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by Albert Barnes
Introduction to Jonah
The prophet Jonah, who was at once the author and in part the subject of the book which bears his name, is, beyond question, the same who is related in the Book of Kings 2 Kings 14:25 to have been God’s messenger of comfort to Israel, in the reign of Jeroboam II. For his own name, in English “Dove,” as well as that of his father, Amittai, “The Truth of Yah,” occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; and it is wholly improbable that there should have been two prophets of the same name, sons of fathers of the same name, when the names of both son and father were so rare as not to occur elsewhere in the Old Testament. The place which the prophet occupies among the twelve agrees therewith. For Hosea and Amos, prophets who are known to have prophesied in the time of Jeroboam, and Joel, who prophesied before Amos, are placed before him; Micah, who prophesied after the death of Jeroboam and Uzziah, is placed after him.
A remarkable and much-misunderstood expression of the prophet shows that this mission fell in the later part of his life, at least after he had already exercised the prophetic office. Our translation has: “Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord.” It has been asked , “How could a “prophet” imagine that he could flee from the presence of God?” Plainly he could not. Jonah, so conversant with the Psalms, doubtless knew well the Psalm of David Psalms 139:7, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, and whither shall I flee from thy presence?” He could not but know, what every instructed Israelite knew. And so critics should have known that such could not be the meaning. The words are used, as we say, “he went out of the king’s presence,” or the like. It is literally “he rose to flee from being in the presence of the Lord,” i. e., from standing in His presence as His Servant and Minister.
Then he must have so stood before; he must have had the office, which he sought to abandon.
He was then a prophet of Israel, born at Gath-hepher, “a small village” of Zebulon Joshua 19:13, which lies, Jerome says, “two miles from Sepphorim which is now called Diocaesarea, in the way to Tiberius, where his tomb also is pointed out.” His tomb was still shown in the hills near Sipphorim in the 12th century, as Benjamin of Tudela relates; at the same place “on a rocky hill 2 miles East of Sepphuriah,” is still pointed out the tomb of the prophet, and “Muslims and the Christians of Nazareth alike regard the village (el-Meshhad) as his native village.” The tomb is even now venerated by the Muslim inhabitants.
But although a prophet of Israel, he, like Daniel afterward or his great predecessor Elisha, had his mission also beyond the bounds of Israel. Whenever God brought His people into any relation with other people, He made Himself known to them. The mode of His manifestation varied; the fact remained uniform. So He made Himself known to Egypt through Joseph and Moses; to the Philistines at the capture of the ark; to the Syrians by Elisha; to Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar by Daniel, as again to Darius and Cyrus. The hindrances interposed to the edict of Darius perpetuated that knowledge among his successors. Yet further on, the high priest Jaddua showed to Alexander the prophecy of Daniel “that a Greek should destroy the Persian Empire.” For there is no ground to question the account of Josephus. The mission then of Jonah to Nineveh is in harmony with God’s other dealings with pagan nations, although, in God’s manifold wisdom, not identical with any.
To Israel the history of that mission revealed that same fact which was more fully declared by Peter Acts 10:34-35; “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” This righteous judgment of God stands out the more, alike in the history of the mariners and of the Ninevites, in that the character of both is exhibited advantageously, in comparison with that of the prophet. The prophet brings out the awe, the humanity, the earnestness of the natural religion, and the final conversion of the sailors, and the zealous repentance of the Ninevites, while he neglects to explain his own character, or, in the least, to soften its hard angles. Rather, with a holy indifference, he has left his character to be hardly and unjustly judged by those who, themselves sharing his infirmities, share not his excellences. Disobedient once, he cares only to teach us what God taught him for us. The mariners were spared, the Hebrew prophet was cast forth as guilty. The Ninevites were forgiven: the prophet, rebuked.
That other moral, which our Lord inculcated, that the pagan believed and repented with less light, the Jews, amid so much greater light, repented not, also lay there, to be drawn out by men’s own consciences. “To the condemnation of Israel,” says Jerome, “Jonah is sent to the Gentiles, because, whereas Nineveh repented, Israel persevered in his iniquity.” But this is only a secondary result of his prophecy, as all divine history must be full of teaching, because the facts themselves are instructive. Its instructiveness in this respect depends wholly upon the truth of the facts. It is the real repentance of the Ninevites, which becomes the reproach of the impenitent Jew or Christian.
Even among the Jews, a large school, the Cabbalists (although amid other error), interpreted the history of Jonah as teaching the resurrection of the dead, and (with that remarkable correctness of combination of different passages of Holy Scripture which we often find) in union with the prophecy of Hosea. “The fish’s belly, where Jonah was enclosed, signifies the tomb, where the body is covered and laid up. But as Jonah was given back on the third day, so shall we also on the third day rise again and be restored to life. As Hosea says, ‘On the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.’” Talmudic Jews identified Jonah with their Messiah ben Joseph, whom they expected to die and rise again. The deeper meaning then of the history was not, at least in later times, unknown to them, a meaning which entirely depended on its truth.
The history of his mission, Jonah doubtless himself wrote. Such has been the uniform tradition of the Jews, and on this principle alone was his book placed among the prophets. For no books were admitted among the prophets but those which the arranger of the canon believed (if this was the work of the great synagogue) or (if it was the work of Ezra) knew, to have been written by persons called to the prophetic office. Hence, the Psalms of David (although many are prophetic, and our Lord declares him to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36.,) and the book of Daniel, were placed in a separate class, because their authors, although eminently endowed with prophetic gifts, did not exercise the pastoral office of the prophet. Histories of the prophets, as Elijah and Elisha, stand, not under their own names, but in the books of the prophets who wrote them. Nor is the Book of Jonah a history of the prophet, but of that one mission to Nineveh. Every notice of the prophet is omitted, except what bears on that mission.
The book also begins with just that same authentication, with which all other prophetic books begin. As Hoses and Joel and Micah and Zephaniah open, “The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, Joel, Micah, Zephaniah,” and other prophets in other ways ascribe their books not to themselves, but to God, so Jonah opens, “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying.” This inscription is an integral part of the book; as is marked by the word, saying. As the historical books are joined on the sacred writings before them, so as to form one continuous stream of history, by the and, with which they begin, so the Book of Jonah is tacitly joined onto other books of other prophets by the word, “and,” with which it commences. The words, “The word of the Lord came to,” are the acknowledged form in which the commission of God to prophesy is recorded. It is used of the commission to deliver a single prophecy, or it describes the whole collection of prophecies, with which any prophet was entrusted; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1. “The word of the Lord which come to Micah or Zephaniah.” But the whole history of the prophecy is bound up with, and a sequel of those words.
Nor is there anything in the style of the prophet at variance with this.
It is strange that, at any time beyond the babyhood of criticism, any argument should be drawn from the fact that the prophet writes of himself in the third person. Manly criticism has been ashamed to use the argument, as to the commentaries of Caesar or the Anabasis of Xenophon . However the genuineness of those works may have been at times questioned, here we were on the ground of genuine criticism, and no one ventured to use an argument so palpably idle. It has been pointed out that minds so different, as Barhebraeus, the great Jacobite historian of the East, and Frederick the Great wrote of themselves in the third person; as did also Thucydides and Josephus , even after they had attested that the history, in which they so speak, was written by themselves.
But the real ground lies much deeper. It is the exception, when any sacred writer speaks of himself in the first person. Ezra and Nehemiah do so, for they are giving an account, not of God’s dealings with His people, but of their own discharge of a definite office, allotted to them by man. Solomon does so in Ecclesiastes, because he is giving the history of his own experience; and the vanity of all human things, in themselves, could be attested so impressively by no one, as by one, who had all which man’s mind could imagine.
On the contrary, the prophets, unless they speak of God’s revelations to them, speak of themselves in the third person. Thus, Amos relates in the first person, what God showed him in vision Amos 7:1-8; Amos 8:1-2; Amos 9:1; for God spoke to him, and he answered and pleaded with God. In relating his persecution by Amaziah, he passes at once to the third Amos 7:12, Amos 7:14; “Amaziah said to Amos; Then answered Amos and said to Amaziah.” In a similar manner, Isaiah speaks of himself in the third person, when relating how God sent him to meet Ahaz Isaiah 7:3; God commanded him to walk three years, naked and barefoot Isaiah 20:2-3, Hezekiah’s message to him, to pray for his people, and his own prophetic answer; his visit to Hezekiah in the king’s sickness, his warning to him, his prophecy of his recovery, the sign which at God’s command Isaiah gave him, and the means of healing he appointed Isaiah 37:2, Isaiah 37:5-6, Isaiah 37:21; Isaiah 38:1, Isaiah 38:4, Isaiah 38:21.
Jeremiah, the mourner over his people, more than any other prophet, speaks and complains to his God in the midst of his prophecy. In no other prophet do we see so much the workings of his inmost soul. Such souls would most use the first person, for it is in the use of the first person that the soul pours itself forth. In the relating of himself in the third person, the prophet restrains himself, speaking only of the event. Yet it is thus that Jeremiah relates almost all which befell him - Pashur’s smiting him and putting him in the stocks Jeremiah 20:1, Jeremiah 20:3; the gathering of the people against him to put him to death, his hearing before the princes of Judah and his deliverance Jeremiah 26:7-8, Jeremiah 26:12, Jeremiah 26:24; the contest with Hananiah, when Hananiah broke off the symbolic yoke from his neck and prophesied lies in the name of God, and Jeremiah foretold his death Jeremiah 28:5-6, Jeremiah 28:10, Jeremiah 28:12, Jeremiah 28:15, which followed; the letters of Shemaiah against him, and his own prophecy against Shemaiah Jeremiah 29:27, Jeremiah 29:29-30; his trial of the Rechabites and his prophecy to them Jeremiah 35:0; the writing the scroll, which he sent Baruch to read in God’s house, and its renewal when Jehoiakim had burned it, and God’s concealing him and Baruch from the king’s emissaries Jeremiah 36:1, Jeremiah 36:4-5, Jeremiah 36:26-27, Jeremiah 36:32; his purpose to leave Jerusalem when the interval of the last siege gave him liberty Jeremiah 37:2-6, Jeremiah 37:12-21; the false accusations against him, the designs of the princes to put him to death, their plunging him in the still deeper pit, where there was no water only mud, the milder treatment through the intercession of Ebedmelech; Zedekiah’s contact with him Jeremiah 38:1, Jeremiah 38:6, Jeremiah 38:12-28; Jeremiah 32:2-5, his liberation by Nebuzaradan, his choice to abide in the land, his residence with Gedaliah Jeremiah 40:2-6; Johanan’s hypocritical inquiring of God by him and disobedience Jeremiah 42:0, his being carried into Egypt Jeremiah 43:1-13, the insolent answer of the Jews in Egypt to him and his denunciation upon them Jeremiah 44:15, Jeremiah 44:20, Jeremiah 44:24.
All this, the account of which occupies a space, many times larger than the book of Jonah, Jeremiah relates as if it were the history of some other man. So did God teach His prophets to forget themselves. Haggai, whose prophecy consists of exhortations which God directed him to address to the people, speaks of himself, solely in the third person. He even relates the questions which he puts to the priests and their answers still in the third person Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:3, Haggai 1:12-13; Haggai 2:1, Haggai 2:10, Haggai 2:13-14, Haggai 2:20; “then said Haggai;” “then answered Haggai.” Daniel relates in the third person, the whole which he does give of his history; how when young he obtained exemption from the use of the royal luxuries and from food unlawful to him; the favor and wisdom which God gave him Daniel 1:6-21; how God saved him from death, revealing to him, on his prayer, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its meaning; how Nebuchadnezzar made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon Daniel 2:13-27, Daniel 2:46-47, Daniel 2:49; how he was brought into Belshazzar’s great impious feast, and interpreted the writing on the wall; and was honored Daniel 5:12-13, Daniel 5:17, Daniel 5:29; how, under Darius, he persevered in his accustomed prayer against the king’s command, was cast into the den of lions, was delivered, and prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian Daniel 6:0.
