Kraig Josiah Rice
Devotional Bible Commentary On

written by
Kraig J. Rice


 1) An Introduction to this Bible book
 2a) The Assyrian Empire
 2b) Jonah's call from God
 3) God's mercy for the repentant
 4) The sign of the resurrection from the dead

An Introduction

Who wrote this book?
Jonah wrote the bible book of Jonah.

What are some things that we know about Jonah?
His name means "dove" and he lived and ministered as a prophet from the Galilee region of Israel. He was from the tribe of Zebulun and was born in the town of Gath-hepher, about 3 miles Northeast of Nazareth. Jonah preached under the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (782-753 B.C.). This king was an idol worshipper but he conferred with Jonah because he respected Jonah. Jonah probably knew the prophet Elisha, and he preached shortly before the prophet, Amos, started his ministry. We know personally very little about him. He was buried in a tomb at a town in Israel called Meshhed (Mashhad).

When and where was this book written?
The Book of Jonah was written between 800-750 B.C. from somewhere in the northern kingdom (this was in the early 8th century B.C.).

Why was this book written?
God wanted many saved in Nineveh- He wanted Jonah to introduce them to Him, He wanted the lives of many children spared, He wanted others to know of His great mercy, and He wanted Jonah to write the book of Jonah as a teaching tool on how important it is to submit one's will to His.

What was the historical setting in those days when this book was written?
The nation of Israel was divided at the time of Jonah into the northern and southern kingdoms. Jonah preached in the northern kingdom. Jonah predicted that Israel would enlarge it's northern borders by taking back the lands from Syria
(2 Kings 14:25). The Assyrians are first mentioned in the bible in the book of Genesis
(Genesis 10:11-12). According to Assyrian history there was an Assyrian king named Adad-nirari who influenced his people toward the worship of one god but it was not Jehovah God. It was the heathen god, Nabu (Nebo). This king reigned from 810-782 B.C. His successor was a king named Ashur-dan III who ruled from 772-755 B.C. One of these Assyrian kings was ruling when Jonah appeared in Nineveh.

Jonah sailed from Joppa. The ancient city of Joppa in Israel is the modern city of Jaffa that still has a good harbor.

The chapters of this Bible book:

The Bible book of Jonah has four chapters:
Chapter 1- Jonah runs from doing God's will
Chapter 2- Jonah yields his will to God
Chapter 3- Nineveh gets introduced to God
Chapter 4- God's great mercy and a lesson for us

The theme of this book:
"I AM the God of Heaven and Earth"

A Brief Look At Some History

Nineveh was the capitol city of the Assyrian Empire. It was founded by Nimrod. The city was geographically located about 400 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. The city had 5 walls and 3 canals (moats) surrounding it. The walls had 15 gates guarded by the images of large bulls and lions. The city walls stretched several miles in circumference and were at least 100 feet high and 40 feet thick. The city had 70 large meeting halls that were highly sculptured. A tower similar to the Tower of Babel stood as the center of their religious worship to Satan. It would take about three days to cover all its neighborhoods by walking. Nineveh was the largest city of its time.

The Assyrian Empire was very powerful for about 300 years (900-612 B.C.). Nineveh was it's capital city. It began its rise to a world power about the time of the Division of the Hebrew Kingdom at the close of Solomon's reign. It was God's will for the Assyrians to conquer and deport the Northern Kingdom of Israel because it was a fulfillment of what God said He would do to them if they worshipped Satan through idol worship
(Deuteronomy 29:24-27). A short list of Assyrian kings who reigned include:

Under Assyrian King Shalmaneser II (860-825 B.C.), the Assyrians began to attack Israel (the Northern Kingdom).

God ordered His prophet, Jonah, to Nineveh. He preached to them because they were headed in the wrong spiritual direction. They repented and were headed in the right direction. The Book of Jonah was written between 800-750 B.C. from somewhere in the northern kingdom (this was in the early 8th century B.C.).

Assyrian King Adad-Nirari (810-782 B.C.) was possibly the King of Nineveh when Jonah preached to the populace of Nineveh. This king took tribute money from Israel.

