Bible Commentaries
Jonah 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-2



Chapter I.

Jonah pursued:

a) By a storm, v. 1-4. b) By marines, v. 5-16. c) By a fish-whale, v. 17.

Chapter II

Jonah’s cries:

a) His plea and complaint, v. 1-5. b) His confession, confidence, release, v. 6-10..

Chapter III

Jonah’s commitment:

a) His recommission, v. 1. 2. b) His obedience, v. 3, 4. c) His note of Nineveh’s repentance, v. 5-9. d) His note of God’s withheld judgment, v. 10.

Chapter IV

Jonah’s pouting--God’s response:

a) Jonah’s bitterness, v. 1-3. b) God’s inquiry of Jonah, v. 4. c) Jonah’s booth, v. 5. d) God’s gourd-vine, worm, and east wind, v. 6-8. e) God’s second and third inquiry of Jonah v. 9-11.


The Book of Jonah was written by the prophet Jonah, Jonah 1:1. He was the son of Amittai, a prophet of the Lord in Gath-hepher, located some three miles north of Nazareth, in Galilee. The traditional tomb of Jonah is located about two miles from Siphhoris, just north of Nazareth in Galilee today. The main road from Nazareth to Tiberias passes near it. It is acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Moslems as the area of Jonah’s home residence in Galilee, 2 Kings 14:25. Jonah was a bigoted Jew, at first unwilling to acknowledge any redemptive interest in the Gentile city of Nineveh. Jesus vouched for the historical certainty of his character, Matthew 12:39-41.


The message of God was given to Jonah to be spoken to the wicked Gentiles of the city of Nineveh, calling them to repentance, to avoid their destruction, Jonah 1:2. Nineveh was the capitol city of the Assyrian kingdom. It was located on the east bank of the Tigris river about 250 miles north of the city of Babylon, Jonah 3:2-3.


The message of Jonah was about the exceeding wickedness of the people of Nineveh and God’s specific call for them to repent, Jonah 1:2; Jonah 3:1-2; Jonah 3:8-10. God desired to show mercy to the Gentiles, at their repentance, since Israel had refused to repent and turn from her idolatry. The book consists of only four chapters, containing 48 verses, revealing the hostility of Jonah’s heart, a reflection of that of the Jews in general, against God and the Gentile world. While they themselves were no better than the Gentiles in nature or behavior.

The four chapters are presented as follows:

Chapter 1. Jonah pursued;

Chapter 2. Jonah cries;

Chapter 3. Jonah’s commitment;

Chapter 4. Jonah’s pouting before God:


The prophet writes and speaks by Divine Inspiration: He speaks of his own sins and chastisement, the specific experience of Divine chastisement he endured, mercy he received, and the second call he had to preach God’s message to heathen Gentiles, in the mighty city of Nineveh. He speaks of Divine miracles and his part in center stage of eight miracles as follows:

1. The raging storm at sea, Jonah 1:4.

2. The falling of the lot on Jonah, Jonah 1:7.

3. The instant calming of the sea, Jonah 1:15.

4. The prepared sea monster (whale) to swallow Jonah, Jonah 1:17.

5. Jonah’s deliverance (remission) from the sea monster, Jonah 2:10.

6. The God-prepared gourd vine, Jonah 4:6.

7. The God-prepared worm, Jonah 4:7:

8. The scorching east wind, Jonah 4:8.

These miracles attest the existence of a miracle-working God whom Jonah represented in his message of repentance. Most of these type of miracles were done by Jesus Christ in person, when He came. And Jesus identified Himself as that person of whom Jonah’s salvation from death was a prefigure, Jonah 2:10; Matthew 16:4; Matthew 12:39-41.


Jonah lived and prophesied 800-749 B.C. in th reign of Jeroboam II, about the height of the 300 years that the Assyrian Empire held world-wide sway, 900-607 B.C. Jonah was therefore used of the Lord to prolong the life of the enemy power that was to be later used to exterminate and take captive his own people, the Jews of both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel.


