Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jonah 1:3

But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord . So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord .
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Backsliders;   Commerce;   Confidence;   Jonah;   Joppa;   Minister, Christian;   Ship;   Tarshish;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Disobedience to God;   Missionary Work by Ministers;   Ships;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ship;   Tarshish;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Joppa;   Palestine;   Tarshish;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Presence of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Japho;   Joppa;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Japho;   Jonah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Joppa;   Tarshish;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jonah;   Tarshish (1);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Joppa ;   Tarshish, Tharshish;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Joppa;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Tarshish;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ja'pho;   Tar'shish;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Commerce;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Fare;   Jonah, the Book of;   Joppa;   Sea, the Great;   Ships and Boats;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jaffa;   Tarshish;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

To flee unto Tarshish - Some say Tartessus, in Spain, near the straits of Gibraltar, others, Tarsus, in Cilicia; and others, Taprobana, or the island of Ceylon, formerly called Taprobah; and Tabrobavagh in Sanscrit, to the present day.

And went down to Joppa - This place is celebrated as that where Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus, was chained to a rock, and exposed to be devoured by a sea-monster, from which she was delivered by the valor of Perseus. It is the nearest port to Jerusalem on that side of the Mediterranean.

And he found a ship - The Phoenicians carried on a considerable trade with Tartessus, Ezekiel 27:12; and it was probably in one of their ships that Jonah embarked.

He paid the fare thereof - He paid for his passage. This shows that there was traffic between the two places, and that each passenger paid a stated fare.

From the presence of the Lord - He considered that God was peculiarly resident in Judea; and if he got out of that land, the Lord would most probably appoint another prophet to carry the message; for Jonah appears to have considered the enterprise as difficult and dangerous, and therefore wished to avoid it.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But (And) Jonah rose up to flee … from the presence of the Lord - literally “from being before the Lord.” Jonah knew well, that man could not escape from the presence of God, whom he knew as the Self-existing One, He who alone is, the Maker of heaven, earth and sea. He did not “flee” then “from His presence,” knowing well what David said Psalm 139:7, Psalm 139:9-10, “whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me.” Jonah fled, not from God‘s presence, but from standing before him, as His servant and minister. He refused God‘s service, because, as he himself tells God afterward Jonah 4:2, he knew what it would end in, and he misliked it.

So he acted, as people often do, who dislike God‘s commands. He set about removing himself as far as possible from being under the influence of God, and from the place where he “could” fulfill them. God commanded him to go to Nineveh, which lay northeast from his home; and he instantly set himself to flee to the then furthermost west. Holy Scripture sets the rebellion before us in its full nakedness. “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah, go to Nineveh, and Jonah rose up;” he did something instantly, as the consequence of God‘s command. He “rose up,” not as other prophets, to obey, but to disobey; and that, not slowly nor irresolutely, but “to flee, from” standing “before the Lord.” He renounced his office. So when our Lord came in the flesh, those who found what He said to be “hard sayings,” went away from Him, “and walked no more with Him” John 6:66. So the rich “young man went away sorrowful Matthew 19:22, for he had great possessions.”

They were perhaps afraid of trusting themselves in His presence; or they were ashamed of staying there, and not doing what He said. So men, when God secretly calls them to prayer, go and immerse themselves in business; when, in solitude, He says to their souls something which they do not like, they escape His Voice in a throng. If He calls them to make sacrifices for His poor, they order themselves a new dress or some fresh sumptuousness or self-indulgence; if to celibacy, they engage themselves to marry immediately; or, contrariwise, if He calls them not to do a thing, they do it at once, to make an end of their struggle and their obedience; to put obedience out of their power; to enter themselves on a course of disobedience. Jonah, then, in this part of his history, is the image of those who, when God calls them, disobey His call, and how He deals with them, when he does not abandon them. He lets them have their way for a time, encompasses them with difficulties, so that they shall “flee back from God displeased to God appeased.”

“The whole wisdom, the whole bliss, the whole of man lies in this, to learn what God wills him to do, in what state of life, calling, duties, profession, employment, He wills him to serve Him.” God sent each one of us into the world, to fulfill his own definite duties, and, through His grace, to attain to our own perfection in and through fulfilling them. He did not create us at random, to pass through the world, doing whatever self-will or our own pleasure leads us to, but to fulfill His will. This will of His, if we obey His earlier calls, and seek Him by prayer, in obedience, self-subdual, humility, thoughtfulness, He makes known to each by His own secret drawings, and, in absence of these, at times by His Providence or human means. And then, “to follow Him is a token of predestination.” It is to place ourselves in that order of things, that pathway to our eternal mansion, for which God created us, and which God created for us.

So Jesus says John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand.” In these ways, God has foreordained for us all the graces which we need; in these, we shall be free from all temptations which might be too hard for us, in which our own special weakness would be most exposed. Those ways, which people choose out of mere natural taste or fancy, are mostly those which expose them to the greatest peril of sin and damnation. For they choose them, just because such pursuits flatter most their own inclinations, and give scope to their natural strength and their moral weakness. So Jonah, disliking a duty, which God gave him to fulfill, separated himself from His service, forfeited his past calling, lost, as far as in him lay, his place among “the goodly fellowship of the prophets,” and, but for God‘s overtaking grace, would have ended his days among the disobedient. As in Holy Scripture, David stands alone of saints, who had been after their calling, bloodstained; as the penitent robber stands alone converted in death; as Peter stands singly, recalled after denying his Lord; so Jonah stands, the one prophet, who, having obeyed and then rebelled, was constrained by the overpowering providence and love of God, to return and serve Him.

“Being a prophet, Jonah could not be ignorant of the mind of God, that, according to His great Wisdom and His unsearchable judgments and His untraceable and incomprehensible ways, He, through the threat, was providing for the Ninevites that they should not suffer the things threatened. To think that Jonah hoped to hide himself in the sea and elude by flight the great Eye of God, were altogether absurd and ignorant, which should not be believed, I say not of a prophet, but of no other sensible person who had any moderate knowledge of God and His supreme power. Jonah knew all this better than anyone, that, planning his flight, he changed his place, but did not flee God. For this could no man do, either by hiding himself in the bosom of the earth or depths of the sea or ascending (if possible) with wings into the air, or entering the lowest hell, or encircled with thick clouds, or taking any other counsel to secure his flight.

This, above all things and alone, can neither be escaped nor resisted, God. When He willeth to hold and grasp in His Hand, He overtaketh the swift, baffleth the intelligent, overthroweth the strong, boweth the lofty, tameth rashness, subdueth might. He who threatened to others the mighty Hand of God, was not himself ignorant of nor thought to flee, God. Let us not believe this. But since he saw the fall of Israel and perceived that the prophetic grace would pass over to the Gentiles, he withdrew himself from the office of preaching, and put off the command.” “The prophet knoweth, the Holy Spirit teaching him, that the repentance of the Gentiles is the ruin of the Jews. A lover then of his country, he does not so much envy the deliverance of Nineveh, as will that his own country should not perish. - Seeing too that his fellow-prophets are sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to excite the people to repentance, and that Balaam the soothsayer too prophesied of the salvation of Israel, he grieveth that he alone is chosen to be sent to the Assyrians, the enemies of Israel, and to that greatest city of the enemies where was idolatry and ignorance of God. Yet more he feared lest they, on occasion of his preaching, being converted to repentance, Israel should be wholly forsaken. For he knew by the same Spirit whereby the preaching to the Gentiles was entrusted to him, that the house of Israel would then perish; and he feared that what was at one time to be, should take place in his own time.” “The flight of the prophet may also be referred to that of man in general who, despising the commands of God, departed from Him and gave himself to the world, where subsequently, through the storms of ill and the wreck of the whole world raging against him, he was compelled to feel the presence of God, and to return to Him whom he had fled. Whence we understand, that those things also which men think for their good, when against the will of God, are turned to destruction; and help not only does not benefit those to whom it is given, but those too who give it, are alike crushed. As we read that Egypt was conquered by the Assyrians, because it helped Israel against the will of God. The ship is emperiled which had received the emperiled; a tempest arises in a calm; nothing is secure, when God is against us.”

Tarshish - , named after one of the sons of Javan, Genesis 10:4. was an ancient merchant city of Spain, once proverbial for its wealth (Psalm 72:10. Strabo iii. 2. 14), which supplied Judaea with silver Jeremiah 10:9, Tyre with “all manner of riches,” with iron also, tin, lead. Ezekiel 27:12, Ezekiel 27:25. It was known to the Greeks and Romans, as (with a harder pronunciation) Tartessus; but in our first century, it had either ceased to be, or was known under some other name. Ships destined for a voyage, at that time, so long, and built for carrying merchandise, were naturally among the largest then constructed. “Ships of Tarshish” corresponded to the “East-Indiamen” which some of us remember. The breaking of “ships of Tarshish by the East Wind” Psalm 48:7 is, on account of their size and general safety, instanced as a special token of the interposition of God.

And went down to Joppa - Joppa, now Jaffa (Haifa), was the one well-known port of Israel on the Mediterranean. There the cedars were brought from Lebanon for both the first and second temple 2 Chronicles 3:16; Ezra 2:7. Simon the Maccabee (Luke 10:30. He “went down” from the place which God honored by His presence and protection.

And he paid the fare thereof - Jonah describes circumstantially, how he took every step to his end. He went down, found a strongly built ship going where he wished, paid his fare, embarked. He seemed now to have done all. He had severed himself from the country where his office lay. He had no further step to take. Winds and waves would do the rest. He had but to be still. He went, only to be brought back again.

“Sin brings our soul into much senselessness. For as those overtaken by heaviness of head and drunkenness, are borne on simply and at random, and, be there pit or precipice or whatever else below them, they fall into it unawares; so too, they who fall into sin, intoxicated by their desire of the object, know not what they do, see nothing before them, present or future. Tell me, Fleest thou the Lord? Wait then a little, and thou shalt learn from the event, that thou canst not escape the hands of His servant, the sea. For as soon as he embarked, it too roused its waves and raised them up on high; and as a faithful servant, finding her fellow-slave stealing some of his master‘s property, ceases not from giving endless trouble to those who take him in, until she recover him, so too the sea, finding and recognizing her fellow-servant, harasses the sailors unceasingly, raging, roaring, not dragging them to a tribunal but threatening to sink the vessel with all its unless they restore to her, her fellow-servant.”

“The sinner “arises,” because, will he, nill he, toil he must. If he shrinks from the way of God, because it is hard, he may not yet be idle. There is the way of ambition, of covetousness, of pleasure, to be trodden, which certainly are far harder. ‹We wearied ourselves (Psalm 107:23-27. “They who go down to the sea of this world, and do business in mighty waters - their soul melteth away because of trouble; they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man, and all their wisdom is swallowed up.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Jonah 1:3

But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish.

