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Jon 1:1-17. JONAH'S COMMISSION TO NINEVEH, FLIGHT, PUNISHMENT, AND PRESERVATION BY MIRACLE.
1. Jonah--meaning in Hebrew, "dove." Compare
Ge 8:8, 9,
where the dove in vain seeks rest after flying from Noah and the ark:
so Jonah. GROTIUS not so well explains it, "one
sprung from Greece" or Ionia, where there were prophets called
2. to Nineveh--east of the Tigris, opposite the modern Mosul. The only
case of a prophet being sent to the heathen. Jonah, however, is sent to
Nineveh, not solely for Nineveh's good, but also to shame Israel, by
the fact of a heathen city repenting at the first preaching of a single
stranger, Jonah, whereas God's people will not repent, though preached
to by their many national prophets, late and early. Nineveh means "the
residence of Ninus," that is, Nimrod.
where the translation ought to be, "He (Nimrod) went forth
into Assyria and builded Nineveh." Modern research into the
cuneiform inscriptions confirms the Scripture account that Babylon was
founded earlier than Nineveh, and that both cities were built by
descendants of Ham, encroaching on the territory assigned to Shem
(Ge 10:5, 6, 8, 10, 25).
3. flee--Jonah's motive for flight is hinted at in
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.
4. sent out--literally, caused a wind to burst forth. COVERDALE translates, "hurled a greate wynde into the see."
5. mariners were afraid--though used to storms; the danger therefore
must have been extreme.
6. call upon thy God--The ancient heathen in dangers called on foreign
gods, besides their national ones (compare
MAURER translates the preceding clause, "What is
the reason that thou sleepest?"
7. cast lots--God sometimes sanctioned this mode of deciding in difficult cases. Compare the similar instance of Achan, whose guilt involved Israel in suffering, until God revealed the offender, probably by the casting of lots (Pr 16:33; Ac 1:26). Primitive tradition and natural conscience led even the heathen to believe that one guilty man involves all his associates, though innocent, in punishment. So CICERO [The Nature of the Gods, 3.37] mentions that the mariners sailing with Diagoras, an atheist, attributed a storm that overtook them to his presence in the ship (compare HORACE'S Odes, 3.2.26).
9. I am an Hebrew--He does not say "an Israelite." For this was the
name used among themselves; "Hebrew," among foreigners
10. "The men were exceedingly afraid," when made aware of the wrath
of so powerful a God at the flight of Jonah.
12. cast me . . . into the sea--Herein Jonah is a type of Messiah, the one man who offered Himself to die, in order to allay the stormy flood of God's wrath (compare Ps 69:1, 2, as to Messiah), which otherwise must have engulfed all other men. So Caiaphas by the Spirit declared it expedient that one man should die, and that the whole nation should not perish (Joh 11:50). Jonah also herein is a specimen of true repentance, which leads the penitent to "accept the punishment of his iniquity" (Le 26:41, 43), and to be more indignant at his sin than at his suffering.
14. for this man's life--that is, for taking this man's life.
15. sea ceased . . . raging--so at Jesus' word (Lu 8:24). God spares the prayerful penitent, a truth illustrated now in the case of the sailors, presently in that of Jonah, and thirdly, in that of Nineveh.
16. offered a sacrifice--They offered some sacrifice of thanksgiving at once, and vowed more when they should land. GLASSIUS thinks it means only, "They promised to offer a sacrifice."
17. prepared a great fish--not created specially for this purpose,
but appointed in His providence, to which all creatures are subservient.
The fish, through a mistranslation of
was formerly supposed to be a whale; there, as here, the original means
"a great fish." The whale's neck is too narrow to receive a man.
BOCHART thinks, the dog-fish, the stomach
of which is so large that the body of a man in armor was once found in
it [Hierozoicon, 2.5.12]. Others, the shark [JEBB]. The cavity in the whale's throat, large
enough, according to CAPTAIN SCORESBY, to hold a ship's jolly boat full of men. A
miracle in any view is needed, and we have no data to speculate
further. A "sign" or miracle it is expressly called by our Lord in
Respiration in such a position could only be by miracle. The miraculous
interposition was not without a sufficient reason; it was calculated to
affect not only Jonah, but also Nineveh and Israel. The life of a
prophet was often marked by experiences which made him, through
sympathy, best suited for discharging the prophetical function to his
hearers and his people. The infinite resources of God in mercy as well
as judgment are prefigured in the devourer being transformed into
Jonah's preserver. Jonah's condition under punishment, shut out from
the outer world, was rendered as much as possible the emblem of death,
a present type to Nineveh and Israel, of the death in sin, as his
deliverance was of the spiritual resurrection on repentance; as also, a
future type of Jesus' literal death for sin, and resurrection by the
Spirit of God.