the Fourth Week of Lent
Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments Benson's Commentary
by Joseph Benson
THE BOOK OF JONAH.
JONAH was the most ancient of all the prophets whose writings have come down to us. He is supposed to have prophesied in the latter end of Jehu’s or the beginning of Jehoahaz’s reign; at which time the kingdom of Israel was brought very low, by the oppressions of Hazael, king of Syria, 2 Kings 13:22. This might be the chief reason why Jonah was raised up to foretel the success which Jehoahaz’s grandson Jeroboam should have, in restoring the coasts of Israel, 2 Kings 14:25, where we learn that he was of Gath-hepher, a town in the tribe of Zebulun, called Gittah-hepher, Joshua 19:13, a place not far from Sephorim, or Diocæsarea, as St. Jerome informs us in his commentary upon Jonah: who adds, that Jonah’s sepulchre was showed there in his time. This town was situated in Galilee, and so confutes that observation of the Pharisees, that out of Galilee there arose no prophet, John 7:51. This book, which is rather a history than a prophecy, informs us of Jonah’s being sent to Nineveh to denounce destruction on that city within forty days’ time, if they repented not. But his preaching produced such a reformation, that God was graciously pleased to defer the execution of his judgments for the present, and indeed till about one hundred and fifty years afterward, when the great increase of their iniquities made them ripe for destruction, as we shall see more particularly when we come to the prophecy of Nahum. The narrative contained in this book is, in some parts of it, of such an extraordinary nature, that some have been induced to consider it as an allegory, while others have presumed profanely to ridicule it. But it must be remembered, that our Lord hath several times borne testimony to the truth of the narration; and hath shown, that the most wonderful of the events recorded in it was intended to be a type of his own death, burial, and resurrection on the third day. They who have faith in the power of God, as set forth in all parts of the Scripture, will not call in question what is here recorded of a miraculous nature. And they who thoroughly know themselves, and the weakness of fallen man, will not wonder at the very extraordinary conduct of the prophet himself.