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Jonah: Chapter 1

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1Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, 2“Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” 3But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

4But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, mean‐while, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”

7The sailors a Cn: Heb lacks those who ate said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8Then they said to him, “Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9“I am a Hebrew,” he replied. “I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them so.

11Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. 12He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” 13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. 14Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, O LORD, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man's life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” 15So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the LORD even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

17 b Heb But do not gloat (and similarly through verse 14) But the LORD provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.


b Cn: Heb lacks those who ate

c Heb But do not gloat (and similarly through verse 14)

Text Commentary view alone

1.1–16 : Jonah's first call to preach to Nineveh

(the capital of the Assyrians who destroyed Samaria in 722 BCE), although unheeded, results in the conversion of non‐Israelite sailors. The story is told in concise folktale style.

1–3 :

Jonah rebels against the divine commission and attempts to flee from God.

1 :

The word of the LORD, the book begins like other prophetic books. Central to biblical prophecy is the belief that the prophet's inspiration and authority are not self‐generated, but come from God, whose will is disclosed through the prophet (Ezek 2.3–5; 3.10–11; Am 3.7; Zech 1.6 ), whose personal agent the prophet is (Ex 4.15–16; Isa 6.8 ), and whom alone the prophet must obey (1 Kings 13; Am 7.14–17 ). Jonah means “dove.”

2 :

Gen 10.11 reports that Noah's great‐grandson, Nimrod, built Nineveh. For other divine judgments against the wickedness of Nineveh, see Nah 3; Zeph 2.13 . The narrative echoes also the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18.16–19.25 ).

3 :

Prophets of judgment risk persecution and death. The port of Joppa was outside Israelite territory. Nineveh lay to the east, so Jonah heads for Tarshish (Isa 66.19; Ezek 27.12,25 ), probably the city of Tarsus on the southern coast of Turkey or Tartessus in southern Spain.

1.4–16 :

God stirs up a storm at sea to halt Jonah's flight (see Ps 48.7 ).

4 :

Wind, especially the east wind ( 4.8 ) was a favorite weapon of the LORD (Ex 14.21; 15.10; Isa 27.8; Hos 13.15 ). The LORD controls the sea (Ps 65.7; 74.13; 107.23–32; Job 26.12; Isa 51.10; Hab 3.15 ).

5 :

The cargo in the sea serves also as a sacrifice to the mariners' gods.

6 :

The focus shifts from the mariners' ineffective gods to the God of Jonah.

7 :

The LORD communicates by means of lots, a form of divination (Lev 16.8–10; 1 Sam 14.41 ).

9 :

The term Hebrew, used to differentiate Israelites from non‐Israelites (Gen 40.15; Ex 2.6–7 ), heightens the ironic contrast between Jonah and the conscientious foreign sailors who will soon acknowledge the LORD.

13 :

Ezek 27.5–9 provides a likely description of the ship. The narrative betrays ignorance of seafaring; in storms ships must avoid land at all costs.

16 :

Feared … sacrificed … made vows, multiple verbs highlight the non‐Israelite sailors' new devotion to the LORD.

1.17–2.10 : Jonah is miraculously saved

and returned to dry land where he started. The fish, like the tempest, the east wind, the plant, and the worm, is an obedient agent of God's purpose.

1.17 :

The hero swallowed by a fish is well‐attested in folktales (Tob 6.3 ). The text uses the common Heb word for fish; belly is a general term for internal organs. Early Christian tradition compared Jesus' resurrection after three days in the tomb to Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish (Mt 12.38–41 ).

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