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Bible Commentaries
Jonah 1

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-17

Jonah 1:1-17 Jonah Flees from the Presence of the Lord In Jonah 1:1-17 we have the account of Jonah being called by God to go to Nineveh, and his flight to Tarshish in an effort to flee from the presence of the Lord. The Lord responded by sending a great storm upon the ship, with Jonah being thrown over by the ship’s crew, and him being swallowed by a whale.

The Literary Element the Storm in the Plot of the Book of Jonah - Guthrie notes Ladouceur’s comment that it was a pagan belief in New Testament times that survival of a shipwreck proved a man’s innocence, suggesting Luke included this lengthy story as a defense for Paul’s innocence. [7] This view finds support from Acts 28:4, which alludes to such a belief, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.” We also see this believe alluded to in Jonah 1:4-10 when the men of the ship sought the cause of the storm in their belief that someone on board had sinned against his god. According to Jonah 1:4 the men’s beliefs were accurate, because God certainly sent this storm as a form of punishment upon His servant Jonah.

[7] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 373. (See David Ladouceur, “Hellenistic Preconceptions of Shipwreck and Pollution as a context for Acts 27-28,” Harvard Theological Review 73, 1980, pp. 435-449; and G. B. Miles and G. Tromph, “Luke and Antiphon: The Theology of Acts 27-28 in the Light of Pagan Beliefs about Divine Retribution, Pollution and Shipwreck,” Harvard Theological Review 69, 1976, pp. 259-267.)

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

Jonah 1:1 “Now…came” Comments - A number of books in the Old Testament begins with the common Hebrew idiom “and it came to pass” ( וַיְהִי ), made from the conjunction ( ו ) “and” and the imperfect verb ( הָיָה ) “to be.” Douglas Stuart identifies the books that commence with this Hebrew construction as Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, Ruth, Esther, Jonah and Lamentations ( LXX). [8] This phrase is used at least three hundred eighty-eight (388) times in the Old Testament to begin narrative stories, and to move the plot from one scene to another within the narrative material. Although some of the books listed above are a part of a collection of narratives that follow a chronological order, Stuart believes this opening phrase is intended to begin a new book.

[8] Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 31, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “Introduction: Form/Structure/Setting.”

Jonah 1:1 Comments The Dates of Jonah’s Ministry - Jonah, the son of Amittai, was from the city of Gathhepher (2 Kings 14:25), located in the territory in Zebulun of northern Israel (Joshua 19:13). Based upon Jonah’s prophecy recorded in 2 Kings 14:25, the most popular view suggests that he ministered during the early reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel (793-53 B.C.).

2 Kings 14:25, “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.”

Joshua 19:13, “And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittahhepher, to Ittahkazin, and goeth out to Remmonmethoar to Neah;”

Comments The Manner in which Divine Oracles were Delivered unto the Prophets - God spoke through the Old Testament prophets in various ways, as the author of the epistle of Hebrews says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets…” (Hebrews 1:1). The Lord spoke divine oracles ( מַשָּׂא ) through the Old Testament prophets in three general ways, as recorded in the book of Hosea, “I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.” (Hosea 12:10) ( NKJV) In other words, the prophets spoke to Israel through the words they received, they described divine visions to the people, and they acted out as divine drama an oracle from the Lord.

(1) The Word of the Lord Came to the Prophets - God gave the prophets divine pronouncements to deliver to the people, as with Hosea 1:1. The opening verses of a number of prophetic books say, “the word of the Lord came to the prophet…” Thus, these prophets received a divine utterance from the Lord.

(2) The Prophets Received Divine Visions - God gave the prophets divine visions ( חָזוֹן ), so they prophesied what they saw ( חזה ) (to see). Thus, these two Hebrew words are found in Isaiah 1:1, Obadiah 1:1, Nahum 1:1, and Habakkuk 1:1. Ezekiel saw visions ( מַרְאָה ) of God.

(3) God Told the Prophets to Deliver Visual Aids as Symbols of Divine Oracles - God asked the prophets to demonstrate divine oracles to the people through symbolic language. For example, Isaiah walked naked for three years as a symbol of Assyria’s dominion over Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20:1-6). Ezekiel demonstrated the siege of Jerusalem using clay tiles (Ezekiel 4:1-3), then he laid on his left side for many days, then on his right side, to demonstrate that God will require Israel to bear its iniquities.

Jonah 1:2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

Jonah 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah 1:3 “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” - Comments - In Rick Joyner's book The Call the author meets Jonah in his vision. In this vision Jonah explains the reason he fled from the presence of God was because he had come to understand the great burning that comes with His presence. Jonah said that a great responsibility comes with being in His presence. [9] Jonah said to him that he was fleeing more from the presence of God than from the will of God.

[9] Rick Joyner, The Call (Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1999), 45.

Jonah 1:4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

Jonah 1:4 Scripture References There are a number of references in Scripture to God commanding the winds and the waves.

Psalms 107:25-29, “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.”

Psalms 148:8, “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:”

Jonah 1:5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

Jonah 1:5 Comments The ancient world was largely superstitious, adhering to a pantheon of pagan gods. These mariners would have looked upon these gods as “guardians” who watched over their lives.