The refusal to obey a God-given charge

Jonah sullenly resolved not to obey God’s voice. What a glimpse into the prophetic office that gives us! The Divine Spirit could be resisted, and the prophet was no mere machine, but a living man who had to consent with his devoted will to bear the burden of the Lord. One refused, and his refusal teaches us how superb and self-sacrificing was the faithfulness of the rest. Jonah represents the national feelings which he shared. He refused because he feared success. God’s goodness was being stretched rather too far if it was going to take in Nineveh. His was the spirit of the prodigal’s elder brother. Israel was set among the nations, not as a dark lantern, but as the great candlestick in the temple court proclaimed, to ray out light to all the world. Jonah’s mission was but a concrete instance of Israel’s charge. All sorts of religious exclusiveness, contemptuous estimates of other nations, and that bastard patriotism which would keep national blessings for our own country alone, are condemned by this story. Note the fatal consequences of refusal to obey the God-given charge. Jonah only meant to escape from service. The storm is described with a profusion of unusual words, all apparently technical terms, picked up on board. No wonder that the fugitive prophet slunk down into some dark corner, and sat bitterly brooding there, self-accused and condemned, till weariness and the relief of the tension of his journey lulled him to sleep. It was a stupid and heavy sleep. Over against the picture of the insensible prophet is set the behaviour of the heathen sailors, or “salts,” as the story calls them. Their conduct is part of the lesson of the book. Their treatment of Jonah is generous and chivalrous. They are so much touched by the whole incident that they offer sacrifices to the God of the Hebrews, and are, in some sense, and possibly but for a time, worshippers of Him. All this holds up the mirror to Israel, by showing how much of human kindness and generosity, and how much of susceptibility for the truth which Israel had to declare, lay in rude hearts beyond its pale. Jonah’s conduct in the storm is no less noble than his former conduct had been base. The burst of the tempest blew all the fog from his mind, and he saw the stars again. His confession of faith; his calm conviction that he was the cause of the storm; his quiet, unhesitating command to throw him into the wild chaos foaming about the ship; his willing acceptance of death as the wages of his sin--all tell how true a saint he was in the depths of his soul. The miracle of rescue is the last point. Jonah’s repentance saved his life. The wider lesson of the means of making chastisement into blessing, and securing a way of escape--namely, by owning the justice of the stroke, and returning to duty--is meant for us all. The ever-present providence of God, the possible safety of the nation, even when in captivity, the preservation of every servant of God who turns to the Lord in his chastisement, the exhibition of penitence as the way of deliverance, are the purposes for which the miracle was wrought and told. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Jonah’s soft-will

The main features of the ease are clear, and from these we draw the principles and lessons to be enforced. On the one hand, there is a Divine commission and command distinctly and authoritatively given, with some of the reasons for it annexed, although with others certainly not fully revealed. On the other hand, there is a state of reluctance and suspense ever verging towards actual disobedience--expressing itself, now in remonstrance, now in request for exemption, now in moody and distrustful silence. The situation is none so rare. The principles involved, and the lessons arising, are for all time. The supreme and unchallengeable obligation of the Divine will when clearly expressed. There can be no higher obligation to man or angel than that. That will is always in harmony with the eternal principles of truth and goodness. When God “speaks” to a servant, there can be no pretence for delay or non-compliance, much less for disobedience. Obedience, promptly, fully given, is the most beautiful thing that walks the earth. Prompt and simple obedience, when we are sure that God speaks, is the way to clearness, virtue, honour, strength, safety, and peace.

2. The exceeding danger of a mood of hesitation or remonstrance. We should watch with great self-jealousy the moral hesitations of the will, and the silent petitionings for delay or exemption. All such heart movements are fraught with peril. Divine light is given for “walking” and “working.” In most, if not all of the critical moments of life, duty is revealed very quickly, and made very plain and clear. In matters of expediency and prudence, wait for the afterthoughts. In matters of conscience and present duty, take the first thoughts that arise, for they are the Divinest. Happy is he whose action is as quick as the impulse that calls for it! whose daily obedience has in it the fresh colours of newborn convictions! whose feet sound the echo of God’s “Arise”! (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Jonah’s motive in his flight

This dereliction of duty could not arise from imperfect acquaintance with God’s will. That is nowhere intimated in the narrative. It was deliberate disobedience.

1. The arduousness of the duty may have been one cause of the sin. He shrank from the service because of the hardships he supposed to be involved in it. He thought of the journey; of the probable reception of his message by the Ninevites; and of possible violence done to himself by them. If God calls to arduous duty, He is prepared to give all needed grace for doing it.

2. The mortification of his own vanity. God’s mercy and forbearance on repentance Jonah feared would be a personal dishonour to him as a prophet. Rather than subject himself to the possibility of such mortification Jonah chose to decline the duty altogether. This motive argues a painful obtuseness of right human feelings. Learn--

1. In the prosecution of arduous and self-denying duties to seek the help of God, and not throw off our responsibilities by shunning them. Responsibility can only be met by the conscientious discharge of duty. Human nature often shrinks, as Jonah did, from this duty, but let us be faithful to God, and depend on Him for strength and blessing.

2. And let us discharge all our obligations to our fellew-men from a sincere desire to benefit them and please God. Let us not mingle personal vanity with any of our religious endeavours, nor be too anxious about our fame and reputation. Our record is on high, our judgment is with our God. (Thomas Harding.)

Jonah’s soft-persuasions to disobedience

How did he persuade himself to enter on a course of disobedience to the Divine will so open and declared?

1. It was a long way.

2. The thing to be done was very difficult.

3. It would be natural that he should despair of any great success.

4. He may have thought that, in the event of attaining a spiritual success, failure must come in another way. His own reputation would suffer. Over-consciousness of personal character, and over-carefulness for the Divine honour, were not of old, are not now so very uncommon.

5. The prophet had some dark forecast of evil to his own country from the probable turn which matters would take, if his mission at Nineveh should be successful. We cannot pass any severe and overwhelming judgment on Jonah. There is too much reason to fear that his kind of disobedience is not at all uncommon. Far oftener than many suppose, great and gifted spirits have shrunk back from great responsibilities. See cases of Moses, Gideon, etc. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The story of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is a prophetic history. It sets forth in object-lessons truths which bring us very near to the heart of the Gospel.

I. The scorned message of mercy. The prophet was the recipient of a Divine message. He was to declare to the people of Nineveh their sins, and summon them to repentance. This should have been an acceptable and agreeable duty. Why should Jonah have closed his ear against the Divine Word, shut up his heart against compassion for Nineveh, and fled from his duty? The answer uncovers at once God’s compassion and Jonah’s sin. Jonah’s fault lay in narrowing the compassion of Jehovah, and exaggerating the claims of the chosen people. His pride of race overrode his humanity; his sectarian zeal consumed his charity.

1. What shall we say of one who refuses to enter upon a work of salvation such as this? Jonah sinned against God and humanity.

2. If we seek downward for the tap-root of Jonah’s fault, where do we find it? In false views of God’s nature.

3. There are still men and women--good but misguided people--who hold that the salvation of God is limited to their Church. In the light of Jonah’s story, we may regard all such people with sincere pity, even while we condemn their presumptuous bigotry.

II. The sinner pursued by God. If God is com passionate, He is also just. He pities Nineveh, but He punishes Jonah. He pursues the offending prophet with a rod of judgment. If we suppose that Jonah’s sleep was one of self-security, we may imagine the sharp awakening to the sad truth of his condition.

III. A verdict of the self-condemned. The behaviour of the ship’s crew at the climax of the storm presents an interesting study. We are insensibly drawn to these rough pagan mariners. We respect their manhood, we praise their virtues, we pity their gropings after truth and duty, and long that they and such as they might have knowledge of the one sufficient atonement for sin. We are drawn with even tenderer sympathy to Jonah. He stands there on the tossing deck, self-condemned indeed, but his whole attitude is noble. His fault has risen upon him at once in its full magnitude. He neither denies nor extenuates it; he confesses it fully, and he offers himself in atonement therefor. No wonder that the sailors, profoundly touched by Jonah’s act, struggled to the verge of hope ere they could find heart to sacrifice this man.

1. We see here a wonderful illustration of the force of conscience when it is once awakened within the breast.

2. We have here a fine example of the operation of a genuine repentance. What must have beer the influence of this experience upon Jonah’s after preaching?

IV. Burial in the deep. The miracle consisted not so much in the fact that Jonah was swallowed alive, as that he was kept alive within the fish for three days. We must place this miracle upon the same footing as other Scripture miracles. Our Lord teaches that this burial and resurrection was a sign of His own burial and resurrection (Matthew 12:40-41). (Henry C. M’Cook, D. D.)

The prophet’s disobedience, and what came of his flight from duty

Jonah must have been a contemporary, or near successor, of Elisha.

I. His disobedience and flight from God’s presence. All men at least try to believe that they have good reasons for their disobedience. What was Jonah’s? Told in John 4:2. It was thought that God was specially present in Israel. If he left the country he would not be at hand to be sent on missions. His fleeing was a way of resigning his prophetic office. Have none of us ever done as Jonah did? When God calls to service or duty, do we never go another way? How easy to fancy that, by some means, we can escape the Divine presence!

II. His arrest and exposure. Thus far all had seemed to go well with the renegade prophet. For a time the Lord allowed him to have his way. And so He does with us all. If one chooses to run from duty, to decline service, to defer obedience, God does not ordinarily interpose to prevent his doing it. The downward way is commonly broad and smooth for a time. But, happily for us, God often finds means for the arrest of the disobedient. In the case of the fleeing prophet, He made use of the tempest. All sorts of persons pray in those great emergencies, which prove to us how utterly powerless we are. There is a feeling, which seems native to the human heart, that behind all physical ills there is a moral cause. Troubles come out of sin. These seamen, imagining, as it is so common to imagine, that unusual calamity is proof of unusual guilt, jumped to the conclusion that their present peril was due to the presence of some flagrant wrong-doer. They thought that, by means of the lot, the culprit might be detected. The lot fell on Jonah. In so unlikely a way his sin had found him out.

III. His confession and surrender. Crowding about this mysterious stranger, the questions of the sailors fell fast and thick. They wanted to have his whole story. Jonah made frank and full confession. There was no self-justification, but a declaration that God is to be reverenced and feared. And he put himself into God’s hands. Understanding, as a prophet, that only by casting him into the sea could the tempest be stayed, he humbly, submissively, bowed his will to God’s. It is precisely that spirit of penitence and trust which ever marks one as a sure subject of that mercy which, whatever befalls the body, saves the soul unto the life ever lasting.

IV. His chastisement and preservation. It is clear that Jonah’s conduct had won the respect of the seamen, and touched their hearts. They would save him if they could. Jonah’s preaching and conduct had convinced them of the true faith; for soon we find them offering sacrifice and making vows unto the Lord. True penitence does not save from present and outward ills. The forgiven still need correction, Note the blending of the providential and the miraculous in the story. Having brought a self-willed servant to account and repentance, and administered needed correction, it was the Lord’s will to restore Jonah to the place he had deserted. The chief practical lesson is the great folly of attempting to escape the service or duty to which God may call us. To obey is easier than to flee. There are crosses and hardships in the way of obedience, but they are far lighter than those which are sure to overtake unbelief and self-will. (Sermons by Monday Club.)

Jonah’s failure

Jonah was unwilling to execute his commission;--not under a humble sense of unworthiness and insufficiency;--this would have made him earnest in prayer to God for the courage and strength in which he felt himself to be deficient. This would, in fact, have been the very best qualification for the work assigned him: such feelings and such qualifications we find in Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, but he shrunk from it, through a distrust of God, and a dread of the consequences. His faith in God failed; and then, what did he foresee at Nineveh, but ridicule, and bonds, and death? Perhaps, too, he was living in the enjoyment of comforts, which he must forego, for the chance only of returning from his perilous expedition. It seems, too, that he was apprehensive that the labour and peril might be encountered by him for nothing; for that, after all, the mercy of God would spare the Ninevites, and then some might pour contempt on his predictions. His motives were probably mixed: some of them might not be known to himself; for, having resolved to disobey God, he yielded himself to the power of Satan, who would pour darkness and perplexity into his mind, and would probably succeed at last in persuading him that his offence was far from heinous, and that the severity of the trial would almost excuse his sinning. Possibly he set against this act of disobedience his former zealous exertions in the cause of God; he excused his present cowardice by his former boldness--his present love of ease, by his former self-denial and endurance of injuries. Thus, while he regarded his own credit and ease and safety more than the honour of God and the deliverance of the Ninevites, he deserted his post. Let us not condemn him; but ask ourselves, before God, how we should have acted in the same circumstances. (Matthew M. Preston, M. A.)

Faithless to a high vocation

Though the Israelites were the elect people, the mercy of God was continually extending itself beyond them. He would from time to time send prophets and messengers to turn them from their idols, to reveal to them the knowledge of Himself, and bring them to repentance. Jonah resisted the call of God, and refused to go to Nineveh. Why did he refuse to go? Because he thought God would spare the Ninevites after he, His prophet, had proclaimed their ruin, and he shrank from the supposed humiliation of appearing in their eyes a false prophet. He shrank from the sensitiveness of a proud nature. Another reason has been suggested, that he passionately loved his country, and feared the uprising of this powerful nation on its borders. It is said that Jonah fled “unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Is it possible that he thought by a change of place to get beyond the reach of the Divine displeasure? It is more probable that he fled from “the service of God.” He meant to abandon his prophetic office. He was faithless to his vocation, and would cast off the responsibility of a high calling. Dwell on this unfaithfulness, and draw lessons from it. Are we not, each of us, like Jonah, called to stand in the presence of God and to serve Him? We have each certain duties and responsibilities, as clear and definite as the prophet had when he heard the Word of God, bidding him go to Tarshish. We too may flee from the presence of God. Our calling may require effort and hardness, and we shrink from it. Jonah is the image of every man who, knowing the command of God, gives up the path of duty, choosing in preference something more congenial to his tastes and disposition, or some passing feeling, some desire or fear. The call of duty will constantly involve giving up some interest or pleasure. Some trouble one meets in daily life may try the soul and test its faithfulness. It is always true that only he who doeth the will of the Father can enter the kingdom. (T. T. Carter.)