When Daniel passes from history to relate visions vouchsafed to himself, he authenticated them with his own name, “I, Daniel” Daniel 7:15, Daniel 7:28; Daniel 8:1, Daniel 8:15, Daniel 8:27; Daniel 9:2; Daniel 10:2, Daniel 10:7; Daniel 12:5. It is no longer his own history. It is the revelation of God by him. In a similar manner, John, when referring to himself in the history of His Lord, calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In Revelation, he authenticates his visions by his own name Revelation 1:9; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 22:8; “I, John.” Moses relates how God commanded him to write things which he wrote, in the third person. Paul, when he has to speak of his overpowering revelations, says 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, “I knew a man in Christ.” It seems as if he could not speak of them as vouchsafed to himself. He lets us see that it was himself, when he speaks of the humiliations 2 Corinthians 12:7, which God saw to be necessary for him. To ordinary people it would be conceit or hypocrisy to write of themselves in the third person.
They would have the appearance of writing impartially of themselves, of abstracting themselves from themselves, when, in reality, they were ever present to themselves. The men of God were writing of the things of God. They had a God-given indifference how they themselves would be thought of by man. They related, with the same holy unconcern, their praise or their blame. Jonah has exhibited himself in his infirmities, such as no other but himself would have drawn a prophet of God. He has left his character, unexplained, unsoftened; he has left himself lying under God’s reproof; and told us nothing of all that which God loved in him, and which made him a chosen instrument of God also. People, while they measure divine things, or characters formed by God, by what would be natural to themselves, measure by a crooked rule 1 Corinthians 4:3. “It is a very small thing,” says Paul, “that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment.” Nature does not measure grace; nor the human spirit measure the Divine Spirit.
As for the few words, which persons who disbelieved in miracles selected out of the Book of Jonah as a plea for removing it far down beyond the period when those miracles took place , they rather indicate the contrary. They are all genuine Hebrew words or forms, except the one Aramaic name for the decree of the king of Nineveh, which Jonah naturally heard in Nineveh itself.
A writer , equally unbelieving, who got rid of the miracles by assuming that the Book of Jonah was meant only for a moralizing fiction, found no counter-evidence in the language, but ascribed it unhesitatingly to the Jonah, son of Amittai, who prophesied in the reign of Jeroboam II. He saw the nothingness of the so-called proof, which he had no longer any interest in maintaining.
The examination of these words will require a little detail, yet it may serve as a specimen (it is no worse than its neighbors) of the way in which the disbelieving school picked out a few words of a Hebrew prophet or section of a prophet, in order to disparage the genuineness of what they did not believe.
The words are these:
(1) The word ספינה sephı̂ynâh, literally “a decked vessel.” is a genuine Hebrew word from ספן sâphan, “covered, ceiled” . The word was borrowed from the Hebrew, not by Syrians or Chaldees only but by the Arabians, in none of which dialects is it an original word. A word plainly is original in that language in which it stands connected with other meanings of the same root, and not in that in which it stands isolated. Naturally too, the term for a decked vessel would be borrowed by inland people, as the Syrians, from a notion living on the seashore, not conversely. This is the first occasion for mentioning “a decked vessel.” It is related that Jonah went in fact “below deck,” “was gone down into the sides of the decked vessel.” Three times in those verses Jonah 1:3-5, when Jonah did not wish to express that the vessel was decked, he uses the common Hebrew word, אניה 'onı̂yâh. It was then of set purpose that he, in the same verse, used the two words, אניה 'onı̂yâh and ספינה sephı̂ynâh.
(2) מלח mallâch is also a genuine Hebrew word from מלח melach, salt sea, as ἁλιεύς halieus from ἅλς hals “salt,” then (masculine) in poetry “brine.” It is formed strictly, as other Hebrew words denoting an occupation.. It does not occur in earlier books, because “seamen” are not mentioned earlier.
(3) החבל רב rab hachôbêl, “chief of the sailors,” “captain.” “Rab” is Phoenician also, and this was a Phoenician vessel. It does not occur earlier, because “the captain of a vessel” is not mentioned earlier. One says , “it is the same as שׂר s'ar, chiefly in later Hebrew.” It occurs, in all, only four times, and in all cases, as here, of persons not Hebrew; Nebuzaradan, טבחים רב rab ṭabbâchı̂ym 2 Kings 25:8, “captain of the guard,” סריסים רב rab sârı̂ysı̂ym Daniel 1:3, “chief of the eunuchs;” ביתוּ רב כל kôl rab bayithô Esther 1:8, “every officer of his house.” שׂר s'ar, on the other hand, is never used except of an office of authority, of one who had a place of authority given by one higher. It occurs as much in the later as in the earlier books, but is not used in the singular of an inferior office. It is used of military, but not of any interior secular command. It would probably have been a solecism to have said החבל שׂר s'ar hachôbêl, as much as if we were to say “prince of sailors.” חבל chôbêl, which is joined with it, is a Hebrew word not Aramaic word.
(4) רבו ribbô, “ten thousand,” they say, “is a word of later Hebrew.” Certainly neither it, nor any inflection of it occurs in the Pentateuch, Judges, Samuel, Canticles, in until which we have the word רבבה rebâbâh. It is true also that the form רבו ribbô or derivative forms occur in books of the date of the captivity, as Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. (In 1 Chronicles 29:7, twice, Daniel once, Ezra twice; Nehemiah thrice.) But it also occurs in a Psalm of David , and in Hosea (Hosea 8:12 Ch.) who is acknowledged to have prophesied in the days of Jeroboam, and so was a contemporary of Jonah. It might have been, accordingly, a form used in Northern Palestine, but that its use by David does not justify such limitation.
(5) עשׁת ית yı̂th ‛âshath, “thought, purposed,” is also an old Hebrew word, as appears from its use in the number eleven , as the first number which is conceived in thought, the ten being numbered on the fingers. The root occurs also in Job, a Psalm Psalms 146:4, and the Canticles. in the Syriac, it does not occur; nor, in the extant Aramaic, in the sense in which it is used in Jonah. For in Jonah it is used of the merciful thoughts of God; in Aramaic, of the evil thoughts of man. Besides, it is used in Jonah not by the prophet himself but by the shipmaster, whose words he relates.
(6) The use of the abridged forms of the relative pronoun שׁ she for אשׁר 'ăsher, twice in composite words בשׁלמי beshelmı̂y Jonah 1:7, בשׁלי beshelı̂y Jonah 1:12, (the fuller form, למי באשׁר ba'ăsher lemı̂y Jonah 1:8, also occurring) and once in union with a noun שׁבן shebbên (Jonah 4:10. (2)).
There is absolutely no plea whatever for making this an indication of a later style, and yet it occurs in every string of words, which have been assumed to be indications of such style. It is not Aramaic at all, but Phoenician and old Hebrew. In Phoenician, “esh” is the relative, which corresponds the more with the Hebrew in that the phollowing letter was doubled, as in the Punic words in Plautus, “syllohom, siddoberim,” it enters into two proper names, both of which occur in the Pentateuch, and one, only there, מתושׁאל methûshâ'êl Genesis 4:18, “a man of God,” and מישׁאל mı̂yshâ'êl (Exodus 6:22; Leviticus 10:4; also in Daniel and Nehemiah), the same as Michael, “who is like God?” literally, “Who is what God is?”
Probably, it occurs also in the Pentateuch in the ordinary language Genesis 6:3. Perhaps it was used more in the dialect of North Palestine . Probably it was also the spoken language Judges 6:17; 2 Kings 6:11. Two of the instances in the Lamentations are words in the mouth of the pagan, Lamentations 2:15-16), in which abridged forms are used in all languages. Hence, perhaps its frequent use in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:6 (2), 7 (2); Song of Solomon 2:7, Song of Solomon 2:17; Song of Solomon 3:1-4 (4), 5, 7; Song of Solomon 4:1-2 (2), 6; Song of Solomon 5:2, Song of Solomon 5:8-9; Song of Solomon 6:5 (2), 6 (2); Song of Solomon 8:4, Song of Solomon 8:8, Song of Solomon 8:12), which is all dialogue, and in which it is employed to the entire exclusion of the fuller form; and that, so frequently, that the instances in the Canticles are nearly 14 of those in the whole Old Testament. In addition to this, half of the whole number of instances, in which it occurs in the Bible, are found in another short book, Ecclesiastes. In a book, containing only 222 verses, it occurs 66 times (Ecclesiastes 1:3, Ecclesiastes 1:7, Ecclesiastes 1:9 (4), 10, 11(2), 14, 17; Ecclesiastes 2:9, Ecclesiastes 2:11 (2), 2, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18(3), 19(2), 20, 21(2), 22, 24, 26; Ecclesiastes 3:13-15, Ecclesiastes 3:18, Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 4:2, Ecclesiastes 4:10; Ecclesiastes 5:4, Ecclesiastes 5:14 (2), 15 (2), 17; Ecclesiastes 6:3, Ecclesiastes 6:10 (2); Ecclesiastes 7:10, Ecclesiastes 7:14, Ecclesiastes 7:24; Ecclesiastes 8:7, Ecclesiastes 8:14, Ecclesiastes 8:17; Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:12 (2); Ecclesiastes 10:3, Ecclesiastes 10:5, Ecclesiastes 10:14, Ecclesiastes 10:16-17; Ecclesiastes 11:3, Ecclesiastes 11:8; Ecclesiastes 12:3, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Ecclesiastes 12:9).
This, in itself, requires some ground for its use, beyond that of mere date. Of books which are really later, it does not occur in Jeremiah’s prophecies, Ezekiel, Daniel, or any of the 6 later of the Minor prophets, nor in Nehemiah or Esther. It occurs once only in Ezra Ezra 8:20, and twice in the First Book of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 5:20 שעמהם; 1 Chronicles 27:27 שבכרמים), whereas it occurs four times in the Judges Judges 5:7; Judges 6:17; Judges 7:12; Judges 8:26, and once in the Kings (2 Kings 6:11 משלנו.), and once probably in Job (Job 19:29, ending with שדין.). Its use belongs to that wide principle of condensation in Hebrew, blending in one, in different ways, what we express by separate words. The relative pronoun is confessedly, on this ground, very often omitted in Hebrew poetry, when it would be used in prose. In the Canticles, Solomon does not once use the ordinary separate relative, אשׁר 'ăsher.
