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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.

I come now to the second verse. They cried, he says, to Jehovah and said, We beseech 3030     אנה and נא are particles of entreaty or exclamation, and may be rendered, “I, or, we pray,” according to the context. Here they should be, “We pray.” They are sometimes rendered, Oh! Alas! Now. — Ed. , Jehovah, let us not perish, we pray, on account of the life of this man, and give not, that is, lay not, innocent blood upon us 3131     “Hoc est, ne nobis imputes caedem viri justi — Impute not unto us the slaughter of a just man.” — Marckius. See Judges 9:24; Matthew 27:24. — Ed. The Prophet now expresses more fully why the sailors toiled so much to return to port, or to reach some shore, — they were already persuaded that Jonah was a worshipper of the true God, and not only this, but that he was a Prophet, inasmuch as he had told them, as we have seen, that he had fled from the presence of God, because he feared to execute the command which we have noticed. It was therefore pious (reverentia) fear that restrained the sailors, knowing, as they did, that Jonah was the servant of the true God. They, at the same time, saw, that Jonah was already standing for his sin before God’s tribunal, and that punishment was demanded. This they saw; but yet they wished to preserve his life.

Now this place shows, that there is by nature implanted in all an abhorrence of cruelty; for however brutal and sanguinary many men may be, they yet cannot divest themselves of this feeling, — that the effusion of human blood is hateful. Many, at the same time, harden themselves; but they apply a searing iron: they cannot shake off horror, nay, they feel that they are detested by God and by men, when they thus shed innocent blood. Hence it was that the sailors, who in other respects hardly retained a drop of humanity, fled as suppliants to God, when the case was about the death of man; and they said, אנה יהוה, ane Ieve, ‘We beseech Jehovah:’ and the expression is repeated; which shows that the sailors earnestly prayed that the Lord would not impute this as a sin to them.

We hence see that though these men had never known the doctrine of the law, they were yet so taught by nature that they knew that the blood of man is dear and precious in the sight of God. And as to us, we ought not only to imitate these sailors, but to go far beyond them: for not only ought the law of nature to prevail among us, but also the law of God; for we hear what God had formerly pronounced with his own mouth,

‘Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, shed shall his blood be,’ (Genesis 9:6.)

And we know also the reason why God undertakes to protect the life of men, and that is, because they have been created in his image. Whosoever then uses violence against the life of man, destroys, as far as he can the image of the eternal God. Since it is so, ought not violence and cruelty to be regarded by us with double horror? We ought also to learn another thing from this doctrine: God proves by this remarkable testimony what paternal feeling he manifests towards us by taking our life under his own guardianship and protection; and he even proves that we are really the objects of his care, inasmuch as he will execute punishment and vengeance when any one unjustly injures us. We then see that this doctrine on the one side restrains us, that we may not attempt anything against the lives of our brethren; and, on the other side, it assures us of the paternal love of God, so that being allured by his kindness we may learn to deliver up ourselves wholly to his protection.

I now come to the last clause of the verse, For thou, Jehovah, hast done as it has pleased thee. The sailors clearly prove here that they did not willingly shed innocent blood. How then can these two things agree, — that the blood was innocent, and that they were blameless? They adopted this excuse, — that they obeyed God’s decree, that they did nothing rashly or according to their own inclinations, but followed what the Lord had prescribed: though, indeed, God had not spoken, yet what he required was really evident; for as God demanded an expiation by the death of Jonah, so he designed to continue the tempest until he was thrown into the deep. These things the sailors now put forward. But we must notice, that they did not cast the blame on God, as blasphemers are wont to do, who, while they seek to exempt themselves from blame, find fault with God, or at least put him in their own place: “Why then,” they say, “does he sit as a judge to condemn us for that of which he is himself the author, since he has so decreed?” At this day there are many fanatics who thus speak, who obliterate all the difference between good and evil, as if lust were to them the law. They at the same time make a covert of God’s providence. Jonah wished not that such a thing should be thought of the sailors; but as they well understood that God governed the world justly, though his counsels be secret and cannot be comprehended by us, — as, then, they were thus convinced, they thus strengthened themselves; and though they gave to God the praise due to his justice, they at the same time trembled lest they should be guilty of innocent blood.

We now then see how reverently these men spoke of God, and that so much religious fear possessed them, that they did not rob God of his praise, Thou Jehovah, they said, hast done as it has pleased thee 3232     Some render this sentence in the present tense, as Marckius, “Tu enim Jehovah sicut vis facis — for thou, Jehovah, doest as thou willest.” The verbs are in the past tense, but this tense in Hebrew includes often both times, — “Thou hast done and doest, as thou hast willed and willest:” and this seems to be the full import of the passage. Mercerius, quoted by Poole, gives this paraphrase, — “All these things have taken place through thine appointment, — that Jonah came to the ship, that a storm has been raised, that the lot has fallen on Jonah, and that he has confessed his sin: we unwillingly do this dreadful deed, but this is understood to be thy will.” Drusius took the words as referring to the time then present, for he expresses the meaning thus: “Tu vis ut in mare dejeciatur: fiat igitur quod vis; nam voluntati tuae quis resistat? Thou willest that he should be cast into the sea: be then that done which thou willest; for who can resist thy will?” According to this view, it is an expression of acquiescence in God’s will respecting Jonah. But both Newcome and Henderson retain our common version. Dathius reads, “Tu enim, O Jova, pro arbitratu tuo agis. — For thou, O Jehovah, doest according to thine own will.” — Ed. Do they here accuse God of tyranny, as though he confounded all things without any cause or reason? By no means. They took this principle as granted, — that the will of God is right and just, yea, that whatever God has decreed is beyond doubt just. Being then thus persuaded, they took the will of God as the rule for acting rightly: “As thou, Jehovah, hast done as it seemed good to thee, so we are blameless.” But at the same time it is proper also to add, that the sailors do not vainly talk here of the secret providence of God in order to impute murder to him, as ungodly men and profane cavilers do at this day: but as the Lord made known his purpose to them, they show that the storm and the tempest could not be otherwise calmed and quieted than by drowning Jonah: they therefore took this knowledge of God’s purpose as a certain rule to follow. At the same time they fled, as I have said, to God, and supplicated his mercy, lest in a matter so perplexed and difficult he should involve them in the same punishment, as they were constrained to shed innocent blood. We now then apprehend the meaning of this passage. Now it follows —

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