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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Introduction to Jonah
The prophet Jonah, who was at once the author and in part the subject of the book which bears his name, is, beyond question, the same who is related in the Book of Kings 2 Kings 14:25 to have been God's messenger of comfort to Israel, in the reign of Jeroboam II. For his own name, in English "Dove," as well as that of his father, Amittai, "The Truth of Yah," occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; and it is wholly improbable that there should have been two prophets of the same name, sons of fathers of the same name, when the names of both son and father were so rare as not to occur elsewhere in the Old Testament. The place which the prophet occupies among the twelve agrees therewith. For Hosea and Amos, prophets who are known to have prophesied in the time of Jeroboam, and Joel, who prophesied before Amos, are placed before him; Micah, who prophesied after the death of Jeroboam and Uzziah, is placed after him.
A remarkable and much-misunderstood expression of the prophet shows that this mission fell in the later part of his life, at least after he had already exercised the prophetic office. Our translation has: "Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord." It has been asked , "How could a "prophet" imagine that he could flee from the presence of God?" Plainly he could not. Jonah, so conversant with the Psalms, doubtless knew well the Psalm of David Psalm 139:7, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, and whither shall I flee from thy presence?" He could not but know, what every instructed Israelite knew. And so critics should have known that such could not be the meaning. The words are used, as we say, "he went out of the king's presence," or the like. It is literally "he rose to flee from being in the presence of the Lord," i. e., from standing in His presence as His Servant and Minister.
Then he must have so stood before; he must have had the office, which he sought to abandon.
He was then a prophet of Israel, born at Gath-hepher, "a small village" of Zebulon Joshua 19:13, which lies, Jerome says, "two miles from Sepphorim which is now called Diocaesarea, in the way to Tiberius, where his tomb also is pointed out." His tomb was still shown in the hills near Sipphorim in the 12th century, as Benjamin of Tudela relates; at the same place "on a rocky hill 2 miles East of Sepphuriah," is still pointed out the tomb of the prophet, and "Muslims and the Christians of Nazareth alike regard the village (el-Meshhad) as his native village." The tomb is even now venerated by the Muslim inhabitants.
But although a prophet of Israel, he, like Daniel afterward or his great predecessor Elisha, had his mission also beyond the bounds of Israel. Whenever God brought His people into any relation with other people, He made Himself known to them. The mode of His manifestation varied; the fact remained uniform. So He made Himself known to Egypt through Joseph and Moses; to the Philistines at the capture of the ark; to the Syrians by Elisha; to Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar by Daniel, as again to Darius and Cyrus. The hindrances interposed to the edict of Darius perpetuated that knowledge among his successors. Yet further on, the high priest Jaddua showed to Alexander the prophecy of Daniel "that a Greek should destroy the Persian Empire." For there is no ground to question the account of Josephus. The mission then of Jonah to Nineveh is in harmony with God's other dealings with pagan nations, although, in God's manifold wisdom, not identical with any.
To Israel the history of that mission revealed that same fact which was more fully declared by Peter Acts 10:34-35; "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him." This righteous judgment of God stands out the more, alike in the history of the mariners and of the Ninevites, in that the character of both is exhibited advantageously, in comparison with that of the prophet. The prophet brings out the awe, the humanity, the earnestness of the natural religion, and the final conversion of the sailors, and the zealous repentance of the Ninevites, while he neglects to explain his own character, or, in the least, to soften its hard angles. Rather, with a holy indifference, he has left his character to be hardly and unjustly judged by those who, themselves sharing his infirmities, share not his excellences. Disobedient once, he cares only to teach us what God taught him for us. The mariners were spared, the Hebrew prophet was cast forth as guilty. The Ninevites were forgiven: the prophet, rebuked.
That other moral, which our Lord inculcated, that the pagan believed and repented with less light, the Jews, amid so much greater light, repented not, also lay there, to be drawn out by men's own consciences. "To the condemnation of Israel," says Jerome, "Jonah is sent to the Gentiles, because, whereas Nineveh repented, Israel persevered in his iniquity." But this is only a secondary result of his prophecy, as all divine history must be full of teaching, because the facts themselves are instructive. Its instructiveness in this respect depends wholly upon the truth of the facts. It is the real repentance of the Ninevites, which becomes the reproach of the impenitent Jew or Christian.
Even among the Jews, a large school, the Cabbalists (although amid other error), interpreted the history of Jonah as teaching the resurrection of the dead, and (with that remarkable correctness of combination of different passages of Holy Scripture which we often find) in union with the prophecy of Hosea. "The fish's belly, where Jonah was enclosed, signifies the tomb, where the body is covered and laid up. But as Jonah was given back on the third day, so shall we also on the third day rise again and be restored to life. As Hosea says, 'On the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.'" Talmudic Jews identified Jonah with their Messiah ben Joseph, whom they expected to die and rise again. The deeper meaning then of the history was not, at least in later times, unknown to them, a meaning which entirely depended on its truth.
The history of his mission, Jonah doubtless himself wrote. Such has been the uniform tradition of the Jews, and on this principle alone was his book placed among the prophets. For no books were admitted among the prophets but those which the arranger of the canon believed (if this was the work of the great synagogue) or (if it was the work of Ezra) knew, to have been written by persons called to the prophetic office. Hence, the Psalms of David (although many are prophetic, and our Lord declares him to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36.,) and the book of Daniel, were placed in a separate class, because their authors, although eminently endowed with prophetic gifts, did not exercise the pastoral office of the prophet. Histories of the prophets, as Elijah and Elisha, stand, not under their own names, but in the books of the prophets who wrote them. Nor is the Book of Jonah a history of the prophet, but of that one mission to Nineveh. Every notice of the prophet is omitted, except what bears on that mission.
The book also begins with just that same authentication, with which all other prophetic books begin. As Hoses and Joel and Micah and Zephaniah open, "The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, Joel, Micah, Zephaniah," and other prophets in other ways ascribe their books not to themselves, but to God, so Jonah opens, "And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying." This inscription is an integral part of the book; as is marked by the word, saying. As the historical books are joined on the sacred writings before them, so as to form one continuous stream of history, by the and, with which they begin, so the Book of Jonah is tacitly joined onto other books of other prophets by the word, "and," with which it commences. The words, "The word of the Lord came to," are the acknowledged form in which the commission of God to prophesy is recorded. It is used of the commission to deliver a single prophecy, or it describes the whole collection of prophecies, with which any prophet was entrusted; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1. "The word of the Lord which come to Micah or Zephaniah." But the whole history of the prophecy is bound up with, and a sequel of those words.
Nor is there anything in the style of the prophet at variance with this.
It is strange that, at any time beyond the babyhood of criticism, any argument should be drawn from the fact that the prophet writes of himself in the third person. Manly criticism has been ashamed to use the argument, as to the commentaries of Caesar or the Anabasis of Xenophon . However the genuineness of those works may have been at times questioned, here we were on the ground of genuine criticism, and no one ventured to use an argument so palpably idle. It has been pointed out that minds so different, as Barhebraeus, the great Jacobite historian of the East, and Frederick the Great wrote of themselves in the third person; as did also Thucydides and Josephus , even after they had attested that the history, in which they so speak, was written by themselves.
But the real ground lies much deeper. It is the exception, when any sacred writer speaks of himself in the first person. Ezra and Nehemiah do so, for they are giving an account, not of God's dealings with His people, but of their own discharge of a definite office, allotted to them by man. Solomon does so in Ecclesiastes, because he is giving the history of his own experience; and the vanity of all human things, in themselves, could be attested so impressively by no one, as by one, who had all which man's mind could imagine.
On the contrary, the prophets, unless they speak of God's revelations to them, speak of themselves in the third person. Thus, Amos relates in the first person, what God showed him in vision Amos 7:1-8; Amos 8:1-2; Amos 9:1; for God spoke to him, and he answered and pleaded with God. In relating his persecution by Amaziah, he passes at once to the third Amos 7:12, Amos 7:14; "Amaziah said to Amos; Then answered Amos and said to Amaziah." In a similar manner, Isaiah speaks of himself in the third person, when relating how God sent him to meet Ahaz Isaiah 7:3; God commanded him to walk three years, naked and barefoot Isaiah 20:2-3, Hezekiah's message to him, to pray for his people, and his own prophetic answer; his visit to Hezekiah in the king's sickness, his warning to him, his prophecy of his recovery, the sign which at God's command Isaiah gave him, and the means of healing he appointed Isaiah 37:2, Isaiah 37:5-6, Isaiah 37:21; Isaiah 38:1, Isaiah 38:4, Isaiah 38:21.
Jeremiah, the mourner over his people, more than any other prophet, speaks and complains to his God in the midst of his prophecy. In no other prophet do we see so much the workings of his inmost soul. Such souls would most use the first person, for it is in the use of the first person that the soul pours itself forth. In the relating of himself in the third person, the prophet restrains himself, speaking only of the event. Yet it is thus that Jeremiah relates almost all which befell him - Pashur's smiting him and putting him in the stocks Jeremiah 20:1, Jeremiah 20:3; the gathering of the people against him to put him to death, his hearing before the princes of Judah and his deliverance Jeremiah 26:7-8, Jeremiah 26:12, Jeremiah 26:24; the contest with Hananiah, when Hananiah broke off the symbolic yoke from his neck and prophesied lies in the name of God, and Jeremiah foretold his death Jeremiah 28:5-6, Jeremiah 28:10, Jeremiah 28:12, Jeremiah 28:15, which followed; the letters of Shemaiah against him, and his own prophecy against Shemaiah Jeremiah 29:27, Jeremiah 29:29-30; his trial of the Rechabites and his prophecy to them Jeremiah 35; the writing the scroll, which he sent Baruch to read in God's house, and its renewal when Jehoiakim had burned it, and God's concealing him and Baruch from the king's emissaries Jeremiah 36:1, Jeremiah 36:4-5, Jeremiah 36:26-27, Jeremiah 36:32; his purpose to leave Jerusalem when the interval of the last siege gave him liberty Jeremiah 37:2-6, Jeremiah 37:12-21; the false accusations against him, the designs of the princes to put him to death, their plunging him in the still deeper pit, where there was no water only mud, the milder treatment through the intercession of Ebedmelech; Zedekiah's contact with him Jeremiah 38:1, Jeremiah 38:6, 12-28; Jeremiah 32:2-5, his liberation by Nebuzaradan, his choice to abide in the land, his residence with Gedaliah Jeremiah 40:2-6; Johanan's hypocritical inquiring of God by him and disobedience Jeremiah 42, his being carried into Egypt Jeremiah 43:1-13, the insolent answer of the Jews in Egypt to him and his denunciation upon them Jeremiah 44:15, Jeremiah 44:20, Jeremiah 44:24.
All this, the account of which occupies a space, many times larger than the book of Jonah, Jeremiah relates as if it were the history of some other man. So did God teach His prophets to forget themselves. Haggai, whose prophecy consists of exhortations which God directed him to address to the people, speaks of himself, solely in the third person. He even relates the questions which he puts to the priests and their answers still in the third person Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:3, Haggai 1:12-13; Haggai 2:1, Haggai 2:10, Haggai 2:13-14, Haggai 2:20; "then said Haggai;" "then answered Haggai." Daniel relates in the third person, the whole which he does give of his history; how when young he obtained exemption from the use of the royal luxuries and from food unlawful to him; the favor and wisdom which God gave him Daniel 1:6-21; how God saved him from death, revealing to him, on his prayer, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its meaning; how Nebuchadnezzar made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon Daniel 2:13-27, Daniel 2:46-47, Daniel 2:49; how he was brought into Belshazzar's great impious feast, and interpreted the writing on the wall; and was honored Daniel 5:12-13, Daniel 5:17, Daniel 5:29; how, under Darius, he persevered in his accustomed prayer against the king's command, was cast into the den of lions, was delivered, and prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian Daniel 6.
When Daniel passes from history to relate visions vouchsafed to himself, he authenticated them with his own name, "I, Daniel" Daniel 7:15, Daniel 7:28; Daniel 8:1, Daniel 8:15, Daniel 8:27; Daniel 9:2; Daniel 10:2, Daniel 10:7; Daniel 12:5. It is no longer his own history. It is the revelation of God by him. In a similar manner, John, when referring to himself in the history of His Lord, calls himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved." In Revelation, he authenticates his visions by his own name Revelation 1:9; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 22:8; "I, John." Moses relates how God commanded him to write things which he wrote, in the third person. Paul, when he has to speak of his overpowering revelations, says 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, "I knew a man in Christ." It seems as if he could not speak of them as vouchsafed to himself. He lets us see that it was himself, when he speaks of the humiliations 2 Corinthians 12:7, which God saw to be necessary for him. To ordinary people it would be conceit or hypocrisy to write of themselves in the third person.
