by Ken Cayce

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Jonah Explained

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Book of Jonah Explained

Title: Following the lead of the Hebrew Masoretic text, the title of the book is derived from the principal character, Jonah. Both the Septuagint (LXX), and the Latin Vulgate (Vg.), ascribe the same name.

Author - Date: The book makes no direct claim regarding authorship. Throughout the book, Jonah is repeatedly referred to in the third person, causing some to search for another author. It was not an uncommon Old Testament practice, however, to write in the third person (e.g., Exodus 11:3; 1 Sam. 12:11). Furthermore, the autobiographical information revealed within its pages clearly points to Jonah as the author. The firsthand accounts of such unusual events and experiences would be best recounted from the hand of Jonah himself. Nor should the introductory verse suggest otherwise, since other prophets such as Hosea, Joel, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah have similar openings.

All that is known about Jonah is a brief historical statement made about him in 2 Kings 14:25, which indicates that he gave a prophecy that was fulfilled during the reign of Jeroboam II. Jonah's name means "Dove," and his father's name (Amittai) means "Truthful." Jonah came from the tribe of Zebulon, one of the tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel, and he was from the village of Gath-hepher, located about two miles northeast of the city of Nazareth.

An unverifiable Jewish tradition says Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath whom Elijah raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:8-24).

The purpose of Jonah's prophecy is to show the sovereignty of God at work in the life of an individual (the prophet Jonah), and his concern for His own people and that the way to avert national catastrophe is a concentrated missionary effort toward all people.

The fact that the prophecy ends with the prophet in discouragement and under God's rebuke would leave the reader discouraged. But because it is written in the third person the reader knows that the prophet wrote it after he had returned from his mission to Assyria and had favorably responded to God's rebuke. He leaves behind a record of God's dealings with him as an individual and with Assyria as a nation, and in this unique form he magnifies the power of God and obscures himself behind his message.

Jonah clearly prophesied at a very early date. (2 Kings 14:25), indicates that Jonah gave a prophecy that was fulfilled during the reign of Jeroboam II, who reigned from (793 to 752 B.C.). The prophecy was given when Assyria was becoming a great world power and imminent threat to Israel. The prophecy then, can be assigned a date in the first half of the eighth century B.C. There is no indication given as to where the prophecy originated. It gives the record of an earlier oral ministry to Assyria. Possibly Jonah wrote the words of this prophecy at his home village of Gath-hepher, after returning from the ministry to Assyria as he reflected on the ministry's success and his own personal failure.

Historical - Theological Themes: Jonah, though a prophet of Israel, is not remembered for his ministry in Israel which could explain why the Pharisees erringly claimed in Jesus' day that no prophet had come from Galilee (John 7:52). Rather, the book relates the account of his call to preach repentance to Nineveh and his refusal to go. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria and infamous for its cruelty, was a historical nemesis of Israel and Judah. The focus of this book is on that Gentile city, which was founded by Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:6-12). Perhaps the largest city in the ancient world (1:2; 3:2-3; 4:11), it was nevertheless destroyed about 136 years after the repentance of the generation in the time of Jonah's visit (612 B.C.), as Nahum prophesied (Nahum 1:1). Israel's political distaste for Assyria, coupled with a sense of spiritual superiority as the recipient of God's covenant blessing, produced a recalcitrant attitude in Jonah toward God's request for missionary service. Jonah was sent to Nineveh in part to shame Israel by the fact that a pagan city repented at the preaching of a stranger, whereas Israel would not repent though preached to by many prophets. He was soon to learn that God's love and mercy extends to all of His creatures (4:2; 10-11), not just His covenant people (Gen. 9:27; 12:3; Lev. 19:33-34; 1 Sam. 2:10; Isa. 2:2; Joel 2:28-32).

The book of Jonah reveals God's sovereign rule over man and all creation. Creation came into being through Him (1:9), and responds to His every command (1:4, 17; 2:10; 4:6-7; Mark 4:41). Jesus employed the repentance of the Ninevites to rebuke the Pharisees, thereby illustrating the hardness of the Pharisees' hearts and their unwillingness to repent (Matt. 12:38-41; Luke 11:29-32). The heathen city of Nineveh repented at the preaching of a reluctant prophet, but the Pharisees would not repent at the preaching of the greatest of all prophets, in spite of overwhelming evidence that He was actually their Lord and Messiah. Jonah is a picture of Israel, who was chosen and commissioned by God to be His witness (Isa. 43:10-12; 44:8), who rebelled against His will (Exodus 32:1-4; Judges 2:11-19; Ezek. 6:1-5; Mark 7:6-9), but who has been miraculously preserved by God through centuries of exile and dispersion to finally preach His truth (Jer. 30:11; 31:35-37; Hosea 3:3-5; Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-3).

What the book of Acts is to the New Testament, the prophecy of Jonah is to the Old Testament. It shows that God has always had concern for the heathen, who are without hope apart from Him. It also shows God's concern for His people Israel. As a result of Jonah's ministry to Assyria, the Assyrian captivity of Israel was postponed over 130 years. While the prophecy makes no specific mention of Israel, it abounds in its clear testimony to the supernatural working of God in behalf of the prophet, whose life He preserved and whose desires He modified. The prophecy also shows God's working in behalf of the heathen Assyrians, who He brought to national repentance, and in behalf of the nation Israel, whose security He guaranteed and whose captivity He delayed for an additional 136 years.

Background - Setting: As a prophet to the 10 northern tribes of Israel, Jonah shares a background and setting with Amos. The nation enjoyed a time of relative peace and prosperity. Both Syria and Assyria were weak, allowing Jeroboam II to enlarge the northern borders of Israel to where they had been in the days of David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:23-27). Spiritually, however, it was a time of poverty; religion was ritualistic and increasing idolatrous, and justice had become perverted. Peacetime and wealth had made her bankrupt spiritually, morally, and ethically (2 Kings 14:24; Amos 4:1; 5:10-13). As a result, God was to punish her by bringing destruction and captivity from the Assyrians (in 722 B.C.). Nineveh's repentance may have been aided by the two plagues (765 and 759 B.C.), and a solar eclipse (763 B.C.), preparing them for Jonah's judgment message.

Jonah's theme is God's mercy to the individual (Jonah, a Jew), a group (the heathen sailors), the heathen world power (Assyria, a Gentile nation), and His people (Israel).


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Jonah 1
Jonah 2
Jonah 3
Jonah 4

Jonah 1

Jonah Chapter 1

The book of Jonah is not prophecy, as the books we have been studying. This is an account of Jonah's call to minister at Nineveh, and his reaction to that call. He really did not want to answer God's call to minister in Nineveh. We find that God has ways of getting him to answer His call.

