by Ken Cayce

Ken Cayce All rights reserved.


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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

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

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

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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?"

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]."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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

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

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."

Jonah 2

Jonah Chapter 2

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

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."

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."

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

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."

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."

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

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

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

Jonah 3

Jonah Chapter 3

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

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

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."

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.

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."

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."

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:"

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."

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

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."

Jonah 4

Jonah Chapter 4

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

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."

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."

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

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."

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."

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

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."

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."

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:"

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?"