They would have the appearance of writing impartially of themselves, of abstracting themselves from themselves, when, in reality, they were ever present to themselves. The men of God were writing of the things of God. They had a God-given indifference how they themselves would be thought of by man. They related, with the same holy unconcern, their praise or their blame. Jonah has exhibited himself in his infirmities, such as no other but himself would have drawn a prophet of God. He has left his character, unexplained, unsoftened; he has left himself lying under God's reproof; and told us nothing of all that which God loved in him, and which made him a chosen instrument of God also. People, while they measure divine things, or characters formed by God, by what would be natural to themselves, measure by a crooked rule 1 Corinthians 4:3. "It is a very small thing," says Paul, "that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment." Nature does not measure grace; nor the human spirit measure the Divine Spirit.
As for the few words, which persons who disbelieved in miracles selected out of the Book of Jonah as a plea for removing it far down beyond the period when those miracles took place , they rather indicate the contrary. They are all genuine Hebrew words or forms, except the one Aramaic name for the decree of the king of Nineveh, which Jonah naturally heard in Nineveh itself.
A writer , equally unbelieving, who got rid of the miracles by assuming that the Book of Jonah was meant only for a moralizing fiction, found no counter-evidence in the language, but ascribed it unhesitatingly to the Jonah, son of Amittai, who prophesied in the reign of Jeroboam II. He saw the nothingness of the so-called proof, which he had no longer any interest in maintaining.
The examination of these words will require a little detail, yet it may serve as a specimen (it is no worse than its neighbors) of the way in which the disbelieving school picked out a few words of a Hebrew prophet or section of a prophet, in order to disparage the genuineness of what they did not believe.
The words are these:
(1) The word ספינה sephı̂ynâh, literally "a decked vessel." is a genuine Hebrew word from ספן sâphan, "covered, ceiled" . The word was borrowed from the Hebrew, not by Syrians or Chaldees only but by the Arabians, in none of which dialects is it an original word. A word plainly is original in that language in which it stands connected with other meanings of the same root, and not in that in which it stands isolated. Naturally too, the term for a decked vessel would be borrowed by inland people, as the Syrians, from a notion living on the seashore, not conversely. This is the first occasion for mentioning "a decked vessel." It is related that Jonah went in fact "below deck," "was gone down into the sides of the decked vessel." Three times in those verses Jonah 1:3-5, when Jonah did not wish to express that the vessel was decked, he uses the common Hebrew word, אניה 'onı̂yâh. It was then of set purpose that he, in the same verse, used the two words, אניה 'onı̂yâh and ספינה sephı̂ynâh.
(2) מלח mallâch is also a genuine Hebrew word from מלח melach, salt sea, as ἁλιεύς halieus from ἅλς hals "salt," then (masculine) in poetry "brine." It is formed strictly, as other Hebrew words denoting an occupation.. It does not occur in earlier books, because "seamen" are not mentioned earlier.
(3) החבל רב rab hachôbêl, "chief of the sailors," "captain." "Rab" is Phoenician also, and this was a Phoenician vessel. It does not occur earlier, because "the captain of a vessel" is not mentioned earlier. One says , "it is the same as שׂר s'ar, chiefly in later Hebrew." It occurs, in all, only four times, and in all cases, as here, of persons not Hebrew; Nebuzaradan, טבחים רב rab ṭabbâchı̂ym 2 Kings 25:8, "captain of the guard," סריסים רב rab sârı̂ysı̂ym Daniel 1:3, "chief of the eunuchs;" ביתוּ רב כל kôl rab bayithô Esther 1:8, "every officer of his house." שׂר s'ar, on the other hand, is never used except of an office of authority, of one who had a place of authority given by one higher. It occurs as much in the later as in the earlier books, but is not used in the singular of an inferior office. It is used of military, but not of any interior secular command. It would probably have been a solecism to have said החבל שׂר s'ar hachôbêl, as much as if we were to say "prince of sailors." חבל chôbêl, which is joined with it, is a Hebrew word not Aramaic word.
(4) רבו ribbô, "ten thousand," they say, "is a word of later Hebrew." Certainly neither it, nor any inflection of it occurs in the Pentateuch, Judges, Samuel, Canticles, in until which we have the word רבבה rebâbâh. It is true also that the form רבו ribbô or derivative forms occur in books of the date of the captivity, as Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. (In 1 Chronicles 29:7, twice, Daniel once, Ezra twice; Nehemiah thrice.) But it also occurs in a Psalm of David , and in Hosea (Hosea 8:12 Ch.) who is acknowledged to have prophesied in the days of Jeroboam, and so was a contemporary of Jonah. It might have been, accordingly, a form used in Northern Palestine, but that its use by David does not justify such limitation.
(5) עשׁת ית yı̂th ‛âshath, "thought, purposed," is also an old Hebrew word, as appears from its use in the number eleven , as the first number which is conceived in thought, the ten being numbered on the fingers. The root occurs also in Job, a Psalm Psa 146:4, and the Canticles. in the Syriac, it does not occur; nor, in the extant Aramaic, in the sense in which it is used in Jonah. For in Jonah it is used of the merciful thoughts of God; in Aramaic, of the evil thoughts of man. Besides, it is used in Jonah not by the prophet himself but by the shipmaster, whose words he relates.
(6) The use of the abridged forms of the relative pronoun שׁ she for אשׁר 'ăsher, twice in composite words בשׁלמי beshelmı̂y Jonah 1:7, בשׁלי beshelı̂y Jonah 1:12, (the fuller form, למי באשׁר ba'ăsher lemı̂y Jonah 1:8, also occurring) and once in union with a noun שׁבן shebbên (Jonah 4:10. (2)).
There is absolutely no plea whatever for making this an indication of a later style, and yet it occurs in every string of words, which have been assumed to be indications of such style. It is not Aramaic at all, but Phoenician and old Hebrew. In Phoenician, "esh" is the relative, which corresponds the more with the Hebrew in that the phollowing letter was doubled, as in the Punic words in Plautus, "syllohom, siddoberim," it enters into two proper names, both of which occur in the Pentateuch, and one, only there, מתושׁאל methûshâ'êl Genesis 4:18, "a man of God," and מישׁאל mı̂yshâ'êl (Exodus 6:22; Leviticus 10:4; also in Daniel and Nehemiah), the same as Michael, "who is like God?" literally, "Who is what God is?"
Probably, it occurs also in the Pentateuch in the ordinary language Genesis 6:3. Perhaps it was used more in the dialect of North Palestine . Probably it was also the spoken language Judges 6:17; 2 Kings 6:11. Two of the instances in the Lamentations are words in the mouth of the pagan, Lamentations 2:15-16), in which abridged forms are used in all languages. Hence, perhaps its frequent use in the Song of Solomon (Sol 1:6 (2), 7 (2); Sol 2:7, Sol 2:17; Sol 3:1-4 (4), 5, 7; Sol 4:1-2 (2), 6; Sol 5:2, Sol 5:8-9; Sol 6:5 (2), 6 (2); Sol 8:4, Sol 8:8, Sol 8:12), which is all dialogue, and in which it is employed to the entire exclusion of the fuller form; and that, so frequently, that the instances in the Canticles are nearly 14 of those in the whole Old Testament. In addition to this, half of the whole number of instances, in which it occurs in the Bible, are found in another short book, Ecclesiastes. In a book, containing only 222 verses, it occurs 66 times (Ecclesiastes 1:3, Ecclesiastes 1:7, Ecclesiastes 1:9 (4), 10, 11(2), 14, 17; Ecclesiastes 2:9, Ecclesiastes 2:11 (2), 2, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18(3), 19(2), 20, 21(2), 22, 24, 26; Ecclesiastes 3:13-15, Ecclesiastes 3:18, Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 4:2, Ecclesiastes 4:10; Ecclesiastes 5:4, Ecclesiastes 5:14 (2), 15 (2), 17; Ecclesiastes 6:3, Ecclesiastes 6:10 (2); Ecclesiastes 7:10, Ecclesiastes 7:14, Ecclesiastes 7:24; Ecclesiastes 8:7, Ecclesiastes 8:14, Ecclesiastes 8:17; Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:12 (2); Ecclesiastes 10:3, Ecclesiastes 10:5, Ecclesiastes 10:14, Ecclesiastes 10:16-17; Ecclesiastes 11:3, Ecclesiastes 11:8; Ecclesiastes 12:3, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Ecclesiastes 12:9).
This, in itself, requires some ground for its use, beyond that of mere date. Of books which are really later, it does not occur in Jeremiah's prophecies, Ezekiel, Daniel, or any of the 6 later of the Minor prophets, nor in Nehemiah or Esther. It occurs once only in Ezra Ezr 8:20, and twice in the First Book of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 5:20 שעמהם; 1 Chronicles 27:27 שבכרמים), whereas it occurs four times in the Judges Jdg 5:7; Judges 6:17; Judges 7:12; Judges 8:26, and once in the Kings (2 Kings 6:11 משלנו.), and once probably in Job (Job 19:29, ending with שדין.). Its use belongs to that wide principle of condensation in Hebrew, blending in one, in different ways, what we express by separate words. The relative pronoun is confessedly, on this ground, very often omitted in Hebrew poetry, when it would be used in prose. In the Canticles, Solomon does not once use the ordinary separate relative, אשׁר 'ăsher.
Of the 19 instances in the Psalms, almost half, 9, occur in those Psalms of unique rhythm - the gradual Psalms Psa 122:3-4; Psalm 123:2; Psalm 124:1, Psalm 124:6; Psalm 129:6-7; Psalm 133:2-3; four more occur in two other Psalms Psa 125:2, 8, 10; Psalm 136:23, which belong to one another, the latter of which has that remarkable burden, for His mercy endureth forever. Three are condensed into a solemn denunciation of Babylon in another Psalm. (Psalm 137:8 (2), 9. The remaining ones are Psalm 144:15, שככה and Psalm 146:3, Psalm 146:5). Of the ten Psalms, in which it occurs, four are ascribed to David, and only one, Psalm 137:1-9, has any token of belonging to a later date. In the two passages in the Chronicles, it occurs in words doubly compounded (1 Chronicles 5:20 שעמהם; 1 Chronicles 27:27 שבכרמים). The principle of rhythm would account for its occurring four times in the five chapters of the Lamentations Lam 2:15-16; Lamentations 4:19; Lamentations 5:18 of Jeremiah, while in the 52 chapters of his prophecies it does not occur even once. In Job also, it is in a solemn pause. Altogether, there is no proof whatever that the use of שׁ she for אשׁר 'ăsher is any test of the date of any Hebrew book, since:
(1) It is not Aramaic.
(2) It occurs in the earliest books, and
(3) not in the latest books.
(4) Its use is idiomatic, and nowhere except in the Canticles and Ecclesiastes does it pervade any book.
If it had belonged to the ordinary idiom at the date of Ezra, it would not have been so entirely insulated as it is, in the three instances in the Chronicles and Ezra. It would not have occurred in the earlier books in which it does occur, and would have occurred in later books in which it does not. In Jonah, its use in two places is unique to himself, occurring nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the first, its Phoenician form is used by the Phoenician mariners; in the second it is an instance of the spoken language in the mouth of the prophet, a native of North Palestine, and in answer to Phoenicians. In the third instance, (where it is the simple relative pronoun) its use is evidently for condensation. Its use, in any case, would agree with the exact circumstances of Jonah, as a native of North Palestine, conversing with the Phoenician mariners. The only plea of argument has been gained by arguing in a circle, assuming without any even plausible ground that the Song of Solomon or Psalms of David were late, because they had this form, and then using it as a test of another book being late; ignoring alike the earlier books which have it and the later books which have it not, and its exceptional use (except in the Canticles and Ecclesiastes), in the books which have it.
(7) It is difficult to know to what end the use of מנה mânâh, "appoint " or "prepare," is alleged, since it occurs in a Psalm of David Psalm 61:8. Jonah uses it in a special way as to acts of God's Providence, "preparing" before, what He wills to employ. Jonah uses the word of the "preparing" of the fish, the palm-christ, the worm which should destroy it, the East wind. He evidently used it with a set purpose, to express what no other word expressed equally to his mind, how God prepared by His Providence the instruments which He willed to employ.
(8) There remains only the word used for the decree of the king of Nineveh, טעם ṭa‛am. This is a Syriac word; and accordingly, since it has now been ascertained beyond all question, that the language of Nineveh was a dialect of Syriac, it was, with a Hebrew pronunciation , the very word used of this decree at Nineveh. The employment of the special word is a part of the same accuracy with which Jonah relates that the decree used was issued not from the king only, but from the king and his nobles, one of those minute touches, which occur in the writings of those who describe what they have seen, but supplying a fact as to the Assyrian polity, which we should not otherwise have known, that the nobles were in some way associated in the decrees of the king.
Out of these eight words or forms, three are naval terms, and, since Israel was no seafaring people, it is in harmony with the history, that these terms should first occur in the first prophet who left the land of his mission by sea. So it is also, that an Assyrian technical term should first occur in a prophet who had been sent to Nineveh. A fifth word occurs in Hosea, a contemporary of Jonah, and in a Psalm of David. The abridged grammatical form was Phoenician, not Aramaic, was used in conversation, occurs in the oldest proper names, and in the Northern tribes. The 7th and 8th do not occur in Aramaic in the meaning in which they are used by Jonah.
