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Verse 3

Jonah 1:3. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish It is not to be wondered at that Jonah should be averse to undertake this mission. He probably considered it as a dangerous one, and might be tempted to think it would be unprofitable, and answer no valuable end. The journey was long, and the perils and hardships of it, he supposed, would be great. The inhabitants of the city were idolaters, and knew nothing of Jehovah, in whose name the warning was to be given, and the destruction denounced. The city was proud as well as idolatrous, and would look down with contempt on an Israelite, coming from a distant country, hardly known to many of them, or at least despised by them. And he had every reason to suppose that the delivery of such an unpleasant message would draw upon him the resentment both of the rulers and multitude. Indeed, “when we reflect how such a message would be received in the streets of London at this day, we shall not wonder that he was extremely reluctant to undertake the service. Strong faith and a habit of unreserved obedience were necessary to overcome the reluctance that he must have felt: and perhaps he was a young man, and not as yet inured to perilous employments.” Scott. And, besides this, Jonah himself assigns another reason, Jonah 4:2, namely, that he knew God’s mercifulness to be great, and that it was probable God would be moved to forbear executing the judgments denounced; and so he would have the shame of being accounted a false prophet. This and other parts of his conduct, however, deserve censure. But, as Bishop Newcome observes, “men endued with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and made the instruments of declaring God’s will to mankind, have occasionally been subject to great human infirmities, and have even contracted great guilt.” Of Tarshish, see note on Isaiah 2:16. From the presence of the Lord That is, to be at a distance from the land of Israel, the immediate residence of God, as Grotius and Locke interpret the expression. Houbigant however reads, through fear of the Lord; and what he feared is shown Jonah 4:2. Perhaps Jonah hoped, if he were at a greater distance, God would send some other prophet to preach repentance to the Ninevites. And went down to Joppa A well-known haven on the Mediterranean. And he found a ship going to Tarshish Bound for, and ready to sail to the place he designed. Thus Providence seemed to favour his design, and to give him an opportunity to escape. Observe, reader, we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with apparently favourable providences. So he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it He lost no time, for he was in haste to get at a distance from the presence of the Lord. Here we see what the best of men are when God leaves them to themselves, and what need we have, when the word of the Lord comes to us, to have the Spirit of the Lord to come along with the word, to bring every thought within us into obedience to it. Let us learn from hence to cease from man, and not to be too confident either respecting ourselves or others in time of trial, but let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.

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