Jonah 1:6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

Jonah 1:6 Word Study on “shipmaster” The English word “shipmaster” ( KJV) is a translation from the Hebrew phrase ( רַב הַחֹבֵל ), which phrase is unique to the Old Testament Scriptures. It is comes from the Hebrew words ( רַב ) (H7227) and ( חֹבֵל ) (H2259) and is translated “the chief of the ship's governors” ( KD). Strong says the Hebrew word ( רַב ) (H7227) means, “abundant (in quantity, size, age, number, rank, quality.” Strong says the Hebrew word ( חֹבֵל ) (H2259) means, “a sailor.”

Jonah 1:7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

Jonah 1:7 Comments The ancient practice of casting lots was not restricted to the Jewish culture under the Mosaic Law. The books Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Nahum provide us with references in the Old Testament Scriptures to the custom of casting of lots by someone other than the people of Israel, being practiced among the Babylonians (Obadiah 1:11), the Ninevites (Nahum 3:10), and among the sailors (Jonah 1:7), which Adam Clarke suggests to be Phoenicians based on Ezekiel 27:12. [10]

[10] Adam Clarke, The Book of the Prophet Jonah, in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), notes on Jonah 1:3.

Joel 3:3, “And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.”

Obadiah 1:11, “In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.”

Nahum 3:10, “Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.”

Jonah 1:7, “And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.”

Ezekiel 27:12, “Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.”

The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus Christ cast lots at the foot of the Cross (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:24). The Roman statesman Cicero (106-43 B.C.) makes numerous references to the widespread practice of casting lots among the ancient cultures in his work de divination. [11] The Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37-100) mentions the practice of casting lots among the Roman soldiers who had encompassed the city of Jerusalem under Titus. [12] The Roman historian Suetonius (A.D. 70-130) mentions this ancient practice among Roman leaders by appointing men to tasks by casting lots, as well as casting lots as a form of divination. [13]

[11] For example, Cicero writes, “But what nation is there, or what state, which is not influenced by the omens derived from the entrails of victims, or by the predictions of those who interpret prodigies, or strange lights, or of augurs, or astrologers, or by those who expound lots (for these are about what come under the head of art); or, again, by the prophecies derived from dreams, or soothsayers (for these two are considered natural kinds of divination)?” ( de divination 1.6) Cicero also writes, “What, now, is a lot? Much the same as the game of mora, or dice, l and other games of chance, in which luck and fortune are all in all, and reason and skill avail nothing. These games are full of trick and deceit, invented for the object of gain, superstition, or error.” ( de divination 2.41) See Cicero, The Treatises of M. T. Cicero on the Nature of the Gods; on Divination; on Fate; on the Republic; on the Laws; and on Standing for the Consulship, trans. C. D. Yonge (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 146-147, 235.

[12] Josephus writes, “They also cast lots among themselves who should be upon the watch in the nighttime, and who should go all night long round the spaces that were interposed between the garrisons.” ( Wars 5.12.2)

[13] For example, Suetonius writes, “When later, on his way to Illyricum, he [Tiberius] visited the oracle of Geryon near Patavium, and drew a lot which advised him to seek an answer to his inquiries by throwing golden dice into the fount of Aponus, it came to pass that the dice which he threw showed the highest possible number and even to-day those very dice may be seen under the water.” ( Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Tiberius) Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, trans. Joseph Gavorse (New York: Modern Library, 1931), 130-131.

Jonah 1:14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.

Jonah 1:14 Comments - These seamen did not want to be guilty of murder, especially when they were facing death. Therefore, they prayed for God’s mercy upon them just before throwing Jonah overboard, hoping He would accept this act in exchange for their souls. Thus, we see how Jonah serves as a type and figure of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jonah 1:15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

Jonah 1:15 Comments Jonah served as a type of sacrifice that the mariners offered unto YHWH. The calming of the sea testified that YHWH accepted their sacrifice. We can compare the numerous times in the Scriptures when God accepted a Jewish sacrifice with a supernatural manifestation of fire coming down and consuming the offering. For example, the angel of the Lord accepted the sacrifice of Manoah, the father of Samson by consuming it with fire.

Judges 13:19, “So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.”

This fire also came down and consumed the sacrifice of Moses at the dedication of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Leviticus 9:24).

Leviticus 9:24, “And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”

A fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice of King David at the threshing floor of Ornan.

1 Chronicles 21:26, “And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.”

A fire also came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice of King Solomon at the dedication of the temple.

2 Chronicles 7:1, “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.”

Fire also consumed the sacrifice of Elijah on Mount Carmel.

1 Kings 18:38, “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

In addition, during the time of Moses, God consumed the children of Israel with fire as a form of judgment (Numbers 11:1-2; Numbers 16:35).

Jonah 1:16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

Jonah 1:16 Comments The calming of the sea served as an unquestionable testimony that YHWH, the God of the Israelites, received this sacrificial offering of Jonah being cast overboard. This testimony resulted in the mariners believing in YHWH and offering sacrifices and vows to him. Douglas Stuart qualifies their belief, saying, “the sailors genuinely believed in Yahweh (though hardly in a monotheistic manner).” [14] In other words, these mariners probably did not abandon their polytheism, but acknowledged YHWH as the greatest in their pantheon of gods.

[14] Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 31, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), comments on 1:4-16 - Form/Structure/Setting.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Jonah 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/jonah-1.html. 2013.
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