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Jonah Tries to Run Away from God


Now the word of the L ord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, 2“Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” 3But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the L ord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the L ord.

4 But the L ord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”

7 The sailors said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8Then they said to him, “Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9“I am a Hebrew,” he replied. “I worship the L ord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the L ord, because he had told them so.

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. 12He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” 13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. 14Then they cried out to the L ord, “Please, O L ord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O L ord, have done as it pleased you.” 15So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the L ord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the L ord and made vows.

17 But the L ord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

It then follows, that the men feared with great fear, and said, Why hast thou done this? 2626     מה-זאת עשית, — “What this thou hast done?” “τί τουτο εποίησας — what this thou hast done?” — Sept.Quid (i.e., cur) hoc fecisti — why hast thou done this?” — Marckius; so Jerome, and Drusius, and Dathius. “What is this thou hast done?” — Henderson. It is not a question, requiring a reason for what he had done, but rather an exclamation — “What an evil is this which thou has done!” They judged of it by the effects; for they knew before that he had fled from the presence of the Lord; and now they perceived how great an evil it was. — Ed. for they knew that he had fled from the presence of Jehovah, for he had told them. And this is not unimportant — that the sailors feared with great fear: for Jonah means that they were not only moved by what he said, but also terrified, so that they gave to the true God his glory. We indeed know that superstitious men almost trifle with their own idols. They often entertain, it is true, strange fears, but afterwards they flatter themselves, and in a manner cajole their own hearts, so that they can pleasantly and sweetly smile at their own fancies. But Jonah, by saying here that they feared with great fear, means that they were so smitten, that they really perceived that the God of Israel was a righteous judge, and that he was not such as other nations fancied him to be, but that he was capable of affording dreadful examples whenever he intended to execute his vengeance. We hence see what Jonah means, when he speaks of great fear. At the same time, two things ought to be noticed, — that they feared, because it was easy for them to conclude from the Prophet’s words, that the God of Israel was the only creator of heaven and earth, — and then, that it was a great fear, which, as I have said, must be considered as serious dread, since the fear which the unbelieving have soon vanishes.

But with regard to the reproof which the sailors and other passengers gave to Jonah, the Lord returned to him this as a reward which he had deserved. He had fled from the presence of God; he had thus, as we have said taken away from God his supreme power: for what becomes of God’s authority when any one of us rejects his commands and flees away from his presence? Since Jonah then sought to shun God, he was now placed before men. There were present heathens, and even barbarians, who rebuked him for his sin, who were his censors and judges. And the same thing we see happening often. For they who do not willingly obey God and his word, afterwards abandon themselves to many flagrant sins, and their baseness becomes evident to all. As, then, they cannot bear God to be their Master and Teacher, they are constrained to bear innumerable censors; for they are branded by the reproaches of the vulgar, they are pointed at every where by the finger, at length they are conducted to the gallows, and the executioner becomes their chief teacher. The case was similar, as we see, with Jonah: the pilot had before reproved his torpor, when he said, Do thou also call on thy God; what meanest thou, O sleeper? thou liest down here like a log of wood, and yet thou sees us perplexed and in extreme danger. As, then, the pilot first so sharply inveighed against Jonah, and then all reproved him with one mouth, we certainly find that he was made subject to the condemnation of all, because he tried to deprive God of his supreme power. If at any time the same thing should happen to us, if God should subject us to the reproaches of men when we seek to avoid his judgment, let us not wonder. But as Jonah here calmly answers, and raises no clamor, and shows no bitterness, so let every one of us, in the true spirit of meekness, acknowledge our own sins; when charged with them, were even children our condemners, or were even the most contemptible of the people to rise up against us, let us patiently bear all this; and let us know that these kinds of censors befall us through the providence of God. It now follows —

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