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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Jonah 1

Verses 1-17


[The Prophet’s Commission to preach against Nineveh, and his Attempt to evade it (Jonah 1:1-3). A Voilent Storm arises; Alarm of the Sailors; Means adopted for their Safety; Detection of Jonah; he is thrown into the Sea, and is swallowed by a Fish (Jonah 1:4-16).—C. E.]

1Now [And] the word of the Lord [Jehovah] came unto [was communicated to] Jonah , 1 the son of Amittai.2 2Arise,3 go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry4 [proclaim] 3against it; for5 their wickedness is [has] come up before me. But [And] Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord [Jehovah], and went down to Jappa; and he [omit, he] found a ship6 going to Tarshish: so he paid [and paid] the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish 4from the presence of the Lord [Jehovah]. But [And] the Lord [Jehovah] sent out7 a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty [great] tempest in the sea, 5so that [and] the ship was like to be broken.8 Then [And] the mariners9 were afraid, and cried every man [each] unto his god, and cast forth the wares10 that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them.10 But [And] Jonah was gone down [had gone down] into the sides [the interior] of the ship;11 and he lay, and was fast asleep. 6So [And] the shipmaster12 came [came near] to him, and said unto [to] him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon [to] thy God, if so be that [perhaps] God13 will think upon us, that we perish not [and we shall not perish]. 7And they said every one to his fellow [to each other], Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know [and we shall know] for whose cause14 [on account of whom] this evil is upon us. So [And] they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 8Then said they [And they said] unto [to] him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us;15 What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? 9And he said unto [to] them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord [Jehovah], the God of heaven, which [who] hath made [omit, hath] the sea and the dry land. 10Then were the men [And the men were] exceedingly afraid, and said unto [to] him, Why hast thou done this?16 [What is this thou hast done?] For the men knew that he fled [was fleeing] from the presence of the Lord [Jehovah], because he had told them. 11Then said they [And they said] unto [to] him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us [may subside from against us]? for the sea wrought and was tempestuous17 [was increasing and rushing tempestuously]. 12And he said unto [to] them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea, so shall the sea [And the sea shall] be calm unto you [subside from against you]: for I 13know that for my sake18 this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless [And] the men rowed19 [broke through, viz., the waves] hard to bring it to the land [to bring to land]; but they could not, for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous [was increasing 14and rushing tempestuously] against them. Wherefore [And] they cried unto [to] the Lord [Jehovah], and said, We beseech thee, O Lord [O now Jehovah], let us not perish for this man’s life,20 and lay not upon us innocent blood: 15for thou, O Lord [Jehovah], hast done as it pleased thee. So [And] they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased [stood] from its raging. 16Then [And] the men feared the Lord [Jehovah] exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord [Jehovah], and made vows.


Jonah 1:1-3. The Command and the Flight. Compare on Jonah 1:1 the Introduction, § 2, p. 13.

“The narrative begins, according to usage, with the copula [conjunction vav. C. E.], because every event in time follows upon an antecedent one; and the record of that event is always only a continuation of something prior, and separately considered forms a fragment.” (Hitzig, Compare Ruth 1:1; 1 Samuel 1:1.)

[“From the circumstance that the book commences with the conjunction ו, commonly rendered and, some have inferred that it is merely the fragment of a larger work, written by the same hand; but though this particle is most commonly used to connect the following sentence with something which precedes it, and is placed at the beginning of historical books to mark their connection with a foregoing narrative, as Exodus 1:1; 1 Kings 1:1; Ezra 1:1; yet it is also employed inchoatively where there is no connection whatever, as Ruth 1:1; Esther 1:1; and, as specially parallel, Ezekiel 1:1. It serves no other purpose in such cases than merely to qualify the apocopated future, so as to make it represent the historical past tense.” (Henderson, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:1.)

“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.” (Pusey, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:1.)

“Sometimes a book commences with the relative past form of the substantive verb, in consequence of the writer’s viewing it as the continuation of a preceding one (Leviticus 1:1; Numbers 1:1; Joshua 1:1; Judges 1:1). Books are also found to commence in this manner which have no actual reference to a preceding one; in such cases the writer plunges at once in medias res, regarding what he is about to record as connected to foregoing events, at least in the order of time (Ezekiel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; Ruth 1:1; Esther 1:1). (Nordheimer’s Heb. Gram. Syntax, § 976, 2).—C.E.]

Jonah 1:2. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, on the left bank of the Tigris, is called the great city, κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, here as in Genesis 10:12, where the additional clause, “the same is a great city,” includes the four previously, separately named cities, which, in a wider sense, constituted the city of Nineveh. It was, according to Diodor. ii. 3, the greatest city of antiquity. Its circumference was four hundred and eighty furlongs—one hundred and fifteen furlongs greater than that of Babylon. Its diameter was (Herodotus, v. 25)21 [?] one hundred and fifty furlongs; consequently a good day’s journey. Upon its walls, 100 feet high, flanked with fifteen hundred towers, each two hundred feet high, four [some say three, C. E.] chariots could drive abreast. The three days’ journey, which, according to Jonah 3:3, one could travel within the city, cannot appear an incredible statement, if we consider that it filled, together with the adjoining cities united to it by the same fortifications, the whole space between the rivers Tigris, Khosr, the Upper or Great Zab, the Gasr Su, and the mountainous boundary of the valley of the Tigris on the east; and that the rubbish and ruin covered mounds, which indicate the locality of the desolated city, and which for twenty-five years have been accessible to the investigations of learned men, occupy an area of about eighteen square miles [German miles=378 Eng. sq. miles—C. E.] Comp. Ewald, Bib. Jour., x. 52 ff.; J. Oppert, Expéd. Scientifique en Mésopotamie, Paris, 1862, ii. 67, 72, 82 f.; M. v. Niebuhr, Hist. of Assyria and Babylon, p. 274 ff.)

