Chapter 3:7-10 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: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not? 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.
Verses 7-8 – How strange it is to me but not to the ancient world in those days – you see it was a Persian custom to use animals in mourning ceremonies, so all inhabitants – man and beast were included in the fast. Word had to get out by any means necessary – by a herald or heralds, camels, donkeys whatever, were sent into different parts of the city. This was a very strict and general fast. Abstinence from all food – not only men of every rank and age, but the cattle likewise, horses and camels, they used either for their pleasure or business. Their oxen, cows, and calves, of their herd; their sheep, goats, lambs, and kids, of their flocks – no food was to be put into their mangers or folds: or were they to be allowed to graze in their pastures, or to be allowed the least quantity of food or drink. This was ordered, to make the mourning the greater. This was a total fast. They even made the animals fast as well. This fast did not even allow the drinking of water. They believed the message Jonah brought and repented. This is a dramatic and seemingly sincere revival. The Holy Spirit worked along with Jonah’s message to produce Godly sorrow and conviction of sin in the hearts of people and they realized they were indeed ripe for judgment. They couldn’t wait to repent – and did so in dramatic fashion. What’s remarkable about this revival is that it crosses all socio-economic levels – from the king to the lowliest slave, they all repented. The king even commanded that their animals become a part of the revival by joining the fast and wearing sackcloth instead of their normal reins and yokes.
The king lead by example – as the king was, so the people also were. This order included the beasts, horses, and camels, whose rich trappings were to be taken off, and sackcloth put upon them, for the greater seriousness of the mourning. The Assyrians had their own god, but it is not their god they cry out to – it is the God of Jonah the prophet. However, fasting and prayer would be of no avail, without everyone leaving their sinful ways, and reforming their life and manners. Their violent seizure and oppression, their thefts and robberies, and preying upon the substance of others, which seem to be the reigning vices of this city, and in doing so many murders were committed – this all had to cease immediately. They were to make restitution for plunder and violence, which is a genuine fruit of repentance.
Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
No doubt they did these things, put on sackcloth, fast, pray, and turn from their evil ways by order of the instructions of the king unto them and the orders he gave them. Not only did they repent, but they changed their lifestyle. They became new creatures. Their old lifestyle is gone. Now, they live to please God. Crying mightily unto God shows the sincerity of their prayers.
Verses 9-10 –“Who can tell IF God”………The king does not speak as though he is doubting, but as between hope and fear. For, by the light of nature, it is not certain that God will pardon men upon repentance; it is only probableor possible He may. It is only by the Gospel revelation that any can be assured that God will forgive, even penitent sinners. However, this heathen king encourages his subjects not to despair of, but to hope for, the mercy of God, though they could not be sure of it. Notice that he does not put their hope of not perishing, or of salvation, upon their fasting, praying, and reformation, but upon the will, mercy, and goodness of God. It’s all about God!!! Their prayers are so God will see that they have sincerely changed, and perhaps, He will not destroy them. Of course, that is why God sent them the message by Jonah. He did not want to destroy them. He wanted them to repent.
“God saw – God repented”. The Ninevites truly repented.
2 Samuel 24:16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, it is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite.
Jeremiah 42:10 If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.
God did not change in His ultimate intention toward the Ninevites: rather, they changed in their attitude towards Him. On the basis of that change, God could deal with them ingrace, rather than injudgment as their failure to repent would have necessitated.
Praise God! He saw the sincerity of their repentance, and He changed His mind about destroying them. He forgave them, instead of destroying them. What are the lessons we can take from this account? (1) Jews and Gentiles are loved of God and can be saved, if they repent and live Godly lives. (2) God loves us all, one at a time.
He is quick to forgive and to set us up in right standing with Him. We must be truly sorry for our sins, and believe that Jesus is our Saviour. It is really important to confess with our mouths the belief that in our hearts. If we do all of this, then we will want to be baptized, to show the world we have been buried in the watery grave with Jesus, and have risen to new life in Him.
Dear Reader – IF you have not accepted Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour of your life – it is our belief that time is running out. To receive and accept Jesus as Lord is as simple as A. B. C.
A – ACCEPT that you are a sinner, and you need the blood of Jesus to cleanse you of your sins.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
B – BELIEVE in you heart that Jesus is the Son of God and He came and died on the cross to take away the sins of Mankind.
John 3:15-18 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
C – CONFESS – Confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Romans 10:9-11 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
PRAY THIS PRAYER IF YOU BELIEVE THE ABOVE
Heavenly Father – I come to you as a sinner in need of the blood of Jesus who shed His blood on the cross of Calvary to forgive me and take away my sins. I ask that You forgive me and wash me and cleanse me with the blood of Jesus of all my sins Lord. I believe in my heart that Jesus is the Son of God. I accept Him today as the Lord and Saviour of my life. I ask Lord that you send your Holy Spirit to come and live within me and help guide my footsteps as I walk in the newness of the new life in Christ Jesus. I thank you Father for writing my name down in the Lamb’s Book of life. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.
