Jonah Lesson 1



KEY VERSE: Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; …”

THEME: A servant given a specific job reneges and runs away from his call. God allows circumstances to bear down upon him, and then provides deliverance from his plight. The job offer is repeated and he obeys this time. He goes to Nineveh to preach the gospel to six hundred thousand people. God’s long-suffering and mercy is on display as He seeks to accomplish His sovereign purpose.

DATE: Jonah prophesied about 800 B.C. during the reign of Jereboam II (See II Kings 14:25) His prophesy was in the Northern Kingdom. He was a contemporary of Hosea.

WRITER: The author, of course, is the Holy Spirit, who used Jonah to write the book. The name Jonah means “dove.” Jonah was the son of Amittai. He resided in Gath-Hepher in Zebulun, a village approximately one hour’s walk north of Nazareth. Jonah was probably a disciple of Elisha. Legend says he was the son of the widow of Sarepta. He prophesied the victories of Jeroboam II against Syria.

WRITTEN: The book of Jonah was written during the time of the great Assyrian Empire’s control of the world. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrain Empire. This world power lasted approximately three hundred years – from 900-607 B.C. The book of Jonah is different from the other minor prophets in that it gives a personal experience of the prophet himself. There are only eight actual words of preaching in it. The rest is personal experience symbolizing, of course, the burial and resurrection of Christ, as our Lord Himself stated in Matthew 12:38-41.

THE BOOK: Number in Bible: 32nd book of the Bible. Number of chapters = 4. Number of verses = 48. Number in order of writing = 5th of 12 books of minor prophets.

PURPOSE: To show God’s method of dealing with His servants in patience and long-suffering as they resist His will and go their own ways. We also note the call of a missionary to a heathen people. Jonah is the first missionary called and sent. By application we see a lesson to all of God’s servants who are called to reach lost sinners.

DIVISION: 1. The Divine Command of Jonah. 1:1-2 2. The Disobedience of Jonah. 1:3. 3. The Watery Fate of Jonah. 1:4-16 4. The Confinement of Jonah. 1:17 5. The Prayer of Jonah. 2:1-9 6. The Deliverance of Jonah. 2:10. 7. The Obedience of Jonah. 3:1-4 8. The Response of Nineveh. 3:5-10 9. The Exasperation of Jonah. 4:1-9 10. The Pity of the Lord. 4:10-11

FACTS: The book of Jonah is one of three Old Testament books especially hated by Satan.

GENESIS: Predicting the incarnate Christ as the seed of woman. (Genesis 3:15) DANIEL: Predicting the glorious second coming of Christ. (Daniel 7:9-12) JONAH: Predicting in type and form the death and resurrection of Christ. (cf. Jonah 2; Matthew 12:38-41) There are three basic interpretations of the book of Jonah. . . THE MYTH INTERPRETATION. This liberal view looks upon Jonah as a Robinson Crusoe story. It teaches that the persons, places, and experiences are all imaginary. THE ALLEGORY INTERPRETATION. Those who hold to this interpretation believe the book is a parable and that Jonah represents Israel, the sea represents the Gentile nations in general, the fish represents the Babylonian captivity, and the regurgitation is the return during Ezra’s time. THE HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION. This, of course, is the correct view. The account represents itself as actual history. The Jews and early church believed it to be literal. The author of II Kings 14:25 refers to Jonah as an historical person. His home town is given, along with the name of his father and the king he served under. Jesus testified to the literal account of Jonah in Matthew 12:38-41 (also see Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:29-32).

THE CITY OF NINEVEH: Nineveh was sixty miles in circumference. It has twenty mile streets. The walls were one hundred feet high. Three chariots could ride abreast on the walls. There were 600,000 people there. The people were known to be very wicked. It was referred to as Sodom and Gomorrah. Shalmaneser II, Tiglath-poleser III, Shalmaneser IV, Sennacherib, Assur-banipal, and several other world famous kings of history reigned from Nineveh.

THE FISH: The word means “great fish” and in Matthew 12:40, it is translated as a “whale”. Many sea monsters have been found large enough to swallow a man, however, the point of the story is that it was a miracle — a divine attestation of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh. Except for some such astounding miracle, the Ninevehites would have given little heed to Jonah. (See Luke 11:30)

OUTLINE: I. Running from God. Jonah’s disobedience – 1:1-17 II. Running to God. Jonah’s prayer. 2:1-9 III. Running with God. Jonah’s preaching. IV. Running ahead of God. Jonah’s complaining. 3:10-4:8

MISCELLANEOUS: God always shows initiative toward the heathen as He did toward the Assyrians. 1. Egypt: God sent Joseph and Moses. 2. Philistines: God sent Samuel, the prophet. 3. Assyrians: God sent Elijah and Elisha. 4. Babylon: God sent Daniel.

METHOD OF STUDYING THE BOOK OF JONAH: 1. Read repeatedly and prayerfully 2. Understand the conditions which prevailed in Jonah’s lifetime. 3. Analyze the motives which swayed Jonah’s thoughts and actions. 4. Beg the Holy Spirit to teach you the lessons that He may have for you personally.

APPLICATION OF THE BOOK: 1. We live in a needy world. Like Nineveh, our modern culture is far from God with its Nebos and Dagons and the Sodom and Gomorrah attitude. 2. The loving heart of God. God is still infinitely kind, merciful, and long-suffering. He is waiting for men to repent and turn to Him and is not willing that any should perish. 3. There is a great need for faithful servants to obey the call. Believers are expected to witness, as Jonah did (Acts 1:8). God has not entrusted the task of world evangelism to angels, but to frail men and women who, like Saul of Tarsus, must not be disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).

NOTICE FOUR THINGS PREPARED IN THE BOOK OF JONAH: 1. Great fish 1:17 2. Gourd 4:6 3. Worm 4:7 4. Wind 4:8

Jonah’s reluctance to go to Nineveh was obviously based on the fact that he knew that if she repented and was spared by God, eventually the Assyrians would prevail over Israel. Basically, that is what happened in the days ahead, but all in accordance with God’s plan. Tarsus, the place where Jonah tried to flee, was located in Spain. It was on the edge of the known world. In other words, he was getting as far away as possible from God’s will.

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