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Jonah receives a call from the Lord to go to Nineveh. He fleeth to Tarshish. A storm overtakes the ship in which Jonah is embarked. At his request the mariners throw him into the sea, and he is swallowed by a fish.
By the word of the Lord coming unto Jonah, is meant the impression made on his mind, either by vision or revelation; and Jonah perfectly understood that the direction to go to Nineveh was of the Lord. The reason for Jonah's commission is assigned; the wickedness of the place was come up before the Lord. Reader! think what a mass of sin and iniquity rising like a cloud, must daily, hourly come up before the Lord, from every great city, and from every place! Think how precious, on this account, must be the person of the Lord Jesus, whose holiness in our nature becomes the preservative of all nature from going to instant destruction. Here it is in this sense I venture to believe the Apostle was directed to teach that Christ is the Saviour of all men; that is, in providence. For he upholds all things by the word of his power, and by him all things consist. See 1 Timothy 4:10 with Colossians 1:17 . Nineveh itself must have been a great city indeed, the chief city of the Assyrian empire, taking three days journey to go through it, and containing six-score thousand persons. Jonah 3:3 and Jonah 4:11 . And yet all ignorant of the Lord! Reader! What an awful thought it is now, in the present hour, of the millions that are in darkness respecting salvation! Will you not learn here from to admire and adore the Lord's distinguishing mercy to this our land? And will you not still stand more amazed in the recollection, that amidst such fulness of gospel light as is vouchsafed our land, so much depravity should abound? Is there a nation under heaven deeper sunk in transgressions? And yet it remains! To what and to whom shall this be ascribed, but to Him whom John saw as a Lamb which had been slain. Revelation 5:6 .
It is probable that this Tarshish was Tarsus, a sea-port in Israel. But what an awful attempt in Jonah to run from the Lord, and how foolish as well as presumptuous, the endeavour. Reader let not us by the way overlook the instructions it brings of human nature in its best men, manifesting its corruption. Alas! what is man, yea, every man, uninfluenced by grace?
See how everything ministers to the Lord's pleasure, when and where the Lord designs? Some of the ancient Jews have said, but by what authority I know not, that this wind was only directed to the ship in which Jonah was; for that other ships passed and repassed in safety at the time. But be this as it may, I hope the Reader will not fail to make a spiritual improvement of it, and remark here from, how the Lord sends storms and winds into the consciences of men, when rousing them by his grace to the consideration of their ways, while others around are in a calm.
What a striking instance doth Jonah here afford, how men's minds are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. He, for whom this storm was raised, was the only one insensible of danger. Sinners asleep in a storm of national judgments, are the Jonah's of the present day.
The Lord sometimes sends preachers like this ship-master, from even the unawakened, to rouse his own people. But had Jonah considered it: what a reproach was this to him; that he, whom the Lord of heaven had sent to reprove a great prince and his people, should be brought down to the humbling state of being called to account for neglect of prayer by the master of a little vessel? Reader! what can any man mean, that is asleep in the present hour to all the concerns of eternity, while death is opening before him in every view?
It should seem that those shipmen thought that there was somewhat very singular in this storm, and so far they were all led to interpret a divine judgment in it, by this plan of casting lots for the discovery.
There is somewhat very interesting in this history, simply as an history, but considered spiritually it riseth in importance. When in the threatened shipwreck of our whole nature by reason of the fall, and when the Lord's lot, in the person of Jesus, fell on him, every eye, and every thought, is directed to enquire into the cause. When the sons of Jacob went down into Egypt, and were all detained there by reason of Benjamin, how strange and mysterious was it to the whole to find the cup in Benjamin's sack. Genesis 44:12-13 . In the Patriarchal history, we see the hand of Joseph to detain his brethren. In Jonah's history, we behold the hand of the Lord to bring Jonah into the state for which, as a type of Jesus, he was to be brought, and in both the hand of the Lord bringing mighty things to pass.
It appears by the following verse, that he not only told who he was, but his whole history, and particularly that part of it which referred to his running away from his duty; and for which this singular storm was brought upon them. Jonah interpreted it right. So did the sons of Jacob, in their cruelty to their brother, when they were brought into prison. Genesis 42:21 .