Jonah was from Galilee. He ministered during the reign of Jeroboam the second. The name "Jonah" means dove. The lesson we can learn from this is the danger that lies ahead for us, when we do not do the will of God for our lives. We can also receive the message, in God's sight all men are worth saving, not just the ones we choose. Jesus said it best in the following Scripture.

Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

Jonah 1:1 "Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,"

"Jonah" (Dove), "the son of Amittai" (Truth): Nothing further is known of the prophet's identity except the reference made to him (in 2 Kings 14:25).

"Amittai": Jonah's father's name of Amittai means "truthful" or "loyal."

Many believe the account of Jonah was not an actual happening, but Jesus mentions it in the New Testament and verifies it. Amittai was of the tribe of Zebulun.

Jonah 1:2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."

"Arise, go to Nineveh": While other prophets prophesied against Gentile nations, this is the only case of a prophet actually being sent to a foreign nation to deliver God's message against them. This was for the salvation of that city and for the shame and jealousy of Israel, as well as a rebuke to the reluctance of the Jews to bring Gentiles to the true God.

An ancient capital city of the Assyrian Empire founded by Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10), several centuries before Jonah's ministry (Jonah 3:5-10). Several centuries before Jonah's preaching mission to the city, Nineveh became one of the royal residences of Assyrian kings.

Sennacherib (ruled 705-681 B.C.), made it the capital of the Assyrian Empire to offset the rival capital of Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad), built by his father Sargon II (ruled 722 - 705 B.C.). He greatly beautified and adorned Nineveh. The splendid temples, palaces, and fortifications made it the chief city of the empire (2 Kings 19:36).

In Sennacherib's day the wall around Nineveh was 40 to 50 feet high and extended two and a half miles along the Tigris River and for eight miles around the inner city. The city wall had 15 main gates, five of which have been excavated. Each of the gates was guarded by stone statues of bulls.

Sennacherib created parks, a botanical garden, and a zoo both inside and outside the walls. Despite its magnificent splendor, it fell to a coalition of Chaldeans, Medes, and others (in 612 B.C.), in accordance with the prophecies of several Old Testament prophets (Nahum 2:10, 13; Zeph. 2:13-15).

The name Nineveh is thought to derive from "ninus," i.e., Nimrod, and means the residence of Nimrod or "nunu" (Akkadian for "fish"). The people worshiped the fish goddess Nanshe (the daughter of Ea, the goddess of fresh water), and Dagon the fish god who was represented as half man and half fish.

"That great city": Nineveh was great both in size (3:3), and in power, exerting significant influence over the Middle East until her destruction by Nebuchadnezzar (in 612 B.C.). It was possibly the largest city in the world at this time.

The ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire was east of Israel and located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River.

"Their wickedness is come up before me": Nineveh was the center of idolatrous worship of Assur and Ishtar. A century later, Nahum pronounced doom upon Assyria for her evil ways and cruelty (Nahum 3).

This is a call of God to Jonah, to go and minister in Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. Nineveh was founded by Nimrod. It is believed the city had well over 600,000 people living there, so it was a large city.

This city was not part of the family of Jacob, and was thought of as a Gentile city. Even though they are not from the family of Jacob, God is aware of the evil going on there. This shows us that all the earth actually belongs to God. He is interested in Gentile people, the same as He is the Hebrews. Jonah was to cry against the evil going on in the city.

Jonah 1:3 "But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD."

"But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish": This is the only recorded instance of a prophet refusing God's commission (Jer. 20:7-9).

The location of Tarshish, known for its wealth (Psalms 72:10; Jer. 10:9; Ezek. 27:12, 25), is uncertain. The Greek historian Herodotus identified it with Tartessus, a merchant city in southern Spain. The prophet went as far west in the opposite direction as possible, showing his reluctance to bring salvation blessing to Gentiles.

"From the presence of the LORD": While no one can escape from the Lord's omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-12), it is thought that the prophet was attempting to flee His manifest presence in the temple at Jerusalem (Gen. 4:16; Jonah 2:4).

"Joppa": Joppa (today Jaffa), located on the Mediterranean coast near the border of Judah and Samaria, was also the location of Peter's vision in preparation for his visit to Cornelius, a Gentile (Acts chapter 10). Jaffa is located just south of modern-day Tel Aviv.

Jonah wanted nothing to do with these Gentiles, and he fled from God, so he would not have to go. In fact, he went away from Nineveh, instead of toward it. He has turned his back on the call of God. He was sent to the Far East, and he fled to the west.

He was running from the face of God. He should have known, there was no place far enough to go to get away from God. He booked passage on a ship to get himself away from this call of God. Many of us have run from the call of God. We should pay special attention to this book.

Jonah 1:4 "But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken."

"A great wind": This is not an ordinary storm, but an extreme one set ("hurled"), from God. Sailors, accustomed to storms, were afraid of this one (verse 5), a fear which served God's purpose (Psalm 104:4).

God is in control of the wind and the sea. He controls all natural elements of the earth. God causes the wind to come up so strong, that the ship is about to break up and sink.

Jonah 1:5 "Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that [were] in the ship into the sea, to lighten [it] of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep."

"Then the mariners were afraid": Perceiving that the storm was not ordinary, but a supernatural one; and that the ship and all in it were in extreme danger, and no probability of being saved. This shows that the storm must be very violent, to frighten such men who were used to the sea, and to storms, and were naturally bold and intrepid.

"And cried every man to his god": To help them, and save them out of their distress. In the ship it seems were men of different nations, and who worshipped different gods. It was a notion of the Jews, and which Jarchi mentions as his own, that there were men of the seventy nations of the earth in it. And as each of them had a different god, they separately called upon them.

"And cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them": Or, "the wares", a word the Hebrews use for all sorts of goods, utensils, etc. It includes, with others, their military weapons they had to defend themselves, and their provisions, the ship's stores or goods it was loaded with.

"But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship": Into one of its sides, into a cabin there; the lowest side, as the Targum.

"And he lay, and was fast asleep": It may seem strange he should when the wind was so strong and boisterous. The sea roaring; the waves beating; the ship rolling about; the mariners hurrying from place to place, and calling to each other to do their duty; and the passengers crying.

And, above all, that he should fall into so sound a sleep and continue in it, when he had such a guilty conscience. This shows that he was asleep in a spiritual as well as in a corporeal sense.

These mariners were used to storms on the sea. This had to be an unusually bad storm, to cause them to fear for their lives. They threw out the cargo, and began to pray to their gods. Here gods are plural, because they were of different cultures, and they worshipped the gods of their country. They did not know the True God.

Jonah had slipped to the bottom of the ship and was sound asleep. He was exhausted from running from God, and slept very deeply. He felt as if he had safely gotten away from the call of God.

