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Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; foretell the judgments coming upon it; for their wickedness is come up before me. Nineveh, this very great, and very ancient city, was now in its glory. It was a three days' journey through, or around the city. Nineveh was much larger than Babylon. It was about nineteen miles long, and eleven broad.
Its walls were a hundred feet high, and so thick that three chariots might go abreast upon them. On the walls, at intervals, were fifteen hundred towers, each two hundred feet high. It was formerly necessary to include within the walls gardens and fields, for cultivation, and pasturage, which rendered the cities so large. But this great city was a greatly wicked city. The Ninevites were notorious for their luxury and effeminacy. Jonah' sent as a herald at arms, in the name of the God of heaven, to proclaim war with Nineveh.' Arise, go to Nineveh, and preach unto it. 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. Joppa, now Jaffa, was a seaport town, said to be about forty miles from Gath-hepher, which Jonah left ; and in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Tarshish, though the word may signify any maritime place of trade, is generally supposed here to mean Tartessus in Spain. The mission was disagreeable, the journey was long and hazardous. Perhaps he thought that they might repent and be forgiven, and that then he might be branded as a false prophet ; or that the king of Assyria might destroy him ; in all this he showed great want of faith and resignation to God.' Whatever he thought, he sought to flee from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his own god, or tutelar deity ;
and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them ; but Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship ; and he lay, and was fast asleep. Though the most guilty person, he was the least affected, as is too commonly the case. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. The shipmaster or pilot, though a heathen, speaks of one God as supreme, considering the others as mediators only. Thus he, who ought now to have been reproving the Ninevites, was himself justly reproved by an idolatrous shipmaster. And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. This was the usual method of referring cases to the determination of Providence. They believed that some one of their gods had raised the storm, to punish the sins of some one in the ship; and that Providence would direct the lot to fall upon the guilty one. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us ? What is thine occupation ? And whence comest thou? What is thy country ? And of what people art thou ? And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this ? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. The men were affrighted, and in confusion, seeing Jonah a decent, sober looking man. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea ; so shall the sea be calm unto you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. A most generous confession and proposal of Jonah. Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the vessel to the land, but they could not ; for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord; not as before every
one to his idol god; but unto Jonah's God, who they now knew had brought the tempest ; and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood; for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee; we are acting by thy command. So they took up Jonah, and reluctantly cast him forth into the sea ; and the sea ceased from her raging Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered, or made vows to offer, a sacrifice unto the Lord. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the swallow of the fish three days and three nights. Some have thought that the word fish must have meant a boat. But the fish is in another part of Scripture called a whale. Some have conjectured, that the fish was a shark; and say that the throat of a whale is not large enough to swallow a man; and that the whale is seldom, if ever, found in the Mediterranean Sea. The learned Abbe Grosier, as cited by Jebb, thinks however that it was a whale, as we have it translated. He says it could not have been a shark. That fish is furnished with five or six ranges of teeth, placed in each jaw, after the manner of a palisade, which must have prevented the safe ingress and egress of the prophet.' But in the whale, the throat is large, and provided with a bag ... so considerable in size, that whales frequently take into it two of their young when weak, especially during a tempest. In this vessel there are two vents, which serve for inspiration and respiration; and here, in all probability, Jonah was preserved; not indeed without miracle, but with that economy of miracle, so frequently exemplified in Scripture.' But it is of little use to endeavour to render less miraculous, what was undoubtedly intended to be received as a great miracle.
Now Jonah, finding himself thus preserved from suffocation by a miracle, took encouragement to pray; for no place is unsuitable for prayer; and he afterwards thus recorded the workings of his heart while in his swimming sepulchre, in a beautiful ode. I cried, he says, by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell, that is, the grave, where he was, as it were, buried alive; out of the belly of the grave,
cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about; all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. His imagination seems filled with water's. The seaweeds, he continues, were wrapped about
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains. Yet, he adds, When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord ; and my prayer came in unto thee. Such, and more also, was the prayer, and the glorious triumph of faith, of Jonah, in his living grave. And after three days and three nights ; that is, a part of three natural days, as in the case of our Lord probably; the Lord spake unto the fish, and it cast out Jonah upon the dry land ; or, so near the shore, that he could easily wade to the land. Thus ended Jonah's first mission.
After this, the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee ; or shall bid thee, when thou comest thither. It was necessary to prove Jonah's repentance, by sending him again upon the same mission.
And it was great condescension in God, again to employ Jonah, after his former disobedience. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh, being, as we said, near sixty miles round, was a city of three days' journey. A day's journey for a man on foot was, at that time, reckoned about twenty miles. And Jonah began to enter from the gate into the city a day's journey; and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. This was the alarming burthen of his cry, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. This was the cry, through the principal streets, Yet forty days ; leaving them a space for repentance. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Jonah wrought no miracle, nor showed any sign, that we read of, yet the people believed ; per
haps from Jonah's being a Hebrew ; or perhaps from having heard of his miraculous preservation when cast into the sea ; or perhaps from feeling self-convicted of their own guilt. For even the king of Nineveh, when word came unto him, arose from his throne, and threw off his gorgeous robe ; and, to set a humble example, he put on the habit of a mourning penitent; he covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And the king, and his nobles, issued a decree, that neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, in Nineveh, should taste any thing ; they should not feed, nor drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not ? Even the beasts were covered with mourning ; and kept without food and water, that their moaning might move the people. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way ; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them ; and he did it not. God changed, when the people changed. He saw their humiliation ; he saw that they were true penitents, and he spared them for this time.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
He rather should have rejoiced in this great mercy; but he was vexed from his selfish concern for his own credit as a prophet. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying when I was yet in my country?' Therefore, I fled before thee unto Tarshish. He pleads this as an excuse for his former disobedience ; saying, I thought that it would be so; that thou wouldst pardon them ; and then my countrymen would say,
I was not sent by thee to Nineveh, For, he continues, for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful. How strange, that Jonah, and a prophet of the Lord too, should mention these endearing traits of God's mercy, only to complain of them. But such, and so wicked, are we.
prays, I beseech thee, my life from me ; for it is better for me to die, than to live. Then said the Lord, Doest thou well y? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on
to be angry