Brothers and Sisters – if you prayed the above pray for the first time – you are NOW born again. WELCOME TO THE FAMILY OF GOD.
I would encourage you to tell others of your new found faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Find a church that preaches and teaches the undiluted Word of God without fear of man, and start to grow in the Lord.
Chapter 3:4-6 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. 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. 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.
Verses 4-6 – This must have been a terrifying ordeal for Jonah. There he was in a foreign land amongst those who he knew despised his nation, and he is there ringing a bell proclaiming pending judgement IF they did not repent. Let’s not be too quick to judge Jonah – the way I see it, it is like this – imagine God tells YOU to go to Berlin during the height of WWII, to go and tell the Germans that unless they turn from their wicked ways within 40 days, the judgement of God will fall upon them? Don’t forget now – Jonah is all ALONE walking the streets of this great city – he has no backup – he has no bodyguards – only God is his refuge. God was telling Jonah, a fierce Jewish loyalist to his nation, to go to his nation’s sworn enemies and warn them of judgment to come. And this judgment was coming, not because they were Israel’s enemies, but because of their great moral wickedness.
The number 40 – In the Bible the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. During Moses’ life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead His people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 – 28), receiving God’s laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).
The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6). Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil not just three times, but MANY times during the 40 days and nights. He fasted just before His ministry began. He also appeared to His disciples and others for 40 days after His resurrection from the dead.
The number forty can also represent a generation of man. Because of their sins after leaving Egypt, God swore that the generation of Israelites who left Egyptian bondage would not enter their inheritance in Canaan (Deuteronomy 1). The children of Israel were punished by wandering the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation was allowed to possess the Promised Land. Jesus, just days before His crucifixion, prophesied the total destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1 – 2, Mark 13:1 – 2). Forty years after his crucifixion in 70 A.D., the mighty Roman Empire destroyed the city and burned its beloved temple to the ground.
Jonah’s message, while short, accomplishes God’s intended purpose. The number 40 is a time of testing. He preached as he went across the city. It appears; he preached more than once across the city. The Assyrians had no trouble understanding what Jonah was saying to them. There was a short time to repent, or their city would be totally destroyed. Jonah probably wandered around the city giving this warning at every place he could speak to a crowd.
“So the people of Nineveh believed God”- From the divine side, this wholesale repentance was a miraculous work of God. Pagan sailors and a pagan city responded to the reluctant prophet, showing the power of God in spite of the weakness of His servant. Reports of Jonah’s miraculous fish experience may have preceded him to Nineveh, accounting for the swift and widespread receptivity of his message. It is generally believed that acid from the fish’s stomach would have bleached Jonah’s face, thus validating the experience. Jonah’s preaching was accepted by the people. They all believed Jonah’s message, from the king to the poorest person in the community. There was a massive repentance. They showed the seriousness of their repentance by fasting and wearing sackcloth. The whole city repented. The most important thing is “they believed God”.
This was a society wide revival! Word quickly spread to the main city of Nineveh and the king’s palace. The king set the example for all the rest. He humbled himself before God – he removed his kingly robe. He covered himself with sackcloth, and poured ashes upon his head, which was a sign of great sorrow and mourning.
Chapter 3:1-3 1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 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.
Verses 1-3 – Jonah was given a second chance. Our God is the God of second chances. The story of Peter is the story of second chances. Even though Peter denied the Lord, Jesus made it a special point of restoring him and his call. As long as we draw breath, we can turn and be restored – but there are no second chances beyond the grave! God has not removed the call for Jonah to go to Nineveh and carry them a message. Now that God has Jonah’s attention, He speaks to Jonah again. God is gracious in giving Jonah a second chance – God again commissioned him to go to Nineveh. Jonah is the only prophet actually sent by God to preach repentance in a foreign land. This is telling Jonah to get on with the ministry. He has already wasted time. He must go now and preach to all of these people.
1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Preaching is for the purpose of saving people. The Words that come from Jonah’s mouth will not be his own. They will be the Words God put there, to cause these people to repent of their sins and be saved. This city has over 600,000 souls in it.
Jonah has learned his lesson well. He obeys God this time, and goes to Nineveh. Jonah did exactly as the Word of the LORD commanded him to do.
