(1) - Very little is said of the prophet Jonah outside of the book of Jonah itself. In II Kings 14:25, Jonah is said to have prophesied that the Northern kingdom of Israel would expand its borders during the reign of Jeroboam, a wicked king. It appears that this "Jonah" is the same person as the "Jonah" who is the subject of the book of Jonah since both are identified as "the son of Amittai." (II Kings 14:25, and Jonah 1:1).
The prophecy of Jonah about Jeroboam conveys some very important background material to enhance our understanding of the book of Jonah. II Kings 14:23-27, "In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, became king of Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin. He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through HIS SERVANT JONAH THE SON OF AMITTAI, the prophet who was from Gath-hepher. For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. And the Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam, the son of Joash." It says in verse 25, that Jonah was from the town of Gath-hepher. Gath-hepher means "the winepress of digging." It is a town in the northern part of the land of the tribe of Zebulun, in lower Galilee, about three miles from Nazareth. In Joshua 19:13 this town is called Gittah-hepher.
(2) - Jonah was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom. He came after Elijah and Elisha; Hosea and Amos were probably his contemporaries. The date of Jonah would be somewhere between 880 - 780 BC. The incidents in the book of Jonah are estimated to have occurred in and around 860 BC.
(3) - At the time of Jonah, Assyria, whose capital city was Nineveh, had already begun to exercise its dominance in the Middle East.
(4) - In the passage of II Kings 14:23-27, it is clearly stated that Israel's prosperity during this period was because of the grace of God and His compassion on His people. Therefore, it was not godliness on the part of the nation or its leadership which was the basis for God's blessings. Just as Jonah's ministry in Nineveh would result in an outpouring of God's grace, so his ministry in Israel would result in God's grace. But there was a very important difference. Israel did not repent of her evil and wickedness, but God blessed that nation anyway. The Ninevites repented of their evil and wickedness and also received God's grace. In this sense God's grace was even greater to the Israelites than it was to the Ninevites.
(5) - Some Bible teachers find it more difficult to "swallow" the miraculous accounts of this little book than the fish found it to swallow the prophet Jonah. I am not going to spend much time or effort in an attempt to prove the events that transpired in the book of Jonah. These are ultimately a matter of faith. But what I do say is this: the God who is the Creator of all things and sustains all that He has created would have no difficulty in accomplishing the events recorded in this book. In fact, those who waste their time and make in-depth studies proving that certain fish can swallow a man are actually destroying the message of Jonah in a very subtle way. Anyone who attempts to prove a miracle of God through a natural way is destroying or distorting the truth presented in that miracle, whether it be an underwater ledge in the Red Sea that provided for the Jews an escape from Egypt; or an earthquate that brought down the walls of Jericho, or an everyday fish that can swallow a man whole. If God's miracles can be explained naturally, they really aren't miracles at all. The fish that swallowed Jonah was a one-of-a-kind fish that God created for a very special purpose: to swallow one of His prophets, and to make him feel "very down in the mouth."
(6) - The central theme of the book of Jonah is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus Himself establishes this fact in Matthew 12:40 when He said, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Therefore, Jonah preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ 800 years before Jesus Christ was born.
(7) - The name "Jonah" means "Dove." The dove is a symbol of peace, mildness, and harmlessness. Doves are meek, mournful and harmless as described in Scripture. The first mention of a dove is found in Genesis 8:8. Here the dove was released from the ark by Noah, and it returned with an olive branch in its beak bringing the "good news" of deliverance from the great flood. The dove therefore, becomes the bringer of "good news." The "good news" is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the ark of Noah and the flood typifyed.
In the Bible, the dove also had another significance. In the offerings of Israel, a dove could be substituted for an animal if the one providing the offering could not afford a lamb or bull or goat or heifer. The dove was the most common and cheapest of birds. The Lord Jesus Christ was the personification of meekness and mourning. He came to preach deliverance to the captives and the Gospel (the good news) to the poor. He was born in poverty. When His mother Mary brought her sacrifice for Him she brought the poor man's offering, a dove. (Luke 2:23-24).
(8) - Therefore, the very name of the book, "Jonah," gives us the key to the book. "A dove" which is the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ who for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich. (II Corinthians 8:9).