[Nineveh, according to Genesis 10:11, was built by Nimrod. The verse should probably be read: “Out of that land he [Nimrod] went forth into Asshur [Assyria], and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth and Calah.” According to the Greek and Roman authors, it was founded by Ninus, the mythical founder of the Assyrian empire; and its name appears to be derived from his, or from that of an Assyrian deity, Nin, corresponding, it is conjectured, with the Greek Hercules. In the time of Jonah, it had probably attained to its greatest extent. It formed a trapezium, and consequently could have no one diameter. Its sharp angles lay towards the north and south, and its long sides were formed by the Tigris and the mountains. The average length was about twenty-five English miles; the average breadth, fifteen. This large extent of area includes Nineveh in its broader sense, which was a union of four large primeval cities. Nineveh proper, including the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nebbi Yunas, and Ninua, is situated at the northwestern corner, near the Tigris. Nimrud, supposed to be the later capital, and which, in the opinion of Rawlinson, Jones, and Oppert, was the ancient Calah, is at the southwestern corner, between the Tigris and Zab; a third large city, which is now without a name, and which has been explored least of all, is on the Tigris itself, from three to six English miles to the north of Nimrud; and the citadel and temple-mass, now named Khorsabad, is situated on the Khosr. (Compare Keil and Delitzsch on the Minor Prophets; Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopedia; Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible; Layard’s Nineveh and its Remains; Rawlinson’s Herodotus, Book I., Appendix, Essay vii.)—C. E.]

Preach against it is God’s command to Jonah; that is, go and deliver to its face, a call to repentance [Eine Busspredigt]. He does not say, preach merely concerning it; for Jonah, as other prophets did, could have done that in his own land. Neither does he say merely to it; for that would have been expressed by אֶל or ל. But God will have him preach against Nineveh, because its wickedness had come up before Him as in former times the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah had done (comp. Genesis 18:21, with Genesis 6:5).

Jonah 1:3. Jonah arose, but to flee, and that from the presence of Jehovah, that is, from the people and land of Israel, to which he imagined the presence Of God to be limited, as Jacob, when he was astonished at discovering the presence of God beyond the home of his father [Väterlichen Erde]. (Genesis 28:16.)

[“The belief in the omnipresence of God was a part of the faith of Abraham’s house. And that God was even present here he did not first learn on this occasion (as Knobel seems to think), but it is new to him that Jehovah, as the covenant God, revealed Himself not only at the consecrated altars of his fathers, but even here.” (Lange on Genesis 28:16.)

“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, ‘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.” (Introduction to the Prophet Jonah, by the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D. D., p. 247.)

Dr. Pusey illustrates his interpretation by a large number of references to the use of the expression מִלִּפְנֵי, in the notes to the passage quoted above. The explanation of Keil and Delitzsch (Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:3) is essentially the same: “from the face of Jehovah, i. e., away from the presence of the Lord, out of the land of Israel, where Jehovah dwelt in the temple, and manifested his presence (comp. Genesis 4:16); not to hide himself from the omnipresent God, but to withdraw from the service of Jehovah, the God-King of Israel.”

Henderson (Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:3), says: “פְּנֵי יְהוָֹה, which strictly means the face, person, or presence of Jehovah, is sometimes employed to denote the special manifestation of his presence, or certain outward and visible tokens by which He made Himself locally known. Thus God promised that his presence (פָּנַי), i. e., the sensible tokens of his presence, should accompany the Hebrews on their march to Canaan (Exodus 33:14. Comp. Psalms 9:3; Psalms 68:2; Psalms 68:8). It is also employed in reference to the place or region where such manifestations were vouchsafed, as Genesis 4:14, where it obviously signifies the spot where the primitive worship was celebrated, and sensible proofs of the divine favor were manifested to the worshippers (1 Samuel 1:22; 1 Samuel 2:18; Psalms 42:3(2)). In like manner, the place where Jacob had intimate communion with God, was called by that patriarch פְּניאֵל, the face, or manifestation of God (Genesis 32:30). The interpretation, therefore, of David Kimchi, “He imagined that if he went out of the land of Israel, the spirit of prophecy would not rest upon him,” is perhaps not wide of the mark. Jarchi to the same effect: “The Shekinah does not dwell out of the hind.” Though, as Theodoret observes, he well knew that the Lord of the universe was everywhere present, yet he supposed that it was only at Jerusalem he became apparent to men; ὑπολαμβάνων δὲ ό̓μως ἐν μόνη Ἱερουσαλὴμ αὐτὸν ποιεῖσθαι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν.”—C. E.]

The psychological motive of the flight is not mentioned. That which Jonah assigns (Jonah 4:2), is hardly to be considered with Keil22 as pragmatically exact and sufficient, since in that place it rather makes the impression of being an attempt to palliate a guilty conscience, which is glad to seize upon even the semblance of right. His concern for the time being, was to throw off obedience to God, and for that purpose various motives—ease, indolence, and fear of men—concurred,—a state of mind of which every servant of God can readily conceive from the analogy of his own experience. That he actually intended an entire abandonment of duty, the circumstance that he fled as far as possible proves.

To Tarshish, or Tartessus,23 which was the most remote of the Phœnician trading-places known in the Old Testament, and situated not far from the mouth of the Bætis (Guadalquivir). He takes the direct road thither, first to Joppa, which, in the time of Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:16), was a well-known seaport on the Mediterranean (Joshua 19:46), for the purpose of there embarking in a ship, whose appointed fare (שְֹכָרָהּ) he paid.

Jonah 1:4-16. God arrests Jonah. Jehovah, from whom Jonah intends to flee, is Lord of the sea, and the winds are his servants (Psalms 104:4). One of these servants he sends forth in haste into the sea to draw Jonah from his purpose.

