Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet

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ALSO  SEE: The Story of Jonah - Translation and Notes

The Reluctant Prophet

Jonah Flees, Prays, Preaches, Complains.

Background: Jonah preached about 760 BC while Ninevah was an enemy of Judah
Theme: God's concern for a pagan nation
Outline: Jonah flees, prays, preaches, and complains
Key Verse: "He prayed to the LORD, 'O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.'" (Jonah 4:2, NIV)

Jonah Chapter Index


The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.

On the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), modern Jews confess their sins, fast, and the Book of Jonah is read in the synagogue.  This story of repentance is appropriate for that day and every day.

I. Disobedience of Jonah (1-2)

2:8-9 God saved Jonah from physical danger. What is less obvious or easy to forget is that God saved him in spite of his sin! Jonah certainly deserved death for his deliberate disobedience of God’s direct word to him.

II. Obedience of Jonah (3-4)

3:4 The forty days was a period of grace giving time for repentance. This is not stated in the text, but becomes clear from the context. This may lead us to the conclusion that God leaves an opportunity for repentance in other warnings, even if it is not directly stated. [Chad Woodburn] The same can be seen in many passages: the flood being the primary one. I have come to the position that while God's promises of blessing may be irrevocable, His pronouncements of judgment always leave room for the possibility of mercy.

3:5 Perhaps Jonah was partially disfigured or at least bleached or marked from his ordeal in the whale. If so, his appearance would call special attention to his words of warning.

3:5 This repentance did not last long, but why should we find it unusual for a national repentance to be short lived? In this, the Ninevites would be no different than the nation of Israel. Certainly the history of the wanderings, the judges, and the kings show how fickle Israel was, why do we expect a deeper or longer lasting repentance from the Assyrians to judge that it was sincere? We of the present dispensation are greatly blessed to have the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead us in grace! I do not believe the majority of our professions would last long without the overwhelming grace of our Lord and the presence of the Comforter.

4:10-11 I prefer the simple explanation of the 120,000 who could not tell their right hand from their left to be young children.

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Updated March 2012

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