Jonah 1:1 open_in_new
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
Ver. 1. Now the word of the Lord came] Heb. And the word For with that particle "And" the Hebrews sometimes begin a discourse, as Eze 1:1 Leviticus 1:1, an elegance proper to that tongue. Howbeit Hugo Cardinalis maketh this "And," not an inceptive particle, but a copulative to many other things that were in the prophet's mind. Others conceive it to be continuative of some other history not now extant; or at least connective of this history with the course of his ordinary calling and prophetic employment among the ten tribes, to whom he prophesied together with Hosea, Amos, and others, but with little good success, in the reign of Jeroboam II:, a prince more prosperous than pious, 2 Kings 14:25. Jonah prophesied of his prosperity and victories; whereof when no good use was made by the house of Israel, their calamity and captivity was likewise foretold by Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah; and hence some conclude that Jonah was the first of all the prophets whose writings are extant; for he lived, say they, before the battle of Joash, King of Israel, with the Syrians, about the end of the life and prophecy of Elisha, 2 Kings 13:14 .
Unto Jonah the son of Amittai] Jonah signifieth a dove, but Jonah had too little of the dove in him: plenus enim fuit effraenatis motibus, saith one; as passionate a man of an honest man as you have lightly heard of, saith another. Whether he was that "mad fellow" (as those much more mad captains called him 2Ki 9:11), that was sent to anoint Jehu, or else the widow of Sarepta's son raised by Elijah (as the Hebrews will have him to be), I have not to say. But that he was a servant of the Lord we find, 2 Kings 14:25, and a type of Christ, Matthew 12:40, concerning whom he prophesied, non tam sermone quam sua quadam passione (Augustine), far more plainly than if he had by voice foretold his death and resurrection. And whereas the grandees and potentates of the world get them a great name by the death and danger of many others; Ionas his omnibus superior est, saith an interpreter, Jonah surpasseth them all in this, that by his sermon at Nineveh he preserved that great city, wherein were so many thousand persons, and so much cattle, John 4:11. That he was called and sent thither by God it appeareth by this text, and Oecolampadius observeth it. He was not, saith he, of them that run before they are sent; but, being sent, he refused to run, because of the hardness of the task laid upon him, as did likewise Moses and Jeremiah, till better tutored. There is less danger in refusing to run when sent than in running unsent. But when God calleth a man to the ministry, let him not doubt or despond, though at first he find not so much encouragement. Magna semper fecerunt, qui Deo vocante docuerunt, saith Luther. They have always done great things that have followed God's call, as did Jonah at Nineveh, and doth still in the Church of God; for among others Cyprian, that famous martyr, confesseth that he was converted from idolatry and necromancy by hearing the history of the prophet Jonah read and expounded to him by Cecilius, whom he thenceforth called novae vitro parentem, the father of his Christian life.
Jonah 1:2 open_in_new
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
Ver. 2. Arise, go to Nineveh] Haec est vocatio prophetae, saith Oecolampadius: this was the prophet's call, which he should have obeyed without bucking or shucking, delays or disputes, conferring, or consulting with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:16. True it is, that in human governments, where reason is shut out, there tyranny is thrust in. As in the papacy (where the whore sitteth upon them, Revelation 17:1, that is, useth them vilely and basely; sitteth upon their consciences, as Rachel did upon her father's images), though their superiors command the friars a voyage to China or Peru, without dispute or delay they must presently set forward; to detract or disobey in this case is held breach of vow, equal to sacrilege: this is intolerable tyranny. But where God calleth or commandeth (as here), to ask a reason is presumption; to oppose reason is rebellion. Paul dared not but be obedient to the heavenly vision, Acts 26:19. Jonah declined his apostleship (την αποστολην παρητησατο, as a father calleth it), but it had like to have cost him a choking; whereof, when in danger, he could confess that "They that observe lying vanities" (as he had done to his cost) "forsake their own mercy," John 2:8, are miserable by their own election. As for the expression here used, "Arise, go," it is hortantis particula, et studium notat; it is an encouraging and exciting particle. Up and be doing. Be "fervent in spirit; serving the Lord," Romans 12:11. Surge, age, summe Pater, said Mantuan to the Pope, exciting him to take up arms against the Turk. There is a curse to him that doeth the work of the Lord negligently, Jeremiah 48:10, and a command to do it with all our might, Ecclesiastes 9:10 .