Jonah 1:5. The sailors, heathen from different nations, do what behooves honest and prudent men: they pray and resort to the usual precautionary measures, by throwing the wares into the sea, in order to unburden themselves of them. (מעליהם does not refer to the wares, but to the ship’s company (Exodus 18:22).) But he, whom the storm particularly concerns, deems himself secure in the aides of the ship, i. e., in the hold (comp. Amos 6:10; Isaiah 14:15). There he is fast asleep. “Tam quietus est et animi tranquilli, ut ad navis interiora descendens somno placido perfruatur.” (Hieronymus.) The verbs in the last sentence of the verse should be rendered in the pluperfect, as in the last clause of Jonah 1:10. [“Jonah had gone down into the hold, and had there fallen fast asleep.”—C. E.]

[This act of Jonah is regarded by most commentators as a sign of an evil conscience. Marck supposes that he had lain down to sleep, hoping the better to escape either the dangers of sea and air, or the hand of God; others that he had thrown himself down in despair, and being utterly exhausted and giving himself up for lost, had fallen asleep; or as Theodoret expresses it, being troubled with the gnawings of conscience and overpowered with mourning, he had sought comfort in sleep and fallen into a deep sleep. Jerome, on the other hand, expresses the idea that the words indicate “security of mind” on the part of the prophet “he is not disturbed by the storm and the surrounding dangers, but has the same composed mind in the calm, or with shipwreck at hand;” and whilst the rest are calling upon their gods, and casting their things overboard, “he is so calm and feels so safe with his tranquil mind, that he goes down to the interior of the ship and enjoys a most placid sleep.” The truth probably lies between these two views. It was not an evil conscience, or despair occasioned by the threatening of danger, which induced hìm to lie down to sleep; nor was it his fearless composure in the midst of the danger of the storm, but the careless self-security with which he had embarked on the ship to flee from God, without considering that the hand of God could reach him even on the sea, and punish him for his disobedience. This security is apparent in his subsequent conduct.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:5).

Pusey and Cowles intimate that he may have been fatigued by his journey to Joppa, and that “sorrow and remorse completed what fatigue began.”—C. E.]

Jonah 1:6. But God knows where to find each one (comp. Amos 9:2). The captain [חבל collect] came to him and said: What meanest thou, O sleeper? Hieronymus: “Quid tu sopore deprimeris? Vox stupentis et acriter redarguentis, ac si dixisset: quœnam est tibi tanti soporis causa et ratio et excusatio? cum procella somnum omnem satis interdicat et vigiliam exigat periculum?”—Marck.

Arise, pray to thy God. Perhaps God24 will think upon us, think mercifully that we perish not (compare the derivatives of the root עשׁת (Job 12:5; Psalms 146:4). The heathen is obliged to admonish the servant of God of his duty, and to remind him of the fact that his God is a merciful God.

[Pusey quotes from Chrysostom the following passage: “The ship-master 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 upon God.”—C. E.]

Jonah 1:7. But God intends to make a complete exposure of Jonah. [Luther fills up, in an ingenious way, the break in the continuity of thought between Jonah 1:6-7. On a momentary survey of the evil, which he had caused, Jonah was filled with such a pungent feeling of repentance and confusion, that he is speechless from deep compunction, and does not, because of shame, find courage to make an open confession, because he considers the disgrace intolerable. Therefore God must suffer still something more to come to pass, in order to drive him to confession.]25 The lot falls upon him. “Fugitivus hic sorte deprehenditur, non viribus sortium, sed voluntate ejus, qui sortes regebat incertas” (Hieronymus.) [The fugitive is detected by lot, not from any virtue in lots themselves, but by the will of Him, who governs uncertain lots.]

Jonah 1:8. His own confession must convict him, that he intended to flee from a God, of whose wide, unlimited power he could not be ignorant (Matthew 12:37).

[“When Jonah had been singled out by lot as the culprit, the sailors called upon him to confess his guilt, asking him at the same time about his country, his occupation, and his parentage. The repetition of the question, on whose account this calamity had befallen them, which is omitted in the LXX. (Vatican), the Soncin. prophets, and Cod. 195 of Kennicott, is found in the margin in Cod. 384, and is regarded by Grimm and Hitzig as a marginal gloss that has crept into the text. It is not superfluous, however, still less does it occasion any confusion; on the contrary, it is quite in order. The sailors wanted thereby to induce Jonah to confess with his own mouth that he was guilty, now that the lot had fallen upon him, and to disclose his crime (Ros. and others). As an indirect appeal to confess his crime, it prepares the way for the further inquiries as to his occupation, etc. They inquired about his occupation, because it might be a disreputable one, and one which excited the wrath of the gods; also about his parentage, and especially about the land and people from which he sprang, that they might pronounce a safe sentence upon his crime” (Keil and Delitzsch, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:8).

“Questions so thronged have been admired in human poetry,” St. 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 men 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 heathen; not to win them to God, as He commanded; but not knowing what they did, to abet him in his flight.

Jonah 1:9. “Jonah answers the central point to which all these questions tended: ‘I am a 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.” (Pusey, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:8-9.)

“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” (Dr. Gill, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:9).

