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Lord, was gone down into the hold, where he fell fast asleep; but this sound sleep rather arose from his trouble and affliction than from any satisfaction, or assurance he had of safety in the midst of such imminent danger, into which he had not only plunged himself, but likewise all those who were with him in the vessel.
The master of the ship, not thinking it proper that Jonah should lie and sleep while all the crew and passengers were either laboring to save the vessel, or praying to their idols, awoke him, bidding him rise and call upon his God that they might be saved from perishing. This, however, proving of none effect, and the master finding that the violence of the storm eluded and frustrated all their endeavors, and that the fierceness of it still increased more and more, suspected that this unusual tempest was occasioned by the extraordinary crimes of some person on board the vessel, and therefore proposed that all who were in it should cast lots, in order to know who was the author and occasion of their danger.
This proposition being universally approved of, was im. mediately carried into execution, when the lot fell upon Jonah. In consequence of this the mariners asked him who he was, and what he had done, to stir up the anger of heaven against them and himself. Jonah frankly acknowl. edged that he was a Jew, who worshipped the God of heaven; and not only a Jew, but a prophet likewise, who had been ordered to go to Nineveh, but, having disobeyed his orders, was now endeavoring to flee from the Divine presence: that, since he found it was impossible to do that, and every person's life, on his account, was in such immi. nent danger, he wished them to throw him overboard, as that only could be the means of abating the storm, and thereby securing their safety.
The mariners, being not a little surprized at this free and unconcerned confession of Jonah, by which he doomed himself to death, conceived more pity for him than he seemed to have for himself, and therefore endeavored to save his life by rowing hard in bopes of reaching land. But finding that all their endeavors were in vain, and that the waves ran still bigher against them, they at length threw him overboard, expressing their reluctance in so doing, and acquitting themselves of having committed any
cruelty, in these words: We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood : for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.
No sooner was the prophet Jonah thrown into the sea than the tempest abated, and a calm immediately ensued, which struck such an impression on the mariners, that they vowed to offer up sacrifices to the Lord as soon as they should reach the shore.
In the mean time the Lord had prepared a great fish* to swallow up Jonah, who being in the belly thereof, and calling to mind his own disobedience, and the great mercy of God towards him, sang praises unto the Lord from that living grave; where, after he had continued three days and three nights, the fish, at God's command, vomit. ted him out on the dry land.
Thus we see, that life came forth victorious and triumphant from the very entrails of death, to be a lively representation of that stupendous and incffable victory which Our Blessed Redeemer was to obtain afterwards over death and hell; when, after Jonah had freely, offered himself to be cast into the sea for the preservation of the mariners and passengers on board the ship, and after he had been three days and nights in the body of the fish, he arose from thence full of life by a glorious resurrection.
After God had so mercifully preserved Jonah in, and delivered him from, the great fish, he commanded him a second time to go to Nineveh, there to preach to the people, and declare the commission he had before given him. Jonah, instead of thinking, as he had done before, how to avoid executing the Divine command, readily set about the business. The city of Nineveh was (as the Scripture informs us) three days journey in length, so that when Jonah arrived at the place, he travelled one day in
* It has been a generally received opinion that this fish was a whale, but that such an opinion is erroneous will appear from the following observations: First, we never hear of whales being found in the Mediterranean Sea; and secondly, the throats of the largest whales are not wide enough to swallow a man. It was a large fish, of which there are many in those seas, but the particular species cannot be pointed out.
it, declaring to the people, as he passed along, that in forty days the whole city should be destroyed.
The Ninevites, terrified at this denunciation, and believing the word of God by his prophet, with an humble faith proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least, to the end that their sorrow and repentance might be as general as had been their corruption and sins; and that as no age, sex or quality had been free from contributing to the guilt, so none might be exempted from such penance as was likely to atone for their transgressions. The king himself no sooner heard of the destruction that threatened him and his subjects, than he quitted his throne, threw off his royal robes and ornaments, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes. He likewise issued out an edict, which he caused to be proclaimed throughout the city, that neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, should, for a time, eat or drink any thing; and that all his subjects should cry mightily to God, and every one turn from their evil ways; “ for, said he, who can tell but God will take pity on us, and turn away his fierce anger that we perish not.”
Thus did the inhabitants of a great and powerful city humble and abase themselves before God, even from the king upon the throne, to the poorest and most contemptible subject. As, therefore, they had thus with sincerity of heart acknowledged their transgressions, and changed their evil ways, God was pleased to lay aside the sentence he had denounced against them by the mouth of his prophet, and to suffer them still to live, that they might acknowledge his goodness, and, by their future conduct, avoid a repetition of the like dreadful denunciation.
