Jonah 1:4 Bible Commentary

John Calvin’s Bible Commentary

Chapter 1, Verse(s) 1-23 | 4 | 5678-1011-1213-1415-1617 |

Jonah declares here how he had been, as it were, by force brought back by the Lord, when he tried to flee away from his presence. He then says that a tempest arose in the sea; but he at the same time tells us, that this tempest did not arise by chance, as ungodly men are wont to say, who ascribe everything that happens to fortune. God, he says, sent a strong wind on the sea. Some give this renderings God raised up, deriving the verb from ljn, nuthel; but others derive it more correctly from lwj, tul 1, and we shall presently meet with the same word in the fifth verse. Now as to what took place, he says that there was so great a tempest, that the ship was not far from being broken. When he says, 'The ship thought to be broken 2 the expression corresponds with the idiom of our language, la navire cuidoit perir. But some take the ship for the passengers or the sailors; but this is strained; and we know that our common language agrees in many of its phrases with the Hebrew.

Jonah then meant, that a tempest arose, not by chance, but by the certain purpose of God, so that being overtaken on the sea, he acknowledged that he had been deceived when he thought that he could flee away from God's presence by passing over the sea. Though indeed the Prophet speaks here only of one tempest, we may yet hence generally gather, that no storms, nor any changes in the air, which produce rain or stir up tempests on the sea, happen by chance, but that heaven and earth are so regulated by a Divine power, that nothing takes place without being foreseen and decreed. But if any one objects, and says that it does not harmonize with reason, that, for the fault of one man, so many suffered shipwreck, or were tossed here and there by the storm: the ready answer to this is, -- that though God had a regard only, in a special manner, to the case of Jonah, yet there were hidden reasons why he night justly involve others in the same danger. It is probable that many were then sailing; it was not one ship only that was on that sea, since there were so many harbors and so many islands. But though the Lord may involve many men in the same punishment, when he especially intends to pursue only one man, yet there is never wanting a reason why he might not call before his tribunal any one of us, even such as appear the most innocent. And the Lord works wonderfully, while ruling over men. It would be therefore preposterous to measure his operations by our wisdom; for God can so punish one man, as to humble some at the same time, and to chastise others for their various sins, and also to try their patience. Thus then is the mouth of ungodly men stopped, that they may not clamor against God, when he so executes his judgments as not to comport with the judgment of our flesh. But this point I shall presently discuss more at large: there are indeed everywhere in Scripture, instances in which God inflicted punishment on a whole people, when yet one man only had sinned. But when some murmur and plead that they are innocent, there is ever to be found a reason why God cannot be viewed as dealing cruelly with them; nay, were he pleased, he might justly treat them with much greater severity: in a word, though God may appear to deal severely with men, he yet really spares them, and treats them with indulgence. Let us now proceed --


1 This is no doubt its root. It is used when Saul is said to cast a javelin at David, 1 Samuel 18:11, and when the Lord threatens to cast out the people from his land, Jeremiah 16:13. It implies force and power. Coverdale's rendering, as quoted by Henderson, strikingly conveys its meaning, "But the Lord hurled a great wynde into the sea." -- Ed.

2 This perhaps can hardly be said to be a Hebrew idiom. Marckius, and also Henderson, think it to be a metonymy, the ship is mentioned, instead of the mariners: there is in Luke 8:23 an opposite metonymy, the sailors are taken for the ship. Newcome renders the sentence, "and it was thought that the ship would be broken in pieces." If the metonymy be admitted, the rendering would be, "and the mariners thought that they should be shipwrecked." -- Ed.


Chapter 1, Verse(s) 1-23 | 4 | 5678-1011-1213-1415-1617 |
  • John Calvin’s Bible Commentary