And I fear Jehovah, the God of heaven, which made the sea and dry land.יָרֵא has been rendered correctly by the LXX. σέβομαι, colo, revereor; and does not mean “I am afraid of Jehovah against whom I have sinned” (Abarbanel). By the statement, “I fear,” etc., he had no intention of describing himself as a righteous or innocent man (Hitzig), but simply meant to indicate his relation to God,—namely, that he adored the living God who created the whole earth, and, as Creator, governed the world. For he admits directly after, that he has sinned against this God, by telling them, as we may see from Jonah 1:10, of his flight from Jehovah. He had not told them as soon as he embarked in the ship, as Hitzig supposes, but does so now for the first time, when they ask about his people, his country, etc., as we may see most unmistakably from Jonah 1:10, b. In Jonah 1:9, Jonah’s statement is not given completely; but the principal fact, namely, that he was a Hebrew and worshipped Jehovah, is followed immediately by the account of the impression which this acknowledgment made upon the heathen sailors; and the confession of his sin is mentioned afterwards as a supplement, to assign the reason for the great fear which came upon the sailors in consequence.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:9.)—C. E.]

Jonah 1:10. The heathen perceive the bearing and extent of this confession. Danger teaches to take heed to the word (Isaiah 28:19). [See the Hebrew and Luther’s German translation of Isaiah 28:19.—C. E.] Great fear of the great God, who pursues them closely [is at their heels] seizes upon them. The second half of the verse is an explanatory clause added by the narrator, from which it is evident that the reply of Jonah (Jonah 1:9), does not give the exact words that he uttered, but only their substance in condensed form. Indeed, if the question (10, a), is admitted to be intelligible, he must have told them of his flight.

[What hast thou done!מַה־זֹּאת עָשִיתָ, is not a question as to the nature of his sin, but an exclamation of horror at his flight from Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth, as the following explanatory clauses, &כִּי יָדְעוּ וגו clearly show. The great fear which came upon the heathen seamen at this confession of Jonah, may be fully explained from the dangerous situation in which they found themselves, since the storm preached the omnipotence of God more powerfully than words could possibly do.” (Keil and Delitsch, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:10.)—C. E.]

Jonah 1:11. Still more evident is it from this verse that Jonah must have told them that he was a servant of God consecrated by a special call; for they do not cast him into the sea immediately, but apply to him with a kind of awe for instructions what to do. Moreover, afterward (Jonah 1:13-14), they exert themselves most strenuously to bring him to land, to preserve his life for the execution of his divine commission; and only when they do not succeed, do they throw him into the sea.26

The participle הֹלֵךְ, Jonah 1:11, frequently stands as an auxiliary verb, with the idea of continuance, increase: the sea continued to rage (2 Samuel 3:1; 2 Samuel 15:12).

Jonah 1:12. Jonah pronounces his own sentence. “Non tergiversatur, non dissimulat, non negat, sed qui confessus erat de fuga pœnam libenter assumit se cupiens perire ne propter se et ceteri pereant.” (Hieronymus.) [He does not refuse, or prevaricate, or deny; but having made confession concerning his flight, he willingly submits to the punishment, desiring to perish, and not [to] let others perish on his account.] With the same resignation, with which the prophets are accustomed to announce the sad fate of their nation, he utters his own sentence as a divine oracle, and joins with the tone of prophecy the promise of deliverance.

Jonah 1:13. The holier he seems to the men, the greater is their dread of putting him to death. Will not God have mercy upon them, if they restore him again to the mission, from which he was intending to escape, if they put him on shore? They row hard [וַיַּחְתְּרוּ, literally, broke through, namely, the surging waves] to bring the ship to dry land; Cyrill: προσκεῖλαι τὴν ναῦν: the object can be omitted as being easily understood, a usage common to the German.27 But they do not succeed. It must be evident to them that the word of the prophet must indeed be accomplished. He is a servant [Mann] of Jehovah, whom they are about to sacrifice; therefore it is natural that they should pray, not to their own gods, but to Jehovah to pardon them because of the victim.

Jonah 1:14.—O Jehovah, we beseech thee, let us not perish for the sake of the soul of this man.אָנָּה has not arisen from אַל־נָא (Keil), whereby a useless accumulation of synonymous words would arise, but it is the usual particle of entreaty, contracted from אתּ־נא,28 which is just as readily joined with positive requests (2 Kings 20:3). The בְּ pretii [the beth of price, reward, exchange.—C. E.] stands here as in Micah 1:5. The added petition, impute not to us innocent blood, does not mean, suffer us not to destroy in this man an innocent person (Hitzig); but נתן אל has the meaning of imputation and retribution. Against them Jonah had done no wrong; with respect to them he is guiltless; and in his mission as a prophet, he stands or falls to his God alone: this they feel; no worldly power has a right to pass sentence upon the prophet of God (Jeremiah 26:19). [נקיא is irregularly written with א, as in Joel. 4:19.] But God showed them that they must serve Him as his executioners. For thou, O Jehovah, hast done as it pleased thee. Thou hast determined it. This is their justification. The lot and the word of the prophet are to them the finger of God.

Jonah 1:15. The prediction of the prophet is fulfilled. The sea stood still [ceased] from its raging.

Jonah 1:16. The result of the fulfilled prophecy is that the fear of God on the part of the heathen manifests itself in action: they offer a sacrifice and make vows,—the sacrifice immediately, the vows for the time of landing.

[According to the Rabbins, Grotius, and some others, they did not actually offer a sacrifice, but only purposed to do it before Jehovah, i. e., at Jerusalem; but it is more natural to conclude that they sacrificed some animal that was on board, and vowed that they would present greater proofs of their gratitude when they returned from their voyage. Michaelis thinks they intended to perform their vows when they reached Spain.

Quin; ubi transmissœ steterint trans æquora classes;

Et positis aris jam vota in litore solves.”—Æneid iii. 403.

Henderson’s Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:16.—C. E.]


See Introduction 3. p. 16.


There is no escape from the Almighty God. For (1.) He has so arranged the world, that the work of every individual is counted upon; and his work is not allowed to stand still, but must be accomplished. Jonah 1:1-2. (2.) Distance is no protection against Him; for to Him belong heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land. Jonah 1:3, f. Jonah 1:9. (3.) To Him the winds and waves are subject; for He has made all things.