The conduct of the Ninevites, on this occasion, is a great and illustrious example of sincere and hearty repentance; and therefore we ought often to set it before our eyes, that, as we have been, and still are, followers of them in sin and wickedness, so we may endeavor to imitate and express their repentance. And the rather, because our Saviour assures us, that this example of the Ninevites shall confound and condemn all those who, living under the preaching of the gospel, do still continue in impenitence and unbelief; because the menaces he bas pronounced in the gospel aguinsi impenitent sinners ought, without comparison, to be more dreadful and terrible to us, than those of Jonah were to the inhabitants of Nineveh.
When Jonah found that God had repealed the sentence denounced against the Ninevites, he was greatly displeased, fearing lest he should be accounted a false prophet, because the judgment threatened was not executed according to his prediction. Though, indeed, properly speaking, he was very far from being a false prophet: in declaring that Nineveh should be destroyed in forty days, he declared nothing but the very truth; for (as St. Austin excellently observes) though that city still subsisted as to its buildings and walls, yet it was most happily destroyed by the repentance and conversion of its inhabitants; for wicked, licentious, riotous and haughty Nineveh was destroyed and overthrown, and an humble, penitent, and self-denying city now supplied its place.
Such was the weakness of Jonah (notwithstanding his being divinely inspired) that he suffered his fears on being accounted a false prophet to make so deep an impression on him, and had, on the occasion, so far given himself up to grief and discontent, that he beseeched of God to take away his life. O Lord, said he, take, I beseech thee, my life from me: for it is better for me to die than to live. But the Almighty was pleased to bear with this sinful weakness of his prophet Jonah, and instead of granting his request, only chastised him in this short question: Doest thou well to be angry?
This mild check, however, did not make Jonah properly reflect on his unseemly carriage to his Divine Protector. He was still in hopes that his prophecy would be fulfilled, and therefore, leaving the city, he made himself a booth on the east side of it, where he resided in order to see what would become of the place he wished to be assign. ed to destruction. Soon after he had placed himself in this temporary habitation, the Almighty was pleased to cause a gourd* to spring up in one night, which, by the next
• The Hebrew word Kikajon is, by the Septuagint, Arabic, and Syriac versions, translated gourd, but most of the ancient Greek translators, following St. Jerom in this particular, chuse rather to render it ivy. St. Jerom, however, acknowledges that the word ivy does not altogetber answer the signification of the Hebrew word Kikajon, though he thinks it much better in this place than a gourd, morning, so covered this little hermitage, as to make it a most cool and agreeable retreat.
Jonah was exceeding glad of this unexpected, though seasonable, refreshment; but, alas, it proved very short, for God had prepared a worm, which, eating into the root of the gourd, it soon withered, and left Jonah exposed to the violent heat of the sun. To add to this there arose a strong and hot easterly wind, which made Jonah so faint, and increased his discontented humor to such a degree, that he a second time earnestly besought of God that he might die.
Notwithstanding Jonah's great impatience, and his strong solicitation for death, the Almighty was pleased still to preserve him, and instead of complying with his second request of dying, asked him this question: Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? To which Jonah replied, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
Though Jonah returned this short and peevish answer to God, yet, instead of expressing his displeasure, he was pleased to expostulate with him on his misconduct in words to this effect: “ Consider (said he) Jonah what thou “ doest; thy own behavior condemns thee. Thou hast “ had pity on the gourd, for the which thou didst not “labor, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night “ and perished in a night. And wouldest thou desire that “ I should have no concern or pity for that great city Nin
eveh, wherein are more than six score thousand persons " that cannot discern between their right hand and their 66 left?"
What a beneficent and tender mode of arguing was this ! and what a wretched picture have we in Jonah of the frailty of human nature ! Jonah, though one of the chosen servants of God, would, with pleasure, have beheld a whole nation destroyed, rather than it should have been said, in aftertimes, that he had spoken a falsehood. Let us, therefore,
which, growing close to the earth, could not have shaded Jonah from the heat of the sun. According to him the Kikajon is a shrub, which grows in the sandy places of Palestine, and increases so fast, that, in a fews days, it rises to a considerable height. It is supported by its trunk without being upheld by any thing else; and by the thickness of its leaves, which resemble those of a vine, affords, iu hot weather, a very agreeable shade. VOL. ii.