Archive for the ‘Jonah’ Category

Commentary on the Book of Jonah – Haimo of Auxerre

September 4, 2015

I’m grateful to translator Deborah Everhart (and in general the consortium for the teaching of the Middle Ages) for providing a very readable translation from the original Latin of Haimo of Auxerre’s Commentary on Jonah. Haimo died around A.D. 875. So this is not an “early church” commentary, but it is part of Western church history.

Haimo provides a very fluid set of interpretations of the text – proceeding from the literal to various non-literal interpretations (trological, analogical, spiritual, etc.). Haimo treats Jonah as a type of Christ in a way that would fit extremely well in today’s Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic.

The commentary is quite short, naturally, in view of the short length of the book being discussed. Still, it is a nice addition to any collection of commentaries on the minor prophets.

Here a few quotations that I found interesting, without any suggestion that these are representative of the work as a whole (footnotes omitted):

And the mariners were afraid, and the men cried to their god, and they cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them (Jonah 1:5). The mariners, not knowing the one and true God, invoked gods, knowing that nothing is done without the providence of God. From this we understand that He is feared and perceived by all men, although they may be seduced by false religions from the one and true God to many gods.

(p. 11 – at Jonah 1:5)

The above quotation fits quite nicely with a presuppositional viewpoint. Haimo is saying that people not only know that God exists, but that He is in control of everything that happens.

Moreover, they sacrificed victims, not animals, which, according to the literal level, they would not have had on the waves, but spiritual victims, that is, thanksgiving and praise. The Psalmist says, “Offer to God the sacrifice of praise” (Psalm 49:14), and the prophet says, “Take away all iniquity and receive the good, and we will render the calves of our lips” (Hosea 14:3).

(p. 17 – at Jonah 1:16)

The importance of recognizing spiritual sacrifice as distinct from animal sacrifice becomes important in understanding a variety of these minor prophet allusions to sacrifice.

All thy billows, and thy waves have passed over me” (Jonah 2:4). The billows and waves are the temptations and the beatings, which never happen without the permission and will of God.

(pp. 20-21 – at John 2:4)

Once again, note Haimo’s seemingly high view of divine sovereignty.

I went down to the lowest parts of the mountains: the bars of the earth have shut me up for ever” (Jonah 2:7) … The soul of the Redeemer descended to the abyss, not so that He might be held there, but so that He might snatch away his own men. These bars of the earth, as it were the door bars of the final prison and punishment, wish always to hold these souls once they have accepted them. The Lord is shut up by these bars; but, just as it was predicted in Isaiah, He broke the brass gates and burst the iron bars (Isaiah 45:2).

(pp. 22-23 – at Jonah 2:7)

While Haimo does not seem to make the direct connection, this explanation fits very well with a proper understanding of “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

But I with the voice of praise will sacrifice to you: I will pay whatsoever I have vowed for my salvation to the Lord” (Jonah 2:10). The prophet is animated with good hope, and now secure about his liberation, he promises that he will sacrifice thanksgiving and that he will fulfill all vows.

(p. 25 – at Jonah 2:10)

Once again, Haimo recognizes the category of spiritual sacrifice.

And the older generation begins, the younger follows, because no one is without sin, not even the infant whose life upon the earth is but one day.

(p. 29 – at Jonah 3:5)

Haimo’s acknowledgement of the universal sinfulness of men, infants included, is not tempered with any caveat about certain particularly righteous people.

But in the Church, just as in a great house, there are vessels, and some are for honor and some are for insult; some are carnal and some are spiritual …

(p. 38 – at John 4:11)

I found this seeming application of Romans 9 to the church itself an interesting observation. It seems as though Haimo is acknowledging the mixed nature of the New Testament assembly.


Deedat and Jonah

December 15, 2011

I just listened to two Ahmed Deedat debates (contra McDowell and contra Douglas), both of which featured a very similar pair of arguments regarding the sign of Jonah.  Each debate features both arguments, with largely the same flourishes – though there were some differences.

The first argument is presented with a great deal of showmanship and buildup, but it boils down to this: Jesus said he would be like Jonah, Jonah was alive in the belly of the whale, therefore Jesus could not be dead in the tomb.  The flaw of the argument is fairly obvious: Jesus did not say that the similarity was that he would be alive for three days, but that he would be buried for three days.