It appears that the revival that started via the preaching of Jonah lasted through the reigns of
Assyrian King Shalmaneser III (782-772 B.C.) and
Assyrian King Ashur-dan III (772-755 B.C.).
But then the Assyrians made wrong choices and headed in the wrong spiritual direction. They became corrupt and once again they became violent, wicked, and immoral as a people.

Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III (747-727 B.C.) deported most of the Israelites from the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria. How did this happen?
Between 740-722 B.C. (about an 18 year period of time) Assyria invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. To the east of the Jordan, Assyria took as slaves the folks of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. On the west side of Jordan, Assyria conquered most of the rest. The first major deportation of folks from Israel to Assyria took place in approximately
734-732 B.C. (over a 2 year period of time).

Assyrian King Shalmaneser (727 to 722 B.C.) sent his army to the capital city of Israel, Samaria, and besieged it.
In 722 B.C. Assyria destroyed Samaria, the capital of Israel, after a lengthy 3 year siege
(2 Kings chapter 17). The major deportation(s) of the folks from Judah to Assyria took place between
729-724 B.C. (about a 5 year period of time).

Assyrian King Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) deported the rest of the folks in Judah to Assyria.

Assyrian King Sennacherib (705-680 B.C.) sent his army to the Southern Kingdom of Judah to conquer Jerusalem. This took place about
699 B.C. but his army was destroyed by God at that time at Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah prophesied against him. In other words, God killed most of his army while they were preparing to attack Jerusalem and this king retreated to Nineveh.
In 680 B.C. King Sennacherib died in the temple of Nisroch.

Jerusalem was not conquered at this time. Jerusalem, as the capital of Judah, would continue to exist for another 150 years or so past the fall of the Northern Kingdom. Instead of learning their lesson from watching the fall of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), they repeated the mistakes of Israel and eventually ended up the same way under the Babylonians.

The Assyrian King Esar-haddon (681-668 B.C.) ruled, and then, the Assyrian King,
Assur-banipal (668-626 B.C.) ruled. Thebes in Egypt fell in 663 B.C. to the Assyrian army.

For another 100 years or so Assyria continued to be powerful and arrogant but then it's decline started. There was fighting in Assyria. Assyria was invaded and began its decline around 625 B.C. The book of Nahum was written between 663-612 B.C., after the fall of Thebes.

Asshur, the ancient capital of Assyria fell in 614 B.C. to the Medes and Persians.

King Sennacherib's great grandson, Saracus, was the last king of Nineveh. It is thought by many that the prophet Nahum prophesied against Assyria while this king was ruling.

Nineveh fell two years later in 612 B.C.

One can visit Nineveh's ruins across the Tigris River from the modern day major city of Mosul, in the present day country of Iraq. Archaelogists have been working in 2 main large mound areas there- one area is called "the Jonah mound" or Nebi Yunus, and the other area is called the Quyunjiq mound.

There was much power, wealth, and education in ancient Nineveh, but, there was much violence and wickedness also. Nineveh's repentance and salvation is noted in the Gospels:
Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:32. Some Christians in modern day Iraq have been known to commemorate the three days Jonah spent inside the fish by prayer and fasting for 3 days.

Later, after the Book of Jonah was history, Nineveh was still the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire
(2 Kings 19:36) and became the home of King Sennacherib, King of Assyria. This was during the reign of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. According to the bible, Nineveh was also the place where Sennacherib died at the hands of his two sons, who then escaped to the land of Mount Ararat
(Isaiah 37:37-38).

The book of the prophet Nahum is full of prophetic denouncements against the Assyrians. This nation's final ruin and utter desolation are foretold:
And this is what the Lord says concerning the Assyrians in Nineveh:

"You will have no more children to carry on your name. I will destroy all the idols in the temples of your gods. I am preparing a grave for you because you are despicable and don't deserve to live!"
(Nahum 1:14 Living Bible).

