Jonah Preaches To Nineveh
Making his way to Nineveh, a journey that would have taken more than a month and thus provided ample time for sober reflection, Jonah entered the great city with his blunt message :
Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Amazingly, there was mass repentance, from the king down to the commoner.
Jonah was quite distraught at this turn of events and he despaired, even to the point of wanting to die. Resolutely, he perched himself on a hilltop nearby, eagerly watching the city in hopes that the Lord would yet destroy it. His education was still incomplete!
As he sat in the scorching sun, God caused a shady vine to grow up for his refreshment and the prophet was glad. On the following day, however, Jehovah sent a worm to smite Jonahs vine, and as the blistering sun beat upon his head, the man of God again lapsed into a state of abject depression.
Then came Heavens stinging rebuke. The Lord in effect said: Jonah, why is it that you are so concerned with this vinea mere plant which is temporal, and for which you did not labor and yet, you evidence utterly no concern for the hapless inhabitants of Nineveh?
The penetrating inquiry threw a divine floodlight upon the pathetic values of the man from Gath-hepher.
A Jonahs Attempted Escape
1. Gods call to Jonah.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it for their wickedness has come up before Me.
a. The word of the LORD came to Jonah: God spoke to Jonah in His own unique and powerful way and He told Jonah to do two things. First, go to Nineveh second, cry out against it that is, to rebuke them for their sin and call them to repentance.
b. Go to Nineveh: The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was a large and prominent city in its day. It was not a city of Israel at all God called Jonah to go to a pagan, Gentile city and call them to repentance.
i. Ancient historians say that Nineveh was the largest city in the world at that time. It was the large, important capital of a dominating empire surely an intimidating place to go.
c. For their wickedness has come up before Me: God wanted Jonah to go because He saw their wickedness. None of mans wickedness is hidden before God. He sees it all, and it may come to a point where it demands the specific warning and judgment of God.
2. Jonahs attempt to flee from Gods call.
But Jonah arose 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 from the presence of the LORD.
Vi Purposes Of The Book Of Jonah:
A. To emphasize the changes brought about by classical prophecy in terms of the value of repentance. It could even turn back the pronouncement of a prophet 40
B. To emphasize YHWHs concern for all mankind–even the wicked–and not just for Israel
C. To teach that Salvation is from YHWH
D. To teach about the nature of YHWH as a covenant God who is committed to his people–even individuals who are in rebellion.
E. To emphasize the need to submit to the Lords command or else leave him no choice but to drag us along as he works his sovereign plan
F. To emphasize that the Lord is at times working beyond our own theological understandings, and thus is not bound to them.
G. To teach against the arrogance of spiritual pride.
H. To teach that the Lord may be compassionate to those who show small steps of repentance in the right direction without defiling his righteousness which demands judgment for evil.41
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Jonahs Heart Is Temporarily Changed
While in the belly of the whale Jonah seems to have a change of heart. I mean who wouldnt Jonah 2 is just a prayer that Jonah prays praising God. And with that the fish vomits Jonah onto dry land.
It seems Jonah had a change of heart. God speaks to Jonah a second time, Go to Nineveh. And this time Jonah obeys he goes to Nineveh and tells them to repent.
And to everyones surprise they dont tear his limbs off They repent.
Remember this would be like Nazi Germany repenting to a Rabbi preaching in the streets Surprising to say the least.
That should be good news right? Or at least it shouldnt have come as a surprise. I mean after the journey Jonah has been on, he shouldnt be shocked that God did what he said.
But Jonah isnt happy. Hes livid. Hes furious that God actually forgave them. Hes upset that God did what he said he would do. In his heart, he was hoping they wouldnt repent and God would destroy them.
Now Jonah goes and sulks in his misery.
Who Is Jonah In The Bible
Jonah is identified as a prophet and servant of God during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel between 792 and 753 B.C. . The name Jonah means dove. His commission, as recorded in the book of Jonah , was to convey a message from God to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.
The book of Jonah gives no indication of his prophetic activity in the land of Israel. It merely begins with an instruction from God to go to Nineveh and prophesy to its inhabitants. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it for their wickedness has come up before Me .
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A Summary And Analysis Of The Story Of Jonah And The Whale
The Book of Jonah is one of the shorter, not to mention more hermeneutically challenging, books of the Old Testament: how should we analyse and interpret this strange tale of a prophet being swallowed by a whale? Was it even a whale? Could the whole Book of Jonah, in fact, be satire? In the latest in our series of Bible analysis posts, lets take a closer look at the tale of the prophet Jonah and the three days he spent in the belly of a whale.
Before we offer an analysis of the Book of Jonah, lets briefly summarise the contents of the book.
Book of Jonah: summary
Jonah is unusual among the Old Testament prophets in being exceedingly reluctant to carry out his business of prophesying. He is commanded by Yahweh to go to the city of Nineveh and tell the people that they should expect imminent judgment from the Lord. Jonah, however, refuses to obey Gods command, and instead tries to flee Gods jurisdiction by going to the port of Joppa and booking a berth on a ship manned by Phoenicians .
However, once the ship has set sail a violent storm erupts, and the Phoenicians start to think that one of their crew must have angered someones god. They draw lots in the hope of discovering which of them is responsible, and Jonah draws the short straw. He admits that he is the one who has angered God, and, at his insistence, the crew throw him over the side of the ship . The storm immediately clears.
Book of Jonah: analysis
Jonah And The Whale: Wheres Your Heart
Wheres your allegiance? Is it tied to something in this world? Or does it beat for God? As long as there is something more important than God to your heart, you will be, like Jonah, both fragile and self-righteous.
To evaluate your heart requires that you be brutally honest with yourself. Its not easy. But with the help of the Holy Spirit it is possible.
Spend some time prayerfully evaluating your heart and your life. Where does your allegiance lie? Is your desire for others or only yourself?
The story of Jonah in the Bible challenges us to ask ourselves, wheres our heart?
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Jonah And The Whale: God Wont Give Up On You
The second takeaway from the story of Jonah and the whale is an encouragement. God never gives up pursuing.
Throughout the whole story God is shown offering grace and second chances. Both to Jonah and the Assyrians . And God wont give up on you either.
The story of Jonah in the Bible shows us that God is patient and full of grace with each of us. He wants more than anything for your heart to reflect His. But He wont force it. He will give you time and grace for your mistakes. God wont give up on you.
If you liked this blog post about Jonah and the whale you might also like this post about Samson. This is an other incredible story that is often misunderstood. You can read it here: The Incredible Story Of Samson
Jason From Greek Mythology
Campbell also noted several similarities between the story of Jonah and that of Jason in Greek mythology. The Greek rendering of the name Jonah is Jonas , which differs from Jason only in the order of soundsâboth os are omegas suggesting that Jason may have been confused with Jonah. Gildas Hamel, drawing on the Book of Jonah and Greco-Roman sourcesâincluding Greek vases and the accounts of Apollonius of Rhodes, Gaius Valerius Flaccus and Orphic Argonauticaâidentifies a number of shared motifs, including the names of the heroes, the presence of a dove, the idea of “fleeing” like the wind and causing a storm, the attitude of the sailors, the presence of a sea-monster or dragon threatening the hero or swallowing him, and the form and the word used for the “gourd” .
Hamel takes the view that it was the Hebrew author who reacted to and adapted this mythological material to communicate his own, quite different message.
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Jonahs Trial From God
Jonah was in the whales belly for 3 days and 3 nights.
Jonah went into the water, but not to be killed by drowning. Instead he was swallowed by a great fish . He was in the whales belly for 3 days and 3 nights.
Jonah awoke in the belly of the fish and cried out to God. He confessed his disobedience and told God that he would accomplish the task that the Lord had called him to. God then instructed the whale to vomit Jonah out onto dry ground.
Jonah Flees From The Lord
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:2 Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.6 The captain went to him and said, How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.
7 Then the sailors said to each other, Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity. They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.8 So they asked him, Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?
