They that observe lying vanities - , i. e., (by the force of the Hebrew form , that diligently watch, pay deference to, court, sue, "vanities of vanities," vain things, which Proverbs themselves vain at last, failing the hopes which trust in them. Such were actual idols, in which men openly professed that they trusted Such are all things in which men trust, out of God. One is not more vain than another. All have this common principle of vanity, that people look, out of God, to that which has its only existence or permanence from God. It is then one general maxim, including all people' s idols, idols of the flesh, idols of intellect, idols of ambition, idols of pride, idols of self and self-will. People "observe" them, as gods, watch them, hang upon them, never lose sight of them, guard them as though they could keep them. But what are they? "lying vanities," breath and wind, which none can grasp or detain, vanishing like air into air.
And what do they who so "observe" them? All alike "forsake their own mercy;" i. e., God, "Whose property is, always to have mercy," and who would be mercy to them, if they would. So David calls God, "my mercy." Psalms 144:2. Abraham' s servant and Naomi praise God, that He "hath not forsaken His mercy" Genesis 24:27; Ruth 2:20. Jonah does not, in this, exclude himself. His own idol had been his false love for his country, that he would not have his people go into captivity, when God would; would not have Nineveh preserved, the enemy of his country; and by leaving his office, he left his God, "forsook" his "own mercy." See how God speaks of Himself, as wholly belonging to them, who are His. He calls Himself "their own mercy" . He saith not, "they who" do "vanities," (for Ecclesiastes 1:2. ' vanity of vanities, and all things are vanity' ) lest he should seem to condemn all, and to deny mercy to the whole human race; but "they who observe, guard vanities," or lies; "they," into the affections of whose hearts those "vanities" have entered; who not only "do vanities," but who "guard" them, as loving them, deeming that they have found a treasure - These "forsake their own mercy." Although mercy be offended (and under mercy we may understand God Himself, for God is Psalms 145:8, "gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and of great mercy," ) yet he doth not "forsake," doth not abhor, "those who guard vanities," but awaiteth that they should return: these contrariwise, of their own will, "forsake mercy" standing and offering itself."
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Jonah 2:8:
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