It appears that the occasion of this prophecy was at least twofold:

1) First, it was designed to show that God cared for the repentance of Gentiles as surely as that of the Jews, that both Jews and Gentiles were included in His provision for redemption and service, Romans 1:14-16.

2) Second, it was designed to show that a greater deliverer than Jonah was to come out of Israel, to assure the redemption of Gentiles and Jews, to be finally attested by the resurrection of Jesus, His eventual reign over the house of Israel, upon David’s throne forever, Luke 1:32; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.




Verses 1, 2:

Verse 1 asserts that God spoke to Jonah, who was the son of Amittai, a priest of Gath-hepher, a village town in Galilee, located about three miles north of Nazareth, 2 Kings 14:25; Joshua 19:13; God spoke to prophets in ancient times, as He did here to Jonah, Hebrews 1:1.

Verse 2 relates God’s first particular call and commission for Jonah to arise and leave Gath-hepher and go to Nineveh, that great city of some 60,000 population, the capitol of Assyria, on the east side of the Tigris river, some 250 miles north of the city of Babylon, Genesis 10:11-12; Jonah 3:2-3. He was to cry against it because of the wickedness of the people as described Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32; Ro 1;21-13. Their chief idol was the bull-god, with the head of a man, and the wings of a bird.

Verses 3-11

Jonah’s Flight From God, v. 3-11

Verses 3-11:

Verse 3 declares that Jonah arose, but turned his back on the Divine call to go to Nineveh, some 400 miles to the east, and fled westward to Joppa by the seaside. There he boarded a ship to go to Tarshish (believed to be in Spain), as far to the west as he could, to flee from the call of God, to determine his own goal, not understanding, or willing to go do the will of the Lord, acting unwisely, Ephesians 5:17; Romans 12:2. At Joppa, now called Jaffa, Jonah found a ship bound for Tarshish, paid his fare, boarded the ship, in company with heathen shipmen, to leave God behind, to flee from the presence of God, the omnipresent God; But he could not run, sail, or sink from that Divine presence, Genesis 4:16; Job 1:12; Job 2:7; Psalms 139:7-12. Saul and Samson are two other examples of men who willingly fled from obedience to God.

Verse 4 asserts that God sent (mandated or commissioned) a great wind, a storm, as a miraculous intervention, to arrest the escape of Jonah, when the ship was about to be destroyed or torn apart of the God who has "His way in the whirlwind and the storm," as certified in both the Old and New Testaments, Nahum 1:3; Psalms 104:4. He stilled the storm on the sea of Galilee, Luke 8:23.

Verse 5 relates how the mighty storm that the Lord had sent, specially commissioned, v. 4, stirred terror in the hearts of the seasoned sailors, so that they prayed, each to his heathen god, and cast their cargo overboard into the sea, to lighten the ship, but Jonah was sound asleep on the lower deck.

Verse 6 reports that the shipmaster went down, awoke, and scolded him, ordered him to getup, pray to the God, Jewish God, and see if his God would keep them from perishing. Their gods could not hear; you see? Psalms 115:4-9. But the true God can and does, Romans 13:11-12.

Verse 7 describes how these heathen sailors cast lots (took a vote) and came to agree, when the lot fell on Jonah, that the God-­sent storm had come because of the sin of the Jew-prophet, Jonah, who was on board; His sins had found him out, Genesis 4:7; Genesis 44:6; Isaiah 59:12; Galatians 6:6-8.

Verse 8 recounts the probing heathen inquiry the marines made of Jonah, demanding a more specific personal identity of him, and what his minority opinion and judgment was concerning this devastating storm that was upon them. Four rapid questions they shot at him were: 1) Tell us your occupation, 2) Where are you from, 3) What is your country, and 4) Of what particular people you are! They sought a confession from his own mouth, that he was a disobedient fugitive, hiding from God, like Achan, Joshua 7:19.

