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Observations upon the History of JonAh.
[From the same Work.]
44 HE history which is transmitted to us of the prophet Jonah contains not many particulars of his life at large : but is confined for the most part to one principal event, and to the circumstances with which it was attended. This was a commission from God to preach repentance-at Nineveh, in Assyria, which he evaded, and fled another way; and having betaken himself to the sea, he is said to have been swallowed by a large fish. “This history, wonderful as it may appear, is appealed to by our blessed Saviour as a verity, and as bearing a strict analogy to one great circumstance at his death. oever, therefore, is a sincere Christian, ought, without any evasion, to believe the account given; and for such do I write. It is not only idle, but unnecessary, to extenuate any part of it; for all miracles, as I have elsewhere said, are alike to the Deity. He can as easily stop the revolution of the earth, as reverse the point of a magnetic needle. “At what time the prophet Jonah lived is not quite certain. A prophecy, which he uttered, is said to have been fulfilled in the time of Jeroboam, the second of that name, and king of Israel. How much antecedent the prophecy may have been to the completion cannot be ascertained. We are told of Jeroboam, that he restored the coast of Israel from the
the Lord God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jomah, the son of Amittai the prophet,
who was of Gath Hepher, 2 Kings,
chap. xiv. ver, 25. This place is said to have been in the tribe of Zebulon; and, according to Jerome, it was seated at the farthest part of the district. This province was one of the two which they called Galilee, and Galilee of the Nations, on account of the great mixture of people of different race and worship, who were admitted into it; for, from its vicinity to several Gentile nations, aliens without number seem very early to have settled within its borders. It was hence called also Galilee of the Gentiles. “ Solomon did not look upon this part of Israel in a very favourable light, for he gave away several of the cities to Hiram, king of Tyre, and consequently alienated them from Israel, and from the true worship of God. Our Saviour was supposed to have been born at Nazareth in this K. vince, which was held in very low estimation. The Jews, therefore, of Jerusalem, who knew not the true place of his birth, and thought that all excellence centred in the city of David, would never allow that any good could proceed from this part of the world : as if God, who produced light from dark: mess, order from confusion, could not raise a prophet amon very outcasts of Israel. en therefore some, struck with the wisdom and sanctity of our. SaViOlls, viour, and likewise with his miracles, said—Qf a truth this is the Christ ; others, with a sneer, asked—Shall Christ come out of Galilee?—Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. “In this region, however, we must look for the history of Jonah, who was, as has been shown, of Gath Hepher; a city but a few miles to the north of our Saviour's place of residence. As he came from among a mixed and unsettled people, he was probably of unsettled and corrupt principles; one of those, of whom it is said—They feared the Lord, and served their own gods—They feared the Lord, and served their graven images. This, I think, may be fairly inferred from his behaviour. He is indeed styled—a servant of the Lord : but it is well known, that the Lord had many wayward and unfaithful servants, who were disobedient to his word; whom also he forced against their will to accomplish his purpose. This refractory prophet of Galilee seems to have been one of the number of those unsettled in their principles, as Balaam had been before, and Judas afterwards. The prophet who came out of Judah, in the time of Jeroboam, to Bethel (1 Kings, chap. xiii. ver. 1, &c.), to bear witness against the altar, is styled a man of God: yet he was guilty of manifest disobedience, and of a grievous affront, in listening to the counsel of a man, after he had received the immediate commands of God to return home ; as if the Deity could change. He accordingly stayed by the way. He is repeatedly called the man of God; yet he obeyed not: and when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew
him. Thus we find, that a servant of the Lord may be disobedient, and of little faith. The Jews certainly saw nothing sacred in the character of Jonah, but quite the reverse, otherwise they would never have said—Search and see, for out of Galilee cometh no prophet.”
of JonAH's Apost Acy AND Flight.
“ It pleased God, in his infinite goodness, that timely warning should be given to the people of Nineveh, before their city was taken, and their country ruined. He accordingly appointed Jonah for that office, and bade him go and preach repentance, that they might turn from their evil ways. But the prophet was terrified at the prospect of this journey; and had so little faith in the God of Israel, and so little of that fear, which is the beginning of wisdom, that he determined not to obey. 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 to Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord. There were more places than one named Tarshish. Among these was Tartessus, upon the river Baetis in Spain, as many learned persons have judged. If this then were the Tarshish mentioned, and if distance could secure him from the presence of the Lord, this was seemingly the most proper place that he could have chosen, as it was one of the most remote in the known world. But the prophet, who entertained very unworthy notions of the Deity, was soon arrested in his flight. The history
“Ver. 10. “ Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him ; Why hast thou done this 2 (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 temo 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.”
“—Unum pro multis dabitur caput.
“He was convinced, by the nature of the calamity, and from the lot by which he had been pointed out, that all the evil proceeded from him; and he was impelled by Heaven to make this salutary proposal,
“This places the behaviour of the Jews, in respect to our Saviour, in a very unfavourable, but true light. These heathen in the ship beg of God that the death of this man may not be laid to their charge. They are afraid of the imputation of guilt, though he was a guilty person; and the whole was effected by his own counsel and permission. But when Pilate told the Jews that he was innocent of the blood of the just person who stood before them, the man without sin; and added—See ye to it: they answered, out of their great blindness and infatuation— His blood be on us, and on our children: which curse was most terribly fulfilled. When, therefore, the mariners in the ship had done every thing in their power to save the devoted person, and found that it was expedient for one man to die— that the whole might not perish, they at last yielded to necessity.
“Ver. 15. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth in
to the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. “Ver. 17. “ Now the É. had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah': and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” *
“The prophet, during his abode in the fish, offers up a prayer, or rather a hymn, to God, the whole of which is a composition of uncommon sublimity. Among other things, he compares his situation to a state of death, and his place to the hollow of hell, or hades: and he adds—“I went down to the bot‘toms of the nountains; the earth ‘with her everlasting bars was about ‘me: yet hast thou brought up my life ‘ from corruption, O Lord, my God. . • When my soul fainted within me'— or, as the Greek version expresses it—ey to ex?site:w &ir' egov row ‘99%my pov, “When my soul was in “ the article of forsaking me, I re‘membered the Lord, and my prayer * came in unto thee, into thine hol ‘ temple.’ And he concludes wi saying—“Salvation is of the Lord.” The iii.; of this fugitive prophet is very plain, without the least ambiguity: every eventis precisely , told, so that there can be no doubt about any portion of the narrative. There is no palliating nor evading any part: we must take it intire, without any qualifying or diminution, just as it is transmitted to us. The only question, therefore, in respect to those who entertain any prejudices is, whether it was consistent with the wisdom of God to exhibit this miracle; and whether
ments of God-had a proper tendency and meaning, and were particularly adapted to the persons, before whom, as well as upon whom, they were performed. Let us see if there is any such correspondence here, and any analogy discernible between the punishment and the crime. I am persuaded that such a correspondence does subsist, as may be very satisfactorily shown.”
conce RNING THE FLIGHT OF JONAH.
“We have seen, that Jonah was of a portion of Israel, called Galilee; .. in his time was devoted to idolatry. Few, or none of the people went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover, and to perform the rites appointed by Moses. Instead of these, they had recourse to the idols at Bethel and Dan ; and were farther tinctured with the idolatry of their Gentile neighbours. These consisted of different people, who were either the remains of the ancient inhabitants, the Canaanites, or were a mixed race from Tyre, Hamath, and the cities of Syria, who had forced themselves into the country, and had brought their rites and religion with them. In the midst of these was the prophet Jonah; who in his distress gave out, that he feared the Lord. But it was a blind fear, attended with little reverence and duy. He did not seem to know the nature of the true God, nor to have been acquainted with his attributes. This is manifest from his thinking to free himself from his influence and power, by retiring to a distant region: as if God could not exert his might beyond the limits of Israel. §. must, therefore, have been very ignorant of
the doctrines of the divine psalmist, who would have given him much higher ideas of the Deity, and his omnipresence. Whither shall I go from thy spirit, and whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up to heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in (hades) hell, behold thou art there. If I take the twings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness will cover me; even the night shall be light about me:—Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day; the darkness
and the light are both alike to thee. “From this ignorance of the prophet we may judge of his faith and attachment, and from his whole conduct conclude, that if he had any regard for the true God, he had at the same time no dislike to the other deities which had been introduced into his nation. If he had been thoroughly devoted to the God of his fathers, he must have known him better; and in this instance, as well as in many others, he would have shown more reverencetowardshim, and respect to his commands. But we find that he fled from him, and betook himself to Joppa, a sea-port of Philistim, or Palestine Proper. Every city in that region had its own peculiar deity; but many of these deities were ultimately the same, though represented under different emblems, modified according to the particular fancy of the people. When Jonah arrived at Joppa, as he had deserted the God o j we may suppose that he put himself under the protection of the deity of the place. In consequence of this he must have made his oblations at the altar, and worshipped before