Nineveh, that great city] Built by Ninus, and by him so named; as Adrianople, Constantinople, Charlestown, &c. A great city it was, indeed, never any so great; as consisting of three cities, and having more people within the walls, than are now in some one kingdom, saith an author. It was sixty miles about, saith Diodorus Siculus (Bunting saith Alcaire at this day is no less: Paulus Venetus saith Quinsay, in Tartary, is a hundred miles in circuit, but we are not bound to believe him. It is enough that Cambalu, the chief city there, is twenty-eight miles in compass). Nineveh was three days' journey in Jonah's days, fortified with a wall of a hundred feet high; and that also beautified, and beset with fifteen hundred towers, each of them erected to the height of two hundred feet. Thus far Diodorus, who also tells us that this great city received one ruin by the river Tigris, which, at an inundation, brake out upon the wall, and threw down two and a half miles of it, see Nahum 1:8. Its last destruction was undertaken and ended by Nebuchadnezzar, as the Jews in their chronology testify. Herodotus saith, by Cyaxares, not by Astyages, as Jerome mistaketh him. If Sardanapalus were King of Nineveh when Jonah cried against it (as Corn. a Lapide contendeth), it was much that such an egregious voluptuary should so soon be wrought upon, as John 3:1,10. But he and his people soon relapsed to their former impiety; and were therefore destroyed, as Nahum had foretold; so that it may now be said of Nineveh, as once it was of another great city, in Strabo, magna civitas, magna solitudo. That great city is become a great desert, see Zephaniah 2:15, it is nothing now but a sepulchre of itself, a little town of small trade, where Nestorius's sect have taken their shelter, at the devotion of the Turk. It is become like that other Nineveh mentioned by Eusebius, quae est parvum quoddam in angulo Arabico oppidum, which is a certain little town in a corner of Arabia (Lib. de loc. Ebraic.).
And cry against it] Cry aloud with open mouth and full throat, sic clames, ut Stentora vincere possis. The voice said, Cry: but what should he cry? Isaiah 41:6,8. Cry that their wickedness is come up before me (so some), but that is not all. Cry, as John 3:5, Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed, for their wickedness is come, &c., their iniquity will be their ruin; tell them so from me, Isaiah 41:10,11 .
Their wickedness is come up before me] Their pride, cruelty, and other many and bony sins, as Amos hath it, Amos 5:12. Of their idolatry we read not, and yet we doubt not; they declared their sins as Sodom, Isaiah 3:9, they set them upon the cliffs of the rocks, Ezekiel 24:7,8; they did wickedly as they could, and filled not only the earth with their abominations, but the heaven also with the noise and stench thereof, to the annoying of God's senses and the vexing of his soul; more than any filthy drunkard doth those that are sober, with his hooting and spewing. See Genesis 4:10; Genesis 18:20 Revelation 18:5. See Trapp on " Gen 4:10 " See Trapp on " Gen 18:20 " See Trapp on " Rev 18:5 "
Jonah 1:3 open_in_new
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 John 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, 2Ki 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 .
a A figure of speech which consists in substituting for the name of a thing the name of an attribute of it or of something closely related. ŒD
Jonah 1:4 open_in_new
But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
Ver. 4. But the Lord sent out] Heb. cast forth, sc. out of his treasuries, Psalms 135:7, wherehence he sendeth at his pleasure mighty great winds which he (the only Aeolus) holdeth in his fist, hideth in his repositories, checketh them as he seeth good, weighs them in his hand, Job 28:25; sends them out as his posts, makes them pace orderly, appoints them their motion, whether as messengers of mercy, Num 2:13 Gen 8:1 Exodus 14:21, or as executioners of justice, Exo 10:13 Job 1:19, hurting men's houses, cattle, corn, persons; yea, hurrying and hurling the wicked into hell, Job 27:21 .
