. The prophet seems,

from some expressions in his psalm (Jonah 2:5), to have sunk to the bottom of

the sea before he was swallowed by the fish. A great fish; Septuagint, kh~tov

- kaetos (Matthew 12:40). There is nothing in the word to identify the intended

animal, and to call it “a whale” is simply a mistranslation. The white shark of the

Mediterranean (Carcharias, vulgaris), which sometimes measures twenty-five

feet in length, has been known to swallow a man whole, and even a horse.

This may have been the “great fish” in the text. Was in the belly of the fish.

God used the natural agency of the fish, but the preservation of Jonah’s life in

the animal’s belly is plainly supernatural. It is, indeed, analogous to the life

of the child in its mother’s womb; but it has besides a miraculous element which

is unique, unless it was an actual death and revivification, as in the ease of

Lazarus.  Also GOD ORDAINED THIS TRANSACTION as a type of

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST!   Three days and three nights; i.e.,

according to Hebrew usage, parts of the days and nights; i.e. one whole day,

and parts of the day before and after this. Jonah was released on the third day

(compare Matthew 12:40 with I Corinthians 15:4; and Esther 4:16 with 5:1).

The historical nature of this occurrence is substantiated by Christ’s reference

to it as a figure of HIS OWN BURIAL AND RESURRECTION!  The antitype

confirms the truth of the type. It is not credible that Christ would use a mere

legendary tale, with no historical basis, to confirm His most solemn statement

concerning the momentous fact of his resurrection.

 

 

The sign of the Prophet Jonas (v.17)

 

God sees the end from the beginning.  “Known unto God are all His works from

 the beginning of the world.”  (Acts 15:18)  He means it from the beginning. He

is moving towards it from the beginning. There are no isolated events.

Each is connected with a series leading up to it. The series is so long that

we cannot see its earlier steps, much less observe their direction. But

nothing is surer than that from the first they have a trend toward that one

which is their ultimate end.  In proof of this we have only to select a

series on which we have the light of Scripture, such as that leading up to

the work of Christ. There are many such series. One leads up to His birth,

another to His education, another to His sufferings, another to His death;

and so on. And these series lead up to it in various ways. There is a

prophetic series, and a typical series, and a contributory series, and a causal

series. And there are events which lead up to it in two or three of these

capacities at once. Such an event is the one recorded here, as the New

Testament Scriptures repeatedly affirm. Consider this event:

 

  • AS A MIRACLE. It was clearly outside the natural order. The shark or

other sea monster was “prepared” by God. It swallowed Jonah, contrary to

its habit, without crushing him between its teeth. He remained alive in its

stomach for days, contrary to all known physical laws. He was cast out

safely on land, contrary to all natural probabilities. Seeing, as he could not

but see, God’s hand in the whole thing, Jonah would learn from it:

 

Ø      The Divine resistless purpose. Throwing off allegiance, he fled from

duty like a man resolved on any terms to get away. But God went

after him in a way that showed He meant to have His work done.

The fugitive was stopped by wind and wave and conspiring

circumstances as by an adamantine wall, impossible to break

through. He knew now that God was a God who cannot be

balked, and who will have His way. The same lesson we all

need to learn. Much rebellion arises out of a half conscious

expectation that God at last will give way, and our disobedience

be all condoned. And half the afflictions we suffer are to cure

us of our willfulness and conceit of irresponsibility. They teach

us that God’s arm, not ours, is strongest — that His will, not ours,

must rule. When we have appropriated and endorsed the sentiment,

“Not as I will, but as thou wilt,” our life sky will clear, and the

thunderclouds that threatened a deluge will discharge

themselves in fertilizing showers.

 

Ø      The Divine consistent character. Severity was conspicuous up to

the point of the prophet’s immersion. After that everything spoke

of goodness.  There are qualities in God fitted each in its own way

to move men to His service (II Corinthians 5:11; Romans 12:1).

They moved Jonah. His humble, believing, thankful prayer in the

monster’s maw is a revelation, of their effect on his moral nature.

And godly lives the world over and all history through are effects

DUE TO THE SAME CAUSE  (Psalm 7:17; Romans 2:4). Severity

and goodness are just Divine moral excellence facing two different

ways (Romans 11:22). Both have the same infinitely glorious

perfection behind them, and are forceful with its inherent

essential energy.

 

Ø      The Divine effective way. God had not interfered in the matter of

Jonah’s disobedient flight until things had gone a certain length. He

allowed him to reach Joppa, and get on board a ship, and start for

Tarshish. The sinful act was completed before the punishment began.