Of the 19 instances in the Psalms, almost half, 9, occur in those Psalms of unique rhythm - the gradual Psalms Psalms 122:3-4; Psalms 123:2; Psalms 124:1, Psalms 124:6; Psalms 129:6-7; Psalms 133:2-3; four more occur in two other Psalms Psalms 125:2, 8, 10; Psalms 136:23, which belong to one another, the latter of which has that remarkable burden, for His mercy endureth forever. Three are condensed into a solemn denunciation of Babylon in another Psalm. (Psalms 137:8 (2), 9. The remaining ones are Psalms 144:15, שככה and Psalms 146:3, Psalms 146:5). Of the ten Psalms, in which it occurs, four are ascribed to David, and only one, Psalms 137:1-9, has any token of belonging to a later date. In the two passages in the Chronicles, it occurs in words doubly compounded (1 Chronicles 5:20 שעמהם; 1 Chronicles 27:27 שבכרמים). The principle of rhythm would account for its occurring four times in the five chapters of the Lamentations Lamentations 2:15-16; Lamentations 4:19; Lamentations 5:18 of Jeremiah, while in the 52 chapters of his prophecies it does not occur even once. In Job also, it is in a solemn pause. Altogether, there is no proof whatever that the use of שׁ she for אשׁר 'ăsher is any test of the date of any Hebrew book, since:
(1) It is not Aramaic.
(2) It occurs in the earliest books, and
(3) not in the latest books.
(4) Its use is idiomatic, and nowhere except in the Canticles and Ecclesiastes does it pervade any book.
If it had belonged to the ordinary idiom at the date of Ezra, it would not have been so entirely insulated as it is, in the three instances in the Chronicles and Ezra. It would not have occurred in the earlier books in which it does occur, and would have occurred in later books in which it does not. In Jonah, its use in two places is unique to himself, occurring nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the first, its Phoenician form is used by the Phoenician mariners; in the second it is an instance of the spoken language in the mouth of the prophet, a native of North Palestine, and in answer to Phoenicians. In the third instance, (where it is the simple relative pronoun) its use is evidently for condensation. Its use, in any case, would agree with the exact circumstances of Jonah, as a native of North Palestine, conversing with the Phoenician mariners. The only plea of argument has been gained by arguing in a circle, assuming without any even plausible ground that the Song of Solomon or Psalms of David were late, because they had this form, and then using it as a test of another book being late; ignoring alike the earlier books which have it and the later books which have it not, and its exceptional use (except in the Canticles and Ecclesiastes), in the books which have it.
(7) It is difficult to know to what end the use of מנה mânâh, “appoint ” or “prepare,” is alleged, since it occurs in a Psalm of David Psalms 61:8. Jonah uses it in a special way as to acts of God’s Providence, “preparing” before, what He wills to employ. Jonah uses the word of the “preparing” of the fish, the palm-christ, the worm which should destroy it, the East wind. He evidently used it with a set purpose, to express what no other word expressed equally to his mind, how God prepared by His Providence the instruments which He willed to employ.
(8) There remains only the word used for the decree of the king of Nineveh, טעם ṭa‛am. This is a Syriac word; and accordingly, since it has now been ascertained beyond all question, that the language of Nineveh was a dialect of Syriac, it was, with a Hebrew pronunciation , the very word used of this decree at Nineveh. The employment of the special word is a part of the same accuracy with which Jonah relates that the decree used was issued not from the king only, but from the king and his nobles, one of those minute touches, which occur in the writings of those who describe what they have seen, but supplying a fact as to the Assyrian polity, which we should not otherwise have known, that the nobles were in some way associated in the decrees of the king.
Out of these eight words or forms, three are naval terms, and, since Israel was no seafaring people, it is in harmony with the history, that these terms should first occur in the first prophet who left the land of his mission by sea. So it is also, that an Assyrian technical term should first occur in a prophet who had been sent to Nineveh. A fifth word occurs in Hosea, a contemporary of Jonah, and in a Psalm of David. The abridged grammatical form was Phoenician, not Aramaic, was used in conversation, occurs in the oldest proper names, and in the Northern tribes. The 7th and 8th do not occur in Aramaic in the meaning in which they are used by Jonah.
In truth, often as these false criticisms have been repeated from one to the other, they would not have been thought of at all, except for the miracles related by Jonah, which the devisers of these criticisms did not believe. A history of miracles, such as those in Jonah, would not be published at the time, unless they were true! Those then who did not believe that God worked any miracles, were forced to have some plea for saying that the book was not written in the time of Jonah. Prejudices against faith have, sometimes openly, sometimes tacitly, been the ruling principle (on which earlier portions of Holy Scripture have been classed among the latter by critics who disbelieved what those books or passages related. Obviously no weight can be given to the opinions of critics, whose criticisms are founded, not on the study of the language, but upon unbelief. It has recently been said , “the joint decision of Gesenius, DeWette and Hitzig ought to be final.” A joint decision certainly it is not. For DeWette places the book of Jonah before the captivity; Gesenius and Ewald, when prophecy had long ceased; Ewald, partly on account of its miracles, in the 5th century, b.c.; and Hitzig, with his accustomed willfulness and insulatedness of criticism, built a theory that the book is of Egyptian origin on his own mistake that the קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn grew only in Egypt, and placed it in the second century, b.c., the times of the Maccabees . The interval is also filled up. Every sort of date and contradictory grounds for those dates have been assigned. So then one places the book of Jonah in the time of Sennacherib , i. e., of Hezekiah; another under Josiah ; another before the captivity ; another toward the end of the captivity, after the destruction of Nineveh by Cyaxares ; a fifth lays chief stress on the argument that the destruction of Nineveh is not mentioned in it ; a sixth prefers the time after the return from the captivity to its close; a seventh doubted not, “from its argument and purpose, that it was written before the order of prophets ceded” , others of the same school are as positive from. its arguments and contents, that it must have been written after that order was closed .
The style of the Book of Jonah is, in fact pure and simple Hebrew, corresponding to the simplicity of the narrative, and of the prophet’s character. Although written in prose, it has poetic language, not in the thanksgiving only, but whenever it suits the subject. These expressions are unique to Jonah. Such are, in the account of the storm, “the Lord cast a strong wind,” “the vessel thought to be broken,” “the sea shall be silent” (hushed, as we say) i. e., calm; “the wind was advancing and storming” , as with a whirlwind; (the word is used as to the sea by Jonah only), “the men plowed” or “dug” (in rowing) “the sea stood from its raging.” Also “let man and beast ‘clothe themselves’ with sackcloth,” and that touching expression, “son of a night, it (the palma-Christi) came to being, and son of a night (i. e., in a night) it perished.” It is in harmony with his simplicity of character, that he is fond of the old idiom, by which the thought of the verb is carried on by a noun formed from it. “The men feared a great fear,” (Jonah 1:10, Jonah 1:16. יראה ייראו) “It displeased Jonah a great displeasure,” (Jonah 4:1. רעה ירע) “Jonah joyed a great joy.” (Jonah 4:6, שמחה ישמח) Another idiom has been observed, which occurs in no writer later than the judges.
But, in the history, every phrase is vivid and graphic. There is not a word which does not advance the history. There is no reflection. All hastens on to the completion, and when God has given the key to the whole, the book closes with His words of exceeding tenderness lingering in our ears. The prophet, with the same simplicity and beginning with the same words, says he did not, and he did, obey God. The book opens, after the first authenticating words, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, for the wickedness is come up before Me.” God had commanded him to arise ; the narrative simply repeats the word, “And Jonah arose “ - but for what? to flee in the very opposite direction “from being before the Lord” , i. e., from standing in His presence, as His servant and minister. He lost no time, to do the contrary. After the miracles, by which he had been both punished and delivered, the history is resumed with the same simple dignity as before, in the same words; the disobedience being noticed only in the word, a second time. “And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry unto it that cry which I say unto thee.” This time it follows, “And Jonah arose and went to Nineveh.”
Then, in the history itself, we follow the prophet step by step. He arose to flee to Tarshish, went down to Joppa, a perilous, yet the only sea-port for Judaea (1 Kings 5:9; 2 Chronicles 2:16; and after the captivity, Ezra 3:7). He finds the ship, “pays its fare” (one of those little touches of a true narrative); God sends the storm, man does all he can; and all in vain. The character of the pagan is brought out in contrast with the then sleeping conscience and despondency of the prophet. But it is all in act. They are all activity; he is simply passive. They pray, (as they can) each man to his gods; he is asleep: they do all they can, lighten the ship, the ship-master rouses him, to pray to his God, since their own prayers avail not; they propose the lots, cast them; the lot falls upon Jonah. Then follow their brief accumulated inquiries; Jonah’s calm answer, increasing their fear; their inquiry of the prophet himself, what they are to do to him; his knowledge that he must be cast over; the unwillingness of the pagan; one more fruitless effort to save both themselves and the prophet; the increasing violence of the storm; the prayer to the prophet’s God, not to lay innocent blood to them, who obeyed His prophet; the casting him forth; the instant hush and silence of the sea; their conversion and sacrifice to the true God - the whole stands before us, as if we saw it with our own eyes.
And yet, amid, or perhaps as a part of, that vividness, there is that characteristic of Scripture-narratives, that some things even seem improbable, until, on thought, we discover the reason. It is not on a first reading, that most perceive the naturalness either of Jonah’s deep sleep, or of the increase of the mariner’s fear, on his account of himself. Yet that deep sleep harmonizes at least with his long hurried flight to Joppa, and that mood with which men who have taken a wrong step, try to forget themselves. He relates that he “was gone down” Jonah 1:5, i. e., before the storm began. The sailors’ increased tear surprises us the more, since it is added, “they knew that he had fled from before the presence of God, ‘because he had told them.’” One word explained it. He had told them, from whose service he had fled, but not that He, against whom he had sinned, and who, they would think, was pursuing His fugitive, was “the Maker of the sea,” whose raging was threatening their lives.
Again, the history mentions only that Jonah was cast over; that God prepared a fish to swallow him; that he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights; that he, at the end of that time, prayed to God out of the fish’s belly, and at the close of the prayer was delivered. The word “prayed” obviously includes “thanksgiving” as the act of adoring love from the creature to the Creator. It is said that Hannah prayed 1 Samuel 2:1, but her hymn, as well as Jonah’s does not contain one petition. Both are the outpouring of thanksgiving from the soul, to which God had given what it had prayed for. As, before, it was not said, whether he prayed because of the shipmaster’s rebuke or not, so here nothing is said in the history, except as to the last moment, upon which he was cast out on the dry ground. The prayer incidentally supplies the rest. It is a simple thanksgiving of one who had prayed and who had been delivered Jonah 2:3. “I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me.” In the first mercy, he saw the earnest of the rest. He asks for nothing, he only thanks. But that for which he thanks is the deliverance from the perils of the sea. The thanksgiving corresponds with the plain words, “that he prayed out of the fish’s belly.” They are suited to one so praying, who looked on in full faith to the future completion of his deliverance, although our minds might rather have been fixed on the actual peril. It is a thanksgiving of faith, but of stronger faith than many moderns have been able to conceive.
The hymn itself is a remarkable blending of old and new, as our Lord says Matthew 13:52 : “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven like a householder, who bringeth out of his treasure new and old.” The prophet teaches us to use the Psalms, as well as how the holy men of old used them. In that great moment of religious life, the wellremembered Psalms, such as he had often used them, were brought to his mind. What had been figures to David or the sons of Korah, as Jonah 2:5; Psalms 69:2, “the waters are come in even unto my soul” Jonah 2:3; Psalms 42:8; “all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me,” were strict realities to him. Yet only in this last sentence and in one other sentence which doubtless had become a proverb of accepted prayer Jonah 2:2; Psalms 120:1, “I cried out of my trouble unto the Lord and He heard me,” does Jonah use exactly the words of earlier Psalms. Elsewhere he varies or amplifies them according to his own special circumstances.
