Book type: Prophets (Minor)
Author: Jonah, son of Amittai, or an un-named author, writing many centuries later than the events described.
No. of chapters: 4
Key character(s): God, Jonah, Captain & sailors of ship, people of Nineveh, king of Nineveh.
Brief description: Jonah – God’s limitless love.
01) People with bad reputations can be pious & know God (1:1-16)
02) God hears the distress calls of his people (1:17-2:10)
03) God in his compassion turns away from judgement when any people repent (3:1-10)
04) God’s people should mirror God’s compassion for all people (4:1-11)
Jonah means “Dove” in Hebrew.
Does God’s love have limits? Jonah found enemies he could not love & did not expect God to love.
The book is more than the story of a disobedient prophet. It focuses on the nature of God.
God’s redemptive program included everyone. The Messiah [Jesus the Christ], whom he [God the Father] would send, was to be for inhabitants of all nations. Only when Israel understood this theological truth could she become his instrument.
Of all Israel’s enemies, Assyria had been the cruelest. Jonah’s readers faced 2 choices:
01) They could remain belligerent in their hatred & self pity.
02) They could join God’s mission & seek the conversion of all people, even their enemies.
Several lessons can be learned from the Book of Jonah:
01) Sin offends God’s holiness & must be dealt with drastically.
02) When God calls we have no option but to obey.
03) God’s redeeming grace is for all people, no matter who they are where they are.
04) God will accomplish his purpose – with us if he can or without us if he must.
05) Even after the fiercest message of prophetic condemnation, repentance can avert the threatened judgement.
[Source: NIV Disciple’s Study Bible]
The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books of the Bible. Typically, prophets issued warnings or gave instructions to the people of Israel. Instead, God told Jonah to evangelize in the city of Nineveh, home of Israel’s cruelest enemy. Jonah didn’t want those idolaters to be saved, so he ran away.
When Jonah ran from the call of God, one of the oddest events in the Bible occurred—the story of Jonah and the Whale.
The book of Jonah highlights God’s patience and loving-kindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance.
The story begins in Israel, moves to the Mediterranean seaport of Joppa, and concludes in Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian empire, along the Tigris River.
Themes in the Book of Jonah:
God is sovereign. He controlled the weather and the great fish to achieve his ends. God’s message is for the whole world, not just people we like or who are similar to us. God requires genuine repentance. He is concerned with our heart and true feelings, not good deeds meant to impress others. Finally, God is forgiving. He forgave Jonah for his disobedience and he forgave the Ninevites when they turned away from their sins.
Outline of the Book of Jonah:
Jonah doesn’t like his duty, so he tries to flee from God on a ship – Jonah 1:1-14.
To calm a storm, the crew throws Jonah into the sea, where he is swallowed by a great fish God provided – Jonah 1:15-16.
In the belly of the fish for three days, Jonah cries out to God, repents, and swears to carry out his mission. The fish vomits him onto dry land – Jonah 1:17-2:10.
Jonah preaches in Nineveh and the people repent. God spares them – Jonah 3:1-10.
Angry at God’s compassion, Jonah complains when a vine that had shaded him dies. God scolds Jonah for being more concerned with a vine than the 120,000 souls in Nineveh – Jonah 4:1-11.