Jonah 1:6 "So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not."

"The shipmaster": Either the captain or the pilot.

"Arise, call upon thy God": He supposed that Jonah had his god, as well as they had theirs. And that, as the danger was imminent, every man should use the influence he had, as they were all equally involved in it.

Everyone was praying but Jonah, and the ship was in so much danger of sinking, that the shipmaster woke Jonah to help pray. It is interesting that even though these people did not know the True God, they were aware that this was a judgment of God.

Jonah 1:7 "And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil [is] upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah."

"Cast lots": The last resort is to ascertain whose guilt has caused such divine anger. God could reveal His will by controlling the lots, which He did. This method of discernment by casting lots, the exact procedure of which is not known, was not forbidden in Israel (Prov. 16:33; Joshua 7:14; 15:1; 1 Sam. 14:36-45; Acts 1:26).

"So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah": Through the overruling providence and disposing hand of God, which attended this affair. For, not to inquire whether the use of the lot was lawful or not or whether performed in that serious and solemn manner as it should be, if used at all.

It pleased God to interfere in this matter, to direct it to fall on Jonah, with whom he had a particular concern, being a prophet of his, and having disobeyed his will (see Prov. 16:33).

The Syriac version renders it, "the lot of Jonah came up"; that is, the paper, or whatever it was, on which his name was written, was taken up first out of the container which the lots were put.

They felt this sudden storm of such great magnitude was punishment from God on someone aboard the ship. They cast lots to find out who it was, and God revealed to them that it was Jonah.

Jonah 1:8 "Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil [is] upon us; What [is] thine occupation? And whence comest thou? what [is] thy country? and of what people [art] thou?"

"Then they said unto him, tell us, we pray thee": They did not fall upon him at once in an outrageous manner, and throw him overboard. As it might be thought such men would have done, considering what they had suffered and lost by means of him. But they use him with great respect, tenderness, and kindness. And implore him to tell them:

"For whose cause this evil was upon them": For their inquiry was not about the person for whose cause it was; that was determined by the lot; but on what account it was. What sin it was he had been guilty of, which was the cause of it. For they supposed some great sin must be committed, that had brought down the vengeance of God in such a manner.

"What is thine occupation?" What trade or business? This question they put, to know whether he had any, or was an idle man; or rather, whether it was an honest and lawful employment. Whether it was by fraud or violence, by thieving and stealing, he got his livelihood; or by conjuring, and using the magic art.

Or else the inquiry was about his present business, what he was going about. What he was to do at Tarshish when he came there. Whether he was not upon some ill design, and sent on an unlawful errand, and going to do some ill thing, for which vengeance pursued him, and stopped him.

"And whence comest thou? What is thy country? "And of what people art thou?" Which questions seem to relate to the same thing, what nation he was of. And put by different persons, who were eager to learn what countryman he was, that they might know who was the God he worshipped, and guess at the crime he had been guilty of.

They were extremely frightened for their lives, and when the lot fell on Jonah, they began to question him. They thought he might speak for himself, and perhaps, repent of whatever he was guilty of, so as to appease God. They gave him an opportunity to explain, by answering these questions.

Jonah 1:9 "And he said unto them, I [am] an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry [land]."

"I am an Hebrew": Jonah identified himself by the name that Israelites used among Gentiles (1 Sam. 4:6, 9; 14:11).

"The LORD, the God of heaven": This title, in use from earliest times (Gen. 24:3, 7), may have been specifically chosen by Jonah to express the sovereignty of the Lord in contrast to Baal, who was a sky god (1 Kings 18:24).

Spoken to sailors who were most likely from Phoenicia, the center of Baal worship. The title bears significant weight, especially when coupled with the phrase "who made the sea and the dry land."

This was the appropriate identification when introducing the true and living God to pagans who didn't have Scripture, but whose reason led them to recognize the fact that there had to be a Creator (Rom. 1:18-23).

To begin with creation (as in Acts 14:14-17 and 17:23b-29), was the proper starting point. To evangelize Jews, one can begin with the Old Testament Scripture.

Jonah was proud of the fact he was a Hebrew. He even says, he fears the LORD. One thing in his favor, he does acknowledge God. He even explains that God created the sea and the dry land.

Jonah 1:10 "Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them."

"I fear the Lord": In this Jonah was faithful. He gave an honest testimony concerning the God he served, which placed him before the eyes of the sailors as infinitely higher than the objects of their adoration.

For the God of Jonah was the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land, and governed both. He also honestly told them that he was fleeing from the presence of this God, whose honorable call he had refused to obey.

It appears, when he booked passage, he had admitted to some of the sailors that he was running from God. Now, they want to know why he had brought this terrible storm upon them.

Verses 11-12: Unwilling to go to Nineveh and feeling guilty, Jonah was willing to sacrifice himself in an effort to save the lives of others. Apparently, he would rather have died than go to Nineveh.

Jonah 1:11 "Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous."

"What shall we do unto thee"? They knew him to be a prophet; they ask him the mind of his God. The lots had marked out Jonah as the cause of the storm; Jonah had himself admitted it, and that the storm was for "his" cause, and came from "his" God.

"That the sea may be calm unto us?" Or "silent, for the waves made a hideous roaring, and lifted up themselves so high, as was terrible to behold. And dashed with such vehemence against the ship, as threatened it every moment with destruction.

"For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous": It was agitated to and fro, and was in a great ferment, and grew more and more stormy and tempestuous. Jonah's confession of his sin, and true repentance for it, were not sufficient; more must be done to appease an angry God; and what that was the sailors desired to know.

It is interesting to me, that they had enough respect for Jonah's God, that they asked Jonah to speak his own punishment. They knew something must be done to save their lives.

Jonah 1:12 "And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest [is] upon you."

"Cast me forth into the sea" has been taken by some to indicate his repentance and heroic faith. However, his statement could well indicate the intensity of his disobedience: he would rather die that repent and go to Nineveh.

Jonah was aware that God had brought this storm, because of his disobedience. He also realizes if he stays on board, they will all perish. He offers to give his life to save the sailors. He will not take his own life, but will take the rightful punishment for disobeying God. He asks them to throw him into the sea.

Verses 13-14: Heathen sailors had more concern for one man that Jonah had for tens of thousands in Nineveh. The storm, Jonah's words, and the lots all indicated to the sailors that the Lord was involved. Thus they offered sacrifices to Him and made vows, indicating Jonah had told them more about God than is recorded here.

Jonah 1:13 "Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring [it] to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them."

"Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to the land, but they could not": Or, "they digged"; that is, in the waters of the sea with their oars; not by casting anchor, as Abendana. They used all their skill and exerted all their strength; they labored with all their might and main, as a man digs in a pit.