This city was destroyed about 612 B.C. God foretold Nineveh's end:
"The attack begins! See their scarlet uniforms! Watch as their glittering chariots move into position, with a forest of spears waving above them. The chariots race recklessly along the streets and through the squares, swift as lightning, flickering like torches. The king shouts to his officers; they stumble in their haste, rushing to the walls to set up their defenses. But too late! The river gates are open! The enemy has entered! The palace is about to collapse!"
(Nahum 2:36 Living Bible).

"There is no healing for your wound; your injury is fatal. All who hear of your destruction will clap their hands for joy. Where can anyone be found who has not suffered from your cruelty?"
(Nahum 3:19 Living Bible).

"And the Lord will strike the lands of the north with His fist. He will destroy Assyria and make its great capital, Nineveh, a desolate wasteland, parched like a desert. The city that once was so proud will become a pasture for sheep and cattle. All sorts of wild animals will settle there. Owls of many kinds will live among the ruins of its palaces, hooting from the gaping windows. Rubble will block all the doorways, and the cedar paneling will lie open to the wind and weather. This is the fate of that boisterous city, once so secure. "In all the world there is no city as great as I," it boasted. But now, look how it has become an utter ruin, a place where animals live! Everyone passing that way will laugh in derision or shake a defiant fist"
(Zephaniah 2:1315 Living Bible).

"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me"
(Jonah 1:2 Modern King James Version (MKJV).

"But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the Lord"
(Jonah 1:3 Living Bible).

Jonah did not want to do God's will. But God usually gets His own way. He has many ways of dealing with any of us. His ways can be quite unique and effective, and He is not limited in any way. How has He dealt with you and I in the past? Will it be necessary for Him to deal with you or I in the future if we don't want to do what He wants us to? Remember, that God is love. He wants to destroy Satan's strongholds and get folks saved. Putting the saving of souls first is always the right priority for any of us.

Why would God send a Jewish prophet to a gentile city? There may have been many Jewish folks who lived there. Some may have been brought there as slaves. There were many deportations of Jewish citizens to the land of Assyria. Since God always deals with a remnant, He may have had some people there who loved Him. Just like at the city of Sodom, if God found even a few persons in Nineveh who loved Him, He would spare the entire city
(Genesis 18:32). Another translation reads this way:

"But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord"
(Jonah 1:3).

In any battle there are soldiers who are casualties and replacements have to be sent to the front lines to take their place. Jonah was on the front lines. He dare not run away. That is called desertion and in a time of war it is a crime that is punishable by death- usually by a firing squad. The problem was- God did not have a suitable replacement for him at the time. So, even though Jonah was a deserter, God went after him, caught him, and placed him once again on the front lines of the battle for souls. God needs you and I. We are special to Him. He loves you and only wants the best for you. But you have to stand and fight for Him. If you fall in a spiritual battle against Satan, God may not have a replacement for you. You are one of a kind and special. You and I are valuable to God.

Sometimes a military general or admiral will order his men to do something they do not want to do, however, they have to do it, anyways. That is how things work in the military. God is the Greatest General and He ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh. There was a spiritual war to be fought there. The battle ground was the hearts of those who lived there. And you and I have received orders to go and win souls to Christ also. Here is a copy of His orders to you and I:
And He said to them (and us):
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover"
(Mark 16:15-18).
In other words, we are ordered to share His gospel message with others. Let's get busy and carry out this order from Him.

Satan wanted those folks in Nineveh to continue to worship and serve him. As their reward they were to be destroyed. That is how Satan works. He will use you and then destroy you- he has no love for you. Satan is not loyal or kind or faithful- he is the personification of total hatred and he wants the human race dead so they can't love or worship God. That is the reason why Satan causes local wars and also world wars. Oh, in his selfishness, Satan will accept your worship and may reward you for awhile as long as it suits his purposes but will discard you when you are no longer needful or helpful to him. Satan will require your eternal soul because he wants to keep God from owning you. Jesus did not have a good word to say about Satan.

"So he said to them:
"I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, "Why have you done this?" For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, "What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?"- for the sea was growing more tempestuous. And he said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me." Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, "We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man's life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You." So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging"
(Jonah 1:9-15).

I see here a substitutionary death. It was better for Jonah to die as an individual rather than for all of the sailors to die as a group. Jesus Christ did the same for you and I. He died as our Substitute on the cross. Each of us should have hung on that cross for our own sins but He died in our place so we didn't have to. Jesus died as a single individual so a multitude did not have to.
"...consider that it is expedient for us that one Man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish"
(John 11:49-50).

"But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone"
(Jonah 2:9 Living Bible).

The book of Jonah is read by orthodox Jews on Yom Kippur, the Great Day of Atonement, in Israel. Why? Because they believe that "Salvation is of the Lord."

One gospel author had this to say:
"The way to God is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by the blood of a substitutionary sacrifice provided by the Lord. God is the author of salvation- He is the Architect or Great Builder of our salvation."

"So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land"
(Jonah 2:10).

Fish (puke) vomit and resurrection:
The great fish puked Jonah onto the beach. I can just imagine what Jonah looked and smelled like. The digestive juices in the fish's stomach may have eaten holes in his clothes. His skin and hair may have been bleached to a sickly white color. He stunk and was in a bad mood. I am sure the fish must have felt better after getting rid of him. Jonah must have left a very bad taste in that fish's mouth.

So here goes Jonah wandering through the streets of Nineveh. He must have been a sight to behold. He had to eat and drink while he preached for 3 days or so. Can you imagine him walking into a restaurant while looking and smelling like that? God may have used his physical condition to help convince the Assyrians of the truth of his spiritual mission.

I can't help but start laughing when I think of how poor Jonah looked and smelled! And his bad attitude helped to give his message more credibility. I can see here that God has a great sense of humor in what He did with Jonah.

It was at that time that Jonah decided to write a book titled "How to run from God". When you open the book to read what is inside, there is only one word in it and it says "Don't":-)

One time when I was in officer's school (1965) in the Navy this true event happened. We had been marched in the hot August sunshine in Florida for nearly two weeks. Most of us could see the salt coming through our uniforms from our perspiration because we were not allowed to wash them. These coveralls (called poopy suits) were our only uniforms that we were allowed to wear. Each of us stunk horribly and we had to endure this as part of our training. I now quote from my personal testimony:

"Then the highlight of my tour in indoctrination came. It was Sunday. We were ordered to go to church. We had no choice. When that order came I knew they had outdone themselves because we had no church clothes. All each cadet had was the wonderful ripe poopy suit. I couldn't believe it. They wouldn't dare march us into that chapel containing about 300 people with many "top brass" officers and their wives! But there we were in formation, marching to the chapel in our poopy suits. Someone had even reserved the two front rows for us that were roped off. The formation stopped at the chapel door and we were ordered to remove our caps from off our near bald heads. In we went single file. The chapel was already full. At first everyone seemed to smile, and nodded their heads in approval and seemed well pleased. Then the stench filtered throughout the entire chapel. It even filtered up to the balcony where high ranking officers sat. Soon the chapel was filled with squirming men and ladies holding handkerchiefs against their noses all the while trying to remain poised. First time guests were wrinkling their noses while listening to the sermon. The chaplain doing the preaching was acting and looking nervous as he gave his sermon. I am sure he must have thought, "How does one get rid of something that bad and still save face?" The sermon was short, the closing hymn was shortened to two stanzas, and the chapel doors thrown open. Guess who was the first to leave! When we left no one was smiling. We were marched right out and I never saw another indoc class being forced to go to church after that."

"Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: "No one, not even the animals, may eat or drink anything at all. Everyone is required to wear sackcloth and pray earnestly to God. Everyone must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will have pity on us and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us." When God saw that they had put a stop to their evil ways, He had mercy on them and didn't carry out the destruction He had threatened"
(Jonah 3:7-10).

The folks of Ninevah repented. God spared their city at that time, however, they went back to sinning again and the city was completely destroyed about 150 years later.

"Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!"
(Jonah 4:3).

