Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3 (ESV)
A couple thoughts on this passage:
Jonah was from Gath-hepher, which was under Syrian control when he was growing up (HT to Leon’s Message Board; see the maps on the linked post). Jonah actually prophesied that Jeroboam II would retake his hometown. So Jonah was no stranger to being under enemy rule. And during his lifetime he watched the Assyrian empire become more and more of a threat to Israel. This must have added a personal element to Jonah’s rebellion; once Israel kicked the foreigners out of Gath-hepher there was no way Jonah was going to help a new empire that was trying to push its way in.
Where did Jonah get the money for his fare? I don’t know how prophets made a living; perhaps he had a side job or a patron, or (as my oldest son suggested) his family had money and his father supported him. But in any case, wouldn’t a prophet be more aware than others that his livelihood came from God? So he used God’s money to run away from God, like a child stealing his father’s wallet to buy a plane ticket to another state. What an odd state of mind Jonah was in.