Jonah 1:4; Jonah 1:9. (4.) To Him also are subject everywhere, in involuntary fear, the erring hearts of men (Jonah 1:5-6); whoever, then, expects to find in them a refuge against God, is deceived. (5.) Even things seemingly accidental must obey Him, whenever He intends to carry out his purpose.

Jonah 1:7. (6.) Everything, however far from, or near to Him it may be, must finally become an instrument in his hand (Jonah 1:11-15), and coöperate for the glorifying of his name. Jonah 1:16.

Jonah 1:1. Whoever would speak the word of God to others, must have received it himself. For the office of the ministry a regular call is requisite.

Jonah 1:2. Let no man say, that there is, or can be anywhere, a sphere of life so distant, that God can entirely lose sight of it. The Lord has always an eye and a heart for those also, who are without. And he who would be his servant and has not such a heart, is a servant like Jonah, that is, an undutiful one. The sins of Nineveh are not specified. The savage desire for wars and thirst for conquest, which characterized the Assyrians, were certainly sins enough before God; yet there may have been others. God’s call to repentance is always a call of grace; his call of grace always a call to repentance. Jonah and Paul, Romans 1:5.

Jonah 1:3. What God appoints to thee to do, do it without gainsaying. He who gives the burden gives also the shoulders to bear it. He who flees increases the burden. He who flees from God is foolish and commits folly. Jonah must have known in his heart that it is impossible to escape from God (Jonah 1:9). It so happens that if, regardless of Divine direction, we take our own course, we will afterward be obliged to acknowledge ourselves blind and foolish.

Jonah 1:4. Had the Book of Jonah originated from heathen fables, as some assert, the Lord would not have sent the wind upon the sea; but the god of heaven [Jupiter] would have made an alliance with the god of the winds [Æolus] and with the god of the sea [Neptune] against Jonah. How simple and sublime is the religion of the Old Testament! Distress teaches to pray. If thou dost not know and teach this, thou wilt always be a poor comforter. If the Lord seizes thy heart with violent alarms from anguish of conscience, throw thy wares into the sea. What is thine must perish, and if thou dost not surrender it, thou must thyself suffer shipwreck.

Jonah 1:6. It is a sad thing and a bad sign, if the unbelieving, and those in the congregation weak in faith, must tell the minister what becomes him to do. Happy he whose conscience is awakened and quickened by an admonition so shameful to him. Of whom the Lord thinks, him He also helps (Psalms 40:17 (17)). It often occurs that the Lord must say: Verily, I have not found such faith in Israel.

Jonah 1:7. Human means to learn the will of God, in doubtful cases, are in themselves of no avail; but God can make use of them, if there is true earnestness in those who employ them, and if they know no better means (comp. Joshua 7:0). But when men, by means of prayer, can receive the Holy Spirit, then they should seek the will of God, not by lots, but by prayer (Matthew 7:11).

Jonah 1:8. Jonah might purposely have left his birth and vocation in darkness. Whoever engages in his calling with half a soul, likes to avoid confession; he suffers himself to be considered as a heathen, and puts himself on a level with this world. Where the fear of God is not, there is the fear of man. And moreover, the fear of man is most unprofitable. Whoever frankly and honestly, humbly and heartily, acknowledges the Lord among men, will soon discover that it is the phantom offspring of fear to imagine that one will reap from the acknowledgment only disgrace and not a blessing. Such was not even the case among the heathen; for when Jonah made his confession, they honored him (Jonah 1:10-14). Reflect how many souls may be guided by the Lord to thee, to whom, by confession at proper time, thou mayest have it in thy power to render a service for eternity. The commission [of the minister] is not confined to Jerusalem and Bethel, not to the baptismal font and altar, not to the confessional and pulpit, not to canonicals; but it is in thy heart and mouth, and it shall, therefore, never depart from thee (Deuteronomy 30:14).

Jonah 1:13. So has the heathen world also struggled to come to land; but it could not until Christ was buried in death (Romans 1-3).

Jonah 1:15. There are deeds of violence by which God’s will is carried into effect. But it does not, therefore, follow that he who performs them is guiltless; but he stands in need of repentance and forgiveness.

Jonah 1:15-16. This is also a shadow of things to come. O, that it were only come to this,—that all the heathen world would thank God, that death, which swallowed up Christ, has no more power over us.

Luther: Thus God is wont, when his great wrath is at hand, to send his word before and save some. We have now the same grace and great light of the Divine word; therefore it is certain that a great destruction is near; since God intends to rescue some before it comes.

Jonah 1:2. We regard the history with indifference, because we view it from without, and it does not concern us. But should the like occur in our time, we would think that we never yet heard of a more foolish and more impossible thing, than that a single man should enter such an empire, with a proclamation to repent. Now God’s works are wont to appear, at first, so foolish and impossible, that reason must despair of their accomplishment and scoff; but it is well for us to believe, for God accomplishes them.

Jonah 1:3. The ancient holy fathers were especially inclined to exculpate the prophets, apostles, and great saints. But we adhere strictly and inflexibly to the Word of God, and admit that Jonah, in this instance, committed a great sin, on account of which he would have been eternally condemned, had he not, in the number of the elect, been written in the book of life. This is a signal token of grace that God seeks Jonah and punishes him so soon after his sin, and does not suffer him to profit by it, or to continue long therein.

Jonah 1:5. The natural light of reason extends thus far, that it considers God kind, gracious, merciful, and mild. This is a great light; but it fails in two particulars. In the first place, it believes indeed that God has power and knowledge to do, to help, and to give; but that He is willing also to do such things for it, it knows not; therefore it does not continue steadfast in its opinion. In the second place, reason cannot correctly bestow the predicate of Deity upon that being to whom it belongs. It knows that God is; but who and what He is, who has a right to be called God, it knows not. Each one called upon his god, that is, upon the object of his fancy, or that which he considered God; therefore, they were all in error in regard to the only true God.

