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Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by John Gill, [1746-63], at

Jonah Introduction


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This book, in the Hebrew copies, is called "Sepher Jonah", the Book of Jonah; by the Vulgate Latin version "the Prophecy of Jonah": and in the Syriac version "the Prophecy of the Prophet Jonah". His name signifies a dove, derived from a root which signifies to oppress; because it is a creature liable to oppression, and to become the prey of others. Hillerus (a) derives the word from a root which signifies to be "fair" and "beautiful", as this creature is This name is very suitable to a prophet and minister of the Lord, who ought to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; and who mourn over their own sins, and the sins of others. Jonah did not always in, his conduct answer to his name, particularly when he was so angry at the Lord's sparing the Ninevites, and so impatient for the loss of his gourd. His father's name was Amittai, as in Jon 1:1 and in Kg2 14:25; from whence it also appears that he was of Gathhepher, a town in the tribe of Zebulun, Jos 19:13; and was a part of Galilee, Isa 9:1; and so R. Jochanan, in Abendana, affirms, that he was of the tribe of Zebulun, and of Gathhepher, which was in that tribe; which confutes that notion of the Pharisees in the times of Christ, that no prophet came out of Galilee, Joh 7:52. The Jews (b) have a tradition that his mother was the widow of Sarepta, whose son Elijah raised from the dead, which was this prophet; and who is said to be the son of Amittai, that is, "truth": because his mother thereby knew and believed that the word of the Lord in the mouth of Elijah was truth, Kg1 17:23; but his being a Hebrew contradicts him, Jon 1:9; for Sarepta was a city of Sidon, and he must have been a Sidonian if born of her, and not a Hebrew: but, be this as it will, it is certain he was a prophet of the Lord; and this book, which bears his name, and very probably was written by him, its divine authority is confirmed by the testimony Christ, of whom Jonah was a type; see Mat 12:39; and indeed the principal design of this book is to set forth in himself the type of the death and resurrection of Christ, by his being three days in the whale's belly, and then delivered from it; and to declare the grace and mercy of God to repenting sinners, and to signify the calling of the Gentiles after the death and resurrection of Christ; and is a very profitable book to instruct us about the power and goodness of God; the nature of repentance, and the effects of it; the imperfection and infirmities of the best of men in this life; and the call and mission of the ministers of the word, and the necessity of their conformity and attendance to it. Cyprian the martyr was converted from idolatry by hearing this prophecy read and explained by Caecilius. If this prophet was the son of the widow of Sarepta, or the person Elisha sent to anoint Jehu, according to the tradition of the Jews (c), he was born in the times of Ahab, and lived in the reigns of Joram and Jehu; and, according to Bishop Lloyd (d), he prophesied in the latter end, of Jehu's reign; where Mr. Whiston (e) also places him, about 860 B.C.; or in the beginning of the reign of Jehoahaz, when Israel was greatly oppressed by Hazael king of Syria, Kg2 13:22; at which time he might prophesy of the victories and success of Jeroboam the second, and grandson of Jehoahaz, Kg2 14:25; and, if so, he is more ancient than Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Joel, and Micah, whose contemporary he is generally thought to be Pseudo-Epiphanius (f), as he gives a wrong account of the place of the birth of this prophet, so of the place of his burial; which he makes to be in the land of Saar, and in the cave of Kenan, the father of Caleb and Othniel; but it is more likely that he died and was buried at Geth, where he was born; and where Jerom (g) says his grave was, shown in his time, about two miles from Zippore, in the way to Tiberias; with which account Isidore (h) agrees; and so Benjamin Tudelensis (i) says, his sepulchre was on a hill near Zippore. Monsieur Thevenot (k) says, not far from Nazareth the tomb of Jonah is now to be seen, to which the Turks bear a great respect.

(a) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 429. (b) Hieron. Proem. i Jon. (c) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 18. p. 45, (d) Chronological Tables. (e) Chron. Tables, cent, 7. (f) De Prophet. Vit. c. 16. (g) Ut supra. (h) De Vita & Morte Sanct. c. 45. (i) Itinerar. p. 52. (k) Travels, par 1. B. 2. c. 55. p. 213.

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