A great wind into the sea] Whither they that go down in ships see God's great wonders in the deep. For "he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof," &c., Psalms 107:23,29. Did it not so in a marvellous manner here in 1588, and again in that other 1688, some few years since? Had not Jehoshaphat his ships broken at Eziongeber, 1 Kings 22:48, and Charles V at Algiers, by two terrible tempests, which destroyed almost all that goodly fleet? The very mariners acknowledged this wind to be an effect of God's justice, and therefore thought fit to implore his mercy; for
There was a mighty tempest in the sea] Which is troublesome of itself and never still, though sometimes it seems so; but by blustering and big winds is made out of measure troublesome (Inhorruit mare. Virg.), such as was that λαιλαψ, Luke 8:23, and that Euroclydon, Acts 27:14; which Pliny calleth navigantium pestem, the mariner's misery.
So that the ship was like to be broken] Heb. thought to be broken; Or. was in danger to be broken, εκινδυνευεν : the mariners made no other reckoning, they looked upon all as lost. God reserveth his holy hand for a dead lift usually, and loveth to help those that are forsaken of their hopes.
Jonah 1:5 open_in_new
Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that [were] in the ship into the sea, to lighten [it] of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
Ver. 5. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his god] Forced by the present necessity, first these stout fellows were surprised with fear; neither could they look pale death in the face with blood in their cheeks. Death is the "king of terrors," Job 18:14, Nature's slaughter man, God's curse, and helps purveyor. Next they "cried every man to his god." This was a lesson of Mother Nature's teaching, sc. that there is a God, and that this God is to be called upon, and especially in distress. Those fools of the people that said there was no God could not (when hardly bestead) but look up to heaven and cry out for help. All "people will walk every one in the name of his god," Micah 4:5. These mariners or saltmen המלחים (so called, either because they dealt in that commodity, or else because they rowed in the salt sea) had their several gods, according to their several countries, and these they now called upon, whom, till now, perhaps they little enough cared for; seamen are not overly pious for the most part. And yet of the Turkish mariners I have read, that every morning they salute the sun with their general shouts, and a priest saying a kind of Litany, every prayer ending with Macree Kichoon, that is, be angels present: the people answer in the manner of a shout Homin, that is, Amen. But it is remarkable that these in the text, though they cried every man to his god, yet, lest they might all mistake the true God, they awaken Jonah to call upon his God. This uncertainty, attending idolatry, caused the heathens to close their petitions with that general Diique Deaeque omnes (Serv. in Georg. lib. 1). But thirdly, as they cried to their gods, so (according to that rule, Ora et labora),
They cast forth the wares that were in the ship] Not doubting to sacrifice their goods to the service of their lives. "Skin for skin, and all that a man hath," &c.: so Acts 27:18,19; Acts 27:38. Let us lose anything for eternal life, Luke 16:8; Luke 9:25 Matthew 18:8; suffer any hardship for heaven: we cannot buy it too dear. A stone will fall down to come to its own place, though it break itself in pieces by the way; so we, that we may get to our centre, which is upward.
But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship] Into the bottom of it: hither he had betaken himself before the storm; not considering that God had long hands to pull him out of his lurking holes, and bring him to judgment.
And he lay, and was fast asleep] It is likely that he had not slept many nights before (through care, fear, and grief, those three vultures that had been gnawing upon his inwards), and therefore now sleeps the more soundly. Or rather it was carnal security, his heart being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:13. He had hardened his heart against God's fear, and wilfully withdrawn from his obedience; hence this spiritual lethargy, this deep sleep in sin, not unlike that of the smith's dog, whom neither the hammers above him nor the sparks of fire falling round about him can awaken: though the waterpot and spear be taken from the bolster, the secure person stirs not; though the house be on fire over his ears he starts not. Their senselessness God will cure in his Jonahs by sharp afflictions. Cold diseases must have hot and sharp remedies. The lethargy is best cured by a burning ague. God will let his presumptuous people see what it is to make wounds in their consciences, to try the preciousness of his balm: such may go mourning to their graves. And though with much ado they get assurance of pardon, yet their consciences will be still trembling, as David's, Psalms 51:1,19, till God speaks farther peace, even as the water of the sea after a storm is not presently still, but moves and trembles a good while after the storm is over.