“An exceeding great city of three days’ journey”- A metropolitan city the size of Nineveh, with a circumference of about 60 miles, would require 3 days just to get around it. These dimensions are confirmed by historians. Excavations of Nineveh reveal that the circumference of the walls surrounding the city were 8 miles – which is quite large, but nowhere near the 60 miles spoken of here in the 3-day’s journey. This refers to the district or city-state called Nineveh. In the ancient world, empires were divided up into districts, and each district was administrated by a main city. The district usually drew its name from that main city. The city of Nineveh was the administrative centre of the district of Nineveh which was about 60 miles across. Inside this area were many smaller cities, towns and villages. Jonah was sent to the entire district. As soon as he entered it, he began to proclaim the message God had given him to preach. 40 days, then judgment will fall!
Chapter 2:7-10 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. 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. 10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Verses 7-8 – Jonah could feel the pressure increase inside the fish as it drove down deeply into the sea. And right at the point where he despaired of life, he realized that his still being alive was evidence that it was not too late to repent. At the time this was written, the presence of God dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem over the mercy seat. When Jonah looked to the temple, he was looking to God. There was no hope in the natural for Jonah. He fainted from fear of death in the fish. He couldn’t go to the temple and offer a sacrifice of atonement as the law required, but he could turn his heart back to the temple and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to God. He did – and the moment he did, everything changed. For it is not the formality of going to the temple that moves God, it is the heart that surrender to Him completely that moves Him. This is the lesson Jonah came to realize – this is the defining truth this whole thing has taught him. Here prayer is personified, and is represented as a messenger going from the distressed, and entering into the temple of God, and standing before Him.
“They that observe lying vanities” – Jonah is still praying poetically here. They that trust in idols follow vain predictions, permit themselves to be influenced with foolish fears, so as to induce them to leave the path of obvious duty. In leaving the God who is the Fountain of mercy, they abandon that measure of mercy which He had treasured up for them. This is no time for pride. He would humble himself before God at this point. To observe other gods or idols, will get you no help at all.
Psalms 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
Verse 9 Jonah found himself in the same position as the mariners: offering sacrifices and making vows (Jonah 1:16). He had made a vow many years before to follow and serve the LORD, and though his recent adventure has taken him away from that vow, it’s not too late to repent and return to it. Now that Jonah’s rebellion has been forsaken and he’s returned in heart to the LORD, God moves to restore him. But that restoration is to his call to go to Nineveh. The proof of Jonah’s repentance will be his obedience. Jonah has nothing to sacrifice but his praise.
Hebrews 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
Salvation is of the LORD. Jonah knows that his only hope is in God.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Ephesian 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Verse 10 – Just as God calls the stars by name (Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 147:4), so He speaks to His creation in the animal world.
Numbers 22:28-3028 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? 29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
Most likely, Jonah was vomited upon the shore near Joppa. This is undoubtedly the most humbling experience you could have. God has saved his life, and in the process taught him obedience. He is saved, because the fish obeyed God and spat him out.
If repentance is genuine and not merely feigned, then it will result in obedience to the call and command of God. From the boat to the belly from the burp to the beach – Jonah’s off and running on his way to preach.
Chapter 2:4-6 4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 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.
Verses 4-6 – Jonah was very much like many of us. He had looked away from the temple, until he got into a problem that he could not fix. Then, he cries to God for His help. He was desperate at this point. When he first was cast into the sea, he thought God had killed him for his disobedience. “Even to his soul” – this describes Jonah’s total person – both physically and spiritually. Jonah was sinking in the sin of his own making. He was “tangled in weeds”, which symbolize the cares of this world. He was a victim of his own making. There is no way to come out of this, or life’s other entanglements, without God. He is the only hope. Hope sprang up in Jonah, when he looked again to God.
“He went to the bottom of the mountains” – Which are in the midst of the sea, where the fish carried him, and where the waters are deep. Jonah is praying poetically here – the earth with its cliffs and rocks on the seashore, which are as bars to the sea, that it cannot overflow it. These were such bars to Jonah, that could he have got clear of the fish’s belly, and if attempted to swim to shore, he could never get to it, or over these bars, the rocks and cliffs, which were so steep and high. Notwithstanding these difficulties, which were insuperable by human power, and these seeming impossibilities of, deliverance – undeterred, Jonah continued to pray.
He was in the pit of corruption, where he feared he would stay and rot. This would be corruption to the utmost. Perhaps, he is speaking of the corruption of his own life. Only God can reach down and bring any of us up from this type of corruption. By this we learn, that this form of words was composed after he came to dry land. We see that Jonah was a type of Christ, who, though laid in the grave, was not left there so long as to see corruption.
Psalm 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
This was no small body of water. It appeared to Jonah, that he was locked in this watery grave with no way he could return to life, or to the earth. He was helpless and alone in the bottom of the sea. He felt that the fish that swallowed him would be his grave forever. He was in the stomach of this fish. Yet the LORD brought him out of the fish’s belly, as out of a grave. He suddenly realizes the omnipotence of the LORD his God.