Thus, where David said, “the waters are ‘come in,’ even unto my soul,” Jonah substitutes the word which best described the condition from which God had delivered him, “The water compassed me about, even to the soul.” Where David said (Psalms 31:22, נגזרתי), “I am cut off from before Thine eyes,” expressing an abiding condition, Jonah, who had for disobedience been cast into the sea, uses the strong word (Jonah 2:4 (5), נגרשתי), “I am cast out from before Thine eyes.” David says, “I said in my haste;” Jonah simply,” I said;” for he had deserved it. David said Ps. 142:8, “when my spirit was overwhelmed” or “fainted within me,” “Thou knewest my path;” Jonah substitutes, “When my soul fainted within me, ‘I remembered the Lord’” (Jonah 2:7 (8)); for when he rebelled, he forgot Him. David said Psalms 31:7, “I hate them that observe lying vanities;” Jonah, who had himself disobeyed God, says mournfully Jonah 2:9, “They that observe lying vanities, ‘forsake their own mercy,’” i. e., their God, Who is mercy.
Altogether, Jonah’s thanksgiving is that of one whose mind was stored with the Psalms which were part of the public worship, but it is the language of one who uses and re-casts them freely, as he was taught of God, not of one who copies. No one verse is taken entirely from any Psalm. There are original expressions everywhere The words, “I went down to the cuttings-off of the mountains,” “the seaweed bound around my head;” “the earth, its bars around me forever:” perhaps the coral reefs which run along all that shore vividly exhibit him, sinking, entangled, imprisoned, as it seems, inextricably; he goes on; we should expect some further description of his state; but he adds, in five simple words , “Thou broughtest up my life from corruption, O Lord My God.” Words, somewhat like these last, occur elsewhere Psalms 30:3. “thou hast brought up my soul from hell,” agreeing in the one word “brought up.” But the majesty of the prophet’s conception is in the connection of the thought; the seaweed was bound around his head as his grave-clothes; the solid bars of the deep-rooted earth, were around him, and ... God brought him up. At the close of the thanksgiving, “Salvation is the Lord’s,” deliverance is completed, as though God had only waited for this act of complete faith.
So could no one have written, who had not himself been delivered from such an extreme peril of drowning, as man could not, of himself, escape from. True, that no image so well expresses the overwhelmedness under affliction or temptation, as the pressure of storm by land, or being overflooded by the waves of the sea. Human poetry knows of “a sea of troubles,” or “the triple wave of evils.” It expresses how we are simply pas sive and powerless under a trouble, which leaves us neither breath nor power of motion; under which we can be but still, until, by God’s mercy it passes. “We are sunk, overhead, deep down in temptations, and the masterful current is sweeping in eddies over us.” Of this sort are those images which Jonah took from the Psalms. But a description so minute as the whole of Jonah’s would be allegory, not metaphor. What, in it, is most descriptive of Jonah’s situation , as “binding of the seaweed around the head, the sinking down to the roots of the mountains, the bars of the earth around him,” are special to this thanksgiving of Jonah; they do not occur elsewhere, for, except through miracle, they would be images not of peril but of death.
The same vividness, and the same steady directions to its end, characterizes the rest of the book. Critics have wondered why Jonah does not say, on what shore he was east forth, why he does not describe his long journey to Nineveh, or tell us the name of the Assyrian king, or what he himself did, when his mission was closed. Jonah speaks of himself, only as relates to his mission, and God’s teaching through him; the tells us not the king’s name, but his deeds.
The description of the size of Nineveh remarkably corresponds alike with the ancient accounts and modern investigations. Jonah describes it as “a city of three days’journey.” This obviously means its circumference, for, unless the city were a circle, (as no cities are,) it would have no one diameter. A person might describe the average length and breadth of a city, but no one who gave any one measure, by days or miles or any other measure, would mean anything else than its circumference. Diodorus (probably on the authority of Ctesias) states that (Jonah 2:3. So too Q. Curtius v. 4.) “it was well-walled, of unequal lengths. Each of the longer sides was 150 furlongs; each of the shorter, 90. The whole circuit then being 480 furlongs (60 miles) the hope of the founder was not disappointed. For no one afterward built a city of such compass, and with walls so magnificent.” To Babylon “Clitarehus and the companions of Alexander in their writings, assigned a circuit of 365 furlongs, adding that the number of furlongs was conformed to the number of days in the year” .
Ctesias, in round numbers, calls them 360; Strabo, 385. All these accounts agree with the statement of Strabo, “Nineveh was much larger than Babylon.” The 60 miles of Diodorus exactly correspond with the three days’ journey of Jonah. A traveler of our own at the beginning of the 17th century, John Cartwright, states that with his own eyes he traced out the ruinous foundations, and gives their dimensions. “It seems by the ruinous foundation (which I thoroughly viewed) that it was built with four sides, but not equal or square. For the two longer sides had each of them (as we guess) 150 furlongs, the two shorter sides ninety furlongs, which amounteth to four hundred and eighty furlongs of ground, which makes the threescore miles, accounting eight furlongs to an Italian mile.”
No one of the four great mounds, which lie around the site of ancient Nineveh, Nimrud, Kouyunjik, Khorsabad, Karamless, is of sufficient moment or extent to be identified with the old Nineveh. But they are connected together by the sameness of their remains. Together they form a parallelogram, and this of exactly the dimensions assigned by Jonah. “From the northern extremity of Kouyunjik to Nimrud, is about 18 miles, the distance from Nimrud to Karamless, about 12; the opposite sides, the same.” “A recent trigonometrical survey of the country by Captain Jones proves, I am informed,” says Layard , “that the great ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamless, and Khorsabad form very nearly a perfect parallelogram.”
This is perhaps also the explanation, how, seeing its circumference was three days’ journey, Jonah entered a day’s journey in the city and, at the close of the period, we find him at the East side of the city, the opposite to that at which he had entered.
His preaching seems to have lasted only this one day. He went, we are told, “one day’s journey in the city.” The 150 stadia are nearly 19 miles, a day’s journey, so that Jonah walked through it from end to end, repeating that one cry, which God had commanded him to cry out. We seem to see the solitary figure of the prophet, clothed (as was the prophet’s dress) in that one rough garment of hair cloth, uttering the cry which we almost hear, echoing in street after street, Jonah 3:4, “נהפחת נינוה יום ארבעים עד ‛ôd' arbâ‛ı̂ym yôm nı̂ynevêh nêhpâcheth,” “yet forty days and Nineveh overthrown!” The words which he says he cried and said, belong to that one day only. For on that one day only, was there still a respite of forty days. In one day, the grace of God prevailed. The conversion of a whole people upon one day’s preaching of a single stranger, stands in contrast with the many years during which, God says (Jeremiah 7:25, add 13; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 25:3-4; Jeremiah 26:5; Jeremiah 29:19; Jeremiah 32:33; Jeremiah 35:14-15; Jeremiah 44:4), “since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them, yet they hearkened not unto Me.” Many of us have wondered what the prophet did on the other thirty-nine days; people have imagined the prophet preaching as moderns would, or telling them his own wondrous story of his desertion of God, his miraculous punishment, and, on his repentance, his miraculous deliverance. Jonah says nothing of this. The one point he brought out was the conversion of the Ninevites. This he dwells on in circumstantial details. His own part he suppresses; he would be, like John the Immerser, but the voice of one crying in the wild waste of a city of violence.
This simple message of Jonah bears an analogy to what we find elsewhere in Holy Scripture. Doubtless, the great preacher of repentance, John the Immerser, repeated oftentimes that one cry Matthew 3:2, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our Lord vouchsafed to begin His own office with those self-same words Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15. And probably, among the civilized but savage inhabitants of Nineveh, that one cry was more impressive than any other would have been. Simplicity is always impressive. They were four words which God caused to be written on the wall amid Belshazzar’s impious revelry Daniel 5:25 - פרסין תקל מנא מנא menê' menê' teqal perası̂yn (Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin). We all remember the touching history of Jesus, the son of Anan, an unlettered rustic, who , “four years before the war, when Jerusalem was in complete peace and affluence,” burst in on the people at the Feast of Tabernacles with one oft-repeated cry, “A voice from the East, a voice from the West, a voice from the four winds, a voice on Jerusalem and the temple, a voice on the bridegrooms and the brides, a voice on the whole people;” how he went about through all the lanes of the city, repeating, day and night, this one cry; and when scourged until his bones were laid bare, echoed every lash with “woe, woe, to Jerusalem,” and continued as his daily dirge and his one response to daily good or ill-treatment, “woe, woe, to Jerusalem.” The magistrates and even the cold Josephus thought that there was something in it above nature.
In Jerusalem, no effect was produced, because they had filled up the measure of their sins and God had abandoned them. All conversion is the work of the grace of God. That of Nineveh remains, in the history of mankind, an insulated instance of God’s overpowering grace. All which can be pointed out as to the Book of Jonah, is the latent suitableness of the instruments employed. We know from the Cuneiform Inscriptions that Assyria had been for successive generations at war with Syria. Not until the time of Ivalush or Pul, the Assyrian monarch, probably, at the time of Jonah’s mission, do we find them tributary to Assyria. They were hereditary enemies of Assyria, and probably their chief opponents on the North East. The breaking of their power then, under Jeroboam, which Jonah had foretold, had an interest for the Assyrians; and Jonah’s prophecy and the fact of its fulfillment may have reached them. The history of his own deliverance, we know from our Lord’s own words, did reach them. He “was a sign Luke 11:30 unto the Ninevites.” The word, under which he threatened their destruction, pointed to a miraculous overthrow. It was a turning upside down , like the overthrow of the five cities of the plain which are known throughout the Old Testament, Genesis 19:21, Genesis 19:25; Deuteronomy 29:23; Amos 4:11; Jeremiah 20:16; Lamentations 4:6. and still throughout the Muslim East, by the same name, “almoutaphikat , the overthrown.”
The Assyrians also, amidst their cruelties, had a great reverence for their gods, and (as appears from the inscriptions, ascribed to them their national greatness . The variety of ways in which this is expressed, implies a far more personal belief; than the statements which we find among the Romans, and would put to shame almost every English manifesto, or the speeches put into the mouth of the Queen. They may have been, then, the more prepared to fear the prophecy of their destruction from the true God. Layard relates that he has “known a Christian priest frighten a whole Mussulman town to repentance, by proclaiming that he had a divine mission to announce a coming earthquake or plague” .
These may have been predisposing causes. But the completeness of the repentance, not outward only, but inward, “turning from their evil way,” is, in its extent, unexampled.
The fact rests upon the authority of “One greater than Jonah.” Our Lord relates it as a fact. He contrasts people with people, the penitent pagan with the impenitent Jews, the inferior messenger who prevailed, with Himself, whom His own received not Matthew 12:4. “The men of Nineveh shall raise up with this generation and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”
The chief subject of the repentance of the Ninevites agrees also remarkably with their character. It is mentioned in the proclamation of the king and his nobles, “let them turn every one from his evil way ‘and from the violence’ that is in their hands.” Out of the whole catalogue of their sins, conscience singled out violence. This incidental notice, contained in the one word, exactly corresponds in substance with the fuller description in the prophet Nahum Nahum 3:1, “Woe to the bloody city; it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not” Nahum 2:12. “The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey and his dens with ravin” Nahum 3:19. “Upon whom hath not thy wickedness (ill-doing) passed continually?” “The Assyrian records,” says Layard , “are nothing but a dry register of military campaigns, spoilations, and cruelties.”
