Jonah 1:3
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(3) But Jonah rose up to flee.—The motive of the prophet’s flight is given by himself (Jonah 4:2). He foresaw the repentance of the city, and the mercy which would be displayed towards it, and was either jealous of his prophetic reputation, or had a patriotic dislike of becoming a messenger of good to a heathen foe so formidable to his own country.

Tarshish.—This can hardly be any other than Tartessus, an ancient Phœnician colony on the river Guadalquivir, in the south-west of Spain. (See Genesis 10:4; 1Chronicles 1:7.)

A profound moral lesson lies in the choice of this refuge by Jonah. A man who tries to escape from a clearly-recognised duty—especially if he can at the time supply conscience with a plausible excuse—is in danger of falling all the lower, in proportion as his position was high. Jonah, commanded to go to Nineveh, in the far north-east, instantly tries to flee to the then farthermost west. Often between the saintly height and an abyss of sin there is no middle resting-point. The man with the highest ideal, when unfaithful to it, is apt to sink lower than the ordinary mortal.

From the presence of the Lord.—Rather, from before the face of Jehovah. The words may imply (1) the belief in a possibility of hiding from the sight of God (as in Genesis 3:8), a belief which, as we gather from the insistence on its opposite in Psalms 139, lingered late in the popular conception; (2) a renunciation of the prophetic office. (Comp. Deuteronomy 10:8; 1Kings 17:1); (3) Flight from the Holy Land, where the Divine presence was understood to be especially manifested. Commentators have generally rejected the first of these as implying ignorance unworthy of a prophet; but, on embarking, Jonah went below, as if still more securely to hide, and used the same expression to the mariners, who would certainly take it in its literal and popular sense.

Joppa.—Heb., Yāpho; now Jaffa, the port of Jerusalem. (See Joshua 19:46; 2Chronicles 2:16.)

He found a ship.—Probably a Phœnician vessel trading between Egypt and Spain, and accustomed to touch at Joppa.

Jonah 1:3. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish — It is not to be wondered at that Jonah should be averse to undertake this mission. He probably considered it as a dangerous one, and might be tempted to think it would be unprofitable, and answer no valuable end. The journey was long, and the perils and hardships of it, he supposed, would be great. The inhabitants of the city were idolaters, and knew nothing of Jehovah, in whose name the warning was to be given, and the destruction denounced. The city was proud as well as idolatrous, and would look down with contempt on an Israelite, coming from a distant country, hardly known to many of them, or at least despised by them. And he had every reason to suppose that the delivery of such an unpleasant message would draw upon him the resentment both of the rulers and multitude. Indeed, “when we reflect how such a message would be received in the streets of London at this day, we shall not wonder that he was extremely reluctant to undertake the service. Strong faith and a habit of unreserved obedience were necessary to overcome the reluctance that he must have felt: and perhaps he was a young man, and not as yet inured to perilous employments.” — Scott. And, besides this, Jonah himself assigns another reason, Jonah 4:2, namely, that he knew God’s mercifulness to be great, and that it was probable God would be moved to forbear executing the judgments denounced; and so he would have the shame of being accounted a false prophet. This and other parts of his conduct, however, deserve censure. But, as Bishop Newcome observes, “men endued with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and made the instruments of declaring God’s will to mankind, have occasionally been subject to great human infirmities, and have even contracted great guilt.” Of Tarshish, see note on Isaiah 2:16. From the presence of the Lord — That is, to be at a distance from the land of Israel, the immediate residence of God, as Grotius and Locke interpret the expression. Houbigant however reads, through fear of the Lord; and what he feared is shown Jonah 4:2. Perhaps Jonah hoped, if he were at a greater distance, God would send some other prophet to preach repentance to the Ninevites. And went down to Joppa — A well-known haven on the Mediterranean. And he found a ship going to Tarshish — Bound for, and ready to sail to the place he designed. Thus Providence seemed to favour his design, and to give him an opportunity to escape. Observe, reader, we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with apparently favourable providences. So he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it — He lost no time, for he was in haste to get at a distance from the presence of the Lord. Here we see what the best of men are when God leaves them to themselves, and what need we have, when the word of the Lord comes to us, to have the Spirit of the Lord to come along with the word, to bring every thought within us into obedience to it. Let us learn from hence to cease from man, and not to be too confident either respecting ourselves or others in time of trial, but let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.