Jonah 1:7. Where men devoid of understanding are, they set about things in a wrong, perverted way, allow the sin to remain in the mean time, and consider only how they may get rid of their anguish. This does not help: they must consequently despair. But where men of understanding are, they turn away their minds from their anguish and think mostly of their sins; they confess them and get rid of them, though they should remain eternally in anguish, and they resign themselves to it, as Jonah does here.

Jonah 1:10 ff. The faith of Jonah against trials (for that he maintained his faith his deliverance proves): (1.) He takes the sin upon himself from others, and acknowledges that he alone deserved death. (2.) He consents also to be brought to shame before God. (3.) He chooses death, bitter and uncertain. If God so deal with us as to permit us to see life in death, or if He show us the place and abode of our souls, whither they must go and where they must remain, then death would not be bitter, but it would be like a leap over a shallow stream, on both sides of which one feels and sees a firm ground and shore. But now He does not show us here anything of the kind, but we must spring from the firm shore of this life into the abyss. (4.) He bears in death the wrath of God. (5.) More than this, he must die alone; he has none to comfort him; the people in the ship sail away and leave him in the midst of the sea as certainly drowned and lost. (6.) To die simply is not enough: he must yet enter the jaws of the fish.

Starke: Jonah 1:1. Jonah came out of Galilee: that was, therefore, a false declaration of the Pharisees (John 7:52). From this, one sees how pernicious are all deep-rooted prejudices. Whoever will rightly exercise the office of the ministry must indeed be a Jonah, which, translated into English, signifies a dove. He must cherish the simplicity of the dove (Matthew 10:16).

Jonah 1:2. He must also not love ease, but cheerfully and willingly take upon himself toil and hardship. The greater cities are, the greater are their sins. God bears for a long time, and finds with him no unconditional decree for the destruction of the great majority and the election of a small minority.

Jonah 1:3. To rest on the divine will places man in the highest tranquillity. Him who forsakes God and duty, God, on the other hand, forsakes with his grace and assistance.

Jonah 1:4. If we follow our carnal nature [Fleisch und Blut], it will bring us into much company improper for us. It is no small act of kindness, if He punish the sinner severely soon after the commission of his sin. On account of the sin of one man many others often fall into great distress.

Jonah 1:5. It is very proper, in danger, to make use of natural means for preservation.

Jonah 1:6. Even the heathen acknowledged the power of prayer: it is a shame, if many among Christians should doubt it.

Jonah 1:7. So also they acknowledged that there is a God, who rules over the human race, exercises the office of Judge among men, and, in consequence of this, brings the guilty to just punishment.—God has many ways of bringing our sins to light before his face (Psalms 90:8).

Jonah 1:8. None should be condemned without trial. Even the law of nature grants to each one the right of defense. Just as it is a duty and necessity readily and willingly to hear those who bring us to account for our life and conduct, so also ought each Christian, as often as he is accused by his conscience and brought, as it were, before court, to consider the charges of conscience, confess his wrong, and reform.

Jonah 1:9. There is nothing so secret [so fein gesponnen, so finely spun], that it shall not finally come to light (Luke 8:17). Confession of our sins should also be made, that God may be honored and glorified, and that the ignorant and unbelieving may be better instructed.

Jonah 1:10. The fact that the heathen had heard from Jonah, how God held the Ninevites in abhorrence, and would destroy the whole city, with its inhabitants, if they did not repent, may have contributed (for each one could easily make the application to himself) not a little to their fear, which was merely slavish. God never does evil to the sinner, but always good. He also intends all his dealings with him for good. That which delights the sinner is not a true good, but an imaginary shadow: it is not genuine pleasure, but pure disgust [Unlust]. Why then does he sin? God knows how to propagate the true religion miraculously.

Jonah 1:11. In important matters one should undertake nothing without the advice of honest teachers.

Jonah 1:12. It is the nature of love not to seek its own, but rather to suffer harm than to bring others into it; rather to lose its life than to suffer the lives of the innocent to be endangered (John 3:16).—No one should take away his own life, though he may have forfeited it.

Jonah 1:13. Against the divine will no human toil nor labor can prevail.

Jonah 1:14. Though in divine chastisements it is one’s duty to subordinate one’s will to the divine, yet one ought not, on that account, to cease to call upon God for the removal and mitigation of the chastisement.

Jonah 1:15. He who has God for his enemy has all nature for his enemy; but to him who has God for his friend, all creatures bear good will. When God has executed his just sentence, then everything is again at peace.

Jonah 1:16. God permits nothing so evil to come to pass, but that He knows to bring some good out of it; for his counsels are wonderful and He carries them out gloriously. Men should apply divine judgments upon others for the purpose of bringing themselves to a saving knowledge of God.

Pfaff: Jonah 1:2. Great cities, great sins, great judgments; but so much the greater necessity that they be warned by the prophets of the Lord and rebuked by them.

Jonah 1:3. Teacher and preacher must not shun the cross, otherwise they forsake the Lord. Thou also, my soul, must follow the call of God, though He lead thee in the paths of extreme suffering [Kreuzeswege]; and thou must not seek to escape from this call.

Jonah 1:5. Tribulation drives to God, and that is the greatest blessing, which lies hidden in the cross.

Jonah 1:10 ff. A single person can often bring a great calamity and the punishment of God upon a community. Therefore, it is necessary that the authorities watch and punish and remove offenses. We have good reason to entreat God that He will not punish the whole land on account of the ungodly.

Quandt: The book of Jonah is the missionary book of the Old Testament.