The direction, that the animals also should be included in the common mourning, was according to the analogy of Eastern custom. When the Persian general Masistius fell at the battle of Plataea , the “whole army and Mardonius above all, made a mourning, ‘shaving themselves, and the horses, and the beasts of burden,’ amid surpassing wailing ... Thus the Barbarians after their manner honored Masistius on his death.” Alexander imitated apparently the Persian custom in his mourning for Hephsestion . The characteristic of the mourning in each case is, that they include the animals in that same mourning which they made themselves. The Ninevites had a right feeling (as God Himself says), that the mercies of God were over man and beast ; and so they joined the beasts with themselves, hoping that the Creator of all would the rather have mercy on their common distress Psalms 145:9. “His tender mercies are over all His works Psalms 36:7. Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast.”
The name of the king cannot yet be ascertained. But since this mission of Jonah fell in the latter part of his prophetic office, and so probably in the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam or even later, the Assyrian king was probably Ivalush III or the “Pul” of Holy Scripture. Jonah’s human fears would, in that case, have been soon fulfilled. For Pul was the first Assyrian Monarch through whom Israel was weakened; and God had foreshown by Amos that through the third it would be destroyed. Characteristic, on account of the earnestness which it implies, is the account that the men of Nineveh proclaimed the fast, before news reached the king himself. This is the plain meaning of the words; yet on account of the obvious difficulty they have been rendered, and word had come to the king . The account is in harmony with that vast extent of the city, as of Babylon, of which “the residents related that, after the outer portions of the city were taken, the inhabitants of the central part did not know that they were taken.” It could scarcely have occurred to one who did not know the fact.
The history of Jonah, after God had spared Nineveh, has the same characteristic touches. He leaves his own character unexplained, its severity rebuked by God, unexcused and unpalliated. He had some special repugnance to be the messenger of mercy to the Ninevites. “For this cause,” he says to God, “I fled before to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a merciful God, and repentest Thee of the evil.” The circumstances of his time explain that repugnance. He had already been employed to prophesy the partial restoration of the boundaries of Israel. He was the contemporary of Hosea who foretold of his people, the ten tribes Hosea 9:3, “they shall not dwell in the Lord’s land, they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.” God, in giving him his commission to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and “cry against it, assigned as the reason,” for its wickedness is come up before Me;” words which to Jonah would suggest the memory of the wickedness of Sodom and its destruction.
Jonah was a prophet, but he was also an Israelite. He was commanded by God to call to repentance the capital of the country by which his own people, nay the people of his God, were to be carried captive. And he rebelled. We know more of the love of God than Jonah, for we have known the love of the Incarnation and the Redemption. And yet, were it made known to us, that some European or Asiatic people were to carry our own people captive out of our land, more than would be willing to confess it of themselves, (whatever sense they might have of the awfulness of God’s judgments, and ever feelings belonging to our common humanity,) would still inwardly rejoice to hear, that such a calamity as the earthquake at Lisbon befell its capital. It is the instinct of self-preservation and the implanted love of country. Jonah’s complaining related solely to God’s mercy shown to them as to this world.
For the Ninevites had repented, and so were in the grace of God. The older of us remember what awful joy was felt when that three days’ mortal strife at Leipzig at length was won, in which 107,000 were killed or wounded ; or when out of 647,000 men who swept across Europe (a mass larger than the whole population of Nineveh) only “85,000 escaped; 125,000 were slain in battle, 132,000 perished by cold, fatigue and famine.” A few years ago, how were Sebastopol and the Krimea in men’s mouths, although that war is reputed to have cost the five nations involved in it 700,000 lives, more, probably, than all the inhabitants of Nineveh. People forget or abstract themselves from all the individual sufferings, and think only of the result of the whole. A humane historian says of the battle of Leipzig , “a prodigious sacrifice, but one which, great as it was, humanity has no cause to regret, for it delivered Europe from French bondage, and the world from revolutionary aggression.” He says on the Russian campaign of Napoleon I , “the faithful throughout Europe repeated the words of the Psalm, Efflavit Deus et dissipantur.”
Look at Dr. Arnold’s description of the issue of the Russian campaign : “Still the flood of the tide rose higher and higher, and every successive wave of its advance swept away a kingdom. Earthly state has never reached a prouder pinnacle, than when Napoleon in June, 1812, gathered his army at Dresden, that mighty host, unequalled in all time, of 450,000, not men merely but, effective soldiers, and there received the homage of subject kings. And now, what was the principal adversary of this tremendous power? by whom was it checked, resisted, and put down? fly none, and by nothing but the direct and manifest interposition of God. I know no language so well fitted to describe the victorious advance to Moscow, and the utter humiliation of the retreat, as the language of the prophet with respect to the advance and subsequent destruction cf the host of Sennacherib. When they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses, applied almost literally to that memorable night of frost in which 20,000 horses perished, and the strength of the French army was utterly broken.
Human instruments no doubt were employed in the remainder of the work, nor would I deny to Germany and to Russia the glories of that great year 1813, nor to England the honor of her victories in Spain or of the crowning victory of Waterloo. But at the distance of thirty years those who lived in the time of danger and remember its magnitude, and now calmly review what there was in human strength to avert it, must acknowledge, I think, beyond all controversy, that the deliverance of Europe from the dominion of Napoleon was effected neither by Russia nor by Germany nor by England, but by the hand of God alone.” Jonah probably pictured to himself some sudden and almost painless destruction, which the word, overthrown, suggested, in which the whole city would be engulfed in an instant and the power which threatened his people, the people of God, broken at once. God reproved Jonah; but, before man condemns him, it were well to think, what is the prevailing feeling in Christian nations, at any signal calamity which befalls any people who threaten their own power or honor; we cannot, in Christian times, say, their existence. “Jonah,” runs an old traditional saying among the Jews , “sought the honor of the son (Israel), and sought not the honor of the Father.”
An uninspired writer would doubtless at least have brought out the relieving points of Jonah’s character, and not have left him under the unmitigated censure of God. Jonah tells the plain truth of himself, as Matthew relates his own desertion of his Lord among the Apostles, or Mark, under the guidance of Peter, relates the great fall of the great Apostle.
Amid this, Jonah remains the same throughout. It is one strong impetuous will, bent on having no share in that which was to bring destruction on his people, fearless of death and ready to give up his life. In the same mind he gives himself to death amid the storm, and, when his mission was accomplished, asks for death in the words of his great predecessor Elijah, when he fled from Jezebel. He probably justified his impatience to himself by the precedent of so great a prophet. But although he complains, he complains to God of Himself. Having complained, Jonah waits. It may be that he thought, although God did not execute His judgments on the 40th day, He might still fulfill them. He had been accustomed to the thought of the long-suffering of God, delaying even when He struck at last. “Considering with himself,” says Theodorus, “the greatness of the threat, he imagined that something might perchance still happen even after this.” The patience of God amid the prophet’s impatience, the still, gentle inquiry (such as lie often puts to the conscience now), “Doest thou well to be angry?” and his final conviction of the prophet out of his own feelings toward one of God’s inanimate creatures, none would have ventured to picture, who had not known or experienced it.
In regard to the miracles in Jonah’s history, over and above the fact, that they occur in Holy Scripture, we have our Lord’s own word for their truth. He has set His seal on the whole of the Old Testament Luke 24:24; He has directly authenticated by His own divine authority the physical miracle of Jonah’s preservation for three days and nights in the belly of the fish Matthew 12:40, and the still greater moral miracle of the conversion of the Ninevites Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32. He speaks of them both, as facts, and of the stay of Jonah in the fish’s belly, as a type of His own stay in the heart of the earth. He speaks of it also as a miraculous sign Matthew 12:38-40; Luke 11:16, Luke 11:29-30.
The Scribes and Pharisees, unable to answer His refutation of their blasphemy, imputing His miracles to Beelzebub, asked of Him a miraculous sign from heaven. Probably, they meant to ask that one sign, for which they were always craving. Confounding His first coming with His second coming, and interpreting, according to their wishes, of His first coming all which the prophets foretold of the second, they were ever looking out for that His Coming in glory “with the clouds of heaven” Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Luke 21:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:7, to humble, as they thought, their own as well as His enemies. Our Lord answers, that this their craving for a sign was part of their faithlessness. “An evil and adulterons generation seeketh after a sign: and there shall no sign be given them, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.” He uses three times their own word “sign.”
He speaks of a miraculous sign, “the sign of Jonas,” a miracle which was the sign of something beyond itself Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32. “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” He gave them the sign from earth, not from heaven; a miracle of humility, not of glory; of deliverance from death, and, as it were, a resurrection. A sign, such as Holy Scripture speaks of, need not at all times be a miraculous, but it is always a real sign. Isaiah and his sons, by real names, given to them by God, or the prophet by his walking barefoot, or Ezekiel by symbolic acts, were signs; not by miraculous but still by real acts. In this case, the Jews asked for a miraculous sign; our Lord promises them a miraculous sign, although not one such as they wished for, or which would satisfy them; a miraculous sign, of which the miraculous preservation of Jonah was a type. Our Lord says Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32, “Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly,” and no one who really believes in Him, dare think that he was not.
It is perhaps a part of the simplicity of Jonah’s narrative, that he relates these great miracles, as naturally as he does the most ordinary events. To God nothing is great or small; and the prophet, deeply as he feels God’s mercy, relates the means which God employed, as if it had been one of those every day miracles of His power and love, of which people think so little because God worketh them every day.
“God prepared a great fish,” he says, “God prepared a palm-christ; God prepared a worm; God prepared a vehement East wind.” Whether Jonah relates God’s ordinary or His extraordinary workings, His workings in the way in which He upholdeth in being the creatures of His will, or in a way which involves a miracle, i. e., God’s acting in some unusual way, Jonah relates it in the same way, with the same simplicity of truth. His mind is fixed upon God’s Providence, and he relates God’s acts, as they bore upon God’s Providential dealings with him. He tells of God’s preparing the East Wind which struck the palm-christ, in the same way in which he speaks of the supernatural growth of the palm-christ, or of God’s Providence, in appointing that the fish should swallow him. He mentions this, which was in the order of God’s Providence; he nowhere stops to tell us the “how.” How God converted the Ninevites, how He sustained his life in the fish’s belly, he does not tell. He mentions only the great facts themselves, and leaves them in their mysterious greatness.
It is not strange, the pagan scoffers fixed upon the physical miracles in the history of Jonah for their scorn. They could have no appreciation of the great moral miracle of the conversion of a whole Pagan city at the voice of a single unknown prophet. Such a conversion is unexampled in the whole revelation of God to man, greater in its immediate effects than the miracle of the Day of Pentecost. Before this stupendous power of God’s grace over the unruly will of savage, yet educated, men, the physical miracles, great as they are, shrink into nothing. The wielding and swaying of half a million of human wills, and turning them from Satan to God, is a power of grace, as much above and beyond all changes of the unresisting physical creation, as the spirits and intelligences which God has created are higher than insentient matter. Physical miracles are a new exercise of the creative power of God: the moral miracles were a sort of firstfruit of the re-creation of the Gentile world. Physical miracles were the simple exercise of the will of God; the moral miracles were, in these hundreds of thousands, His overpowering grace, pouring itself into the heart of rebellious man and re-creating it. As many souls as there were, so many miracles were there, greater even than the creation of man.