Jonah did not love the people of Ninevah- he wanted them destroyed. That is one reason he headed out in the opposite direction away from Ninevah.

Why did Jonah want them dead? It may have been that Jonah (with the gift of prophecy) knew that Assyria would one day conquer and enslave his people (the northern Kingdom of Israel). Ninevah was the capitol city of Assyria. The Assyrians were not just violent but they were exceptionally cruel to those they conquered. How cruel were they? They would impale a person through their rectum with a sharp wooden pole. Then they would lift that person up while he or she screamed in agony as they slowly died. Or, they would put a sharpened metal "fish hook" in the jaw of a person they had just conquered. Prisoners would be chained together and lead away to Assyria as slaves. The Assyrians would place the heads of their enemies to form a large pyramid- one pyramid on either side of the main gate of their city.

"The Lord replied:
"Is it right for you to be angry about this?"
(Jonah 4:4 Living Bible).

Jonah was angry. Does that remind you of someone else in the bible who was angry? Cain was also angry:
"Why are you so angry?" the Lord asked him. "Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it"
(Genesis 4:6-7 Living Bible).

Anger has been classified by some folks as one of the 7 deadly sins
Proverbs 15:1; 27:4; Psalm 37:8.

"And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah's head, shading him from the sun. This eased some of his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But God also prepared a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant, so that it soon died and withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God sent a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. "Death is certainly better than this!" he exclaimed"
(Jonah 4:6-8).

The gourd over Jonah's head was kind of like God's air conditioning. Have you ever been really hot and then the air conditioning equipment quit working? When you get hot you can easily get aggitated and angry. Tempers can flare up. Sometimes God allows something negative to happen in our life. Why? Because, like with Jonah, God wants to teach us something. He wants to get our attention. He wants you and I to "get it."

One time a farmer had a mule. The farmer would talk to the mule and give it orders but the mule just ignored him. So, one day, the farmer picked up a piece of wood and hit that mule on top of it's head. A friend of the farmer asked him why he had done this. The farmer replied, "To get it's attention. Once I have it's attention, it is more likely to listen to me."

How many of us are like that old mule? Let's stay sensitive to the leading of God the Holy Spirit and not be like that old mule. Let's willingly learn the lesson(s) that He is teaching us. why? For His glory and our good
(Romans 8:28).

"And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left- and much livestock?"
(Jonah 4:11).

God chose to have mercy on the innocent. The number of 120,000 children indicates a total population of at least 600,000 within the city walls. There may have been many more on the outside of the city walls.

Some of the Assyrians sacrificed their children to idols (Satan worship). Satan was always happy to receive that kind of worship. That tells you something about what kind of a being he is. However, God protects the innocent. It is His will to save and protect children.

Some Devotional Thoughts

Jesus Christ is Our Resurrection and Life:

Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live"
(John 11:25).

One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said: "Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove that you are from God." But Jesus replied:
"Only an evil, faithless generation would ask for a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will rise up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And now Someone Greater than Jonah is here- and you refuse to repent"
(Matthew 12:38-41).

Christ gave His claim for deity, proving that He was God. As proof He gave the people the sign of the prophet Jonah. What was that sign? Jonah was inside the great fish under the water and considered to be dead. Christ was placed in a garden tomb under the ground after He was dead. After 3 days, Jonah came up and out of the fish. It was a type of resurrection. After 3 days, Christ came up and out of the tomb in a literal bodily resurrection.

All of this is much like water baptism by immersion. We go down under the water to symbolize our physical death and burial. Then we come up and out of the water (the grave) to symbolize our resurrection to eternal life in Christ.

Some folks believe that Jonah died when he was inside the great fish. He prayed either before he died or after he came back to life. This was while he was inside the fish. Some folks believe that he was alive for 3 days while he was inside of the fish. I am sure that the fishermen who threw him over board considered him dead. If he were alive for all that time it must have been a time of suffering for his disobedience. I don't really think it matters one way or another. I am sure the fish was thankful for the meal. That fish had probably been praying for a good meal and that was an answer to prayer! However, some folks think that since Jonah was so sour, he gave that fish a stomach ache.

