Jonah 2:4 Bible Commentary

John Calvin’s Bible Commentary

Chapter 2, Verse(s) 1-23 | 4 | 5-678-910 |

In the first clause of this verse Jonah confirms again what I have said, -- that when he sought to pray, not only the door was closed against him, but there were mountains, as it were, intervening, so that he could not breathe a prayer to God: for he did not so much think of the state in which he was; nay, but he chiefly considered his own case, how he had provoked the wrath of God. Hence he says, I have said, I am cast away from the sight of thine eyes. Some give this frigid exposition, that he had been only expelled from his own country, that he might not behold the temple. But I have no doubt but that Jonah tells us here that he suffered extreme agonies, as though every hope of pardon had been cut off from him: "What! shall I yet hope that God will be propitious? It is not to be hoped." This then is the casting away of which he speaks: for it is said that God casts us away, when he allows us no access to him. Hence Jonah thought that he was wholly alienated from God. Were any to object and say, that then his faith must have been extinct; the obvious answer is, -- that in the struggle of faith there are internal conflicts; one thought is suggested, and then another of an opposite character meets it; there would indeed be no trial of our faith, except there were such internal conflicts; for when, with appeased minds, we can feel assured that God is propitious to us, what is the trial of faith? But when the flesh tells us that God is opposed to us, and that there is no more hope of pardon, faith at length sets up its shield, and repels this onset of temptation, and entertains hope of pardon: whenever God for a time appears implacable, then faith indeed is tried. Such then was the condition of Jonah; for, according to the judgment of the flesh, he thought that he was utterly cast away by God, so that he came to him in vain. Jonah, then, having not yet put off flesh and blood, could not immediately lay hold on the grace of God, but difficulties met him in his course.

The latter clause is differently explained by interpreters. Some take it negatively, "I shall no more look towards the temple of thy holiness:" but the words admit not of this explanation. Ka, ak, means in Hebrew, truly, nevertheless; and it means also, certainly; and sometimes it is taken dubitatively, perhaps. The greater part of expounders render the clause thus, "But I shall see the temple of thy holiness;" as though Jonah here reproved his own distrust, which he had just expressed, as the case is with the faithful, who immediately check themselves, when they are tempted to entertain any doubt: "What! dost thou then cast away hope, when yet God will be reconciled to thee if thou wilt come to him?" Hence interpreters think that it is a sort of correction, as though Jonah here changed his mind, and retracted what he had previously taken up, as a false principle derived from the judgment of the flesh. He had said then that he had been cast away from the presence of the Lord; but now, according to these expositors, he repels that temptation, But I shall see thy holy temple; though I seem now to be rejected by thee, thou wilt at last receive me into favor. We may, however, explain this clause, consistently with the former, in this way, At least, or, but, I would again see, etc., as an expression of a wish. The future then may be taken for the optative mood, as we know that the Hebrews are wont thus to use the future tense, either when they pray or express a wish. This meaning then best agrees with the passage, that Jonah as yet doubtingly prays, At least, or, but, I would again, O Lord, see the temple of thy holiness. But since the former explanation which I have mentioned is probable, I do not contend for this. However this may be, we find that Jonah did not wholly despair, though the judgment of the flesh would drive him to despair; for he immediately turned his address to God. For they who murmur against God, on the contrary, speak in the third person, turning themselves, as it were, away from him: but Jonah here sets God before his eyes, I have been cast away, he says, from the sight of thine eyes. He does not remonstrate here with God, but shows that he was seeking God still, though he thought that he was cast far away.

Then he adds, I would at least see again the temple of thy holiness. And by speaking of the temple, he no doubt set the temple before him as an encouragement to his faith. As then he had been cast away, he gathers everything that might avail to raise up and confirm his hope. He had indeed been circumcised, he had been a worshipper of God from his childhood, he had been educated in the Law, he had exercised himself in offering sacrifices: under the name of temple he now includes briefly all these things. We hence see that he thus encouraged himself to entertain good hope in his extreme necessity. And this is a useful admonition; for when every access to God seems closed up against us, nothing is more useful than to recall to mind, that he has adopted us from our very infancy, that he has also testified his favor by many tokens, especially that he has called us by his Gospel into a fellowship with his only-begotten Son, who is life and salvation; and then, that he has confirmed his favor both by Baptism and the Supper. When, therefore, these things come to our minds, we may be able by faith to break through all impediments. Let us go on --

Chapter 2, Verse(s) 1-23 | 4 | 5-678-910 |
  • John Calvin’s Bible Commentary