The miracles too are in harmony with the nature around. The Hebrews, who were, at this time, not a maritime people, scarcely knew probably of those vast monsters, which our manifold researches into God’s animal kingdom have laid open to us. Jonah speaks only of “a great fish.” The Greek word, by which the Septuagint translated it, and which our Lord used, is (like our “cetacea” which is taken from it), the name of a genus, not of any individual fish. It is the equivalent of the “great fish” of Jonah. The Greeks use the adjective , as we do, but they also use the substantive which occurs in Matthew. This designates a class which includes the whale, but is never used to designate the whale. In Homer , it includes “dolphins and the dog.” In the natural historians, (as Aristotle , it designates the whole class of sea-creatures which are viviparous, “as the dolphin, the seal, the whale;” Galen adds the Zygaena (a shark) and large tunnies; Photius says that “the Carcharias,” or white shark, “is a species of it.” Oppian recounts, as belonging to the Cote, several species of sharks and whales , some with names of land animals , and also the black tunnies .
AElian enumerates most of these under the same head . Our Lord’s words then would be rendered more literally, “in the fish’s belly, Matthew 12:40. than “in the whale’s belly.” Infidels seized eagerly on the fact of the narrowness of the whale’s throat; their cavil applied only to an incorrect rendering of modern versions. Fish, of such size that they can swallow a man whole, and which are so formed as naturally to swallow their prey whole, have been found in the Mediterranean. The white shark, having teeth merely incisive, has no choice, except between swallowing its prey whole, or cutting off a portion of it. It cannot hold its prey, or swallow it piecemeal. Its voracity leads it to swallow at once all which it can . Hence, Otto Fabricius relates , “its custom is to swallow down dead and, sometimes also, living men, which it finds in the sea.”
A natural historian of repute relates , “In 1758 in stormy weather a sailor fell overboard from a frigate in the Mediterranean. A shark was close by, which, as he was swimming and crying for help, took him in his wide throat, so that he immediately disappeared. Other sailors had leapt into the sloop, to help their comrade, while yet swimming; the captain had a gun which stood on the deck discharged at the fish, which struck it so, that it cast out the sailor which it had in its throat, who was taken up, alive and little injured, by the sloop which had now come up. The fish was harpooned, taken up on the frigate, and dried. The captain made a present of the fish to the sailor who, by God’s Providence, had been so wonderfully preserved. The sailor went around Europe exhibiting it. He came to Franconia, and it was publicly exhibited here in Erlangen, as also at Nurnberg and other places. The dried fish was delineated. It was 20 feet long, and, with expanded fins, nine feet wide, and weighed 3,924 pounds. From all this, it is probable that this was the fish of Jonah.”
This is by no means an insulated account of the size of this fish. Blumenbach states, “the white shark, or Canis carcharias, is found of the size of 10,000 lbs, and horses have been found whole in its stomach.” A writer of the 16th century on “the fish of Marseilles” says, “they of Nice attested to me, that they had taken a fish of this sort, approaching to 4,000 lbs. weight, in whose body they had found a man whole. Those of Marseilles told something similar, that they had once taken a Lamia (so they still popularly call the Carcharias) and found in it a man in a coat of mail (loricatus)” Rondelet says , “sometimes it grows to such size, that, placed on a carriage, it can hardly be drawn by two horses. I have seen one of moderate size, which weighed 1,000 lbs, and, when disembowelled and cut to pieces, it had to be put on two carriages.” “I have seen on the shore of saintonge a Lamia, whose mouth and throat were of such vast size, that it would easily swallow a large man.”
Richardson , speaking of the white shark in North America, says that they attain the length of 30 feet, i. e., one-third larger than that which swallowed the sailor whole. Lacepede speaks of fish of this kind as “more than 30 feet long” . “The contour,” he adds , “of the upper jaw of a requin of 30 feet, is about 6 feet long; its swallow is of a diameter proportionate.” : “In all modern works on Zoology, we find 30 feet given as a common length for a shark’s body. Now a shark’s body is usually only about eleven times the length of the half of its lower jaw. Consequently, a shark of 30 feet would have a lower jaw of nearly 6 feet in its semi-circular extent. Even if such a jaw as this was of hard bony consistence instead of a yielding cartilaginous nature, it would qualify its possessor for engulfing one of our own species most easily. The power which it has, by virtue of its cartilaginous skeleton, of stretching, bending and yielding, enables us to understand how the shark can swallow entire animals as large or larger than ourselves. Such an incident is related to have occurred 1802 a.d., on the authority of a Captain Brown, who found the body of a woman entire with the exception of the head within the stomach of a shark killed by him at Surinam” .
In the Mediterranean there are traces of a still larger race, now extinct. “However large or dangerous the existing race may be, yet from the magnitude of the fossil teeth found in Malta and elsewhere, some of which measure 4 12 inches from the point to the base, and 6 inches from the point to the angle, the animal, to which they belonged, must have much exceeded the present species in size.” “The mouth of a fish of this sort,” says Bloch , “is armed with 400 teeth of this kind. In the Isle of Malta and in Sicily, their teeth are found in great numbers on the shore. Naturalists of old took them for tongues of serpents. They are so compact that, after having remained for many centuries in the earth, they are still not decayed. The quantity and size of those which are found proves that these creatures existed formerly in great numbers, and that some were of extraordinary size.
If one were to calculate from them what should, in proportion, be the size of the throat which should hold such a number of such teeth, it ought to be at least 8 or 10 feet wide. In truth, these fish are found to this day of a terrific size. This fish, celebrated for its voracity and courage, is found in the Mediterranean and in almost every Ocean. It generally keeps at the bottom, and rises only to satisfy its hunger. It is not seen near shore, except when it pursues its prey, or is pursued by the mular , which it does not venture to approach, even when dead. It swallows all sorts of aquatic animals, alive or dead, and pursues especially the sea-calf and the tunny. In its pursuit of the tunny, it sometimes falls into nets, and some have been thus taken in Sardinia, which weighed 400 lbs. and in which 8 or 10 tunnies were found still undigested.
It attacks men wherever it can find them, whence the Germans call it ‘menschenfresser’ (man-eater). Gunner speaks of a sea-calf ‘of the size of an ox, which has also been found in one of these animals; and in another a reindeer without horns, which had fallen from a rock.’ This fish attains a length of 25 to 30 feet. Muller says that one was taken near the Island of Marguerite which weighed 1,500 lbs. Upon opening it, they found in it a HORSE, quite whole: which had apparently been thrown overboard. M. Brunniche says that during his residence at Marseilles, one was taken near that city, 15 feet long, and that two years before, two, much larger, had been taken, in one of which had been found two tunnies and a man quite dressed. The fish were injured, the man not at all. In 1760 there was exhibited at Berlin a requin stuffed, 20 feet long, and 9 feet in circumference, where it was thickest. It had been taken in the Mediterranean. Its voracity is so great, that it does not spare its own species. Leem relates, that a Laplander, who had taken a requin, fastened it to his canoe; soon after, he missed it. Some time after, having taken a larger one, he found in its stomach the requin which he had lost.” “The large Australian shark (Carcharias glaucus), which has been measured after death 37 feet long, has teeth about 2 58 inches long.”
Such facts ought to shame those who speak of the miracle of Jonah’s preservation through the fish, as a thing less credible than any other of God’s miraculous doings. There is no greater or less to Omnipotence. The creation of the universe, the whole stellar system, or of a fly, are alike to Him, simple acts of His divine will. “He spake, and it was” Psalms 33:9. What to people seem the greatest miracles or the least, are alike to Him, the mere “Let it be” of His all-holy will, acting in a different way for one and the same end, the instruction of the intelligent creatures which He has made. Each and all subserve, in their several places and occasions, the same end of the manifold wisdom of God. Each and all of these, which to us seem interruptions of His ordinary workings in nature, were from the beginning, before He had created anything, as much a part of His divine purpose, as the creation of the universe.
They are not disturbances of His laws. Night does not disturb day which it closes, nor day disturb night. No more does any work which God, before the creation of the world, willed to do (for, Acts 15:18, “known unto God are all His ways from the beginning of the world,”) interfere with any other of His workings. His workings in nature, and His workings above nature, form one harmonious whole. Each are a part of His ways; each is essential to the manifestation of God to us. That wonderful order and symmetry of God’s creation exhibits to us some effluences of the Divine Wisdom and Beauty and Power and Goodness; that regularity itself sets forth those other foreknown operations of God, whereby He worketh in a way different from His ordinary mode of working in nature. “They who know not God, will ask,” says Cyril , “how was Jonah preserved in the fish? How was he not consumed? How did he endure that natural heat, and live, surrounded by such and was not rather digested? For this poor body is very weak and perishable. Truly wonderful was it, surpassing reason and wontedness. But if God be declared its Author, who would anymore disbelieve? For God is All-powerful, and transmouldeth easily the nature of things which are, to what He willeth, and nothing resisteth His ineffable will.
For that which is perishable can at His will easily become superior to corruption; and what is firm and unshaken and undecaying is easily subjected thereto. For nature, I deem, to the things which be, is, what seemeth good to the Creator.” Augustine well points out the inconsistency, so common now, of excepting to the one or the other miracle, upon grounds which would in truth apply to many or to all , “The answer” to the mockery of the Pagans, “is that either all divine miracles are to be disbelieved, or there is no reason why this should not be believed. For we should not believe in Christ Himself that He rose on the third day, if the faith of the Christians shrank from the mockery of Pagans. Since our friend does not put the question, Is it to be believed that Lazarus rose on the 4th day, or Christ Himself on the third day, I much marvel that he put this as to Jonah as a thing incredible, unless he think it easier for one dead to be raised from the tomb, than to be preserved alive in that vast belly of the fish.
Not to mention how vast the size of marine creatures is said to be by those who have witnessed it, who could not conceive what numbers of men that stomach could contain which was fenced by those ribs, well known to the people at Carthage, where they were set up in public? How vast must have been the opening of that mouth, the doer, as it were, to that cave.” “But, troth, they have found in a divine miracle something which they need not believe; namely, that the gastric juice whereby food is digested could be so tempered as not to injure the life of man. How still less credible would they deem it, that those three men, cast into the furnace by the impious king, walked up and down in the midst of the fire! If then they refuse to believe any miracles of God, they must be answered in another way. But they ought not to question any one, as though it were incredible, but at once all which are as, or even more, marvelous.
He who proposed these questions, let him be a Christian now, lest, while he waits first to finish the questions on the sacred books, he come to the end of his life, before he has passed from death to life. Let him, if he will, first ask questions such as he asked concerning Christ, and those few great questions to which the rest are subordinate. But if he think to finish all such questions as this of Jonah, before he becomes a Christian, he little appreciates human mortality or his own mortality. For they are countless; not to be finished before accepting the faith, lest life be finished without faith. But, retaining the faith, they are subjects for the diligent study of the faithful; and what in them becomes clear is to be communicated without arrogance, what still lies hidden, to be borne without risk to salvation.”
The other physical miracle of the rapid production of the Palma Christi, which God created to overshadow Jonah, was plainly supernatural in that extreme rapidity of growth, else in conformity with the ordinary character of that plant. “The קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn, as we read in the Hebrew, called kikeia (or, Elkeroa, in Syriac and Punic,” says Jerome , “is a shrub with broad leaves like vine-leaves. It gives a very dense shade, supports itself on its own stem. It grows most abundantly in Palestine, especially in sandy spots. If you cast the seed into the ground, it is soon quickened, rises marvelously into a tree, and a few days what you had beheld an herb, you look up to, a shrub. The קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn, a miracle in its instantaneous existence, and an instance of the power of God in the protection given by this living shade, followed the course of its own nature.”