They rowed against wind and tide. God, his purposes and providence, were against them; and it was not possible for them to make land, and get the ship ashore. Which they were desirous of, to save the life of Jonah, as well as their own.

For, seeing him penitent, they had compassion on him. His character and profession as a prophet, the gravity of the man, the sedateness of his countenance, his openness of mind, and his willingness to die, wrought greatly upon the men.

That they would gladly have saved him if they could. And perhaps being Heathens, and not knowing thoroughly the nature of his offence, might think he did not deserve to die. But all their endeavors to save him were to no purpose.

"For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them": It grew more and more so. The storm beat right against them, and drove them back faster than they came; so that it was impossible to stand against it.

Simply, they tried to save Jonah, but they could not. They rowed as hard as they could, but the wind God had sent was stronger, and they could do nothing.

Jonah 1:14 "Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee."

"Wherefore they cried unto the Lord": Not unto their gods, but unto the true Jehovah, the God of Jonah, and of the Hebrews. Whom they now, by this providence, and Jonah's discourse, had some convictions and knowledge of as the true God. And therefore direct their prayer to him, before they cast the prophet into the sea.

"And said, we beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee": Which repetition shows the ardent, vehemence, and earnestness of their minds in prayer.

"Let us not perish for this man's life": They were in the utmost perplexity of mind, not knowing well what to do. They saw they must perish by the storm, if they saved his life; and they were afraid they should perish if they took it away.

And which yet they were obliged to do; and therefore, had no other way left but to pray to the Lord they might not perish for it. Or it be reckoned as their crime, and imputed to them, as follows.

"And lay not upon us innocent blood": For so it was to them; he had done no hurt to them since he had been with them, except in being the cause of the storm, whereby they had suffered the loss of their goods. However, had not been guilty of anything worthy of death, as they could observe.

And as for his offence against God, they were not sufficient judges of, and must leave it with him. The light of nature teaches men to be tender of the lives of fellow creatures, and to avoid shedding of innocent blood.

"For thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee": It appeared to them to be the will of God that he should be cast into the sea; from the storm that was raised on his account. From the determination of the lot; from the confession of Jonah, and his declaration of the will of God in this matter.

As a prophet of his, they did not pretend to account for it. It was a secret to them why it should be; but it was no other than what he would have done. And therefore, they hoped no blame would be laid on them.

They really did not want to kill Jonah. They had to do something to save their own lives, however. They did not want to be guilty of murder either. They begged God to not hold them responsible for his death. They even remind God, that He brought the storm up.

Jonah 1:15 "So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging."

"The sea ceased": This was similar to Christ's quieting the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27).

The fact that the sea stopped raging suddenly showed them they had done the right thing by throwing Jonah overboard. They had not thrown him over in anger, but to save all of them from drowning. The suddenness is like the sea ceasing to roar, when Jesus spoke and told the sea to be still. God controls the sea and the wind.

Jonah 1:16 "Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows."

"Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly": This was not a natural fear, as before, but a religious one. And not a servile fear, or a fear of punishment, but a reverential godly fear. For they feared him, not only because they saw his power in raising and stilling the tempest, but his goodness to them in saving them.

"And offered a sacrifice unto the Lord": A spiritual sacrifice. The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for a safe deliverance from the storm. For other sorts of sacrifice they seemed not to have materials for; since they had thrown overboard what they had in the ship to lighten it, unless there might be anything left fit for this purpose. Rather, it is to be understood as a ceremonial sacrifice.

"And offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows": They vowed that they would offer a sacrifice when they arrived in their own country, or should return to Judea, and come to Jerusalem.

So the Hebrew "vau" is often used as interpretive and explanative; though many interpreters understand the vows as distinct from the sacrifice. And that they vowed that the God of the Hebrews should be their God, and that they would for the future serve and worship him only.

If these men were truly converted, as it seems as if they were, they were great gainers by this providence. For though they lost their worldly goods, they found what was infinitely better, God to be their God and portion, and all spiritual good things with him.

And it may be observed of the wise and wonderful providence of God. That though Jonah refused to go and preach to the Gentiles at Nineveh, for which he was corrected; yet God made this dispensation a means of converting other Gentiles.

This is like many conversions in the churches today. They came to the LORD, because of fear of death. They recognized the supernatural event that had taken place, and they recognized the power of Jonah's God. They even sacrificed to the LORD to show their sincerity. They made promises to God, as well.

Jonah 1:17 "Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."

"Prepared" indicates "to appoint, ordain, prepare, or order." The idea is one of commission rather than of creation. The fish was already in existence, but God commissioned it for a specific mission.

"A great fish" (Hebrew dag gadol): Jesus said that it was a sea monster (Greek ketos, Matt. 12:40). Our Lord's citation ought to lay to rest any speculation of the historicity of the event.

The species of fish is uncertain; the Hebrew for whale is not here used. God sovereignly prepared (Literally "appointed"), a great fish to rescue Jonah. Apparently, Jonah sank into the depth of the sea before the fish swallowed him (2:3, 5-6).

"Three days and three nights" (see note on Matthew 12:40).

This fish was not an ordinary fish. God had prepared a special fish, so that Jonah could live in the fish's belly. This entombment in the belly of the fish is a type and shadow of the three days Jesus would be in the belly of the earth.

Notice, God did not save Jonah from the fish. He saves him in the fish. There had to be a continuous prayer coming from that fish, while Jonah was in its belly. This will give Jonah time to reconsider about running from God.

Jonah Chapter 1 Questions

1. This book is an account of what?

2. Where had God called Jonah to minister?

3. Jonah was from __________.

4. The name "Jonah" means _______.

5. What lesson can you and I receive from this?

6. How do we know that the account of Jonah is not fiction?

7. What tribe was Amittai from?

8. Nineveh was the capital of ___________.

9. How large was Nineveh?

10. This was a _________ city.

11. What was Jonah to cry against?

12. What did Jonah do about his call to Nineveh?

13. He was sent to the far east, and he went to the _______.

14. Who should pay close attention to this book?

15. What does God do about Jonah's flight?

16. What did the mariners do, when the wind came up so strong it nearly sunk the ship?

17. Where was Jonah during this time?

18. What does the shipmaster say to Jonah?

19. What did they cast lots to determine?

20. Who did the lot fall upon?

21. What questions did they ask Jonah?

22. What answer did Jonah give them?

23. How did they know he was fleeing from the LORD?

24. Who decided Jonah's punishment?

25. What did they do, before they threw Jonah overboard to try to save his life?

26. What happened, when they threw him into the sea?

27. What had the LORD done to save Jonah?

28. What is the entombment in the fish's belly a type and shadow of?

29. What may we assume Jonah was doing, while he was in the fish's belly?

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Jonah 2

Jonah Chapter 2

Verses 1-9: Jonah's prayer is poetic in form and has three movements, each beginning with a rehearsal of the prophet's impossible situation, and each culminating in an expression of his faith in spite of his impossible circumstances. The first movement is (in verses 2-4). The second movement is (in verses 5-6) and the third movement is (in verses 7-9).

