What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The book of Jonah is unique among the Minor Prophets in that it tells the story of the prophet himself, unlike the other eleven books, which are clearly more typical prophecies. Jonah—it means "dove" in Hebrew—lived in Gath-hepher, a town of Zebulun north of Nazareth in Galilee, and he was the son of Amittai ("truthful"). The only other biblical mention of him appears in II Kings 14:25, which associates Jonah with the period just prior to or within the reign of Jeroboam II. Apparently, he was a contemporary of Amos.
Jonah's story is familiar to most people, even those who do not profess to be Christian or Jewish. God charges the prophet to go to Nineveh, the capital of Israel's hated enemy, Assyria, to prophesy of its imminent destruction. Jonah, though, flees to Joppa and boards a ship bound for Tarshish, attempting to get as far away from God and Assyria as possible. A huge storm rages, and the ship's crew chucks Jonah into the sea after the prophet admits that the storm is chasing him. God sends a great fish to swallow Jonah, and after three days and nights, it spews him onto a beach, from whence he travels to Nineveh to proclaim God's message to the Assyrians. Amazingly, they repent, and God promises not to destroy them. At this, the prophet pitches a fit of anger, whereupon God teaches him a valuable lesson on His mercy.
The book must be juxtaposed against the other Minor Prophets, perhaps especially Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk, to see how it fits. As we saw earlier, Amos and Micah are dire warnings of Israel's looming destruction. Obadiah foretells the same for Edom; Nahum, for Assyria; and Habakkuk, for Judah. Jonah sits in the midst of these, a prophecy in the form of story, in which the doomed nation repents and God relents. God is a merciful God, and the destruction promised in His prophecies can be averted if their targets humble themselves and submit to Him. As Isaiah writes, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7).
The focus of Jonah, however, is on the prophet and his reactions to these situations. We see his emotions: denial, avoidance, dismay, resignation, fear, despair, humility, boldness, disbelief, anger, hopelessness, and perplexity. He is overwhelmed by what God wants him to do, uncertain about how it will affect him, driven relentlessly by God's will, and at a total loss about what it all means! Through his experiences, Jonah comes to realize, "How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). The reader leaves him as he sits outside Nineveh, bewildered and contemplating his incomprehensible God.
Jonah provides one of the most significant and recognizable Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself refers to it in Matthew 12:40: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." It is the only sign Jesus gave to prove that He was the Christ, a sign that was completely out of His ability to control since He would be dead. The Father Himself would have to intervene to raise His Son from the dead. Thus, Jesus puts His stamp of approval on this often-mocked book.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Meet the Minor Prophets (Part Two)
The "praying always" that Jesus commands in Luke 21:36 affects every part of our Christian lives. It is the tool that God gives us to be in constant contact with Him so that we can truly bring every thought into captivity, under the control of God (II Corinthians 10:5). We are encouraged to make bold use of this tool for our every need (Hebrews 4:16). We need to explore some of the important implications that striving to pray always—praying at all times—has on this life to which God has called us.
In Luke 21:36, Christ also commands us to "watch." The underlying Greek word stresses the need to be alert or on guard. This fits with a major requirement of Christian life, that we examine ourselves. We are to be alert to those things about ourselves that will disqualify us from entering God's Kingdom so that we can change them.
Self-examination is such an important spiritual activity that God includes it as a major part of one of His seven festivals, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. II Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." Our ongoing efforts to submit to God's laws and standards are evidence that Christ and His faith are in us (James 2:18).
God always gives us choices (Deuteronomy 30:19). Consider the example of Jonah. He could have done exactly what God asked of him, but instead, he rebelled, having to suffer an intense trial to bring him to obedience to God's will. Notice, however, that God's purpose never changed. The only variable was how much pain and suffering Jonah chose to experience before he submitted to God's purpose. Initially, he chose rebellion and trials over submission to God.
Praying Always (Part Five)
Had these doubters really searched, they would have found that several prophets came from Galilee:
• Micah was from Moresheth-gath, in Galilee (Micah 1:1).
• Elijah, of Gilead, was a native of Galilee (I Kings 17:1).
• Jonah was from Gath Hepher, in Galilee (II Kings 14:25; see Joshua 19:13).
Nahum and Hosea may have hailed from Galilee as well. These people's argument—that no prophet arose from Galilee—was completely without merit! Most important, their argument totally neglected Isaiah's prophecy about Christ's own Galilean ministry. He was to shine as a light in the darkness, in the inheritances of Naphtali and Zebulun, in "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 9:1-2).
As so often happens, the jingoists among the Jews mixed truth with fallacy. They correctly understood two things about Christ's birth and descent:
First, they understood Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 23, and Jeremiah 33, which indicate that Christ would descend from David. He would be of Judah—the Scepter tribe (Genesis 49:10).
Second, they understood that Christ would come from Bethlehem, the home of David (I Samuel 20:6):
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
Yet notice the detail of Micah's prophecy they missed. He does not say that the Messiah would reside in Bethlehem, but that He would "come forth" from it, which is exactly what He did! Joseph had come to Bethlehem at Jesus' birth because he had to pay taxes in his home town. We can deduce from Christ's genealogies that both Joseph and Mary hailed from Bethlehem. Their ancestors include David, Jesse, Obed, and Boaz (Luke 3:32)—all men of Bethlehem (see Ruth 1, 2 and 4; I Samuel 16 and 17).
Sometime after Christ's birth, Joseph returned to Nazareth, in Galilee, where he and Mary reared Jesus. He began His ministry from Galilee, not Judah, as Isaiah 9 foretold. Mark 1:14-15 records a partial fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Compare this passage with its counterpart, Matthew 4:12-17, which quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and points out that Christ fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy regarding His Galilean ministry.
Believe it or not, this group of people failed to recognize their Messiah because of His place of residence—because He lived in Galilee! Thus, we have dubbed them jingoists, people driven by inordinate nationalism. Behind their reason for rejecting Christ—that no prophet ever did or ever would come from Galilee—lurks an irrational, arrogant prejudice against anything not of Judea. These people were part of the power-elite of the day, part of the religious establishment centered in Jerusalem. Classic xenophobes, they wanted nothing to do with Galilee.
Situated to the north of Judea, Galilee was home to an enclave of Judeans who had migrated northward since the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Geography and doctrine separated Galilee from Jerusalem.
• Doctrine: Though far from perfect, the Galileans were doctrinally purer than the Jews to the south. For example, the Galileans observed a 14th Passover, while many of those in Jerusalem, as we know, kept Passover on the 15th of Nisan (John 18:28).: Between Judea and Galilee was Samaria, home to the Gentile "interlopers" the Jews hated. These were the people the Assyrians brought into the area when they deported the House of Israel, the northern ten tribes, around 721-718 BC.
Recognizing the Second Witness
Find more Bible verses about Jonah:
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