Jonah 1:6 open_in_new
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
Ver. 6. So the shipmaster came unto him] God might have come himself with his drawn sword (as Baanah and Rechab did upon sleeping Ishbosheth) and taken off his head, or have sent an evil angel to arouse him in a fright, or have thrown him into the burning lake, as Agrippa did his dormouse a into the boiling caldron; but such is not God's manner of dealing with his people, though he be deeply displeased. Correct them he will, but with judgment, not in his anger, lest they be brought to nothing, Jeremiah 10:24. Instruct them also he will ("Corrections of instruction are the way of life," Pro 6:23) by one means or other, as he did here Jonah by a rude mariner, and as long before he had done Abraham and Sarah by Abimelech, a heathen prince, to shame them.
What meanest thou, O sleeper?] Heb. what is come to thee? Genesis 20:9. What a senseless stupidity hath seized thee! Are we all in danger, and dost thou sleep? as the philosopher (in danger likewise of shipwreck) said to one that made light of it, - Do we all stand upon our lives, and dost thou play the fool? ημεις παντες κινδυνευπμεν. και συ παιζεις; The spiritual sleeper, in like sort, may he be but warm in his own feathers, regards not the danger of the house. He is, saith one, a mere mute and cipher, a nullity in the world, a superfluity in the earth, Jeremiah's rotten girdle, good for nothing, or like the branches of a vine, Ezekiel 15:3 .
Arise, call upon thy God] For our gods will do nothing for us. The gods of the heathen are "silver and gold, the work of men's hands; they have mouths, but speak not," &c., Psalms 115:4. But if God's Israel trust in the Lord, he will be their help and their shield, John 1:9. Forasmuch as there is none like unto him, Jeremiah 10:6; neither is "their rock as our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges," Deuteronomy 32:31 .
If so be that God will think upon us] The Chaldee hath it, will be merciful unto us; the Hebrew word signifieth will clear up, and behold us with a serene countenance; granting us a calm, and taking care that we perish not. So shall we acknowledge him to be Haelohim, that God by an excellency. Queen Elizabeth (that Regina Serenissima most unruffled Queen), for her merciful returning home certain Italians that were taken prisoners in the 1588 invasion, was termed Saint Elizabeth by some at Venice; who also affirmed to the English ambassador there, that though they were Papists, yet they would never pray to any other saint but that Saint Elizabeth.
a A sleepy or dozing person. ŒD
Jonah 1:7 open_in_new
And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil [is] upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
Ver. 7. And they said every one to his fellow] When Jonah had now prayed, and yet the tempest continued, (for we know that God heareth not sinners, John 9:31; no, not a David or a Jonah, if he "regard iniquity in his heart," Psalms 66:18; how should the plaster prevail while the weapon remains in the wound?) they resolve to try another course for the safeguard of their lives. Man is ζωον φιλοζωον, a creature that would fain live, said Aesop; and "what man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good," saith David; whereunto Austin answereth, Quis vitam non vult? who would not be master of such a happiness?
Come and let us cast lots] And so put the matter into God's hands, Proverbs 16:33. He disposeth of lottery, so it be rightly undertaken, not superstitiously, curiously, rashly; but as trusting in God, and not tempting him.
That we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us] Some extraordinary cause they knew there was of this extraordinary tempest. Sinful men strike not their dogs, much less their children, without a cause. A bee stings not till provoked; neither doth God punish his creatures till there be no other remedy, 2 Chronicles 36:16. Good, therefore, is the counsel of the prophet, Lamentations 3:39,40, "Why is living man sorrowful, a man for the punishment of his sin Let us search and try our ways" (find out the sin that God strikes at), "and turn again to the Lord"; turn and live.
So they cast lots] They should have also prayed, as Acts 1:24; Acts 6:6; saying as Saul, 1 Samuel 14:41, "Give a perfect lot." Wicked men also are bound to pray, Psalms 14:4; but although they do not, God can get himself glory by their profane lottery; as he did by Nebuchadnezzar's, Ezekiel 21:20,21 .