Jonah acknowledged God's sovereignty (verses 1-3), and submitted to it (verses 4-9).

Jonah 2:1 "Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,"

"Then Jonah prayed": When he was in the fish's belly.

It may be asked, "How could Jonah either pray or breathe in the stomach of the fish?" Very easily, if God so willed it. And let the reader keep this constantly in view; the whole is a miracle, from Jonah's having been swallowed by the fish till he was cast ashore.

It was God that had prepared the great fish. It was the Lord that spake to the fish, and caused it to vomit Jonah upon the dry land. All of this is a miracle.

It is such a shame that we like Jonah; wait until we are in dire circumstances, before we cry out to God. I am sure this is the most urgent prayer that Jonah has ever prayed. Notice, God is still Jonah's God, even while he is in this peril.

Jonah 2:2 "And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, [and] thou heardest my voice."

"Out of the belly of hell": The phrase does not necessarily indicate that Jonah actually died. "Sheol" frequently has a hyperbolic meaning in contexts where it denotes a catastrophic condition near death (Psalm 30:3). Later Jonah expressed praise for his deliverance "from the pit" (verse 6), speaking of his escape from certain death.

I am sure that being in this fish's belly seemed like hell to Jonah. Jesus preached while He was in hell during the three days. I doubt seriously that Jonah felt so confident that he would return to the earth. God had to do this to get Jonah in a position to obey His request.

Notice, the word "cried". This means that the prayer was like a pleading with God to forgive him, and remove him from this fish. The best statement in the verse above is "and He heard me". We are never so far down that God will not hear our earnest prayer. "Hell" is the word "Sheol", which means hades, or the world of the dead. Jonah thought himself to be as good as dead.

Jonah 2:3 "For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me."

In describing his watery experience, Jonah acknowledged that his circumstances were judgment from the Lord.

Jonah describes what happened to him in the sea. In the natural, there would have been no way to be saved from the angry sea. Jonah does recognize that even the waves belong to God.

Jonah 2:4 "Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple."

"I am cast out of thy sight": (In 1:3), Jonah ran from the Lord's presence. Here he realizes that the Lord has temporarily expelled him.

Jonah was very much like many of us. He had looked away from the temple, until he got into a problem that he could not fix. Then, he cries to God for His help. He was desperate at this point. When he first was cast into the sea, he thought God had killed him for his disobedience. Hope sprang up in Jonah, when he looked again to God.

Jonah 2:5 "The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head."

"Even to the soul": This describes Jonah's total person, both physically and spiritually (verse 7).

This reminds me of an old song that says, "I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore". Jonah, too, was sinking in the sin of his own making. He was "tangled in weeds", which symbolize the cares of this world. He was a victim of his own making. There is no way to come out of this, or life's other entanglements, without God. He is the only hope.

Jonah 2:6 "I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [was] about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God."

"I went down to the bottom of the mountains": Which are in the midst of the sea, whither the fish carried him, and where the waters are deep. Or the bottom of rocks and promontories on the shore of the sea. And such vast rocks hanging over the sea, whose bottoms were in it, it seems are on the shore of Joppa, near to which Jonah was cast into the sea, as Egesippus relates.

"The earth with her bars was about me for ever": That is, the earth with its cliffs and rocks on the seashore, which are as bars to the sea, that it cannot overflow it. These were such bars to Jonah, that could he have got clear of the fish's belly, and attempted to swim to shore, he could never get to it, or over these bars, the rocks and cliffs, which were so steep and high.

"Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God": Notwithstanding these difficulties, which were insuperable by human power, and these seeming impossibilities of, deliverance. Yet the Lord brought him out of the fish's belly, as out of a grave.

The pit of corruption, and where he must otherwise have lain and rotted, and freed his soul from those terrors which would have destroyed him. And by this also we learn, that this form of words was composed after he came to dry land. Herein likewise he was a type of Christ, who, though laid in the grave, was not left there so long as to see corruption (Psalm 16:10).

This was no small body of water. It appeared to Jonah, that he was locked in this watery grave with no way he could return to life, or to the earth. He was helpless and alone in the bottom of the sea. He felt that the fish that swallowed him would be his grave forever. He was in the stomach of this fish.

This would be corruption to the utmost. Perhaps, he is speaking of the corruption of his own life. Only God can reach down and bring any of us up from this type of corruption. He suddenly realizes the omnipotence of the LORD his God.

Jonah 2:7 "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple."

"When my soul fainted": When Jonah had given up all hope of life.

"My prayer came in unto thee": Here prayer is personified, and is represented as a messenger going from the distressed, and entering into the temple of God, and standing before him. This is a very fine and delicate image. This clause is one of those which I suppose the prophet to have added when he penned this prayer.

At the time this was written, the presence of God dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem over the mercy seat. When Jonah looked to the temple, he was looking to God. There was no hope in the natural for Jonah. He fainted from fear of death in the fish. God brought him hope. His remembering of the LORD caused God to hear his prayer.

Jonah 2:8 "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy."

"They that observe lying vanities": They that trust in idols, follow vain predictions, permit themselves to be influenced with foolish fears, so as to induce them to leave the path of obvious duty.

"Forsake their own mercy": In leaving the God who is the Fountain of mercy, they abandon that measure of mercy which he had treasured up for them.

This is no time for pride. He would humble himself before God at this point. To observe other gods or idols, will get you no help at all.

Psalms 146:5 "Happy [is he] that [hath] the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope [is] in the LORD his God:"

Psalms 33:18 "Behold, the eye of the LORD [is] upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;"

Jonah 2:9 "But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay [that] that I have vowed. Salvation [is] of the LORD."

"I have vowed": Jonah found himself in the same position as the mariners: offering sacrifices and making vows (1:16). In light of 3:1-4, Jonah's vow could well have been to carry out God's ministry will for him by preaching in Nineveh (Psalms 50:14; 66:13-14).

We see in this a repentant heart. Jonah has nothing to sacrifice but his praise.

Hebrews 13:15 "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of [our] lips giving thanks to his name."

Salvation is of the LORD.

Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:"

Jonah knows that his only hope is in God.

Jonah 2:10 "And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry [land]."

"The LORD spake": Just as God calls the stars by name (Isa. 40:26; Psalm 147:4), so He speaks to His creation in the animal world (Num. 22:28-30). Most likely, Jonah was vomited upon the shore near Joppa.

