Outline of Jonah
Jonah 1 — Jonah ran away from God.
Jonah 2 — Jonah ran to God.
Jonah 3 — Jonah ran with God.
Jonah 4 — Jonah ran against God.
1:1 The word of the LORD [God initiated the process of communication] came to [when God speaks we should listen carefully and prayerfully] Jonah son of Amittai:
Note: Jonah lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-29).
1:2 “Go [imperative; urgent/authoritative command; call to immediate action; not optional] to the great city of Nineveh [Assyrian city great in wealth, power, and dominion] and preach [proclaim God’s message of judgment] against it, because its wickedness [stench of their sin] has come up before me.”
Note: In a sense, the Ninevites had “sinned unto high heaven.” The Hebrew text reads, “for it has come upwards, their evil, to My face.”
1:3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish [Phoenician city in southern Spain; “for Tarshish” possibly means “to the farthest west” or “to the end of the world”]. He went down [direction people go when running from God] to Joppa [city on the coast; present day Tel Aviv], where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare [those running from God always pay for it; running from God is a costly endeavor; sinners always pay their fare], he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish [most distant port] to flee [as far away as possible] from the [presence/face of] LORD.
1:4 Then the LORD sent [Hebrew (causative voice): God responsible for the storm] a great wind [used by God to accomplish His purpose] on the sea, and such a violent [furious] storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
Note: See Psalm 119:91b; 104:4; 135:7.
1:5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out [prayer] to his own god [the god of his country in hope that the offended deity could be petitioned for mercy]. And they threw [practical action: sailors did what they could to help themselves] the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep [deep and heavy sleep; mental and emotional exhaustion].
Note: Someone has said, “We should never sleep in self-security when men are perishing around us.” Sadly, God’s representative was asleep while others cried out to their (false and impotent) gods for help. This is a picture of many believers and churches today — asleep with the truth, unaware of the dangers others are facing, and characterized by no visible sense of urgency.
1:6 The captain [a heathen] went to him [God’s prophet] and said, “How can you sleep? [amazed anyone could sleep through a life-threatening storm] Get up [sad when the world must summon us out of our indifference] and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”
1:7 Then the sailors [fearing for their lives] said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots [probably inscribed stones that were placed in a vessel or in the folds of a garment and then either drawn out or cast forth] to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah [Numbers 32:23 declares, “be sure your sin will find you out.”].
Note: Was the casting of lots reliable? Proverbs 16:33 states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” See Joshua 7:14 and Acts 1:26 for examples. Note: This method of selection was not repeated by the apostles after the descent of the Holy Spirit.
1:8 So they asked him [test validity of the lot by a personal confession or rejection], “Tell us [unwilling to condemn Jonah without giving him the opportunity to defend himself (a spirit Jonah was unwilling to show the Ninevites)], who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
1:9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew [Israelites known to foreigners by this term; Jews referred to themselves as “the sons of Israel”] and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
1:10 This terrified [Hebrew text: “feared a great fear”] them and they asked, “What have you done? [first feared the storm, now feared the Lord behind the storm]” (They knew [recognized their plight was related to Jonah’s disobedience] he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
1:11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you [fair question because the matter was between Jonah and his God] to make the sea calm down for us?”
1:12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied [some feel Jonah’s response was noble, others feel it indicates his preference to die rather than preach to the Ninevites.], “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault [acknowledged his guilt] that this great storm has come upon you.”
1:13 Instead [sailors made every effort to save Jonah from death and themselves from the storm], the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
1:14 Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable [do not consider action willful murder] for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.”
1:15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard [helped carry out Lord’s will so other heathen might receive God’s Word], and the raging sea grew calm [perhaps as quickly as it had started its raging].
1:16 At this the men greatly feared [reverenced and worshiped] the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
Note: Verse 16 is the last verse of the first chapter in the Hebrew text.
1:17 But the LORD [once again we see divine activity] provided [appointed, ordained, or assigned to be at the right place and time to swallow Jonah; reminder that God is in control] a great fish [Psalm 119:91b, “All things are Thy servants” — a reminder that God can use anything He desires to accomplish His will] to swallow Jonah [rescued or delivered him from drowning while serving a corrective purpose in his life], and Jonah was inside [miracle is not that Jonah was swallowed by fish, but that he survived inside the fish] the fish [this detention gave Jonah time to reflect on his rebellious behavior] three days and three nights [speaks much about the sustaining power of God].
Note: We should understand that Jonah’s unusual experience presented no problem of faith in the Jewish community. As one scholar stated, “If one’s God is great enough, the miraculous elements are not disturbing, even to the modern mind.”