The runaway prophet

I. What was the reason for this flight? The cause of disobedience is to be found in the significance of God’s message to the prophet. It was a message of judgment, and yet, underlying it, as Jonah easily perceived, was a message of mercy. It taught Jonah, and through him the Jews generally, that God had a grand purpose of love and mercy to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Such a thought as that was utterly opposed to Jewish ideas. Jonah’s conduct is but the representation of the whole national feeling. Jonah wanted the Ninevites and all other Gentiles to fall under the judgment of God, and to be destroyed from the face of the earth. This was the reason for his flight. Let us beware lest we should find his sin lying at our door. God taught the same lesson to Peter when the times of the Gentiles had fully come. We are now learning the lesson that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s message of love to no one nation, or select few, but to every member of the human family.

II. What was the object of Jonah’s flight? Not to flee from the omniscience of God. The object of Jonah was to escape from standing before God as His prophet. He regarded the revelation and voice of God as in some way confined to Jewish territory. Though we, too, know that we cannot escape from the presence of God, we often fancy we can fly where the voice of God shall not be heard by us. When God calls men to go in one direction, and they like it not, immediately they set out to go in directly the opposite.

III. The successive steps of Jonah’s flight.

1. He went down to Joppa. His journey was downward in more senses than one.

2. He found a ship, and paid his fare to Tarshish. Is there not quite a parable in that paying the fare? It was the last barrier that kept him a prisoner to his native land. Now he thinks he is secure.

3. He falls asleep. He is tired out. No obstacles have been placed in his way. It seems as if everything had been providentially arranged. Yes, Jonah, thou sleepest, but God sleeps not. Now God will have a beginning. (James Menzies.)

The natural disposition of Jonah

It has often been remarked that religion and a good temper are by no means always allied. Though it cannot, perhaps, at all times be said that a religious profession is adorned by the meek and the quiet spirit so precious in the sight of the Lord, it must be always remembered that true religion has the most happy influence on all who in reality receive it. So far from producing the evil with which it has often been associated, it is associated with it for its correction, and does actually produce in due time its destruction. This sweet subduing spirit can tame the roughest passions; it can humble the proudest heart, and open the most avaricious, in a manner and to a degree that no other principle can. The natural dispositions of Jonah seem to have been uncommonly adverse. His supreme regard to the dignity of his own character, without respect to what concerned either Divine manifestation or human comfort, was selfish and arrogant; while his language with regard to the gourd, and to his own personal sufferings, seems altogether to represent him as a person of a proud, passionate, jealous, and intemperate mind. Indeed, so numerous and so striking are the instances of his misconduct, that they afford occasion to inquire whether he really was a saint at all? His wicked refusal of obedience, with the subsequent attempt to escape when under a special appointment of heaven, are circumstances in no respect favourable. His stupid security, too, during the tempest, and his sullen silence during the subsequent investigation, bespeak a state of mind very foreign from that which the lively exercise of religion would dictate. His angry complainings, also, at the dispensations of providence, seem in no common degree to indicate the workings of an unmortified mind. Still grounds are not awanting on which charity may found a better hope. See what may be pleaded in his favour. (James Simpson.)

The unfaithful prophet

In those days the prophet was the organ of a Divine revelation. He was the representative of that Holy Spirit who had been speaking through many ages to the fathers. If a word came to him which went beyond the ordinary scope of prophetic ministry it would be all the more solemn; it would be very clearly not the prophet’s own, but “the Word of Jehovah” which had “come to him.” To disobey that Word, to hide it within his own thoughts, to take from it, or add to it would be a grievous sin, to be conspicuously punished. It was “disobedience to the heavenly vision.” It was renouncing the position and vocation of the Divine messenger. It was doing “despite unto the Spirit of grace.” The whole book is a commentary on the expression, “Presence of the Lord.” By the “presence of the Lord” is manifestly intended the organic centre of Divine revelation. The radical conception of Judaism is the foundation on which such an expression must rest;--it was that of a ministry gathered about Jehovah, who is seated on a throne of majesty and grace in the midst of His people. “The presence of the Lord,” regarded as a place, is the chamber where the ministering priest, or prophet, is face to face with God. Forth from that chamber he goes to fulfil his mission, whatever it be, whether as a priest to bless, or as a prophet to speak the message, to proclaim the “ Word of the Lord.” Jonah rose up to flee from that centre of his spiritual responsibility, to turn his back upon One who was telling him what to say and what to do. At that special crisis in the history of His people such unfaithfulness was specially sinful. (R. A. Bedford, M. A.)

The fugitive from duty

In estimating the character of Jonah we have no desire to palliate or to exaggerate. His prominent sin was disobedience to God. It cannot be said that he misunderstood the command of God. Could it be fear that induced Jonah to become a fugitive from duty? It was the character of God which made Jonah shrink from His service. Some of the fruits of Jonah’s flight from duty.

1. He rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord.

2. The fugitive from duty was degraded before his inferiors. Jonah’s flight subjected him to the reproofs, examinations, and cross-examinations of heathen sailors.

3. Jonah, no doubt, suffered much at the near prospect of death.

4. His misery was prolonged in a living tomb.

5. The fugitive from duty had to do at length the work he first refused. When man contends with his Maker we may be certain who will be the victor. That Jonah needed much refining in the furnace of affliction is evident from the dross which remained after correction. Perhaps the Word of the Lord was never entrusted to a frailer earthen vessel. After Jonah had passed through the painful and humiliating punishments of disobedience, we find him still in a deplorable state of mind, and using most unbecoming language to God. Jonah should have known that when punishments are denounced as coming upon a nation, it is with the understanding that they continued in their sin. If both Jew and Gentile were acquainted with mercy as one of the glorious attributes of Jehovah, where was the room for Jonah’s displeasure? But what Jonah did, we are all capable of doing, if not prevented by Divine grace. There are those who fly from duty, because pride hinders them from pursuing their most suitable calling, those who intrude into sacred places for which they were never designed; and generally, the unconverted. (W. Holderness.)

The disobedient act

“Jonah rose up.” So far then he was obedient. No. He only rose up “to flee to Tarshish.” His mind was made up, before he arose, to disobey. We sin in thought, resolution, will, before we take a single wrong step. Had Jonah sufficient grounds for his disobedient act? Was not his ministry in Israel a great failure? And if a great failure among his privileged kindred, might he not reasonably infer it would be a greater failure among untutored and degraded heathen? Moreover, it was a new expedition- there was no precedent for him to follow. And did not he fear that God might turn from His purpose? In the face of these considerations it may he asserted that he had no honest reasons for shirking duty, for running away from God. Our failures may be our greatest successes.

I. His disobedient act was wilful. It was not done without deliberation. It was not done without breaking through moral restraints. Jonah had a stern battle to fight with the checks of conscience and the promptings of his better nature. Through a whole “bodyguard” of moral influences, monitions, voices, hindrances, Jonah had to cut his way to Joppa for Tarshish. This made his act of disobedience all the more criminally wilful. The harder the path to ruin the greater the guilt and punishment.

II. The act was foolish. He attempted--

1. The impossible. The Presence like an all-encompassing atmosphere hemmed him in--beyond it he could not get. God meets man inevitably at every turn of life.

2. He abandoned the indispensable. He thought he could do without God, and so ventured on the mad experiment. God is a necessity.

3. He undertook the unmanageable. In fleeing from God, he flew in the face of God. In trying to escape Him, he came into collision with Him. No man is sufficient for such an engagement. How foolish is all sin! Disobedience is moral mania.

III. His act was encouraged by opportune circumstances. He “found a ship going to Tarshish.” The accidental favoured the intentional. It so happened that the ship was freighted for Tarshish, and Jonah came on the quay just in time to pay his fare and get on board. Don’t blame the ship, but blame the prophet. Don’t censure the opportunities, but censure the disposition which seized and made them auxiliaries of evil intentions. Occasion for sin is no Divine warrant to sin.

1. Circumstances are rendered moral or immoral in their bearing on human actions, only as they further goodness or facilitate disobedience.

2. Opportunities in the way of transgression are accidental and not Divinely appointed, which if availed of to accelerate rebellious flight will entail heavier penal consequences.

3. The ready way is not always the right way.

IV. The act was expensive. He might have gone down to Nineveh for less than it cost him to go to Tarshish. He paid his fare in a very expensive sense. It cost him his peace of mind, his conscience approval, his official honour, mortification of spirit, risk of life, and peril of soul. As a mere matter of economy it is wiser and better to be good than sinful. Sin’s pleasures, sin’s fashions, sin’s companions, sin’s vanities are all prodigiously expensive. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

Neglect of Christian duty

Sleep is one of the great essentials to human existence. Sleep in itself is right, but there is “a time to sleep.” Jonah’s sleep was sinful, it was at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Look at this religious deserter asleep.

I. It is a very easy thing to neglect Christian duty. All that Jonah did was easily done. So are neglect of prayer, Bible study, services, work, etc., easy now.

II. Neglect of Christian duty is a most dangerous practice. Jonah went to Tarshish at the peril of his temporal and spiritual life. Every Christian who allows himself to be led away into bypaths of spiritual indolence, lethargy, and neglect, will suffer great loss, will imperil his soul.

III. It is not for us to choose our field of Christian work. God sent Jonah to preach a short soul-stirring sermon to the Ninevites. How much more would be done if all Christians would just take the field God assigns them, and work with all their hearts for God and Souls.

IV. The infinite folly of attempting to get away from the presence of God. “Whither shall I go from Thy presence?” The monarch who threw chains into the sea to bind it; the boys who undertook to count the stars; these were wise adventures compared with the folly of attempting to get away from God. Then “let us not sleep, as do others, but let us who are of the day be sober.” (W. Rodwell.)

Sorrow follows disobedience

You are seeking your own will. You are seeking some other good than the law you are bound to obey. But how will you find good? It is not a thing of choice; it is a river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne and flows by the path of obedience. I say again, man cannot choose his duties. You may choose to forsake your duties, and choose not to have the sorrows they bring. But you will go forth, and what will you find? Sorrow without duty--bitter herbs and no bread with them. (George Eliot.)

He found a ship going to Tarshish.

Fatal success

I. Attend to the whole of the circumstances concerned. By partial and distorted views the most magnificent objects may be rendered contemptible, and the most perfect propriety ridiculous.

1. In this world the wicked often succeed, while the righteous are involved in distress. If any man be exempted from trouble in the present state, we should expect it to be a wicked man. The present is, with respect to the wicked, the only season of forbearance, the only time of indulgence. If any labour under a peculiar series of sufferings, we should expect him to be a saint. Because the present is, to the believer, a state of discipline. We cannot, however, conclude either that all the afflicted are righteous, or that it is only the tabernacle of the robber that prospers.

2. All the success of the wicked is confined to external objects. It would be affectation to say that man is independent of these.

3. The success of the wicked is but momentary. Duration is an important measure of value.

4. The worst moral effects are produced by success on the conduct of the wicked. But consequences cannot always be considered as a Standard for regulating judgment.

5. The successful sinner would tremble did he look forward to the sufferings which must eventually overtake his crimes.

II. The grounds on which Divine wisdom proceeds in such dispensations.

1. Previous to such trials the sinner is already warned of his danger in the Word. It is to this men are to look for a regulating law.

2. Such trials are seldom permitted until conscience has been grossly violated.

3. No external obstacle can stop the career of the sinner.

4. Abused grace is properly and justly withdrawn.

5. These scenes of trial discover to others the dispositions that were previously in power.

III. The marks by which judicial may be distinguished from sanctified success. If sanctified it follows you in a course of obedience to the Word. It is not a partial or incidental circumstance. It recognises God as its origin. The effects will show whence the prosperity proceeds. (James Simpson.)

Jonah’s flight

In the case of Jonah we have a striking instance of Divinely located work and responsibility. How are we to know that the Word of the Lord really comes to us? What more can any man desire than to be fully convinced that his duty lies in a certain direction? We are so made that, if true to ourselves, we shall have clear, sharply defined religious convictions; and in so far as we are faithful in following them, we are in direct communion with the Spirit of God.

I. Life has its great occasions, and woe to the man who fails to successfully grapple with them. God signally honoured Jonah by selecting him as the first preacher to the heathen world. Human life does not always remain on the same key. Sometime, some where, God arrests the old monotonous tune, and strikes the keynote to a loftier anthem. Everything depends on how we catch the new tone, follow the leader, and master the music. How possible it is to be unequal to our opportunity, to let it pass unimproved, and to be doing a little paltry work,--to be mistaking fuss for energy, and an idle industry for that holy consecration which absorbs every power, and ennobles the man by the sublimity of its motives and aims. There are hours in the lives of most men, compared with which all after hours are poor and commonplace,--great critical hours, pregnant with the possibilities of manhood and destiny. To fall below such crises is a calamity which the future can never repair. Society is full of poor men, both temporally and spiritually, because they did not manfully grapple with the great occasions of life.

2. Opportune circumstances do not of necessity imply divine approval. Here we see that a man may be strangely favoured by circumstances, who is in open rebellion against God. Rightly to interpret circumstances is one of the most difficult things in life. And a man who has become loose at the conscience may so interpret them as to embolden and fortify himself in a life of sin. There are people who make circumstances into a kind of Bible, and argue that, after all, it is impossible they can be so very bad, or Providence would not thus conspire to further their purposes. When a man gets himself mixed up with iniquity, it is not much wonder that he tries to set up a kind of supernatural wisdom of his own, as a sort of self-vindication. It is quite possible for a man so to put circumstances before his mind as to be fearfully misled by them. Much charity should be exercised towards those whose very circumstances invite their further continuance in sin. Many a man has had reason to thank God that the ship left before he got to Joppa; that was the only thing that saved him from disaster and perhaps destruction.

III. A man may ignore the claims of God and yet be scrupulous in his observance of the laws of social justice and equity. Jonah “paid his fare.” Honest with the owner of the ship, but dishonest with the Owner of the universe. God has claims upon us as well as man: and any man’s integrity is partial and ruinously defective that does not honour both claims..

IV. The wicked man is a public calamity, a social curse. No matter how much the sinner may have things his own way, God can head him off, frustrate his purposes, and convert the very elements that were most friendly to his progress into instruments of punishment and death. Learn that there is a right and a wrong way of settling things. We must have a settlement with God on a basis of mediation and righteousness, or the sea will always be rough. (T. Kelly.)

The unwisdom of disobedience

God said to Jonah, “Go to Nineveh.” “I won’t go; I’ll go to Tarshish.” He started for Tarshish. Did he get there? The seas raged, the winds blew, the ship rocked. Come, ye whales, and take this passenger for Tarshish. No man ever got to Tarshish if the Lord told him to go to Nineveh. The seas would not bear him; they are God’s seas. The winds would not waft him; they are God’s winds. If a man deliberately sets out to do that which God declares he must not do, the natural world as well as God is against him and the lightnings are ready to strike him, and the fires are ready to consume him, and the sun is ready to smite him, and the waters are ready to drown him, and the earth is ready to devour him. (Christian Age.)

He paid the fare thereof.--

Paying the fare

There had been many hindrances in Jonah’s way to prevent him from consummating the act of disobedience, but he overcame them all. And yet this fact that he had paid his fare might have startled him. It was the last hindrance to his headstrong will, Had he gone to Nineveh he would not have needed to pay his own fare. But deliberately selecting his own way, Jonah was left to pay his own fare.

1. Accept this feature of the case as a starting-point. Obedience is economy; disobedience is expensive.

2. This was only a small part of the fare that Jonah paid. Only the first instalment. In the second place, he paid his fare in the thwarting of his purposes. He made more haste than speed. The ready way was not the right way. If you will be disobedient, you must pay your fare in the thwarting of your purposes.

3. As part of the fare the prophet had to pay for his disobedience. I mention his moodiness and peevishness.

4. Part of the fare was the withdrawal of Jehovah’s presence.

5. He paid part of his fare in the loss of reputation. Regard to reputation was the only defence he made. Reputation may be overestimated, If the means is exalted into an end; if reputation becomes the be-all and end-all of the ministry, there is no limit to the harm that may accrue. For the sake of reputation Jonah declined tim call of God. And his disobedience was its own punishment. (John A. Macfadyen.)

Sinful pleasures dear bought

The sacrifices required by religion are infinitely more reasonable and light than those which sinful courses demand.

I. The sacrifices required of the sinner. The boasted pleasure of the sinner is obtained at a very disproportioned expense of time--of labeler--and of substance: and moreover to it is freely sacrificed not only health, reason, conscience, but also the precious soul.

II. The sacrifices required of those who are the friends of religion.

1. Religion does not require the renunciation of any lawful enjoyment.

2. Religion does require of its followers certain worldly sacrifices. Such as a seventh portion of time. Jehovah demands of all His worshippers--

3. The total surrender of their persons. Your talents, with all their energies; your will, with all its propensities; your affections, with all their fervour, are exclusively and supremely His. The members of the body too are become instruments of righteousness unto righteousness.

4. When sinners come to the Saviour they present Him with their most cheerful services.

5. The severest sacrifice that religion requires is that of our unholy desires. The service is severe, but the command is absolute.

III. Compare these systems. Each has something to enjoy. The Christian needs not fear to grant to the sensualist his luxuries; or to acknowledge the general depression of the faithful. To ascertain the several claims of these systems observe--

1. That, while all the demands of religion are just, those of iniquity are the vexatious claims of a tryant.

2. The demands of religion are most gracious, whereas those of a tyrant are insatiable.

3. The services of religion are beneficial; those of the world destructive.

4. The sacrifices of religion shall be richly repaid. Sin also has its wages, and to the uttermost farthing they shall be paid. Choose then what master you will serve.

Listen not--

1. To the seductions of pleasure.

2. Be not afraid of the reproaches cast upon religion.

3. Be truly wise. Listen to the cautions of Divine wisdom. (James Simpson.)

One virtue cannot atone for a wicked course

Jonah’s attempt to run away was a foolish and wicked act, all must admit; but there is one thing told of him that is very much to his credit: he “paid his fare” on board the ship that was to bear him away to Tarshish. He fulfilled his obligations to the shipowners in the matter of the passage money He was none of your mean sneaks who, in running to destruction, try to go as dead-heads. Jonah went on his way like a man. How often, by some such reasoning as this, men make out a good case for themselves, or for others, in the face of flagrant and atrocious acts. Men use some single virtue to cover much wrong or vice. I know a young man who refused to obey the call of God, as clearly given as was ever that to Jonah, and is satisfying conscience by the assurance of honesty in a very different and self-appointed sphere. There is much of this Jonah business on every hand. Men are sharp in their dealings, even to rank dishonesty, but they talk well, and profess better. They cheat and shave right and left, but they found a scholarship or a seminary, endow a college, or build a church. They are helping to undermine every good institution in a community, but they are kind and obliging neighbours. Because the men that cheat, swindle, and murder us are possessed of some single excellent virtue, we are asked to set it over against their many nefarious acts and terrible failures in character and life, and call it even. Not that we would undervalue or despise the admirable traits that sometimes appear in wicked and debased lives. We only utter our protest against the attempt, so often made, to make them atone for the sin and failure by which they are surrounded. We are all liable to be satisfied with one little pet virtue, that blooms, perhaps, like a flower adorning a corpse. The way we help one another to this same self-complacency over small virtues cherished in the midst of flagrant wrong, is, perhaps, the worst part of the story. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Lifes fare

Men get “passes” of railroads--all must pay the fare who go through life. Bible tells us there are two ways. You must pay the fare in either case.

I. Broad way to destruction. Fare?

1. Loss of conscience.

2. Loss of character. Character is built up by thoughts, words, deeds, little by little.

3. Loss of Divine image.

4. Loss of soul. No escape. “The wages of sin is death.”

II. Narrow way to life. Fare? Yes, we must pay the fare. The results are--

1. Noble character. God’s building.

2. Uplifting influence. People respect.

3. Satisfaction. Duty done; clear conscience.

4. Gain Heaven. Two ways are before you; which one will you take? (Homiletic Review.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jonah 1:3". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah; and he went down to Joppa, and 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 Jehovah."

"But Jonah rose up to flee ..." It is a mistake to suppose that Jonah did not know that God was in Tarshish as well as in Jerusalem; for it is impossible to associate such an ignorance as that with a true prophet of God. His conduct in this was exactly the same as that of Adam and Eve who, after their sin, hid themselves from the presence of God. Today, it is the same. When men renounce their sacred duty to the church, they flee as far away from it as possible, knowing full well that they cannot escape God's presence no matter what they do. Fleeing from the scene of one's duty is the reflexive action of a soul in a state of rebellion and disobedience to the Lord. And it is called in this passage, "fleeing from the presence of the Lord." Banks gave as plausible an explanation of this as any we have observed:

"Jonah knew that the Lord was unlike pagan deities whose power was believed not to extend beyond the boundaries of a given area; but he thought running away to a distant place would make it physically impossible for him to discharge his commission."[17]

Many have inquired as to why Jonah did not wish to obey the word of Jehovah regarding the commission to cry against Nineveh. Certainly, some of the reasons which might have influenced him may be surmised.

(1) Jonah doubtless knew of the sadistic cruelty of the hated Assyrians, and he could not have failed to confront an element of physical fear of what might befall him in a place like Nineveh, especially in the act of delivering a message which he supposed would be most unwelcome to all of them. Yet, the great physical courage exhibited by the prophet in this very chapter is an effective refutation of the notion that this was what caused him to run away.

(2) National prejudice certainly entered into it, because no true Israelite could imagine such a thing as preaching to Gentiles, notwithstanding the fact that God, from the beginning, had intended for Israel to be a light to all nations, a function which they had signally failed to honor.

(3) The reason given by Jonah himself (Jonah 4:3) was that he feared that Nineveh might repent and that God, after his usual gracious manner, would spare them and refrain from destroying their city. As to why such an eventuality was so distasteful to Jonah, there are two conjectures: (a) The prophet was mightily concerned with his own loss of face, including the prospect of his becoming widely known as a prophet whose words did not come to pass. (b) Keil thought that Jonah's real objection to Nineveh's conversion sprang out of the deep love he had for his own nation, "fearing lest the conversion of the Gentiles should infringe upon the privileges of Israel, and put an end to its election as the nation of God."[18] This latter observation strikes us as a genuine discernment of the truth. As a matter of fact, the conversion of Gentiles did typify the ultimate rejection of Israel as "the chosen people" and the receiving of Gentiles all over the earth in a "new Israel" which would include both Jews and Gentiles. Jonah seems to have sensed this; and out of the fierce love of his own country, he was loath to see Nineveh converted. Whatever the reasons that motivated him, he was wrong; and God would overrule his disobedience to accomplish his will despite the prophet's unwillingness to obey.

"To flee unto Tarshish ..." Present day commentators usually identify this place with a seaport just west of Gibralter on the southern coast of Spain, which was at the opposite extremity of the Mediterranean and exactly opposite from the direction of Nineveh. It is far from certain, however, that this is the place referred to. Josephus stated that it was Tarsus in Cilicia;[19] "Tarshish apparently refers to more than one place in the Old Testament (1 Kings 22:48)."[20] Myers thought it was, "more probably a place in Sardinia where there was a great iron smelter."[21] Many questions which excite human curiosity are left unanswered in Jonah, as is true throughout all the Bible.

"And he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish ..." Joppa was about the only seaport that Israel ever had until Herod built Caesarea Philippi hundreds of years after Jonah. Jonah might have been surprised to find ready transportation available for the very place to which he had decided to flee. Satan always provides transportation for the soul running away from the Lord. And, as Spurgeon once said, "Evil also has its mysterious providences, and it is not always right to do what seems to be convenient."

"So he paid the fare thereof ..." What an exciting text for a sermon is this! Whatever soul turns from the Lord finds always that a price is exacted. The prodigal son paid for his excursion into the far country with a sojourn in the swine pen; Judas paid for his "thirty pieces of silver" with a hangman's rope in the "field of blood" (Acts 1:19):

"Attempting to run away from God is like fleeing light and falling into darkness, relinguishing wealth and welcoming poverty, abandoning joy and receiving sorrow, or giving up peace in order to have chaos and confusion!"[22]

Every sinner on earth today is paying the fare!

"And went down into it to go with them unto Tarshish ..." There is a glimpse in this verse, and in Jonah 1:5, of the kind of ship Jonah boarded. "The Hebrew word for ship (Jonah 1: 5) is [~shephinah], and is found nowhere else; and from its derivation (from [~saphan] = "to cover") implies that the vessel was decked."[23] Thus, Jonah's going "down into it" indicates that he went below decks into the hold of the ship.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

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 JosephusF17Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 2. and Saadiah Gaon; or to Tunis in Africa, as R. Melasser in Aben Ezra; or to Carthage, as Theodoret, and others; or Tartessus in Spain, as others. Among this difference of interpreters, it is hard to say what place it was: it seems best to understand it of Tarsus. The prophet had better knowledge of God, and of the perfections of his nature, than to imagine he could flee from his general presence, which is everywhere, and from which there is no fleeing, Psalm 139:7; but his view was to flee out of that land where he granted his special presence to his people; and from that place where were the symbols of his presence, the ark, the mercy seat, and cherubim, and in which he stood, and ministered before the Lord; but now upon this order left his post, and deserted his station. The reasons given of his conduct are various. The Jewish writers suppose that he concerned more for the glory of Israel than the glory of God; that he was fearful, should he do as he was bid, the word of the Lord would be carried from Judea into the Gentile world, and there remain; that he was of opinion that the Heathens would repent of their sins at his preaching, though Israel did not, which would turn to the reproach and condemnation of the latter; see Matthew 12:41; and that he knew that the spirit of prophecy did not dwell upon any out of the land of Israel, and therefore got as fast as he could out of it, that he might not be further urged with such a message; which notion is confuted by the instances of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; to this, sense the Targum inclines, which adds,

"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 ThevenotF18Travels, par. 1. B. 2. c. 52. p. 208. says,

"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, saidF19Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 13. to be older than the flood; and built on a hill so high, that Strabo saysF20Geograph. l. 16. p. 522. Jerusalem might be seen from thence, which was forty miles from it. It had its name from Jope the daughter of Aeolus, the wife of Cepheus, the founder of itF21Stephanus apud Reland. Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. p. 865. . Jonah went thither, either from Jerusalem, or from Gathhepher, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe: if from the former, it was forty miles to Joppa, as Jerom says; and if from the latter, it is supposed to be about fifty: a journey of this length must be some time in performing, which shows with what deliberation and resolution he sinned in disobeying the divine command:

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.'

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

But Jonah rose up to d flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to e 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 f presence of the LORD.

(d) By which he declares his weakness, that would not promptly follow the Lord's calling, but gave place to his own reason, which persuaded him that he would not profit these people at all, seeing he had done such little good among his own people; (Jonah 4:2).

(e) Which was the haven, and port to take shipping there, also called Joppa.

(f) From that vocation to which God had called him, and in which he would have assisted him.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

flee — Jonah‘s motive for flight is hinted at in Jonah 4:2: fear that after venturing on such a dangerous commission to so powerful a heathen city, his prophetical threats should be set aside by God‘s “repenting of the evil,” just as God had so long spared Israel notwithstanding so many provocations, and so he should seem a false prophet. Besides, he may have felt it beneath him to discharge a commission to a foreign idolatrous nation, whose destruction he desired rather than their repentance. This is the only case of a prophet, charged with a prophetical message, concealing it.

from the presence of the Lord — (Compare Genesis 4:16). Jonah thought in fleeing from the land of Israel, where Jehovah was peculiarly present, that he should escape from Jehovah‘s prophecy-inspiring influence. He probably knew the truth stated in Psalm 139:7-10, but virtually ignored it (compare Genesis 3:8-10; Jeremiah 23:24).

went down — appropriate in going from land to the sea (Psalm 107:23).

Joppa — now Jaffa, in the region of Dan; a harbor as early as Solomon‘s time (2 Chronicles 2:16).

Tarshish — Tartessus in Spain; in the farthest west at the greatest distance from Nineveh in the east.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Jonah sets out upon his journey; not to Nineveh, however, but to flee to Tarshish, i.e., Tartessus, a Phoenician port in Spain (see at Genesis 10:4 and Isaiah 23:1), “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 (cf. Genesis 4:16); not to hide himself from the omnipresent God, but to withdraw from the service of Jehovah, the God-King of Israel.

(Note: Marck has already correctly observed, that “this must not be understood as flight from the being and knowledge of God, lest we should attribute to the great prophet gross ignorance of the omnipresence and omniscience of God; but as departure from the land of Canaan, the gracious seat of God, outside which he thought, that possibly, at any rate at that time, the gift and office of a prophet would not be conferred upon him.”)

The motive for this 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 co-operate 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.

(Note: Luther has already deduced this, the only true reason, from Jonah 4:1-11, in his Commentary on the Prophet Jonah : “Because Jonah was sorry that God was so kind, he would rather not preach, yea, would rather die, than that the grace of God, which was to be the peculiar privilege of the people of Israel, should be communicated to the Gentiles also, who had neither the word of God, nor the laws of Moses, nor the worship of God, nor prophets, nor anything else, but rather strove against God, and His word, and His people.” But in order to guard against a false estimate of the prophet, on account of these “carnal, Jewish thoughts of God,” Luther directs attention to the fact that “the apostles also held at first the carnal opinion that the kingdom of Christ was to be an outward one; and even afterwards, when they understood that it was to be a spiritual one, they thought that it was to embrace only the Jews, and therefore 'preached the gospel to the Jews only' (Acts 8), until God enlightened them by a vision from heaven to Peter (Acts 10), and by the public calling of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13), and by wonders and signs; and it was at last resolved by a general council (Acts 15), that God would also show mercy to the Gentiles, and that He was the God of the Gentiles also. For it was very hard for the Jews to believe that there were any other people outside Israel who helped to form the people of God, because the sayings of the Scripture stop there and speak of Israel and Abraham's seed; and the word of God, the worship of God, the laws and the holy prophets, were with them alone.”)

He therefore betook himself to Yāphō , i.e., Joppa, the port on the Mediterranean Sea (vid., comm. on Joshua 19:46), and there found a ship which was going to Tarshish; and having paid the s e khârâh , the hire of the ship, i.e., the fare for the passage, embarked “to go with them (i.e., the sailors) to Tarshish.”

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". 1854-1889.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Jon . Tarshish] Tartessus in Spain; others, Carthage; probably Tarsus in Cilicia. Presence] Lit. from being in the presence, i.e. from standing in the presence of the Lord as His servant and minister (cf. Gen 4:16; Deu 10:8). Joppa] Now Jaffa.



Jonah arose but to depart from duty. He might be influenced by fear, indolence, and unbelief. But the chief reason for his flight seems to be intense love for his own, and deep hatred to a heathen country. He was reluctant to offer mercy to Nineveh, and desired its destruction as an enemy. Whatever leads to prejudice blinds the mind, sours the temper, and degrades the man of God.

I. Flight from duty is not departure from God's control. Jonah believed in the Divine omnipresence (Psa ; Psa 139:12), did not cast off all regard for God, but sought to relieve himself of duty by quitting the land of light and religious ordinances. He did not expect to go where God was not, but where God would let him alone. His creed was better than his conduct. He left the field of action for the place of retirement. Many are of Jonah's temper, try his experiment, and feel the presence of God too painful for them. A scholar leaves the Sabbath school to avoid the contact of truth with conscience. A young man brought up under religious influence quits home and native country. An ungodly man feels miserable, shuns godly company, and stifles impressions by fleeing into business, worldly society, and amusements. The believer knows his duty, but will not do it. Such efforts often succeed in spite of the restraints of providence and the voice of conscience. But fear gets hold of men at length, God meets them in the way, and it is impossible to escape. "Lo, they that be far from thee shall perish."

II. Favourable circumstances in departing from God do not always lead to a successful issue. Circumstances favoured Jonah's design, and gave him an opportunity of escape. "He found a ship going to Tarshish." The vessel quickly sailed. Jonah thought he was leaving his trouble by leaving his native shore, but vain hope (Amo ; Isa 2:19-22; Jer 16:16-21). "The ready way is not always the right way," says an old author. The greatest hurry the least speed in a path of disobedience. The worst plans may prosper for a time, but such prosperity ends in storms and darkness. Talk not of Providence in an evil course—say not when tempted that you are tempted of God. God might miraculously interfere with men's conduct, but this would change the government of the world, render our probation useless, and afford no opportunity for human action and Divine justice. If he thwart the ways of selfish men, you hear no more of Providence. Departure from God is departure from his love and protection—from Divine dignity and unbounded bliss. Follow the directions of the word, and you will enjoy the leadings of Providence. "The Lord meeteth him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness."

III. Departure from God is more expensive than obedience to God. Jonah paid the fare, like many who scruple not to spend their money on selfish projects, but withhold from the cause of God. Sin is always expensive, and draws upon our purse and time. Sinners pay their fare,

1. In bitter experience. There is peace in pleasing God, but conscious opposition to him brings an uneasy mind. Jonah could not stay at home. Everything reminded him of God and duty, and such thoughts are painful. Men seek a new country, try fresh experiments, to drown the warnings of conscience, but do not succeed.

2. In moral loss. The loss of Divine favour and a servant's dignity. The Sabbath-breaker, the pleasure-seeker, and the drunkard, pay their fare. Blasted prospects, shattered constitutions, and ruined families indicate the awful price of sin. The pleasures of sin are dearly bought, never last, and always bring disappointment.


Jonah's disobedience.

1. It was life into his own hands.

2. It was foolish; for he took the difficulties of wilful. He deliberately paid his money.

3. It was ungrateful; for he refused the honour of the commission.

4. It was continuous.

5. It was criminal [Adapted from Exell].

There is in the conduct of Jonah a twofold sin,—disobedience to God and flight from God. What God appoints thee to do, do without gainsaying. He who gives the burden, gives the shoulders to bear it. He who flees increases the burden and commits folly [Lange].

Take the task he gives you gladly,

Let his work your pleasure be;

Answer quickly when he calleth,

"Here am I, send me, send me!"

Step by step the disobedient prophet takes in consummation of his purpose, and each following fast on the back of its predecessor, without repentance and, as it would almost seem, without reflection.

(1) He "rose up to flee."

(2) He "went to Joppa."

(3) He "found a ship."

(4) He "paid the fare."

(5) He "went down into it." The words are like relentless, consecutive, fast-falling blows, under which his whole character as an obedient man of God is beaten to death and trampled under-foot of Satan [Hugh Martin].

Man's own wisdom is a worthless guide. He is often more diligent in working his ruin than in seeking his salvation.


Jon . To leave the presence of God is to "go down;" and the history of many a day might, in the evening, be written too faithfully in the sad record, "I have been going down." Down from communion, from a conscious faith, from quietness, and firm, steady obedience. Down into strife without victory, into toil without fruit; into mere money-making, mere pleasure-seeking, mere time-wasting. The success and glory of true life can only be found in keeping the upward road—in hearing and following the voice which perpetually says, "Come up hither" [Raleigh]!

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

From the presence — From the place where God usually had shewed himself present, by revealing his word and will to his prophets. Perhaps he might think God would not put him upon this work, when he was got into a strange country.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

It is probable that this Tarshish was Tarsus, a sea-port in Israel. But what an awful attempt in Jonah to run from the Lord, and how foolish as well as presumptuous, the endeavour. Reader let not us by the way overlook the instructions it brings of human nature in its best men, manifesting its corruption. Alas! what is man, yea, every man, uninfluenced by grace?

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

Ver. 3. But Jonah rose up to flee, &c.] i.e. He made haste (more haste than good speed) to disobey God. Homo est inversus decalogus. The natural man standeth across to the will of God; "being abominable, disobedient, and to every good work reprobate," Titus 1:16. Jonah was a spiritual man, and should have discerned all things, 1 Corinthians 2:15. But this spiritual man was mad, Hosea 9:7 (as they that are cured of a frenzy will yet have their freaks and frantic tricks sometimes), he cast off the yoke, and turned, for the time, renagade from the Lord; who met him at half turn, and brought him back again, though by weeping cross. Of the blackbird’s dung is made the lime whereby he is taken; so here. They that would excuse Jonah, and say that he sinned not, Dei scriptis iniuriam faciunt, saith Luther, they wrong the Scriptures. The best have their infirmities; as the snow-like swan hath black legs; and as no pomegranate is without some rotten grains. David saw such volumes of corruptions, and so many erratas in all that he did, that he cries out, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults," Psalms 19:12.

