Jonah 1

Listen to Jonah 1
1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah[a] the son of Amittai, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
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.
4 But the LORD sent out[b] a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, 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.
6 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.
7 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. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
8 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?
9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD,[c] the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
10 Then were the men exceedingly[d]* 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.
11 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.
12 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.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, 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.
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased[e] from her raging.
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly*, and offered[f] a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly[g] of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

( 2 Kings. 14:25 ) deliverance from out of the fish, rendered him a type of our blessed Lord, who mentions it, so as to show the certain truth of the narrative. All that was done was easy to the almighty power of the Author and Sustainer of life. This book shows us, by the example of the Ninevites, how great are the Divine forbearance and long-suffering towards sinners. It shows a most striking contrast between the goodness and mercy of God, and the rebellion, impatience, and peevishness of his servant; and it will be best understood by those who are most acquainted with their own hearts.

Jonah, sent to Nineveh, flees to Tarshish. (1-3) He is stayed by a tempest. (4-7) His discourse with the mariners. (8-12) He is cast into the sea, and miraculously preserved. (13-17)

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.

Verses 4-7 God sent a pursuer after Jonah, even a mighty tempest. Sin brings storms and tempests into the soul, into the family, into churches and nations; it is a disquieting, disturbing thing. Having called upon their gods for help, the sailors did what they could to help themselves. Oh that men would be thus wise for their souls, and would be willing to part with that wealth, pleasure, and honour, which they cannot keep without making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, and ruining their souls for ever! Jonah was fast asleep. Sin is stupifying, and we are to take heed lest at any time our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of it. What do men mean by sleeping on in sin, when the word of God and the convictions of their own consciences, warn them to arise and call on the Lord, if they would escape everlasting misery? Should not we warn each other to awake, to arise, to call upon our God, if so be he will deliver us? The sailors concluded the storm was a messenger of Divine justice sent to some one in that ship. Whatever evil is upon us at any time, there is a cause for it; and each must pray, Lord, show me wherefore thou contendest with me. The lot fell upon Jonah. God has many ways of bringing to light hidden sins and sinners, and making manifest that folly which was thought to be hid from the eyes of all living.

Verses 8-12 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 hast thou done this? If thou fearest the God that made the sea and the dry land, why wast thou such a fool as to think thou couldst flee from his presence? If the professors of religion do wrong, they will hear it from those who make no such profession. 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. Parting with our money will not pacify the conscience, the Jonah must be thrown overboard.

Verses 13-17 The mariners rowed against wind and tide, the wind of God's displeasure, the tide of his counsel; but it is in vain to think of saving ourselves any other way than by destroying our sins. Even natural conscience cannot but dread blood-guiltiness. And when we are led by Providence God does what he pleases, and we ought to be satisfied, though it may not please us. Throwing Jonah into the sea put an end to the storm. God will not afflict for ever, He will only contend till we submit and turn from our sins. Surely these heathen mariners will rise up in judgment against many called Christians, who neither offer prayers when in distress, nor thanksgiving for signal deliverances. 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 ) .

Footnotes 7

  • [a]. Jonah: Gr. Jonas
  • [b]. sent out: Heb. cast forth
  • [c]. the LORD: or, JEHOVAH
  • [d]. exceedingly...: Heb. with great fear
  • [e]. ceased: Heb. stood
  • [f]. offered...: Heb. sacrifice unto the LORD, and vowed vows
  • [g]. belly: Heb. bowels

Chapter Summary


This book, in the Hebrew copies, is called "Sepher Jonah", the Book of Jonah; by the Vulgate Latin version "the Prophecy of Jonah": and in the Syriac version "the Prophecy of the Prophet Jonah". His name signifies a dove, derived from a root which signifies to oppress; because it is a creature liable to oppression, and to become the prey of others. Hillerus {a} derives the word from a root which signifies to be "fair" and "beautiful", as this creature is This name is very suitable to a prophet and minister of the Lord, who ought to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; and who mourn over their own sins, and the sins of others. Jonah did not always in, his conduct answer to his name, particularly when he was so angry at the Lord's sparing the Ninevites, and so impatient for the loss of his gourd. His father's name was Amittai, as in Jon 1:1 and in 2Ki 14:25; from whence it also appears that he was of Gathhepher, a town in the tribe of Zebulun, Jos 19:13; and was a part of Galilee, Isa 9:1; and so R. Jochanan, in Abendana, affirms, that he was of the tribe of Zebulun, and of Gathhepher, which was in that tribe; which confutes that notion of the Pharisees in the times of Christ, that no prophet came out of Galilee, Joh 7:52. The Jews {b} have a tradition that his mother was the widow of Sarepta, whose son Elijah raised from the dead, which was this prophet; and who is said to be the son of Amittai, that is, "truth": because his mother thereby knew and believed that the word of the Lord in the mouth of Elijah was truth, 1Ki 17:23,24; but his being a Hebrew contradicts him, Jon 1:9; for Sarepta was a city of Sidon, and he must have been a Sidonian if born of her, and not a Hebrew: but, be this as it will, it is certain he was a prophet of the Lord; and this book, which bears his name, and very probably was written by him, its divine authority is confirmed by the testimony Christ, of whom Jonah was a type; see Mt 12:39-41; and indeed the principal design of this book is to set forth in himself the type of the death and resurrection of Christ, by his being three days in the whale's belly, and then delivered from it; and to declare the grace and mercy of God to repenting sinners, and to signify the calling of the Gentiles after the death and resurrection of Christ; and is a very profitable book to instruct us about the power and goodness of God; the nature of repentance, and the effects of it; the imperfection and infirmities of the best of men in this life; and the call and mission of the ministers of the word, and the necessity of their conformity and attendance to it. Cyprian the martyr was converted from idolatry by hearing this prophecy read and explained by Caecilius. If this prophet was the son of the widow of Sarepta, or the person Elisha sent to anoint Jehu, according to the tradition of the Jews {c}, he was born in the times of Ahab, and lived in the reigns of Joram and Jehu; and, according to Bishop Lloyd {d}, he prophesied in the latter end, of Jehu's reign; where Mr. Whiston {e} also places him, about 860 B.C.; or in the beginning of the reign of Jehoahaz, when Israel was greatly oppressed by Hazael king of Syria, 2Ki 13:22; at which time he might prophesy of the victories and success of Jeroboam the second, and grandson of Jehoahaz, 2Ki 14:25; and, if so, he is more ancient than Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Joel, and Micah, whose contemporary he is generally thought to be Pseudo-Epiphanius {f}, as he gives a wrong account of the place of the birth of this prophet, so of the place of his burial; which he makes to be in the land of Saar, and in the cave of Kenan, the father of Caleb and Othniel; but it is more likely that he died and was buried at Geth, where he was born; and where Jerom {g} says his grave was, shown in his time, about two miles from Zippore, in the way to Tiberias; with which account Isidore {h} agrees; and so Benjamin Tudelensis {i} says, his sepulchre was on a hill near Zippore. Monsieur Thevenot {k} says, not far from Nazareth the tomb of Jonah is now to be seen, to which the Turks bear a great respect.

{a} Onomastic. Sacr. p. 429. {b} Hieron. Proem. i Jon. {c} Seder Olam Rabba, c. 18. p. 45, {d} Chronological Tables. {e} Chron. Tables, cent, 7. {f} De Prophet. Vit. c. 16. {g} Ut supra. {h} De Vita & Morte Sanct. c. 45. {i} Itinerar. p. 52. {k} Travels, par 1. B. 2. c. 55. p. 213.


This chapter gives an account of the call and mission of Jonah to go to Nineveh, and prophesy there, and the reason of it, Jon 1:1,2; his disobedience to it, Jon 1:3. God's resentment of it, by sending a storm into the sea, where he was, which terrified the mariners, and put the ship in danger of being lost, Jon 1:4,5; The discovery of Jonah and his disobedience as the cause of the tempest, and how it was made, Jon 1:6-10; The casting of him into the sea at his own motion, and with his own consent, though with great reluctance in the mariners, Jon 1:11-16. The preparation of a fish for him, which swallowed him up, and in which he lived three days and three nights, Jon 1:17.

Jonah 1 Commentaries

The King James Version is in the public domain.