Jonah was a type of Christ. How?
1) Jonah was sent on a mission of destiny, so was Christ.
2) Jonah was buried (beneath the water). Christ was buried in a tomb.
3) Jonah was raised from the dead. Christ was raised from the dead.
4) Jonah ministered salvation to the gentiles. So did Christ.

The miracles of creation:
God is the God of heaven and earth. Is there anything too hard for the Lord?
(Genesis 18:14). He created the heavens and the stars, the earth and everything on it:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"
(Genesis 1:1).
Since God is so great, I don't have a problem with Him creating a great fish. To me, it is perfectly logical. However, General Josephus, an early Christian and military leader of some of the Jews, did have a problem with this book of the bible. He totally left the book of Jonah out of his writings. Evidently, he thought that some of his readers would discount other parts of the holy writ if the book of Jonah were considered to be not logical or became a stumbling block to them.

There are other miracles in the bible that also teaze one's logic. I don't have a problem with them, either. Take for instance God using Moses to open the Red Sea to allow 2 to 3 million Israelites to cross over on dry ground. One critic stated that it was no miracle at all because the Red Sea was only ankle deep. Then one preacher started dancing and shouting hallalujah when he heard that. One asked him why he was doing that. Because, he said, if that was true then God worked a greater miracle to drown Pharoah, his horses and chariots, and his whole army in only ankle deep water!
(Exodus chapter 14). God fed manna to the Israelites in the desert for 40 years
(Exodus 16:14-15). Balaam's donkey talked to him
(Numbers 22:28). Daniel's 3 friends were thrown alive into a giant, flaming furnace. Jesus visited with them there and they had a time of fellowship and rejoicing. They walked out of the furnace without the smell of smoke on them
(Daniel 3:23-26). God is a miracle working God. He still works miracles today- nothing is too hard for Him.

If you need something from God right now then ask Him. Ask Him believing and having faith. You may get it or you may not, but it is always worth a try- so give it a shot.

God's will towards Nineveh:
In His mercy God decided to warn Nineveh before He destroyed it. Did God send Lot to the city of Sodom to warn those folks before He destroyed it? It is a good possibility. Why? Because many times God warns before He destroys. How do we know this? God warned the known world through Noah before He destroyed them
(Hebrews 11:7). God warned Pharoah before He destroyed Egypt
(Hebrews 11:28-29). God warned King Saul before He allowed him to be destroyed
(1 Samuel 28:16-19). God warned Judah before He allowed the Babylonians to conquer them
(Jeremiah chapter 6). And there are other examples from God's word about this.

How does such a large city like Nineveh repent in such a short time? There were certain "Holy Spirit coincidences" that happened in Nineveh before Jonah arrived. What kind of coincidences? There was a total eclipse in 763 B.C. interpreted to be a divine warning. Then there were two major plagues that broke out in Nineveh- one was in 765 B.C. and the other was in 759 B.C. God had definately gotten the attention of the folks of Nineveh and had prepared the way for Jonah. All Jonah had to do was to walk into the city and give them God's message. Many in that city repented and were saved. Because of this God did not destroy the city at that time.

Many times God will go before us and do a work and prepare the hearts of men, women, and children so they will be receptive to His message. But God has to have a human messenger to give that message. Let's always stay receptive to the moving of God the Holy Spirit in our lives and give any message that He moves us to give.

Here is a brief comparison of Jonah and Paul the Apostle:
1) Both were called by God to service.
2) They were both in a turbulent, violent tossed sea.
3) Both were witnesses to sailors on board a boat.
4) Both were used to deliver those sailors from death.
5) Both were headed to a capitol city (Rome, Nineveh).
6) Both suffered.
7) Both had successful ministries.
8) They were both missionaries to the gentiles.

What did Jonah go through in his disobedience to God?

