3) Flight (1:3)
1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish
from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going
to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with
them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The instruction to Jonah was: “Rise up, go
to Nineveh and cry against it”. But the prophet, resenting this
commission, “rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the
Lord”. Giving Jonah the benefit of the doubt, so to speak, one would like
to interpret these words as meaning that he went out from the presence of God in
the temple. But twice more the words are repeated (1: 10; 4: 2), in such a
context as to mean that he thought he could evade this unwelcome responsibility
by getting away from his God, and that he could achieve this by going as far as
possible from God’s Land.
So he determined to go to Tarshish. Which
Tarshish? Josephus says this was Tarsus. But in this he was surely mistaken, for
if Jonah believed that the judgment of the Lord might reach to Nineveh, it could
certainly reach him in Cilicia. The Indian Tarshish must also be ruled out, for
ships sailing thither used Ezion-geber (1 Kgs. 22: 48) as their port of
departure. And the alternative route round Africa was out of question. So it
seems more likely that either Tartessus in Southern Spain or the Tarshish in
Britain (Ezek. 27: 12) was the intended destination.
But why did Jonah not go to Tyre or Zidon, the
two great sea-ports of that era and country? Both were nearer to Zebulun than
Joppa was. The explanation must be that Jonah “went down” from the
temple at Jerusalem, where the Lord appeared unto him, to the nearest
And, by God’s providence, no doubt, he
immediately found a passage in a ship just about to set sail for Tarshish. The
immediacy of this may surely be inferred from his fatigue; for having paid his
fare, he forthwith went below and fell asleep and snored (so the LXX version of
v.5 has it)!
That expression: “went down” was not
inappropriate, for the road from Jerusalem drops more than two thousand feet to
the coast; but also there is about this phrase a special implication of
spiritual declension. When Abraham “went down” into Egypt (Gen. 12:
10), it was one of the worst decisions of his life; and, by and by, he was glad
to recognize this and to “go up” back to the Land of Promise, unto
“the place” (tabernacle) where he had been at the beginning. Jonah,
in a day or two, you will have the like experience!
That detail, that Jonah “paid his
fare” is a reminder that the prophet was a man of some substance, for such
a considerable journey would assuredly cost him more than ten
Very soon the voyage was fraught with difficulty
and hardship. “The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea”. The
language implies that an angel was sent expressly to produce this tempest (LXX:
clydon; cp. Acts 27: 14), “so that the ship was like to be
broken” (LXX has s.w. as in Lk. 8: 23).
But, down below, Jonah slept on. He had no bad
conscience to keep him awake. So, convinced that his judgement was better than
the Almighty’s, he slept. And the message of Heaven’s euroclydon was
lost on him — for the present.