In truth, often as these false criticisms have been repeated from one to the other, they would not have been thought of at all, except for the miracles related by Jonah, which the devisers of these criticisms did not believe. A history of miracles, such as those in Jonah, would not be published at the time, unless they were true! Those then who did not believe that God worked any miracles, were forced to have some plea for saying that the book was not written in the time of Jonah. Prejudices against faith have, sometimes openly, sometimes tacitly, been the ruling principle (on which earlier portions of Holy Scripture have been classed among the latter by critics who disbelieved what those books or passages related. Obviously no weight can be given to the opinions of critics, whose criticisms are founded, not on the study of the language, but upon unbelief. It has recently been said , "the joint decision of Gesenius, DeWette and Hitzig ought to be final." A joint decision certainly it is not. For DeWette places the book of Jonah before the captivity; Gesenius and Ewald, when prophecy had long ceased; Ewald, partly on account of its miracles, in the 5th century, b.c.; and Hitzig, with his accustomed willfulness and insulatedness of criticism, built a theory that the book is of Egyptian origin on his own mistake that the קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn grew only in Egypt, and placed it in the second century, b.c., the times of the Maccabees . The interval is also filled up. Every sort of date and contradictory grounds for those dates have been assigned. So then one places the book of Jonah in the time of Sennacherib , i. e., of Hezekiah; another under Josiah ; another before the captivity ; another toward the end of the captivity, after the destruction of Nineveh by Cyaxares ; a fifth lays chief stress on the argument that the destruction of Nineveh is not mentioned in it ; a sixth prefers the time after the return from the captivity to its close; a seventh doubted not, "from its argument and purpose, that it was written before the order of prophets ceded" , others of the same school are as positive from. its arguments and contents, that it must have been written after that order was closed .
The style of the Book of Jonah is, in fact pure and simple Hebrew, corresponding to the simplicity of the narrative, and of the prophet's character. Although written in prose, it has poetic language, not in the thanksgiving only, but whenever it suits the subject. These expressions are unique to Jonah. Such are, in the account of the storm, "the Lord cast a strong wind," "the vessel thought to be broken," "the sea shall be silent" (hushed, as we say) i. e., calm; "the wind was advancing and storming" , as with a whirlwind; (the word is used as to the sea by Jonah only), "the men plowed" or "dug" (in rowing) "the sea stood from its raging." Also "let man and beast 'clothe themselves' with sackcloth," and that touching expression, "son of a night, it (the palma-Christi) came to being, and son of a night (i. e., in a night) it perished." It is in harmony with his simplicity of character, that he is fond of the old idiom, by which the thought of the verb is carried on by a noun formed from it. "The men feared a great fear," (Jonah 1:10, Jonah 1:16. יראה ייראו) "It displeased Jonah a great displeasure," (Jonah 4:1. רעה ירע) "Jonah joyed a great joy." (Jonah 4:6, שמחה ישמח) Another idiom has been observed, which occurs in no writer later than the judges.
But, in the history, every phrase is vivid and graphic. There is not a word which does not advance the history. There is no reflection. All hastens on to the completion, and when God has given the key to the whole, the book closes with His words of exceeding tenderness lingering in our ears. The prophet, with the same simplicity and beginning with the same words, says he did not, and he did, obey God. The book opens, after the first authenticating words, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, for the wickedness is come up before Me." God had commanded him to arise ; the narrative simply repeats the word, "And Jonah arose " - but for what? to flee in the very opposite direction "from being before the Lord" , i. e., from standing in His presence, as His servant and minister. He lost no time, to do the contrary. After the miracles, by which he had been both punished and delivered, the history is resumed with the same simple dignity as before, in the same words; the disobedience being noticed only in the word, a second time. "And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry unto it that cry which I say unto thee." This time it follows, "And Jonah arose and went to Nineveh."
Then, in the history itself, we follow the prophet step by step. He arose to flee to Tarshish, went down to Joppa, a perilous, yet the only sea-port for Judaea (1 Kings 5:9; 2 Chronicles 2:16; and after the captivity, Ezra 3:7). He finds the ship, "pays its fare" (one of those little touches of a true narrative); God sends the storm, man does all he can; and all in vain. The character of the pagan is brought out in contrast with the then sleeping conscience and despondency of the prophet. But it is all in act. They are all activity; he is simply passive. They pray, (as they can) each man to his gods; he is asleep: they do all they can, lighten the ship, the ship-master rouses him, to pray to his God, since their own prayers avail not; they propose the lots, cast them; the lot falls upon Jonah. Then follow their brief accumulated inquiries; Jonah's calm answer, increasing their fear; their inquiry of the prophet himself, what they are to do to him; his knowledge that he must be cast over; the unwillingness of the pagan; one more fruitless effort to save both themselves and the prophet; the increasing violence of the storm; the prayer to the prophet's God, not to lay innocent blood to them, who obeyed His prophet; the casting him forth; the instant hush and silence of the sea; their conversion and sacrifice to the true God - the whole stands before us, as if we saw it with our own eyes.
And yet, amid, or perhaps as a part of, that vividness, there is that characteristic of Scripture-narratives, that some things even seem improbable, until, on thought, we discover the reason. It is not on a first reading, that most perceive the naturalness either of Jonah's deep sleep, or of the increase of the mariner's fear, on his account of himself. Yet that deep sleep harmonizes at least with his long hurried flight to Joppa, and that mood with which men who have taken a wrong step, try to forget themselves. He relates that he "was gone down" Jonah 1:5, i. e., before the storm began. The sailors' increased tear surprises us the more, since it is added, "they knew that he had fled from before the presence of God, 'because he had told them.'" One word explained it. He had told them, from whose service he had fled, but not that He, against whom he had sinned, and who, they would think, was pursuing His fugitive, was "the Maker of the sea," whose raging was threatening their lives.
Again, the history mentions only that Jonah was cast over; that God prepared a fish to swallow him; that he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights; that he, at the end of that time, prayed to God out of the fish's belly, and at the close of the prayer was delivered. The word "prayed" obviously includes "thanksgiving" as the act of adoring love from the creature to the Creator. It is said that Hannah prayed 1 Samuel 2:1, but her hymn, as well as Jonah's does not contain one petition. Both are the outpouring of thanksgiving from the soul, to which God had given what it had prayed for. As, before, it was not said, whether he prayed because of the shipmaster's rebuke or not, so here nothing is said in the history, except as to the last moment, upon which he was cast out on the dry ground. The prayer incidentally supplies the rest. It is a simple thanksgiving of one who had prayed and who had been delivered Jonah 2:3. "I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me." In the first mercy, he saw the earnest of the rest. He asks for nothing, he only thanks. But that for which he thanks is the deliverance from the perils of the sea. The thanksgiving corresponds with the plain words, "that he prayed out of the fish's belly." They are suited to one so praying, who looked on in full faith to the future completion of his deliverance, although our minds might rather have been fixed on the actual peril. It is a thanksgiving of faith, but of stronger faith than many moderns have been able to conceive.
The hymn itself is a remarkable blending of old and new, as our Lord says Matthew 13:52 : "Therefore is the kingdom of heaven like a householder, who bringeth out of his treasure new and old." The prophet teaches us to use the Psalms, as well as how the holy men of old used them. In that great moment of religious life, the wellremembered Psalms, such as he had often used them, were brought to his mind. What had been figures to David or the sons of Korah, as Jonah 2:5; Psalm 69:2, "the waters are come in even unto my soul" Jonah 2:3; Psalm 42:8; "all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me," were strict realities to him. Yet only in this last sentence and in one other sentence which doubtless had become a proverb of accepted prayer Jonah 2:2; Psalm 120:1, "I cried out of my trouble unto the Lord and He heard me," does Jonah use exactly the words of earlier Psalms. Elsewhere he varies or amplifies them according to his own special circumstances.
Thus, where David said, "the waters are 'come in,' even unto my soul," Jonah substitutes the word which best described the condition from which God had delivered him, "The water compassed me about, even to the soul." Where David said (Psalm 31:22, נגזרתי), "I am cut off from before Thine eyes," expressing an abiding condition, Jonah, who had for disobedience been cast into the sea, uses the strong word (Jonah 2:4 (5), נגרשתי), "I am cast out from before Thine eyes." David says, "I said in my haste;" Jonah simply," I said;" for he had deserved it. David said Psalm 142:8, "when my spirit was overwhelmed" or "fainted within me," "Thou knewest my path;" Jonah substitutes, "When my soul fainted within me, 'I remembered the Lord'" (Jonah 2:7 (8)); for when he rebelled, he forgot Him. David said Psalm 31:7, "I hate them that observe lying vanities;" Jonah, who had himself disobeyed God, says mournfully Jonah 2:9, "They that observe lying vanities, 'forsake their own mercy,'" i. e., their God, Who is mercy.
Altogether, Jonah's thanksgiving is that of one whose mind was stored with the Psalms which were part of the public worship, but it is the language of one who uses and re-casts them freely, as he was taught of God, not of one who copies. No one verse is taken entirely from any Psalm. There are original expressions everywhere The words, "I went down to the cuttings-off of the mountains," "the seaweed bound around my head;" "the earth, its bars around me forever:" perhaps the coral reefs which run along all that shore vividly exhibit him, sinking, entangled, imprisoned, as it seems, inextricably; he goes on; we should expect some further description of his state; but he adds, in five simple words , "Thou broughtest up my life from corruption, O Lord My God." Words, somewhat like these last, occur elsewhere Psalm 30:3. "thou hast brought up my soul from hell," agreeing in the one word "brought up." But the majesty of the prophet's conception is in the connection of the thought; the seaweed was bound around his head as his grave-clothes; the solid bars of the deep-rooted earth, were around him, and ... God brought him up. At the close of the thanksgiving, "Salvation is the Lord's," deliverance is completed, as though God had only waited for this act of complete faith.
So could no one have written, who had not himself been delivered from such an extreme peril of drowning, as man could not, of himself, escape from. True, that no image so well expresses the overwhelmedness under affliction or temptation, as the pressure of storm by land, or being overflooded by the waves of the sea. Human poetry knows of "a sea of troubles," or "the triple wave of evils." It expresses how we are simply pas sive and powerless under a trouble, which leaves us neither breath nor power of motion; under which we can be but still, until, by God's mercy it passes. "We are sunk, overhead, deep down in temptations, and the masterful current is sweeping in eddies over us." Of this sort are those images which Jonah took from the Psalms. But a description so minute as the whole of Jonah's would be allegory, not metaphor. What, in it, is most descriptive of Jonah's situation , as "binding of the seaweed around the head, the sinking down to the roots of the mountains, the bars of the earth around him," are special to this thanksgiving of Jonah; they do not occur elsewhere, for, except through miracle, they would be images not of peril but of death.
The same vividness, and the same steady directions to its end, characterizes the rest of the book. Critics have wondered why Jonah does not say, on what shore he was east forth, why he does not describe his long journey to Nineveh, or tell us the name of the Assyrian king, or what he himself did, when his mission was closed. Jonah speaks of himself, only as relates to his mission, and God's teaching through him; the tells us not the king's name, but his deeds.
The description of the size of Nineveh remarkably corresponds alike with the ancient accounts and modern investigations. Jonah describes it as "a city of three days'journey." This obviously means its circumference, for, unless the city were a circle, (as no cities are,) it would have no one diameter. A person might describe the average length and breadth of a city, but no one who gave any one measure, by days or miles or any other measure, would mean anything else than its circumference. Diodorus (probably on the authority of Ctesias) states that (Jonah 2:3. So too Q. Curtius v. 4.) "it was well-walled, of unequal lengths. Each of the longer sides was 150 furlongs; each of the shorter, 90. The whole circuit then being 480 furlongs (60 miles) the hope of the founder was not disappointed. For no one afterward built a city of such compass, and with walls so magnificent." To Babylon "Clitarehus and the companions of Alexander in their writings, assigned a circuit of 365 furlongs, adding that the number of furlongs was conformed to the number of days in the year" .
Ctesias, in round numbers, calls them 360; Strabo, 385. All these accounts agree with the statement of Strabo, "Nineveh was much larger than Babylon." The 60 miles of Diodorus exactly correspond with the three days' journey of Jonah. A traveler of our own at the beginning of the 17th century, John Cartwright, states that with his own eyes he traced out the ruinous foundations, and gives their dimensions. "It seems by the ruinous foundation (which I thoroughly viewed) that it was built with four sides, but not equal or square. For the two longer sides had each of them (as we guess) 150 furlongs, the two shorter sides ninety furlongs, which amounteth to four hundred and eighty furlongs of ground, which makes the threescore miles, accounting eight furlongs to an Italian mile."
No one of the four great mounds, which lie around the site of ancient Nineveh, Nimrud, Kouyunjik, Khorsabad, Karamless, is of sufficient moment or extent to be identified with the old Nineveh. But they are connected together by the sameness of their remains. Together they form a parallelogram, and this of exactly the dimensions assigned by Jonah. "From the northern extremity of Kouyunjik to Nimrud, is about 18 miles, the distance from Nimrud to Karamless, about 12; the opposite sides, the same." "A recent trigonometrical survey of the country by Captain Jones proves, I am informed," says Layard , "that the great ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamless, and Khorsabad form very nearly a perfect parallelogram."
