Jonah, sent to Nineveh, flees to Tarshish. (1-3)
V. 2…Great city… Nineveh, located on the east bank of the riven Tigris, is about 500 miles (805Kms) northeast of Israel. Nineveh was a great city where much sin is committed. The evil of the pagan nation is so great that it attracted God’s attention. …Arise and go… Jonah had to go at once to Nineveh and ‘cry’ against the evil and wickedness of it.
V. 3…But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish… Jonah who prophesied prosperity for Israel (2Kings 14:23 – 28) found it difficult to take up a mission in a foreign land with a message that calls for repentance of the enemy. Jonah wouldn’t go and he chose to go farthest possible in the opposite direction of Nineveh.
Tarshish: Tarshish is said to be located on the southwestern Spain on the west end of Mediterranean sea. This city is 2500 miles west of Jonah’s hometown in Israel, and 3000 miles west of Nineveh.
…From the presence of the LORD…. (v.3) He chose Tashish…
1. That is the farthest he can go towards west with all the available sailing in Joppa.
2. He might have thought God’s presence will not be active in Tarshish.
3. When the ship starts and it will not stop for months.
4. It will be 3000 long miles of voyage to come back from Tarshish to Nineveh.
…Found a ship going to Tarshish… He decided to go to Tashish and he found a ship ready to sail to Tarshish. The ready way is not always the right way. Satan will be able to provide you fleet of ships to your wrong destination.
He is stayed by a tempest. (4-7):
V. 4… the LORD sent out a great wind… The tempest is the God-sent pursuer after Jonah. Sin brings storms and tempests into the soul, into the family, into churches and nations. …About to be broken… The main purpose of our God-sent troubles is to bring conviction and repentance in us.
V. 5…threw the cargo…to lighten the load… After calling upon their personal, family and national gods for help, the sailors did what they could to help themselves. …. Jonah… was fast asleep…. Jonah on the other hand went down and slept.
V. 6…arise, call on your God… The sailors concluded the storm was a messenger of Divine justice sent to someone in that ship. Also, the word ‘arise’ echoes the commissioning of God to him when he was in Israel (v. 2). Sometimes pagans and backsliders need to summon us to pray.
V. 7…The lot fell on Jonah… The lot fell upon Jonah. God has many ways of bringing to light hidden sins and sinners.
His discourse with the mariners. (8-16):
Jonah gave an account of his religion, for that was his business. We may hope that he told with sorrow and shame, justifying God, condemning himself, and explaining to the mariners what a great God Jehovah is. They said to him, Why have you done this? If you fear the God that made the sea and the dry land, why were you such a fool as to think you could flee from his presence? When sin has raised a storm, and laid us under the tokens of God’s displeasure, we must consider what is to be done to the sin that raised the storm. Jonah uses the language of true penitents, who desire that none but themselves may fare the worse for their sins and follies. Jonah sees this to be the punishment of his iniquity, he accepts it, and justifies God in it. When conscience is awakened, and a storm raised, nothing will turn it into a calm but parting with the sin that caused the disturbance. – Mathew Henry Concise Commentary.
Vs. 9 & 10…I fear the Lord,… You can fear the LORD and still disobey and wander away from His presence. …the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land…fled from the presence of the LORD… According to verse 10 Jonah had already told them that he is fleeing from the presence of God. In verse 9, he told that his God, Jehovah is the one created sea and dryland. So, the sailors made the connection and brought out the folly in Jonah.
Vs. 11 & 12…throw me into the sea… Jonah know the solution for the situation.
The pagan sailors made kind attempt to save the situation without throwing Jonah into the sea.
V. 13…Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to the land… The sailors wanted off-board him in the port, so they tried to return. But their good-will attempt was a failure. God did not want to put him on the land.
V.14…they cried out to the LORD… The sailors started praying to the God of Israel for the salvation of their souls.
V.15…threw him into the sea and the sea ceased from its raging… The LORD has forced the situation to see His perfect plan is accomplished.
V.16…the men feared the LORD…offered a sacrifice…and took vows… In verse 5, the sailors feared the lord which is a general fear because of the storm, in v. 10, their fear on the LORD was intense, and here the fear is a reverential fear that caused them to worship, sacrifice and make vows. However, this does not mean that we can disobey God and God will bring salvation using our disobedience and rebellion. Also, we do not know if the fear continued in their life after this incident.
V.17…The LORD has prepared a great fish…
The Lord commands all creatures, and can make any of them serve his designs of mercy to his people. Let us see this salvation of the Lord, and admire his power, that he could thus save a drowning man, and his pity, that he would thus save one who was running from him, and had offended him. It was of the Lord’s mercies that Jonah was not consumed. Jonah was alive in the fish three days and nights: to nature this was impossible, but to the God of nature all things are possible. Jonah, by this miraculous preservation, was made a type of Christ; as our blessed Lord himself declared, (Matthew 12:40). – Mathew Henry Concise Commentary.
…three days and three nights… Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. It is said to be the ancient near East people thought someone needed to come back from Sheol. Read Hosea 6:2. Jesus uses this OT vent and used this incident to sescribe the time He would be “in the heart of the earth,” prior to His resurrection (Matthew 12:40)