Matthew 12:39-42 
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

As you can see from reading the argument itself, the point is not that Jesus would be alive, but that he would be buried.  This argument is about as weak as they come.

The second argument is that Jesus was not in the tomb for three full days and nights, but only only two full nights (Friday and Saturday) and one full day (Saturday).  This argument is slightly stronger.  Yet it is still problematic.

This argument is premised on understanding Jesus to be using the expression “three days and three nights” to mean “three full days and three full nights.”  However, that is simply the same term taken from Jonah 1:17, and there is no indication there that the term means precisely 72 hours.  Indeed, there is no particular indication from the context of Jonah 1:17 as to what time of day Jonah was cast into the sea.  We might surmise it was evening because he had gone to sleep, but the text does not tell us.

What else could the term mean?  Well, it could mean “three consecutive days.”  The places where we find this idiom is in the context of the rain of the flood (40 consecutive days Genesis 7:4 and 12), Moses’ fast during the time of the reception of the law and intercession for the people (Exodus 24:18 and 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 18, and 10:10), the fast of the captured slave (1 Samuel 30:12); Elijah’s fast on the way to Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); Job’s seven days of silence with his friends (Job 2:13); and Jesus forty day fast (Matthew 4:2).  In each of these cases, the point of the idiom is the fact of an unbroken succession of days.

Thus, the forty day fast of Jesus (and Moses and Elijah) was not the like fast of the Muslims, who break their fasts in the evening.  Instead, it was unbroken.  The rain that flooded the whole world was not a month and a third of Seattle-like weather, it was 40 days of constant rain.

We even see a similar usage in the singular:

Esther 4:16  Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. 

Psalm 1:2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Isaiah 34:10  It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. 

Revelation 14:11  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Many other passages have the same usage.  See Leviticus 8:35, Deuteronomy 28:66, Joshua 1:8, 1 Kings 8:29 and 59, 1 Chronicles 9:33, 2 Chronicles 6:20, Nehemiah 1:6 and 4:9, Psalm 32:4, 42:3, 55:10, and 88:1, Ecclesiastes 8:16, Isaiah 27:3, 60:11, and 62:6, Jeremiah 9:1, 14:17, and 16:13, Lamentations 2:18, Mark 4:27 and 5:5, Luke 2:37 and 18:7, Acts 9:24, 20:31, and 26:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:9  and 3:10, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 1 Timothy 5:5, 2 Timothy 1:3, Revelation 4:8, 7:15, 12:10, and 20:10.

The point is not 24 hour periods, but rather unbroken continuity.  Deedat has misinterpreted “three days and three nights” to mean 72 hours, when rather it means three successive days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

There is more to the rebuttal to Deedat, though.  Part of the sign of Jonas is that Jesus is greater than Jonah.  In fact, in the Luke account, the days in the tomb are not even mentioned.  How was Jonah a sign to the Ninevites?  He was like a man who had come back from the dead, having been spit out by the great fish that swallowed him.

Christ however, is much greater than Jonah, in that he really did come back from the dead.  Likewise, while Solomon was the wisest man, Jesus is greater than Solomon for Jesus is God.

Luke 11:29-32
And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

If only Deedat had read the Scriptures with eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.  But he did not.  Dear readers, do not follow his bad example of misunderstanding of the Sacred text.  Instead, properly understand the Scriptures and learn from them about the sign given to that adulterous generation and handed down to our adulterous day.


P.S. It was interesting to see that Dr. Douglas used some arguments around 1 hour, 42 minutes into the debate regarding the use of skeptics by Muslims – it reminded me of the arguments my friend Dr. White (who pointed me to the McDowell debate) uses.

Hugh Martin on the Duty of the Civil Magistrate

December 13, 2009

A beloved family member recently brought to my attention the following passage from Hugh Martin’s (1822-85) Commentary on Jonah, Chapter 19, on Jonah 3:6-8, 10, pp. 277-81 (1995 Banner of Truth reprinting, but I think the pagination is unchanged from the first edition). The passage is relevant to the issue of whether or not the government should call for days of prayer and fasting. Martin is presenting this from a British standpoint, but the same reasoning should apply to any nation.

