Summary: Some scripture can be perplexing if one is not familiar with times in which it is written.
Jonah: Behind the Story
by Joe Mack Cherry
A. The Timeline
1. Written around 800-750 BC
2. Jeroboam II was the king of Israel. II Kings 14: 25
a. This validates Jonah as a real person.
b. Some believe Jonah was a fictional person.
3. Actually occurred circa 756 BC
4. History dates Jonah’s death at 752 BC
5. Dates vary from scholar to scholar.
B. The Round trip Area
1. Gath hepher – a region in Galilee – Jonah’s home was 5 miles from Nazareth
3. Tarshish – as far away from Nineveh as he could get
4. Jonah had a long haul.
1. Large city made up of 3-4 smaller ones surrounded by massive walls.
2. It is said that 4 chariots could race side by side on the walls which were close to 100 feet high.
3. There was a myriad of walls inside the exterior wall.
4. The capital of Assyria
5. Had a reputation as a mean town!
D. The Prophet
1. Narrow minded
4. Bigot – patriotically speaking
E. Jonah Is Not Simply a Big Fish Story
1. There are two sets of pagans converted.
a. Phoenician sailors – Chapt. 1
b. Ninevites – Chapt. 4
c. God’s grace was not limited to His children.
2. Jonah learns a lesson that is very applicable to us today.
A. Why Did Jonah Run Away?
1. Was he afraid? Nothing in scripture indicates it.
2. Was he afraid of failure? Israel was going through some pretty good times, Israel was expanding their borders and Jonah was probably a prominent figure of the time. Maybe who knows!
3. Jonah didn’t run away from God; he ran away from God’s assignment.
a. Gen. 3: 8 Adam & Eve tried to hide from God.
b. Chapt. 1: 9
c. Psa. 139: 7-11
4. We have to go to the Chapter 4: 2b in order to find the answer.
a. He didn’t want them to repent or receive God’s mercy.
b. He hated the Assyrians.
1. Is it kosher to withhold God’s grace from others?
2. Heb. 12: 14-15
3. Have we ever been guilty of this? About whom could we feel this way?
B. Distress & Anxiety Brought Jonah Back
1. It wasn’t hard to pray from the fish’s belly.
2. Jonah experienced total helplessness.
3. David experienced this when Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin with Bath Sheba.
4. We do the same thing don’t we?
5. Sometime God uses catastrophes to bring us to our knees.
a. Where are we in times like these?
b. Do we judge their repentance?
c. Do we accuse them of being sorry only because they were caught?
C. Nineveh was in distress, also.
1. Undergoing a civil war.
3. The loss of power and status in the region had Nineveh primed for acceptance of God.
a. God helps the helpless
b. God is always at His best when we are at our worst.
c. Rom. 5: 8
4. History tells us that there was a push toward monotheism at this time.
5. God gave mercy to Nineveh just as He did Jonah.
6. God loves all His creation.
D. The Gourd
1. What do you picture when you think about a gourd?
a. a giant squash
b. something that looks like a dipper
c. something that grows on a vine.
2. Causing a vine to grow is a miracle; but not so big, uh?
a. It ain’t much trouble for a worm to cut down a little vine.
b. Wait a minute; how could that gourd shade Jonah?
3. This gourd was actually a tree or bush.
a. Isn’t it funny how we can conjure images and thoughts up about people or things and be SO wrong!
b. Big broad leaves that held moisture
c. Conducive to cooling when a breeze blew over them.
d. Bet that worm was full!
E. Hot, Tired, & Angry
1. Read Chapt. 4: 1-10
2. God chides Jonah after each of his two temper tantrums.
a. vs. 4 – Compassion on the Ninevites
b. vs. 9 – The death of the Gourd
c. Both instances Jonah was being selfish.
3. God pronounced judgment on Nineveh but judgment was relayed due to their repentance.
a. Repentance does not vanquish judgment, it merely delays it.
b. God is faithful to bestow mercy upon those with whom He has a covenant.
1. Deut. 28 – God speaks of his covenant with Israel but He did have covenant relationships with other nations as well at various times.
2. Mic. 7: 18 “God delights in mercy…”
3. Ezek. 18: 32 “God has no delight in the death of a sinner”
4. Put yourself in Jonah’s place