This is perhaps also the explanation, how, seeing its circumference was three days' journey, Jonah entered a day's journey in the city and, at the close of the period, we find him at the East side of the city, the opposite to that at which he had entered.
His preaching seems to have lasted only this one day. He went, we are told, "one day's journey in the city." The 150 stadia are nearly 19 miles, a day's journey, so that Jonah walked through it from end to end, repeating that one cry, which God had commanded him to cry out. We seem to see the solitary figure of the prophet, clothed (as was the prophet's dress) in that one rough garment of hair cloth, uttering the cry which we almost hear, echoing in street after street, Jonah 3:4, "נהפחת נינוה יום ארבעים עד ‛ôd' arbâ‛ı̂ym yôm nı̂ynevêh nêhpâcheth," "yet forty days and Nineveh overthrown!" The words which he says he cried and said, belong to that one day only. For on that one day only, was there still a respite of forty days. In one day, the grace of God prevailed. The conversion of a whole people upon one day's preaching of a single stranger, stands in contrast with the many years during which, God says (Jeremiah 7:25, add 13; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 25:3-4; Jeremiah 26:5; Jeremiah 29:19; Jeremiah 32:33; Jeremiah 35:14-15; Jeremiah 44:4), "since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them, yet they hearkened not unto Me." Many of us have wondered what the prophet did on the other thirty-nine days; people have imagined the prophet preaching as moderns would, or telling them his own wondrous story of his desertion of God, his miraculous punishment, and, on his repentance, his miraculous deliverance. Jonah says nothing of this. The one point he brought out was the conversion of the Ninevites. This he dwells on in circumstantial details. His own part he suppresses; he would be, like John the Immerser, but the voice of one crying in the wild waste of a city of violence.
This simple message of Jonah bears an analogy to what we find elsewhere in Holy Scripture. Doubtless, the great preacher of repentance, John the Immerser, repeated oftentimes that one cry Matthew 3:2, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Our Lord vouchsafed to begin His own office with those self-same words Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15. And probably, among the civilized but savage inhabitants of Nineveh, that one cry was more impressive than any other would have been. Simplicity is always impressive. They were four words which God caused to be written on the wall amid Belshazzar's impious revelry Daniel 5:25 - פרסין תקל מנא מנא menê' menê' teqal perası̂yn (Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin). We all remember the touching history of Jesus, the son of Anan, an unlettered rustic, who , "four years before the war, when Jerusalem was in complete peace and affluence," burst in on the people at the Feast of Tabernacles with one oft-repeated cry, "A voice from the East, a voice from the West, a voice from the four winds, a voice on Jerusalem and the temple, a voice on the bridegrooms and the brides, a voice on the whole people;" how he went about through all the lanes of the city, repeating, day and night, this one cry; and when scourged until his bones were laid bare, echoed every lash with "woe, woe, to Jerusalem," and continued as his daily dirge and his one response to daily good or ill-treatment, "woe, woe, to Jerusalem." The magistrates and even the cold Josephus thought that there was something in it above nature.
In Jerusalem, no effect was produced, because they had filled up the measure of their sins and God had abandoned them. All conversion is the work of the grace of God. That of Nineveh remains, in the history of mankind, an insulated instance of God's overpowering grace. All which can be pointed out as to the Book of Jonah, is the latent suitableness of the instruments employed. We know from the Cuneiform Inscriptions that Assyria had been for successive generations at war with Syria. Not until the time of Ivalush or Pul, the Assyrian monarch, probably, at the time of Jonah's mission, do we find them tributary to Assyria. They were hereditary enemies of Assyria, and probably their chief opponents on the North East. The breaking of their power then, under Jeroboam, which Jonah had foretold, had an interest for the Assyrians; and Jonah's prophecy and the fact of its fulfillment may have reached them. The history of his own deliverance, we know from our Lord's own words, did reach them. He "was a sign Luke 11:30 unto the Ninevites." The word, under which he threatened their destruction, pointed to a miraculous overthrow. It was a turning upside down , like the overthrow of the five cities of the plain which are known throughout the Old Testament, Genesis 19:21, Genesis 19:25; Deuteronomy 29:23; Amos 4:11; Jeremiah 20:16; Lamentations 4:6. and still throughout the Muslim East, by the same name, "almoutaphikat , the overthrown."
The Assyrians also, amidst their cruelties, had a great reverence for their gods, and (as appears from the inscriptions, ascribed to them their national greatness . The variety of ways in which this is expressed, implies a far more personal belief; than the statements which we find among the Romans, and would put to shame almost every English manifesto, or the speeches put into the mouth of the Queen. They may have been, then, the more prepared to fear the prophecy of their destruction from the true God. Layard relates that he has "known a Christian priest frighten a whole Mussulman town to repentance, by proclaiming that he had a divine mission to announce a coming earthquake or plague" .
These may have been predisposing causes. But the completeness of the repentance, not outward only, but inward, "turning from their evil way," is, in its extent, unexampled.
The fact rests upon the authority of "One greater than Jonah." Our Lord relates it as a fact. He contrasts people with people, the penitent pagan with the impenitent Jews, the inferior messenger who prevailed, with Himself, whom His own received not Matthew 12:4. "The men of Nineveh shall raise up with this generation and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and behold, a greater than Jonas is here."
The chief subject of the repentance of the Ninevites agrees also remarkably with their character. It is mentioned in the proclamation of the king and his nobles, "let them turn every one from his evil way 'and from the violence' that is in their hands." Out of the whole catalogue of their sins, conscience singled out violence. This incidental notice, contained in the one word, exactly corresponds in substance with the fuller description in the prophet Nahum Nah 3:1, "Woe to the bloody city; it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not" Nahum 2:12. "The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey and his dens with ravin" Nahum 3:19. "Upon whom hath not thy wickedness (ill-doing) passed continually?" "The Assyrian records," says Layard , "are nothing but a dry register of military campaigns, spoilations, and cruelties."
The direction, that the animals also should be included in the common mourning, was according to the analogy of Eastern custom. When the Persian general Masistius fell at the battle of Plataea , the "whole army and Mardonius above all, made a mourning, 'shaving themselves, and the horses, and the beasts of burden,' amid surpassing wailing ... Thus the Barbarians after their manner honored Masistius on his death." Alexander imitated apparently the Persian custom in his mourning for Hephsestion . The characteristic of the mourning in each case is, that they include the animals in that same mourning which they made themselves. The Ninevites had a right feeling (as God Himself says), that the mercies of God were over man and beast ; and so they joined the beasts with themselves, hoping that the Creator of all would the rather have mercy on their common distress Psalm 145:9. "His tender mercies are over all His works Psalm 36:7. Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast."
The name of the king cannot yet be ascertained. But since this mission of Jonah fell in the latter part of his prophetic office, and so probably in the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam or even later, the Assyrian king was probably Ivalush III or the "Pul" of Holy Scripture. Jonah's human fears would, in that case, have been soon fulfilled. For Pul was the first Assyrian Monarch through whom Israel was weakened; and God had foreshown by Amos that through the third it would be destroyed. Characteristic, on account of the earnestness which it implies, is the account that the men of Nineveh proclaimed the fast, before news reached the king himself. This is the plain meaning of the words; yet on account of the obvious difficulty they have been rendered, and word had come to the king . The account is in harmony with that vast extent of the city, as of Babylon, of which "the residents related that, after the outer portions of the city were taken, the inhabitants of the central part did not know that they were taken." It could scarcely have occurred to one who did not know the fact.
The history of Jonah, after God had spared Nineveh, has the same characteristic touches. He leaves his own character unexplained, its severity rebuked by God, unexcused and unpalliated. He had some special repugnance to be the messenger of mercy to the Ninevites. "For this cause," he says to God, "I fled before to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a merciful God, and repentest Thee of the evil." The circumstances of his time explain that repugnance. He had already been employed to prophesy the partial restoration of the boundaries of Israel. He was the contemporary of Hosea who foretold of his people, the ten tribes Hosea 9:3, "they shall not dwell in the Lord's land, they shall eat unclean things in Assyria." God, in giving him his commission to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and "cry against it, assigned as the reason," for its wickedness is come up before Me;" words which to Jonah would suggest the memory of the wickedness of Sodom and its destruction.
Jonah was a prophet, but he was also an Israelite. He was commanded by God to call to repentance the capital of the country by which his own people, nay the people of his God, were to be carried captive. And he rebelled. We know more of the love of God than Jonah, for we have known the love of the Incarnation and the Redemption. And yet, were it made known to us, that some European or Asiatic people were to carry our own people captive out of our land, more than would be willing to confess it of themselves, (whatever sense they might have of the awfulness of God's judgments, and ever feelings belonging to our common humanity,) would still inwardly rejoice to hear, that such a calamity as the earthquake at Lisbon befell its capital. It is the instinct of self-preservation and the implanted love of country. Jonah's complaining related solely to God's mercy shown to them as to this world.
For the Ninevites had repented, and so were in the grace of God. The older of us remember what awful joy was felt when that three days' mortal strife at Leipzig at length was won, in which 107,000 were killed or wounded ; or when out of 647,000 men who swept across Europe (a mass larger than the whole population of Nineveh) only "85,000 escaped; 125,000 were slain in battle, 132,000 perished by cold, fatigue and famine." A few years ago, how were Sebastopol and the Krimea in men's mouths, although that war is reputed to have cost the five nations involved in it 700,000 lives, more, probably, than all the inhabitants of Nineveh. People forget or abstract themselves from all the individual sufferings, and think only of the result of the whole. A humane historian says of the battle of Leipzig , "a prodigious sacrifice, but one which, great as it was, humanity has no cause to regret, for it delivered Europe from French bondage, and the world from revolutionary aggression." He says on the Russian campaign of Napoleon I , "the faithful throughout Europe repeated the words of the Psalm, Efflavit Deus et dissipantur."
Look at Dr. Arnold's description of the issue of the Russian campaign : "Still the flood of the tide rose higher and higher, and every successive wave of its advance swept away a kingdom. Earthly state has never reached a prouder pinnacle, than when Napoleon in June, 1812, gathered his army at Dresden, that mighty host, unequalled in all time, of 450,000, not men merely but, effective soldiers, and there received the homage of subject kings. And now, what was the principal adversary of this tremendous power? by whom was it checked, resisted, and put down? fly none, and by nothing but the direct and manifest interposition of God. I know no language so well fitted to describe the victorious advance to Moscow, and the utter humiliation of the retreat, as the language of the prophet with respect to the advance and subsequent destruction cf the host of Sennacherib. When they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses, applied almost literally to that memorable night of frost in which 20,000 horses perished, and the strength of the French army was utterly broken.
Human instruments no doubt were employed in the remainder of the work, nor would I deny to Germany and to Russia the glories of that great year 1813, nor to England the honor of her victories in Spain or of the crowning victory of Waterloo. But at the distance of thirty years those who lived in the time of danger and remember its magnitude, and now calmly review what there was in human strength to avert it, must acknowledge, I think, beyond all controversy, that the deliverance of Europe from the dominion of Napoleon was effected neither by Russia nor by Germany nor by England, but by the hand of God alone." Jonah probably pictured to himself some sudden and almost painless destruction, which the word, overthrown, suggested, in which the whole city would be engulfed in an instant and the power which threatened his people, the people of God, broken at once. God reproved Jonah; but, before man condemns him, it were well to think, what is the prevailing feeling in Christian nations, at any signal calamity which befalls any people who threaten their own power or honor; we cannot, in Christian times, say, their existence. "Jonah," runs an old traditional saying among the Jews , "sought the honor of the son (Israel), and sought not the honor of the Father."
An uninspired writer would doubtless at least have brought out the relieving points of Jonah's character, and not have left him under the unmitigated censure of God. Jonah tells the plain truth of himself, as Matthew relates his own desertion of his Lord among the Apostles, or Mark, under the guidance of Peter, relates the great fall of the great Apostle.
Amid this, Jonah remains the same throughout. It is one strong impetuous will, bent on having no share in that which was to bring destruction on his people, fearless of death and ready to give up his life. In the same mind he gives himself to death amid the storm, and, when his mission was accomplished, asks for death in the words of his great predecessor Elijah, when he fled from Jezebel. He probably justified his impatience to himself by the precedent of so great a prophet. But although he complains, he complains to God of Himself. Having complained, Jonah waits. It may be that he thought, although God did not execute His judgments on the 40th day, He might still fulfill them. He had been accustomed to the thought of the long-suffering of God, delaying even when He struck at last. "Considering with himself," says Theodorus, "the greatness of the threat, he imagined that something might perchance still happen even after this." The patience of God amid the prophet's impatience, the still, gentle inquiry (such as lie often puts to the conscience now), "Doest thou well to be angry?" and his final conviction of the prophet out of his own feelings toward one of God's inanimate creatures, none would have ventured to picture, who had not known or experienced it.
In regard to the miracles in Jonah's history, over and above the fact, that they occur in Holy Scripture, we have our Lord's own word for their truth. He has set His seal on the whole of the Old Testament Luke 24:24; He has directly authenticated by His own divine authority the physical miracle of Jonah's preservation for three days and nights in the belly of the fish Matthew 12:40, and the still greater moral miracle of the conversion of the Ninevites Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32. He speaks of them both, as facts, and of the stay of Jonah in the fish's belly, as a type of His own stay in the heart of the earth. He speaks of it also as a miraculous sign Matthew 12:38-40; Luke 11:16, Luke 11:29-30.