1:1-3. It is sad to think how much sin is committed in great cities. Their wickedness, as that of Nineveh, is a bold and open affront to God. Jonah must go at once to Nineveh, and there, on the spot, cry against the wickedness of it. Jonah would not go. Probably there are few among us who would not have tried to decline such a mission. Providence seemed to give him an opportunity to escape; we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with a favourable gale. The ready way is not always the right way. See what the best of men are, when God leaves them to themselves; and what need we have, when the word of the Lord comes to us, to have the Spirit of the Lord to bring every thought within us into obedience.But (And) Jonah rose up to flee ... from the presence of the Lord - literally "from being before the Lord." Jonah knew well, that man could not escape from the presence of God, whom he knew as the Self-existing One, He who alone is, the Maker of heaven, earth and sea. He did not "flee" then "from His presence," knowing well what David said Psalm 139:7, Psalm 139:9-10, "whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me." Jonah fled, not from God's presence, but from standing before him, as His servant and minister. He refused God's service, because, as he himself tells God afterward Jonah 4:2, he knew what it would end in, and he misliked it.

So he acted, as people often do, who dislike God's commands. He set about removing himself as far as possible from being under the influence of God, and from the place where he "could" fulfill them. God commanded him to go to Nineveh, which lay northeast from his home; and he instantly set himself to flee to the then furthermost west. Holy Scripture sets the rebellion before us in its full nakedness. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah, go to Nineveh, and Jonah rose up;" he did something instantly, as the consequence of God's command. He "rose up," not as other prophets, to obey, but to disobey; and that, not slowly nor irresolutely, but "to flee, from" standing "before the Lord." He renounced his office. So when our Lord came in the flesh, those who found what He said to be "hard sayings," went away from Him, "and walked no more with Him" John 6:66. So the rich "young man went away sorrowful Matthew 19:22, for he had great possessions."

They were perhaps afraid of trusting themselves in His presence; or they were ashamed of staying there, and not doing what He said. So men, when God secretly calls them to prayer, go and immerse themselves in business; when, in solitude, He says to their souls something which they do not like, they escape His Voice in a throng. If He calls them to make sacrifices for His poor, they order themselves a new dress or some fresh sumptuousness or self-indulgence; if to celibacy, they engage themselves to marry immediately; or, contrariwise, if He calls them not to do a thing, they do it at once, to make an end of their struggle and their obedience; to put obedience out of their power; to enter themselves on a course of disobedience. Jonah, then, in this part of his history, is the image of those who, when God calls them, disobey His call, and how He deals with them, when he does not abandon them. He lets them have their way for a time, encompasses them with difficulties, so that they shall "flee back from God displeased to God appeased."

"The whole wisdom, the whole bliss, the whole of man lies in this, to learn what God wills him to do, in what state of life, calling, duties, profession, employment, He wills him to serve Him." God sent each one of us into the world, to fulfill his own definite duties, and, through His grace, to attain to our own perfection in and through fulfilling them. He did not create us at random, to pass through the world, doing whatever self-will or our own pleasure leads us to, but to fulfill His will. This will of His, if we obey His earlier calls, and seek Him by prayer, in obedience, self-subdual, humility, thoughtfulness, He makes known to each by His own secret drawings, and, in absence of these, at times by His Providence or human means. And then , "to follow Him is a token of predestination." It is to place ourselves in that order of things, that pathway to our eternal mansion, for which God created us, and which God created for us.

So Jesus says John 10:27-28, "My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand." In these ways, God has foreordained for us all the graces which we need; in these, we shall be free from all temptations which might be too hard for us, in which our own special weakness would be most exposed. Those ways, which people choose out of mere natural taste or fancy, are mostly those which expose them to the greatest peril of sin and damnation. For they choose them, just because such pursuits flatter most their own inclinations, and give scope to their natural strength and their moral weakness. So Jonah, disliking a duty, which God gave him to fulfill, separated himself from His service, forfeited his past calling, lost, as far as in him lay, his place among "the goodly fellowship of the prophets," and, but for God's overtaking grace, would have ended his days among the disobedient. As in Holy Scripture, David stands alone of saints, who had been after their calling, bloodstained; as the penitent robber stands alone converted in death; as Peter stands singly, recalled after denying his Lord; so Jonah stands, the one prophet, who, having obeyed and then rebelled, was constrained by the overpowering providence and love of God, to return and serve Him.

"Being a prophet, Jonah could not be ignorant of the mind of God, that, according to His great Wisdom and His unsearchable judgments and His untraceable and incomprehensible ways, He, through the threat, was providing for the Ninevites that they should not suffer the things threatened. To think that Jonah hoped to hide himself in the sea and elude by flight the great Eye of God, were altogether absurd and ignorant, which should not be believed, I say not of a prophet, but of no other sensible person who had any moderate knowledge of God and His supreme power. Jonah knew all this better than anyone, that, planning his flight, he changed his place, but did not flee God. For this could no man do, either by hiding himself in the bosom of the earth or depths of the sea or ascending (if possible) with wings into the air, or entering the lowest hell, or encircled with thick clouds, or taking any other counsel to secure his flight.

This, above all things and alone, can neither be escaped nor resisted, God. When He willeth to hold and grasp in His Hand, He overtaketh the swift, baffleth the intelligent, overthroweth the strong, boweth the lofty, tameth rashness, subdueth might. He who threatened to others the mighty Hand of God, was not himself ignorant of nor thought to flee, God. Let us not believe this. But since he saw the fall of Israel and perceived that the prophetic grace would pass over to the Gentiles, he withdrew himself from the office of preaching, and put off the command." "The prophet knoweth, the Holy Spirit teaching him, that the repentance of the Gentiles is the ruin of the Jews. A lover then of his country, he does not so much envy the deliverance of Nineveh, as will that his own country should not perish. - Seeing too that his fellow-prophets are sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to excite the people to repentance, and that Balaam the soothsayer too prophesied of the salvation of Israel, he grieveth that he alone is chosen to be sent to the Assyrians, the enemies of Israel, and to that greatest city of the enemies where was idolatry and ignorance of God. Yet more he feared lest they, on occasion of his preaching, being converted to repentance, Israel should be wholly forsaken. For he knew by the same Spirit whereby the preaching to the Gentiles was entrusted to him, that the house of Israel would then perish; and he feared that what was at one time to be, should take place in his own time." "The flight of the prophet may also be referred to that of man in general who, despising the commands of God, departed from Him and gave himself to the world, where subsequently, through the storms of ill and the wreck of the whole world raging against him, he was compelled to feel the presence of God, and to return to Him whom he had fled. Whence we understand, that those things also which men think for their good, when against the will of God, are turned to destruction; and help not only does not benefit those to whom it is given, but those too who give it, are alike crushed. As we read that Egypt was conquered by the Assyrians, because it helped Israel against the will of God. The ship is emperiled which had received the emperiled; a tempest arises in a calm; nothing is secure, when God is against us."

Tarshish - , named after one of the sons of Javan, Genesis 10:4. was an ancient merchant city of Spain, once proverbial for its wealth (Psalm 72:10. Strabo iii. 2. 14), which supplied Judaea with silver Jeremiah 10:9, Tyre with "all manner of riches," with iron also, tin, lead. Ezekiel 27:12, Ezekiel 27:25. It was known to the Greeks and Romans, as (with a harder pronunciation) Tartessus; but in our first century, it had either ceased to be, or was known under some other name. Ships destined for a voyage, at that time, so long, and built for carrying merchandise, were naturally among the largest then constructed. "Ships of Tarshish" corresponded to the "East-Indiamen" which some of us remember. The breaking of "ships of Tarshish by the East Wind" Psalm 48:7 is, on account of their size and general safety, instanced as a special token of the interposition of God.

And went down to Joppa - Joppa, now Jaffa (Haifa), was the one well-known port of Israel on the Mediterranean. There the cedars were brought from Lebanon for both the first and second temple 2 Chronicles 3:16; Ezra 2:7. Simon the Maccabee (1 Macc. 14:5) "took it again for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea." It was subsequently destroyed by the Romans, as a pirate-haven. (Josephus, B. J. iii. 9. 3, and Strabo xvi. 2. 28.) At a later time, all describe it as an unsafe haven. Perhaps the shore changed, since the rings, to which Andromeda was tabled to have been fastened, and which probably were once used to moor vessels, were high above the sea. Perhaps, like the Channel Islands, the navigation was safe to those who knew the coast, unsafe to others. To this port Jonah "went down" from his native country, the mountain district of Zabulon. Perhaps it was not at this time in the hands of Israel. At least, the sailors were pagan. He "went down," as the man who fell among the thieves, is said to "have gone down from Jerusalem to Jericho." Luke 10:30. He "went down" from the place which God honored by His presence and protection.

And he paid the fare thereof - Jonah describes circumstantially, how he took every step to his end. He went down, found a strongly built ship going where he wished, paid his fare, embarked. He seemed now to have done all. He had severed himself from the country where his office lay. He had no further step to take. Winds and waves would do the rest. He had but to be still. He went, only to be brought back again.

"Sin brings our soul into much senselessness. For as those overtaken by heaviness of head and drunkenness, are borne on simply and at random, and, be there pit or precipice or whatever else below them, they fall into it unawares; so too, they who fall into sin, intoxicated by their desire of the object, know not what they do, see nothing before them, present or future. Tell me, Fleest thou the Lord? Wait then a little, and thou shalt learn from the event, that thou canst not escape the hands of His servant, the sea. For as soon as he embarked, it too roused its waves and raised them up on high; and as a faithful servant, finding her fellow-slave stealing some of his master's property, ceases not from giving endless trouble to those who take him in, until she recover him, so too the sea, finding and recognizing her fellow-servant, harasses the sailors unceasingly, raging, roaring, not dragging them to a tribunal but threatening to sink the vessel with all its unless they restore to her, her fellow-servant."

"The sinner "arises," because, will he, nill he, toil he must. If he shrinks from the way of God, because it is hard, he may not yet be idle. There is the way of ambition, of covetousness, of pleasure, to be trodden, which certainly are far harder. 'We wearied ourselves (Wisdom 5:7),' say the wicked, 'in the way of wickedness and destruction, yea, we have gone through deserts where there lay no way; but the way of the Lord we have not known.' Jonah would not arise, to go to Nineveh at God's command; yet he must needs arise, to flee to Tarshish from before the presence of God. What good can he have who fleeth the Good? what light, who willingly forsaketh the Light? "He goes down to Joppa." Wherever thou turnest, if thou depart from the will of God, thou goest down. Whatever glory, riches, power, honors, thou gainest, thou risest not a whit; the more thou advancest, while turned from God, the deeper and deeper thou goest down. Yet all these things are not had, without paying the price. At a price and with toil, he obtains what he desires; he receives nothing gratis, but, at great price purchases to himself storms, griefs, peril. There arises a great tempest in the sea, when various contradictory passions arise in the heart of the sinner, which take from him all tranquility and joy. There is a tempest in the sea, when God sends strong and dangerous disease, whereby the frame is in peril of being broken. There is a tempest in the sea, when, thro' rivals or competitors for the same pleasures, or the injured, or the civil magistrate, his guilt is discovered, he is laden with infamy and odium, punished, withheld from his wonted pleasures. Psalm 107:23-27. "They who go down to the sea of this world, and do business in mighty waters - their soul melteth away because of trouble; they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man, and all their wisdom is swallowed up."

3. flee—Jonah's motive for flight is hinted at in Jon 4:2: fear that after venturing on such a dangerous commission to so powerful a heathen city, his prophetical threats should be set aside by God's "repenting of the evil," just as God had so long spared Israel notwithstanding so many provocations, and so he should seem a false prophet. Besides, he may have felt it beneath him to discharge a commission to a foreign idolatrous nation, whose destruction he desired rather than their repentance. This is the only case of a prophet, charged with a prophetical message, concealing it.

from the presence of the Lord—(Compare Ge 4:16). Jonah thought in fleeing from the land of Israel, where Jehovah was peculiarly present, that he should escape from Jehovah's prophecy-inspiring influence. He probably knew the truth stated in Ps 139:7-10, but virtually ignored it (compare Ge 3:8-10; Jer 23:24).

went down—appropriate in going from land to the sea (Ps 107:23).

Joppa—now Jaffa, in the region of Dan; a harbor as early as Solomon's time (2Ch 2:16).

Tarshish—Tartessus in Spain; in the farthest west at the greatest distance from Nineveh in the east.

But, Heb. And.

Jonah rose up: he was commanded to arise, Jonah 1:2, so here Jonah did, but it was to run from his business, not to do it; it was a rising against God.

To flee: whatever was the cause which moved Jonah to do this, it is strange that he should fall into a fixed opinion that he might, and a fixed resolution that he would, thus flee from his God and from his duty.

Unto Tarshish; to sea, as some, but this seemeth too rambling a humour: to Cilicia, say others, and particularly to Tarsus, no mean city of Cilicia, Acts 21:39; others say it was Tunis or Carthage in Africa, to which Jonah minded to flee; either of these carry such probability with them, that we will not determine for our reader.

From the presence of the Lord: I cannot suppose that Jonah dreamed of fleeing from the omnipresence of God, he knew how David described this, Psalm 139:7-12, and natural reason told him he could never flee from this; but this presence of God is to be interpreted of the place where God usually had showed himself present by revealing his word and will to his prophets, who are servants to the Lord, and as such did stand before the Lord ready to receive his commands: now this command to Jonah being displeasing to him, and yet whilst he was in his own country, the valley of vision, he is still put upon the work, now he resolves to shift off the work by shifting place; perhaps he might think God would not put him upon it when he was gotten into a strange and remote country, where were no prophets, nor prophetic impulses. Joppa; a well-known haven on the-Mediterranean, now called Jaffa, anciently Japho, Joshua 19:46.

Going; bound for, and ready to set sail for, the place he designed.

Tarshish; Carthage or Tunis, or Tarsus in Cilicia.

Paid the fare; forthwith agreed. with the master of the ship, and, though unusual, paid presently, staid not till he came to the port designed.

Went down into it; immediately went a ship-board, and in a melancholy, discomposed humour gets into a cabin, or under deck, to go with them; waiting the time when they should go, that he might be sure to go with them.

From the presence of the Lord: see above.

But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord,.... He was not obedient to the heavenly vision; he rose up, but not to go to Nineveh, but to Tarshish, the reverse of it; to the sea, as the Targum, the Mediterranean sea, which lay west, as Nineveh was to the east. Tarshish sometimes is used for the sea; see Psalm 48:7; he determined to go to sea; he did not care where, or to what place he might find a ship bound; or to Tarsus in Cilicia, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, Acts 22:3; so Josephus (q) and Saadiah Gaon; or to Tunis in Africa, as R. Melasser in Aben Ezra; or to Carthage, as Theodoret, and others; or Tartessus in Spain, as others. Among this difference of interpreters, it is hard to say what place it was: it seems best to understand it of Tarsus. The prophet had better knowledge of God, and of the perfections of his nature, than to imagine he could flee from his general presence, which is everywhere, and from which there is no fleeing, Psalm 139:7; but his view was to flee out of that land where he granted his special presence to his people; and from that place where were the symbols of his presence, the ark, the mercy seat, and cherubim, and in which he stood, and ministered before the Lord; but now upon this order left his post, and deserted his station. The reasons given of his conduct are various. The Jewish writers suppose that he concerned more for the glory of Israel than the glory of God; that he was fearful, should he do as he was bid, the word of the Lord would be carried from Judea into the Gentile world, and there remain; that he was of opinion that the Heathens would repent of their sins at his preaching, though Israel did not, which would turn to the reproach and condemnation of the latter; see Matthew 12:41; and that he knew that the spirit of prophecy did not dwell upon any out of the land of Israel, and therefore got as fast as he could out of it, that he might not be further urged with such a message; which notion is confuted by the instances of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; to this, sense the Targum inclines, which adds,

"lest he should prophesy in the name of the Lord:''

but there is no need to seek for reasons, and which are given by others; such as going out of his own country into a foreign one; the length of the journey; the opposition and difficulties he might expect to meet with; and the risk he should run of his life, by prophesying in and against the metropolis of the Assyrian empire, where the king's court and palace were; and he not only a Heathen, but a sovereign and arbitrary prince; when the true reasons are suggested by the prophet himself; as that he supposed the people would repent; he knew that God was gracious and merciful, and upon their repentance would not inflict the punishment pronounced; and he should be reckoned a false prophet, Jonah 4:2;

and went down to Joppa; a seaport town in the tribe of Dan, upon the Mediterranean sea, where was a haven of ships, formerly called Japho, Joshua 19:16; at this time Joppa, as it was in the times of the apostles: here Peter raised Dorcas to life, and from hence he was sent for by Cornelius, Acts 9:36; it is now called Jaffa; of which Monsieur Thevenot (r) says,

"it is a town built upon the top of a rock, whereof there remains no more at present but some towers; and the port of it was at the foot of the said rock.--It is at present a place of few inhabitants; and all that is to be seen of it is a little castle with two towers, one round, and another square; and a great tower separate from it on one side. There are no houses by the seaside, but five grottos cut in the rock, of which the fourth is in a place of retreat for Christians.--There is a harbour still in the same place where it was formerly; but there is so little water in it, that none but small barks can enter.''

It was a very ancient city, said (s) to be older than the flood; and built on a hill so high, that Strabo says (t) Jerusalem might be seen from thence, which was forty miles from it. It had its name from Jope the daughter of Aeolus, the wife of Cepheus, the founder of it (u). Jonah went thither, either from Jerusalem, or from Gathhepher, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe: if from the former, it was forty miles to Joppa, as Jerom says; and if from the latter, it is supposed to be about fifty: a journey of this length must be some time in performing, which shows with what deliberation and resolution he sinned in disobeying the divine command:

and he found a ship going to Tarshish; just ready to put to sea, and bound for this place: Providence seemed to favour him, and answer to his wishes; from whence it may be observed, that the goodness of an action, and its acceptableness to God, are not to be concluded from its wished for success:

so he paid the fare thereof; the freight of the ship; the whole of it, according to Jarchi; that haste and a quicker dispatch might be made, and no stay for passengers or goods; but that it might be put under, sail directly, and he be the sooner out of the land; which, if true, would show him to be a man of substance; and agrees with a notion of the Jews, and serves to illustrate and confirm it, that the spirit of prophecy does not dwell upon any but a rich man; for which reason the above interpreter catches at it; but Aben Ezra more truly observes, that he paid his part, what came to his share, what was usual to be paid for a passage to such a place: and whereas it might be usual then, as now, not to pay till they were arrived at port, and went out of the ship; he paid his fare at entrance, to secure his passage, lest through any pretence he should not be took in upon sailing; so determined was he to fly from God, and disobey his orders:

and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord; having paid his fare, he entered the ship directly, lest he should be left behind; and went down into the cabin perhaps, to go along with the mariners and merchants, all Heathens to Tarshish, whither they were bound, in order to be clear of any fresh order from the Lord, to go and prophesy against Nineveh: here again the Targum adds,

"lest he should prophesy in the name of the Lord.''

(q) Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 2.((r) Travels, par. 1. B. 2. c. 52. p. 208. (s) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 13. (t) Geograph. l. 16. p. 522. (u) Stephanus apud Reland. Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. p. 865.

But Jonah rose up to {d} flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to {e} Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the {f} presence of the LORD.

(d) By which he declares his weakness, that would not promptly follow the Lord's calling, but gave place to his own reason, which persuaded him that he would not profit these people at all, seeing he had done such little good among his own people; Jon 4:2.

(e) Which was the haven, and port to take shipping there, also called Joppa.

(f) From that vocation to which God had called him, and in which he would have assisted him.

3. Tarshish] Probably Tartessus, an ancient mercantile city of the Phœnicians, in the S. of Spain, of which the site is supposed to have been “between the two arms by which the Guadalquivir flowed into the sea.” See Smith’s Bib. Dict. Art. Tarshish. “God bid him go to Nineveh, which lay North-East from his home, and he instantly set himself to flee to the then furthermost West.”—Pusey.

from the presence of the Lord] This may mean from standing before the Lord or being in His presence, as His servant or minister (Deuteronomy 10:8, 1 Kings 17:1, Matthew 18:10, Luke 1:19. See Dr Pusey, Commentary on Jonah, p. 247, note d.); i. e. he renounced his office of prophet rather than obey so unwelcome a command. It may, however, only refer to that special presence of God in the Holy Land, which all Jews recognised. Either view is compatible with a belief on the part of Jonah in the omnipresence of God (Psalms 139). It is said of Cain (Genesis 4:16) that he “went out from the presence of the Lord” (and the Heb. phrase is the same as here), when he forfeited the favourable regard, together possibly with some local manifestation of the presence of the Almighty.

The reason of Jonah’s disobedience is given by himself, ch. Jonah 4:2. Knowing well the lovingkindness of God, he anticipated that He would spare the Ninevites on their repentance, and he could not bring himself to be the messenger of mercy to heathen, much less to heathen who (as the Assyrian inscriptions state) had already made war against his own people, and who as he may have known were destined to be their conquerors. See the statements of his probable contemporary, Hosea 9:3; Hosea 11:5.

Joppa] Now Jaffa, the well-known port of Palestine on the Mediterranean. It was 50 miles from Gath-hepher.

“Jaffa is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was given to Dan (?), in the distribution of the land by Joshua, and it has been known to history ever since. It owes its existence to the low ledge of rocks, which extends into the sea from the extremity of the little cape on which the city stands, and forms a small harbour. Insignificant as it is and insecure, yet there being no other in all this coast, it was sufficient to cause a city to spring up around it even in the earliest times, and to sustain its life through numberless changes of dynasties, races and religions, down to the present hour. It was in fact the only harbour of any notoriety possessed by the Jews throughout the greater part of their national existence. To it the timber for both the temples of Jerusalem was brought from Lebanon; and no doubt a lucrative trade in cedar and pine was always carried on through it with the nations who had possession of the forests of Lebanon. Through it also nearly all the foreign commerce of the Jews was conducted until the artificial port of Cæsarea was built by Herod.”

“The harbour, however, is very inconvenient and insecure. Vessels of any considerable burden must lie out in the open roadstead—a very uneasy berth at all times; and even a moderate wind will oblige them to slip cable and run out to sea, or seek anchorage at Haifa, sixty miles distant. The landing also is most inconvenient, and often extremely dangerous. More boats upset and more lives are lost in the breakers at the north end of the ledge of rocks that defend the inner habour, than anywhere else on this coast. I have been in imminent danger myself, with all my family in the boat, and never look without a shudder at this treacherous port, with its noisy surf tumbling over the rocks, as if on purpose to swallow up unfortunate boats.”—Thomson, Land and Book, pp. 514–516; see also Smith’s Bible Dict. Art. Joppa.

Verse 3. - Tarshish; probably, Tartessus, a Phoenician city on the south coast of Spain, and therefore in the opposite direction to Nineveh. He was sent to the far east; he flees to the distant west. From the presence of the Lord; literally, from the face of Jehovah. This may mean, from God s special presence in Jerusalem or the Holy Land, as banishment from Cannaan is called "casting out of his sight" (2 Kings 17:20, 23; 2 Kings 23:27); or, from serving the Lord as his minister (Deuteronomy 10:8), Jonah preferring to renounce his office as prophet rather than execute his mission. The former seems the most natural explanation of the phrase. Kimchi says that Jonah supposed that the spirit of prophecy would not extend beyond the land of Israel. He could never have thought to escape from God's all-seeing eye. His repugnance to the duty imposed upon him arose partly from national prejudice, which made him loth to interfere in Gentile business, and partly, as he himself says (Jonah 4:2), because he feared God's compassion would spare the Ninevites on their repentance, and that thus his prediction would be discredited, and mercy shown to heathens already inimical to Israel, if not known to him as the future conquerors of his people. Joppa. This is the modern Jaffa (called Japho in Joshua 19:46), a town on the seacoast thirty miles in a northwesterly direction from Jerusalem. "Jaffa," says Dr. Thomson ('The Land and the Book,' p. 8, etc.), "is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was given to Dan in the distribution of the land by Joshua, and it has been known to history ever since. It owes its existence to the low ledge of rocks which extends into the sea from the extremity of the little cape on which the city stands, and forms a small harbour. Insignificant as it is, and insecure, yet, there being no other on all this coast, it was sufficient to cause a city to spring up around it even in the earliest times, and to sustain its life through numberless changes of dynasties, races, and religions, down to the present hour. It was, in fact, the only harbour of any notoriety possessed by the Jews throughout the greater part of their national existence. To it the timber for both the temples of Jerusalem was brought from Lebanon; and no doubt a lucrative trade in cedar and pine was always carried on through it with the nations who had possession of that goodly mountain. Through it, also, nearly all the foreign commerce of the Jews was conducted, until the artificial pert of Caessarea was built by Herod .... The harbour, howewer, is very inconvenient and insecure. Vessels of any considerable burden must lie out in the open road-stead - a very uneasy berth at all times; and even a moderate wind will oblige them to slip their cables and run out to sea, or seek anchorage at Haifa, sixty miles distant .... The road-stead is liable to sudden and unexpected storms, which stir up a tumultuous sea in a very short time .... The landing also is most inconvenient, and often extremely dangerous. More boats upset, and more lives are lost in the breakers at the north end of the ledge of rocks that defend the inner harbour than anywhere else on this coast." Went down into it; ἀνέβη [ἐνέβη, Alex.] εἰς αὐτό, "went up into it" (Septuagint). Went on board; or, as Jerome says, sought a hiding place in the ship (comp. ver. 5). With them. With the crew. Jonah had told them (ver. 10) that he was flying from God's service, but, knowing and earing nothing about Jehovah, they took him on board when he paid his fare, and thought nothing of his private reasons for joining them Jonah 1:3Jonah sets out upon his journey; not to Nineveh, however, but to flee to Tarshish, i.e., Tartessus, a Phoenician port in Spain (see at Genesis 10:4 and Isaiah 23:1), "from the face of Jehovah," i.e., away from the presence of the Lord, out of the land of Israel, where Jehovah dwelt in the temple, and manifested His presence (cf. Genesis 4:16); not to hide himself from the omnipresent God, but to withdraw from the service of Jehovah, the God-King of Israel.

(Note: Marck has already correctly observed, that "this must not be understood as flight from the being and knowledge of God, lest we should attribute to the great prophet gross ignorance of the omnipresence and omniscience of God; but as departure from the land of Canaan, the gracious seat of God, outside which he thought, that possibly, at any rate at that time, the gift and office of a prophet would not be conferred upon him.")

The motive for this flight was not fear of the difficulty of carrying out the command of God, but, as Jonah himself says in Jonah 4:2, anxiety lest the compassion of God should spare the sinful city in the event of its repenting. He had no wish to co-operate in this; and that not merely because "he knew, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the repentance of the Gentiles would be the ruin of the Jews, and, as a lover of his country, was actuated not so much by envy of the salvation of Nineveh, as by unwillingness that his own people should perish," as Jerome supposes, but also because he really grudged salvation to the Gentiles, and feared lest their conversion to the living God should infringe upon the privileges of Israel above the Gentile world, and put an end to its election as the nation of God.

(Note: Luther has already deduced this, the only true reason, from Jonah 4:1-11, in his Commentary on the Prophet Jonah: "Because Jonah was sorry that God was so kind, he would rather not preach, yea, would rather die, than that the grace of God, which was to be the peculiar privilege of the people of Israel, should be communicated to the Gentiles also, who had neither the word of God, nor the laws of Moses, nor the worship of God, nor prophets, nor anything else, but rather strove against God, and His word, and His people." But in order to guard against a false estimate of the prophet, on account of these "carnal, Jewish thoughts of God," Luther directs attention to the fact that "the apostles also held at first the carnal opinion that the kingdom of Christ was to be an outward one; and even afterwards, when they understood that it was to be a spiritual one, they thought that it was to embrace only the Jews, and therefore 'preached the gospel to the Jews only' (Acts 8), until God enlightened them by a vision from heaven to Peter (Acts 10), and by the public calling of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13), and by wonders and signs; and it was at last resolved by a general council (Acts 15), that God would also show mercy to the Gentiles, and that He was the God of the Gentiles also. For it was very hard for the Jews to believe that there were any other people outside Israel who helped to form the people of God, because the sayings of the Scripture stop there and speak of Israel and Abraham's seed; and the word of God, the worship of God, the laws and the holy prophets, were with them alone.")

He therefore betook himself to Yāphō, i.e., Joppa, the port on the Mediterranean Sea (vid., comm. on Joshua 19:46), and there found a ship which was going to Tarshish; and having paid the sekhârâh, the hire of the ship, i.e., the fare for the passage, embarked "to go with them (i.e., the sailors) to Tarshish."

Jonah 1:3 Interlinear
Jonah 1:3 Parallel Texts

Jonah 1:3 NIV
Jonah 1:3 NLT
Jonah 1:3 ESV
Jonah 1:3 NASB
Jonah 1:3 KJV

Jonah 1:3 Bible Apps
Jonah 1:3 Parallel
Jonah 1:3 Biblia Paralela
Jonah 1:3 Chinese Bible
Jonah 1:3 French Bible
Jonah 1:3 German Bible

Bible Hub

Jonah 1:2
Top of Page
Top of Page