To flee unto Tarshish] Tarsus, in Cilicia, St Paul’s country, Acts 21:39; Acts 22:3, rather than the city Tunis, in Africa, as Vatablus will have it, or the East Indies, as others. Tarshish sometimes signifieth the main ocean, as Psalms 48:7 (whence some take it here for the sea), but that may be by a metonymy (a) of the adjunct; because Tarsus stood upon the ocean shore, and was a fit haven whence to hoist up sail into various countries.

From the presence of the Lord] Ab ante Domini, from the special and spiritual presence of God, wherein he had hitherto stood and ministered. For from God’s general presence, whereby he filleth all places, and is "not far from any one of us," Acts 17:27 (not so far, surely, as the bark is from the tree, the skin from the flesh, or the flesh from the bones), Jonah knew he could not flee. Blind nature saw, and could say,

-- “ quascunque accesseris eras,

Sub Iove semper eris. ” --

God is a circle, said Empedocles, whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere. Why the prophet fled many causes are assigned by interpreters: as Amor patriae, timer humanus, his fear of the Ninevites, his love to his Israelites, his conceit that it would be to little purpose to preach to heathens, since he had prevailed so little at home. The very cause was that which we find Jonah 4:2, "I fled to Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God," &c., and I feared, lest I should thereupon be counted a false prophet. So much there is of self found in the best; who, when once they are got out of God’s way, they may run they know not whither, and return they know not when.

And went down to Joppa] Heb. Japho, a sea town in the tribe of Dan, Joshua 19:46; distant about fifty miles from Gathhepher (Jonas’s town, 2 Kings 14:25), which was in the tribe of Zabulon, towards the lake of Tiberias. Sinners are no small painstakers. There is the same Hebrew and Greek word for wickedness and toilsomeness ( עמל πονηρια). Would sinners be at the same pains for heaven that they are at for hell they could not lightly miss it.

And he found a ship going to Tarshish] They that have a mind to commit sin shall easily meet with an occasion. The tempter, who feeleth their pulses, and knoweth which way they will beat, will soon fit them a pennyworth. He hath a wedge of gold to set before Achan, a Cozbi before Zimri, Non causabitur, aptabitur. It is not to be excused or acommodated. Indeed it is the just man’s happiness that no evil shall happen to him, Proverbs 12:21; that is (as Mercer interpreteth it) non parabitur ei, et dabitur occasio iniquitatis, God shall cut off from him the occasions of sin, remove stumblingblocks out of his way; either not lead him into temptation or not leave him in it.

So he paid the fare thereof] Forsan ut citius navim solveret (Mercer); perhaps to make the mariners hasten the more. Jonah might better have obeyed God, and gone to Nineveh on free cost. But wit is best when it is bought, they say. How many be there who perish at their own charge, as Phocion, the Athenian, paid for the poison that despatched him.

To go with them to Tarshish from the presence, &c.] i.e. Out of God’s blessing into the world’s warm sun. All wilful sinners are renegades from the Lord; factique sunt a corde suo fugitivi, saith Tertullian, fain they would also run (if they knew how or whither) from their own consciences. But if they belong to God, conscience shall be awakened to do its office; and they shall one day say with her, "I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi? call me Mara, for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me," Ruth 1:20-21.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Jonah 1:3

I. We cannot understand the conduct of Jonah fully. We cannot judge it fairly without considering some things which seemed to him to be reasons against compliance with the Divine call. (1) It was a long way, many hundreds of miles, and a great part of it through a desert. (2) The thing to be done was very difficult. (3) It would be natural that he should despair of any great success. (4) He may have thought that, in the event of attaining a spiritual success, failure must come in another way. (5) It is quite clear that the prophet had some dark forecast of evil to his own country, from the probable turn which matters would take, if his mission at Nineveh should be successful.

II. "He rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord." The meaning of that expression we take to be that he retired, or wished to retire, from the prophetic office, at least for a time, and from that peculiar and sacred nearness to God which a true prophet, in service, always had. He knew that if he continued in that presence it would move soon, as did the pillar of old, and that he must go eastwards to escape, if possible, from that necessity. He went out of the presence westwards as fast and as far as he could. It is certainly worthy of notice that the way he fled was almost the direct opposite of the way he would have gone if he had done God's bidding.

III. He went down to Joppa. Always, to leave the presence of God is to go down. Down from communion, from a conscious faith, from quietness and assurance, from steady, firm obedience. Down into strife without victory, into toil without fruit. Down into mere bargain-making, mere money-making, mere pleasure-seeking, mere time-wasting. The success and glory of true life can be found only by keeping the upward road, in hearing and following the voice which says perpetually, "Come up hither."

IV. Jonah tells us with a minuteness and particularity evidently intentional, "he found a ship going to Tarshish," and "paid the fare thereof, and went down into it," etc. What is the prophet's object in such careful minuteness? (1) It may have been to keep himself in remembrance, and tell all the world how many steps there were, so to speak, in his downgoing. (2) He may have meant to teach us that the outward aspects of providence to us at any one time constitute a very insufficient and unsafe guide in matters of moral duty.

A. Raleigh, The Story of Jonah, p. 52.

I. While Jonah works God waits. When Jonah falls asleep, God begins to work. The scene is thus arrestive and striking. The man hasting away for days from "the presence," out among second causes and exterior things, into a blank world of indifference. Then God, with a touch of His hand, raising up those second causes, which hitherto had seemed to favour the flight, into an irresistible combination for the arrest and recovery of the fugitive. Men dig pits and fall into them. They weave webs and by a touch of His hand they are snared and taken.

II. "The mariners were afraid and cried every man unto his god." Not all to one heathen deity, but each man to his own god. When God is forsaken, men forsake each other. They lose the power of mutual sympathy and help in the highest things. Only the true worshippers have that great power—the power of social sympathy—working in full strength among them. And yet we have no ground for uttering one word of reproach or blame against these men. They did all that could be expected of them. They prayed and wrought. They cried to their gods, and cast the wares out of the ship; a clear and good example to all men who are in straits.

III. Let us take our last lesson from the heathen captain. (1) He teaches us by his example. He is master of the ship, and he feels that, in an hour of peril especially, it lies within his province to incite and constrain all who sail in the ship, and who, therefore, as passengers or sailors, are under his care, to the discharge of their very highest duties. Remember that you have religious duties to the full breadth and length of your mastery. (2) He teaches us by his words. These words of his have aroused many a sleeper besides Jonah. They have been heard through the ages since, as watchman's cry, as trumpet's sound, to awaken and save souls from death.

A. Raleigh, The Story of Jonah, p. 76.

References: Jonah 1:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 622; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 56; E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 283; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 270.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jonah 1:3. Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish Which, according to Josephus, was Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia. Others say Tartessus in Spain. From the presence of the Lord, Houbigant reads, Through fear of the Lord. What he feared is shewn in chap. Jonah 4:2. He hoped that if he was at a greater distance God would send some other prophet to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. Grotius says, that the expression means, "From the land of Israel," the immediate residence of God.

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Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

But, Heb. And.

Jonah rose up: he was commanded to arise, Jonah 1:2, so here Jonah did, but it was to run from his business, not to do it; it was a rising against God.

To flee: whatever was the cause which moved Jonah to do this, it is strange that he should fall into a fixed opinion that he might, and a fixed resolution that he would, thus flee from his God and from his duty.

Unto Tarshish; to sea, as some, but this seemeth too rambling a humour: to Cilicia, say others, and particularly to Tarsus, no mean city of Cilicia, Acts 21:39; others say it was Tunis or Carthage in Africa, to which Jonah minded to flee; either of these carry such probability with them, that we will not determine for our reader.

From the presence of the Lord: I cannot suppose that Jonah dreamed of fleeing from the omnipresence of God, he knew how David described this, Psalms 139:7-12, and natural reason told him he could never flee from this; but this presence of God is to be interpreted of the place where God usually had showed himself present by revealing his word and will to his prophets, who are servants to the Lord, and as such did stand before the Lord ready to receive his commands: now this command to Jonah being displeasing to him, and yet whilst he was in his own country, the valley of vision, he is still put upon the work, now he resolves to shift off the work by shifting place; perhaps he might think God would not put him upon it when he was gotten into a strange and remote country, where were no prophets, nor prophetic impulses. Joppa; a well-known haven on the-Mediterranean, now called Jaffa, anciently Japho, Joshua 19:46.

Going; bound for, and ready to set sail for, the place he designed.

Tarshish; Carthage or Tunis, or Tarsus in Cilicia.

Paid the fare; forthwith agreed. with the master of the ship, and, though unusual, paid presently, staid not till he came to the port designed.

Went down into it; immediately went a ship-board, and in a melancholy, discomposed humour gets into a cabin, or under deck, to go with them; waiting the time when they should go, that he might be sure to go with them.

From the presence of the Lord: see above.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of YHWH, and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid its fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of YHWH.’

But Jonah was unwilling to go to Nineveh and sought to evade YHWH’s call by fleeing in the opposite direction to Nineveh. He did this by taking ship for Tarshish (possibly Sardinia or Spain). Tarshish (possibly meaning ‘smeltery’) was the name given to a number of areas which mined the silver, tin, iron and lead carried by the ‘ships of Tarshish’ (ships that carried ore, large cargo ships). Others sees Tarshish as meaning ‘the open sea’, with ships of Tarshish being those large enough to cope with the open sea as opposed to sailing near land.

‘He went down to Joppa.’ Joppa, or Yepu in the Amarna letters and Yapu in neo-Assyrian inscriptions, was a small port on the coast and was not in Israel or Judah. It was Jonah’s first step in his attempt to get away from God. In Joppa no one would blame him for wanting to get away from Israel’s influence, and from the influence of Israel’s God.

This does not necessarily mean that Jonah actually thought that he could escape the presence of YHWH, only that he thought that if he abdicated his responsibilities as a prophet and left the country of his calling he would be freed from his responsibilities. YHWH’s earthly dwellingplace was in Jerusalem, and Israel was YHWH’s inheritance, and he presumably considered that by cutting himself off from YHWH’s inheritance, the land of Israel, he could be freed from his calling as a prophet and from any responsibility to YHWH. He would no longer be responsible as YHWH’s servant.

We are not told why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. He may well have been afraid of what they might do to a Hebrew prophet. Or he may have felt that they were foreigners, and therefore not suitable people to receive a revelation from YHWH. Or he may simply have hated Assyria because of what it had already in the past done to his people, and have felt that he wanted no part in offering them the possibility of repentance. It may be that to him they were beyond the pale. Perhaps his own family had been affected by previous Assyrian invasions. But none of these are the reasons which are made clear in the prophecy. Indeed Jonah’s argument was that it was because he was afraid that he would be too successful (Jonah 4:2-3), and that YHWH might then spare the Assyrians. That would mean that his ability to prophesy the truth might then be called in question. And he emphasises that he had already made this clear to YHWH before he fled from Israel. He did not think that YHWH was being fair to him as a prophet. He could not bear to think that after prophesying the destruction of Nineveh it might not happen. What would people think about his prophetic ability then? He might even be seen as being a false prophet because what he had prophesied had not happened (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Note the threefold emphases in the verbs. He ‘rose up to flee to Tarshish’, ‘went down to Joppa’ and ‘found a ship going to Tarshish’ (which was what he was looking for). So he ‘paid his fare’, ‘went down into it’, in order to ‘go to Tarshish’. In both cases what is being emphasised is his set purpose. Note also that Tarshish is mentioned three times in order to emphasise his specific destination. To most people Tarshish was the remotest spot on earth.

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Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3.Jonah proceeds on his journey, but in the opposite direction.

Tarshish This city has been identified with Tarsus in Cilicia, the home of the apostle Paul; but it should be identified with Tartessus, a Phoenician colony in southwest Spain, not far from Gibraltar. Nineveh was in the far east, Tarshish appears to have been the most distant city toward the west then known. The author evidently desires to represent Jonah as attempting to get away from his mission as far as possible.

From the presence of Jehovah — The prophet is anxious to get out of God’s sight, lest God, seeing him, might be reminded of the commission imposed. The motive leading to the flight is indicated in Jonah 4:2. The expression goes back to a time when it was actually thought that removal from the land of the Hebrews was removal from the presence of Jehovah (1 Samuel 26:19; compare Daniel 6:10). At the time when the Book of Jonah was written the phrase had lost its older, primitive significance, for the omnipresence of Jehovah had long been recognized (see Amos, p. 207). Nevertheless, it continued to be used in a figurative sense.

Joppa — One of the harbors on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, which from ancient times has served as a seaport of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7). It is still a flourishing town; Cheyne says (Encyclopaedia Biblica) that its population was estimated in 1897 at over thirty-five thousand; but Mackie (Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible) estimates its population at “about eight thousand.” The present name of the city is Yafa, Eng. Jaffa. The city is the western terminus of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. There Jonah found a ship which was ready to sail; he paid the fare and set out for Tarshish; but Jehovah overtook him.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Tarshish was the name of a great-grandson of Noah through Noah"s son Japheth and Japheth"s son Javan ( Genesis 10:1-4). From then on in the Old Testament the name describes both the descendants of this man and the territory where they settled (cf. 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 22:48; 1 Chronicles 7:10). The territory was evidently a long distance from Israel and on the Atlantic coast of southwest Spain (cf. Jonah 4:2; Isaiah 66:19). [Note: See the map in Alexander, p49.] It also contained mineral deposits that its residents mined and exported to Tyre and probably other places ( Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:12). Since the Hebrew word tarshishu means smelting place or refinery, the Jews referred to several such places on the Mediterranean coast by this name. [Note: The New Bible Dictionary, 1962ed, s.v. "Tarshish," by J. A. Thompson.] Similarly several towns along the coastlands of English-speaking nations today bear the name "Portland." Therefore it is probably impossible to locate the exact spot that Jonah proposed to visit. The identification of Tarshish with Spain is very old going back to Herodotus, the Greek historian, who referred to a Tartessus in Spain. [Note: Ibid.] This site was about2500 miles west of Joppa. In any case, Jonah sought to flee by ship from Joppa on Israel"s Mediterranean coast and to go to some remote destination that lay in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Joppa stood about35 miles southwest of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom. Nineveh lay about550 miles northeast of Samaria.

"Jonah the believer is disgruntled with his calling. (Whoever thought a missionary would be disgruntled-except a fellow missionary!)" [Note: Joyce Baldwin, " Jonah," in The Minor Prophets, p543.]

Why did Jonah leave Israel? He evidently concluded that if he ran away God would select another prophet rather than track him down and make him go to Nineveh. By going in the opposite direction from Nineveh, as far from Nineveh as was then possible, Jonah seems to have been trying to get as far away from the judgment he thought the Lord would bring on that city as he could. In short, he seems to have been trying to run away from the Lord"s calling and to preserve his own safety at the same time. This is the only instance in Scripture of a prophet disobeying God"s call (cf. Amos 3:8 for the typical response).

However it was "the presence of the Lord" localized in the Promised Land, mentioned twice in this verse for emphasis, that Jonah sought to escape more than anything. Specifically it was God"s influence over him. He probably knew that he could not remove himself from the literal presence of the omnipresent God.

"To be a prophet was not necessarily to be a great theologian. God chooses whom he will, whether trained professional specialist or not (cf. Amos 7:14-15)." [Note: Stuart, p466.]

There is a chiasm in this verse. It begins and ends with references to going to Tarshish from the Lord"s presence. In the center is another reference to going to Tarshish. This structure stresses the fact that Jonah defiantly repudiated God"s call.

Perhaps we can appreciate how Jonah felt about his commission if we compare a similar case. Suppose God called some Jew living during the Hitler regime to go to Berlin and prophesy publicly that God was going to destroy Nazi Germany unless the Germans repented. The possibility of the Germans repenting and God withholding judgment on them would have been totally repugnant to such a Jew. His racial patriotism would have conflicted with his fidelity to God just as Jonah"s did. [Note: Gaebelein, p72.]

"In this brief introduction to the book the reader learns three central things: (1) who Jonah was; (2) what Yahweh wanted him to do; (3) Jonah"s response. Thus are introduced the main characters of the story, i.e, Jonah and God; and the situation around which the story revolves, i.e, Jonah"s unwillingness to carry out a divine commission which he finds odious." [Note: Stuart, p452.]

Many servants of the Lord throughout history have mistakenly thought that they could get away from the Lord and escape the consequences of His actions by changing their location. This book teaches us that that is not possible (cf. Psalm 139:7-10).

"It"s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf." [Note: Wiersbe, pp378-79.]

"An officer in an army may resign the commission of his president or king, but an ambassador of the Lord is on a different basis. His service is for life, and he may not repudiate it without the danger of incurring God"s discipline." [Note: Gaebelein, p74.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Jonah 1:3. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish — It is not to be wondered at that Jonah should be averse to undertake this mission. He probably considered it as a dangerous one, and might be tempted to think it would be unprofitable, and answer no valuable end. The journey was long, and the perils and hardships of it, he supposed, would be great. The inhabitants of the city were idolaters, and knew nothing of Jehovah, in whose name the warning was to be given, and the destruction denounced. The city was proud as well as idolatrous, and would look down with contempt on an Israelite, coming from a distant country, hardly known to many of them, or at least despised by them. And he had every reason to suppose that the delivery of such an unpleasant message would draw upon him the resentment both of the rulers and multitude. Indeed, “when we reflect how such a message would be received in the streets of London at this day, we shall not wonder that he was extremely reluctant to undertake the service. Strong faith and a habit of unreserved obedience were necessary to overcome the reluctance that he must have felt: and perhaps he was a young man, and not as yet inured to perilous employments.” — Scott. And, besides this, Jonah himself assigns another reason, Jonah 4:2, namely, that he knew God’s mercifulness to be great, and that it was probable God would be moved to forbear executing the judgments denounced; and so he would have the shame of being accounted a false prophet. This and other parts of his conduct, however, deserve censure. But, as Bishop Newcome observes, “men endued with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and made the instruments of declaring God’s will to mankind, have occasionally been subject to great human infirmities, and have even contracted great guilt.” Of Tarshish, see note on Isaiah 2:16. From the presence of the Lord — That is, to be at a distance from the land of Israel, the immediate residence of God, as Grotius and Locke interpret the expression. Houbigant however reads, through fear of the Lord; and what he feared is shown Jonah 4:2. Perhaps Jonah hoped, if he were at a greater distance, God would send some other prophet to preach repentance to the Ninevites. And went down to Joppa — A well-known haven on the Mediterranean. And he found a ship going to Tarshish — Bound for, and ready to sail to the place he designed. Thus Providence seemed to favour his design, and to give him an opportunity to escape. Observe, reader, we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with apparently favourable providences. So he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it He lost no time, for he was in haste to get at a distance from the presence of the Lord. Here we see what the best of men are when God leaves them to themselves, and what need we have, when the word of the Lord comes to us, to have the Spirit of the Lord to come along with the word, to bring every thought within us into obedience to it. Let us learn from hence to cease from man, and not to be too confident either respecting ourselves or others in time of trial, but let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Tharsis. Which some take to be Tharsus of Cilicia, others to be Tartessus of Spain, others to be Carthage. (Challoner) --- Joppe, now Jaffa, (Menochius) a miserable seaport. (Haydock) --- It was formerly the best near Jerusalem, (2 Paralipomenon ii. 16.) though very dangerous. (Josephus, Jewish Wars iii. 15. or 29.) --- It is said to have been built before "the inundation" of the world, (Mela. i. 11.) and was famous for the adventure of Andromeda, rescued by Perseus from a sea monster. (Pliny, [Natural History?] v. 13.) (Calmet) --- Lord. He feared being accounted a false prophet, (Worthington) knowing how much God was inclined to shew mercy, (chap. iv. 2.) and being disheartened at the difficulty of the undertaking, like Moses and Gedeon. (Calmet) --- He might also think that if the Ninivites repented, it would be a reflection on the obstinacy of the Jews. (St. Gregory, Mor. vi. 13.) (St. Jerome)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

rose up to flee. Jonah knew that Assyria was to be God"s sword of judgment against Israel. If Nineveh perished, Israel might be saved. God"s mercy might arrest this overthrow of Nineveh. Was this why Jonah would sacrifice himself to save his nation? This would explain his flight here, and his displeasure, as clearly stated in Jonah 4:1-3. When he said (Jonah 1:12), "Take me up", &c., he had counted the cost. He confesses to the men (verses: Jonah 1:9, Jonah 1:10), but not to God. He gave his life to save his People. The type of Christ may have begun here. See Galatians 1:3, Galatians 1:13; and compare Romans 9:1-3.

Tarshish. See note on 1 Kings 10:22.

from the presence of the Lord. Reference to Pentateuch (Genesis 4:16). App-92.

Joppa. Now Jaffa. Compare Joshua 19:46, 2 Chronicles 2:16. Acts 9:36.

ship. Pleb. "aniyah = any large merchant ship. Not the same word as in Jonah 1:5.

he paid the fare : and counted the cost of his flight. See notes on the Structure, p. 1247.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

But Jonah rose up to flee. Jonah's motive for flight is hinted at in Jonah 4:2 - fear that, after venturing on such a dangerous commission to so powerful a pagan city, his prophetic threats should be set aside by God's "repenting of the evil," just as God had so long spared Israel, notwithstanding so many provocations, and so he should seem a false prophet. Besides, he felt a repugnance to discharge a commission to a foreign idolatrous nation, whose destruction he desired rather than their repentance. Jonah had been for some time in exercise of his prophetic office and was sent on this mission in the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II, or even later. Amos had already prophesied that through the third of the Assyrian monarchs Israel was to be destroyed. Hosea, too, had foretold of the ten tribes, "They shall not dwell in the Lord's land ... they shall eat unclean things in Assyria" (9: 3).

Ivalush III, or Pul (Rawlinson, 'Herodotus,' 1: 466, 7), probably was then king. It was not unnatural that Jonah should dislike carrying a warning to Nineveh, which might eventuate in the sparing of the city by which his own country was to suffer. Pul was the very king by whom, under Menahem, king of Israel, the first weakening of Israel was about to take place. The instinct of self-preservation, and the natural love of country, caused him for a time to disobey a higher claim, the command of his God. 'Jonah sought the honour of the son (Israel), and sought not the honour of the father (Kimchi, from an old Rabbinical tradition). Having had the privilege of being God's instrument to foretell the restoration of Israel under Jeroboam II, after its prostration by Syria, he shrunk from being the instrument of saving Nineveh, the fore-appointed scourge of his country, from its doom, threatened because of its violent sins. Rather would he have desired to make its sudden overthrow, like that of Sodom, a solemn example to rouse Israel, his own people, from their impenitence-an effect which all the verbal warnings of the prophets of God had heretofore failed to effect. This is the only case of a prophet charged with a prophetic message concealing it. From the presence of the Lord - literally, 'from being before the Lord' (cf. Genesis 4:16, "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord" - i:e., from the vicinity of the cherubim and flaming manifestation of God at the east of Eden). Jonah thought, in fleeing from the land of Israel, where Yahweh was peculiarly present, that he should escape from Yahweh's prophecy-inspiring influence. He doubtless knew the truth stated in Psalms 139:7-10 - "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or where shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me," - but virtually ignored it, just as "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8-10; Jeremiah 23:24, "Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord"). The prophets often showed a reluctance to take on them the difficult and responsible office of ministering in the name of the Lord. Compare Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 1:6; Jeremiah 1:17; Exodus 4:10. So Jonah, while not supposing he could escape from God's omnipresence, yet fled away from standing in his immediate presence as his ministering prophet. So Elijah uses the phrase, "The Lord God of Israel, before (in the presence of) whom I stand," for 'whose prophet I am,' 1 Kings 17:1. [ milipneey (Hebrew #6440) Yahweh (Hebrew #3068), not mipneey (Hebrew #6440), is the phrase here.] So 1 Kings 8:25, Hebrew, 'There, shall not be cut off to thee a man from before me.'

And went down - appropriate in going from land to the sea (Psalms 107:23, "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters"). Jonah went down from his native country, the mountain region of Lebanon, to the sea side. A strong impetuous will, reckless of consequences to himself, was his failing.

To Joppa - now Jaffa, in the region of Dan, a harbour as early as Solomon's time, and to it were borne the cedars for building the first temple (2 Chronicles 2:16).

