Jonah 1:11 Bible Commentary

John Calvin’s Bible Commentary

Chapter 1, Verse(s) 1-2345678-10 | 11-12 | 13-1415-1617 |

The sailors asked counsel of Jonah; and hence it appears that they were touched with so much fear as not to dare to do any thing to him. We hence see how much they had improved almost in an instant, since they spared an Israelite, because they acknowledged that among that people the true God was worshipped, the supreme King of heaven and earth: for, without a doubt, it was this fear that restrained them from throwing Jonah immediately into the sea. For since it was certain that through his fault God was displeased with them all, why was it that they did not save themselves by such an expiation? That they then delayed in so great a danger, and dared not to lay hold instantly on Jonah, was an evident proof that they were restrained, as I have said, by the fear of God.

They therefore inquire what was to be done, What shall we do to thee, that the sea may be still to us? 1 for the sea was going, etc. By going Jonah means, that the sea was turbulent: for the sea is said to rest when it is calm, but when it is turbulent, then it is going, and has various movements and tossings. The sea, then, was going and very tempestuous. 2 We hence see that God was not satisfied with the disgrace of Jonah, but he purposed to punish his offense still more. It was necessary that Jonah should be led to the punishment which he deserved, though afterwards, he was miraculously delivered from death, as we shall see in its proper place.

Jonah then answers, Take me, and throw me into the sea, and it will be still to you. It may be asked whether Jonah ought to have of his own accord offered himself to die; for it seemed to be an evidence of desperation. He might, indeed, have surrendered himself to their will; but here he did, as it were, stimulate them, "Throw me into the sea" he says; "for ye cannot otherwise pacify God than by punishing me." He seemed like a man in despair, when he would thus advance to death of his own accord. But Jonah no doubt knew that he was doomed to punishment by God. It is uncertain whether he then entertained a hope of deliverance, that is, whether he confidently relied at this time on the grace of God. But, however it may have been, we may yet conclude, that he gave himself up to death, because he knew and was fully persuaded that he was in a manner summoned by the evident voice of God. And thus there is no doubt but that he patiently submitted to the judgment which the Lord had allotted to him. Take me, then, and throw me into the sea.

Then he adds, The sea will be to you still. Here Jonah not only declares that God would be pacified by his death, because the lot had fallen upon him, but he also acknowledges that his death would suffice as an expiation, so that the tempest would subside: and then the reason follows -- I know, he says, that on my account is this great tempest come upon you. When he says that he knew this, he could not refer to the lot, for that knowledge was common to them all. But Jonah speaks here by the prophetic spirit: and he no doubt confirms what I have before referred to, -- that the God of Israel was the supreme and only King of heaven and earth. This certainty of knowledge, then, of which Jonah speaks, must be referred to his own consciences and to the teaching of that religion in which he had been instructed.

And now we may learn from these words a most useful instruction: Jonah does not here expostulate with God, nor contumeliously complain that God punished him too severely, but he willingly bears his charged guilt and his punishment, as he did before when he said, "I am the worshipper of the true God." How could he confess the true God, whose great displeasure he was then experiencing? But Jonah, we see, was so subdued, that he failed not to ascribe to God his just honor; though death was before his eyes, though God's wrath was burning, we yet see, that he gave to God, as we have said, the honor due to him. So the same thing is repeated in this place, Behold, he says, I know that on my account has this great tempest happened. He who takes to himself all the blame, does not certainly murmur against God. It is then a true confession of repentance, when we acknowledge God, and willingly testify before men that he is just, though, according to the judgment of our flesh, he may deal violently with us. When however we give to him the praise due to his justice, we then really show our penitence; for unless God's wrath brings us down to this humble state of mind, we shall be always full of bitterness; and, however silent we may be for a time, our heart will be still perverse and rebellious. This humility, then, always follows repentance, -- the sinner prostrates himself before God, and willingly admits his own sin, and tries not to escape by subterfuges.

And it was no wonder that Jonah thus humbled himself; for we see that the sailors did the same: when they said that lots were to be cast, they added at the same time, "Come ye and let us cast lots, that we may know why this evil has happened to us." They did not accuse God, but constituted him the Judge; and thus they acknowledged that he inflicted a just punishment. And yet every one thought himself to have been innocent; for however conscience might have bitten them, still no one considered himself to have been guilty of so great a wickedness as to subject him to God's vengeance. Though, then, the sailors thought themselves exempt from any great sin, they yet did not contend with God, but allowed him to be their Judge. Since then they, who were so barbarous, confined themselves within these bounds of modesty, it was no wonder that Jonah, especially when he was roused and began to feel his guilt, and was also powerfully restrained by God's hand, -- it was no wonder that he now confessed that he was guilty before God, and that he justly suffered a punishment so heavy and severe. We ought then to take special notice of this, -- that he knew that on his account the storm happened or that the sea was so tempestuous against them all. The rest we defer until tomorrow.

Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God that as thou urgest us daily to repentance and each of us is also stung with the consciousness of his own sins, -- 0 grant, that we may not grow stupid in our vices, nor deceive ourselves with empty flatteries, but that each of us may, on the contrary carefully examine his own life and then with one mouth and heart confess that we are all guilty not only of light offenses, but of such as deserve eternal death, and that no other relief remains for us but thine infinite mercy and that we may so seek to become partakers of that grace which has been once offered to us by thy Son, and is daily offered to us by his Gospel, that, relying on him as our Mediator, we may not cease to entertain hope even in the midst of thousand deaths, until we be gathered into that blessed life, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only Son. Amen.


1 Literally, "that the sea may cease from upon us." The waves were rolling over them; hence wnylem, from upon us. That the sea may be calm around us, is to give a meaning to the word which it never has. -- Ed.

2 remw Klwh Myh yk, "o[ti h qalassa eporeueto kai exhgeire mallon kludwna -- for the sea went and more raised the swell." -- Sept. "Quia mare ibat et intumescebat; -- for the sea did go and swell." -- Jerome, Grotius, and the Vulgate. "For the sea grew more and more tempestuous." -- Newcome. The verb Klwh, connected as here with another verb, does not always mean increase, but continuance. See Genesis 8:3; Esther 9:4. Literally it is, "For the sea was going on, and was tempestuous" that is, it continued to be tempestuous. An increase of violence seemed not to have been hardly possible, for a shipwreck was previously dreaded. Jerome, in a strain rather imaginary, but striking, says, "For the sea went and did swell, -- it went, as it had been commanded, -- it went, to manifest the vengeance of its Lord, -- it went, to prosecute a runaway Prophet; and it swelled at every moment, and rose, as it were, in larger billows, while the mariners were delaying, to show that they could not put off the vengeance of its Creator." -- Ed.


Chapter 1, Verse(s) 1-2345678-10 | 11-12 | 13-1415-1617 |
  • John Calvin’s Bible Commentary