John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO JONAH 1
This chapter gives an account of the call and mission of Jonah to go to Nineveh, and prophesy there, and the reason of it, Jonah 1:1; his disobedience to it, Jonah 1:3. God's resentment of it, by sending a storm into the sea, where he was, which terrified the mariners, and put the ship in danger of being lost, Jonah 1:4; The discovery of Jonah and his disobedience as the cause of the tempest, and how it was made, Jonah 1:6; The casting of him into the sea at his own motion, and with his own consent, though with great reluctance in the mariners, Jonah 1:11. The preparation of a fish for him, which swallowed him up, and in which he lived three days and three nights, Jonah 1:17.
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai,.... Or, "and the word of the Lord was"
"the word of prophecy from the Lord;'
and it may be so interpreted, since Jonah, under a spirit of prophecy, foretold that Nineveh should be destroyed within forty days; though the phrase here rather signifies the order and command of the Lord to the prophet to do as is expressed in Jonah 1:2; whose name was Jonah "the son of Amittai"; of whom see the introduction to this book. Who his father Amittai was is not known: if the rule of the Jews would hold good, that when a prophet mentions his own name, and the name of his father, he is a prophet, the son of a prophet, then Amittai was one; but this is not to be depended on. The Syriac version calls him the son of Mathai, or Matthew; though the Arabians have a notion that Mathai is his mother's name; and observe that none are called after their mothers but Jonas and Jesus Christ: but the right name is Amittai, and signifies "my truth"; and to be sons of truth is an agreeable character of the prophets and ministers of the word, who should be given to truth, possessed of it, and publish it:
saying; as follows:
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city,.... That is, arise from the place where he was, and leave the business he was about, and prepare for a long journey to the place mentioned, and be as expeditious in it as possible. Nineveh was the metropolis of the Assyrian empire at this time; it was an ancient city built by Ashur, not by Nimrod; though he by some is said to go into Ashur or Assyria, and build it, Genesis 10:11; and called it after the name of his son Ninus; for it signifies the mansion or palace of Ninus; and by most profane writers is called Ninus; according to Diodorus Siculus
and cry against it; or prophesy against it, as the Targum; he was to lift up his voice, and cry aloud, as he passed along in it, that the inhabitants might hear him; and the more to affect them, and to show that he was in earnest, and what he delivered was interesting to them, and of the greatest moment and importance: what he was to cry, preach, or publish, see Jonah 3:2;
for their wickedness is come up before me; it was come to a very great height; it reached to the heavens; it was not only seen and known by the Lord, as all things are; but the cry of it was come up to him; it called aloud for vengeance, for immediate vengeance; the measure of it being filled up, and the inhabitants ripe for destruction; it was committed openly and boldly, with much impudence, in the sight of the Lord, as well as against him; and was no more to be suffered and connived at: it intends and includes their idolatry, bloodshed, oppression, rapine, fraud, and lying; see Jonah 3:8.
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord,.... He was not obedient to the heavenly vision; he rose up, but not to go to Nineveh, but to Tarshish, the reverse of it; to the sea, as the Targum, the Mediterranean sea, which lay west, as Nineveh was to the east. Tarshish sometimes is used for the sea; see Psalm 48:7; he determined to go to sea; he did not care where, or to what place he might find a ship bound; or to Tarsus in Cilicia, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, Acts 22:3; so Josephus
"lest he should prophesy in the name of the Lord:'
but there is no need to seek for reasons, and which are given by others; such as going out of his own country into a foreign one; the length of the journey; the opposition and difficulties he might expect to meet with; and the risk he should run of his life, by prophesying in and against the metropolis of the Assyrian empire, where the king's court and palace were; and he not only a Heathen, but a sovereign and arbitrary prince; when the true reasons are suggested by the prophet himself; as that he supposed the people would repent; he knew that God was gracious and merciful, and upon their repentance would not inflict the punishment pronounced; and he should be reckoned a false prophet, Jonah 4:2;
and went down to Joppa; a seaport town in the tribe of Dan, upon the Mediterranean sea, where was a haven of ships, formerly called Japho, Joshua 19:16; at this time Joppa, as it was in the times of the apostles: here Peter raised Dorcas to life, and from hence he was sent for by Cornelius, Acts 9:36; it is now called Jaffa; of which Monsieur Thevenot
"it is a town built upon the top of a rock, whereof there remains no more at present but some towers; and the port of it was at the foot of the said rock.--It is at present a place of few inhabitants; and all that is to be seen of it is a little castle with two towers, one round, and another square; and a great tower separate from it on one side. There are no houses by the seaside, but five grottos cut in the rock, of which the fourth is in a place of retreat for Christians.--There is a harbour still in the same place where it was formerly; but there is so little water in it, that none but small barks can enter.'
It was a very ancient city, said
and he found a ship going to Tarshish; just ready to put to sea, and bound for this place: Providence seemed to favour him, and answer to his wishes; from whence it may be observed, that the goodness of an action, and its acceptableness to God, are not to be concluded from its wished for success:
so he paid the fare thereof; the freight of the ship; the whole of it, according to Jarchi; that haste and a quicker dispatch might be made, and no stay for passengers or goods; but that it might be put under, sail directly, and he be the sooner out of the land; which, if true, would show him to be a man of substance; and agrees with a notion of the Jews, and serves to illustrate and confirm it, that the spirit of prophecy does not dwell upon any but a rich man; for which reason the above interpreter catches at it; but Aben Ezra more truly observes, that he paid his part, what came to his share, what was usual to be paid for a passage to such a place: and whereas it might be usual then, as now, not to pay till they were arrived at port, and went out of the ship; he paid his fare at entrance, to secure his passage, lest through any pretence he should not be took in upon sailing; so determined was he to fly from God, and disobey his orders:
and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord; having paid his fare, he entered the ship directly, lest he should be left behind; and went down into the cabin perhaps, to go along with the mariners and merchants, all Heathens to Tarshish, whither they were bound, in order to be clear of any fresh order from the Lord, to go and prophesy against Nineveh: here again the Targum adds,
"lest he should prophesy in the name of the Lord.'
But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea,.... He took a wind out of his treasures, and hurled it, as the word
and there was a great tempest in the sea; which caused the waves to rise and roar, and become very tumultuous: this wind was an extraordinary one, like that "laelaps" or storm of wind which came down into the sea when the disciples of Christ were on it in a ship; or like the "Euroclydon", in which the Apostle Paul was, Acts 27:14;
so that the ship was like to be broken; it was in danger of it; it seemed as if it would, the waves of the sea were so strong, and beat so hard upon it. It is in the original text, "the ship thought it should be broken"
Then the mariners were afraid,.... Perceiving that the storm was not an ordinary, but a supernatural one; and that the ship and all in it were in extreme danger, and no probability of being saved. This shows that the storm must be very violent, to frighten such men who were used to the sea, and to storms, and were naturally bold and intrepid. The word used signifies "salters", so called from the salt sea they used, as they are by us "mariners", from "mare", the "sea"; though R. Japhet in Aben Ezra thinks the commodity they carried in their vessel was salt:
and cried every man to his god: to help them, and save them out of their distress. In the ship it seems were men of different nations, and who worshipped different gods. It was a notion of the Jews, and which Jarchi mentions as his own, that there were men of the seventy nations of the earth in it; and as each of them had a different god, they separately called upon them. The polytheism of the Pagans is to be condemned, and shows the great uncertainty of their religion; yet this appears to be agreeable to the light of nature that there is a God, and that God is to be prayed unto, and called upon, especially in time of trouble:
and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them; or, "the vessels"
"when they saw there was no profit in them;'
that is in the gods they called upon, then they did this; the other was a matter of religion this a point of prudence; such a step the mariners took that belonged to the ship in which the Apostle Paul was, Acts 27:18;
but Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; into one of its sides, into a cabin there; the lowest side, as the Targum:
and he lay, and was fast asleep; even snored, as some versions have it: it may seem strange he should when the wind was so strong and boisterous; the sea roaring; the waves beating; the ship rolling about; the mariners hurrying from place to place, and calling to each other to do their duty; and the passengers crying; and, above all, that he should fall into so sound a sleep, and continue in it, when he had such a guilty conscience. This shows that he was asleep in a spiritual as well as in a corporeal sense.
So the shipmaster came to him,.... The master of the vessel, who had the command of it; or the governor of it, as Jarchi; though Josephus
and said unto him, what meanest thou, O sleeper? this is not a time to sleep, when the ship is like to be broke to pieces, all lives lost, and thine own too: thus the prophet, who was sent to rebuke the greatest monarch in the world, is himself rebuked by a shipmaster, and a Heathen man. Such an expostulation as this is proper enough to be used with professors of religion that are gotten in a spiritual sense into a sleepy and drowsy frame of spirit; it being an aggravation of it, especially when the nation they are of, the church of Christ they belong to, and their own persons also, are in danger; see Romans 13:11 Ephesians 5:14;
arise, call upon thy God; the gods of this shipmaster and his men were insufficient to help them; they had ears, but they heard not; nor could they answer them, or relieve them; he is therefore desirous the prophet would pray to his God, though he was unknown to him; or at least it suggests that it would better come him to awake, and be up, and praying to his God, than to lie sleeping there; and the manner in which the words are expressed, without a copulative, show the hurry of his spirit, the ardour of his mind, and the haste he was in to have that done he advises to: every good man has a God to pray unto, a covenant God and Father, and who is a prayer hearing God; is able to help in time of need, and willing to do it; and it is the duty and interest of such to call upon him in a time of trouble; yea, they should arise and stir up themselves to this service; and it may be observed, that the best of men may sometimes be in such a condition and circumstances as to need to be stirred up to it by others; see Luke 22:46;
if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not; the supreme God; for the gods they had prayed to they looked upon as mediators with the true God they knew not. The shipmaster saw, that, to all human probability, they were all lost men, just ready to perish; that if they were saved, (as who knew but they might, upon Jonah's praying to his God?) it must be owing to the kind thoughts of God towards them; to the serenity of his countenance, and gracious acceptance of prayer, and his being propitious and merciful through that means; all which seems to be the import of the word used: so the saving of sinners in a lost and perishing condition, in which all men are, though all are not sensible of it, is owing to God's thoughts of peace, to his good will, free favour, and rich grace in Christ Jesus, and through him, as the propitiatory sacrifice. The Targum is,
"if so be mercy may be granted from the Lord, and we perish not.'
And they said everyone to his fellow,.... That Jonah awoke and rose up, upon the shipmaster's calling to him, is certain; but whether or no he called upon his God is not; perhaps he did: and when his prayer was over, and the storm still continuing, the sailors said one to another,
come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us; for, Observing something very uncommon and extraordinary in the tempest, and all means, both natural and religious, failing to help them; and though they might know that they were each one of them sinners, yet they supposed there must be some one notorious sinner among them, that had committed some very enormous crime, which had drawn the divine resentment upon them to such a degree; and therefore they proposed to cast a lot, which was an appeal to the divine Being, in order to find out the guilty person. That the Heathens used the lot upon occasion is not only manifest from profane writers, but from the sacred Scriptures; as Haman, and other enemies of God's people; and the soldiers that attended the cross of Christ, Esther 9:24 Nahum 3:10. Drusius reports, from Xavierus, of some Heathens sailing to Japan, and other places in the East Indies, that they used to carry an idol with them, and by lots inquire of it whither they should go; and whether they should have prosperous winds, &c.
so they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah; through the overruling providence and disposing hand of God, which attended this affair; for, not to inquire whether the use of the lot was lawful or not, or whether performed in that serious and solemn manner as it should be, if used at all; it pleased God to interfere in this matter, to direct it to fall on Jonah, with whom he had a particular concern, being a prophet of his, and having disobeyed his will; see Proverbs 16:33. The Syriac version renders it, "the lot of Jonah came up"; that is, the piece of paper, or whatever it was, on which his name was written, was taken up first out of the vessel in which the lots were put.