Verse 9 gives Jonah’s direct, factual reply, that he was an Hebrew, among foreigners, Genesis 40:15, a descendant of Abraham, that he feared the Lord, the Elohim God of heaven, the one who created and controls the sea and the dry land. Though he said he feared the Lord, he had not been acting that way, Genesis 24:7; Psalms 19:9; Psalms 146:6; Acts 17:24; Revelation 14:7.

Verse 10 relates the exceeding fear that gripped the sailors when they heard this back-slidden Jew-prophet’s testimony of his identity and faith. They sharply chided him for what he had done, in running away, trying to flee from the call, particular mandate from His God to go preach to Nineveh, v. 1, 2, "because he had told them." When people of God sin openly, they hear it from unbelievers.

Verse 11 recounts their consulting him respectfully, about what they should do to him, that the sea might be calm from its tempestuous fury that was bringing them near death, with every billowing of the waves, v. 13, 14. The roaring waves seem to have been as the voice of God’s anger, at both Israel’s rebellion and Jonah, His prophet’s willful rebellion against His call for them.

Verses 12-17

Jonah Overboard, Swallowed by the Whale, v. 12-17

Verses 12-17:

Verse 12 relates Jonah’s pronouncing his own just punishment, conscious that his own sins had brought this storm, that God cast upon them; He knew, was aware and confessed, what had caused this mighty storm. So shall all men confess the fairness of their judgment, when they stand before God, Matthew 12:37; Romans 14:11; Ecclesiastes 12:14. Jonah prophesied that calmness would come when they had thrown him into the sea, and it did, v. 15. One man must die, for them all to be saved, John 11:50.

Verse 13 describes the human kindness of the rugged sailors as they rowed, had struggled, wrestled with the oars, trying to get the ship to land, without throwing Jonah into the sea. But their efforts were in vain, they could not resist the judgment of God, sent upon Jonah, Proverbs 21:30. The wind and tide were God’s displeasure. They could not resist.

Verse 14 describes these heathen as appealing to Jonah’s God to not let them perish for Jonah’s life, for Jonah’s life of sin and disobedience, that had brought down the deathly storm upon them. They also asked Jonah’s God not to hold Jonah’s blood against them, or his death, when they had cast him into the sea. For the lot had fallen on Jonah; Jonah had confessed that his sin had brought the storm; and he had asked them to cast him into the sea. They therefore were to be considered innocent for the shedding of his blood, or taking his life to save their own, as surely as men are held innocent in times of war or enforcement of law for their own country, in a just cause, v. 10, 12; Deuteronomy 19:8; Romans 13:1-4.

Verse 15 describes how these heathen god worshippers with heavy hearts, cast Jonah into the sea and observed the quieting, ceasing of the raging tides, as Jonah had prophesied, though he had become an occupant of the depth of the sea to abate God’s judgment anger against his sins of rebellion, running, and a bad example for a prophet of the One true God. The seas obey their Maker’s command, even though men, made in His image may not, Psalms 89:9; Luke 7:24.

Verse 16 asserts that, at this point the marines feared the Lord exceedingly, offered sacrifices, or vowed to make sacrifices to Him when they had come to land. Are not sinners still inclined to make vows to turn to God, to worship Him, when He has helped them in terrible times of afflictions, then as surely to fail to keep such vows? Psalms 76:11; Ecclesiastes 5:4-5.

Verse 17 asserts that the Lord "had prepared", and what He prepares He prepares well, a "great fish" (sea monster) to swallow Jonah He miraculously prepared four things for Jonah:
1) A fish to swallow him,
2) a gourd to shade him, Jonah 4:6;
3) a worm to smite his shade, Jonah 4:7
4) an east wind to humble him again, Jonah 4:8.
When the whale-fish swallowed Jonah, it kept him in the confinement of its belly for three days and three nights, in a place of Divine chastening and safety, to prepare him for a better day, a type of the resurrection, Matthew 12:39-41; John 10:18.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Jonah 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.