There are many such instances in Scripture history of great national fasts called by royal decree, and observed by general consent. In our own land, and in our own day, there have been not a few instances of a practice so laudable and impressive — a whole nation at the monarch’s call humbling itself before God, confessing provocations, and deprecating His wrath.

Some, indeed, would object to national recognitions of religion, and such royal calls and injunctions to observe its duties. Civil magistracy, they tell us, is a civil, temporal, earthly institution, having under its regulation the affairs of time and the world, and having nothing to do with religion; — and the civil magistrate, or chief ruler, they would accordingly prevent from in any way intromitting with religious matters — matters belonging, not to time, but eternity, not to this world, but the world to come.

There are a number of grievous errors wrapt up here in one. It seems to imply that the affairs of this world may and ought to be carried on apart from the affairs and obligations of religious truth and duty; — thus shutting up religion to a territory of its own, beyond which it must not be suffered to trespass. But apart from this; how can religious obligation lie upon the separate individuals of a nation, and yet the nation as a nation be exempt from it? It is certain that nations as a whole may please or provoke God; just as a family may do; just as an individual may do. God deals with a community as a whole, just as He deals with a household as a whole. And as when God is angry with a family, He deals with them in His wrath for their family provocations, so He deals with communities and kingdoms. If a family, therefore, ought to be religious; — in the sense that not only are its individuals to be religious, but unitedly, and as in their mutual relations, they are to observe the duties of family religion; — it ought to be the same in a kingdom. The father of a family is not only to be a pious man himself, but he is to see that in the united worship of his household, and in religious principles being brought to bear on all its movements, there be a household piety — a family recognition of God. For true religion is not a thing to be kept secret between a man’s own conscience and God. No doubt the springs of it are deep seated in the inmost soul; and the Christian life is a hidden life. But for that very reason, — by reason of the inmost secrecy, and therefore irrepressible power of its principles, — it will assert and vindicate its influence in all circumstances, and over all the relations in which men stand towards one another. It will, therefore, guide those in whom it dwells, not merely in their own private relation to God, and in their worship and more immediate duty towards Him, but in the whole influence they can exert of their fellow-creatures, — in all their relations, whether as superiors, inferiors, or equals. But especially as superiors, — where authority belongs to them, — where they have it in their power to “command their households after them,” — they will arrange that in all the ongoings of these households God shall be recognised, and His authority and will obeyed. They will say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
It is this element, however, of command, of authority, against the introduction of which in religious observances a few reclaim. I would advise with my household, or any irreligious and wayward member of it; I would advise; I would exhort; I would instruct and entreat: but I can go no farther. I can’t make them religious, and I won’t command or compel them. But all this sophistry is utterly laughed to scorn by the simple perusal of the fourth commandment: — “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;” — by the which terms thou art held of God guilty of Sabbath desecration all the same, whether it be “thou, or thy son, or thy daughter, or thy manservant, or thy maidservant, or thy stranger that is within thy gates.” Thou wilt not be held guitless on the plea that thou didst instruct, didst entreat, didst plead. Didst thou command? Didst thou bring out, for securing obedience to God, all the authority with which thou art endowed as head of thy household, and which thou dost not scruple, if need be, to bring forth for securing obedience to thine own will? To “the stranger that is within thy gates,” thou are bound, — when advice, entreaty, exhortation fail, — to give forth thy command; backed by the penalty that, if it be not obeyed, he can be “within thy gates” no longer. With “thy manservant, and thy maidservant,” thou art to deal, if need be, in like manner also. Yea, “thy son and thy daughter” are not to abide “within thy gates” and despise the commandments of God. Thou art to command them; and, failing obedience, then thou art to disown them, to cast them off, and cast them out. Eli, alas! acted on the principle that a parent may advise in religious things, but may not imperatively command and threaten. And his house and his name were blotted out for ever!

Have you any influence, any power, any authority over children and dependants which you may use in your own service and work, but which you would refrain from bringing forth on the side of God? What were this, but selfishly to surround the accomplishment of your own will with securities, which you refuse to adopt to secure observance in your household to God’s will? And can it be that in such a case you really honour God? Nay: it is not whole-hearted, sincere, thorough-going, and true honouring of God where your government of your household does not call into exercise, when needful, on the side of God, every influence which you can rightly use on your own side. If there be a principle of authority — an element of command — vested anywhere in a family at all, religion lays it under contribution to the cause of the Most High — under call to uphold and promote the observance of His will.