But the moment it was morally complete the stern “Thus far and

no further” (Job 38:11) was spoken. And how masterly the strategy,

and resourceful the strength of God appeared! The elements, the

lower animals, and man alike become His ministers, and stop the

runaway before and on either side. And then the measures as a

whole are so exactly yet variously apposite to the purpose of

checking insubordination, and compelling execution of the original

command! Jonah would know more about the God with whom he

had to do, and the considerations moving to implicit obedience,

than he ever knew before. It is not in the Divine dealings as an

exhibition of mere force, but of force directed unalterably to ends

of justice and mercy, that their chief disciplinary value lies (Romans

2:2; 3:3-6; 11:22). Men are moved by them in proportion as God’s

perfections come out in them and shine.

 

  • AS A TYPE. On this point we have for an interpreter Christ Himself

(Matthew 12:40). “Jonah was in the fish’s belly, so was Christ in the

grave; Jonah came forth from thence, so did Christ rise again; His

(Christ’s) rising doth bring our rising, His resurrection ours, because He

was the first-fruits of all those that do sleep (I Corinthians 15:20)”

 The analogy between Jonah’s sojourn in the deep and Christ’s in the

grave is such as to fit one to be a type of the other. The analogy holds:

 

Ø      In the time of the sojourn. It was three days in each case. In the

case of Christ we know that two of these days were incomplete.

He was buried in the evening of the first day, and rose on the

morning of the third day.  Rhetorical speech is necessarily in

round numbers, and our Lord states the truth broadly without

attempting to elaborate details. Why three days was

the period fixed on either in type or antitype we cannot tell.

It is pertinent to notice, however, that three and four are mystic

numbers, and together make up seven, the number of perfection.

Then three days were sufficient, and no more, to establish the

fact of death in the case of Christ, and the reality of the miracle

of preservation in the case of Jonah. Details of Scripture are

important because they record details of A DIVINE

PROCEDURE which are purposeful through and through.

 

Ø      In the capacity in which each sojourned. Jonah was in the fish’s

belly as Christ was in the grave, in payment of the penalty of sin.

Moreover, each by accomplishing this saved men from death.

Each of the processes is an atonement, an expiation, a sacrifice,

pacifying the Divine Judge, satisfying Divine justice, abolishing guilt,

restoring peace, effecting reconciliation.   But here the analogy ends.

The type suffered for sins of HIS OWN,  the blessed Antitype FOR

THE SINS OF OTHERS.  The type saved men from death of

the body, the Antitype saved them from DEATH ETERNAL!

 Well might He say, on a memorable occasion, “A GREATER

 than Jonah is here”!

 

Ø      In the analogous experience of the two. The experiences were not

identical. Christ literally “died and rose again according to the

Scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).  Jonah did not actually die

and rise. But he did virtually. His natural life was forfeit, and

was only saved by a miracle equal to that of resurrection. His

life in the deep was a supernatural life, and, therefore, practically

a new one. Indeed, He applies the words “hell” (Sheol) and

corruption” (shachath) to his condition, the same words which

Scripture applies to Christ’s sojourn in a state of death (Jonah 2:2-6;

Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31). He uses them doubtless in a figurative

sense, but by using them at all He treats himself as virtually a dead

man. Like those of Hezekiah and Lazarus and the widow’s son

(Isaiah 38:5; John 11:44; Luke 7:15), the life of Jonah from that

hour was God given and new. So may be your life or mine. If God

has saved you alive when men despaired of your recovery, or

when but for some interposition which we call an accident it was

forfeit by natural laws, then you are even as Jonah, and your

remaining life, like his, is in a special sense and measure

consecrate (Romans 12:1).

 

Ø      That with each it was the gate to a new life. The life of Jonah

after his virtual resurrection was a new one, and greatly higher

than the old. He emerges from the sea a new man, in a new

relation to God, with a new purpose of heart, and a new life

career opening out. His old life is cancelled; all its guilt

obliterated; all its evils interruptive of Divine fellowship and

blessing abolished — left behind in the depths of the sea. He

is dead to the past; and it has no more hold on him, no more

evidence against him, no more wrath in store for him. A

prominent element in this new life was the preaching to Gentile

Nineveh. But for it that heathen city would have perished for lack

of knowledge, So also the resurrection-life of Christ is new

(Romans 6:10). Living always to God, He lives to Him now in a

new sense. “He was raised from the dead by the glory of the

Father.” And as He rose no bond of law kept hold on Him any

more; no condemnation laid its taint upon Him any more; the

glory of His Father’s unmingled and eternal favor shone upon

Him now forevermore; and in his Father’s favor He had life,

His risen and eternal life.  In short, the risen SavioUr’s life is

life in a new sphere, and a new relation and to new purpose.

