A. The historical character of the man Jonah is vouched for by Jesus (Christ Matt 12:39-41) as also that his preservation in the great fish was a “sign” or type of the Lord’s own entombment and resurrection. Both are miraculous and both are equally credible. 2 Kings 14:25 records the fulfilment of a prophecy by Jonah. The man himself was a bigoted Jew, unwilling to testify to a Gentile city, and angry that God had spared it. Typically he foreshadows the nation of Israel out of its own land; a trouble to the Gentiles, yet witnessing to them; cast out by them, but miraculously preserved; in their future deepest distress calling upon God, and finding deliverance, and then becoming missionaries to the Gentiles. Zech 8:7-23.
B. Jonah typifies Christ as the Sent One, raised from the dead, and carrying salvation to the Gentiles. The chapter divisions indicate the analysis of Jonah.
II. Verses. Johah 1:1-17. Jonah’s Disobedience.
A. Jonah Flees From the Lord
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
B. Jonah’s Prayer
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
III. Comments. Verses. Jonah 1:1-17.
A. Jonah Flees From The Lord.
- 1:1. The name Jonah means “dove.”
- 1:2. Nineveh. Located on the E bank of the Tigris River, more than 500 mi (800 km) from Israel. Sennacherib made it the capital of Assyria about 700 B.C. Calah, however, about 20 mi (32 km) S of Nineveh, and part of a city-state complex that included Nineveh, was the capital in Jonah’s time (See Gen 10:11-12). wickedness. Included idolatrous worship and extreme cruelty to prisoners of war.
- 1:3. Tarshish. Located in the S of Spain near Gibraltar, 2,500 mi (4,000 km) W of Israel, and the opposite direction from Nineveh. But, no one can escape from the presence of the Lord (Ps 139:7-12).
- 1:6. A pagan had to call God’s prophet to prayer!.
- 1:7. Casting lots by mixing small stones in a container, then taking one out, was a popular form of divination used by both pagans and the Hebrews (Lev 16:8; Josh 18:6; 1 Sam 14:42; Neh 10:34; Acts 1:23-26).
- 1:10-14. The sailors blamed Jonah for their predicament (v. 10), yet they did not wan to cast him overboard, lest they be considered murderers (vv. 13-14).
- 1:16. Apparently, the sailors were convinced that Yahweh (see note on Gen 2:4) was the true God; thus, they offered a sacrifice to Him.
B. Jonah’s Prayer.
1:17. We do not know what kind of great fish that God prepared, though there are whales and sharks capable of swallowing a man. three days and three nights does not require 72 hours, but only one 24-hour day, plus parts of two other days. Our Lord said His burial would be the same length of time. See note on Matt 12:40.
IV. Point Summary. In The Mind Of Jonah.
A. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call them to repent. The problem was, Jonah couldn’t stand the Ninevites. The Ninevites were part of the Assyrian Empire, who were a nasty lot. They were known to skin their enemies and hang it on the walls of the city as a warning, or to gouge out the eyes or cut off the ears of defeated soldiers to make their lives miserable. Maybe worst of all, they were known to kill children in the cities they conquered. In other words, Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh, and he likely had a pretty good reason for it.
B. And here’s the thing. I’m pretty confident that if I were in Jonah’s shoes, I might feel just like he did. And if you were there, my guess is that you wouldn’t feel much different either. It’s hard to know, though, because Jonah and Nineveh and the Assyrians are historical facts, far removed from us today.
- Paragraph I. Scofield Study Bible.
- Paragraphs II, III. Ryrie Study Bible.
- Paragraph IV. Lifeway Voices.
- Scriptures come from the New International Version Bible.
- Scriptures, for the New International Version Bible in this article, were pasted from BibleGateway.com