Chapter 2:1-3 1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 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. 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.
Verses 1-9 in chapter 2 shows us Jonah’s prayer is poetic in form and has three movements, each beginning with a rehearsal of the prophet’s impossible situation, and each culminating in an expression of his faith in spite of his impossible circumstances. The first movement is in verses 2-4. The second movement is in verses 5-6 and the third movement is in verses 7-9.
Verses 1-3 – Jonah acknowledged God’s sovereignty. Then Jonah prayed when he was in the fish’s belly. It may be asked – How could Jonah either pray or breathe in the stomach of the fish? Very easily, if God so willed it – this whole account of Jonah in the fish’s belly is a miracle, from Jonah’s having been swallowed by the fish till he was cast ashore. It was God that had prepared the great fish. It was the LORD that spoke to the fish, and caused it to vomit Jonah upon the dry land. All of this is a miracle.
It is such a shame that we like Jonah; wait until we are in dire circumstances, before we cry out to God. I am sure this is the most urgent prayer that Jonah has ever prayed. Notice, God is still Jonah’s God, even while he is in this peril. Sheol is the Hebrew word for “hell” and the dwelling place of those who await judgment after death. Jonah felt as though he was buried alive – and in fact, he was. When it got to be too much, he cried out to the LORD. So God used the affliction to bring Jonah to his senses. God had to do this to get Jonah in a position to obey His request. God will use adversity to wake us to the peril of our rebellion and resistance to Him. Later Jonah expressed praise for his deliverance “from the pit”(verse 6), speaking of his escape from certain death.
Notice, the word “cried”. This means that the prayer was like a pleading with God to forgive him, and remove him from this fish. The best statement in the verse above is “and Thou heardest my voice”. We are never so far down that God will not hear our earnest prayer. As mentioned earlier, “hell” is the word “Sheol”, which means “hades”, or the “world of the dead”. Jonah thought himself to be as good as dead.
In describing his watery experience, Jonah acknowledged that his circumstances were judgment from the LORD. Jonah describes what happened to him in the sea. In the natural, there would have been no way to be saved from the angry sea. Jonah does recognize that even the waves belong to God.
God will use whatever means are necessary to bring us to repentance. He is relentless in His love and determination to bless us and if we will not respond to His gentle hand of gracious blessing, then He will turn up the heat. Sitting there in the fish’s belly, Jonah knew he was there as the result of his own foolish choices, but still alive because God was not finished with him yet.
Chapter 1:13-17 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. 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. 15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. 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.
Verses 13-15 These men were not murderers and deemed throwing Jonah over the side as an act of murder. So they tried to return to shore so they could drop Jonah off and be rid of their troublesome cargo. They rowed against wind and tide. God, His purposes and providence, were against them; and it was not possible for them to make land, and get the ship ashore which they were desirous of, to save the life of Jonah, as well as their own. For, seeing him penitent, they had compassion on him. His character and profession as a prophet, the gravity of the man, his openness of mind, and his willingness to die, played greatly upon the men. They would gladly have saved him if they could. And perhaps being heathens, and not knowing thoroughly the nature of his offence, might think he did not deserve to die. But all their endeavours to save him were to no purpose.
Notice “Wherefore they cried unto the LORD” – not unto their gods, but unto the true Jehovah, the God of Jonah, and of the Hebrews. Whom they now, by this providence, and Jonah’s discourse, had some convictions and knowledge of as the true God, therefore they direct their prayers to Him, before they cast the prophet into the sea. They were in the utmost perplexity of mind, not knowing what to do. They saw they must perish by the storm, if they saved his life; and they were afraid they should perish if they took it away. They had no other way left but to pray to the LORD. It appeared to them to be the will of God that he should be cast into the sea; from the storm that was raised on his account. From the lots that were cast, from the confession of Jonah, and his declaration of the will of God in this matter – they had no choice. They hoped no blame would be laid on them.
“The sea ceased” – This was similar to Christ’s quieting the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27). The fact that the sea stopped raging suddenly showed them they had done the right thing by throwing Jonah overboard. They had not thrown him over in anger, but to save all of them from drowning. The suddenness is like the sea ceasing to roar, when Jesus spoke and told the sea to be still. God controls the sea and the wind.
Verses 16-17 – They threw Jonah overboard and “immediately” the sea ceased from her raging. The men are now fearful. They feared the LORD. This was not a natural fear, as before, but a righteous one. And not a servile fear, or a fear of punishment, but a reverential Godly fear. For they feared Him, not only because they saw His power in raising and stilling the tempest, but His goodness to them in saving them. I found it very interesting, that the very first act they perform once the raging sea has ceased is that they offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. They offered a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for a safe deliverance from the storm. For other sorts of sacrifice they seemed not to have materials for; since they had thrown overboard what they had in the ship to lighten it. Rather, it was as a ceremonial sacrifice.
If these men were truly converted, as it seems as if they were, they were great gainers by this providence. For though they lost their worldly goods, they found what was infinitely better, God to be their God and portion, and all spiritual good things with Him. How wise and wonderful is the providence of God? That though Jonah refused to go and preach to the Gentiles at Nineveh, for which he was corrected; yet God made this dispensation a means of converting other Gentiles. This is like many conversions in the churches today. They came to the LORD, because of fear of death. They recognized the supernatural event that had taken place, and they recognized the power of Jonah’s God. They even sacrificed to the LORD to show their sincerity. They made promises to God, as well.
“Prepared” indicates “to appoint, ordain, prepare, or order.” The idea is one of commission rather than of creation. The fish was already in existence, but God commissioned it for a specific mission. The species of fish is not known. God sovereignly prepared a great fish to rescue Jonah. Apparently, Jonah sank into the depth of the sea before the fish swallowed him (Jonah 2:3, 5-6).
“Three days and three nights”.
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the fish’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
This fish was not an ordinary fish. God had prepared a special fish, so that Jonah could live in the fish’s belly. This entombment in the belly of the fish is a type and shadow of the three days Jesus would be in the belly of the earth. Notice, God did not save Jonah FROM the fish. He saves him IN the fish. Since Jesus likens His time in the tomb to Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish, and we know Jesus was dead, it may very well be that Jonah died, and God resuscitated him after three days. Or, Jonah may have been alive the whole time but living in a place that was very much like being dead and buried. God is far bigger than our expectations. And He knows all the eventualities of our lives. He knew the day would come when Jonah would be treading water in the Mediterranean Sea. So years before He had caused a fish to be born that would many days later be large enough to swallow Jonah. And God so ordered that fish’s life that it happened to be right there when Jonah was hoisted over the side. God knows the end from the beginning. He knows every day of our lives (Isaiah 46:10).
Dear Reader – you will never come to some point in your life that the grace of God hasn’t already prepared all that you need to endure. He has been working in unseen ways for years to make sure that everywhere you go and everything you do is also attended by everything you need.
Chapter 1:7-12 7 And they said everyone 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. 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? 9 And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.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. 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. 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.
Verses 7-9 – Many cultures are represented in the ship. They have individually called upon the names of their gods – yet the seas will not be calm – there is but one last thing they can do – as a last resort to ascertain whose guilt has caused such divine anger – they cast lots. God could reveal His will by controlling the lots, which He did. This method of discernment by casting lots was not forbidden in Israel.
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
Joshua 7:14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man.
Jonah is found out. It would appear that it pleased God to interfere in this matter, to direct it to fall on Jonah, with whom He had a particular concern, being a prophet of His, and having disobeyed His will.
It’s confession time. They surround Jonah – I guess they didn’t fall upon him at once in an outrageous manner, and throw him overboard, as it might be thought such men would have done, considering what they had suffered and lost an awful amount because of him. On the contrary, they treat him with great respect, tenderness, and kindness, and implore him to tell them “what have you done”? What sin it was he had been guilty of, which was the cause of it”? For they supposed some great sin must be committed, that had brought down the vengeance of God in such a manner – and how right they were huh?
“What is thine occupation”? “Where do you come from”? “What country do you come from”? “Who are your people”? They probably put these questions to him to determine whether he was employed, or was an idle man; or perhaps whether it was an honest and lawful employment. Whether it was by fraud or violence, by thieving and stealing, he got his livelihood; or by conjuring, and using the magic art. They also wanted to know what he was going about. What he was going to do at Tarshish when he got there? Whether he was not upon some ill design, and sent on an unlawful errand, and going to do something bad, for which vengeance pursued him, and stopped him. They were eager to learn what countryman he was, that they might know who was the God he worshipped, and guess at the crime he had been guilty of. They were extremely frightened for their lives, and when the lot fell on Jonah, they began to question him. They thought he might speak for himself, and perhaps, repent of whatever he was guilty of, so as to appease God. They gave him an opportunity to explain, by answering these questions.
Praise God – Jonah does not deny Him – “I am a Hebrew”. The LORD, the God of heaven is the one I serve and worship. This title that was used from earliest times may have been specifically chosen by Jonah to express the sovereignty of the LORD in contrast to Baal, who was a sky god. Jonah speaking to sailors who were most likely from Phoenicia, the centre of Baal worship, the title bears significant weight, especially when coupled with the phrase “who made the sea and the dry land”. This was the appropriate identification when introducing the true and living God to pagans who didn’t have Scripture, but whose reason led them to recognize the fact that there had to be a Creator. Jonah was proud of the fact he was a Hebrew. He even says, he fears the LORD. One thing in his favour, he does acknowledge God. Jonah told them that he “fears the LORD” – In this Jonah was faithful. He gave an honest testimony concerning the God he served,
Verses 10-12 – He also honestly told them that he was fleeing from the presence of this God, whose call he had refused to obey. It appears, when he booked his passage, he had admitted to some of the sailors that he was running from God. Now, they want to know why he had brought this terrible storm upon them. Unwilling to go to Nineveh and feeling guilty, Jonah was willing to sacrifice himself in an effort to save the lives of others. Apparently, he would rather have died than go to Nineveh.
They knew him to be a prophet; they ask him the mind of his God. The lots had marked out Jonah as the cause of the storm; Jonah had himself admitted it, and that the storm was for his cause, and came from his God. They had a problem – now what is the solution to the problem that the sea may be calm, and the waves silent, for the sea wrought and tempestuous – it was agitated – to and fro and grew more and more stormy and tempestuous? Jonah’s confession of his sin, and true repentance for it, were not sufficient – more must be done to appease an angry God; and what that was – the sailors desired to know. It is interesting to me, that they had enough respect for Jonah’s God, that they asked Jonah to speak his own punishment. They knew something must be done to save their lives.
“Cast me forth into the sea” – What was Jonah really saying here? Could it be (1) His repentance and heroic faith? (2) Does it indicate the intensity of his disobedience – he would rather die that repent and go to Nineveh?
Jonah was aware that God had brought this storm, because of his disobedience. He also realizes if he stays on board, they will all perish. He offers to give his life to save the sailors. He will not take his own life, but will take the rightful punishment for disobeying God. He asks them to throw him into the sea.
Chapter 1:1-6 1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 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. 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. 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. 6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, what meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, and if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
Verses 1-3 – Jonah lived at roughly the same time as the Prophet Amos. This is during the reign of Jeroboam II and is a time of peace and prosperity for both Israel and Judah. But that peace and prosperity is only a thin veneer over the moral corruption of the nation. One of the reasons Israel is prosperous and not being harassed by her neighbours is because they are all in a period of decline due to their own internal squabbles and trouble. During this time there were intrigues going on in different families and groups vying for the thrones of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. And because of this, these nations were in no place to be staging wars of expansion. Prior to Jonah’s time, Israel had had some run ins with Assyria, who had threatened her borders. So there’s some bad blood between Assyria and Israel – they are enemies. History tells us that the Assyrians were a brutal and cruel people – to their enemies anyway. They were the first nation to use terror as an instrument of war. They thought that by being vicious and cruel to their defeated foes, it would weaken their opponents and cause them to give in more quickly. It worked this way – if the Assyrians came out against a nation, if that nation surrendered quickly, the Assyrians would treat them better. However, if the nation resisted, then when they were conquered, the Assyrians would take the leaders and key people, as well as many of the common people just by lot, and then torture them in the open before the eyes of the rest of the populace. They practiced drawing and quartering people. They flayed people – skinned them – poked out their eyes – roasted them – and tortured them in all kinds of sadistic and terrifying ways. This is the reputation Assyria had in Jonah’s time.
It was on the back drop of this, that the LORD sent Jonah to the Nineveh. While other prophets prophesied against Gentile nations, this is the only case of a prophet actually being sent to a foreign nation to deliver God’s message against them. This was for the salvation of that city and for the shame and jealousy of Israel, as well as a rebuke to the reluctance of the Jews to bring Gentiles to the true God. Nineveh was a huge city – the wall around Nineveh was 40 to 50 feet high and extended two and a half miles along the Tigris River and for eight miles around the inner city. The city wall had 15 main gates, five of which have been excavated. Each of the gates was guarded by stone statues of bulls. Nineveh was great in both size and power – it was probably the largest city in the world at this time. The ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire was east of Israel and located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River.
Nineveh was the centre of idolatrous worship of Assur and Ishtar. This is a call of God to Jonah, to go and minister in Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. Nineveh was founded by Nimrod. It is believed the city had well over 600,000 people living there, so it was a large city. This city was not part of the family of Jacob, and was thought of as a Gentile city. Even though they are not from the family of Jacob, God is aware of the evil going on there. This shows us that all the earth actually belongs to God. He is interested in Gentile people, the same as He is the Hebrews. Jonah was to cry against the evil going on in the city.
Jonah was a loyalist to his nation. But that loyalty to Israel had unfortunately got in the way with his loyalty to the LORD which ought to have been the higher priority. As a prophet, Jonah knew that God delights not in judgment but in mercy. And he knew that if the Ninevites repented, God would relent of His determination to judge them. Jonah didn’t want mercy for the Ninevites – he wanted them to experience God’s judgment. So while God may delight in mercy, Jonah did not. When the Word of the LORD came to him telling him to go to Nineveh and warn it of God’s judgment, Jonah, concerned the Ninevites would heed his message, repent and so be spared, determined he was not going to go. This is the only recorded instance of a prophet refusing God’s commission
In fact, Jonah got up and went the opposite direction! Nineveh is North East of Israel. Joppa, the seaport he fled to is South East of his home in Gath Hepher in the region of Zebulon. Tarshish was the land at the absolute western frontier of their navigational experience at that time. Beyond that it was uncharted water. God was telling Jonah, a fierce Jewish loyalist to his nation, to go to his nation’s sworn enemies and warn them of judgment to come. And this judgment was coming, not because they were Israel’s enemies, but because of their great moral wickedness. So in Jonah’s mind, they strike out on two counts. And the task of walking the streets of the massive city all alone seems a task too big, too intimidating. On one hand – he’s intimidated, and on the other he’s fearful his mission might be successful and Nineveh will repent and be spared. So either way – he sees it as a lose-lose situation. So he runs.
The prophet went as far west in the opposite direction as possible, showing his reluctance to bring salvation blessing to Gentiles. He was running from the face of God. He should have known, there was no place far enough to go to get away from God. He booked passage on a ship to get himself away from this call of God. Many of us have run from the call of God. We should pay special attention to this book. We will do well to remember that God is Omnipresent – He is everywhere at all times!
Verses 4-6 – This is not an ordinary storm, but an extreme one sent from God. Sailors, accustomed to storms, were afraid of this one; God is in control of the wind and the sea. He controls all natural elements of the earth. God causes the wind to come up so strong, that the ship is about to break up and sink.
All abroad the ship were terrified – they realised that the storm was not ordinary, but a supernatural one; and that the ship and all in it were in extreme danger, and there was no chance of being saved. This shows that the storm must be very violent, to frighten such men who were used to the sea, and to storms, and were naturally bold and intrepid. During a time of crisis – believers and non-believers have a tendency to cry unto God to help them and save them out of their distress. This instance was no different – in the ship it seems were men of different nations, who worshipped different gods. The sea and wind was not abating, so they cast out literally everything that was in the ship into the sea – all sorts of goods, utensils, their military weapons they had to defend themselves, and their provisions, the ship’s stores or goods it was loaded with – all went into the raging seas.
But check this out – Jonah was fast asleep. HOW?? How could Jonah be sound asleep amidst the pending disaster? Notice it says that Jonah had gone in to the sides of the ship. It may be that Jonah is worn out by the sense of guilt he’s been feeling in running away from God. As often happens, if guilt does not work a positive effect and bring us to repentance and confession, it works in a negative direction and can turn into depression. And people who are severely depressed can come to the place where they literally do not care about anything. Sleep is their only relief because when they are awake all they see is their depression
These mariners were used to storms on the sea. This had to be an unusually bad storm, to cause them to fear for their lives. They threw out the cargo, and began to pray to their gods. Here gods are plural, because they were of different cultures, and they worshipped the gods of their country. They did not know the True God.
Recognizing the divine origin of the storm, and seeing that their appeal to their gods has not brought help, the captain goes to Jonah. The sailors thought maybe there was something they could do for Jonah that would calm the storm. They weren’t ready for his answer.
Jonah lived during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel between 792 – 753 B.C (2 Kings 14:24-25).“Jonah’s” name means “dove”. 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. 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 increasingly idolatrous. 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.).
Jonah’s commission was to convey a message from God to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. The book of Jonah begins with an instruction from God to go to Nineveh and prophesy to its inhabitants. Nineveh was founded by Nimrod shortly after the Flood, and as the capital of the Assyrian empire, it rose to power about 900 B.C. Years later, Assyria began the process of conquering Israel, and Jonah clearly saw this nation as an enemy and feared what it would eventually do. By 721 B.C. the Assyrian army had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians were extremely brutal and cruel, even skinning their captives alive. The prophet Nahum describes them as lions, tearing and feeding on the nations (Nahum 2:11-13). The city of Nineveh eventually fell to the invading armies of the Babylonians and Medes about 607 B.C.
Genesis 10:9-12 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, 12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.
Instead of going northeast toward Nineveh, Jonah boarded a ship and headed in a westerly direction to Tarshish – in the opposite direction, but was overtaken by a severe storm.
Why did Jonah disregard God’s command? Jonah’s fear and pride caused him to run from God. Jonah found it difficult and agonizing to take a message of repentance to an empire destined to destroy his own nation and people. Out of patriotic zeal for his nation Israel, he fled in the opposite direction. He shuddered to consider the implications if Nineveh actually responded to his message – prolonging the life of a brutal, ruthless and bloodthirsty nation threatening the existence of God’s people.
Jonah is a type of Christ that is clear from Jesus’ own words. In Matthew 12:40-41. (1) Jesus declares that He will be in the grave the same amount of time Jonah was in the whale’s belly. (2) He goes on to say that while the Ninevites repented in the face of Jonah’s preaching, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who rejected Jesus were rejecting One who is far greater than Jonah. (3) Just as Jonah brought the truth of God regarding repentance and salvation to the Ninevites, so too does Jesus bring the same message of salvation of and through God alone (Jonah 2:9; John 14:6). (4) Jesus referred to the incident of Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights as a sign of His death and resurrection. (5) In reference to Nineveh and the preaching of Jonah, Christ spoke of Himself as “a greater than Jonah is here”
Matthew 12:40-4140 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Jonah is not just a prophetic book, as there is only one prophecy recorded (Jonah 3:4). One of the major themes is the relationship between God and Jonah. God’s extraordinary capacity to forgive upon true repentance is also fundamental to our understanding.
Chapter 1: Jonah’s commission from God is given. Out of love for his nation Israel, Jonah fled in order to avoid going to Nineveh. He boarded a vessel headed for Tarshish. Perhaps he believed that if he did not take God’s message to Assyria, they would have no chance to repent and, as a result, this cruel and merciless nation would have been destroyed and one of Israel’s greatest enemies would have been eliminated. But God had other plans. The crew reluctantly threw Jonah overboard when a great storm battered the ship. The sea was calmed, and Jonah found himself in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights.
Chapter 2: Out of the belly of the fish Jonah cried out to God for deliverance. He realized that, unless God intervened, he would certainly die. God arranged for Jonah to be vomited onto dry land closer to Nineveh. By analogy, this can symbolize the burial of the old man through baptism, followed by the command to walk in newness of life”, described by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:1-6. Jonah’s prayer is a masterpiece of heartfelt emotion and reaching out to God for mercy and forgiveness.
Chapter 3: God gave His commission a second time, and now Jonah was ready to do His bidding. He entered the city and proclaimed the message to the inhabitants. Unbelievably, they respond positively and the king proclaims a fast for both man and beast! The result is that “God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). The prophecy was no idle threat. The city would have been destroyed in 40 days (verse 4). This was a temporary repentance by the people of that generation, but sufficient for God to spare the city at that time. Jonah needed to learn the biblical principle that God grants repentance to whom He will.
Chapter 4: The change of heart on the part of the people of Nineveh displeased Jonah. All along, he feared that Nineveh would heed the warning and repent (verse 2). God, who relents from doing harm”, would then spare the city; and this powerful and dangerous enemy of Israel would survive, thus sealing the fate of His beloved people in the future. The incident of the plant and the lessons for Jonah are recorded in verses 5-11. When the plant withered, Jonah showed resentment and anger. But the withering of the plant taught him the lesson of God’s compassion for all nations, and not only for Israel. The message Christ brought when He walked the earth was that He came to die for the sins of all of humanity (John 3:16-17).
Old Testament (1) Job—Unknown (2) Genesis—1445-1405 BC (3) Exodus —1445-1405 BC (4) Leviticus —1445-1405 BC (5) Numbers—1445-1405 BC (6) Deuteronomy—1445-1405 BC (7) Psalms—1410-450 BC (8) Joshua—1405-1385 BC (9) Judges—ca. 1043 BC (10) Ruth—ca. 1030-1010 BC (11) Song of Solomon—971-965 BC (12) Proverbs—ca. 971-686 BC (13) Ecclesiastes—940-931 BC (14) 1 Samuel—931-722 BC (15) 2 Samuel—931-722 BC (16) Obadiah—850-840 BC (17) Joel—835-796 BC (18) Jonah—ca. 775 BC (19) Amos—ca. 750 BC (20) Hosea—750-710 BC (21) Micah—735-710 BC (22) Isaiah—700-681 BC (23) Nahum—ca. 650 BC (24) Zephaniah—635-625 BC (25) Habakkuk—615-605 BC (26) Ezekiel—590-570 BC (27) Lamentations—586 BC (28) Jeremiah—586-570 BC (29) 1 Kings—561-538 BC (30) 2 Kings—561-538 BC (31) Daniel 536-530 BC (32) Haggai—ca. 520 BC (33) Zechariah—480-470 BC (34) Ezra—457-444 BC (35) 1 Chronicles—450-430 BC (36) 2 Chronicles—450-430 BC (37) Esther—450-331 BC (38) Malachi—433-424 BC (39) Nehemiah—424-400 BC