1 Now the word of the Lord came to [a]Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Go to [b]Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim [judgment] against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”(A) 3 But Jonah ran away to Tarshish to escape from the presence of the Lord [and his duty as His prophet]. He went down to [c]Joppa and found a ship going to [d]Tarshish [the most remote of the Phoenician trading cities]. So he paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord.(B)
4 But the Lord hurled a great wind toward the sea, and there was a violent tempest on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.(C) 5 Then the sailors were afraid, and each man cried out to his god; and to lighten the ship [and diminish the danger] they threw the ship’s cargo into the sea. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship and had lain down and was sound asleep. 6 So the captain came up to him and said, “How can you stay asleep? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps your god will give a thought to us so that we will not perish.”
7 And they said to another, “Come, [e]let us cast lots, so we may learn who is to blame for this disaster.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Now tell us! [f]Who is to blame for this disaster? What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country?” 9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I [reverently] fear and worship the Lord, the God of heaven, [g]who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 Then the men became extremely frightened and said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was running from the presence of the Lord, [h]because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What should we do to you, so that the sea will become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming more and more violent. 12 Jonah said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard [breaking through the waves] to return to land, but they could not, because the sea became even more violent [surging higher] against them. 14 Then they called on the Lord and said, “Please, O Lord, do not let us perish because of taking this man’s life, and do not make us accountable for innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as You pleased.”
15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 Then the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
- Jonah 1:1 Jonah, the only prophet known to attempt to run away from a divinely appointed mission, lived during the time when Jeroboam II ruled Israel (the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom). He was from the town of Gath-Hepher in Galilee.
- Jonah 1:2 The city of Nineveh was the magnificent capital of the Assyrian Empire. The great palace of Sennacherib was without rival and contained seventy or more rooms. The city was home to more than 120,000 residents (at least twice the size of Babylon) and had no less than fifteen gates in the wall surrounding the city. During this period of time it was probably the largest city in the known world. Built near the juncture of the Tigris River and its tributary the Khoser, it was served by an elaborate water system of eighteen canals. Nineveh had many suburbs, three are mentioned along with Nineveh in Gen 10:11, 12. Nineveh’s extensive ruins are located near the modern city of Mosul, Iraq.
- Jonah 1:3 The natural harbor of the city of Joppa (modern Jaffa, Israel) has been in use since the Bronze Age. It was the port of entry for the cedars of Lebanon for Solomon’s temple (2 Chr 2:16), and again for the second temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 3:7). It is located just south of Tel Aviv.
- Jonah 1:3 Possibly Tartessos in southwest Spain.
- Jonah 1:7 To these sailors, who undoubtedly believed in their own pagan gods, the casting of lots was a way to allow the gods to express themselves since only they could control how a lot fell. In this case, it is possible that God intervened to identify Jonah as the guilty party.
- Jonah 1:8 The questions asked indicate that the sailors were afraid of Jonah even before he confessed his worship of the Lord (v 9). The lot had already confirmed that he was responsible, but instead of acting on that they gave him the option of blaming someone else. The other questions are typical of what one would ask any stranger.
- Jonah 1:9 This was an important addition to Jonah’s description of God, because most people who believed in pagan gods had different deities for different regions of the created world, and often they also worshiped deities of their own localities. Jonah was affirming that there is only one true God.
- Jonah 1:10 Jonah probably had informed them when he first boarded (cf v 3) but they may not have taken him seriously, or perhaps they were just indifferent to his reason for the voyage. Now that they were in mortal danger, they believed him.
- Jonah 1:17 The ancient Hebrew term “fish” did not make a distinction between fish and marine mammals. There are no marine creatures known today which would be capable of swallowing a man, either because of their anatomy or because of their observed behavior. It is possible that the creature that swallowed Jonah has long since been extinct, or even that it was uniquely created by God for this one purpose.
- Jonah 1:17 Jesus cited Jonah’s experience as a sign of His resurrection (Matt 12:40).