It is a native of all North Africa, Arabia, Syria, India. In the valley of the Jordan it still grows to a “large size, and has the character,” an eyewitness writes , “of a perennial tree, although usually described as a biennial plant.” “It is of the size of a small fig tree. It has leaves like a plane, only larger, smoother, and darker.” The name of the plant is of Egyptian origin, kiki; which Dioscorides and Galen identify with the croton ; Herodotus with the Silicyprion , which, in the form seselicyprion, Dioscorides mentions as a name given to the kiki or kroton; Pliny with the Ricinus also (the Latin name for the croton), our Palma Christi; Hebrews with the Arabic Elkeroa, which again is known to be the Ricinus. The growth and occasional perishing of the Palma Christi have both something analogous to the growth and decay related in Jonah. Its rapidity of growth is remarked by Jerome and Pliny, who says , “in Spain it shoots up rapidly, of the height of an olive, with hollow stem,” and branches .
“All the species of the Ricinus shoot up quickly, and yield fruit within three months, and are so multipled from the seed shed, that, if left to themselves, they would occupy in short space the whole country.” In Jamaica , “it grows with surprising rapidity to the height of 15 or 16 feet.” Niebuhr says, “it has the appearance of a tree. Each branch of the kheroa has only one leaf, with 6, 7, or 8 indentures. This plant was near a stream which watered it adequately. At the end of October, 1765, it had, in 5 months, grown about 8 feet, and bore, at once, flowers and fruit, green and ripe.” This rapidity of growth has only a sort of likeness to the miracle, which quickened in a way far above nature the powers implanted in nature. The destruction may have been altogether in the way of nature, except that it happened at that precise moment, when it was to be a lesson to Jonah . “On warm days, when a small rain falls, black caterpillars are generated in great numbers on this plant, which, in one night, so often and so suddenly cut off its leaves, that only their bare ribs remain, which I have often observed with much wonder, as though it were a copy of that destruction of old at Nineveh.” The Ricinus of India and Assyria furnishes food to a different caterpillar from that of Amboyna , but the account illustrates the rapidity of the destruction.
The word “worm” is elsewhere also used collectively, not of a single worm only, Jonah 4:7, , and of creatures which, in God’s appointment, devour the vine. Deuteronomy 28:39. there is nothing in the text, implying that the creature was one which gnawed the stem rather than the leaves. The unique word, smote , is probably used, to correspond with the mention of the sun smiting Jonah 4:8. on the head of Jonah.
These were miracles, like all the other miracles of Scripture, ways, in which God made Himself and His power known to us, showing Himself the Lord of that nature which men worshiped and worship, for the present conversion of a great people, for the conviction of Israel, a hidden prophecy of the future conversion of the pagan, and an example of repentance and its fruits to the end of time. They have no difficulty except to the rebelliousness of unbelief.
Other difficulties people have made for themselves. In a planked-roof booth such as ours, Joriah would not have needed the shadow of a plant. Obviously then, Jonah’s booth, even if we knew not what it was, was not like our’s. A German critic has chosen to treat this as an absurdity “Although Jonah makes himself a shady booth, he still further needs the overshadowing קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn.” Jonah however, being an Israelite, made booths, such as Israel made them. Now we happen to know that the Jewish סכה sûkkâh, or booth, being formed of the interlaced branches of trees, did not exclude the sun. We know this from the rules in the Talmud as to the construction of the Succah or “tabernacle” for the Feast of Tabernacles. It lays down . “A סכה sûkkâh whose height is not 10 palms, and which has not three sides, and which has more sun than shade (i. e., more of whose floor is penetrated by light through the top of the Succah, than is left in shade), is profane.”
And again , “Whoso spreadeth a linen cloth over the סכה sûkkâh, to protect him from the sun, it is profane.” . “Whoso raiseth above it the vine or gourd or ivy, and so covers it, it is profane; but if the roof be larger than they, or if one cut them, they are lawful” . “With bundles of straw, and bundles of wood, and bundles of sticks, they do not cover it; and all these, if undone, are lawful” . “They cover it with planks according to Rabbi Jonah; and Rabbi Meir forbids; whoso putteth upon it one plank of four palms’ breadth it is lawful, only he must not sleep under it.” Yet all held that a plank thus broad was to overlap the booth, in which case it would not cover it. The principle of all these rules is, that the rude hut, in which they dwelt during the Feast of Tabernacles, was to be a shade, symbolizing God’s overshadowing them in the wilderness; the סכה sûkkâh itself, not anything adscititious, was to be their shade; yet it was but an imperfect protection, and was indeed intended so to be, in order to symbolize their pilgrim-state.
Hence the contrivances among those who wished to be at case, to protect themselves; and hence the inconvenience which God turned into an instruction to Jonah. Even “the Arabs,” Layard tells us in a Nineveh summer, “struck their black tents and lived in sheds, constructed of reeds and grass along the banks of the river.” “The heats of summer made it impossible to live in a white tent.” Layard’s resource of a “recess, cut into the bank of the river where it rose perpendicularly from the water’s edge, screening the front with reeds and boughs of trees, and covering the whole with similar materials,” corresponds with the hut of Jonah, covered by the קיקיון qı̂yqâyôn.
No pagan scoffer, as far as we know, when he became acquainted with the history of Jonah, likened it to any pagan fable. This was reserved for so-called Christians. Some pagan mocked at it, as the philosophers of Mars’ Hill mocked at the resurrection of Christ Acts 17:32. “This sort of question” (about Jonah), said a pagan, who professed to be an inquirer, “I have observed to be met with broad mockery by the pagans” . They mocked, but they did not insult the history by likening it to any fable of their own. Jerome, who mentions incidentally that “Joppa is the place in which, to this day, rocks are pointed out in the shore, where Andromeda, being bound, was once on a time freed by the help of Perseus,” does not seem aware that the fable could be brought into any connection with the history of Jonah. He urges on the pagan the inconsistency of believing their own fables, which besides their marvelousness were often immoral, and refusing to believe the miracles of Scripture histories; but the fable of Andromeda or of Hesione do not even occur to him in this respect . “I am not ignorant that to some it will seem incredible that a man could be preserved alive 3 days and nights in the fish’s belly. These must be either believers or unbelievers. If believers, they must needs believe much greater things, how the three youths, cast into the burning fiery furnace, were in such sort unharmed, that not even the smell of fire touched their dress; how the sea retired, and stood on either side rigid like walls, to make a way for the people passing over; how the rage of lions, aggravated by hunger, looked, awestricken, on its prey, and touched it not, and many like things.
Or if they be unbelievers, let them read the 15 books of Ovid’s metamorphoses, and all Greek and Latin story, and there they will see where the foulness of the fables precludes the holiness of a divine origin. These things they believe, and that to God all things are possible. Believing foul things, and defending them by alleging the unlimited power of God, they do not admit the same power as to things moral.” In Alexandria and in the time of Cyril, the old pagan fables were tricked up again. He alludes then to Lycophron’s version of the story of Hercules , in order, like Jerome, to point out the inconsistency of believing pagan fables and rejecting divine truth. “We,” he says, “do not use their fables to confirm things divine, but we mention them to a good end, in answer to unbelievers, that their received histories too do not reject such relations.”
The philosophers wished at once to defend their own fables and to attack the Gospel. Yet it was an unhappy argumentum ad hominem. Modern infidelity would find a likeness, where there is no shadow of it. The two pagan fables had this in common; that, in order to avert the anger of the gods, a virgin was exposed to be devoured by a sea monster, and delivered from death by a hero, who killed the monster and married the princess whom he delivered. This, as given by Cyril, was a form of the fable, long subsequent to Jonah. The original simple form of the story was this , “Apollo and Poseidon, wishing to make trial of the insolence of Laomedon, appearing in the likeness of men, promised for a consideration to fortify Pergamus. When they had fortified it, he did not pay them their hire. Wherefore Apollo sent a pestilence, and Poseidon a sea monster, cast on shore by the flood-tide, who made havoc of the men that were in the plain. The oracle said that they should be freed from these misfortunes, if Laomedon would set his daughter Hesione as food for the monster; he did so set her, binding her to the rocks near to the plain; Hercules, seeing her thus exposed, promised to save her, if he might have from Laomedon the horses, which Zeus had given in compensation for the rape of Ganymede. Laomedon saying that he would give them, he killed the monster and set Hesione free.”
This simple story is repeated, with unimportant variations, by Diodorus Siculus , Hyginus, Orid, Valerius Flaccus. Even later, the younger Philostratus, depicting the story, has no other facts. An old icon represents the conflict in a way that is inconsistent with the later form of the story .
The story of Andromeda is told by Apollodorus , in part in the very same words. The Nereids were angered by Cassiope the mother of Andromeda, for boasting herself more beautiful than they. Then follows the same history, Poseidon sending a flood-tide and a sea monster; the same advice of the oracle; the setting Andromeda in chains, as food for the sea monster; Perseus’ arrival, bargain with the father, the killing of the sea monster, the deliverance of Andromeda. Fable as all this is, it does not seem to have been meant to be fable. Pliny relates , “M. Scaurus, when AEdile, exhibited at Rome, among other marvels, the bones of the monster to which Andromeda was said to have been exposed, which bones were brought from Joppa, a city of Judaea, being 40 feet long, in height greater than the ribs of the Indian elephant, and the vertebrae a foot and a half thick.” He describes Joppa as “seated on a hill, with a projecting rock, in which they show the traces of the chains of Andromeda” , Josephus says the same . Pausanias relates, “the country of the Hebrews near Joppa supplies water blood-red, very near the sea. The natives tell, that Perseus, when he had slain the monster to which the daughter of Cepheus was exposed, washed off the blood there.” Mela, following perhaps his Greek authority , speaks in the present , “an illustrious trace of the preservation of Andromeda by Perseus, they show vast bones of a sea monster.”
But, whether the authors of these fables meant them for matters of fact, or whether the fables had any symbolic meaning, they have not, in any form which they received until long after the time of Jonah, any connection with the Book of Jonah.
The history of Andromeda has in common with the Book of Jonah, only this, that, whereas Apollodorus and the ancients placed the scene of her history in AEthiopia, writers who lived some centuries after the time of Jonah removed it to Joppa, the seaport from where Jonah took ship. “There are some,” says Strabo, speaking of his own day, “who transfer AEthiopia to our Phoenicia, and say that the matters of Andromeda took place at Joppa; and this, not out of ignorance of places, but rather in the form of a myth.” The transfer, doubtless, took place in the 800 years which elapsed between Jonah and Strabo, and was occasioned perhaps by the special idolatry of the coast, the worship of Atargatis or Derceto. Pliny, at least, immediately after that statement about the chains of Andromeda at Joppa, subjoins , “The fabulous Ceto is worshiped there.” Ceto is doubtless the same as “Derceto,” of which Pliny uses the same epithet a little afterward . “There,” at Hierapolis, “is worshiped the prodigious Atargatis, which the Greeks call Derceto.” The Greeks appear (as their way was), on occasion of this worship of Ceto, to have transferred here their own story of Andromeda and the Cetos.