This is a beautiful part of the history. The modest enquiries of the mariners; the honesty of Jonah; the reluctances in the minds of the ship's-company to cast Jonah into the sea; their cry unto the Lord; and the offering they made when they had done it, to be freed from the guilt of his blood; all these form most interesting points for improvement. But it is high time to pass over the history to what is infinitely more interesting, and to inquire for that which no doubt was the one great point to which Jonah's ministry was directed, and for what the Holy Ghost hath caused it to be written; namely, to consider him, as the Lord Jesus points him out, an eminent type of himself. Here the subject riseth to a sublimity and importance which demands our closest attention in every part of it. When we behold the storm thus pursuing the mariners, we behold in it the wrath of divine justice represented as pursuing our whole nature unto universal destruction. In the person of Jonah embarked with the ship's company, we behold the representation of Christ in our nature; who though he had no sin of his own, neither was guile found in his mouth; yet was he made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 . In the throwing Jonah into the sea as the only means to abate the storm, we behold the total helplessness of anything short of Christ saving our whole nature from the wrath of God. In Jonah's being thus given for a ransom, and the storm as instantly ceasing, we behold how Christ hath borne the sins of many, and by his voluntary offer of himself, thus once offered, he hath satisfied divine justice, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in an everlasting righteousness. It is true indeed, Jonah himself was the sole offender in this storm; and the Lord Jesus Christ altogether holy. Yet, as Christ became the surety of his people, he stood forth with all the guilt of his people before Jehovah, and both bore our sins, and carried our sorrows; and in this state was strikingly represented by Jonah when cast into the sea. Wonderful working God is our God, whose ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts! Isaiah 58:8 .
I stay not to enquire what fish this was. Our Lord Jesus himself hath said it was a whale. Matthew 12:40 . Neither do I consider myself as called upon to show how Jonah could remain the time here spoken of, without being suffocated. The subject itself is miraculous; and as such, he that appointed the means, made it effectual to the end. I only beg the Reader to observe with me, that the time here mentioned of three days and three nights, doth not mean, neither was it ever intended to mean, three whole days and three whole nights; but only part in each, of the first and third of those times, that is to say, one whole day, and part of two others. For the Jews have no way of expressing a day and a night separately, but together. So it was by Christ when he lay in the grave; that is, part of the day of his crucifixion, from the time he was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb; then the whole following day; and then to the next morning before sun rise; for that Christ was risen before the sun is evident from what is said of the godly women. Mark 16:2 . And as Jonah was an express type of the Lord Jesus, it should seem that the time in both events was the same.
PRECIOUS Lord Jesus! improving as the history of Jonah may be found in numberless instances, I cannot, I dare not for a moment lose sight of thee, while beholding thy type in the wonderful account here given, and which so strikingly sets forth thy glorious person, as three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. If Jonah was the only sign given in the days of thy flesh, to an evil and adulterous generation, let my, soul bless the Lord for the sweet testimony this brings with it, to thy sovereign grace and salvation. Yes!, dearest Lord! Jonah did resemble thee, when delivered to the raging sea for the salvation of the people. Thou didst indeed bear the overwhelming torrents of thy sufferings, when the vials of justice were poured out upon thy devoted head, and when thou didst tread the wine-presses, of thy Father's wrath alone. And although in thy holy nature there was no shadow of guile; and never wert thou otherwise from one eternity to another than the unceasing object of thy Father's love; yet, as the sinner's surety, like Jonah, thou didst stand the only cause of the dreadful storm; and all the cataracts of tempest came in upon thy soul, until thou wert sorrowful even unto death, sore amazed, and very heavy. And hence those cries of soul; I sink in deep water where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me. Blessed Lord Jesus! may my soul frequently meditate on thee in this endearment of character! And as often as I read of Jonah's being cast forth, and the tempest of the sea ceasing in consequence, may I feel my soul refreshed in the contemplation; Jesus I will say was made this and infinitely more for me, that I might be made the righteousness of God in him!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jonah 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany