Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
One of the most remarkable facts about the Book of Jonah is, that while he himself is so prominent in it, yet there is not a word from beginning to end of comment upon his character and conduct. No word is said of his state of mind, his sense of sin, his repentance, his return to the attitude of submission and prompt obedience to the Divine command. The facts are set before us in the barest, most naked simplicity, without one single sentence of reflection. The only probable and consistent view of the work is, that Jonah wrote it himself. He therefore said as little about himself as possible. He told the facts with all their weight of meaning against his own character, just as they were, without a line of exculpation or condemnation.
1. The first point at which the narrative may be said to touch the personal character of the prophet is the flight to Joppa. Here is a man, conscious of special inspiration and authority, doing direct violence to the Word of the Most High! We must begin our study with this conviction — Jonah meant nothing throughout like determined rebellion against God. From the first he seems to have understood the mission to have been one of mercy, and not of destruction. The man had laid hold of the thought of Divine goodness and compassion. Jonah's sin was not apostasy from God. He simply shrunk from the mission. The struggle in Jonah's mind must have been the result either of personal feeling or of mistaken ideas. It may have been personal feeling that lay at the root of his conduct. There was personal danger. He did not care to preach to heathen. But his feelings were founded on false ideas about God, and about the people of God, and their vocation. Another view may be taken of Jonah's mind. He anticipated the result of his mission, and did not like it. His prediction would be falsified in the result. And a mission to the stronghold of heathenism seemed quite a new departure in the religious history of Israel. It seemed to Jonah a change in the Divine action, so stupendous that he could not drive out of his mind doubts as to the authority of the message.
2. Look at another point, — the sleep into which the prophet fell instantly that he went down into the ship is quite consistent with a state of perplexity and fear. He was so wearied with the mental strain and struggle, so burdened with the weight of a reproachful conscience, that he gladly hid himself from the faces of his fellow-men, and sought the darkness and solitude of his sleeping place, where nature asserted its demands, and he was soon wrapt in unconsciousness. When he was awakened he had no crime to confess, such as heathen men would understand, and condemn by the light of moral law. Jonah's character was defective rather than corrupt. Like the Apostle Peter, he needed a great deal of teaching, but the root of his piety was sound and deep. He put himself at once into the hands of the chastising Jehovah.
(R. A. Redford, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,