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Bible Commentaries

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes


- Jonah

by E.W. Bullinger

Jon JONAH. THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK AS A WHOLE. ( Extended Alternation .) Jonah 1:1 . THE WORD OF JEHOVAH. Jonah 1:2 . MISSION TO NINEVEH. Jonah 1:3 . JONAH. DISOBEDIENCE. Jonah 1:4 - Jonah 2:10 . CONSEQUENCES. RESURRECTION OF JONAH. Jonah 3:1 . THE WORD OF JEHOVAH. Jonah 3:2 . MISSION TO NINEVEH. Jonah 3:3-4 -. JONAH. OBEDIENCE. Jonah 3:4-10 ; Jonah 4:1-11 . CONSEQUENCE. CORRECTION OF JONAH. For the Canonical order and place of the Prophets, see Appdx-1, and p. 1207 For the Chronological order of the Prophets, see Appdx-77. For the Inter-relation of the Prophetic Books, see Appdx-78. For the Formula of Prophetic utterance, see Appdx-82. For the References to the Pentateuch by the Prophets, see Appdx-92. For the Inter-relation of the Minor (or Shorter) Prophets, see p. 1206. NOTES ON THE STRUCTURE OF JONAH. The clue to the date is given in Jonah 1:1 , which, by comparison with 2 Kings 14:25 , falls within the time of Jeroboam II and the earlier years of Uzziah:therefore about 690 .C . (see Appdx-50, p. 59). Modern critics are practically unanimous in declaring that the book is a " combination of allegory and myth". But the fact that Jonah the prophet was a historic personage is settled by 2 Kings 14:25 . And the fact hat the prophecy, with its great miracle, was referred to by Christ as a type of Himself'', places the book in as high a position as any other prophecy. The Century Bible says that "we are not to conclude that the literal validity of the history of Jonah is established by this reference " (note on Matthew 12:40 . p . 206). But, apart from the fact that the Lord referred to the Queen of Sheba in the very next sentence, and thus places Jonah on the same level of "literal validity", the question is placed beyond all controversy by the further fact that seven times in John''s Gospel the Lord declared that every one of His words that He uttered was given Him to speak by the Father (see below). Those who strike at these words of Christ are striking at God Himself, and are making the whole of Divine Revelation of none effect. All the puerile and fanciful assumptions used for arguments are swept away with one stroke, and are overwhelmed by this decisive and conclusive fact. Modern critics must now perforce find the answers to their own objections. We need not be at the pains to repeat the refutation of their assumption, that, because certain words have not been required or necessitated by the subjects of the earIier Scriptures, therefore such words did not exist before, and are thus evidences of the book''s being written at a later period of time. Only a mind already hostile could invent such a proposition, and only those who are ignorant of "the laws of evidence" could make use of it. The prophecy of Jonah is literal history, and is besides a twofold type. (1) He was a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord:see Matthew 12:40 , where the "as" and the "so" are sufficient to show us that a man''s being miraculously kept alive for a particular period can be no type of another''s being dead and buried for the same period. As our Lord was raised from the dead at the end of that period (see Rev :156 ), so Jonah must have been, as miraculously, raised front the dead . Jonah''s prayer could have been uttered in the last few moments of life. In any case the words of the prayer were not written down till after he had been vomited up alive (Jonah 2:1-10 ). (2) " As Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation " (Luke 11:30 ) . That generation were as grieved and angry at the faith and repentance of'' those to whom the resurrection of our Lord was proclaimed, as Jonah was at the repentance of the Ninevites. Both these types were hidden in the history by the One Who knew the end from the beginning, and are declared to be so by Him of Whom Jehovah said, " I will put My words in His mouth ". Seven times in John''s Gospel our Lord testified to the fulfilment of that promise: "My doctrine (i.e. teaching) is not Mine, but His that sent Me" (John 7:16 ). "As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things " (John 8:28 ). "Why do ye not believe Me? He that is of God heareth God''s words:ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God" (John 8:46 , John 8:47 ). "I have not spoken of (or from) Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak " (John 12:49 ). "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of (i.e. from) Myself:but the Father that dwelleth in Me" (John 14:10 ). "The word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father''s Which sent Me" (John 14:24 ). "I have given unto them the words which Thou [the Father] gavest Me" (John 17:8 ). The Century Bible (Jonah; Introduction, p. 200) may say: It is humiliating for a commentator to collect doubtful stories of sailors swallowed by sharks and vomited out alive." There is truth in this. But if we recognize the fact that the word "alive", includes the thought of resurrection , then we have ample evidence that this is conveyed and taught by the "as" and " so" in Matthew 12:40 . In any case we have to remember the words of Jehovah in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 :"I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken to My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him." We leave the question with these solemn words: "I will require it of him." The notes will show us Jonah, not as a wayward, thoughtless child, but as a " man of God ", willing to sacrifice himself (mistakenly, of course) in order to save his nation. He knew that Assyria at that time was in great difficulties. There is a silence of eighteen years in Assyrian history at that time, and the surrounding nations were beginning to assert themselves. Jonah had just been commissioned to encourage Israel to a restored position (2 Kings 14:25-26 ). He must have known also that Nineveh (Assyria) was to be Jehovah''s rod of judgment for Israel. He knew the well-known character of Jehovah, and feared that if he made Jehovah''s proclamation Nineveh might repent, and her overthrow be averted. See Jehovah''s words (Jonah 4:2 ). If, however, for the sake of his nation, he did not make the proclamation at all, Nineveh might be overthrown and Israel saved.. He was mistaken, and had to be corrected (ch. Jonah 4:4-11 ). The great lesson of the book is not "Jehovah''s care for children and cattle", &c., but that the devices of man shall not frustrate His purpose, and that what He hath said shall surely come to pass. That is the lesson which gives to the book a dignity and importance which is worthy of it, and of its place in the Word of God.