And the Lord spake unto the fish - Psalms 148:8. Wind and storm fulfill His word. The irrational creatures have wills. God had commanded the prophet, and he disobeyed. God, in some way, commanded the fish. He laid His will upon it, and the fish immediately obeyed; a pattern to the prophet when He released him. "God' s will, that anything should be completed, is law and fulfillment and hath the power of law. Not that Almighty God commanded the fish, as He does us or the holy angels, uttering in its mind what is to be done, or inserting into the heart the knowledge of what He chooseth. But if He be said to command irrational animals or elements or any part of the creation, this signifieth the law and command of His will. For all things yield to His will, and the mode of their obedience is to us altogether ineffable, but known to Him." "Jonah," says Chrysostom, "fled the land, and fled not the displeasure of God. He fled the land, and brought a tempest on the sea: and not only himself gained no good from flight, but brought into extreme peril those also who took him on board. When he sailed, seated in the vessel, with sailors and pilot and all the tackling, he was in the most extreme peril: when, sunk in the sea, the sin punished and laid aside, he entered that vast vessel, the fish' s belly, he enjoyed great fearlessness; that thou mayest learn that, as no ship availeth to one living in sin, so when freed from sin, neither sea destroyeth, nor beasts consume. The waves received him, and choked him not; the vast fish received him and destroyed him not; but both the huge animal and the clement gave back their deposit safe to God, and by all things the prophet learned to be mild and tender, not to be more cruel than the untaught mariners or wild waves or animals.
For the sailors did not give him up at first, but after manifold constraint; and the sea and the wild animal guarded him with much benevolence, God disposing all these things. He returned then, preached, threatened, persuaded, saved, awed, amended, stablished, through that one first preaching. For he needed not many days, nor continuous exhortation; but, speaking these words he brought all to repentance. Wherefore God did not lead him straight from the vessel to the city; but the sailors gave him over to the sea, the sea to the vast fish, the fish to God, God to the Ninevites, and through this long circuit brought back the fugitive; that He might instruct all, that it is impossible to escape the hands of God. For come where a man may, dragging sin after him, he will undergo countless troubles. Though man be not there, nature itself on all sides will oppose him with great vehemence."
"Since the elect too at times strive to be sharp-witted, it is well to bring forward another wise man, and show how the craft of mortal man is comprehended in the Inward Counsels. For Jonah wished to exercise a prudent sharpness of wit, when, being sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites, in that he feared that, if the Gentiles were chosen, Judaea would be forsaken, he refused to discharge the office of preaching. He sought a ship, chose to flee to Tarshish; but immediately a tempest arises, the lot is cast, to know for whose fault the sea was troubled. Jonah is taken in his fault, plunged in the deep, swallowed by the fish, and carried by the vast beast thither whither he set at naught the command to go. See how the tempest found God' s runaway, the lot binds him, the sea receives him, the beast encloses him, and, because he sets himself against obeying his Maker, he is carried a culprit by his prison house to the place whither he had been sent.
When God commanded, man would not minister the prophecy; when God enjoined, the beast cast forth the prophet. The Lord then "taketh the wise in their own craftiness," when He bringeth back to the service of His own will, that whereby man' s will contradicts Him." "Jonah, fleeing from the perils of preaching and salvation of souls, fell into peril of his own life. When, in the ship, he took on himself the peril of all, he saved both himself and the ship. He fled as a man; he exposed himself to peril, as a prophet" . "Let them think so, who are sent by God or by a superior to preach to heretics or to pagan. When God calleth to an office or condition whose object it is to live for the salvation of others, He gives grace and means necessary or expedient to this end. For so the sweet and careful ordering of His Providence requireth. Greater peril awaiteth us from God our Judge, if we flee His calling as did Jonah, if we use not the talents entrusted to us to do His will and to His glory. We know the parable of the servant who buried the talent, and was condemned by the Lord."
And it vomited out Jonah - Unwilling, but constrained, it cast him forth as a burden to it . "From the lowest depths of death, Life came forth victorious." "He is swallowed by the fish, but is not consumed; and then calls upon God, and (marvel!) on the third day is given back with Christ." "What it prefigured, that that vast animal on the third day gave back alive the prophet which it had swallowed, no need to ask of us, since Christ explained it. As then Jonah passed from the ship into the fish' s belly, so Christ from the wood into the tomb or the depth of death. And as he for those imperiled in the tempest, so Christ for those tempest-tossed in this world. And as Jonah was first enjoined to preach to the Ninevites, but the preaching of Jonah did not reach them before the fish cast him forth, so prophecy was sent beforehand to the Gentiles, but did not reach them until after the resurrection of Christ" . "Jonah prophesied of Christ, not so much in words as by a suffering of his own; yet more openly than if he had proclaimed by speech His Death and Resurrection. For why was he received into the fish' s belly, and given back the third day, except to signify that Christ would on the third day return from the deep of hell?"
Irenaeus looks upon the history of Jonah as the imaging of man' s own history . "As He allowed Jonah to be swallowed by the whale, not that he should perish altogether, but that, being vomited forth, he might the more be subdued to God, and the more glorify God Who had given him such unlooked for deliverance, and bring those Ninevites to solid repentance, converting them to the Lord Who would free them from death, terrified by that sign which befell Jonah (as Scripture says of them, ' They turned every man from his evil way, etc. ...' ) so from the beginning, God allowed man to be swallowed up by that vast Cetos who was the author of the transgression, not that he should altogether perish but preparing a way of salvation, which, as foresignified by the word in Jonah, was formed for those who had the like faith as to the Lord as Jonah, and with him confessed, "I fear the Lord, etc." that so man, receiving from God unlooked for salvation, might rise from the dead and glorify God, etc. ... This was the longsuffering of God, that man might pass through all, and acknowledge his ways; then, coming to the resurrection and knowing by trial from what he had been delivered, might be forever thankful to God, and, having received from Him the gift of incorruption, might love Him more (for he to whom much is forgiven, loveth much) and know himself, that he is mortal and weak, and understand the Lord, that He is in such wise Mighty and Immortal, that to the mortal He can give immortality and to the things of time eternity."
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