Then they said unto him, tell us, we pray thee,.... They did not fall upon him at once in an outrageous manner, and throw him overboard; as it might be thought such men would have done, considering what they had suffered and lost by means of him; but they use him with great respect, tenderness, and lenity: and entreat him to tell them
for whose cause this evil was upon them: or rather, as the Targum,
"for what this evil is upon us;'
and so Noldius
what is thine occupation? trade or business? this question they put, to know whether he had any, or was an idle man; or rather, whether it was an honest and lawful employment; whether it was by fraud or violence, by thieving and stealing, he got his livelihood; or by conjuring, and using the magic art: or else the inquiry was about his present business, what he was going about; what he was to do at Tarshish when he came there; whether he was not upon some ill design, and sent on an unlawful errand, and going to do some ill thing, for which vengeance pursued him, and stopped him:
and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? which questions seem to relate to the same thing, what nation he was of; and put by different persons, who were eager to learn what countryman he was, that they might know who was the God he worshipped, and guess at the crime he had been guilty of.
And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew,.... He does not say a Jew, as the Targum wrongly renders it; for that would have been false, since he was of the tribe of Zebulun, which was in the kingdom of Israel, and not of Judah; nor does he say an Israelite, lest he should be thought to be in the idolatry of that people; but a Hebrew, which was common to both; and, besides, it not only declared what nation he was of, but what religion he professed, and who was his God:
and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land; this answers to the other question, what was his occupation or business? he was one that feared the Lord, that served and worshipped him; a prophet of the great God, as Josephus
Then were the men exceedingly afraid,.... When they found he was a Hebrew, and that it was the God of the Hebrews that was angry; of whom they had heard much, and what great and wonderful things had been done by him, and now had an experience of his power and providence, and that it was for fleeing from his presence that all this was; and therefore, since they had been guilty of greater sins than this, as they might imagine, what would be done to them? and particularly it might fill them with dread and terror, when they heard of the destruction of Nineveh, the prophet was sent to denounce; of which no doubt he had told them, and they might from hence conclude it would certainly be:
and said unto him, why hast thou done this? they wonder he should act such a foolish part as to flee from such a God he had described to them, who was Lord of heaven, earth, and sea; and therefore could meet with him, and seize him, be he where he would; and they reprove him for it, and the rather as it had involved them in so much distress and danger:
for the men knew that he had fled from the presence of the Lord,
because he had told them; not when he first entered into the ship, but now, though not before mentioned; for no doubt Jonah told the whole story at length, though the whole is not recorded; how that he was sent by the Lord with a message to Nineveh, to denounce destruction to it; and that he refused to go, and fled from his face; and this was the true reason of the storm.
Then said they unto him, what shall we do unto thee,.... Though, both by the lot and his own confession, they knew he was the guilty person; for whose sake this storm was; yet were unwilling to do anything to him without his will and consent, his counsel and advice; perceiving that he was a prophet of the God of the Hebrews, whom he had offended, and knew the mind and will of his God, and the nature of his offence against him, and what only would appease him they desire him to tell what they ought to do; fearing that, though they had found out the man, they should make a mistake in their manner of dealing with him, and so continue the distress they were in, or increase it; their great concern being to be rid of the storm:
that the sea may be calm unto us? or "silent"
(for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous); or, "it went and swelled"
And he said unto them, take me up, and cast me forth into the sea,.... This he said not as choosing rather to die than to go to Nineveh; or as having overheard the men say that they would cast him into the sea, as Aben Ezra suggests, greatly to the prejudice of the prophet's character; but as being truly sensible of his sin, and that he righteously deserved to die such a death; and in love to the lives of innocent men, that they might be saved, and not perish, through his default; and as a prophet, knowing this to be the mind and will of God, he cheerfully and in faith submits to it, with a presence of mind and courage suitable to his character. It was not fit he should leap into the sea and destroy himself; but that he should die by the hand of justice, of which the shipmaster and the ship's crew were the proper executioners:
so shall the sea be calm unto you; or "silent", as before; it will cease from its roaring, and do no further hurt and damage:
for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you; for the sin he had committed in fleeing from God, this storm was raised and continued; nor could it go off till they had done what he had directed them to; there was no other way of being clear of it. In this Jonah was a type of Christ, who willingly gave himself to suffer and die, that he might appease divine wrath, satisfy justice, and save men; only with this difference, Jonah suffered for his own sins, Christ for the sins of others; Jonah to endured a storm he himself had raised by his sins, Christ to endure a storm others had raised by their sins.
Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to the land,
but they could not,.... Or, "they digged"
for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them; it grew more and more so; the storm beat right against them, and drove them back faster than they came; so that it was impossible to stand against it.
Wherefore they cried unto the Lord,.... Not unto their gods, but unto the true Jehovah, the God of Jonah, and of the Hebrews; whom they now, by this providence, and Jonah's discourse, had some convictions and knowledge of as the true God; and therefore direct their prayer to him, before they cast the prophet into the sea:
and said, we beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee; which repetition shows the ardent, vehemence, and earnestness of their minds in prayer:
let us not perish for this man's life; they were in the utmost perplexity of mind, not knowing well what to do; they saw they must perish by the storm, if they saved his life; and they were afraid their should perish, if they took it away; and which yet they were obliged to do; and therefore had no other way left but to pray to the Lord they might not perish for it; or it be reckoned as their crime, and imputed to them, as follows:
and lay not upon us innocent blood; for so it was to them; he had done no hurt to them since he had been with them, except in being the cause of the storm, whereby they had suffered the loss of their goods; however, had not been guilty of anything worthy of death, as they could observe; and as for his offence against God, they were not sufficient judges of, and must leave it with him: the light of nature teaches men to be tender of the lives of fellow creatures, and to avoid shedding of innocent blood:
for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee; it appeared to them to be the wilt of God that he should be cast into the sea; from the storm that was raised on his account; from the determination of the lot; from the confession of Jonah, and his declaration of the will of God in this matter, as a prophet of his: they did not pretend to account for it; it was a secret to them why it should be; but it was no other than what he would have done; and therefore they hoped no blame would be laid on them.
So they took up, Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea,.... They took him out of the hold or cabin where he was, and brought him upon deck; they took him, not against his will, but with his full consent, and according to the direction and advice he gave them: "they", for there were more than one employed in this affair; one or more very probably took him by the legs, and others put their hands under his arm holes, and so threw him into the sea:
and the sea ceased from her raging; immediately, and became a calm; and the wind also ceased from blowing, which is supposed; the end being answered by the storm, and the person found and obtained, what was sought after by it, it was still and quiet. The story the Jews
Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly,.... This was not a natural fear, as before, but a religious one; and not a servile fear, or a fear of punishment, but a reverential godly fear; for they feared him, not only because they saw his power in raising and stilling the tempest, but his goodness to them in saving them:
and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord; a spiritual sacrifice; the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for a safe deliverance from the storm; for other sort of sacrifice they seemed not to have materials for; since they had thrown overboard what they had in the ship to lighten it, unless there might be anything left fit for this purpose; but rather, if it is to be understood of a ceremonial sacrifice, it was offered when they went out of the ship, according to the gloss of Aben Ezra; or they solemnly declared they would, as soon as they came to land; to which sense is the Targum,
"and they said, they would offer a sacrifice:'
and agreeably to this the words may be rendered, with what follows, thus, "and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord", that is,
and made vows; they vowed that they would offer a sacrifice
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah,.... Not from the creation of the world, as say the Jews
and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights: that is, one whole natural day, consisting of twenty four hours, and part of two others; the Jews having no other way of expressing a natural day but by day and night; and to this the antitype answers; namely, our Lord's being so long in the grave; of whose death, burial, and resurrection, this was a type, as appears from Matthew 12:40; for which reason Jonah was so miraculously preserved; and a miracle it was that he should not in this time be digested in the stomach of the creature; that he was not suffocated in it, but breathed and lived; and that he was able to bear the stench of the creature's maw; and that he should have his senses, and be in such a frame of mind as both to pray and praise; but what is it that the power of God cannot do? Here some begin the second chapter, and not amiss.
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