The Scribes and Pharisees, unable to answer His refutation of their blasphemy, imputing His miracles to Beelzebub, asked of Him a miraculous sign from heaven. Probably, they meant to ask that one sign, for which they were always craving. Confounding His first coming with His second coming, and interpreting, according to their wishes, of His first coming all which the prophets foretold of the second, they were ever looking out for that His Coming in glory "with the clouds of heaven" Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Luke 21:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:7, to humble, as they thought, their own as well as His enemies. Our Lord answers, that this their craving for a sign was part of their faithlessness. "An evil and adulterons generation seeketh after a sign: and there shall no sign be given them, but the sign of the prophet Jonas." He uses three times their own word "sign."
He speaks of a miraculous sign, "the sign of Jonas," a miracle which was the sign of something beyond itself Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32. "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." He gave them the sign from earth, not from heaven; a miracle of humility, not of glory; of deliverance from death, and, as it were, a resurrection. A sign, such as Holy Scripture speaks of, need not at all times be a miraculous, but it is always a real sign. Isaiah and his sons, by real names, given to them by God, or the prophet by his walking barefoot, or Ezekiel by symbolic acts, were signs; not by miraculous but still by real acts. In this case, the Jews asked for a miraculous sign; our Lord promises them a miraculous sign, although not one such as they wished for, or which would satisfy them; a miraculous sign, of which the miraculous preservation of Jonah was a type. Our Lord says Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32, "Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly," and no one who really believes in Him, dare think that he was not.
It is perhaps a part of the simplicity of Jonah's narrative, that he relates these great miracles, as naturally as he does the most ordinary events. To God nothing is great or small; and the prophet, deeply as he feels God's mercy, relates the means which God employed, as if it had been one of those every day miracles of His power and love, of which people think so little because God worketh them every day.
"God prepared a great fish," he says, "God prepared a palm-christ; God prepared a worm; God prepared a vehement East wind." Whether Jonah relates God's ordinary or His extraordinary workings, His workings in the way in which He upholdeth in being the creatures of His will, or in a way which involves a miracle, i. e., God's acting in some unusual way, Jonah relates it in the same way, with the same simplicity of truth. His mind is fixed upon God's Providence, and he relates God's acts, as they bore upon God's Providential dealings with him. He tells of God's preparing the East Wind which struck the palm-christ, in the same way in which he speaks of the supernatural growth of the palm-christ, or of God's Providence, in appointing that the fish should swallow him. He mentions this, which was in the order of God's Providence; he nowhere stops to tell us the "how." How God converted the Ninevites, how He sustained his life in the fish's belly, he does not tell. He mentions only the great facts themselves, and leaves them in their mysterious greatness.
It is not strange, the pagan scoffers fixed upon the physical miracles in the history of Jonah for their scorn. They could have no appreciation of the great moral miracle of the conversion of a whole Pagan city at the voice of a single unknown prophet. Such a conversion is unexampled in the whole revelation of God to man, greater in its immediate effects than the miracle of the Day of Pentecost. Before this stupendous power of God's grace over the unruly will of savage, yet educated, men, the physical miracles, great as they are, shrink into nothing. The wielding and swaying of half a million of human wills, and turning them from Satan to God, is a power of grace, as much above and beyond all changes of the unresisting physical creation, as the spirits and intelligences which God has created are higher than insentient matter. Physical miracles are a new exercise of the creative power of God: the moral miracles were a sort of firstfruit of the re-creation of the Gentile world. Physical miracles were the simple exercise of the will of God; the moral miracles were, in these hundreds of thousands, His overpowering grace, pouring itself into the heart of rebellious man and re-creating it. As many souls as there were, so many miracles were there, greater even than the creation of man.
The miracles too are in harmony with the nature around. The Hebrews, who were, at this time, not a maritime people, scarcely knew probably of those vast monsters, which our manifold researches into God's animal kingdom have laid open to us. Jonah speaks only of "a great fish." The Greek word, by which the Septuagint translated it, and which our Lord used, is (like our "cetacea" which is taken from it), the name of a genus, not of any individual fish. It is the equivalent of the "great fish" of Jonah. The Greeks use the adjective , as we do, but they also use the substantive which occurs in Matthew. This designates a class which includes the whale, but is never used to designate the whale. In Homer , it includes "dolphins and the dog." In the natural historians, (as Aristotle , it designates the whole class of sea-creatures which are viviparous, "as the dolphin, the seal, the whale;" Galen adds the Zygaena (a shark) and large tunnies; Photius says that "the Carcharias," or white shark, "is a species of it." Oppian recounts, as belonging to the Cote, several species of sharks and whales , some with names of land animals , and also the black tunnies .
AElian enumerates most of these under the same head . Our Lord's words then would be rendered more literally, "in the fish's belly, Matthew 12:40. than "in the whale's belly." Infidels seized eagerly on the fact of the narrowness of the whale's throat; their cavil applied only to an incorrect rendering of modern versions. Fish, of such size that they can swallow a man whole, and which are so formed as naturally to swallow their prey whole, have been found in the Mediterranean. The white shark, having teeth merely incisive, has no choice, except between swallowing its prey whole, or cutting off a portion of it. It cannot hold its prey, or swallow it piecemeal. Its voracity leads it to swallow at once all which it can . Hence, Otto Fabricius relates , "its custom is to swallow down dead and, sometimes also, living men, which it finds in the sea."
A natural historian of repute relates , "In 1758 in stormy weather a sailor fell overboard from a frigate in the Mediterranean. A shark was close by, which, as he was swimming and crying for help, took him in his wide throat, so that he immediately disappeared. Other sailors had leapt into the sloop, to help their comrade, while yet swimming; the captain had a gun which stood on the deck discharged at the fish, which struck it so, that it cast out the sailor which it had in its throat, who was taken up, alive and little injured, by the sloop which had now come up. The fish was harpooned, taken up on the frigate, and dried. The captain made a present of the fish to the sailor who, by God's Providence, had been so wonderfully preserved. The sailor went around Europe exhibiting it. He came to Franconia, and it was publicly exhibited here in Erlangen, as also at Nurnberg and other places. The dried fish was delineated. It was 20 feet long, and, with expanded fins, nine feet wide, and weighed 3,924 pounds. From all this, it is probable that this was the fish of Jonah."
This is by no means an insulated account of the size of this fish. Blumenbach states, "the white shark, or Canis carcharias, is found of the size of 10,000 lbs, and horses have been found whole in its stomach." A writer of the 16th century on "the fish of Marseilles" says, "they of Nice attested to me, that they had taken a fish of this sort, approaching to 4,000 lbs. weight, in whose body they had found a man whole. Those of Marseilles told something similar, that they had once taken a Lamia (so they still popularly call the Carcharias) and found in it a man in a coat of mail (loricatus)" Rondelet says , "sometimes it grows to such size, that, placed on a carriage, it can hardly be drawn by two horses. I have seen one of moderate size, which weighed 1,000 lbs, and, when disembowelled and cut to pieces, it had to be put on two carriages." "I have seen on the shore of saintonge a Lamia, whose mouth and throat were of such vast size, that it would easily swallow a large man."
Richardson , speaking of the white shark in North America, says that they attain the length of 30 feet, i. e., one-third larger than that which swallowed the sailor whole. Lacepede speaks of fish of this kind as "more than 30 feet long" . "The contour," he adds , "of the upper jaw of a requin of 30 feet, is about 6 feet long; its swallow is of a diameter proportionate." : "In all modern works on Zoology, we find 30 feet given as a common length for a shark's body. Now a shark's body is usually only about eleven times the length of the half of its lower jaw. Consequently, a shark of 30 feet would have a lower jaw of nearly 6 feet in its semi-circular extent. Even if such a jaw as this was of hard bony consistence instead of a yielding cartilaginous nature, it would qualify its possessor for engulfing one of our own species most easily. The power which it has, by virtue of its cartilaginous skeleton, of stretching, bending and yielding, enables us to understand how the shark can swallow entire animals as large or larger than ourselves. Such an incident is related to have occurred 1802 a.d., on the authority of a Captain Brown, who found the body of a woman entire with the exception of the head within the stomach of a shark killed by him at Surinam" .
In the Mediterranean there are traces of a still larger race, now extinct. "However large or dangerous the existing race may be, yet from the magnitude of the fossil teeth found in Malta and elsewhere, some of which measure 4 12 inches from the point to the base, and 6 inches from the point to the angle, the animal, to which they belonged, must have much exceeded the present species in size." "The mouth of a fish of this sort," says Bloch , "is armed with 400 teeth of this kind. In the Isle of Malta and in Sicily, their teeth are found in great numbers on the shore. Naturalists of old took them for tongues of serpents. They are so compact that, after having remained for many centuries in the earth, they are still not decayed. The quantity and size of those which are found proves that these creatures existed formerly in great numbers, and that some were of extraordinary size.
If one were to calculate from them what should, in proportion, be the size of the throat which should hold such a number of such teeth, it ought to be at least 8 or 10 feet wide. In truth, these fish are found to this day of a terrific size. This fish, celebrated for its voracity and courage, is found in the Mediterranean and in almost every Ocean. It generally keeps at the bottom, and rises only to satisfy its hunger. It is not seen near shore, except when it pursues its prey, or is pursued by the mular , which it does not venture to approach, even when dead. It swallows all sorts of aquatic animals, alive or dead, and pursues especially the sea-calf and the tunny. In its pursuit of the tunny, it sometimes falls into nets, and some have been thus taken in Sardinia, which weighed 400 lbs. and in which 8 or 10 tunnies were found still undigested.
It attacks men wherever it can find them, whence the Germans call it 'menschenfresser' (man-eater). Gunner speaks of a sea-calf 'of the size of an ox, which has also been found in one of these animals; and in another a reindeer without horns, which had fallen from a rock.' This fish attains a length of 25 to 30 feet. Muller says that one was taken near the Island of Marguerite which weighed 1,500 lbs. Upon opening it, they found in it a HORSE, quite whole: which had apparently been thrown overboard. M. Brunniche says that during his residence at Marseilles, one was taken near that city, 15 feet long, and that two years before, two, much larger, had been taken, in one of which had been found two tunnies and a man quite dressed. The fish were injured, the man not at all. In 1760 there was exhibited at Berlin a requin stuffed, 20 feet long, and 9 feet in circumference, where it was thickest. It had been taken in the Mediterranean. Its voracity is so great, that it does not spare its own species. Leem relates, that a Laplander, who had taken a requin, fastened it to his canoe; soon after, he missed it. Some time after, having taken a larger one, he found in its stomach the requin which he had lost." "The large Australian shark (Carcharias glaucus), which has been measured after death 37 feet long, has teeth about 2 58 inches long."
Such facts ought to shame those who speak of the miracle of Jonah's preservation through the fish, as a thing less credible than any other of God's miraculous doings. There is no greater or less to Omnipotence. The creation of the universe, the whole stellar system, or of a fly, are alike to Him, simple acts of His divine will. "He spake, and it was" Psalm 33:9. What to people seem the greatest miracles or the least, are alike to Him, the mere "Let it be" of His all-holy will, acting in a different way for one and the same end, the instruction of the intelligent creatures which He has made. Each and all subserve, in their several places and occasions, the same end of the manifold wisdom of God. Each and all of these, which to us seem interruptions of His ordinary workings in nature, were from the beginning, before He had created anything, as much a part of His divine purpose, as the creation of the universe.
They are not disturbances of His laws. Night does not disturb day which it closes, nor day disturb night. No more does any work which God, before the creation of the world, willed to do (for, Acts 15:18, "known unto God are all His ways from the beginning of the world,") interfere with any other of His workings. His workings in nature, and His workings above nature, form one harmonious whole. Each are a part of His ways; each is essential to the manifestation of God to us. That wonderful order and symmetry of God's creation exhibits to us some effluences of the Divine Wisdom and Beauty and Power and Goodness; that regularity itself sets forth those other foreknown operations of God, whereby He worketh in a way different from His ordinary mode of working in nature. "They who know not God, will ask," says Cyril , "how was Jonah preserved in the fish? How was he not consumed? How did he endure that natural heat, and live, surrounded by such and was not rather digested? For this poor body is very weak and perishable. Truly wonderful was it, surpassing reason and wontedness. But if God be declared its Author, who would anymore disbelieve? For God is All-powerful, and transmouldeth easily the nature of things which are, to what He willeth, and nothing resisteth His ineffable will.
For that which is perishable can at His will easily become superior to corruption; and what is firm and unshaken and undecaying is easily subjected thereto. For nature, I deem, to the things which be, is, what seemeth good to the Creator." Augustine well points out the inconsistency, so common now, of excepting to the one or the other miracle, upon grounds which would in truth apply to many or to all , "The answer" to the mockery of the Pagans, "is that either all divine miracles are to be disbelieved, or there is no reason why this should not be believed. For we should not believe in Christ Himself that He rose on the third day, if the faith of the Christians shrank from the mockery of Pagans. Since our friend does not put the question, Is it to be believed that Lazarus rose on the 4th day, or Christ Himself on the third day, I much marvel that he put this as to Jonah as a thing incredible, unless he think it easier for one dead to be raised from the tomb, than to be preserved alive in that vast belly of the fish.