Jonah 1:3. There is in the conduct of Jonah a twofold sin,—disobedience to God and flight from God. Even Christians defy their God from dread of disgrace. Errors of the heart draw after them errors of the understanding: from religious perversity spring erroneous opinions. Flight from God is also in our time a widespread folly.

Jonah 1:5. Even the sleep of Jonah belongs to his flight Judas fled still farther, when he hanged himself.

Jonah 1:6. The children of the world have always a feeling that the God of the pious [Christians] is more powerful than what they, in their delusion, reverence and worship.

Jonah 1:8. It is not to be overlooked that Jonah first mentions the sea. The words of Jonah are not so much a confession of faith as a confession of repentance.

Jonah 1:10 ff. When the orator, Cyprian, read the history of the prophet overwhelmed by the waves, his soul was violently agitated: it became a means of his conversion; and the result was that he became an eminent teacher of the church.

F. Lambert: Jonah 1:1. It gives to us miserable sinners great confidence in God that He received, among his servants, David, Jonah, Peter, Paul, and others, notwithstanding they sinned notoriously.

Rieger: Jonah 1:2. Of such as, in their declension, have wandered still farther from God, it is said, “their sins have come up before me; I have heard the cry of them,” etc. But of them who have intimate communion with God, or in the midst of whom the Lord Jesus still walks, it is said, “I know thy works.”

Jonah 1:3. He who has become sensible of his deficiencies, will consider the foolishness of God wiser than all human wisdom, from the fact that, in his word, instead of many notable works, which He might have mentioned as having been achieved by many of his servants, He rather exposes their weaknesses and failings; because not merely brilliant and great examples are necessary for our imitation; but also examples for our encouragement, that we may rouse ourselves from the thoughtlessness of sin, seek forgiveness, and seize the hand of God extended for our recovery. From the circumstance that Jonah immediately found a ship, according to his wish, he obstinately persists in his purpose. But even to a flight undertaken in disobedience, everything in external circumstances may accommodate itself. If a man is in the right way, it must be determined by other indications [than favoring external circumstances.—C. E.]

Hieronymus: Jonah 1:4. Great is he who flees in this instance; but still greater is He who pursues him.

Schmieder: Jonah 1:5. Jonah is in a quiet, concealed corner of the ship. He shunned the light.

Augustine: Jonah 1:9. Si homo velat, Deus revelat. Si homo tegit, Deus detegit. Si homo agnoscit, Deus ignoscit.

Rieger: Jonah 1:10 ff. The entire connection of events revealed God’s just displeasure at the flight of Jonah; but at the same time it must have prepared him for the future courageous execution of his mission. For the fact that Jonah found such abundant evidence that a deep impression of the fear of God had been produced in the consciences of these strange people, and that great earnestness in calling upon God had been awakened in them, must have been adapted to prepare him to undertake, with less reluctance, the commission to preach against a strange city. The godly sorrow and repentance, which Jonah experienced, produced in him also the legitimate revenge (2 Corinthians 7:11), for he said: take me and cast me into the sea. Yet he does not throw himself into the sea. Such a difference is found between an awakened and a despairing conscience.

Schlier: Jonah 1:15. He chose the sea for himself instead of going to Nineveh: the sea detained him by the hand of the Lord: the sea was the place into which the hand of the Lord plunged him for punishment.

Schmieder: Jonah 1:16. This was not a genuine conversion to God; had it been, they would have abandoned forever the worship of all other gods beside Jehovah, and not merely honored Him, together with their gods, with offerings.

[Calvin: Jonah 1:2. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it. God designed in this way to try Jonah, whether he would prefer his command to all the hindrances of the world. And it is a genuine proof of obedience, when we simply obey God, however numerous the obstacles which may meet us and may be suggested to our minds, and though no escape may appear to us; yea, when we follow God, as it were, with closed eyes, wherever He may lead us, and doubt not but that He will add strength to us, and stretch forth also His hand, whenever need may require, to remove all our difficulties.

Jonah 1:3. All flee away from the presence of God, who do not willingly obey his commandments.

Jonah 1:4. Though the Lord may involve many men in the same punishment, when He especially intends to pursue only one man, yet there is never wanting a reason why He might not call before his tribunal any one of us, even such as appear the most innocent.

Jonah 1:5. Hardly any religion appears in the world, when God leaves us in an undisturbed condition.

This passage teaches, that men are constrained by necessity to seek God; so also, on the other hand, it shows that men go astray in seeking God, except they are directed by celestial truth, and also by the Spirit of God.

Marckius:30 Jonah 1:3 God not only suffers the wicked to advance prosperously in their sins, but does not immediately, restore the godly in their declensions; nay, He gives them every facility for a time in their downward course, in order that they may know themselves more, and that the glory of God may become thereby more manifest. Foolish then is the sinner, who, having begun life prosperously, concludes that the end will be equally happy.

Jonah 1:6. We see in this instance the great danger in which unconscious sinners are often involved, that the solace sought by them departs from them, that a dead sleep remains, and even increases under God’s judgment, and that in the performance of duty the godly are sometimes more slothful than the ungodly.

The servants of God are sometimes surpassed, reproved, and stimulated, by those far below them, yea, even by brute animals: a salutary admonition, from whatever quarter it may come, ought never to be despised.

Matthew Henry: Jonah 1:3. Providence seemed, to favor his design, and gave him an opportunity to escape: we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with a favorable gale. The ready way is not always the right way.

Ver 6. If the professors of religion do an ill thing, they may expect to hear of it from those who make no such profession.

Pusey: Jonah 1:5. God, whom they ignorantly, worshipped, 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.

A heathen 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 at itself; but Satan, if he can, cuts off its retreat. Jonah had no retreat now, unless God had made one.—C. E.]


[1][Jonah 1:1.—יוֹנָה, Jonah, signifies a dove.

