Calvin, Commentary on Jonah, Part 8
(... continue from part 7) 

Lecture Seventy-ninth. 
    We stated yesterday how God remitted to the Ninevites the 
punishment which he had threatened by the mouth of Jonah, and that 
the remission both of the punishment and of the guilt was 
gratuitous. For whenever God sets forth pardon to sinners, the 
condition of repentance is at the same time added: it does not yet 
follow that repentance is the procuring cause of obtaining pardon; 
for God offers it freely, nor is he otherwise induced than by his 
own mere bounty. But as he would not have men to abuse his 
indulgence and forbearance, he lays down this condition, - that they 
must repent of their former life and change for the better. So then 
he regards the works of those who testify that they hate sin, and 
who, with a sincere and real desire, flee to His mercy; and no man 
from the heart desires God to be propitious to him, but he who 
loathes himself on account of his sin. This is the reason why Isaiah 
also says, that God would be merciful to the remnants of his people, 
even because every one would turn away from his iniquity. God does 
not certainly mean by these words that repentance, as already 
stated, is the cause of our salvation; but he requires a change for 
the better, for no one will really seek grace, except he loathes 
himself on account of his sins. 
    Now as to what Jonah adds, that God was led to repent, it is a 
mode of speaking that ought to be sufficiently known to us. Strictly 
speaking, no repentance can belong to God: and it ought not to be 
ascribed to his secret and hidden counsel. God then is in himself 
ever the same, and consistent with himself; but he is said to 
repent, when a regard is had to the comprehension of men: for as we 
conceive God to be angry, whenever he summons us to his tribunal, 
and shows to us our sins; so also we conceive him to be placable, 
when he offers the hope of pardon. But it is according to our 
perceptions that there is any change, when God forgets his wrath, as 
though he had put on a new character. As then we cannot otherwise be 
terrified, that we may be humbled before God and repent, except he 
sets forth before us his wrath, the Scripture accommodates itself to 
the grossness of our understanding. But, on the other hand, we 
cannot confidently call on God, unless we feel assured that he is 
placable. We hence see that some kind of change appears to us, 
whenever God either threatens or gives hope of pardon and 
reconciliation: and to this must be referred this mode of speaking 
which Jonah adopts, when he says that God repented. 
    We hence see that there is a twofold view of God, - as he sets 
himself forth in his word, - and as he is as to his hidden counsel. 
With regard to his secret counsel, I have already said that God is 
always like himself, and is subject to none of our feelings: but 
with regard to the teaching of his word, it is accommodated to our 
capacities. God is now angry with us, and then, as though he were 
pacified, he offers pardon, and is propitious to us. Such is the 
repentance of God. 
    Let us then remember that it proceeds from his word, that God 
is said to repent; for the Ninevites could form no other opinion but 
that it was God's decree that they were to be destroyed, - how so? 
because he had so testified by his word. But when they rose up to an 
assurance of deliverance, they then found that a change had taken 
place, that is, according to the knowledge of their own faith: and 
the feelings both of fear and of joy proceeded from the word: for 
when God denounced his wrath, it was necessary for the wretched men 
to be terrified; but when he invited them to a state of safety by 
proposing reconciliation to them, he then put on a new character; 
and thus they ascribed a new feeling to God. This is the meaning. 
Let us now proceed - 
Chapter 4. 
Jonah 4:1 
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 
    Jerome commends this grief of Jonah, and compares it to the 
holy zeal of Paul when he wished himself to be an anathema for his 
brethren, (Rom. 9: 3:) for he denies that he grieved because God had 
showed mercy to so illustrious a city; but because the conversion of 
the Gentiles was a certain presage of the destruction of the chosen 
people. As then Jonah perceived as in a mirror the near ruin of 
Israel, he on this account grieved, if we believe Jerome: but this 
notion is extremely frivolous; for, immediately after, God reproved 
Jonah. What then will the foolish and puerile apology of Jerome 
avail the Prophet, since God has declared that he acted perversely 
in grieving? Nay, the dullness of Jerome is thus become evident; 
(thus indeed do I speak of a man, who, though learned and laborious, 
has yet deprived himself of that praise, which otherwise he might 
have justly earned.) His wayward disposition everywhere betrayed 
itself; and he is evidently disproved in this very context, where 
Jonah shows clearly that the cause of his grief was another, even 
this, - that he was unwilling to be deemed a false or a lying 
prophet: hence was his great grief and his bitterness. And this we 
see, had God not expressed his mind, was unjust and inconsistent 
with every reason. 
    We may then conclude that Jonah was influenced by false zeal 
when he could not with resignation bear that the city of Nineveh 
should have been delivered from destruction: and he also himself 
amplifies the greatness of his sin. He might have said, in one word, 
that it displeased Jonah; but not satisfied with this simple form, 
he adds, that he felt great displeasure or grief; and he afterwards 
adds, that he was very angry. Though the beginning may not have been 
wrong, yet excess was sinful. But he confesses that there was 
excess, and want of moderation in his grief: since then he accuses 
himself in plain words what good is it, by false and invented 
pretenses, to cover what we clearly see cannot be excused? But that 
it may be more evident why the deliverance of the city of Nineveh 
displeased Jonah, let us go on with the context - 
Jonah 4:2 
And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, [was] 
not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled 
before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou [art] a gracious God, and 
merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee 
of the evil. 
    It seems by no means befitting that Jonah should have said here 
that he prayed; for prayer ought to be calm; but he confesses that 
his mind was in a state of excitement. As then anger was burning 
within the Prophet, how could he come before God and utter a 
suitable prayer? And further, what is the end of praying, but to 
confess that whatever good is to be obtained resides in God, and is 
to be sought humbly from him? But Jonah here, on the contrary, 
expostulates and clamors against God; for he seems in a manner to be 
contending that he had a just reason for his flight, and also that 
God ought not to have pardoned the Ninevites. He then accuses God, 
that he might free himself from every blame. But all this is foreign 
and remote from what is required in prayer. How then must we 
understand this passage, in which he says that he prayed? My answer 
is - that the faithful often in a disturbed state of mind approach 
God with a desire to pray, and that their prayers are not wholly 
rejected, though they are not altogether approved and accepted. And 
hence also it appears more evident how the works of the godly are 
regarded by God, though they are sprinkled with many stains. 
Whenever the Papists read that any work has pleased God, they 
imagine that all was perfection and cleanness: but there is no work 
which is not infected with some pollution, unless it be purified by 
a free pardon. This I say is evident to us in this prayer, which was 
not so rejected by God, as though it retained not the character of 
prayer: and yet it is certain that Jonah was by no means rightly 
influenced when he prayed so clamorously, finding fault, as it were, 
with God, and retaining still some portion of his own obstinacy; for 
he boasted of his flight. But this flight, as we have stated, was a 
proof of manifest rebellion, since, by shaking off the yoke, he 
despised the call of God. 
    We must therefore acknowledge that there was some piety in this 
prayer of Jonah, as well as many faults. It was an act of piety that 
he addressed his complaints to God. For though hypocrites may pray 
to God, they yet are wholly averse to him, and freely give vent to 
their bitterness against God: but Jonah, while he here complains, 
and observes no moderation, but is carried away by a blind and 
perverse impulse, is yet prepared to submit to God, as we shall 
hereafter see. This is the reason why he says that he prayed: for he 
would not have been ashamed to confess any grievous sin of which he 
might have been conscious. He did not then extenuate his fault by 
using the word prayer as hypocrites are wont to do, who ever set up 
some pretenses or veils when they seek to cover their own baseness: 
such was not the object of Jonah. When therefore he says that he 
prayed, he declares generally that he did not so speak against God, 
but that he still retained some seed of piety and obedience in his 
heart. Jonah then prayed. Hence it follows, as I have before stated, 
that many of the prayers of the saints are sinful, which, when tried 
by the right rule, deserve to be rejected. But the Lord, according 
to his own mercy, pardons their defects so that these confused and 
turbulent prayers yet retain their title and honor. 
    Now he says, "I pray thee, Jehovah is not this what I said?" 
Here Jonah openly declares why he bore so ill the deliverance of 
Nineveh from destruction, because he was thus found to have been 
false and lying. But it may seem strange that the Prophet had more 
regard for his own reputation than for the glory of God; for in this 
especially shines forth the glory of God, that he is reconcilable as 
soon as men return to the right way, and that he offers himself to 
them as a father. Ought then Jonah to have preferred his own honor 
to the glory of God? I answer, - that the Prophet was not so devoted 
to himself, but that a concern for the glory of God held the first 
place in his soul; this is certain. For he connected, and justly so, 
his own ministry with the glory of God; as it proceeded from his 
authority. When Jonah entered Nineveh, he cried not as a private 
man, but avowed that he was sent by God. Now if the preaching of 
Jonah is found to be false, reproach will recoil on the author of 
his call, even on God. Jonah then no doubt could not bear that the 
name of God should be exposed to the reproaches of the Gentiles, as 
though he had spoken dissemblingly, now opening hell, then heaven: 
and there is nothing so contrary to the glory of God as such a 
dissimulation. We hence see why Jonah was seized with so much grief; 
he did not regard himself; but as he saw that an occasion would be 
given to ungodly blasphemers, if God changed his purpose, or if he 
did not appear consistent with his word, he felt much grieved. 
    But however specious this reason may be, we yet learn of how 
much avail are good intentions with God. Whatever good intention can 
be imagined, it was certainly a good intention in Jonah, worthy of 
some praise, that he preferred dying a hundred times rather than to 
hear these reproachful blasphemies - that the word of God was a mere 
sport, that his threatening were no better than fables, that God 
made this and that pretence, and transformed himself into various 
characters. This was certainly the very best intention, if it be 
estimated by our judgment. But we shall presently see that it was 
condemned by the mouth of God himself. Let us hence learn not to 
arrogate to ourselves judgment in matters which exceed our 
capacities, but to subject our minds to God, and to seek of him the 
spirit of wisdom. For whence was it that Jonah so fretted against 
God, except that he burned with a desire for his glory? But his zeal 
was inconsiderate, for he would be himself the judge and arbitrator, 
while, on the contrary, he ought to have subjected himself 
altogether to God. And the same rule ought to be observed also by 
us. When we see many things happening through a Divine 
interposition, that is, through the secret providence of God, and 
things which expose his name to the blasphemies of the ungodly, we 
ought indeed to feel grief; but in the meantime let us ask of the 
Lord to turn at length these shameful reproaches to his own glory; 
and let us by no means raise an uproar, as many do, who immediately 
begin to contend with God, when things are otherwise ordered than 
what they wish or think to be useful. Let us learn by the example of 
Jonah not to measure God's judgments by our own wisdom, but to wait 
until he turns darkness into light. And at the same time let us 
learn to obey his commands, to follow his call without any 
disputing: though heaven and earth oppose us, though many things 
occur which may tend to avert us from the right course, let us yet 
continue in this resolution, - that nothing is better for us than to 
obey God, and to go on in the way which he points out to us. 
    But by saying that he "hastened to go to Tarshish", he does not 
altogether excuse his flight; but he now more clearly explains, that 
he did not shun trouble or labour, that he did not run away from a 
contest or danger, but that he only avoided his call, because he 
felt a concern for the glory of God. The import, then, of Jonah's 
words is, - that he makes God here, as it were, his witness and 
judge, that he did not withdraw himself from obedience to God 
through fear of danger, or through idleness, or through a rebellious 
spirit, or through any other evil motive, but only because he was 
unwilling that his holy name should be profaned, and would not of 
his own accord be the minister of that preaching, which would be the 
occasion of opening the mouth of ungodly and profane men, and of 
making them to laugh at God himself. "Since then I cannot hope," he 
says, "for any other issue to my preaching than to make the Gentiles 
to deride God, yea, and to revile his holy name, as though he were 
false and deceitful, I chose rather to flee to Tarshish." Then Jonah 
does not here altogether clear himself; for otherwise that 
chastisement, by which he ought to have been thoroughly subdued, 
must have failed in its effect. He had been lately restored from the 
deep, and shall we say that he now so extols himself against God, 
that he wishes to appear wholly free from every blame? This 
certainly would be very strange: but, as I have said, he declares to 
God, that he fled at the beginning for no other reason, but because 
he did not expect any good fruit from his preaching, but, on the 
contrary, feared what now seemed to take place, - that God's name 
would be ridiculed. 
    For he immediately adds, "For I know that thou art a God full 
of grace, and merciful, slow to wrath", &c. It is a wonder that 
Jonah withdrew from his lawful call; for he knew that God was 
merciful, and there is no stronger stimulant than this to stir us 
on, when God is pleased to use our labour: and we know that no one 
can with alacrity render service to God except he be allured by his 
paternal kindness. Hence no one will be a willing Prophet or 
Teacher, except he is persuaded that God is merciful. Jonah then 
seems here to reason very absurdly when he says, that he withdrew 
himself from his office, because he knew that God was merciful. But 
how did he know this? By the law of God; for the passage is taken 
from Exod. 33, where is described that remarkable and memorable 
vision, in which God offered to Moses a view of himself: and there 
was then exhibited to the holy Prophet, as it were, a living 
representation of God, and there is no passage in the law which 
expresses God's nature more to the life; for God was then pleased to 
make himself known in a familiar way to his servant. 
    As then Jonah had been instructed in the doctrine of the law, 
how could he discharge the office of a Prophet among his own people? 
And why did not this knowledge discourage his mind, when he was 
called to the office of a Teacher? It is then certain that this 
ought to be confined to the sort of preaching, such as we have 
before explained. Jonah would not have shrunk from God's command, 
had he been sent to the Ninevites to teach what he had been ordered 
to do among the chosen people. Had then a message been committed to 
Jonah, to set forth a gracious and merciful God to the Ninevites, he 
would not have hesitated a moment to offer his service. But as this 
express threatening, "Nineveh shall be destroyed," was given him in 
charge, he became confounded, and sought at length to flee away 
rather than to execute such a command. Why so? Because he thus 
reasoned with himself, "I am to denounce a near ruin on the 
Ninevites; why does God command me to do this, except to invite 
these wretched men to repentance? Now if they repent, will not God 
be instantly ready to forgive them? He would otherwise deny his own 
nature: God cannot be unlike himself, he cannot put off that 
disposition of which he has once testified to Moses. Since God, 
then, is reconcilable, if the Ninevites will return to the right way 
and flee to him, he will instantly embrace them: thus I shall be 
found to be false in my preaching." 
    We now then perceive how this passage of Jonah is to be 
understood, when he says that he fled beyond the sea, at least that 
he attempted to do so, because he knew that God was gracious; for he 
would not have deprived God of his service, had not this contrariety 
disturbed and discouraged his mind, "What! I shall go there as God's 
ambassador, in a short time I shall be discovered to be a liar: will 
not this reproach be cast on the name of God himself? It is 
therefore better for me to be silent, than that God, the founder of 
my call, should be ridiculed." We see that Jonah had a distinct 
regard to that sort of preaching which we have already referred to. 
And it hence appears that Jonah gave to the Ninevites more than he 
thought; for he supposed that he was sent by God, only that the 
Ninevites might know that they were to be destroyed: but he brought 
deliverance to them; and this indeed he partly suspected or knew 
before; for he retained this truth - that God cannot divest himself 
of his mercy, for he remains ever the same. But when he went forth 
to execute the duty enjoined on him he certainly had nothing to 
expect but the entire ruin of the city Nineveh. God in the meantime 
employed his ministry for a better end and purpose. There is indeed 
no doubt but that he exhorted the Ninevites to repentance; but his 
own heart was as it were closed up, so that he could not allow them 
the mercy of God. We hence see that Jonah was seized with 
perplexities, so that he could not offer deliverance to the 
Ninevites, and it was yet offered them by God through his 
    We now then understand how God often works by his servants; for 
he leads them as the blind by his own hand where they think not. 
Thus, when he stirs up any one of us, we are sometimes "oligopistoi" 
- very weak in faith; we think that our labour will be useless and 
without any fruit, or at least attended with small success. But the 
Lord will let us see what we could not have expected. Such was the 
case with Jonah; for when he came to Nineveh, he had no other object 
but to testify respecting the destruction of the city; but the Lord 
was pleased to make him the minister of salvation. God then honored 
with remarkable success the teaching of Jonah, while he was unworthy 
of so great an honor; for, as we have already said, he closed up in 
a manner every access to the blessing of God. We now then apprehend 
the meaning of this passage, in which Jonah says that he fled from 
the call of God, because he knew that God was ready to be gracious 
and merciful. 
    I come now to the great things which are said of God. "Chanun" 
properly means a disposition to show favor, as though it was said 
that God is gratuitously benevolent; we express the same in our 
language by the terms, benin, gratieux, debonnaire. God then assumes 
to himself this character; and then he says, merciful; and he adds 
this that we may know that he is always ready to receive us, if 
indeed we come to him as to the fountain of goodness and mercy. But 
the words which follow express more clearly his mercy, and show how 
God is merciful, - even because he is abundant in compassion and 
slow to wrath. God then is inclined to kindness; and though men on 
whom he looks are unworthy, he is yet merciful; and this he 
expresses by the word "rachum". 
    It is at the same time necessary to add these two sentences 
that he is abundant in compassion and slow to wrath, - why so? For 
we ever seek in ourselves some cause for God's favor; when we desire 
God to be kind to us, we inquire in ourselves why he ought to favor 
us: and when we find nothing, all the faith we before had respecting 
God's grace at once vanishes. The Lord therefore does here recall us 
to himself, and testifies that he is kind and merciful, inasmuch as 
he is abundant in compassion; as though he said, "I have in myself a 
sufficient reason, why I should be accessible to you, and why I 
should receive you and show you favor." Hence the goodness of God 
alone ought to be regarded by us, when we desire his mercy, and when 
we have need of pardon. It is as though he had said, that he is not 
influenced by any regard for our worthiness, and that it is not for 
merits that he is disposed to mercy when we have sinned, and that he 
receives us into favor; but that he does all this because his 
goodness is infinite and inexhaustible. And it is also added, that 
he is slow to wrath. This slowness to wrath proves that God provides 
for the salvation of mankind, even when he is provoked by their 
sins. Though miserable men provoke God daily against themselves, he 
yet continues to have a regard for their salvation. He is therefore 
slow to wrath, which means, that the Lord does not immediately 
execute such punishment as they deserve who thus provoke him. We now 
then see what is the import of these words. 
    Let us now return to this - that Jonah thrust himself from his 
office, because he knew that God was slow to wrath, and merciful, 
and full of grace: he even had recourse to this reasoning, "Either 
God will change his nature, or spare the Ninevites if they repent: 
and it may be that they will repent; and then my preaching will be 
found to be false; for God will not deny himself, but will afford an 
example of his goodness and mercy in forgiving this people." We may 
again remark, that we act perversely, when we follow without 
discrimination our own zeal: it is indeed a blind fervor which then 
hurries us on. Though then a thousand inconsistencies meet us when 
God commands any thing, our eyes ought to be closed to them, and we 
ought ever to follow the course of our calling; for he will so 
regulate all events, that all things shall redound to his glory. It 
is not for us in such a case to be over-wise; but the best way is, 
to leave in God's hand the issue of things. It becomes us indeed to 
fear and to feel concerned; but our anxiety ought, at the same time, 
to be in submission to God, so that it is enough for us to pray. 
This is the import of the whole. 
    Now as to what he says that God "repents of the evil", we have 
already explained this: it means, that though God has already raised 
his hand, he will yet withdraw it, as soon as he sees any repentance 
in men; for evil here is to be taken for punishment. The Lord then, 
though he might justly inflict extreme punishment on men, yet 
suspends his judgment, and when they come to him in true penitence 
he is instantly pacified. This is God's repentance; he is said to 
repent when he freely forgives whatever punishment or evil men have 
deserved whenever they loathe themselves. It now follows - 
Jonah 4:3 
Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for 
[it is] better for me to die than to live. 
    We here see how angry Jonah was in his zeal: for this prayer 
cannot certainly be ascribed to his faith, as some think, who say 
that Jonah took a flight as it were in his soul to heaven, when he 
made this prayer, as though he dreaded not death, but having been 
divested of all fear, being free and disengaged, he presented 
himself to God. I do not think that the mind of Jonah was so heroic. 
There is indeed no doubt, as I have already said, but that he still 
retained some seed of piety; and this, I said, is sufficiently 
proved by the word prayer; for if Jonah had burst out in the strain 
of one in despair, it would not have been a prayer. Since then he 
prayed by thus speaking, it follows that it was not the cry of 
despair, but of too much displeasure, which Jonah did not restrain. 
In short, this prayer proceeded from a pious and holy zeal; but 
Jonah sinned as to its measure or excess; for he had in a manner 
forgotten himself, when he preferred death to life. 
    "Thou Jehovah, he says, take me away". He was first not free 
from blame in hastily wishing to die; for it is not in our power to 
quit this world; but we ought with submissive minds to continue in 
it as long as God keeps us in the station in which we are placed. 
whosoever, then, hastens to death with so great an ardor no doubt 
offends God. Paul knew that death was desirable in his case, 
(Philip. 1: 22;) but when he understood that his labour would be 
useful to the Church, he was contented with his lot, and preferred 
the will of God to his own will; and thus he was prepared both to 
live and to die, as it seemed good to God. It was otherwise with 
Jonah, "Now," he says, "take away my life." This was one fault; but 
the other was, - that he wished to die, because God spared the 
Ninevites. Though he was touched with some grief, he ought not yet 
to have gone so far as this, or rather to rush on, so as to desire 
death on account of the weariness of his life. 
    But we hence learn to what extremes men are carried, when once 
they give loose reins to inconsiderate zeal. The holy Prophet Jonah, 
who had been lately tamed and subdued by so heavy a chastisements is 
now seized and carried away by a desire to die, - and why? because 
he thought that it was hard that he denounced destruction on the 
Ninevites, and that still their city remained safe. This example 
ought to check us, that we express not too boldly our opinion 
respecting the doings of God, but, on the contrary, hold our 
thoughts captive, lest any presumption of this kind be manifested by 
us; for there is none of us who does not condemn Jonah, as also he 
condemned himself; for he does not here narrate his own praise, but 
means to show how foolishly he had judged of God's work. Jonah then 
confesses his own folly; and therefore his experience is to us an 
evidence that there is nothing more preposterous than for us to 
settle this or that according to our own wisdom, since this is alone 
true wisdom, to submit ourselves wholly to the will of God. 
    Now if any one raises a question here, - whether it is lawful 
to desire death; the answer may be briefly this, - that death is not 
to be desired on account of the weariness of life; this is one 
thing: and by the weariness of life I understand that state of mind, 
when either poverty, or want, or disgrace, or any such thing, 
renders life hateful to us: but if any, through weariness on account 
of his sins and hatred to them, regrets his delay on earth, and can 
adopt the language of Paul, "Miserable am I, who will free me from 
the body of this death!" (Rom. 7: 24,) - he entertains a holy and 
pious wish, provided the submission, to which I have referred, be 
added so that this feeling may not break forth in opposition to the 
will of God; but that he who has such a desire may still suffer 
himself to be detained by his hand as long as he pleases. And 
further, when any one wishes to die, because he fears for himself as 
to the future, or dreads to undergo any evil, he also struggles 
against God; and such was the fault of Jonah; for he says that death 
was better to him than life, - and why? because the Lord had spared 
the Ninevites. We hence see how he was blinded, yea, carried away by 
a mad impulse to desire death. 
    Let us then learn so to love this life as to be prepared to lay 
it down whenever the Lord pleases: let us also learn to desire 
death, but so as to live to the Lord, and to proceed in the race set 
before use until he himself lead us to its end. Now follows the 
reproof of God - 
Jonah 4:4 
Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? 
    There is no doubt but that God by thus reproving Jonah condemns 
his intemperate warmth. But since God alone is a fit judge of man's 
conduct, there is no reason for us to boast that we are influenced 
by good intentions; for there is nothing more fallacious than our 
own balances. When therefore we weigh facts, deeds, and thoughts by 
our own judgment, we deceive ourselves. Were any disposed 
rhetorically to defend the conduct of Jonah, he might certainly 
muster up many specious pretenses; and were any one inclined to 
adduce excuses for Jonah, he might be made to appear to us 
altogether innocent: but though the whole world absolved him, what 
would it avail, since he was condemned by the mouth of God himself, 
who alone, as I have already stated, is the judge? We ought then to 
feel assured, that Jonah had done foolishly, even if no reason was 
apparent to us; for the authority of the Supreme Judge ought to be 
more than sufficient. 
    Now God expressly condemns his wrath. Had Jonah modestly 
expostulated, and unburdened his griefs into the bosom of God, it 
would have been excusable; though his ardor would not have been free 
from blame, it might yet have been borne with. But now, when he is 
angry, it is past endurance; for wrath, as one says, is but short 
madness; and then it blinds the perceptions of men, it disturbs all 
the faculties of the soul. God then does not here in a slight manner 
condemn Jonah, but he shows how grievously he had fallen by allowing 
himself to become thus angry. We must at the same time remember, 
that Jonah had sinned not only by giving way to anger; he might have 
sinned, as we have said, without being angry. But God by this 
circumstance - that he thus became turbulent, enhances his sin. And 
it is certainly a most unseemly thing, when a mean creature rises up 
against God, and in a boisterous spirit contends with him: this is 
monstrous; and Jonah was in this state of mind. 
    We hence see why an express mention is made of his anger, - God 
thus intended to bring conviction home to Jonah, that he might no 
more seek evasions. Had he simply said, "Why! how is it that thou 
dost not leave to me the supreme right of judging? If such is my 
will, why dost not thou submissively acknowledge that what I do is 
rightly done? Is it thy privilege to be so wise, as to dictate laws 
to me, or to correct my decisions?" - had the Lord thus spoken, 
there might have remained still some excuse; Jonah might have said, 
"Lord, I cannot restrain my grief, when I see thy name so profaned 
by unseemly reproaches; can I witness this with a calm mind?" He 
might thus have still sought some coverings for his grief; but when 
the Lord brought forward his anger, he must have been necessarily 
silenced; for what could be found to excuse Jonah, when he thus 
perversely rebelled, as I have said, against God, his Judge and 
Maker? We now then understand why God expressly declares that Jonah 
did not do well in being thus angry. 
    But I wonder how it came into Jerome's mind to say that Jonah 
is not here reproved by the Lord, but that something of an 
indifferent kind is mentioned. He was indeed a person who was by 
nature a sophister, (cavillator - a caviler;) and thus he wantonly 
trifled with the work of falsifying Scripture; he made no conscience 
of perverting passages of holy writ. As, for instance, when he 
writes about marriage, he says that they do not ill who marry, and 
yet that they do not well. What a sophistry is this, and how vapid! 
So also on this place, "God," he says, "does not condemn Jonah, 
neither did he intend to reprove his sin; but, on the contrary, 
Jonah brings before us here the person of Christ, who sought death 
that the whole world might be saved; for when alive he could not do 
good to his own nation, he could not save his own kindred; he 
therefore preferred to devote himself and his life for the 
redemption of the world." These are mere puerilities; and thus the 
whole meaning of this passage, as we clearly see, is distorted. But 
the question is more emphatical than if God had simply said, "Thou 
hast sinned by being thus angry;" for an affirmative sentence has 
not so much force as that which is in the form of a question. 
    God then not only declares as a Judge that Jonah had not done 
well, but he also draws from him his own confession, as though he 
said, "Though thou art a judge in thine own cause, thou can't not 
yet make a cover for thy passion, for thou art beyond measure 
angry." For when he says "lach", with, or, in thyself, he reminds 
Jonah to examine his own heart, as though he said, "Look on thyself 
as in a mirror: thou wilt see what a boisterous sea is thy soul, 
being seized as thou art by so mad a rage." We now then perceive not 
only the plain sense of the passage, but also the emphasis, which is 
contained in the questions which Jerome has turned to a meaning 
wholly contrary. I will not proceed farther; for what remains will 
be sufficient for to-morrow's lecture. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees us implicated in so many 
errors, that we often fall through want of thought, and as thou also 
sees that the violent emotions of our flesh wholly blind whatever 
reason and judgment there is in us, - O grant, that we may learn to 
give up ourselves altogether to obey thee, and so honor thy wisdom 
as never to contend with thee, though all things may happen contrary 
to our wishes, but patiently to wait for such an issue as it may 
please thee to grant; and may we never be disturbed by any of the 
hindrances which Satan may throw in our way, but ever go on towards 
the mark which thou hast set before us, and never turn aside from 
thee, until, having gone through all dangers and overcome all 
impediments, we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has 
been obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen. 

Calvin, Commentary on Jonah, Part 8
(continued in part 9...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvjon-08.txt