Ceto, i. e., Derceto, and Dagon were the corresponding male and female deities, under whose names the Philistines worshiped the power which God has implanted in nature to reproduce itself. Both were fish-forms, with human hands and face. Derceto or Atargatis was the Syriac Ter’to, whose worship at Hierapolis or Mabug bad a far-known infamy, the same altogether as that of Rhea or Cybele. The maritime situation of Philistia probably led them to adopt the fish as the symbol of prolific reproduction. In Holy Scripture we find chiefly the worship of the male god Dagon, literally “great fish.” He had temples at Gaza, Judges 16:23. and Ashdod, (1 Samuel 5:1; 1 Samuel 1:0 Macc. 10:83; 11:4.) where all the lords of the Philistines assembled. Five other places are named from his worship, four near the sea coast, and one close to Joppa itself. Beth-dagon (“temple of Dagon”) in the southwest part of Judah Joshua 15:41. and so, near Philistia;
2) Another, in Asher also near the sea;
3) Caphar Dagon (village of Dagon) “a very large village between Jamnia and Diospolis.” (Eusebius, Onom. sub v.)
4) Belt Dejan (Beth Dagon) about 6 miles N. W. of Ramlah (Robinson, Bibl. R. 2:232; see map) accordingly distinct from Caphar Dagon, and 4 1/2 hours from Joppa;
5) Another Beit Dejan, East of Nablus. (Ib. 282.))
But in later times the name of the goddess became more prominent, and, among the Greeks, exclusive. Atargatis or Detecto had, in the time of the Maccabees, a celebrated temple at Carnion, (2 Macc. 12:26.) i. e., Ashteroth Carnaim in Gilead, and, according to Pliny, at Joppa itself. This furnished an easy occasion to the Greeks to transfer there their story of the Cotes. The Greeks had populated Joppa (1 Macc. 10:75; 14:34), before Simon retook it from Antiochus. In Jonah’s time, it was Phoenician. It was not colonized by Greeks until five centuries later. Since then Andromeda is a Greek story which they transferred to Joppa with themselves, the existence of the Greek story, at a later date, can be no evidence for “a Phoenician legend,” of which the rationalists have dreamed, nor can it have any connection with Jonah who lived half a millennium before the Greeks came, 800 years before the story is mentioned in connection with Joppa.
With regard to the fables of Hercules, Diodorus Siculus thought that there was a basis of truth in them. The story of Hercules and Hesione, as alluded to by Homer and told by Apollodorus, looks like an account of the sea breaking in upon the land and wasting it; a human sacrifice on the point of being offered, and prevented by the removal of the evil through the building of a sea-wall. Gigantic works were commonly attributed to superior agency, good or evil. In Homer, the mention of the sea-wall is prominent . “He led the way to the lofty wall of mounded earth of the divine Hercules, which the Trojans and Minerva made for him, that, eluding the sea monster, he might escape, when he rushed at him from the beach toward the plain.” In any case, a monster, which came up from the sea and wasted the land, is no fish; nor has the story of one who destroyed such a monster, any bearing on that of one whose life God preserved by a fish.
Nor is the likeness really mended by the later version of the story, originating in an Alexandrian after the Book of Jonah had been translated into Greek at Alexandria. The writer of the Cassandra, who lived at least five centuries after Jonah, represents Hercules as “a lion, the offspring of three nights, which aforetime the jagged-toothed dog of Triton lapped up in his jaws; and he, a living carver of his entrails, scorched by the steam of a cauldron on the fireless hearths, shed the bristles of his head upon the ground, the infanticide waster of my country.”
In that form the story re-appears in a pagan philosopher and an Alexandrian father but, in both, as borrowed from the Alexandrian poet. Others, who were unacquainted with Lycophron, pagan
And Christian alike, knew nothing of it. One Christian writer, at the end of the 5th century , a Platonic philosopher, gives an account, distinct from any other, pagan or Christian, probably confused from both. In speaking of marvelous deliverances, he says ; “As Hercules too is sung” (i. e., in Greek poetry), “when his ship was broken, to have been swallowed up by a κητὸς kētos, and, having come within, was preserved.” In the midst of the 11th century after our Lord, some writers on Greek fable, in order to get rid of the very offensive story of the conception of Hercules, interpreted the word of Lycophron which alludes to it, of his employing, in the destruction of the monster, three periods of 24 hours, called “nights” from the darkness in which he was enveloped. Truly, full often have those words of God been fulfilled, that 2 Timothy 4:4. men shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. People, who refused to believe the history of Jonah, although attested by our Lord, considered AEneas Gazaeus, who lived about 13 centuries after Jonah, to be an authentic witness of an imaginary Phoenician tradition , 13 centuries before his own time; and that, simply on the ground that he has his name from Gaza; whereas he expressly refers, not to Phoenician tradition but to Greek poetry.
Such are the stories, which became a traditional argument among unbelieving critics to justify their disbelief in miracles accredited by our Lord. Flimsy spider-webs, which a critic of the same school brushes away as soon as he has found some other expedient, as flimsy, to serve his purpose! The majestic simplicity of Holy Scripture and its moral greatness stand out the more, in contrast with the unmeaning fables, with which men have dared, amid much self-applause, to compare it. A more earnest, but misled, mind, even while unhappily disbelieving the miracle of Jonah, held the comparison, on ground of “reason, ludicrous; but not the less frivolous and irreverent, as applied to Holy Scripture.”
It was assumed by those who first wrote against the Book of Jonah, that the thanksgiving in it was later than Jonah, “a cento from the Psalms.” They objected that it did not allude to the history of Jonah. One critic repeated after the other , that the Psalm was a “mere cento” of Psalms. However untrue, nothing was less doubted. A later critic felt that the Psalm must have been the thanksgiving of one delivered from great peril of life in the sea. “The images,” he says , “are too definite, they relate too exclusively to such a situation, to admit of being understood vaguely of any great peril to life, as may Psalms 18:0 and Psalms 42:1-11, (Which the writer may have had in his mind) or Psalms 124:1-8.” Another, to whom attention has been recently drawn, maintained the early date of the thanksgiving, and held that it contained so much of the first part of Jonah’s history, that that history might be founded on the thanksgiving. This was one step backward toward the truth.
It is admitted that the thanksgiving is genuine, is Jonah’s, and relates to a real deliverance of the real prophet. But the thanksgiving would not suggest the history Jonah thanks God for his deliverance from the depths of the sea, from which no man could be delivered, except by miracle.
He describes himself, not as struggling with the waves, but as sunk beneath them to the bottom of the sea, from where no other ever rose . Jonah does not tell God, how He had delivered him. Who does? He rehearses to God the hopeless peril, out of which He had delivered him. On this the soul dwells, for this is the ground of its thankfulness. The delivered soul loves to describe to God the death out of which it had been delivered. Jonah thanks God for one miracle; he gives no hint of the other, which, when he uttered the thanksgiving, was not yet completed. The thanksgiving bears witness to it miracle; but does not suggest its nature. The history supplies it.
It is instructive that the writer who, disbelieving the miracles in the book of Jonah, “restorers his history” by effacing them, has also to “restore the history “of the Saviour of the world, by omitting His testimony to them. But this is to subject the revelation of God to the variations of the mind of His creatures, believing what they like, disbelieving what they dislike.
Our Lord Himself attested that this miracle on Jonah was an image of His own entombment and Resurrection. He has compared the preaching of Jonah with His own. He compares it as a real history, as He does the coming of the Queen of Sheba to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Modern writers have lost sight of the principle, that men, as individuals, amid their infirmities and sins, are but types of man; in their history alone, their office, their sufferings, can they be images of their Redeemer. God portrayed doctrines of the Gospel in the ritual of the law. Of the offices of Christ and, at times, His history, he gave some faint outline in offices which He instituted, or persons whose history He guided. But they are types only, in that which is of God. Even that which was good in any was no type of His goodness; nay, the more what is human is recorded of them, the less they are types of Him. Abraham who acted much, is a type, not of Christ, but of the faithful.
Isaac, of whom little is recorded, except his sacrifice, becomes the type of Christ. Melchizedek, who comes forth once in that great loneliness, a King of Righteousness and of peace, a priest of God, refreshing the father of the faithful with the sacrificial bread and wine, is a type, the more, of Christ’s everlasting priesthood, in that he stands alone, without father, without known descent, without known beginning or end, majestic in his one office, and then disappearing from our sight. Joseph was a type of our Lord, not in his chastity or his personal virtues but in his history; in that he was rejected by his brethren, sold at the price of a slave, yet, with kingly authority, received, supported, pardoned, gladdened, feasted, his brethren who had sold him. Even so the history of Jonah had two aspects. It is, at once, the history of his mission and of his own personal conduct in it.
These are quite distinct. The one is the history of God’s doings in him and through him; the other is the account of his own soul, its rebellions, struggles, conviction. As a man, he is himself the penitent; as a prophet, he is the preacher of repentance. In what was human infirmity in him, he was a picture of his people, whose cause he espoused with too narrow a zeal. Zealous too for the honor of God, although not with God’s all-enfolding love, willing that that honor should be vindicated in his own way, unwilling to be God’s instrument on God’s terms, yet silenced and subdued at last, he was the image and lesson to those who complained at Peter’s mission to Cornelius, and who, only when they heard how God the Holy Spirit had come down upon Cornelius’ household, “held their peace and glorified God, saying, then hath God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life. Acts 11:18. what coinciding visions to Cornelius and Peter, what evident miracles of power and of grace, were needed after the Resurrection to convince the Jewish converts of that same truth, which God made known to and through Jonah! The conversion of the Gentiles and the saving of a remnant only of the Jews are so bound together in the prophets, that it may be that the repugnance of the Jewish converts was founded on an instinctive dread of the same sort which so moved Jonah. It was a superhuman love, through which S. Paul contemplated “their fall as the riches of the Gentiles” Romans 11:12.
On the other hand, that, in which Jonah was an image of our Lord, was very simple and distinct. It was where Jonah was passive, where nothing of his own was mingled. The storm, the casting over of Jonah, were the works of God’s Providence; his preservation through the fish was a miracle of God’s power; the conversion of the Ninevites was a manifold miracle of His grace. It might have pleased God to send to convert a pagan people one whom He had not so delivered; or to have subdued the will of the prophet whom He sent on some other mission. But now sign answers to sign, and mission shadows out mission. Jonah was first delivered from his three days’ burial in that living tomb by a sort of resurrection, and then, whereas he had previously been a prophet to Israel, he thenceforth became a prophet to the pagan, whom, and not Israel, he converted, and, in their conversion, his, as it were, resurrection was operative.
The correspondence is there. We may lawfully dwell on subordinate details, how man was tempest-tost and buffeted by the angry waves of this perilous and bitter world; Christ, as one of us, gave His life for our lives, the storm at once was hushed, there is a deep calm of inward peace, and our haven was secured. But the great outstanding facts, which our Lord Himself has pointed out, are, that he who had heretofore been the prophet of Israel only, was, after a three days’ burial, restored through miracle to life, and then the pagan were converted. Our Lord has set His seal upon the facts. They were to Israel a sacred enigma, a hidden prophecy, waiting for their explanation. They were a warning, how those on whom God then seemed not to have pity, might become the object of His pity, while they themselves were cast out. Now the marvelous correspondence is, even on the surface, a witness to the miracle. Centuries before our Lord came, there was the history of life preserved by miracle in death and out of death; and thereupon the history of pagan converted to God and accepted by Him. Is this, even a doubting mind might ask, accidental coincidence? or are it and the other like resemblances, the tracing of the finger of God, from whom is all harmony, Who blends in one all the gradations of His creation, all the lineaments of history, His natural and His moral world, the shadow of the law with the realities of the Gospel? How should such harmony exist, but for that harmonizing Hand, who “binds and blends in one” the morning and evening of His creation.
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany