Though Jonah apparently understood and appreciated God’s wrath against Assyria, he was not nearly so compassionate as God was. Motivated by patriotic duty that clouded religious obligation, and knowing God’s forgiving mercy (cf. Jon_4:2), Jonah shirked his responsibility. It is strange that a prophet of God would not follow God’s command to preach condemnation. Instead of traveling northeast he fled by sea in the opposite direction. He boarded a ship at Joppa (modern Jaffa), on Israel’s coast about 35 miles from Samaria and about the same distance from Jerusalem. The ship was bound for Tarshish, probably Tartessus in southern Spain, about 2,500 miles west of Joppa. Since Tarshish was a Phoenician colony, the ship’s sailors may have been Phoenicians. Phoenicians were known for their seagoing vessels and skill on the seas.
Excerpt from the Bible Knowledge Commentary
Let’s take a look at the first two verses preceeding verse 3:
If we cross reference to the book of Nahum we can begin to gain some insight about the condition of the great city of Ninevah.
Ninevah was guilty of:
- Nahum 1:9-evil plots against God
- Nahum 2:12-exploitation of the helpless
- Nahum 2:12-13-cruelty
- Nahum 3:4-idolatry, prostitution and witchcraft
Jonah hated the Ninevites, and he did not want them saved. There was a basis for his hatred. Assyria was one of the most brutal nations of the ancient world. They were feared and dreaded by all the peoples of that day. They used very cruel methods of torture and could extract information from their captives very easily. One of the procedures was to take a man out onto the sands of the desert and bury him up to his neck—nothing but his head would stick out. Then they would put a thong through his tongue and leave him there to die as the hot, penetrating sun would beat down upon his head. It is said that a man would go mad before he died. That was one of the “nice little things” the Assyrians hatched up.
Excerpt from J. Vernon McGee
It is not difficult to understand why it would be undesireable for an outsider to travel to Ninevah. Their manner of living was quite different than what could be considered decent or even normal. There was a lot of prejudice and hatred of the Ninevites by the people of the nation of Israel.
Nineveh was a powerful and wicked city. Jonah had grown up hating the Assyrians and fearing their atrocities. His hatred was so strong that he didn’t want them to receive God’s mercy. Jonah was actually afraid the people would repent (Jon_4:2-3). Jonah’s attitude is representative of Israel’s reluctance to share God’s love and mercy with others, even though this was their God-given mission (Gen_12:3). They, like Jonah, did not want non-Jews (Gentiles) to obtain God’s favor.
Excerpt from The Life Application Study Bible
God is speaking purpose to the nation of Israel:
Gen 12:3 ….And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Let’s look at again at our key verse today:
Jon 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
This verse opens with Jonah rising up to flee. Here are a couple of cross reference verses:
Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
There is a price to be considered (not specifically meaning a dollar amount as some may think) but a cost as a true born again Christian. It says that if you look back you become unfit for the kingdom of God. Here is some good advice:
Friend, the cost of discipleship is high. It demands all we have to give. The apostle Paul wrote, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Php_3:13-14).
Excerpt from J. Vernon McGee
1Co 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
I really like what J. Vernon McGee says about this verse, as this is how I feel as well:
I understand Paul’s feeling. To be frank with you, necessity is laid on me also. I dare not stop giving out the Word of God. Of course, I would not lose my salvation if I stopped, but I continue because I feel an inner compulsion, and also I love to teach and preach the gospel. J.Vernon McGee
The apostle Paul was driven by strong desire to do the will of God. We honor God when we use the giftings He has given to us for His glory.
Next in verse 3 it says that Jonah went to Tarshish to escape the presence of the Lord. This is nothing new in the history of mankind. Adam and Eve did this long before Jonah.
Gen 3:8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
In this Psalm David asks about where he can hide from the presence of the Lord:
Psa 139:7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
God is omnipresent—he is present everywhere. Because this is so, you can never escape from his Spirit. This is good news to those who know and love God, because no matter what we do or where we go, we can never be far from God’s comforting presence (see Rom_8:35-39). The Life Application Study BIble
Jonah went down to Joppa, a port city to board a ship and get as far away from Ninevah as possible-all in total disobedience to the Lord. I found a couple of interesting factoids about the city of Joppa elsewhere in Scripture:
2Ch 2:16 “We will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you on rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may carry it up to Jerusalem.”
Act 10:32 ‘Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’
We’ll conclude today with this excerpt from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. In our next Daily Maintenance we will be talking about the sailors upon the ship bound for Tarshish.
It is sad to think how much sin is committed in great cities. Their wickedness, as that of Nineveh, is a bold and open affront to God. Jonah must go at once to Nineveh, and there, on the spot, cry against the wickedness of it. Jonah would not go. Probably there are few among us who would not have tried to decline such a mission. Providence seemed to give him an opportunity to escape; we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with a favourable gale. The ready way is not always the right way. 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 bring every thought within us into obedience. Excerpt from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
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Your Brother in Christ, Pastor & Grandpa Frosty
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