1) The deadening of his conscience ceased to disturb Jonah any longer. A conscience ignored long enough may quit working properly. Did his wrong actions cause him to wake up from his sleep? Probably not. There was no restlessness caused by the anxiety of a guilty conscience. I also think King Saul was possibly like this at the very end of his life
(1 Samuel 15:23).
2) The storm- life threatening circumstances
3) The casting of lots pointed him out to be the guilty one
4) Bad attitude
5) Anger
6) No love- only indifference or hatred
7) God's judgment in other areas of his life

If you or I get into rough waters as a result of our disobedience against God, will these same or similar circumstances beset us like they did in connection with Jonah?

Some folks have thought that Jonah did not have great character, however, God saw great potential in him. He showed self denial when he told the sailors to take his life so they may be saved. He cast the death sentence upon himself so others could live. One can argue that he had a martyr complex but I think that his love for God was more than that. That love drove him on to accomplish great things for God.

The Apostle Paul started out the same way. In the beginning he was disobedient and persecuted many folks in the eartly church but God saw great potential in him. Later, his love for God drove him on to accomplish great things for God.

Jonah wrote this book about himself. In this book he tells us all about his fear and flaws. He tells us about his call, his disobedience, his punishment, his mission, his struggles in life and in his ministry, and the fact that he was successful. He gives us the ups and downs of his life in the ministry. What true minister of the gospel has never gone through the same ups and downs as Jonah did? Who has ever had it smooth sailing all the way through? Who has never had to adjust his or her own attitude? Who has never been angry while in their service to God? Who has never been fearful and never felt like running away from it all? Who has never suffered pain or disappointment or poverty while trying to pastor God's sheep?

Jonah shows us his spots and blemishes. He shows us his pimples and warts. He could have written glowing things about himself but he uses self abasement. This is the opposite of pride. He does not try to play head games with God or with us. He just tells it like it is. He is a transparent person. With God's help Jonah stuck to his call and accomplished his destiny. We will also if we follow Jonah's example of correct choices, final obedience, love, dedication, and our own force of will over our emotions.

Jonah writes his own story for us:

Jonah tells us about his disobedience towards God and God's punishment on him. He tells us about his repentance and subsequent obedience to God's call. He tells us a little about his ministry. He has wonderful success in his ministry but he is disappointed by his own success. He tells us about his own bad attitudes in comparison to God's great mercy. God wins in the end and many are saved in Nineveh as a result.

Isn't Jonah typical of each of us? We want our own way- we know to do right but end up doing just the opposite. We sin and get punished for it. We repent and do what God wants us to do but we struggle with finding lasting happiness for any length of time. We struggle with the problems of life. We struggle against sin. We struggle against Satan. Problems beset us and our attitude at times is NOT Christ like. Even if we win we lose because we get depressed. At times, life just does seem worth living. We have inner struggles but we must overcome them on a daily basis
(Romans chapter 7; Galatians 5:16-17; book of Job).

"Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don't wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. "All is meaningless," says the Teacher, "utterly meaningless." Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad"
(Ecclesiastes 12:6-8; 12:13-14).

The Reluctant Prophet (Jonah's Individuality):
Jonah did not want to be a prophet. He did not want to be known as a prophet or hold the office. I have often felt the same way. God called me to go to bible college. I rubbed shoulders there with other men who went out and joined the conventional ministry. Some held the office of a minister, some were missionaries, and some served in other capacities. I had friends from college who became professional ministers. I had speaking class and preaching class and studied the bible. I was well trained to enter the conventional ministry, but I didn't like any of it. Therefore, I never became a conventional minister (a paid minister who preaches to a regular congregation). I was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit
(Acts 2:4) but never joined any church denomination. Why? Because I did not think it was necessary for me to do that in order to serve Christ and do His will.

I had a burning desire "down in my bones" to evangelize the lost of this world and introduce them to Jesus Christ. I started my own literature evangelism ministry and did just that. This was what was called unconventional ministry (a saved person who works for the Lord but does not hold the office of a conventional minister). Folks in the conventional ministries generally seemed to look down on those in the unconventional ministries. College professors were usually appointed from the ranks of the conventional ministers and not the unconventional ministers.