And the lot fell upon Jonah] Secret sins will come out at length, and be brought into judgment, Ecclesiastes 12:14. Saeculi laetitia est impunita nequitia (Augustin). Surely the bitterness of death is past, said Agag, but he found it otherwise, 1 Samuel 15:32. Jonah thought himself out of the reach of God's rod, &c. Wicked men's faults shall be written in their foreheads, and they forced to answer for all at last, with flames about their ears.
Jonah 1:8 open_in_new
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil [is] upon us; What [is] thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what [is] thy country? and of what people [art] thou?
Ver. 8. Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause, &c.] He confessed not till urged and necessitated. Sin gags people, and prompts them to hide their faults, as Adam; or at least to mince, extenuate, shift them upon other persons and things, as Eve. Sin and shifting came into the world together; and Satan, that old manslayer, knowing that there is no way to purge the soul but upwards, holds the lips close, that the heart may not disburden itself: God, by this means, is often put to his proof, and must bring the malefactor to trial; who, refusing ordinary trial, must therefore be pressed, Jeremiah 2:35 .
What is thine occupation?] For that thou hast one we take it for granted. At Athens every man was, once a year, at least, to give account to the judges by what art or trade he maintained himself. By Mahomet's law the Grand Signior himself must use some manual trade; Solyman the Magnificent made arrowheads; Mahomet the Great horn rings for archers, &c. That which the mariners here inquire after is, whether Jonah's occupation be honest and lawful? whether he "laboured the thing that was good," Ephesians 4:28. For if any man overreach or oppress his brother in any matter, by the use of any ill arts, he shall be sure to find that "the Lord is the avenger of all such," 1 Thessalonians 4:6; though haply they lie out of the walk of human justice, or come not under man's cognizance.
And whence comest thou?] Art thou not of an accursed country? and is not thy people a people of God's wrath, as England was in the time of the sweating sickness, pursuing the English wherever they came; which made them like tyrants, both feared and avoided by all nations? How the Jews are to this day hated and shunned as an execrable people is known to all.
What is thy country? and of what people art thou?] Notanda brevitas, saith Jerome here, note the brevity of these questions, nothing short of those in Virgil so much admired (Aen. viii. 112).
-- “ iuvenes quae causa subegit
Ignotas tentare vias? qua tenditis? inquit,
Quod genus? unde domo? pacemne hue fertis, an arma? ”
Note also here, how these Pagans proceed not to execution till they have fully inquired into the matter, This was far better than that ugly custom of some people in Europe, mentioned by Aeneas Sylvius: that if any one among them be suspected of theft or the like crime he is presently taken and hanged. Then three days after they examine the business; and if the party be found guilty they suffer his body there to hang till it rot down; or, if otherwise, they bury him in the churchyard, and keep a funeral feast at the public charge.
Jonah 1:9 open_in_new
And he said unto them, I [am] an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry [land].
Ver. 9. And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew] i.e. A true believer, as was Eber the patriarch, Genesis 10:21, and, after him, Abram the Hebrew, as he is called, Genesis 14:13. This name of Hebrews, as it was the first title given to Abraham and his seed, so it endureth one of the last, 2Co 11:22 Philippians 3:5; Epistle to the Hebrews, title.
And I fear the Lord God of heaven] That is mine occupation; "I serve God with my spirit in the gospel of his Son," as Paul hath it, Romans 1:9. Every faithful minister is servant to the King of heaven, Acts 27:23 (this the devil could not deny, Act 16:16-17); neither is he of his meaner or inferior servants, of his underlings, but of the noblest employment; ministers are his stewards, ambassadors, paranymphs, or spokesmen, &c., and this is their occupation, or their work; far beyond that of Solomon's servants.
