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by Editor - Joseph S. Exell
The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic
ON THE BOOKS OF THE
By the REV. JAMES WOLFENDALE
Author of the Commentaries on Deuteronomy and Chronicles
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
LONDON AND TORONTO
ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES, INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS
INTRODUCTION. Jonah was the author and is the principal subject of the book which bears his name. He was the son of Amittai, born at Gath-Hepher, a village of Zebulun (2 Kings 14:25), and lived in the reign of Jeroboam II. In his youth he was probably contemporary with Elisha, and afterward with Hosea and Amos, prophets of the kingdom of the ten tribes. He prophesied when Israel were oppressed by Syria. “The word of Jonah to Jeroboam appears as the last sun-gleam with which Jehovah’s countenance had beamed on Israel” [Baumgarten]. Living among the revolted tribes, testifying to their iniquity and the patience of God, he never thought of exercising his ministry among the heathen. The commission to Nineveh was a special and extraordinary event. In love with his own country and prejudiced against others, he naturally shrunk from it. (Jonah = a dove.) In his sentiments he is an image of the people to whom he belonged. Like him they declined to fulfil their commission to the Gentiles, but had to obey and set forth the mercy of God to the heathen world. The events of his life were not myths, but realities, and typical of the Saviour’s death and resurrection, the great facts of our redemption (Matthew 12:40; Luke 11:30).
The Book is a simple narrative, with the exception of (ch. 2) a prayer or thanksgiving. This prayer contains imagery—peculiar to itself, and ideas which would naturally be suggested to a Jew in danger (cf. Psalms 42:5-9). The style is vivid and vigorous. “It is pure and simple Hebrew, corresponding to the simplicity of the narrative and the Prophet’s character. Although written in prose, it has poetic language, not in the thanksgiving only, but whenever it suits the subject. The thought of the verb is carried on by a noun formed from it. ‘The men feared great fear,’ &c. But in the narrative every phrase is vivid and graphic. There is not a word which does not advance the history. There is no reflection. All hastens on to the completion, and when God has given the key to the whole, the book closes, with His words of exceeding tenderness lingering in our ears” [Pusey]. The design of Jonah’s mission partakes of the Christian character. For when we see that he is sent not only to carry the tidings of the Divine judgment, but also to exemplify the grant of Divine mercy to a great heathen city; that is, to be a preacher of repentance; and that the repentance of the Ninevites through his mission brings them to know “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenting Him of the evil” (Jonah 4:2); without staying to discuss whether all this be a formal type of the genius of the Christian religion, it is plainly a real example of some of its chief properties, in the manifested efficacy of repentance, the grant of pardon, and the communication of God’s mercy to the heathen world [Davison on Prophecy, pp. 200, 201]. The book of Jonah is like a beautiful rainbow of hope set by God’s hand in the dark cloud of sin and suffering. It shows that whatever judgments are executed by him on his bitterest enemies, are not consequences of any desire on his part to punish, but are due to their sins, evoking and arming the Divine justice against themselves [Wordsworth].
the Fifth Week after Epiphany