Some bible scholars have deduced from a passage of scripture in
(2 Kings 14:25) that Jonah was a conventional prophet or minister- that he was a "yes man" and "sheep burper" of a regular congregation. I don't hold to that opinion. I think that he was a reluctant prophet who did not want to be a prophet. I held the title of "reverend" for ten years so I would have more credibility when working in conjunction with other religious folks. I really did not like the title. I knew who I was and I did not need a title like that to define my true self or my divinely appointed destiny. But it was a title of convenience and kept me from explaining over and over again to various folks who I was and what I was trying to accomplish for Christ. Not everyone who loves and serves Christ has to have a "reverend" title added to his or her name.

I really believe that Jonah loved and served God. I believe that he rubbed shoulders with the religious leaders of his day. He may have gone to their schools and learned their talk and ways of doing things and may have gotten ordained for a short while. But I believe that he was a unique individual. He was anointed by God and was very accurate when he made a prophecy in God's name. He was a man of truth and integrity. He gave an accurate and truthful prophecy to the sailors on the boat about throwing him into the raging sea. He did not try to lie or deceive them. He was selfless and ready to sacrifice his own life to save others (the sailors on the boat with him). He is probably one of the most misunderstood servants of God in the bible. Why? Because he did not want others to think of him in any other way except of him being a true and unique individual. He did not want to be placed in a mold and be expected to act in a certain way. This is the beautiful part of free will. God does not make robots out of human beings. Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Be all you can be for Christ. Use your unique talents and gifts in His service.

Some folks believe in arguing with God. Because a person has free will a person can do that. I had a friend one time who believed in arguing with God. I don't recommend that one does that. I believe that Jonah argued with God all the way to the port of Joppa. He probably told God to get someone else. Jonah counted on appealing to the permissive will of God rather than the absolute will of God. Jonah probably told God that God would have to do something drastic to change his mind as he headed in the opposite direction. So God did just that. Jonah's mind was made up but God's mind was made up also.

Clashes of will with God are not that uncommon in the bible. Adam and Eve's wills clashed with God's will in the Garden of Eden
(Genesis 3:1-6), Moses really did not want to go back to Egypt to face Pharoah and his army
(Exodus 3:11-13), King David wanted his own selfish way
(2 Samuel 12:16), the Apostle Peter did not want to go to the cross in his old age
(John 21:18-22), and there are other examples in God's word.

God controls circumstances to deal with folks who refuse to submit their will to His. As a loving Father, He deals firm with them and teaches them a lesson they will not soon forget. Let's you and I always submit our will to His. He is the God who rules heaven and earth. He knows what is best for others and for us. He only has our best interests at heart. He wants what is best for others and for us. In Jonah's case, He wanted many saved in Nineveh- He wanted Jonah to introduce them to Him, He wanted the lives of many children spared, He wanted others to know of His great mercy, and He wanted Jonah to write the book of Jonah as a teaching tool on how important it is to submit one's will to His. Aren't you and I glad that Jonah yielded his will to God's will in writing this book for us?

"I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was locked out of life and imprisoned in the land of the dead. But you, O Lord my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death!"
(Jonah 2:6 Living Bible).

Sparing the great city of Nineveh at that time was a blessing from God. What is the relevance to you and I? God is willing to listen to us and forgive us when we repent after we have sinned. He is willing to show us mercy like He did to the folks of Nineveh. That is indeed a blessing to you and I because it is better for us to receive His mercy than His judgment(s). Does God have to bring some of us to the brink of death before he can get us to surrender our will to Him?

  • Midgley's reluctant response to God's call to service

  • Griffis' reluctant response to God's call to service

  • Do you have a storm in your life and need God's help?
    When the waters of disaster threaten to overwhelm us we need to look up to God. Christ calms our storm of trial, suffering, and persecution.


  • More History of Assyria

  • Nahum's prophesy against Nineveh

    33. Micah Commentary

    Celebrate Christ's Resurrection

    31. Obadiah Commentary

    Bible Commentary Index

    (a gospel tract)

    Click here to go to the master index page

    The Christian Counter
    As of October 17, 2011