Not to mention how vast the size of marine creatures is said to be by those who have witnessed it, who could not conceive what numbers of men that stomach could contain which was fenced by those ribs, well known to the people at Carthage, where they were set up in public? How vast must have been the opening of that mouth, the doer, as it were, to that cave." "But, troth, they have found in a divine miracle something which they need not believe; namely, that the gastric juice whereby food is digested could be so tempered as not to injure the life of man. How still less credible would they deem it, that those three men, cast into the furnace by the impious king, walked up and down in the midst of the fire! If then they refuse to believe any miracles of God, they must be answered in another way. But they ought not to question any one, as though it were incredible, but at once all which are as, or even more, marvelous.
He who proposed these questions, let him be a Christian now, lest, while he waits first to finish the questions on the sacred books, he come to the end of his life, before he has passed from death to life. Let him, if he will, first ask questions such as he asked concerning Christ, and those few great questions to which the rest are subordinate. But if he think to finish all such questions as this of Jonah, before he becomes a Christian, he little appreciates human mortality or his own mortality. For they are countless; not to be finished before accepting the faith, lest life be finished without faith. But, retaining the faith, they are subjects for the diligent study of the faithful; and what in them becomes clear is to be communicated without arrogance, what still lies hidden, to be borne without risk to salvation."
The other physical miracle of the rapid production of the Palma Christi, which God created to overshadow Jonah, was plainly supernatural in that extreme rapidity of growth, else in conformity with the ordinary character of that plant. "The קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn, as we read in the Hebrew, called kikeia (or, Elkeroa, in Syriac and Punic," says Jerome , "is a shrub with broad leaves like vine-leaves. It gives a very dense shade, supports itself on its own stem. It grows most abundantly in Palestine, especially in sandy spots. If you cast the seed into the ground, it is soon quickened, rises marvelously into a tree, and a few days what you had beheld an herb, you look up to, a shrub. The קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn, a miracle in its instantaneous existence, and an instance of the power of God in the protection given by this living shade, followed the course of its own nature."
It is a native of all North Africa, Arabia, Syria, India. In the valley of the Jordan it still grows to a "large size, and has the character," an eyewitness writes , "of a perennial tree, although usually described as a biennial plant." "It is of the size of a small fig tree. It has leaves like a plane, only larger, smoother, and darker." The name of the plant is of Egyptian origin, kiki; which Dioscorides and Galen identify with the croton ; Herodotus with the Silicyprion , which, in the form seselicyprion, Dioscorides mentions as a name given to the kiki or kroton; Pliny with the Ricinus also (the Latin name for the croton), our Palma Christi; Hebrews with the Arabic Elkeroa, which again is known to be the Ricinus. The growth and occasional perishing of the Palma Christi have both something analogous to the growth and decay related in Jonah. Its rapidity of growth is remarked by Jerome and Pliny, who says , "in Spain it shoots up rapidly, of the height of an olive, with hollow stem," and branches .
"All the species of the Ricinus shoot up quickly, and yield fruit within three months, and are so multipled from the seed shed, that, if left to themselves, they would occupy in short space the whole country." In Jamaica , "it grows with surprising rapidity to the height of 15 or 16 feet." Niebuhr says, "it has the appearance of a tree. Each branch of the kheroa has only one leaf, with 6, 7, or 8 indentures. This plant was near a stream which watered it adequately. At the end of October, 1765, it had, in 5 months, grown about 8 feet, and bore, at once, flowers and fruit, green and ripe." This rapidity of growth has only a sort of likeness to the miracle, which quickened in a way far above nature the powers implanted in nature. The destruction may have been altogether in the way of nature, except that it happened at that precise moment, when it was to be a lesson to Jonah . "On warm days, when a small rain falls, black caterpillars are generated in great numbers on this plant, which, in one night, so often and so suddenly cut off its leaves, that only their bare ribs remain, which I have often observed with much wonder, as though it were a copy of that destruction of old at Nineveh." The Ricinus of India and Assyria furnishes food to a different caterpillar from that of Amboyna , but the account illustrates the rapidity of the destruction.
The word "worm" is elsewhere also used collectively, not of a single worm only, Jonah 4:7, , and of creatures which, in God's appointment, devour the vine. Deuteronomy 28:39. there is nothing in the text, implying that the creature was one which gnawed the stem rather than the leaves. The unique word, smote , is probably used, to correspond with the mention of the sun smiting Jonah 4:8. on the head of Jonah.
These were miracles, like all the other miracles of Scripture, ways, in which God made Himself and His power known to us, showing Himself the Lord of that nature which men worshiped and worship, for the present conversion of a great people, for the conviction of Israel, a hidden prophecy of the future conversion of the pagan, and an example of repentance and its fruits to the end of time. They have no difficulty except to the rebelliousness of unbelief.
Other difficulties people have made for themselves. In a planked-roof booth such as ours, Joriah would not have needed the shadow of a plant. Obviously then, Jonah's booth, even if we knew not what it was, was not like our's. A German critic has chosen to treat this as an absurdity "Although Jonah makes himself a shady booth, he still further needs the overshadowing קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn." Jonah however, being an Israelite, made booths, such as Israel made them. Now we happen to know that the Jewish סכה sûkkâh, or booth, being formed of the interlaced branches of trees, did not exclude the sun. We know this from the rules in the Talmud as to the construction of the Succah or "tabernacle" for the Feast of Tabernacles. It lays down . "A סכה sûkkâh whose height is not 10 palms, and which has not three sides, and which has more sun than shade (i. e., more of whose floor is penetrated by light through the top of the Succah, than is left in shade), is profane."
And again , "Whoso spreadeth a linen cloth over the סכה sûkkâh, to protect him from the sun, it is profane." . "Whoso raiseth above it the vine or gourd or ivy, and so covers it, it is profane; but if the roof be larger than they, or if one cut them, they are lawful" . "With bundles of straw, and bundles of wood, and bundles of sticks, they do not cover it; and all these, if undone, are lawful" . "They cover it with planks according to Rabbi Jonah; and Rabbi Meir forbids; whoso putteth upon it one plank of four palms' breadth it is lawful, only he must not sleep under it." Yet all held that a plank thus broad was to overlap the booth, in which case it would not cover it. The principle of all these rules is, that the rude hut, in which they dwelt during the Feast of Tabernacles, was to be a shade, symbolizing God's overshadowing them in the wilderness; the סכה sûkkâh itself, not anything adscititious, was to be their shade; yet it was but an imperfect protection, and was indeed intended so to be, in order to symbolize their pilgrim-state.
Hence the contrivances among those who wished to be at case, to protect themselves; and hence the inconvenience which God turned into an instruction to Jonah. Even "the Arabs," Layard tells us in a Nineveh summer, "struck their black tents and lived in sheds, constructed of reeds and grass along the banks of the river." "The heats of summer made it impossible to live in a white tent." Layard's resource of a "recess, cut into the bank of the river where it rose perpendicularly from the water's edge, screening the front with reeds and boughs of trees, and covering the whole with similar materials," corresponds with the hut of Jonah, covered by the קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn.
No pagan scoffer, as far as we know, when he became acquainted with the history of Jonah, likened it to any pagan fable. This was reserved for so-called Christians. Some pagan mocked at it, as the philosophers of Mars' Hill mocked at the resurrection of Christ Acts 17:32. "This sort of question" (about Jonah), said a pagan, who professed to be an inquirer, "I have observed to be met with broad mockery by the pagans" . They mocked, but they did not insult the history by likening it to any fable of their own. Jerome, who mentions incidentally that "Joppa is the place in which, to this day, rocks are pointed out in the shore, where Andromeda, being bound, was once on a time freed by the help of Perseus," does not seem aware that the fable could be brought into any connection with the history of Jonah. He urges on the pagan the inconsistency of believing their own fables, which besides their marvelousness were often immoral, and refusing to believe the miracles of Scripture histories; but the fable of Andromeda or of Hesione do not even occur to him in this respect . "I am not ignorant that to some it will seem incredible that a man could be preserved alive 3 days and nights in the fish's belly. These must be either believers or unbelievers. If believers, they must needs believe much greater things, how the three youths, cast into the burning fiery furnace, were in such sort unharmed, that not even the smell of fire touched their dress; how the sea retired, and stood on either side rigid like walls, to make a way for the people passing over; how the rage of lions, aggravated by hunger, looked, awestricken, on its prey, and touched it not, and many like things.
Or if they be unbelievers, let them read the 15 books of Ovid's metamorphoses, and all Greek and Latin story, and there they will see where the foulness of the fables precludes the holiness of a divine origin. These things they believe, and that to God all things are possible. Believing foul things, and defending them by alleging the unlimited power of God, they do not admit the same power as to things moral." In Alexandria and in the time of Cyril, the old pagan fables were tricked up again. He alludes then to Lycophron's version of the story of Hercules , in order, like Jerome, to point out the inconsistency of believing pagan fables and rejecting divine truth. "We," he says, "do not use their fables to confirm things divine, but we mention them to a good end, in answer to unbelievers, that their received histories too do not reject such relations."
The philosophers wished at once to defend their own fables and to attack the Gospel. Yet it was an unhappy argumentum ad hominem. Modern infidelity would find a likeness, where there is no shadow of it. The two pagan fables had this in common; that, in order to avert the anger of the gods, a virgin was exposed to be devoured by a sea monster, and delivered from death by a hero, who killed the monster and married the princess whom he delivered. This, as given by Cyril, was a form of the fable, long subsequent to Jonah. The original simple form of the story was this , "Apollo and Poseidon, wishing to make trial of the insolence of Laomedon, appearing in the likeness of men, promised for a consideration to fortify Pergamus. When they had fortified it, he did not pay them their hire. Wherefore Apollo sent a pestilence, and Poseidon a sea monster, cast on shore by the flood-tide, who made havoc of the men that were in the plain. The oracle said that they should be freed from these misfortunes, if Laomedon would set his daughter Hesione as food for the monster; he did so set her, binding her to the rocks near to the plain; Hercules, seeing her thus exposed, promised to save her, if he might have from Laomedon the horses, which Zeus had given in compensation for the rape of Ganymede. Laomedon saying that he would give them, he killed the monster and set Hesione free."
This simple story is repeated, with unimportant variations, by Diodorus Siculus , Hyginus, Orid, Valerius Flaccus. Even later, the younger Philostratus, depicting the story, has no other facts. An old icon represents the conflict in a way that is inconsistent with the later form of the story .
The story of Andromeda is told by Apollodorus , in part in the very same words. The Nereids were angered by Cassiope the mother of Andromeda, for boasting herself more beautiful than they. Then follows the same history, Poseidon sending a flood-tide and a sea monster; the same advice of the oracle; the setting Andromeda in chains, as food for the sea monster; Perseus' arrival, bargain with the father, the killing of the sea monster, the deliverance of Andromeda. Fable as all this is, it does not seem to have been meant to be fable. Pliny relates , "M. Scaurus, when AEdile, exhibited at Rome, among other marvels, the bones of the monster to which Andromeda was said to have been exposed, which bones were brought from Joppa, a city of Judaea, being 40 feet long, in height greater than the ribs of the Indian elephant, and the vertebrae a foot and a half thick." He describes Joppa as "seated on a hill, with a projecting rock, in which they show the traces of the chains of Andromeda" , Josephus says the same . Pausanias relates, "the country of the Hebrews near Joppa supplies water blood-red, very near the sea. The natives tell, that Perseus, when he had slain the monster to which the daughter of Cepheus was exposed, washed off the blood there." Mela, following perhaps his Greek authority , speaks in the present , "an illustrious trace of the preservation of Andromeda by Perseus, they show vast bones of a sea monster."
But, whether the authors of these fables meant them for matters of fact, or whether the fables had any symbolic meaning, they have not, in any form which they received until long after the time of Jonah, any connection with the Book of Jonah.
The history of Andromeda has in common with the Book of Jonah, only this, that, whereas Apollodorus and the ancients placed the scene of her history in AEthiopia, writers who lived some centuries after the time of Jonah removed it to Joppa, the seaport from where Jonah took ship. "There are some," says Strabo, speaking of his own day, "who transfer AEthiopia to our Phoenicia, and say that the matters of Andromeda took place at Joppa; and this, not out of ignorance of places, but rather in the form of a myth." The transfer, doubtless, took place in the 800 years which elapsed between Jonah and Strabo, and was occasioned perhaps by the special idolatry of the coast, the worship of Atargatis or Derceto. Pliny, at least, immediately after that statement about the chains of Andromeda at Joppa, subjoins , "The fabulous Ceto is worshiped there." Ceto is doubtless the same as "Derceto," of which Pliny uses the same epithet a little afterward . "There," at Hierapolis, "is worshiped the prodigious Atargatis, which the Greeks call Derceto." The Greeks appear (as their way was), on occasion of this worship of Ceto, to have transferred here their own story of Andromeda and the Cetos.
