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jonah

Jonah

Overview and Purpose

Out of the twelve prophet books of the Old Testament, Jonah is the fifth. The prophet of Jonah makes his first appearance in the book of 2 Kings when he judges the Jews for their disobedience.Though the account of Jonah and the whale is a favorite narrative among children, it holds important values that are important for every Christians to know. In this book God displays His overflowing mercy to the rebellious Jonah after he directly disobeys a command. Jeremiah 23:24 perfectly describes the lesson Jonah learned the hard way, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” No one can hide from God. God heard his rebellious servants prayer in the belly of a giant fish. Instead of running away from God we should be running to Him. Deceiving ourselves only hurts us.

The story of Jonah is the perfect picture of contrast between man and God. It portray the omnipotence of God and the feebleness of man. Jonah demonstrates repentance, Jonah repented of his sin, the sailors repented of their pagan gods, and the Ninevites repented of their wicked lifestyles.

According to Geisler, some of the other purposes of this book include:

  • The Historical Purpose: The book of Jonah deals a hard blow to the Jewish mindset concerning the Gentiles. Jonah was written in the city of Nineveh, but it was directed towards the Jews of the northern tribes of Israel. At the time the Jews had a string disdain for the Gentiles that stopped them from sharing Gods love with them.
  • The Doctrinal Purpose: Jonah's ninevite story shows not only the necessity of obedience, but how salvation isn't just for the Jews, it is for everyone. Salvation only comes through Jesus Christ, and it doesn't matter how hard man tries to change reality- truth is not subjective.
  • The Christological purpose: Jonah portrays the coming of Christ. In Matthew 12:40 Jesus compares His death to Jonah's three day stay in the whale's belly, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” This is a very unexpected picture of the death of Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this light, the very life of Jonah, aside from his evangelism, can be seen as a prophecy of Jesus's life. Besides the resemblance of the three days and three nights, Jonah and Jesus have a few other similarities.
  1. Both were asleep on a soon-to-be shipwrecked boat.
  2. Both had roles in the security of the ship.
  3. Both sacraifed their lives to save others.
  4. The result of both of thoes actions produced a calm or peace.
  5. Both played huge roles in converting gentiles.
  6. Both were born in Galilee

In John 7:52, although Jonah isn't directly referenced, his ministry shows the ignorance of the Pharisees. The Pharisees claim that no other prophet has come from Galilee But Jonah was from Galilee.

Author, Date and Background

In 2 Kings 14:25 Jonah is referenced as a prophet under the reign of Jeroboam who lived in Gath Heper. This minor prophet came from the tribe of Zebulon and lived around 782-753 B.C. before the days of Amos and Hosea but right after Elisha. The Hebrew meaning behind the name Jonah is “dove”. This is the most common translation. But interestingly enough the Abraim Publications sheds a new light on the name. The roots are also traced back to the meaning of “vexer” or “oppressor”.

The book of Jonah is full of geographical significance. Nineveh, the city he was commanded to evangelize to, was considered the largest city's in Jonahs time. The city was built by a son of Asshur, son of Shem, as seen on Genesis 10:11. The city itself was destroyed approximately 150 years after the time of Jonah, by rising empires in 612 B.C. As the capital of the Assyrian empire, a predominating kingdom, the Jews, including Jonah, saw this city as a pagan unholy place. David Guzik describes the stigma Jews had against Gentiles with the comparison with a Jewish man during World War Two told to travel to Germany and tell the Germans to repent of their sins or face coming judgment.

  • Nahum 3:1-4 describes the wickedness of these people, “ Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.”

Tarshish was the most remote location available to Jonah at this time. The city of Tarshish was located near Gibraltar in the southern part of Spain. During this time period this city was thought to be close to the edge of the world. Nineveh was located in modern day Iraq East to the Tigris river. Joppa, the city he boarded a ship to Tarshih, stood a vast 550 miles from Ninevah. But Tarshish was closer to 2,500 miles from Ninevah. Whatever God had called Jonah to with the Assyrians, Jonahs was avoiding it at all costs.

Unique Contribution to Scriptures

Jonah is notable from the other prophetic books due to the focus of the book. While the other Prophetic books focus on the words of the prophet, Jonah focuses on the prophet himself. In the other books like Isaiah, there is hardly anything known about the author, the case is flipped with Jonah. We also see in Jonah 4:1-2 that Jonah gets angry that the people of Tarshish repented. Why? Because they were a city of Assyria, who was constantly fighting Israel. Had Tarshish been destroyed, Israel could have seen this as a victory.

Outline

The book of Jonah has four chapters that can be divided into four stages. Chapter one is the stage where Jonah is running from God.

  • God commands Jonah to go to Ninevah (1:1-2)
  • Jonah acts on impulsive disobedience (1:3)
  • Gods sends a storm to
  • discipline Jonah (1:4-9)
  • The Sailors recognize the one true God after Jonah repents (1:10-14)
  • Jonah gives his life by being thrown overboard to save the sailors (1:15-16)

Chapter two is the stage where Jonah Runs to God.

  • Jonah prays (2:1-9)
  • God answers Jonahs prayer (2:10)

Chapter three is the stage where Jonah begins to run with God

  • God repeats His command to Jonah (3:1-2)
  • Jonah obeys (3:3-4)
  • The pagans repent of their wickedness (3:5-9)
  • God responds by not destroying Nineveh (3:10)

Chapter four, the final chapter, is the stage where Jonah runs against God.

  • Jonah become bitter and angry (4:1-4)
  • Jonah is taught a lesson (4:5-8)
  • God questions Jonah about his priorities (4:9-11)

Controversial verses

Jonah 1:1 is center of one of the main debates about this prophetic book. The question is whether or not the events that took place in this epic narrative are historically sound. Because of its contents and unique literary design scholars believe the book is a fabricated story designed to demonstrate certain attributes of God and Christianity.

Christians who believe in the literal interpretation of the scriptures, as it should be interpreted, know the power of God surpasses human understanding. While the events of Jonah should be taken as historically correct there should always be careful observation of both sides of a topic. Defending Inerrancy gives several logical solutions to this claim of fabrication.

  1. First the argument is a branch off of a misunderstanding about God. It is completely undermining the power of miracles.
  2. 2 Kings mentions the prophetic ministry of Jonah. This claim of fabrication would have to deny the historical accuracy of the Historical books of the bible.
  3. As mentioned before, Mathew 12:40 harps on the importance of Jonah in foreshadowing the coming of Christ. To deny the accuracy of Jonah would be denying the resurrection of Christ and the power that raised Him from the grave.
  4. Besides the evidence from the scriptures coins have been found with the inscription of man being spit from a whale. The most convincing of evidence is the confirmation of the gave of Jonah in northern Israel by archaeologists.

Another argument against Jonah is found in the third verse of chapter three, “Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.” Scholars have taken this verse and estimated that a man can walk approximately 50-90 miles in three days. The problem is there is no record of a city so massive in ancient times, only recently in the modern day have city's grown to that size. Is scriptures inaccurate?

There is not a clear cut response to this accusation, but there are several interpretations that clear the issue. The idea is Jonah is either referring to the circumference of the city, or the time it takes to travel to each major location. As Jonah continued through the city he would have to stop and Evangelize, it is not as if he is simply walking straight through the center.


The final argument about the book of Jonah focuses on Jonah 3:6 where Jonah refers to the king of Assyria as the king of Nineveh. If scholars are to believe that Jonah was a real man and not fabricated, why does he refer to the king as only of Nineveh. This would have been something very uncommon in this Jewish time period. It is equivalent to calling Donald trump the President of the Washington D.C. instead of the president of the United States of America.

This is a fairly nit picky argument. Just because Jonah refers to the king as king of Nineveh, which is true, doesn't mean he doesn't know what he is talking about. This is not evidence that someone wrote this story from a later time period looking back at this specif time with a limited understanding. Ahab is referred to the king of Samaria when he is truly the king of Israel (see 1 Kings 21:1)

Citations

jonah.txt · Last modified: 2017/07/02 02:59 by zach.stanley18