But there is also something else that is very important. Jonah's father's name is "Amittai," and means "truth." Jonah was the son of truth. And the one concerning whom Jonah prophesied was himself the embodiment of truth. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." I never cease to be amazed how the Word of God keeps on revealing to me its consistent and amazing continuity.
As we study this book, we are going to see how Jonah, a frail, tempermental, lazy, bigoted and disobedient man, is used as a type or illustration of the perfect Son of God. But all of that only exalts the matchless grace of God.
First of all I would like you to consider the types and illustrations of our Lord throughout the Bible. David was an adulterer, murderer and liar, and yet he is used as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Or the Levitical priests, when many of them weren't even believers. Or the kings of Israel, among whom many were wicked and evil and even many of them weren't believers. But all of this points us to the miracle of God's grace and the infinite perfection and precision of His plan. He can use the fallible, stumbling, failing and the sinfulness of man to actually exalt His amazing grace and to bring His message to mankind. Psalm 76:10 tells us that "The wrath of man shall praise thee."
(9) - The book of Jonah is listed among the Minor Prophets, and is unique in that it is not a collection of Jonah's prophecies, but a biographical account of Jonah's ministry to Nineveh and in Nineveh. The basic teaching of the book of Jonah is to teach that God's grace went beyond the boundaries of Israel to embrace other nations. The book of Jonah was placed among the Minor Prophets because the life, experiences, and career of Jonah are pictures, or types, or patterns, or illustrations of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ in not only being the Messiah to Israel, but by providing salvation for all.
(10) - Most serious Bible teachers believe that Jonah wrote the book himself. But you will always find critics who disagree, and will find fault with any argument presented. But what really matters is that the book of Jonah does not in any way contradict or conflict with any other portion of the Word of God. This is one characteristic that is necessary for a book to be accepted as a part of the Canon of Scripture.
(11) - There are many so-called Bible students who say that the book of Jonah is a legend based on myth. But when you simply read the Old Testament, the book of Jonah fits right in with all the other miracles that God performed. From the breath of life given to man in the Garden of Eden, the miraculous taking of Enoch from off the earth without dying, the flood that destroyed the entire world except for eight people who were in the ark, the miraculous changing of the human race into various races and languages at the tower of Babel, the supernatural plagues that struck Egypt to cause the Pharoah to release the Jews from slavery; the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea for the Jews to escape, with the sea returning to its normal position at the right time to destroy the Egyptian army; the miracle of the victory at Jericho when the walls simply fell down, the supernatural strength of Samson, the young David killing a giant with only a sling and a stone. Many, many other miracles are recorded in the Old Testament. But the point is this: the experiences of Jonah and the great fish fits as naturally as a tailor made suit. And to try to dismiss it, or call it a myth or a legend, or a simple illustration would not only be dishonest, but would be a rejection of divine revelation.
(12) - In Matthew 12:38-40, Jesus answered the demands of the unbelieving scribes and Pharisees for a sign from heaven to authenticate His ministry. In other words, they refused to believe His Word, and they demanded a sign. Vs 38, "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." Jesus answered them in verses 39-40. "But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; (40) for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'" With this one statement Jesus authenticates the historical accuracy of the book of Jonah. So, if anyone wants to claim that the book of Jonah is only a myth, then they are calling Jesus a liar.
(13) - Paul said in I Corinthians 15:3-4, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
(14) - Therefore, it becomes a matter of tremendous significance, that our Lord, when He wanted to select from the Old Testament types and shadows that pointed to Him and His great miracle of resurrection, He made a deliberate choice of the book of Jonah. The experience of a prophet in the belly of a great fish. By choosing this incident in the book of Jonah from among many other Old Testament types of His death and resurrection, He raised the book of Jonah out of the realm of doubt and speculation, above all question of fiction or parable, and established the book as infallibly inspired (God-breathed, as per II Tim 3:16), and the events in the book as being actual, literal accounts of great historical significance.
(15) - To deny Jonah's experience is to deny the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He Himself said in Matthew 12:40, "For as Jonah was.....so shall the Son of Man be." As Jonah - so Christ. If the story of Jonah is fiction, then so is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If the story of Jonah is not true, then neither are the Gospel records of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
VS 1 - Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying.