[2][Jonah 1:1.—אֲמִתַּי, Amittai, means veracious, or truthful.

[3][Jonah 1:2.—קוּם, arise, used before another verb as a term of excitement.

[4][Jonah 1:2.—קָרָא, cry, proclaim in the manner of a herald, or prophet.

[5][Jonah 1:2.—כּי, for, may be used here as the relative conjunction that; but it probably assigns a reason for the command, and hence it is rendered because.

[6][Jonah 1:3.—אְָנִיָּה, ship, generally any large merchant-ship.

[7][Jonah 1:4.—הֵטִיל, Hiphil of טוּל, to throw down at full length, to prostrate.

[8][Jonah 1:4.—תִשְּׁבָה להִשָּׁבֵר, used metaphorically of inanimate things; to be about to do, or suffer: the ship was about to be broken, was on the point of foundering. Gesenius’ Heb. Lex. sub תָשַׁב.

[9][Jonah 1:5.—הַמַּלָּחִים, the mariners, from מֶלַח, salt, the quality of the water which they navigate.

[10][Jonah 1:5.—כֵלִ ם, vessels, a general term comprehending wares. The suffix חֶם refers to the persons, not to the wares.

[11][Jonah 1:5.—יַרְכְּתֵי הַסְּפִינָה, the sides, or two sides of the vessel. Sephinah is derived from Saphan, to cover: it signifies a decked vessel.

[12][Jonah 1:6.—רַב הַחֹבֵל, the master of the rope-men.

[13][Jonah 1:6.—הָֽאֱלֹהים, the god, with the article.

[14][Jonah 1:7.—בְּשֶׁלְּמִי, for that which is to whom: compounded of the preposition ב, the relative pronoun שׁ, contracted from אֲשֶׁר, the preposition ל, and the interrogative מִי.

[15][Jonah 1:8.—The words בַּאֲשֶר לְמִי הָרָעָה הַזּאֹת לָנוּ, are omitted in two of Kennicott’s MSS. in the Soncin. edition of the prophets, and in the Vatican copy of the LXX.: and Kennicott’s MS. 154, omits לְמִי. Henderson.

[16][Jonah 1:10.—מַה־זּאֹת עִשִׂיתָ, What is this thou hast done! not, why hast thou done this?

[17][Jonah 1:11.—הוֹלֵךְ, going, סֹעֵר, tossing: they are both participles.

[18][Jonah 1:12.—בְשֶׁלִּי, on my account, compounded of the preposition ב, the relative שׁ, contracted as in v. 7, the preposition ל, and the pronominal suffix י.

[19][Jonah 1:13.—וַיַּתְתְּרוּ, broke through. תָתַר signifies to break through a wall, and metaphorically to break through the waves.

[20][Jonah 1:14.—בְּנֶפֶשׁ, for the sake of the soul, or life, as in 2 Samuel 14:7. See also Deuteronomy 19:21.—C. E.]

[21][Herodotus mentions Nineveh, Book I. 103, 106, 185, 193; Book II. 150.—C. E.]

[22][“The motive of his flight was not fear of the difficulty of carrying out the command of God, but, as Jonah himself says in Jonah 4:2, anxiety lest the compassion of God should spare the sinful city in the event of its repenting. He had no wish to coöperate in this; and that not merely because ‘he knew by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the repentance of the Gentiles would be the ruin of the Jews, and as a lover of his country, was actuated not so much by envy of the salvation of Nineveh, as by unwillingness that his own people should perish,’ as Jerome supposes, but also because he really grudged salvation to the Gentiles and feared lest their conversion to the living God should infringe upon the privileges of Israel above the Gentile world, and put an end to its election as the nation of God.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Com. on Jonah, Jonah 1:3, and note at the bottom of the page.)—C. E.]

[23][Calvin is of the opinion that Tarshish means Cilicia, the principal city of which was Tarsus, the native place of the Apostle Paul. But it is now generally agreed that it was Tarshish in Spain. The name occurs in Genesis 10:4, among the sons of Javan, who are supposed to have peopled the southern parts of Europe (comp. Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 66:19). In Ezekiel 27:12, and Jeremiah 10:9, it is mentioned as sending to Tyre silver, iron, tin, and lead. It is mentioned in Isaiah, chap. 23. in connection with Tyre. In several passages of the Bible, “ships of Tarshish” are spoken of, especially in connection with Tyre. The name is probably of Phœnician origin.—C. E.]

[24][The Hebrew is הָאֱלֹהִם, the God. The German retains the article, Der Gott. Pusey: “He does not call Jonah’s God, thy God, as Darius says to Daniel, thy God, but also the God, acknowledging the God whom Jonah worshipped to be the God.”—C. E.]

[25][Though it does not appear that Jonah confessed his sin to the captain of the ship, yet there is no reason to doubt that he obeyed the awakening call (Jonah 1:6).—C. E.]

[26][Perhaps it is too much to assume that the strenuous efforts of the sailors were put forth principally to effect the landing of the fugitive prophet; they had regard to their own safety, as the casting of Jonah into the sea proves.—C. E.]

[27][The literal translation of the Hebrew is, “They rowed hard to bring to the dry land.” The object of the verb rendered to bring, namely, ship, is omitted.—C. E.]

[28][See Henderson’s Com. on Jonah, 1:14, and Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon, s. v.—C. E.]

[29][For the heading of this part of the Commentary, Kleinert has chosen the compound word Reichsgedanken, which means thoughts connected with the history and development of the kingdom of God. His reasons for choosing this term in preference to dogmatisch-ethische Grundge danken are given in the Preface, pp. vi., vii.—C. E.]

[30][These extracts from Marckius are taken from the notes appended to Calvin’s Commentary on Jonah.—C. E.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.