By that life, moreover, He enters the door which by His

death He opened (Ephesians 2:11-17) — the door of access to

the Gentile world (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:5-8). The risen

Saviour:

 

o       gives the Scriptures to be preached to the ends of the

earth, and

o       the apostles and teachers to preach them, and

o       the  Holy Spirit to apply them, and

o       the Church to embody them in her Christ-like life.

 

And thus is negotiated a wider repentance than of Nineveh,

and with greater results. “God hath also to the Gentiles granted

repentance unto life.”  (Acts 11:18)

 

  • AS A SIGN. A sign is a miracle viewed from the evidential

standpoint, a Divine work regarded as authenticating a Divine truth.

Jonah’s entombment served this purpose (Matthew 12:39).

 

Ø      It was a sign to the Ninevites. (Luke 11:30.) Jonah in Nineveh

would be full of his unparalleled adventure. He would tell the

people of his virtual death and rising again by the hand of God.

And would not the amazing story credential the prophet as beyond

dispute the messenger of God? He would declare to them how the

miracle of judgment which had consigned him to the deep had been,

if possible, outdone by the miracle of mercy which had saved him

from the belly of hell.” And would he not be thus a sign at once

of God’s resistless vengeance on sin, and His unspeakable

mercy to the penitent? From such a God the Ninevites would know

what they had to expect in the one character and in the other.

 

Ø      It was the archetype of the sign of the resurrection. (Matthew

12:40.) The miracles of Christ were all signs The effect of them was to

certify His Divine mission, and bring men to faith in His Name

(Matthew 27:54; John 11:45). On many, however, they were practically

thrown away. The Jews clamored for a sign, while signs were being

wrought before their very eyes. To this blind demand of insuperable

unbelief there would be one further concession. The sign of the Prophet

Jonah would be repeated IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST by

the resurrection on the third day. This was an unchallengeable sign

of the Divine mission of our Lord (Romans 1:4). If the dead One rose,

then undoubtedly that dead One must have been the Son of God

(I Corinthians 15:14). The resurrection of Christ was the Father’s sign

manual to the Son’s claim to a Divine character and an accepted work.

(I love the teaching of Acts 17:31 – “Because He hath appointed

a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness

by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given

assurance unto ALL MEN in that HE HATH RAISED HIM

FROM THE DEAD” – CY – 2013).  It was a sign, too, of the

Divine attitude toward sin. Taken in connection, as it must be, with

the death and burial, the whole was, like Jonah’s miraculous experience,

a graphic ‘attestation’ of wrath against sin, removed as soon as

satisfied, but inappeasable till then. If God “spared not his own Son”

(Romans 8:32), whom will He spare? If the sin layed on Christ is punished

to the full, how much more the sin that remains on the sinner! (Hebrews

10:29) - And then, if Christ rises into a new life the moment His assumed

connection with sin ends by death, shall not we, dead to our sin by the

body of Christ, be raised together with Him to “walk in newness of

life”? (Romans 6:4).  The sign of the Prophet Jonah is everything to us.

It means Christ:

o       credentialed,

o       salvation finished and attested, and

o       a sure hope springing of the resurrection unto life.

 

See how far Gods judgments may follow deserters. Generally they include misfortune,

often sickness, and sometimes death. The principle is that they must be efficacious, and

so they go on till they reach their object.  The distance you have gone away from God is

the measure of the length to which His judgments will follow you (Colossians 3:25).

 

See how easily God can turn the destroyer into a preserver. Instead of

killing Jonah, the fish saves his life. The Divine afflictive agencies operate

in like manner. They wound only to heal; destroy the flesh that the spirit

may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ.  (I Corinthians 5:5).  Your judgments

are your mercies. Let the Divine mercy they reveal be”

 

o       your call to the duty you owe,

o       your recall to the service you forsake (Psalm 89:30-33;

Revelation 3:19).

 

Realize the high things to which this sign of the Prophet Jonas calls

you.

 

o       The death of Christ was for the death of your sin,

o       His life from the dead for the life of your soul (Romans 6:4;

Ephesians 5:14).

 

 

 

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