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The Story of Jonah

Jonah Runs Away

The Lord said to Jonah, son of Amittai,
"Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; because I see their wickedness."
But Jonah fled to Tarshish, away from the Lord, by way of Joppa. He found a ship going to Tarshish, so he paid the fare went on it to go away from the Lord to Tarshish.

But the Lord sent a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty storm, so that the ship was likely to be broken apart. The sailors were afraid, and each called out to his god, and threw the merchandise from the ship into the sea to lighten it. Jonah, however, had gone inside the ship and laid down fast asleep. The captain went to him and said,

"What does this mean? Get up and call upon your God, perhaps God will think about us and we may not die."

Everyone said,

"Come, let's cast lots to find out who caused this evil to happen to us."
So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. They said to him,
"Please tell us why this evil is upon us; What do you do? and where are you from? what is your country? and what people do you belong to?"
He answered,
"I am an Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
Then they were very afraid and said, "Why has you done this?" For the men knew from what he said that he had fled from the presence of the Lord.
"So they said to him, "What should we do with you, to make the sea calm?"
For the sea was in turmult and was storming. So he said to them
, "Take and throw me into the sea; so that the sea will be calm: for I know that it is my fault that this great storm is upon you."
Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship to land; but they could not: bacause the sea was wild and the storm was against them. Then they cried to the Lord,
"We beg you Lord, we beg you not to let us die for this man's life, and don't count innocent blood against us, because you, Lord, have done as you wanted."

So they took Jonah, and threw him into the sea: and the sea calmed. Then the men greatly feared the Lord and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. The Lord had prepared a whale to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.

Comments on Jonah Runs Away

Tarshish is modern Spain, Ninevah was in the opposite direction. Joppa was on the coast of Israel, Tarshish was across the sea to the west, Ninevah across the wilderness and desert in the east.

This story shows that the LORD was not confined to the national borders of Israel, but was everywhere. Even in the depths of the sea the LORD listened to Jonah and acted to save him.

The ancient word for sea creature did not distinguish between whale and fish. Whales did come into the Mediteranean in those days. In the 1800's, at the peak of the whaling industry, rare cases occurred of men being swallowed. In one case the man was released when the whale was caught a day later. His skin and hair were bleached white. the skin pigment gone. Jonah must have been an unusual sight, giving credence to his preaching.

Jonah in the Whale

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the whale's belly. He said,
"I cried out because of my affliction to the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell I cried, and you heard me. You had thrown me into the deep, in the middle of the sea; and the waters closed me in: all your billows and waves covered me. Then I said, I am thrown out of your sight; but I will look again toward your holy temple. The waters closed me in, even to the soul: the depth closed around me, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the roots of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet you brought up my life from death, O Lord my God. When my soul grew faint I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. They that listen to lies leave their own mercy. But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord."
The Lord spoke to the whale, and it vomited out Jonah on dry land.

Comments on Jonah In the Whale

Jonah's song or testimony speaks of his calling out as he sank in the sea. The belly of hell was the sea, he was saying "Thanks for saving me" while he was in the whale's stomach! He did keep his vows and served the LORD again.

Jonah in Ninevah

So the Lord said to Jonah a second time,
"Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and preach to it whatever I tell you."
So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, as the Lord said. Nineveh was a very large city, which took three days to walk through. As Jonah began to walk into the city about a day's journey he cried out,
"In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown."
The people of Nineveh believed God and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. For when word came to the king of Nineveh he rose from his throne, took off his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh a decree of the king and his nobles, which said, "
Let no man or beast, herd or flock, eat any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let every one turn from his evil way, and from the violence of his hands. Who can tell if God will turn away, and put away his fierce anger, so that we may not perish?
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, God turned from the disaster that he had said that he would send them and did not send it.

Comments on Jonah In Ninevah

The judgements of God are usually 'conditional'. The "Yet forty days and Ninevah will be destroyed!" must be understood as "In forty days Nivevah will be destroyed UNLESS she turns from her evil ways!"

For this and other reasons, many believe that the destiny of nations can be changed by a religious revival.

Many pray for such a turning to the LORD in the United States as well as in former Communist nations or the developing world. Certainly even a small number of citizens seeking the LORD in any country may have a dramatic effect on the entire nation.

Jonah's Complaint Against God

But Jonah was dismayed and very angry. He prayed to the Lord, and said,
"I ask you, Lord, wasn't this what I said when I was in my own country? That's why I fled from you to Tarshish: because I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and you turn away from sending calamities. Now, Lord, I ask you to take my life away; for I would rather die than live."
Then said the Lord,
"Are you right to be so angry?"
So Jonah left the city, and sat outside the east of the city, and made a shelter, and sat in it's shadow, to see what would become of the city. The Lord God prepared a vine, and made it to grow up over Jonah, to make shade for his head, to comfort him. Jonah greatly appreciated the vine. But God sent a worm early the next morning, and it ate into the vine and made it wither. Then, when the sun rose, God sent a strong east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head until he fainted and wanted to die. He said,
"It would be better for me to die than to continue living."
But God said to Jonah,
"Are you right to be so angry about the vine?"
Jonah said,
"I'm right to be angry, even so angry that I could die!"
Then the Lord said,
"You had pity on the vine, for which you have not worked nor did you make it grow, but it came up in a night, and withered in a night. Why shouldn't I spare the great city of Nineveh, with more than twelve thousand people that cannot tell their right hand from their left, besides the cattle?"

Comments on Jonah's Complaint Against God

Note that Jonah typified the Hebrew nation at that time in his lack of compassion for the Ninevites. Abraham's descendants were supposed to be a blessing to all nations. Jonah despised the Ninevite sinners, and had run away previously because he did not want to preach to them, knowing the mercy of God and how they could be forgiven.

Christians today have a message of mercy, but may not care for others enough to tell the message.

[BrRon Home] Updated 2 December 1997 by BrRon