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The Story of Jonah

Jonah 3:1-10

The Story of Jonah Second Chances
For a second time the Lord told Jonah, “Now go to Nineveh and give them My message.”

This time Jonah did as he was told. Nineveh was huge. Homes spread out for miles around. It took Jonah three days to walk around the city. All that time he called out, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!”

The people of Nineveh heard Jonahand were shocked. This was terrible news! They listened to God’s warnings. They believed in God. They took off their rich clothes and wore plain clothing, made of sackcloth. They stopped eating and spent their days praying. Everyone from the poorest beggar to the richest farmer asked God to forgive them for living such evil lives.

Even the king of Nineveh laid aside his robe and put on the sackcloth clothes. He ordered everybody to do the same. “No one may eat, not even the animals!”

When God saw how all the people were sorry and wanted to change, He forgave them.

God Is Good

Jonah 4:1-11

When God decided to let the people of Nineveh live, Jonah was not very happy. “Lord, how could You save Nineveh, that awful city and all those evil people! It just isn’t fair!”

The Lord said, “Jonah, what is the matter? Why are you so upset?”

Jonah went off to a place east of the city to sulk. That day, Jonah sat in the hot sun, waiting and watching. God caused a plant to grow so that it shaded Jonah from the sunlight. Thanks to the plant, he could look out over the city without becoming too hot. Jonah thought this plant was the only good thing in his life.

But God had a worm attack the plant and by sunrise the next day, it had withered. God called the hot east wind to blow and the sun to beat down on Jonah’s head. That day he became faint and begged with all his might, “Please Lord, I am furious at this plant. Even it has failed me. Please put me out of my pain.”

God asked Jonah, “Why should you be angry at the plant?”

Jonah said, “I want that plant back.”

Then the Lord said, “You are angry because this plant died. You wanted it to live, even though you did not plant it. It came up one night and died the next. Now why shouldn’t I care for the over one hundred thousand people in Nineveh? They did not know until you told them that what they were doing was so wrong.

“This was the reason I sent you to them. They needed to learn the difference between good and bad. Now, through you, they have met Me.”

Jonah finally realized, God had taught him a very big lesson.

Jonah and the Whale

Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah and the Whale
There once was a man called Jonah. He was one of God’s people, the Israelites. One day God said to Jonah, “I want you to go to the city of Nineveh. Tell them they are living such wicked lives, I will have to punish them.”

Jonah did not like Nineveh. The people of Nineveh were enemies of God’s people.

But God was willing to forgive the Ninevites if they would just change their ways. The Ninevites were the cruelest people in the world at that time. If God could forgive them, He could forgive anyone.

Jonah did not like this. “Why should God care about them?” he wondered. So Jonah did a foolish thing. He ignored God. He ran away from Nineveh, rather than toward it. That way, the Ninevites would not be warned about how angry God was with them. Jonah wanted the Ninevites to be destroyed.

But Jonah had made a mistake. There is no place where people can hide from God. He is everywhere and knows everything.

Jonah went down to the harbor, a place called Joppa. That is where the city of Tel-Aviv now stands.

In Joppa, Jonah wandered up and down the docks. He was looking for a ship which would take him clear to the other side of the world. Jonah found one headed for Tarshish. That was far enough.

He went as far from Nineveh as possible. Once the ship set sail, Jonah breathed a sigh of relief. “Now those evil Ninevites will get what they deserve,” he thought to himself.

Once on board, Jonah fell asleep. He thought he could relax because he had run away from God. He was wrong. The Lord threw a great wind at the sea. A terrible storm shook the waves. The ship was tossed up and down and rocked from one side to the other. The sailors said, “There must be some reason why this is happening.

Someone on the ship must have made his god angry!”

So each sailor prayed to his own god, begging to be saved. The wind howled louder. The waves reared higher and higher.

The captain went below deck and shook Jonah. “How can you be sleeping through a storm like this?” he asked. “You should be praying to your God. Maybe He will be able to save us.”

When the men on board heard that Jonah was a Jew, they became very frightened. They had heard about this Lord God of Israel. They gasped, “You tried to run away from Him?” Even they knew that was impossible. God sees everything.

“It is your God who is punishing us. Now tell us, how do we stop this storm?”

Jonah said, “If you throw me overboard, the storm will go away. “At first the sailors would not throw Jonah into the sea. But they had no choice. They prayed to Jonah’s God, “Oh, Lord. Please don’t kill us with this storm. We haven’t done anything wrong. Only this man has.” They had no choice. They picked up Jonah and threw him into the raging sea. Suddenly, the wind stopped howling. The waves died down.

When the sailors threw him, overboard, Jonah felt something cold and slimy bump up against him. He would have screamed with fright if he had not been underwater. A giant fish was swimming around him!

Suddenly, the fish opened its mouth wide and “Swoosh!” Jonah was swept into its mouth. The fish had swallowed Jonah!

Because the fish was so large, Jonah could stand up inside and breathe again. It was very dark and smelled sour.

It was not by chance that the fish had swallowed Jonah. God had chosen this fish to teach Jonah a lesson. No matter where he went, he could never run away from God. God wanted Jonah to do what He had been told and go to Nineveh with the Lord’s message.

After a while, Jonah asked God to forgive him for trying to run away. He thanked the Lord for not forgetting him.

After three days and three nights, the Lord made the fish spit Jonah out of its stomach. There was a great wet rush. Jonah held his breath again as he swirled around inside the fish’s mouth. The next thing he knew, he was lying on a dry beach.

Bible Study Jonah

Author: Jonah
Date:  Eighth Century B.C.

The prophet Jonah is known primarily for his extraordinary encounter with the “big fish.” Born in a small town in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (782-753 B.C.), Jonah’s mission was to preach repentance to one of Israel’s dreaded enemies, Assyria, in its capital city, Nineveh.

When God commanded Jonah to leave his native city in Israel to go to Nineveh and preach, Jonah was furious. Why should God care about those pagans? So Jonah deliberately took a ship headed in the opposite direction. A great storm arose and Jonah accepted responsibility for the danger, requesting that he be thrown overboard. A great fish swallowed him and after three days he was disgorged onto the land. Chastened, Jonah then went to Nineveh to preach. When the people of Nineveh repented, Jonah was resentful. He sulked outside the city. God then taught him a lesson, using a plant. The point was, if Jonah could have pity on a bit of vegetation, couldn’t God have pity on an entire city full of people?

Most of the discussion that surrounds the Book of Jonah concerns whether or not these events could actually have happened. Some argue that it reads like an extended parable, and hence was not meant to be taken literally. Others believe that it is better to let the account speak for itself. The book looks like history, with the prophet being named and the events of his life being rather carefully described. That it took a miracle for Jonah to survive his long stay inside the fish is not denied. If God could create a world, fish, and Jonah, he certainly could handle a matter like that (1:17).

Other arguments used against the book, such as the size of the city or the unlikelihood of the city repenting, are more apparent than real. All in all, it is best to take the book as a startling but true account of God’s offer of repentance to the Assyrian nation at Nineveh.

Theological Themes in the Book of Jonah

The purpose of the Book of Jonah is plainly stated: “Should I not spare Nineveh, that great city?” (4:11). The compassion of God for all people, even Israel’s enemies, is at the heart of the book.

Outline for the Book of Jonah

  1. Jonah’s refusal to follow God’s command Jonah 1:1-17
  2. Jonah’s repentance Jonah 2:1-3:10
  3. Jonah’s remorse at the city’s acceptance of God Jonah 4:1-10
  4. The pity of God for Nineveh Jonah 4:11