The book of Jonah opens with a reminder that we are dealing with the Word of the Lord, and not the word of man. Jonah received a divine commission, "The word of the Lord came to Jonah." Today the "Word " of the Lord is coming to you. In a little different form, but it is still coming to you. In fact, every time you turn on a Bible tape and place yourself under the ministry of the Word of God, "the Word of the Lord" is coming to you. I just pray that your response will not be like that of Jonah's, but that you would willingly accept it, and accept what it says.
VS 2 - Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it for their wickedness is come up before me.
The first word in vs 2 is "Arise." Evidently Jonah was sitting or lying down at the time. Jonah appears to be an easy-going lackadaisical sort of person, He was not only lying or sitting down when God called him, but later we find him sleeping in the middle of a great storm.Go to Nineveh - The command of God is very clear. Jonah was to "go to Nineveh." God didn't say, "Jonah, I want you to think about going to Nineveh." Neither did God say, "Jonah, I want you to consider going to Nineveh." No! God plainly and simply said, "GO TO NINEVEH."
Nineveh was a great city that was founded by a man named Nimrod. (Gen 10:11). Nineveh was called "a great city," which means that it was great in size, and great in influence in the world at that time.VS 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 was commanded to denounce the sins of the city for they were so great that they were said to have "gone up" before God, and the time of judgment was near.
I want you to notice that the message God gave Jonah for Nineveh was not a wish-washy message of telling sinners that God was a God of love and that He will not punish the wicked. Oh, no! His message from God was a very straight forward and to the point message. It was the message of judgment and destruction. Jonah 3:4b says, "Yet forty day, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
God had been patient and long suffering with the wickedness of Nineveh for a long, long time, and now He sets a dead line. In 40 days Nineveh shall be destroyed, unless she repents or changes her mind. The number 40 in Scripture is the number of testing or probation.Israel was tested 40 years in the desert.God is very patient and compassionate with men, but His patience will not go on forever. It does have its limits.
Israel was also tested 40 days while Moses was on the mountain. Of course Moses was also tested during those same 40 days.
Jesus was tested and proven 40 days in the desert.
Nineveh was given 40 days. Then at the end of that time came the deadline. This was the message of Jonah.
God has given us all deadlines. All of us, as believers in Jesus Christ have a certain number of days on this earth, no more and no less. And that number is known only to the Lord. He is admonishing each one of us to use our days wisely. We will only pass this way once. We will never have another chance to learn and grow and develop the spiritual life God has given to us.Only one life will soon be past,The only thing that will survive your physical death and will survive the destruction of the universe is the Bible doctrine in your soul. Therefore, I encourage you to take advantage of the time God has given you and become consistent in your learning and application of the Word of God in the filling of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.
Only what's done for Christ will last.
Here we see Jonah's disobedience. Jonah went in the opposite direction from what God told him. Nineveh was located on the Tigrus River, over 500 miles northeast of Israel. But Jonah went west toward Tarshish, which was located in Spain.
Jonah is not only a type and illustration of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he is also a type and illustration of a negative self-centered person. Negative volition to God's Word blinds the eyes of God's servants and twists their reasoning.
Twice in verse three it says that Jonah "fled from the presence of the Lord." This does not mean that he actually thought he could get away from God, but it does refer to his attempted resignation as a prophet. In other words, he was turning in his mantle. No more prophet ministry for him.
The path of the negative self-centered believer is always down, down, down. Notice the downward path of Jonah:He went DOWN to Joppa.There is no standing still in the path of disobedience. You either stop and return to the Lord, or you will go down, down and down.
He went DOWN into the ship.
He went DOWN into the sea.
He went DOWN into the belly of the fish.
He went DOWN into sheol, the dwelling place of the dead.
VS 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.
But the Lord - This is a very interesting phrase. I want you to look back at the beginning of verse three, "But Jonah rose up to flee," to run away. That was Jonah's "but" in answer to God's call. However, God has a "but" which completely rules out and negates Jonah's "but."
PRINCIPLE: when God calls His children to do something, there are no "ifs" or "buts" about it. Today God's command for His children is to "Study to show yourself approved........" (II Tim 2:15). "But grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ......." (II Peter 3:18). ".....be filled with the Spirit......." (Ephesians 5:18). There are no exception to the Lord's commands, and He deals with us just as sternly as He dealt with Jonah. He sends us warning discipline (a great wind that brings havoc in the sea of life, just as the great wind that was sent to bring havoc in Jonah's life) Then God brings intensive discipline (a mighty tempest and storms in the sea of life so that we will almost be broken to pieces, just like the mighty tempest was sent upon the sea to create a crisis on the ship Jonah was aboard). And if we still don't get with His program, He gives us the sin unto death, (just as Jonah experienced death in the belly of the great fish) (vs 17). So God answered Jonah's "but" with His own "but."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.
When you stop and think about this for a moment, you will realize that Jonah could have spared a whole lot of trouble for himself and for others if he had only immediately obeyed and said, "Lord, here I am, send me." In the end he had to go anyway, but he went the hard way.
I don't know what excuses Jonah gave for going west to Tarshish instead of east to Nineveh. I'm sure he had some excuse, probably many of them. Even though he may have had some excuse, he did not have one good reason.
When we are unwilling to do God's will, we can always find an excuse. Excuses are cheap because there are so many of them. They are a dime a dozen, as the old saying goes. And even though you have an excuse or excuses for not taking in Bible doctrine everyday, you have no valid reason to not do so. You may say, "I don't have the time." Or, "I'm too tired after a day's work," or "I don't have a reliable tape player," or "Bible classes are too far away," etc., etc., ad nauseium. When you are looking for excuses to disobey the Lord, the devil's pawns are always right there to make it easy for you to find excuses. When Jonah turned his face from God toward Tashish, the devil had a ship all ready and waiting for him. He even saw to it that Jonah had the money to pay for the price of the ticket. Satan and his pawns will make sure that it is easy for you to go in the opposite direction from where the Lord is calling you to go.
But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
Because of his sin, others were in danger of death and yet he lay quietly sleeping. Asleep while judgment was impending, while death threatened not only himself, but others as well.
PRINCIPLE: Negative volition toward the Word of God has a paralyzing effect. Sometimes it is called "hardness of heart," or "scar tissue of the soul." People do not realize how dangerous it is to neglect the spiritual truths they so desparately need. Everytime you put off your consistent intake of the Word of Truth, you give yourself a shot of scar tissue in your soul. If you do it consistently many times, you will come to the point of no return, and you will eventually suffer the sin unto death. (I John 5:16).
God caused a great storm to get Jonah's attention. The storm was so great that it terrified the veteran sailors. In fact, the ship was on the verge of breaking up. Verse five tells us that they began throwing the cargo overboard in an effort to save the ship and their lives. As they were doing this, it says that each sailor was praying to his god for deliverance. These sailors probably worshiped gods which were thought to have influence over the seas on which they traveled.
The cargo they were throwing overboard was stored below deck. That was where the captain of the ship found Jonah sleeping. The captain was obviously irritated to find Jonah sleeping, while his crew was desperately praying and working to save themselves and the ship.
VS 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.
Notice that the captain did not ask Jonah to help with the cargo, but he did command him to pray. The world is quick to recognize the inconsistency of a sleeping believer, and quick to condemn that inconsistency. So a heathen sea captain commands a prophet of the true God to pray. But I want you to notice that there isn't any record of Jonay praying here. Well, if you were Jonah and you were stubbornly refusing to repent, what would you have to say to God?
VS 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.
These sailors saw the storm as a religious matter. They first prayed to their gods for deliverance. When deliverance did not come, they told Jonah to ask his God. When things continued to deteriorate, they concluded that their predicament was because of some unidentified sin which offended one of the gods.And they said every one to his fellow (they said to each other), Come, let us cast lots, so that we may determine which one of us is the cause of this evil. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
The Bible contains many records of lottery. Casting lots seems to have been a well-known and common practice in situations which involved difficult decisions. In many cases it appears that God approved of, and was even pleased to reveal His will through the method of casting the lot. But we also have to keep in mind that many things that God approved of in the past, He does not approve of today since we have His completed Word in written form.
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