And he found a ship going to Tarshish - Tartessus in Spain, at the farthest west, at the greatest distance from Nineveh in the northeast.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) But Jonah rose up to flee.—The motive of the prophet’s flight is given by himself (Jonah 4:2). He foresaw the repentance of the city, and the mercy which would be displayed towards it, and was either jealous of his prophetic reputation, or had a patriotic dislike of becoming a messenger of good to a heathen foe so formidable to his own country.

Tarshish.—This can hardly be any other than Tartessus, an ancient Phœnician colony on the river Guadalquivir, in the south-west of Spain. (See Genesis 10:4; 1 Chronicles 1:7.)

A profound moral lesson lies in the choice of this refuge by Jonah. A man who tries to escape from a clearly-recognised duty—especially if he can at the time supply conscience with a plausible excuse—is in danger of falling all the lower, in proportion as his position was high. Jonah, commanded to go to Nineveh, in the far north-east, instantly tries to flee to the then farthermost west. Often between the saintly height and an abyss of sin there is no middle resting-point. The man with the highest ideal, when unfaithful to it, is apt to sink lower than the ordinary mortal.

From the presence of the Lord.—Rather, from before the face of Jehovah. The words may imply (1) the belief in a possibility of hiding from the sight of God (as in Genesis 3:8), a belief which, as we gather from the insistence on its opposite in Psalms 139, lingered late in the popular conception; (2) a renunciation of the prophetic office. (Comp. Deuteronomy 10:8; 1 Kings 17:1); (3) Flight from the Holy Land, where the Divine presence was understood to be especially manifested. Commentators have generally rejected the first of these as implying ignorance unworthy of a prophet; but, on embarking, Jonah went below, as if still more securely to hide, and used the same expression to the mariners, who would certainly take it in its literal and popular sense.

Joppa.—Heb., Yâpho; now Jaffa, the port of Jerusalem. (See Joshua 19:46; 2 Chronicles 2:16.)

He found a ship.—Probably a Phœnician vessel trading between Egypt and Spain, and accustomed to touch at Joppa.

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Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
to flee
4:2; Exodus 4:13,14; 1 Kings 19:3,9; Jeremiah 20:7-9; Ezekiel 3:14; Luke 9:62; Acts 15:38; 26:19; 1 Corinthians 9:16
Genesis 3:8; 4:16; Job 1:12; 2:7; Psalms 139:7-12; 2 Thessalonians 1:9
Joshua 19:46; 2 Chronicles 2:16; Acts 9:36
As Jonah embarked at Joppa, a seaport on the Mediterranean, it was probably either Tarsus in Cilicia, or rather Tartessus in Spain, to which he intended to flee. When we reflect how such a message would be received in the streets of London at this day, we shall not wonder at the prophet's reluctance to announce the destruction of the proud and idolatrous Nineveh.
Isaiah 2:16; 23:1,6,10; 60:9; Ezekiel 27:12
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 10:22 - Tharshish;  1 Kings 22:48 - made ships;  2 Kings 17:20 - until he had cast;  Ezra 3:7 - Joppa;  Proverbs 27:8 - man;  Jeremiah 18:3 - I went;  Jeremiah 23:23 - GeneralHosea 7:13 - fled;  Jonah 1:10 - he fled;  Luke 11:32 - a greater;  Acts 9:13 - Lord;  Acts 21:2 - finding;  Acts 27:14 - not;  1 Corinthians 9:17 - against;  Galatians 2:11 - because

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Jonah now relates how he sought hiding-places, that he might withdraw himself from the service of God; not that he deceived himself with such a gross notion, as that he would be no longer under the power of God, after having passed over the sea; but he intended to shun, as it were, the light of the present life, by proceeding to a foreign country. He was, no doubt, not only in a disturbed state of mind, when he formed such a purpose, but was utterly confused.

It may be asked, why Jonah thus avoided the command of God. The Jews, indulging in frigid trifles in divine things, say that he feared lest, when he came to Nineveh, he should be deprived of the prophetic spirit, as though he were not in the same danger by passing over the sea: this is very frivolous and puerile. And further, they blend things of no weight, when reasons sufficiently important present themselves to us.

It was first a new and unusual thing for Prophets to be drawn away from the chosen people, and sent to heathen nations. When Peter was sent to Cornelius, (Acts 10:17,) though he had been instructed as to the future call of the Gentiles, he yet doubted, he hesitated until he was driven as it were forcibly by a vision. What then must have come to the mind of Jonah? If only on account of one man the mind of Peter was disquieted, so as to think it an illusion, when he was sent a teacher to Cornelius, what must Jonah have thought, when he was sent to a city so populous? Hence novelty, doubtless, must have violently shaken the courage of the holy Prophet, and induced him to retake himself elsewhere, as one destitute of understanding. Again, doubt might have had an influence on him: for how could he have hoped that a people, who were notorious for their licentiousness, would be converted? He had indeed before an experience of the hardness of the chosen people. He had been faithfully engaged in his office, he had omitted nothing to confirm the worship of God and true religion among the people of Israel: but he had effected but little; and yet the Jews had been called from the womb. What then could he hope, when the Lord removed him to Nineveh? for unbridled licentiousness ruled there; there was also there extreme blindness, they had no knowledge of divine worship; in a word, they were sunk in extreme darkness, and the devil in every way reigned there. Doubt then must have broken down the spirit of Jonah, so that he disobeyed the command of God. Still further, the weakness of the flesh must have hindered him from following his legitimate call: “What then? even this, — I must go to the chief city of that monarchy, which at this day treads under its feet the whole earth; I must go there, a man obscure and despised; and then I must proclaim a message that will excite the greatest hatred, and instantly kindle the minds of men into rage; and what must I say to the Ninevites? ‘Ye are wicked men, God can no longer endure your impiety; there is, therefore, a dreadful vengeance near at hand.’ How shall I be received?” Jonah then, being still surrounded by the infirmities of the flesh, must have given way to fear, which dislodged the love of obedience.

And I have no doubt, in my own mind, but that Jonah discussed these things within himself, for he was not a log of wood. And doubtless it was not to no purpose, as I have already said, that he mentions that the city was great. God indeed sought to remove what might prove an hindrance, but Jonah, on the other hand, reasoned thus, — “I see that I am to have a fierce contest; nay, that such a number of people will fall on me, enough to overwhelm me a hundred times, as the Lord has not in vain foretold me that the city is great.” And though he might have had some hope, if they had been chastised, that they would give God his due honor; yet he confesses, that this hindrance came to his mind, which prevented him to proceed in the course of his calling. Hence doubt, as well as the fear of the flesh made Jonah to stumble, and novelty also, as I have already said, must have perplexed him; so that he preferred to go down, as it were, to the grave, than to undertake an office which apparently had no reason in its favor. For why were the Prophets sent, except to effect something by their labor, and to bring forth some fruit? but of this Jonah had no hope. Some authority was also allowed the Prophets, at least they were allowed the liberty of teaching; but Jonah thought that all entrance was closed up against him: and still more, Jonah thought that he was opposing the covenant of the Lord, who had chosen one people only; and he also thought that he was, as it were, fixed to his own land, when he was appointed a Teacher in his own country; he therefore could not remove elsewhere without feeling a great repugnance.

I hence think, that Jonah disobeyed the command of God, partly because the weakness of the flesh was an hindrance, partly because of the novelty of the message, and partly because he despaired of fruit, or of success to his teaching.

But he doubtless grievously transgressed: for the first rule, as to all our actions, is to follow the call of God. Though one may excel in heroic virtues, yet all his virtues are mere fumes, which shine before the eyes of men, except the object be to obey God. The call of God then, as I have said, holds the first place as to the conduct of men; and unless we lay this foundation, we do like him who would build a house in the air. Disordered then will be the whole course of our life, except God presides over and guides us, and raises up over us, as it were, his own banners. As then Jonah subverted the first and the only firm foundation of a right conduct, what could have remained for him? There is then no reason for us to extenuate his fault, for he could not have sinned more grievously than by forsaking God, in having refused to obey his call: it was, as it were to shake off the yoke; and this he confesses himself.

They therefore very childishly write who wish to be his apologists, since he twice condemns himself — Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of Jehovah to go unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. Why does he the second time repeat, from the presence of Jehovah? He meant, no doubt, to express here more distinctly his fault: and the repetition is indeed very emphatical: and it also proves clearly that it was not a slight offense, when Jonah retook himself elsewhere when he was sent to Nineveh. He could not indeed have departed from the Lord, for God fills heaven and earth; and, as I have said already, he was not fascinated by so gross an error as to think, that when he became a fugitive, he was beyond the reach of God’s hand. What then is to flee from the face of Jehovah, except it be that which he here confesses, that he fled from the presence of God, as though he wished, like runaway servants, to reject the government of God? Since then Jonah was carried away by this violent temptation, there is no reason why we should now try, by some vain and frivolous pretenses, to excuse his sin. This is one thing.

With regard to the word Tharsis, or Tharsisa, I doubt not but that it means Cilicia. There are those who think that it is the city Tarsus; but they are mistaken, for it is the name of a country. They are also mistaken who translate it, Sea; for Jonah intended not only to go to sea, but also to pass over into Cilicia, which is opposite to the Syrian Sea. But the Jews called that the Sea of Tarshish, as it appears from many passages, because there was very frequent sailing to that place. As then that transmarine country was more known to them than any other, and as they carried there their merchandise, and in their turn purchased their goods, they called that the Sea of Tarshish, as it is well known, as being near it.

Jonah then intended to flee into Cilicia, when the Lord would have sent him to Nineveh. It is said that he rose up to flee, and then, that he went down to Joppa, that he found there a ship, which was passing over to Tarshish, that he paid the fare, that he went down into the ship,to go with them into Cilicia: (12) now by all those expressions Jonah intimates that he was wholly fixed in his purpose, and that it was necessary that he should have been brought back by a strong hand; for he was touched by no repentance during his journey. Many things may indeed come to our minds when the call of God appears to us too burdensome. There is none of us, when service is to be performed to God, who does not roll this and that in his mind: “What will be the issue? how wilt thou reach the place where thou expectest to be? See what dangers await thee.” For Satan always comes forth, whenever we resolve to obey God; but we are to struggle in this case, and then repel what we see to be contrary to our calling. But Jonah shows that he was obstinately fixed in his purpose of fleeing: for he not only intended to go into Tarshish, but he actually went down to the city Joppa, which was nigh to Judea; and, therefore some think that Tarshish was Africa; but this is strained. Others divine it to be Thunetus or Carthage, as though indeed these cities were built at that time; but men are very bold in dreaming. But what need of giving a new meaning to this word against the most common usage of Scriptures when it is evident enough that Tarshish is Cilicia?

Now, when Jonah went down to Joppa, it was evident that he intended immediately to migrate from the land of Judah, and to pass over the sea: but by saying that he paid the fare, that he went down into the ship, that he might go, — by this gradual progress, he sets before us, as I have said, more fully his own perverseness; so that he admits that he not only resolutely purposed to reject the call of God, but that he also confirmed himself in it: and though there were many things to be done, which might have sometimes forced him to stand still, he yet constantly followed where his perverse and blind impulse led him. There is no doubt then, but that Jonah, in these distinct words sets himself forth as a fugitive, not only by one act, but by many acts.

Now, as to his flight, we must bear in mind what I have before said — that all flee away from the presence of God, who do not willingly obey his commandments; not that they can depart farther from him, but they seek, as far as they can, to confine God within narrow limits, and to exempt themselves from being subject to his power. No one indeed openly confesses this; yet the fact itself shows, that no one withdraws himself from obedience to God’s commands without seeking to diminish and, as it were, to take from him his power, so that he may no longer rule. Whosoever, then, do not willingly subject themselves to God, it is the same as though they would turn their backs on him and reject his authority that they may no more be under his power and dominion.

It is deserving of notice, that as Jonah represents himself as guilty before the whole world, so he intended by his example to show how great and detestable a sin it is, not to submit to the commands of God, and not to undertake whatever he enjoins, but to evade his authority. That he might then enhance the atrocity of his sin, he shows by his own example that we cannot rebel against God, without seeking, under some pretense or another to thrust him from his throne, and, at the same time, to confine him within certain limits that he may not include heaven and earth within his empire.

“God sometimes 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.”

Matthew Henry’s remarks are of the same import, but still more striking — “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 favorable gale. The ready way is not always the right way.”

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.