on Jonah 1 :3
To flee unto Tarshish - Some say Tartessus, in Spain, near the straits of Gibraltar, others, Tarsus, in Cilicia; and others, Taprobana, or the island of Ceylon, formerly called Taprobah; and Tabrobavagh in Sanscrit, to the present day.
And went down to Joppa - This place is celebrated as that where Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus, was chained to a rock, and exposed to be devoured by a sea-monster, from which she was delivered by the valor of Perseus. It is the nearest port to Jerusalem on that side of the Mediterranean.
And he found a ship - The Phoenicians carried on a considerable trade with Tartessus, Ezekiel 27:12; and it was probably in one of their ships that Jonah embarked.
He paid the fare thereof - He paid for his passage. This shows that there was traffic between the two places, and that each passenger paid a stated fare.
From the presence of the Lord - He considered that God was peculiarly resident in Judea; and if he got out of that land, the Lord would most probably appoint another prophet to carry the message; for Jonah appears to have considered the enterprise as difficult and dangerous, and therefore wished to avoid it.
on Jonah 1 :3
But (And) Jonah rose up to flee ... from the presence of the Lord - literally "from being before the Lord." Jonah knew well, that man could not escape from the presence of God, whom he knew as the Self-existing One, He who alone is, the Maker of heaven, earth and sea. He did not "flee" then "from His presence," knowing well what David said Psalm 139:7, Psalm 139:9-10, "whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me." Jonah fled, not from God's presence, but from standing before him, as His servant and minister. He refused God's service, because, as he himself tells God afterward Jonah 4:2, he knew what it would end in, and he misliked it.
So he acted, as people often do, who dislike God's commands. He set about removing himself as far as possible from being under the influence of God, and from the place where he "could" fulfill them. God commanded him to go to Nineveh, which lay northeast from his home; and he instantly set himself to flee to the then furthermost west. Holy Scripture sets the rebellion before us in its full nakedness. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah, go to Nineveh, and Jonah rose up;" he did something instantly, as the consequence of God's command. He "rose up," not as other prophets, to obey, but to disobey; and that, not slowly nor irresolutely, but "to flee, from" standing "before the Lord." He renounced his office. So when our Lord came in the flesh, those who found what He said to be "hard sayings," went away from Him, "and walked no more with Him" John 6:66. So the rich "young man went away sorrowful Matthew 19:22, for he had great possessions."
They were perhaps afraid of trusting themselves in His presence; or they were ashamed of staying there, and not doing what He said. So men, when God secretly calls them to prayer, go and immerse themselves in business; when, in solitude, He says to their souls something which they do not like, they escape His Voice in a throng. If He calls them to make sacrifices for His poor, they order themselves a new dress or some fresh sumptuousness or self-indulgence; if to celibacy, they engage themselves to marry immediately; or, contrariwise, if He calls them not to do a thing, they do it at once, to make an end of their struggle and their obedience; to put obedience out of their power; to enter themselves on a course of disobedience. Jonah, then, in this part of his history, is the image of those who, when God calls them, disobey His call, and how He deals with them, when he does not abandon them. He lets them have their way for a time, encompasses them with difficulties, so that they shall "flee back from God displeased to God appeased."
"The whole wisdom, the whole bliss, the whole of man lies in this, to learn what God wills him to do, in what state of life, calling, duties, profession, employment, He wills him to serve Him." God sent each one of us into the world, to fulfill his own definite duties, and, through His grace, to attain to our own perfection in and through fulfilling them. He did not create us at random, to pass through the world, doing whatever self-will or our own pleasure leads us to, but to fulfill His will. This will of His, if we obey His earlier calls, and seek Him by prayer, in obedience, self-subdual, humility, thoughtfulness, He makes known to each by His own secret drawings, and, in absence of these, at times by His Providence or human means. And then , "to follow Him is a token of predestination." It is to place ourselves in that order of things, that pathway to our eternal mansion, for which God created us, and which God created for us.
So Jesus says John 10:27-28, "My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand." In these ways, God has foreordained for us all the graces which we need; in these, we shall be free from all temptations which might be too hard for us, in which our own special weakness would be most exposed. Those ways, which people choose out of mere natural taste or fancy, are mostly those which expose them to the greatest peril of sin and damnation. For they choose them, just because such pursuits flatter most their own inclinations, and give scope to their natural strength and their moral weakness. So Jonah, disliking a duty, which God gave him to fulfill, separated himself from His service, forfeited his past calling, lost, as far as in him lay, his place among "the goodly fellowship of the prophets," and, but for God's overtaking grace, would have ended his days among the disobedient. As in Holy Scripture, David stands alone of saints, who had been after their calling, bloodstained; as the penitent robber stands alone converted in death; as Peter stands singly, recalled after denying his Lord; so Jonah stands, the one prophet, who, having obeyed and then rebelled, was constrained by the overpowering providence and love of God, to return and serve Him.
"Being a prophet, Jonah could not be ignorant of the mind of God, that, according to His great Wisdom and His unsearchable judgments and His untraceable and incomprehensible ways, He, through the threat, was providing for the Ninevites that they should not suffer the things threatened. To think that Jonah hoped to hide himself in the sea and elude by flight the great Eye of God, were altogether absurd and ignorant, which should not be believed, I say not of a prophet, but of no other sensible person who had any moderate knowledge of God and His supreme power. Jonah knew all this better than anyone, that, planning his flight, he changed his place, but did not flee God. For this could no man do, either by hiding himself in the bosom of the earth or depths of the sea or ascending (if possible) with wings into the air, or entering the lowest hell, or encircled with thick clouds, or taking any other counsel to secure his flight.
This, above all things and alone, can neither be escaped nor resisted, God. When He willeth to hold and grasp in His Hand, He overtaketh the swift, baffleth the intelligent, overthroweth the strong, boweth the lofty, tameth rashness, subdueth might. He who threatened to others the mighty Hand of God, was not himself ignorant of nor thought to flee, God. Let us not believe this. But since he saw the fall of Israel and perceived that the prophetic grace would pass over to the Gentiles, he withdrew himself from the office of preaching, and put off the command." "The prophet knoweth, the Holy Spirit teaching him, that the repentance of the Gentiles is the ruin of the Jews. A lover then of his country, he does not so much envy the deliverance of Nineveh, as will that his own country should not perish. - Seeing too that his fellow-prophets are sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to excite the people to repentance, and that Balaam the soothsayer too prophesied of the salvation of Israel, he grieveth that he alone is chosen to be sent to the Assyrians, the enemies of Israel, and to that greatest city of the enemies where was idolatry and ignorance of God. Yet more he feared lest they, on occasion of his preaching, being converted to repentance, Israel should be wholly forsaken. For he knew by the same Spirit whereby the preaching to the Gentiles was entrusted to him, that the house of Israel would then perish; and he feared that what was at one time to be, should take place in his own time." "The flight of the prophet may also be referred to that of man in general who, despising the commands of God, departed from Him and gave himself to the world, where subsequently, through the storms of ill and the wreck of the whole world raging against him, he was compelled to feel the presence of God, and to return to Him whom he had fled. Whence we understand, that those things also which men think for their good, when against the will of God, are turned to destruction; and help not only does not benefit those to whom it is given, but those too who give it, are alike crushed. As we read that Egypt was conquered by the Assyrians, because it helped Israel against the will of God. The ship is emperiled which had received the emperiled; a tempest arises in a calm; nothing is secure, when God is against us."
Tarshish - , named after one of the sons of Javan, Genesis 10:4. was an ancient merchant city of Spain, once proverbial for its wealth (Psalm 72:10. Strabo iii. 2. 14), which supplied Judaea with silver Jeremiah 10:9, Tyre with "all manner of riches," with iron also, tin, lead. Ezekiel 27:12, Ezekiel 27:25. It was known to the Greeks and Romans, as (with a harder pronunciation) Tartessus; but in our first century, it had either ceased to be, or was known under some other name. Ships destined for a voyage, at that time, so long, and built for carrying merchandise, were naturally among the largest then constructed. "Ships of Tarshish" corresponded to the "East-Indiamen" which some of us remember. The breaking of "ships of Tarshish by the East Wind" Psalm 48:7 is, on account of their size and general safety, instanced as a special token of the interposition of God.
And went down to Joppa - Joppa, now Jaffa (Haifa), was the one well-known port of Israel on the Mediterranean. There the cedars were brought from Lebanon for both the first and second temple 2 Chronicles 3:16; Ezra 2:7. Simon the Maccabee (1 Macc. 14:5) "took it again for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea." It was subsequently destroyed by the Romans, as a pirate-haven. (Josephus, B. J. iii. 9. 3, and Strabo xvi. 2. 28.) At a later time, all describe it as an unsafe haven. Perhaps the shore changed, since the rings, to which Andromeda was tabled to have been fastened, and which probably were once used to moor vessels, were high above the sea. Perhaps, like the Channel Islands, the navigation was safe to those who knew the coast, unsafe to others. To this port Jonah "went down" from his native country, the mountain district of Zabulon. Perhaps it was not at this time in the hands of Israel. At least, the sailors were pagan. He "went down," as the man who fell among the thieves, is said to "have gone down from Jerusalem to Jericho." Luke 10:30. He "went down" from the place which God honored by His presence and protection.
And he paid the fare thereof - Jonah describes circumstantially, how he took every step to his end. He went down, found a strongly built ship going where he wished, paid his fare, embarked. He seemed now to have done all. He had severed himself from the country where his office lay. He had no further step to take. Winds and waves would do the rest. He had but to be still. He went, only to be brought back again.
"Sin brings our soul into much senselessness. For as those overtaken by heaviness of head and drunkenness, are borne on simply and at random, and, be there pit or precipice or whatever else below them, they fall into it unawares; so too, they who fall into sin, intoxicated by their desire of the object, know not what they do, see nothing before them, present or future. Tell me, Fleest thou the Lord? Wait then a little, and thou shalt learn from the event, that thou canst not escape the hands of His servant, the sea. For as soon as he embarked, it too roused its waves and raised them up on high; and as a faithful servant, finding her fellow-slave stealing some of his master's property, ceases not from giving endless trouble to those who take him in, until she recover him, so too the sea, finding and recognizing her fellow-servant, harasses the sailors unceasingly, raging, roaring, not dragging them to a tribunal but threatening to sink the vessel with all its unless they restore to her, her fellow-servant."
"The sinner "arises," because, will he, nill he, toil he must. If he shrinks from the way of God, because it is hard, he may not yet be idle. There is the way of ambition, of covetousness, of pleasure, to be trodden, which certainly are far harder. 'We wearied ourselves (Wisdom 5:7),' say the wicked, 'in the way of wickedness and destruction, yea, we have gone through deserts where there lay no way; but the way of the Lord we have not known.' Jonah would not arise, to go to Nineveh at God's command; yet he must needs arise, to flee to Tarshish from before the presence of God. What good can he have who fleeth the Good? what light, who willingly forsaketh the Light? "He goes down to Joppa." Wherever thou turnest, if thou depart from the will of God, thou goest down. Whatever glory, riches, power, honors, thou gainest, thou risest not a whit; the more thou advancest, while turned from God, the deeper and deeper thou goest down. Yet all these things are not had, without paying the price. At a price and with toil, he obtains what he desires; he receives nothing gratis, but, at great price purchases to himself storms, griefs, peril. There arises a great tempest in the sea, when various contradictory passions arise in the heart of the sinner, which take from him all tranquility and joy. There is a tempest in the sea, when God sends strong and dangerous disease, whereby the frame is in peril of being broken. There is a tempest in the sea, when, thro' rivals or competitors for the same pleasures, or the injured, or the civil magistrate, his guilt is discovered, he is laden with infamy and odium, punished, withheld from his wonted pleasures. Psalm 107:23-27. "They who go down to the sea of this world, and do business in mighty waters - their soul melteth away because of trouble; they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man, and all their wisdom is swallowed up."
on Jonah 1 :3
1:3 From the presence - From the place where God usually had shewed himself present, by revealing his word and will to his prophets. Perhaps he might think God would not put him upon this work, when he was got into a strange country.