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Old Testament Overview - Jonah

The reluctant prophet

Key EventsIntroduction to Jonah, the man  (He is described as a historical person.)  (Because of the miracles in the book, it is probably the most ridiculed book in the Bible.  The miracles described in the book of Jonah as follows: God sends a storm, 1:4; the sailors learn by casting lots that Jonah is the cause of the storm, 1:7-12; the immediate calming of the storm when Jonah is thrown into the stormy sea, 1:15; the great fish's appearance at exactly the right time to swallow Jonah, 1:17; the preservation of Jonah while he is in the fish, 2:1-9; the ejection of Jonah from the fish onto the shore, 2:10; the repentance of the evil city of Nineveh, 3:5-10; the growth of the gourd (or the vine) to give Jonah shade, 4:6; and God bringing a scorching wind to kill the plant, 4:7.)  (The evidence that Jonah was a historical person is the following: 1. In II Kings 14:25, we are told that Jonah, the son of Amittai, had predicted that King Jeroboam of Israel would extend the borders of Israel.  Jeroboam, who reigned longer than any other northern king was certainly a historical person.  2. Jesus referred to Jonah as a historical person. See Matt. 12:38-41, 16:4; Lk. 11:29-32)

Go! No! Below! (1)  (1) God says, Go! (1:1-2) (Go to Nineveh and "preach against it."  (2) Jonah says, "No!" (1:3)  (Why did he say, No?  He did not want God to spare Nineveh.)  The Assyrians were infamous for their extreme cruelty—skinning people alive and other fiendish forms of torture were used by the Assyrians.  The forms of torture are displayed on Assyrian inscriptions.  Jonah did not want them to repent and then be spared of the punishment that they deserved by God.  Prophets in Jonah's time had predicted that Assyria would attack and defeat Israel.  It must have been horrible for Jonah to think about this cruel and wicked nation having Israel in its merciless hands. See Isa. 7:17, Hos. 9:3, 10:6-7, 11:5)  (Jonah attempts the impossible—he attempts to run away from God. See Ps. 139:7-12)  (Notice that two times in these verses he mentions the ancient name for Spain. "Tarshish.  Perhaps the city of Tartessas in southern Spain, a Phoenician mining colony near Gibralter." NIV Study Bible note.)  (The fact that Jonah was going to Spain, meant that he was going in the exact opposite direction from going to Nineveh where God had sent him.)  (3) God says, Go below! (1:4-17)  (The Lord commands a storm to blow. 1:4)  (The cargo must go. 1:5)  (While the storm is blowing, the sailors are crying out to their gods, and throwing cargo overboard.  Jonah is asleep in the bottom of the boat, oblivious to the fact that he has not been successful in escaping the Lord.)  (The sailors cast lots and then they know that Jonah is the cause of the storm. 1:6-12)  (Notice that positive side of Jonah's character here—he boldly confesses that he worships the one and only God, 1:9; he confesses his sin. 1:12; and he is willing to give his life to save their lives, 1:12)  (For other examples of the casting of lots, see Lev. 16:8; Josh. 14:1-2; I Sam. 14:36-42; Acts 1:26; Prov. 16:33)  (The sailors try to row. 1:13)  (This is an example of how futile it is to try in our own human strength to change what God has ordained—all they did was exhaust themselves.)  (But, then, they know that Jonah must go. 1:14-16)  (Notice the admirable qualities of these sailors—they were reluctant to take Jonah's life, even to save their own lives. 1:14; and they also had a fear of God, 1:16)  (But all was not lost, for Jonah is saved by the swallow of a great fish. 1:17)  (Jonah would have drowned had not God provided a fish—this fish is not God's judgment on Jonah, but God's deliverance of him.)  (The word for fish here and in Matt. 12:40 means, "great fish."  It may or may not refer to a whale.)

God opens his mouth to God and God opens the fish's mouth for Jonah. (2)
(1) In thanksgiving to God, Jonah opens his mouth and cries out to God from inside the fish. (2:1-9)  (2:1 has got to be one of the most unusual verses in the Bible.  "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God."  What else could Jonah do while he was inside of the fish?  God got Jonah's full attention in a very unusual way.)  (In 2:2-7, Jonah describes his thanksgiving to God for rescuing him from drowning in the sea—notice how Jonah describes what he felt like as he was drowning in the sea.  Then, he describes how good it felt when God rescued him. Compare 2:3 and Ps. 69:1-2, 14-15, 42:7)  (Also, Jonah saw his troubles as having been caused by the Lord. Compare 2:3 and Ps. 39:9; Eph. 3:1, 4:1; II Tim. 1:8; Philem. 9  Compare 2:4 and Ps. 31:22  Compare 2:5 and 69:1-2, 18:4  Compare 2:7 and Ps. 5:7, 18:6)  (In 2:8-9, Jonah expresses his desire to rededicate himself as a sacrifice to God; and included in his rededication to God, he pledges to keep his original vows to God. Compare 2:9 and Ps. 50:14-15, 23)  (Jonah obviously was very familiar with the Psalms.)  (2) In obedience to God, the fish opens his mouth and Jonah comes out from inside of the fish. (2:10)  (Jonah was inside the fish for "three days and three nights." 1:17 See Matt. 12:40)

Jonah and Nineveh turn  (3)  (1) Jonah turns to Nineveh. (3:1-3)  (Jonah changed his mind and now is ready to obey God and go to Nineveh.)  (God never changed His mind about what He wanted Jonah to do.  Again, God says to Jonah, Go!)  (Nineveh was a very "great city."  The "three days" may describe how long it took to walk across the city or how long it to walk around it.  "Greater Nineveh covered an area of some 60 miles in circumference." NIV Study Bible note.)  (It was located on the Tigris River to the northeast of Israel.)  (2) Nineveh repents and God forgives them. (3:4-10)  (The people repent; their king repents; and he orders a city-wide repentance that would even include the animals.  "But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence." 3:8)  (Why did Nineveh repent?  The following scenario is one possible explanation: the word may have gotten out to Nineveh from the sailors that Jonah was running away from Nineveh so that he would not warn them about the coming judgment of God on them.  They may have also heard about the storm that was immediately calmed when he was thrown into the sea.  Then, when they saw him it would have been as if he had been raised from the dead.  Also, the gastric juices within the fish's belly may have blanched him white.  All of this may have struck fear into the hearts of the people of Nineveh.)  (In Luke 11:29-30, Jesus seems to indicate that the people were aware of Jonah's miraculous deliverance from the fish—He says that Jonah was a sign to Nineveh, and His resurrection would be a sign to Israel.)  (There are Bible scholars who believe that something happened to Jonah in the fish's belly that changed his entire appearance.  It seems highly likely that the prophet's three days in the belly of the fish had some effect on his appearance.  "Dr. Harry Rimmer in his book, The Harmony of Science and Scripture tells of an English sailor who fell overboard and was swallowed by a fish.  A day or two later his shipmates saw the fish floating on the surface of the water.  They caught it and took it ashore.  When they opened it up, the sailors to their amazement found their shipmate alive.  However, his skin had turned chalky white and remained so for the rest of his life.  Harry Rimmer personally talked with the man and learned from his own lips the details of his experience.  There are probably in extant a half dozen accounts of individuals who have been swallowed by marine animals and survived." Ray Stedman, Highlights of the Bible.)  (There is some historical evidence that supports Jonah's accounts of Nineveh's repentance.  "It is known that the Ninevites  worshiped the fish god, Dagon, part man and part fish.  Interestingly enough, "Oannes" (with an 'I' before it spells Jonah in the New Testament) was the name one of the incarnations of Dagon.  Too, there is an Assyrian mound 'Nebi Yunas' (the prophet Jonah)." Feinberg, The Minor Prophets.)

Jonah burns after Nineveh turns (4)  (1) Jonah sulks: "Just what I thought would happen!" (4:1-3)  (Jonah wanted them punished, not forgiven.  But he knew that God is merciful, and he was afraid that the Assyrians would repent and God would forgive them.  He wanted to be a prophet of judgment and not a prophet of love and mercy.)  (We see the character of God here—He is eager to stop His punishment if there is any sign of repentance.)  (Jonah's spirit here is similar to that of the older brother of the prodigal son. See Lk. 15:25-32)  (Notice Jonah's "I"s, "my"s, and "me"s in these verses.)  (Jonah is so upset that he was the prophet that brought forgiveness to Nineveh that he wants God to take his life. 4:3)  (2) God intervenes-- "But the Lord replied, 'Is it right for you to be angry?'" 4:4)  (Notice God's gentle counseling technique—He gently draws Jonah toward recognizing his own poor attitude.)  (3) Jonah continues to sulk. (4:5-8)  (Jonah makes a shelter outside of the city of Nineveh and waits, hoping that God still might judge the city. 4:5)  (He was possibly hoping that Nineveh's repentance was not sincere and that God would still judge them.")  (God makes a "vine" to give Jonah shade and Jonah is very happy. 4:6)  (This is the only place in the book of Jonah it says that Jonah was "happy" or glad.)  (But the next day, God sends a "worm" that kills the "vine." 4:7)  (It could have been one "worm" or many worms of one kind.)  (God sends a hot "wind" and Jonah is so upset that he wants to die. 4:8 Compare with I Kings 19:14; Numb. 11:10-15; and Jer. 20:14-18(4) God intervenes again:  "Do you have the right to be angry" because a vine dies, but are not concerned about a city full of people? 4:9-12)  "But God said to Jonah, 'Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?' 'I do,' he said. 'I am angry enough to die.'" 4:9)  (Jonah was concerned about a "vine" that he had not made; God was concerned about a city full of people that He did make.)  ("The reference to people who do not know their right hand from their left is the Hebrew way of describing children.  There were in Nineveh 120,000 little children as well as may animals, all of whom would be innocent victims of the sins of the adults under the avenging hands of God." Ray Stedman, Highlights of the Bible.)  (The book of Jonah is one of the premiere missionary books in the Bible.  It tells of God's love toward unbelievers of every nation and type.  From the book of Jonah, we learn that there is no one that is too far gone to be saved; if they will repent.)

Key Verses:  2:1-10, 3:5, 4:1-4

Key Teachings:  We cannot run away from God and His plan for our lives.      (1:1-10)  Jonah prayed the Psalms while he was inside of the great fish.  We should follow his example and get to know the Bible so well that its words make it into our prayers. (2:1-10)  God calls us to give even the most sinful persons an opportunity to repent. (3:1-10)  God is full of compassion. 4:2-3)  Jonah is a premiere missionary book.

Old Testament Overview Studies

Old Testament Overview
Table of Contents
Old Testament Overview Outline
Old Testament Overview Genesis
Old Testament Overview Exodus to Deuteronomy
Old Testament Overview Furniture of the Tabernacle
Old Testament Overview Dress of Priests and High Priest
Old Testament Overview Dress of High Priest
Old Testament Overview Canaan: What Can it Teach Us?
Old Testament Overview Israel, God's Kingdom
Old Testament Overview Moses—Failure the Backdoor to Success
Old Testament Overview The Mosaic Covenant
Old Testament Overview The Ten Commandments
Old Testament Overview The Offerings
Old Testament Overview Uncleanness
Old Testament Overview The Priesthood
Old Testament Overview The Festivals
Old Testament Overview The Nazirite Vow
Old Testament Overview Joshua to Ruth
Old Testament Overview Prophecies of the Redeemer—Genesis to Ruth
Old Testament Overview I and II Samuel
Old Testament Overview Saul and David Compared
Old Testament Overview Jonathan and David Compared
Old Testament Overview The Davidic Covenant
Old Testament Overview I And II Kings
Old Testament Overview Israel's and Judah's Kings
Old Testament Overview Divided Kings who Divided
Old Testament Overview Criticisms of God's Actions in the Old Testament
Old Testament Overview Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther
Old Testament Overview Ruth and Esther Compared
Old Testament Overview Job to Song of Solomon
Old Testament Overview Proverbs: Wise Man or Fool?
Old Testament Overview Isaiah
Old Testament Overview Jeremiah
Old Testament Overview Daniel
Old Testament Overview Hosea
Old Testament Overview Joel
Old Testament Overview Amos
Old Testament Overview Obadiah
Old Testament Overview Jonah
Old Testament Overview Micah
Old Testament Overview Nahum
Old Testament Overview Habakkuk
Old Testament Overview Zephaniah
Old Testament Overview Haggai
Old Testament Overview Zechariah
Old Testament Overview Malachi