Which hath made the sea and the dry land] This troublesome sea that now so threateneth you, and that dry land which you would so fain recover. These, with all their contents, are his creatures; neither did he make them, and then leave them to fate or fortune, as a carpenter leaves the house he hath built to others, or a shipwright the ship; but he ordereth and ruleth them at his pleasure, and will unmake all again rather than have his people lack help in one season, Psalms 124:8; Psalms 134:3. This was part of Jonah's confession, and but part of it; for he told them (no doubt) how ill he had dealt with this great and good God, running away by stealth from his Master's service, and detracting his yoke, and that, therefore, he was justly apprehended and adjudged to death. To this purpose was Jonah's confession, quae ei salutis fuit exordium, saith Mercer, which was the beginning of his safety and salvation. Now his hard heart is broken, and his dumb mouth opened, not only to confess his offence, but to aggravate it; in that being not only a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a member of the true Church, but a prophet, a doctor in Israel, he should deal so perversely and perfidiously. It is a sweet happiness when sin swells as a toad in a man's eyes, and he can freely confess it in the particulars, and with utmost aggravation; laying open "all his transgressions in all his sins," as Moses phraseth it, Leviticus 16:21. Affliction sanctified will bring a soul to this, as here it did the prophet; like herein to that helve Elisha cast into the water, that fetched up the iron that was in the bottom.
Jonah 1:10 open_in_new
Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
Ver. 10. Then were the men exceedingly afraid] Heb. with great fear; when once they had heard the business, and weighed the particulars, of his message to Nineveh, of his miscarriage, and of his present misery, together with the danger that themselves were in for his sake; how much more for their own, as being conscious to themselves of far more and greater sins than Jonah had to answer for. This put the mariners into a great fright; and as all fear hath torment, they could not be at quiet till they had further questioned him, saying:
Why hast thou done this?] Lo, he that would not be subject to God's command is now liable to the censures, conviction, and condemnation of rude barbarous men; which, being humbled in the sense of his sin, he doth patiently endure without grudging. Daneus's note here is, that concerning themselves and their own sins against God these good fellows speak nothing, whatever they think; but demand of the prophet, why hast thou done this? as if he were the only misdoer.
Because he had told them] As willing now to give glory to God and take shame to himself: this is the property of a true penitentiary. See Psa 51:1 title (where David stands to do penance in a white sheet, as it were), and Augustin's Confessions. Hypocrites deal with their souls as some do with their bodies; when their beauty is decayed they desire to hide it from themselves by false glasses and from others by painting: so do they their sins from themselves by false glosses and from others by excuses. But as the prisoner on the rack tells all; and as things written with the juice of lemons when held to the fire are made legible; so when God brings men into straits, when he roasteth them in the fire of his wrath, then, if ever, they will confess against themselves, and so give glory to God, Joshua 7:19, by putting themselves into the hand of justice, in hope of mercy.
Jonah 1:11 open_in_new
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
Ver. 11. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee?] q.d. Thou art a prophet of the Lord, and knowest how he may be pacified. Thou art also the party whom he pursueth: say what we shall do to thee to save ourselves from thy death, that even gapeth for us? from this sea, which else will soon swallow us up? for the sea worketh and is tempestuous: so Kimchi readeth the text; making these last also to be the words of the mariners. Thou seest that there is no hope, if thine angry God be not appeased. "Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods?" 1 Samuel 4:8. If the sea be thus rageful and dreadful, as John 1:15, if it thus work and swell more and more, as we see it doth, thereby testifying that it can now no longer defer to execute God's anger, tell us what we shall do in this case and strait. What?
Jonah 1:12 open_in_new
And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest [is] upon you.
Ver. 12. And he said unto them] More by God's inward revelation than by discourse of reason; not as rashly offering himself to death, but as freely submitting to the mind of God, signified by the lot that fell upon him, calling for him to punishment.
Take me up, and cast me forth unto the sea] Eximia fides, saith Mercer. Before we had his repentance, testified by his confession with aggravation; here we have his faith, whereby he triumpheth over death in his most dreadful representations (Take me up, saith he, with a present mind and good courage), as also his charity, whereby he chose rather to die, as a piacular a person, than to cause the death of so many men for his fault. Like unto this was that of Nazianzen, who desired, Jonah-like, to be cast into the sea himself so be it all might be calm in the public; that of Athanasius, who by his sweat and tears, as by the bleeding of a chaste vine, cured the leprosy of that tainted age; that of Ambrose, who was far more solicitous of the Church's welfare than of his own; that of Chrysostom, who saith, That to seek the public good of the Church, and to prefer the salvation of others before a man's private profit, is the most perfect canon of Christianism, the very top gallant of religion, the highest point and pitch of piety. In 1 Corinthians 11:1,34 τουτο ορος ηκριβωμενος αυτη η κορυφη η ανωτατω .
So shall the sea be calm unto you] Not else: for I have forfeited my life by my disobedience; and my repentance (though true, and so, "to salvation never to be repented of," 2Co 7:10) comes too late, in regard of temporal punishments; as did likewise that of Moses, Deuteronomy 3:26, and of David, 2 Samuel 12:10, such is the venomous nature of sin in the saints (it is treachery, because against covenant), and such is the displeasure of God upon it, that he chastiseth his here more than any other sinners, Lamentations 4:6 Daniel 9:12, and whoever else escape, they shall be sure of it, Amos 3:2. The word here rendered calm signifieth silent; for the sea, when troubled, roareth hideously, so that the roaring of the devils at the painful preconceit of their last doom of damnation is set forth by a word that is taken from the tossing of the sea and the noise thereupon, James 2:19, "The devils believe and tremble," or shiver and shudder with horrible yellings (φρισσουσι. φριξ, est maria agitatio. Eustath. in Hom. Iliad).
For I know that for my sake this tempest is upon you] If Jonah were a type of Christ in that being cast into the sea a calm followed; yet herein he differed, that Christ suffered not for his own offences, but "bore our sins in his own body on the tree," and died, "the just for the unjust," 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18 .
a Making expiation or atonement; expiatory. ŒD
Jonah 1:13 open_in_new
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring [it] to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
Ver. 13. Nevertheless the men rowed] Heb. digged: for so they that row seem to do with their oars as with spades. Hence also the Latin poets say, that boatmen cut, plough, furrow the waters (Virg. Aeneid.), Vastum sulcavimus aequor. Infindunt pariter sulcos. The Seventy render it παρεβιαζοντο, they did their utmost endeavour, with violence, to bring the ship to shore, and to save Jonah: and not as those bloody emperors, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius, who took delight in the punishment of offenders, and used to come early in the morning into the marketplace to behold their executions. Non nisi coactus, said that better emperor, when he was to subscribe a sentence of death; and, Oh, that I could not write mine own name (Utinam literas nescirem), said another upon the like occasion.
But they could not] They did but strive against the stream, for the Lord had otherwise determined it; and Voluntas Dei necessitas rei, who hath resisted his will?
For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.] As John 1:11. Praesentemque viris intentant omnia mortem.
Jonah 1:14 open_in_new
Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
Ver. 14. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord] Not unto their false gods, but unto the true Jehovah of whom they had learned something by what they had seen and heard from Jonah. Va torpori nostro.
We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee] A most ardent and affectionate prayer. A natural man may pray from the bottom of his heart, out of a deep sense of his wants; but he cannot give thanks from the bottom of his heart; because void of the love of God and joy of faith. Danaeus noteth from these words that judges ought to pray before they pass sentence of death upon any.
Let us not perish for this man's life] Which we take away, but full sore against our wills. Wilful murder was ever accounted a heinous crime among the heathens also. Abel's innocent blood had as many tongues as drops, to cry to heaven against Cain, Genesis 4:10, "The voice of thy brother's blood"; and 2 Kings 9:26, "Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth." Murder ever bleeds fresh in the eye of God; and to him many years, yea, that eternity that is past, is but yesterday. Full well, then, did these men so earnestly deprecate the guilt of innocent blood, which they knew would lie and light heavily.
And lay not upon us innocent blood] Innocent as to us; for he hath done us no hurt, but much good by his piety and patience; whence it is that we are so loth to part with him, after this sort especially.
For thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleaseth thee] Thou hast appointed him to this death, and now callest for him, as we easily collect by the circumstances. Sic quicquid superi voluere, per actum est (Ovid. Metamor. l. 8).