And the same principle holds in a nation. So far forth as a monarch’s authority goes, it goes all the length of entitling him to enjoin a fast and a solemn assembly — a public, universal, national recognition of God — the God who is dealing with the nation as a whole, and summoning the nation as a whole to acknowledge him. Nature itself teaches this truth. It rises up to view in its own native reasonableness in the hour of solemn thoughtfulness, the hour of sad national calamity. All sophistical objections about the impossibility of making men religious by Act of Parliament then disappear. The truth comes obviously to light, and commends itself to reason and conscience. Well was it for Ninevah that its king was not embued with certain modern notions about magistrates and kings having nothing to do with religion. The city’s doom had been sealed by them!

The World’s Worst Evangelist

November 18, 2009

He enters the city, spends the first day just getting himself deeper into the city, and then preaches his message: Yet forty days, and the city shall be overthrown. He doesn’t have any particular care for the people of the city, and you can see it on his face. He’s just going through the motions. Yes, he’s warning the city of judgment, but he actually hopes they won’t notice him.

But some do. Some laugh at him. “Everything is fine,” they tell him. “We’re a huge city, and no one and nothing could destroy us.”

The preacher just laughs back. “Go ahead and believe that. I don’t care.”

“You stink,” someone yells out. The preacher just ignores it and continues with his warning of judgment.

“Why do you stink so bad,” they continue asking him. Finally, the preacher explains.

“It was a sailing accident,” he tells them.

“A sailing accident? That can’t be it, you’re not just wet, you’re covered in sulferous slime.”

“I was swallowed by a great fish. It’s really nothing. This city is going to be destroyed in –“

“Wait, you were swallowed by a great fish and survived?”

“Yes, but you’re missing the important point. In forty days, this place will be smoldering ruins.”

“How did that happen? Tell us!”

“Fine, I was told by God to come here and warn you about this destruction. I didn’t want to do so, so I tried to sail off in another direction. God sent a storm and finally the sailors had to throw me off the boat to satisfy God’s wrath, so the storm would stop. I got swallowed by the fish and brought by the fish to the shores of this city. Now I’m here preaching the message that God wanted me to preach in the first place, which is that you’re going to be destroyed in forty days.”

“But why didn’t you want to come here and tell us? Why did you run away from your God’s command?”

“Because I hate you guys. I want God to destroy you – and he will, in forty days.”

“Why not just tell us this straight away?”

“Oh – no special reason.”

“Come on, tell us. Why did you try to run away from giving us this message of destruction? We can see that you’re happy God is going to destroy us.”

The preacher just stands silently for a bit and then continues: “Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be overthrown.”

“Oh please tell us,” the people beg him, “Why didn’t you want to warn us?”

“Because I know God. He is a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents of the evil that he would do to those who deserve judgment when he sees repentance from sin.”

Finally, the people who had only recently mocked this preacher, began to see what needed to be done. They sent to the king of the city and the king proclaimed repentance, fasting, and mourning for their sin in order to avert the judgment of God.

Jonah, our preacher, was not pleased by this result. He left the city and went to the east, setting up a small booth for himself to watch to see what would happen to the city. Perhaps God would destroy it as He did Sodom with fire from heaven.

But no judgment came. Jonah had been right about God: God was merciful to those who repent. Jonah was then even more unhappy and wished for death.

This is what I would call the world’s worst evangelist. He had no desire for the good of those to whom he preached. He wanted them to be destroyed, and he only preached to them because God forced him to do so, at fish-point.

He was a cold-hearted man. He was more unhappy about a leafy gourd dying than he would have been about 120,000 children (“sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand”) dying, not to mention the enormous amount of cattle in the city that would have perished as well.

But God used him powerfully. He brought a massive city – a city so big that it was a three days’ journey across the city – to repentance and saved them from immanent judgment. It just goes to show what a great God our Lord is. He can use the world’s worst evangelist to bring a wicked, pagan city to repentance.

Perhaps God is also calling you to preach the gospel to the lost. If so, do so knowing that God can use you. He can use you despite the worst failings you have – so don’t be afraid to answer his call and preach.

%d bloggers like this: