Jonah is a short book and a little unusual because it is as much about the prophet and his responses to God as it is about the prophet’s message. It begins with Jonah running from God and everyone around him in fear until he confesses in Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea so that the sea may quiet down for you” and they did. But Jonah didn’t die. He repented in the deep in Jonah 2:9 “I will fulfill what I have vowed. Deliverance belongs to Yahweh!” Now we get to the message in Jonah 3:1–2 And the word of Yahweh came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I am telling you”. As Jonah walks through the city, he proclaims, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be demolished!” in Jonah 3:4 and the people, great and small, repent. Jonah is angry that the Lord is not going to destroy them for their evil ways and the Lord reminds Jonah that there are innocents, children and animals in the city who would be collateral damage in Jonah 4:11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know right from left, plus many animals?”. It is always better to turn people to righteousness if they will.
Go to the Great City and Cry Out
They Hurled Him Into the Sea
Jonah has found the first ship headed away from Nineveh, the city God has told him to go to. As a passenger, he is in the hold of the ship while a great storm threatens them all in
Jonah 1:5 And the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they threw the contents that were in the merchant ship into the sea to lighten it for them. And meanwhile Jonah went down into the hold of the vessel and lay down and fell asleep.
All aboard were in a panic, even the Captain who rouses Jonah and says “Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps your god will take notice of us and we won’t perish!” in Jonah 1:6 but this is what Jonah wants to avoid. Jonah doesn’t want God’s attention but he can’t hide. As the men decide to cast lots, in
Jonah 1:7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots so that we may know on whose account this disaster has come on us!” And they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Jonah confesses “I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” in Jonah 1:9 and that he “was fleeing” God in Jonah 1:10. Then Jonah tells them in
Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea so that the sea may quiet down for you, because I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you all.”
but they could not imagine doing this, they could not throw Jonah overboard to his death in the storm so “the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to the dry land, and they could not” in Jonah 1:13 “So they cried out to Yahweh … Please do not let us perish … and do not make us guilty of innocent blood” in Jonah 1:14. Then they threw him over in
Jonah 1:15 And they picked Jonah up and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
The storm had stopped, Jonah was gone, and they had escaped with their lives. It is in times of great distress like this that people often cry out to God, and as these did in Jonah 1:16 “made vows”.
Deliverance Belongs to Yahweh!
The Lord has a mission for Jonah and as he falls into the sea, he is taken by a large fish in
Jonah 1:17 And Yahweh provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Now, with no place to run, and imagine being tossed as the fish makes its way, with pockets of air in
Jonah 2:5 The waters encompassed me up to my neck; the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
was it hours or a day or days as he is dying that he thinks to cry out to the Lord in
Jonah 2:7 When my life was ebbing away from me, I remembered Yahweh, and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple.
and Jonah testifies of God’s faithfulness in
Jonah 2:1–2 And Jonah prayed to Yahweh his God from the belly of the fish 2 and said, “I called from my distress to Yahweh, and he answered me; from the belly of Sheol I cried for help— you heard my voice.
but it wasn’t just that Jonah cried out to the Lord for help, Jonah agreed to do what God asked of him in
Jonah 2:9 But I, with a voice of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you; I will fulfill what I have vowed. Deliverance belongs to Yahweh!”
There was a place in Jonah’s life where he committed himself to the Lord, a time when he accepted the prophetic calling from God. Jonah laid down his opposition to God’s plan and as soon as he does, in
Jonah 2:10 And Yahweh spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out on the dry land.
Proclaim the Message I Am Telling You
What the Lord had asked of Jonah hasn’t changed so in
Jonah 3:1–2 And the word of Yahweh came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I am telling you.”
and now, Jonah does what he is asked in
Jonah 3:3 So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was an extraordinarily great city—a journey of three days across.
In its time, Nineveh was a great city with commerce, and government, and people and Jonah begins his walk through the city proclaiming the message “Forty more days and Nineveh will be demolished!” in Jonah 3:4.
Here is a man, that came from the depths of the sea out onto the beach, nothing but the clothes on his back, and he begins crying out this message of destruction. Now, “Jonah was from … a town in lower Galilee near Nazareth … (and) Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (793–753 bc; 2 Kgs 14:23–25)”.1 so it is possible some had heard his name, but since we see Jonah sitting outside the city by himself after he delivers his message, it seems he was alone, unknown, and without any means of support. But, in
Jonah 3:5 And the people of Nineveh believed in God, and they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least important.
and the very thing Jonah had wanted to avoid happened in
Jonah 3:10 And God saw their deeds—that they turned from their evil ways—and God changed his mind about the evil that he had said he would bring upon them, and he did not do it.
Each Must Turn From His Evil Way
Jonah Became Furious
Should I Not be Concerned About the Great City
- Jonah 1:10–17 They Hurled Him Into the Sea
- Jonah 2:1–10 Deliverance Belongs to Yahweh!
- Jonah 3:1–5 Proclaim the Message I Am Telling You
- Jonah 1:1-17
- Jonah 2:1-10
- Jonah 3:1-10
- Jonah 4:1-11
- 1. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jon 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.