Jonah 1:15 open_in_new
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
Ver. 15. So they took up Jonah] Not against his will, but in a sort offering himself to condign punishment. The mariners had tried all ways to save him, till they saw they must either destroy him or be destroyed with him. So deal many with their beloved sins, which they are loth to mortify, they see they must either kill or be killed, Romans 8:13; either turn from them to God, or burn for ever in hell. Jonah's charity is exemplary, who yielded to perish alone rather than to have others perish with him and for him; the devil and his imps desire to draw company the same way with themselves; and say, as that wretch of old, When I die, may the earth be all fired, εμου θαναντος γαια μιχθητω τυρι εμου δε ζωντος dixit Caligula .
And cast him forth into the sea] Thus dealeth God by his servant Jonah; formerly faithful in his office, and able thereunto, and therefore sent to Nineveh. "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth," Proverbs 11:31; here they are sure of their payment, neither can all their good deeds bear out one prepensed wickedness of a lesser fault that lies unrepented for, as were easy to instance in Moses, Miriam, David, and others. And all this proceeds from love displeased.
And the sea ceased from raging] Heb. stood from its wrath, or indignation. Nee marls ira manet (Ovid. Metam.). Nec horret iratum mare (Horat. lib. Epod.). The sea having found what it sought for, and now possessed of the prisoner it pursued, resteth quiet and content; Vide hic mare et disce sapere, saith one; see the sea here, and learn obedience to thy Creator, since winds, waves, and all are at his beck and check. See Matthew 8:26 .
Jonah 1:16 open_in_new
Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
Ver. 16. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly] Heb. with a great fear. They feared before, John 1:10, with a natural fear; but now they feared Jehovah. They began to bear all awful respect to the Divine majesty, of whose power and goodness they were by this miracle clearly convinced, and, as it may seem, to the true faith effectually converted.
For they offered a sacrifice to the Lord] They sacrificed spiritual sacrifices presently (that holocaust of themselves, Romans 12:1, that broken heart that lieth low and heareth all that God saith, giving thanks to his name, Heb 13:15), and resolved to cover God's altar at Jerusalem upon their safe arrival, as the Chaldee here paraphraseth.
And made vows] That the true God should be their God (as Jacob, the father of vows, promised, Gen 28:21), and that they would bestow cost on the temple, on the poor saints, to feed and clothe them, as Isaiah 23:18 .
Jonah 1:17 open_in_new
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Ver. 17. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish] A whale, Matthew 12:40, which is a great fish indeed. Pliny tells of one taken that was six hundred feet in length, and three hundred and sixty in breadth; when they swim and show themselves above water, annare insulas putes, saith the same author, you would think them to be so many islands. So many mountains, saith another; who also addeth, that when they grow old they grow to that size and weight, that they stay long in a place. Insomuch as ex collectis et condensatis pulveribus frutices erumpere cernantur, the dust and filth gathered upon their backs seems to be an island, which while shipmen are mistaken and think to land at, they incur a great deal of danger (Sphinx Philid.).
Such a great fish God prepared] Either at first, when in creating of whales, creavit vastitares et stupores, as one saith; or he now commanded this great fish to be ready to ship Jonah to the shore, and to afford him an oratory in the mean while.
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish] Where interpreters note a concurrence of these four miracles. 1. That he was not there consumed, but that the concoctive faculty of the fish's stomach was so long time kept from doing its office. 2. That he could in such a close prison breathe and live without the common use of air and light. 3. That he was not killed up with intolerable stench in so loathsome an outhouse. 4. That he could there frame such an excellent prayer, or rather song of thanksgiving; for Jonah was the true Arion whom the poets feign to have been a minstrel cast into the sea by the mariners, and saved by a dolphin.
Three days and three nights] Part of them at least; as Christ was in the grave, Matthew 12:40, where, in the history of Jonah, he descrieth the mystery of his own death, burial, and resurrection; teaching us thereby to search the Scriptures, to search them to the bottom (ερευνατε); as those that dig for gold content not themselves with the first or second ore that offers itself, but search on till they have all. The Rabbis have a saying that there is a mountain of sense hangs upon every apex of the word of God. And so great is the depth of the Holy Scriptures, saith Augustin, that I could profit daily in the knowledge thereof, though I should set myself to search them from my childhood to decrepit old age, at best leisure, with utmost study and a far better wit.