Ceto, i. e., Derceto, and Dagon were the corresponding male and female deities, under whose names the Philistines worshiped the power which God has implanted in nature to reproduce itself. Both were fish-forms, with human hands and face. Derceto or Atargatis was the Syriac Ter'to, whose worship at Hierapolis or Mabug bad a far-known infamy, the same altogether as that of Rhea or Cybele. The maritime situation of Philistia probably led them to adopt the fish as the symbol of prolific reproduction. In Holy Scripture we find chiefly the worship of the male god Dagon, literally "great fish." He had temples at Gaza, Judges 16:23. and Ashdod, (1 Samuel 5:1; 1 Macc. 10:83; 11:4.) where all the lords of the Philistines assembled. Five other places are named from his worship, four near the sea coast, and one close to Joppa itself. Beth-dagon ("temple of Dagon") in the southwest part of Judah Joshua 15:41. and so, near Philistia;
2) Another, in Asher also near the sea;
3) Caphar Dagon (village of Dagon) "a very large village between Jamnia and Diospolis." (Eusebius, Onom. sub v.)
4) Belt Dejan (Beth Dagon) about 6 miles N. W. of Ramlah (Robinson, Bibl. R. 2:232; see map) accordingly distinct from Caphar Dagon, and 4 1/2 hours from Joppa;
5) Another Beit Dejan, East of Nablus. (Ib. 282.))
But in later times the name of the goddess became more prominent, and, among the Greeks, exclusive. Atargatis or Detecto had, in the time of the Maccabees, a celebrated temple at Carnion, (2 Macc. 12:26.) i. e., Ashteroth Carnaim in Gilead, and, according to Pliny, at Joppa itself. This furnished an easy occasion to the Greeks to transfer there their story of the Cotes. The Greeks had populated Joppa (1 Macc. 10:75; 14:34), before Simon retook it from Antiochus. In Jonah's time, it was Phoenician. It was not colonized by Greeks until five centuries later. Since then Andromeda is a Greek story which they transferred to Joppa with themselves, the existence of the Greek story, at a later date, can be no evidence for "a Phoenician legend," of which the rationalists have dreamed, nor can it have any connection with Jonah who lived half a millennium before the Greeks came, 800 years before the story is mentioned in connection with Joppa.
With regard to the fables of Hercules, Diodorus Siculus thought that there was a basis of truth in them. The story of Hercules and Hesione, as alluded to by Homer and told by Apollodorus, looks like an account of the sea breaking in upon the land and wasting it; a human sacrifice on the point of being offered, and prevented by the removal of the evil through the building of a sea-wall. Gigantic works were commonly attributed to superior agency, good or evil. In Homer, the mention of the sea-wall is prominent . "He led the way to the lofty wall of mounded earth of the divine Hercules, which the Trojans and Minerva made for him, that, eluding the sea monster, he might escape, when he rushed at him from the beach toward the plain." In any case, a monster, which came up from the sea and wasted the land, is no fish; nor has the story of one who destroyed such a monster, any bearing on that of one whose life God preserved by a fish.
Nor is the likeness really mended by the later version of the story, originating in an Alexandrian after the Book of Jonah had been translated into Greek at Alexandria. The writer of the Cassandra, who lived at least five centuries after Jonah, represents Hercules as "a lion, the offspring of three nights, which aforetime the jagged-toothed dog of Triton lapped up in his jaws; and he, a living carver of his entrails, scorched by the steam of a cauldron on the fireless hearths, shed the bristles of his head upon the ground, the infanticide waster of my country."
In that form the story re-appears in a pagan philosopher and an Alexandrian father but, in both, as borrowed from the Alexandrian poet. Others, who were unacquainted with Lycophron, pagan
And Christian alike, knew nothing of it. One Christian writer, at the end of the 5th century , a Platonic philosopher, gives an account, distinct from any other, pagan or Christian, probably confused from both. In speaking of marvelous deliverances, he says ; "As Hercules too is sung" (i. e., in Greek poetry), "when his ship was broken, to have been swallowed up by a κητὸς kētos, and, having come within, was preserved." In the midst of the 11th century after our Lord, some writers on Greek fable, in order to get rid of the very offensive story of the conception of Hercules, interpreted the word of Lycophron which alludes to it, of his employing, in the destruction of the monster, three periods of 24 hours, called "nights" from the darkness in which he was enveloped. Truly, full often have those words of God been fulfilled, that 2 Timothy 4:4. men shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. People, who refused to believe the history of Jonah, although attested by our Lord, considered AEneas Gazaeus, who lived about 13 centuries after Jonah, to be an authentic witness of an imaginary Phoenician tradition , 13 centuries before his own time; and that, simply on the ground that he has his name from Gaza; whereas he expressly refers, not to Phoenician tradition but to Greek poetry.
Such are the stories, which became a traditional argument among unbelieving critics to justify their disbelief in miracles accredited by our Lord. Flimsy spider-webs, which a critic of the same school brushes away as soon as he has found some other expedient, as flimsy, to serve his purpose! The majestic simplicity of Holy Scripture and its moral greatness stand out the more, in contrast with the unmeaning fables, with which men have dared, amid much self-applause, to compare it. A more earnest, but misled, mind, even while unhappily disbelieving the miracle of Jonah, held the comparison, on ground of "reason, ludicrous; but not the less frivolous and irreverent, as applied to Holy Scripture."
It was assumed by those who first wrote against the Book of Jonah, that the thanksgiving in it was later than Jonah, "a cento from the Psalms." They objected that it did not allude to the history of Jonah. One critic repeated after the other , that the Psalm was a "mere cento" of Psalms. However untrue, nothing was less doubted. A later critic felt that the Psalm must have been the thanksgiving of one delivered from great peril of life in the sea. "The images," he says , "are too definite, they relate too exclusively to such a situation, to admit of being understood vaguely of any great peril to life, as may Psalm 18 and Psalm 42:1-11, (Which the writer may have had in his mind) or Psalm 124:1-8." Another, to whom attention has been recently drawn, maintained the early date of the thanksgiving, and held that it contained so much of the first part of Jonah's history, that that history might be founded on the thanksgiving. This was one step backward toward the truth.
It is admitted that the thanksgiving is genuine, is Jonah's, and relates to a real deliverance of the real prophet. But the thanksgiving would not suggest the history Jonah thanks God for his deliverance from the depths of the sea, from which no man could be delivered, except by miracle.
He describes himself, not as struggling with the waves, but as sunk beneath them to the bottom of the sea, from where no other ever rose . Jonah does not tell God, how He had delivered him. Who does? He rehearses to God the hopeless peril, out of which He had delivered him. On this the soul dwells, for this is the ground of its thankfulness. The delivered soul loves to describe to God the death out of which it had been delivered. Jonah thanks God for one miracle; he gives no hint of the other, which, when he uttered the thanksgiving, was not yet completed. The thanksgiving bears witness to it miracle; but does not suggest its nature. The history supplies it.
It is instructive that the writer who, disbelieving the miracles in the book of Jonah, "restorers his history" by effacing them, has also to "restore the history "of the Saviour of the world, by omitting His testimony to them. But this is to subject the revelation of God to the variations of the mind of His creatures, believing what they like, disbelieving what they dislike.
Our Lord Himself attested that this miracle on Jonah was an image of His own entombment and Resurrection. He has compared the preaching of Jonah with His own. He compares it as a real history, as He does the coming of the Queen of Sheba to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Modern writers have lost sight of the principle, that men, as individuals, amid their infirmities and sins, are but types of man; in their history alone, their office, their sufferings, can they be images of their Redeemer. God portrayed doctrines of the Gospel in the ritual of the law. Of the offices of Christ and, at times, His history, he gave some faint outline in offices which He instituted, or persons whose history He guided. But they are types only, in that which is of God. Even that which was good in any was no type of His goodness; nay, the more what is human is recorded of them, the less they are types of Him. Abraham who acted much, is a type, not of Christ, but of the faithful.
Isaac, of whom little is recorded, except his sacrifice, becomes the type of Christ. Melchizedek, who comes forth once in that great loneliness, a King of Righteousness and of peace, a priest of God, refreshing the father of the faithful with the sacrificial bread and wine, is a type, the more, of Christ's everlasting priesthood, in that he stands alone, without father, without known descent, without known beginning or end, majestic in his one office, and then disappearing from our sight. Joseph was a type of our Lord, not in his chastity or his personal virtues but in his history; in that he was rejected by his brethren, sold at the price of a slave, yet, with kingly authority, received, supported, pardoned, gladdened, feasted, his brethren who had sold him. Even so the history of Jonah had two aspects. It is, at once, the history of his mission and of his own personal conduct in it.
These are quite distinct. The one is the history of God's doings in him and through him; the other is the account of his own soul, its rebellions, struggles, conviction. As a man, he is himself the penitent; as a prophet, he is the preacher of repentance. In what was human infirmity in him, he was a picture of his people, whose cause he espoused with too narrow a zeal. Zealous too for the honor of God, although not with God's all-enfolding love, willing that that honor should be vindicated in his own way, unwilling to be God's instrument on God's terms, yet silenced and subdued at last, he was the image and lesson to those who complained at Peter's mission to Cornelius, and who, only when they heard how God the Holy Spirit had come down upon Cornelius' household, "held their peace and glorified God, saying, then hath God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life. Acts 11:18. what coinciding visions to Cornelius and Peter, what evident miracles of power and of grace, were needed after the Resurrection to convince the Jewish converts of that same truth, which God made known to and through Jonah! The conversion of the Gentiles and the saving of a remnant only of the Jews are so bound together in the prophets, that it may be that the repugnance of the Jewish converts was founded on an instinctive dread of the same sort which so moved Jonah. It was a superhuman love, through which S. Paul contemplated "their fall as the riches of the Gentiles" Romans 11:12.
On the other hand, that, in which Jonah was an image of our Lord, was very simple and distinct. It was where Jonah was passive, where nothing of his own was mingled. The storm, the casting over of Jonah, were the works of God's Providence; his preservation through the fish was a miracle of God's power; the conversion of the Ninevites was a manifold miracle of His grace. It might have pleased God to send to convert a pagan people one whom He had not so delivered; or to have subdued the will of the prophet whom He sent on some other mission. But now sign answers to sign, and mission shadows out mission. Jonah was first delivered from his three days' burial in that living tomb by a sort of resurrection, and then, whereas he had previously been a prophet to Israel, he thenceforth became a prophet to the pagan, whom, and not Israel, he converted, and, in their conversion, his, as it were, resurrection was operative.
The correspondence is there. We may lawfully dwell on subordinate details, how man was tempest-tost and buffeted by the angry waves of this perilous and bitter world; Christ, as one of us, gave His life for our lives, the storm at once was hushed, there is a deep calm of inward peace, and our haven was secured. But the great outstanding facts, which our Lord Himself has pointed out, are, that he who had heretofore been the prophet of Israel only, was, after a three days' burial, restored through miracle to life, and then the pagan were converted. Our Lord has set His seal upon the facts. They were to Israel a sacred enigma, a hidden prophecy, waiting for their explanation. They were a warning, how those on whom God then seemed not to have pity, might become the object of His pity, while they themselves were cast out. Now the marvelous correspondence is, even on the surface, a witness to the miracle. Centuries before our Lord came, there was the history of life preserved by miracle in death and out of death; and thereupon the history of pagan converted to God and accepted by Him. Is this, even a doubting mind might ask, accidental coincidence? or are it and the other like resemblances, the tracing of the finger of God, from whom is all harmony, Who blends in one all the gradations of His creation, all the lineaments of history, His natural and His moral world, the shadow of the law with the realities of the Gospel? How should such harmony exist, but for that harmonizing Hand, who "binds and blends in one" the morning and evening of His creation.
1Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
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 Acts 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.
2Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before 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" Jonah 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 Exodus 32:32, "or else blot me also out of Thy book," or like Paul, desire even to be "an anathema from Christ" Romans 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 Nahum 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, Genesis 4:10. "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground:" and of Sodom Genesis 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 1 John 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 Hosea 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 Genesis 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.
3But 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.
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 Psalm 139:7, Psalm 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 Jonah 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" John 6:66. So the rich "young man went away sorrowful Matthew 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 John 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, Genesis 10:4. was an ancient merchant city of Spain, once proverbial for its wealth (Psalm 72:10. Strabo iii. 2. 14), which supplied Judaea with silver Jeremiah 10:9, Tyre with "all manner of riches," with iron also, tin, lead. Ezekiel 27:12, Ezekiel 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" Psalm 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 2 Chronicles 3:16; Ezra 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." Luke 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. Psalm 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."
4But 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.
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.
5Then 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.
And cried, every man unto his God - They did what they could. "Not knowing the truth, they yet know of a Providence, and, amid religious error, know that there is an Object of reverence." In ignorance they had received one who offended God. And now God, "whom they ignorantly worshiped" Acts 17:23, while they cried to the gods, who, they thought, disposed of them, heard them. They escaped with the loss of their wares, but God saved their lives and revealed Himself to them. God hears ignorant prayer, when ignorance is not willful and sin.
To lighten it of them - , literally "to lighten from against them, to lighten" what was so much "against them," what so oppressed them. "They thought that the ship was weighed down by its wonted lading, and they knew not that the whole weight was that of the fugitive prophet." "The sailors cast forth their wares," but the ship was not lightened. For the whole weight still remained, the body of the prophet, that heavy burden, not from the nature of the body, but from the burden of sin. For nothing is so onerous and heavy as sin and disobedience. Whence also Zechariah Zechariah 5:7 represented it under the image of lead. And David, describing its nature, said Psalm 38:4, "my wickednesses are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me." And Christ cried aloud to those who lived in many sins, Matthew 11:28. "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you."
Jonah was gone down - , probably before the beginning of the storm, not simply before the lightening of the vessel. He could hardly have fallen asleep "then." A pagan ship was a strange place for a prophet of God, not as a prophet, but as a fugitive; and so, probably, ashamed of what he had completed, he had withdrawn from sight and notice. He did not embolden himself in his sin, but shrank into himself. The conscience most commonly awakes, when the sin is done. It stands aghast as itself; but Satan, if he can, cuts off its retreat. Jonah had no retreat now, unless God had made one.
And was fast asleep - The journey to Joppa had been long and hurried; he had "fled." Sorrow and remorse completed what fatigue began. Perhaps he had given himself up to sleep, to dull his conscience. For it is said, "he lay down and was fast asleep." Grief produces sleep; from where it is said of the apostles in the night before the Lord's Passion, when Jesus "rose up from prayer and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow" Luke 22:45 . "Jonah slept heavily. Deep was the sleep, but it was not of pleasure but of grief; not of heartlessness, but of heavy-heartedness. For well-disposed servants soon feel their sins, as did he. For when the sin has been done, then he knows its frightfulness. For such is sin. When born, it awakens pangs in the soul which bare it, contrary to the law of our nature. For so soon as we are born, we end the travail-pangs; but sin, so soon as born, rends with pangs the thoughts which conceived it." Jonah was in a deep sleep, a sleep by which he was fast held and bound; a sleep as deep as that from which Sisera never woke. Had God allowed the ship to sink, the memory of Jonah would have been that of the fugitive prophet. As it is, his deep sleep stands as an image of the lethargy of sin . "This most deep sleep of Jonah signifies a man torpid and slumbering in error, to whom it sufficed not to flee from the face of God, but his mind, drowned in a stupor and not knowing the displeasure of God, lies asleep, steeped in security."
6So 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.
What meanest thou? - or rather, "what aileth thee?" (literally "what is to thee?") The shipmaster speaks of it (as it was) as a sort of disease, that he should be thus asleep in the common peril. "The shipmaster," charged, as he by office was, with the common weal of those on board, would, in the common peril, have one common prayer. It was the prophet's office to call the pagan to prayers and to calling upon God. God reproved the Scribes and Pharisees by the mouth of the children who "cried Hosanna" Matthew 21:15; Jonah by the shipmaster; David by Abigail; 1 Samuel 25:32-34; Naaman by his servants. Now too he reproves worldly priests by the devotion of laymen, sceptic intellect by the simplicity of faith.
If so be that God will think upon us - , (literally "for us") i. e., for good; as David says, Psalm 40:17. "I am poor and needy, the Lord thinketh upon" (literally "for") "me." Their calling upon their own gods had failed them. Perhaps the shipmaster had seen something special about Jonah, his manner, or his prophet's garb. He does not only call Jonah's God, "thy" God, as Darius says to Daniel "thy God" Daniel 6:20, but also "the God," acknowledging the God whom Jonah worshiped, to be "the God." It is not any pagan prayer which he asks Jonah to offer. It is the prayer of the creature in its need to God who can help; but knowing its own ill-desert, and the separation between itself and God, it knows not whether He will help it. So David says Psalm 25:7, "Remember not the sins of my youth nor my transgressions; according to Thy mercy remember Thou me for Thy goodness' sake, O Lord."
"The shipmaster knew from experience, that it was no common storm, that the surges were an infliction borne down from God, and above human skill, and that there was no good in the master's skill. For the state of things needed another Master who ordereth the heavens, and craved the guidance from on high. So then they too left oars, sails, cables, gave their hands rest from rowing, and stretched them to heaven and called on God."
7And 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.
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 Proverbs 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.'"
8Then 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?
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:
9And 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 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 Genesis 40:15, and the Hebrew midwives Exodus 1:19, and Moses' sister Exodus 2:7, and God in His commission to Moses Exodus 3:18; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 9:1 as to Pharaoh, and Moses in fulfilling it Exodus 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," Hebrews 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 Genesis 24:7, and Jonah to the pagan mariners, and Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 2:37, Daniel 2:44; and Cyrus in acknowledging God in his proclamation 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2. After his example, it is used in the decrees of Darius Ezra 6:9-10 and Artaxerxes Ezra 7:12, Ezra 7:21, Ezra 7:23, and the returned exiles use it in giving account of their building the temple to the Governor Ezra 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; Nehemiah 2:4, Nehemiah 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" Genesis 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."
10Then 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.
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 1 Kings 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. John 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.
11Then 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 knew him to be a prophet; they ask him the mind of his God. The lots had marked out Jonah as the cause of the storm; Jonah had himself admitted it, and that the storm was for "his" cause, and came from "his" God . "Great was he who fled, greater He who required him. They dare not give him up; they cannot conceal him. They blame the fault; they confess their fear; they ask "him" the remedy, who was the author of the sin. If it was faulty to receive thee, what can we do, that God should not be angered? It is thine to direct; ours, to obey."
The sea wrought and was tempestuous - , literally "was going and whirling." It was not only increasingly tempestuous, but, like a thing alive and obeying its Master's will, it was holding on its course, its wild waves tossing themselves, and marching on like battalions, marshalled, arrayed for the end for which they were sent, pursuing and demanding the runaway slave of God . "It was going, as it was bidden; it was going to avenge its Lord; it was going, pursuing the fugitive prophet. It was swelling every moment, and, as though the sailors were too tardy, was rising in yet greater surges, shewing that the vengeance of the Creator admitted not of delay."
12And 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.
Take me up, and cast me into the sea - Neither might Jonah have said this, nor might the sailors have obeyed it, without the command of God. Jonah might will alone to perish, who had alone offended; but, without the command of God, the Giver of life, neither Jonah nor the sailors might dispose of the life of Jonah. But God willed that Jonah should be cast into the sea - where he had gone for refuge - that (Wisdom 11:16) wherewithal he had "sinned, by the same also he might be punished" as a man; and, as a prophet, that he might, in his three days' burial, prefigure Him who, after His Resurrection, should convert, not Nineveh, but the world, the cry of whose wickedness went up to God.
For I know that for my sake - o "In that he says, "I know," he marks that he had a revelation; in that he says, "this great storm," he marks the need which lay on those who cast him into the sea."
13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
The men rowed hard - , literally "dug." The word, like our "plowed the main," describes the great efforts which they made. Amid the violence of the storm, they had furled their sails. These were worse than useless. The wind was off shore, since by rowing alpine they hoped to get back to it. They put their oars well and firmly in the sea, and turned up the water, as men turn up earth by digging. But in vain! God willed it not. The sea went on its way, as before. In the description of the deluge, it is repeated Genesis 7:17-18, "the waters increased and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth; the waters increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters." The waters raged and swelled, drowned the whole world, yet only bore up the ark, as a steed bears its rider: man was still, the waters obeyed. In this tempest, on the contrary, man strove, but, instead of the peace of the ark, the burden is, the violence of the tempest; "the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them" . "The prophet had pronounced sentence against himself, but they would not lay hands upon him, striving hard to get back to land, and escape the risk of bloodshed, willing to lose life rather than cause its loss. O what a change was there. The people who had served God, said, Crucify Him, Crucify Him! These are bidden to put to death; the sea rageth; the tempest commandeth; and they are careless its to their own safety, while anxious about another's."
14Wherefore 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.
Wherefore (And) they cried unto the Lord - "They cried" no more "each man to his god," but to the one God, whom Jonah had made known to them; and to Him they cried with an earnest submissive, cry, repeating the words of beseeching, as men, do in great earnestness; "we beseech Thee, O Lord, let us not, we beseech Thee, perish for the life of this man" (i. e., as a penalty for taking it, as it is said, 2 Samuel 14:7. "we will slay him for the life of his brother," and, Deuteronomy 19:21. "life for life.") They seem to have known what is said, Genesis 9:5-6. "your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made He man" , "Do not these words of the sailors seem to us to be the confession of Pilate, who washed his hands, and said, 'I am clean from the blood of this Man?' The Gentiles would not that Christ should perish; they protest that His Blood is innocent."
And lay not upon us innocent blood - innocent as to them, although, as to this thing, guilty before God, and yet, as to God also, more innocent, they would think, than they. For, strange as this was, one disobedience, their whole life, they now knew, was disobedience to God; His life was but one act in a life of obedience. If God so punishes one sin of the holy 1 Peter 4:18, "where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" Terrible to the awakened conscience are God's chastenings on some (as it seems) single offence of those whom He loves.
For Thou, Lord, (Who knowest the hearts of all men,) hast done, as it pleased Thee - Wonderful, concise, confession of faith in these new converts! Psalmists said it, Psalm 135:6; Psalm 115:3. "Whatsoever God willeth, that doeth He in heaven and in earth, in the sea and in all deep places." But these had but just known God, and they resolve the whole mystery of man's agency and God's Providence into the three simple words , as (Thou) "willedst" (Thou) "didst." "That we took him aboard, that the storm ariseth, that the winds rage, that the billows lift themselves, that the fugitive is betrayed by the lot, that he points out what is to be done, it is of Thy will, O Lord" . "The tempest itself speaketh, that 'Thou, Lord, hast done as Thou willedst.' Thy will is fulfilled by our hands." "Observe the counsel of God, that, of his own will, not by violence or by necessity, should he be cast into the sea. For the casting of Jonah into the sea signified the entrance of Christ into the bitterness of the Passion, which He took upon Himself of His own will, not of necessity. Isaiah 53:7. "He was offered up, and He willingly submitted Himself." And as those who sailed with Jonah were delivered, so the faithful in the Passion of Christ. John 18:8-9. "If ye seek Me, let these go their way, that the saying might be fulfilled which" Jesus spake, 'Of them which Thou gavest Me, I have lost none. '"
15So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
They took up Jonah - o "He does not say, 'laid hold on him', nor 'came upon him' but 'lifted' him; as it were, bearing him with respect and honor, they cast him into the sea, not resisting, but yielding himself to their will."
The sea ceased (literally "stood") from his raging - Ordinarily, the waves still swell, when the wind has ceased. The sea, when it had received Jonah, was hushed at once, to show that God alone raised and quelled it. It "stood" still, like a servant, when it had accomplished its mission. God, who at all times saith to it Job 38:11, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed," now unseen, as afterward in the flesh Matthew 8:26, "rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm" . "If we consider the errors of the world before the Passion of Christ, and the conflicting blasts of diverse doctrines, and the vessel, and the whole race of man, i. e., the creature of the Lord, imperiled, and, after His Passion, the tranquility of faith and the peace of the world and the security of all things and the conversion to God, we shall see how, after Jonah was cast in, the sea stood from its raging" . "Jonah, in the sea, a fugitive, shipwrecked, dead, sayeth the tempest-tossed vessel; he sayeth the pagan, aforetime tossed to and fro by the error of the world into divers opinions. And Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Joel, who prophesied at the same time, could not amend the people in Judaea; whence it appeared that the breakers could not be calmed, save by the death of (Him typified by) the fugitive."
16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
And the men feared the Lord with a great fear - because, from the tranquility of the sea and the ceasing of the tempest, they saw that the prophet's words were true. This great miracle completed the conversion of the mariners. God had removed all human cause of fear; and yet, in the same words as before, he says, "they feared a great fear;" but he adds, "the Lord." It was the great fear, with which even the disciples of Jesus feared, when they saw the miracles which He did, which made even Peter say, Luke 5:8. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Events full of wonder had thronged upon them; things beyond nature, and contrary to nature; tidings which betokened His presence, Who had all things in His hands. They had seen "wind and storm fulfilling His word" Psalm 148:8, and, forerunners of the fishermen of Galilee, knowing full well from their own experience that this was above nature, they felt a great awe of God. So He commanded His people, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God Deuteronomy 6:13, for thy good always" Deuteronomy 6:24.
And offered a sacrifice - Doubtless, as it was a large decked vessel and bound on a long voyage, they had live creatures on board, which they could offer in sacrifice. But this was not enough for their thankfulness; "they vowed vows." They promised that they would do thereafter what they could not do then ; "that they would never depart from Him whom they had begun to worship." This was true love, not to be content with aught which they could do, but to stretch forward in thought to an abiding and enlarged obedience, as God should enable them. And so they were doubtless enrolled among the people of God, firstfruits from among the pagan, won to God Who overrules all things, through the disobedience and repentance of His prophet. Perhaps, they were the first preachers among the pagan, and their account of their own wonderful deliverance prepared the way for Jonah's mission to Nineveh.
17Now 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.
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.