9 He answered, I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.
10 This terrified them and they asked, What have you done?
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?
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Jonah Goes To Nineveh
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
V Historicity: Jonah Is A Genre Of Literature Which Is Most Probably Historical:
A. Jonah is not an allegorical description of Israels experience with Babylon for the following reasons:36
1. Although Jonah may mean dove it is not a standard nor common identification
2. Although the fish could be representative of the Babylon captivity, Babylon is never mentioned, and Babylon took Judah, not Israel. Also the fish is a means of deliverance not punishment
3. Although Jonah could be about a missionary mandate to the Gentile world, Jonah never mentions the distinctions of Judaism, Torah, nor monotheism. Also, the Exile was not for missionary failure, but for inner offenses against the covenant.
4. Allegories in the OT have unmistakable indications of their allegorical nature ,37 of which Jonah has none
B. Jonah was probably not a parable for the following reasons:
1. Not only parables have moral or didactic goals. Historical narratives can also have this goal
2. The work is not placed in a setting that affirms that it is a story, or untrue:
a. It is placed canonically among the prophets and not the poetic books
b. It is not introduced as a generic account
c. It is true that there is no direct time frame given in the book, but this is an argument from silence
3. Compared to other OT parables Jonah is much more lengthy and complex. Also, the moral point of the parable is never made abundantly clear since not explanation is presented38
C. Jonah was most probably a historical work:
2. The details of the book appear to be historical data:
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A Theodicy Literature In The Eighth
With the employment of classical biblical Hebrew in the book of Jonah, it signals for an eighth-century composition. The period aligns with the Neo-Assyrian era , in which Israel and Judah were already subjugated under the Assyrian thumb. Retaliation to Assyrian hegemony during this period was never the best alternative, which they eventually did and consequently brought annihilation upon themselves. During the Neo-Assyrian period, Assyria was considered the ‘lion’ of the ancient Near East. Fortunately, at the outset of King Jeroboam II’s reign when the prophet Jonah was active, the Assyrian empire for a brief time experienced internal issues that enabled King Jeroboam to re-establish its economic stability and kingdom expansion. As Assyrian vassalages, Israel and Judah were also required to pay taxes to their overlord.
This ongoing frustration in Israel is also reflected in the prophet Jonah’s refusal to bring YHWH’S plan of forgiveness to Nineveh because they will eventually repent. The refusal here not only depicts Jonah resisting forgiveness of their enemy, but also raises a question on YHWH’S fidelity and righteousness concerning their established covenant. By concluding the narrative with a set of rhetorical questions , it suggests in part that despite Israel’s attempts to uphold their part of the covenant, God changes his mind. A critical question to Jonah’s eighth-century audience would then be: can God keep his promises?
Jonahs Heart Is Revealed
Jonah is revealing his heart is ultimately for his nation, not his God. Hes upset because Israels enemies were forgiven rather than being taken out. He wanted national security more than he wanted people to be forgiven.
Jonah 4:1-3 sounds like a toddler complaining about a sibling getting off the hook God, I knew youd forgive them. I knew youd be too compassionate. I knew youd give them grace I just knew it.
He ends this tirade with, So just kill me.
Talk about a temper tantrum.
Depressed, Jonah goes and sits down outside the city. And again God shows him compassion. He caused a leafy plant to grow to provide him shade . But then God does something interesting. He sends a worm to kill the plant . And again Jonah loses his mind. Asking again for God to just kill him.
God is revealing Jonahs heart . God is digging into what is really in Jonahs heart.
The word used in verse 10 and 11 for compassion is a word that means to grieve over someone or something, to have your heart broken for, weep for it.
Theres a compare and contrast going on here. Jonah is weeping over a plant. Literally weeping. God is weeping over people. Over those far from him, over those hurting. Jonah is looking out for himself. God is displaying compassion on others. Even those who are undeserving Such as Jonah and Nineveh.
What God is saying is that Jonah has compassion for the wrong thing. His heart breaks for people, while Jonahs heart broke for a plant. Jonahs got the wrong focus .
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