This is undoubtedly the most humbling experience you could have. God has saved his life, and in the process taught him obedience. He is saved, because the fish obeyed God and spit him up.

Jonah Chapter 2 Questions

1. Where was Jonah called to go?

2. Jonah prayed unto the LORD out of the ________ of the fish.

3. What is a shame about our prayer life?

4. The author believes this to be the most _________ prayer he had ever prayed.

5. Where did Jonah say he was in verse 2?

6. Why had God allowed this to happen to Jonah?

7. How do we know Jonah was pleading in his prayer?

8. What is the best statement in verse 2?

9. What does "hell", or "Sheol", in this verse, mean?

10. What is Jonah saying in verse 3?

11. What was meant by Jonah looking to the temple?

12. Jonah was sinking in the sin of his own ________.

13. What did the "tangled weeds" symbolize?

14. What determination did Jonah make, when he was in the depth of the sea?

15. What did he believe would be his grave forever?

16. When did he remember the LORD?

17. What sacrifice did he make to God?

18. Salvation is of the _________.

19. When the LORD spoke to the fish, what did it do?

20. God has saved his life, and in the process taught him ___________.

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Jonah 3

Jonah Chapter 3

Jonah 3:1 "And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,"

"And the word of the Lord": The same oracle as that before given; and which, from what he had felt and seen of the justice and mercy of the Lord, he was now prepared to obey.

God has not removed the call for Jonah to go to Nineveh and carry them a message. Now that God has Jonah's attention, He speaks to Jonah again.

Jonah 3:2 "Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee."

Gracious in giving Jonah a second chance, God again commissioned him to go to Nineveh. Jonah is the only prophet actually sent by God to preach repentance in a foreign land.

This is telling Jonah to get on with the ministry. He has already wasted time. He must go now and preach to all of these people.

1 Corinthians 1:21 "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

Preaching is for the purpose of saving people. The Words that come from Jonah's mouth will not be his own. They will be the Words God put there, to cause these people to repent of their sins and be saved. We mentioned before, that this city has over 600,000 souls in it.

Jonah 3:3 "So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey."

"An exceeding great city of three days' journey": Literally "a great city to God," the text emphasizes not only its size (1:2), but its importance (4:11). A metropolitan city the size of Nineveh, with a circumference of about 60 miles, would require 3 days just to get around it. These dimensions are confirmed by historians.

Stopping to preach would only add to the time requirement.

Jonah has learned his lesson well. He obeys God this time, and goes to Nineveh. Jonah did exactly as the Word of the LORD commanded him to do.

Jonah 3:4 "And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

"Yet forty days": The time frame may harken back to Moses' supplication for 40 days and nights at Sinai (Deut. 9:18, 25). Jonah's message, while short, accomplishes God's intended purpose.

The number 40 is a time of testing. He preached as he went across the city. It appears; he preached more than once across the city.

These Assyrians had no trouble understanding what Jonah was saying to them. There was a short time to repent, or their city would be totally destroyed. Jonah probably wandered around the city giving this warning at every place he could speak to a crowd.

Jonah 3:5 "So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them."

"The people ... believed God": Jonah's experience with the fish (2:1-10), in light of the Ninevites' pagan beliefs (see note on 1:2), certainly gained him an instant hearing.

From the divine side, this wholesale repentance was a miraculous work of God. Pagan sailors and a pagan city responded to the reluctant prophet, showing the power of God in spite of the weakness of His servant.

Jonah's preaching was accepted by the people. They all believed Jonah's message, from the king to the poorest person in the community. There was a massive repentance. They showed the seriousness of their repentance by fasting and wearing sackcloth. The whole city repented. The most important thing in the verse above, is they believed God.

Jonah 3:6 "For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered [him] with sackcloth, and sat in ashes."

The king of Nineveh, thought to be either Adad-nirari III (810-783), or Assurdan III (772 - 755), exchanged his royal robes for sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6; Isa. 58:5). Reports of Jonah's miraculous fish experience may have preceded him to Nineveh, accounting for the swift and widespread receptivity of his message (1:2).

It is generally believed that acid from the fish's stomach would have bleached Jonah's face, thus validating the experience.

The king set the example for all the rest. He humbled himself before God (removed his kingly robe). He covered himself with sackcloth, and poured ashes upon his head, which was a sign of great sorrow and mourning.

Verses 7-9: "Man ... beast": It was a Persian custom to use animals in mourning ceremonies.

Jonah 3:7 "And he caused [it] to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:"

"And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh": By a herald or heralds, sent into different parts of the city.

"By the decree of the king and his nobles": With whom he consulted, and whose advice he took. And who were equally concerned at this news, and very probably were present when word was brought to the king concerning it.

"Saying, let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing": A very strict and general fast was this. Abstinence from all food was enjoined; not only men of every rank and age, but the cattle likewise, horses and camels, they used either for their pleasure or business. Their oxen, cows, and calves, of their herd; their sheep, goats, lambs, and kids, of their flocks.

"Let them not feed, nor drink water": no food was to be put into their mangers or folds: or were they to be allowed to graze in their pastures, or to be allowed the least quantity of food or drink. This was ordered, to make the mourning the greater. Thus, Virgil describes the mourning for the death of Caesar by the oxen not coming to the rivers to drink, nor touching the grass of the field.

And to afflict their minds the more, and for their greater mortification, since these creatures were for their use and pleasure, fasting was used by the Heathens; as well as the Jews, in some cases. Particularly the Egyptians, as Herodotus observes, from whom the Assyrians might take it.

This was a total fast. They even made the animals fast as well. This fast did not even allow the drinking of water. They believed the message Jonah brought and repented.

Jonah 3:8 "But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that [is] in their hands."

"But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth": As the king was, and so the people also were. This order included the beasts, horses, and camels, whose rich trappings were to be taken off, and sackcloth put upon them, for the greater seriousness of the mourning.

As at this day, at the funerals of great persons, not only the horses which draw the hearse and mourning, coaches are covered with black velvet, to make the seriousness even more awful. But others are led, clothed in like manner.

"And cry mightily unto God": Which clause stands so closely connected with the former, as if it respected beasts as well as men, who sometimes are said to cry for food in times of drought and distress (Joel 1:20). And who here might purposely be kept from food and drink, that they might cry, and so the more affect the minds of the Ninevites, in their humiliation and abasement.

But men are principally meant, at least who were to cry unto God intensely and earnestly, with great passion, fervency, and desire or need. Not only aloud, and with a strong voice, but with their whole heart. As Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it; heartily, sincerely, and devoutly, for the averting divine wrath, and the pardon of their sins, and the sparing of their city.

"Yea, let them turn everyone from his evil way": As well knowing that fasting and prayer would be of no avail, without leaving everyone their sinful courses, and reforming their life and manners.

"And from the violence that is in their hands": Their violent seizure and oppression, their thefts and robberies, and preying upon the substance of others. Which seem to be the reigning vices of this city, in doing which many murders were committed also (see Nahum 3:1).

The Jewish writers interpret this of making restitution for plunder and violence, which is a genuine fruit of repentance (see Luke 19:8). The Septuagint version understands this, not as a direction from the king to the men of Nineveh what they should do, but as a narrative of what they did.

No doubt but they did these things, put on sackcloth, fast, pray, and turn from their evil ways. Yet they are the instructions of the king unto them and the orders he gave them.

Not only did they repent, but they changed their lifestyle. They became new creatures. Their old lifestyle is gone. Now, they live to please God. Crying mightily unto God shows the sincerity of their prayers.

Jonah 3:9 "Who can tell [if] God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?"

"Who can tell": The Septuagint and Arabic versions prefix to this the word "saying", and take them to be, not the words of the king, but of the Ninevites. Though very wrongly: or "who is he that knows"; which some connect with the next word, "he will return". That is, that knows the ways of repentance, he will return as Kimchi and Ben Melech.

Or that knows that he has sinned, as Aben Ezra: or that knows the transgressions he is guilty of, will return, as Jarchi. "Whosoever knows that sins are in his hands, he will return", or let him return, from them.

But they are the words of the king, with respect to God, encouraging his subjects to the above things, from the consideration of the probability. Or at least possibility of God's being merciful to them.

"If God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" He speaks here not as or as absolutely doubting, but as between hope and fear. For, by the light of nature, it is not certain that God will pardon men upon repentance; it is only probable or possible he may.

Neither the light of nature nor the Law of Moses connect repentance and remission of sins, it is the Gospel that does this. And it is only by the Gospel revelation that any can be assured that God will forgive, even penitent sinners.

However, this Heathen prince encourages his subjects not to despair of, but to hope for, the mercy of God, though they could not be sure of it. It may be observed, that he does not put their hope of not perishing, or of salvation, upon their fasting, praying, and reformation, but upon the will, mercy, and goodness of God.

Their prayers are so God will see that they have sincerely changed, and perhaps, He will not destroy them. Of course, that is why God sent them the message by Jonah. He did not want to destroy them. He wanted them to repent.

Jonah 3:10 "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not."

"God saw ... God repented" (see notes on 2 Sam. 24:16; Jer. 42:10; 18:7-8). The Ninevites truly repented.

God did not change in His ultimate intention toward the Ninevites: rather, they changed in their attitude toward Him. On the basis of that change, God could deal with them in grace, rather than in judgment as their failure to repent would have necessitated.

Praise God! He saw the sincerity of their repentance, and He changed His mind about destroying them. He forgave them, instead of destroying them. One of the strong lessons in this is that Jew and Gentile are loved of God and can be saved, if they repent and live Godly lives. God loves us all, one at a time.

He is quick to forgive and to set us up in right standing with Him. We must be truly sorry for our sins, and believe that Jesus is our Savior. It is really important to confess with our mouths the belief that is in our hearts. If we do all of this, then we will want to be baptized, to show the world we have been buried in the watery grave with Jesus, and have risen to new life in Him.

Jonah Chapter 3 Questions

1. Why does God tell Jonah, again, about his calling?

2. What is the first thing He says to Jonah?

3. What will come from Jonah's mouth?

4. Again, how large is Nineveh?

5. What did Jonah cry out to them?

6. The number 40 is a time of __________.

7. Where did he preach?

8. The people of Nineveh ___________ God.

9. What did they do, because of the message?

10. Who believed the message?

11. What is the most important thing spoken in verse 5?

12. What humbling thing did the king do?

13. What decree was made by the king?

14. What were man and beast to be covered with?

15. Not only did they repent, but they changed their ___________.

16. What were they praying God would do?

17. What effect did this have on God?

18. What is one strong lesson to be learned here?

19. What must we do to be saved?

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Jonah 4

Jonah Chapter 4

Jonah 4:1 "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry."

"Displeased ... exceedingly ... very angry": Jonah still maintains a false Jewish nationalism and hatred of all non-Jews, especially Assyrians.

Jonah, because of his rejection of Gentiles and distaste for their participation in salvation, was displeased at God's demonstration of mercy towards the Ninevites. Thereby displaying the real reason for his original flight to Tarshish.

Jonah had judged these people not worthy to be saved. He is now angry that God has forgiven them. Perhaps he was angry, because the warning he had given them had not been carried out. I believe he just harbored great hate toward these people, and did not want God to save them. His anger was toward God, and that is very dangerous.

He had thought that the Hebrews were the only ones worthy to be saved. If God saves the Gentiles, he thinks that will make the Hebrews less special to God.

Jonah 4:2 "And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, [was] not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou [art] a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil."

From the very beginning, Jonah had clearly understood the gracious character of God (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). He had received pardon, but didn't want Nineveh to know God's mercy (a similar attitude in Luke 15:25).

He was actually questioning the good judgment of God. He did not want Nineveh to repent, and be forgiven. His hate was overwhelming. All of the prophets knew that God threatened, many times, to cause the people to repent. Jonah did not want Nineveh saved.

Jonah 4:3 "Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for [it is] better for me to die than to live."

"It is better for me to die than to live": Perhaps Jonah was expressing the reality of breaking his vow (2:9), to God a second time (Num. 30:2; Eccl. 5:1-6).

Experts in human behavior have noted a link between hatred for others and pity for oneself. Jonah wanted to die because the Ninevites had repented. The core of Jonah's concern is revealed in his words: "It is better for me". Jonah could not have God's heart for others because he was consumed with himself.

Jonah 4:4 "Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?"

"Doest thou well to be angry?" Is anger good for thee? No, anger is good for no man. But an angry preacher, minister, bishop, or prophet, is an abominable man. He who, in denouncing the word of God against sinners, joins his own passions with the Divine threatenings, is a cruel and bad man, and should not be an overseer in God's house.

A surly bishop, a peevish, passionate preacher, will bring neither glory to God, nor good to man. Dr. Taylor renders the clause, "Art thou very much grieved?" A man may be very much grieved that a sinner is lost; but who but he who is of a fiendish nature will be grieved because God's mercy triumphs over judgment?

God is disappointed at Jonah's anger. God makes Jonah examine himself rather than condemn him.

Jonah 4:5 "So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city."

"So Jonah went out of the city": Had not the inhabitants of it repented, he had done right to go out of it, and shake the dust of his feet against it. Or, in such a case, had he gone out of it, as Lot out of Sodom, when it was going to be overthrown.

But Jonah went out in a sullen fit, because it was to be spared. Though some render the words, "now Jonah had gone out of the city"; that is, before all this passed, recorded in the preceding verses. And so Aben Ezra observes, that the Scripture returns here to make mention of the affairs of Jonah, and what happened before the accomplishment of the forty days.

"And sat on the east side of the city": Where he might have very probably a good sight of it; and which lay opposite of the road to his own country. That, if the inhabitants should pursue him, they would miss of him; which some suppose he might be in fear of, should their city be destroyed.

"And there made him a booth": Of the boughs of trees, which he erected, not to continue in, but for a short time, expecting in a few days the issue of his prediction.

"And sat under it in the shadow": To shelter him from the heat of the sun.

"Till he might see what would become of the city": Or, "what would be done in" it, or "with" it. If this was after he knew that the Lord had repented of the evil he threatened, and was disposed to show mercy to the city. And which, as Kimchi thinks, was revealed to him by the spirit of prophecy. Then he sat here, expecting the repentance of the Ninevites would be a short lived one.

Like the goodness of Ephraim and Judah, as the morning cloud, and early dew that passes away. And that then God would change his dispensations towards them again, as he had done; or however he might expect.

That though the city was not totally overthrown, yet that there would be something done. Some lesser judgment fall upon them, as a token of the divine displeasure. And which might save his credit as a prophet.

Jonah is like a pouting little boy. He will just sit outside the city in a booth, until God destroys the city. He had made up his mind that God would go ahead and destroy Nineveh, to please him. He sits there, possibly, until the forty days expire. He still wants the city destroyed.

Jonah 4:6 "And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made [it] to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd."

"A gourd": This seems to be a fast growing plant which in hot climates grows rapidly to give shade with its large leaves.

Jonah becomes even more proud, when God makes a gourd come up out of the ground to shade him. He will really feel his importance to God now. His grief is not a physical thing, but a trouble in his mind.

Jonah 4:7 "But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered."

"But God prepared a worm": By being eaten through the root, the plant, losing its nourishment, would soon wither; and this was the case in the present instance.

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. This is undoubtedly the funniest thing in this. Just when Jonah is so proud of God doing special things for him, God causes the worm to eat the gourd. Now Jonah does not have any shade. God is trying to teach Jonah that God can bless whoever He wishes, whenever He wishes.

Jonah 4:8 "And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, [It is] better for me to die than to live."

"A vehement east wind": A hot, scorching wind, normally called "sirocco," blowing off the Arabian desert. The shelter Jonah made for himself (verse 5), would not exclude this agent of God's sovereignty.

With all the other shortcomings Jonah had, he also felt sorry for himself. God is trying to show Jonah how unforgiving he is. God is showing him, that he should have mercy on the people of Nineveh, if he plans for God to have mercy upon him.

Jonah 4:9 "And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, [even] unto death."

"I do well to be angry, even unto death": Many persons suppose that the gifts of prophecy and working miracles are the highest that can be conferred on man. But they are widely mistaken, for the gifts change not the heart. Jonah had the gift of prophecy, but had not received that grace which destroys the old man and creates the soul anew in Christ Jesus.

This is the love of which Paul speaks, which if a man has not, though he had the gift of prophecy, and could miraculously remove mountains. Yet in the sight of God, and for any good himself might reap from it, it would be as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

Jonah was a prophet, and yet had all his old bad tempers about him, in a shameful predominance. Balaam was of the same kind. So we find that God gave the gift of prophecy even to graceless men. But many of the prophets were sanctified in their nature before their call to the prophetic office, and were the most excellent of men.

Of course, Jonah has no right to be angry. He is like a spoiled child. He is so angry, that it nearly kills him.

Jonah 4:10 "Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:"

God's love for the people of Nineveh, whom He had created, is far different from Jonah's indifference to their damnation and greater than Jonah's warped concern for a wild plant for which he had done nothing.

God is shaming Jonah, that he had pity on a gourd, and yet, did not have pity on the people of Nineveh. Plants of life have a very short life span. They are not made in the image of God, like people are.

Jonah 4:11 "And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and [also] much cattle?"

"Sixscore thousand persons": The message of Jonah rings out loud and clear: God cares for the heathen! God will spare no extreme to get His message to them, even when the messenger is deliberately disobedient. God will marshal His animate and inanimate creation to bring correction to His messenger and fulfill His purpose for the world.

God was ready to spare Sodom for 10 righteous; how much more a city which includes 120,000 small children, identified as those who cannot discern the right hand from the left (Gen. 18:22-23). With that many 3 or 4 year old children, it is reasonable to expect a total population in excess of 600,000.

God's question referring to those "that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand" has been interpreted as concerning children who had not yet reached the age of moral accountability, or those who were spiritually ignorant.

If the latter is adopted, the 600,000 either refers to the population of Nineveh at large, or as was often customary in the ancient Near East, refers to the number of adult males eligible to fight. In any case, the 600,000 is doubtless merely a representative guide to the number of people in greater Nineveh.

God has driven the point home. The people of Nineveh were human beings. There were over 600,000 people there who would have been lost, had God not had mercy upon them.

God is making Jonah the judge of whether He should have saved these people, or not. God is not controlled by things of the flesh, as Jonah was. God is forgiving and loving. He saves, because of His grace, and not because of our worthiness. Salvation is a free gift. God is telling Jonah, that these people had never been taught about God, and they did not know they were doing wrong.

When God showed them of their error, they repented and changed their lifestyle. To be forgiven, we must forgive. We do not hear the outcome of this. I sincerely hope that Jonah agreed with God and forgave them. God is fair. He gives us all ample time to repent and be saved.

Jonah Chapter 4 Questions

1. What did Jonah feel about Nineveh being saved?

2. Jonah had judged these people _____ ________ to be saved.

3. Who was his anger toward?

4. Who did he think were the only ones worthy to be saved?

5. Why does he not want the Gentiles saved?

6. What was he actually questioning?

7. What did all the prophets know about God's threats?

8. What request does Jonah make in verse 3?

9. Describe Jonah.

10. What question did God ask him in verse 4?

11. What did Jonah do, because he wanted to see the city destroyed?

12. What is Jonah like?

13. The Lord God prepared a _________.

14. What was it for?

15. What effect did this have on Jonah?

16. What did God do to the gourd?

17. What lesson is God trying to teach Jonah?

18. What caused Jonah to faint?

19. What question does God ask Jonah about the gourd?

20. How angry is Jonah?

21. Why is God shaming Jonah?

22. The 120,000 people of Nineveh could not discern between what?

23. God saves, because of His ________, and not because of our ______________.

24. How is God fair in His judgments?

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