Lesson 47 Jonah: A Reluctant Prophet
heard "the word of the lord," Jonah runs away.
Twice the narrator informs the reader that Jonah is fleeing from the presence of God (1:3, 10). Why do you think Jonah is fleeing?
It apparently has something to do with God's commission.
What reason, if any, is given for his flight in chapters 1 and 2?
Jonah 3 and 4.
Jonah finally fulfills his prophetic commission. Paragraph 5 of the "Bible Background" offers another way to read 3:3-4.
How does this ironic reading help predict
God's change of heart and pardon of
Why are you so angry with God? (Jonah gives an answer in 4:2.)
But what is the underlying reason for your anger with God's merciful pardon?
Is it because of personal embarrassment that your own prophetic announcement did not come true?
In other words, do you think that you will be regarded as a foolish prophet?
Or are you angry that the wicked Ninevites were let off the hook? Was their evil so great that they should not have been given a chance to repent?
Or is your anger not due to God's pardon at the repentance of a typical wicked people, but rather precisely because this was
In other words, is your anger due to the lack of expected vengeance against an enemy?
Or are you angry that anyone else besides
final option: Perhaps you are angry not because of personal embarrassment or
because God has shown mercy to one who should be punished (whatever the
reason), but rather because God's change of mind calls God into question.
In light of the events in
Knowing how to be faithful
claims in his prayer (2:8-9) that he is faithful and loyal to God, whereas idol
worshipers are not. And yet it was Jonah (not the sailors and Ninevites) who refused God and dragged his feet.
How is one loyal and faithful toward God today? What kind of vows do we offer today? How do we fulfill them? Can non-Christians be loyal toward God?
Considering God's grace
attempts to limit God's ability to show mercy.
At what point should we preclude the possibility of future grace for heinous criminals by instituting the death penalty? Where does God mark the point of no return?
How free is God to offer grace? What role does God's justice play in limiting mercy?
When does God repent and have a change of mind—or does God repent?
about the following questions concerning the extent of God's offer of a saving
What must one do to accept God's offer? Christians have sometimes argued that God's offer is limited to Christians.
What do you think?
“I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.
God who created the universe and who is the God of all, teach me to be sensitive to the convictions and customs of others. Help me to see that you are the God of all and care about all your children. Help me to respond to your call and expand my mind to allow you creative freedom. Amen.
children and adults, Jonah is one of the
best-known prophets. Jonah's popularity arises from the way the book of
Jonah portrays its prophet. Other prophetic books contain lots of difficult-to-understand prophetic words. But
Jonah delivers only one brief
prophetic announcement: "Forty days more, and
2However, the story contains much satire and irony that point to
deeper meanings. Bible readers expect
a prophet to respond to God's call with, "Here
am I; send me!" (Isaiah 6:8), but Jonah remains silent. He arises, but not to go to
3A comparison of Jonah, the prophet called by the lord, and the sailors who worshiped other gods demonstrates further irony. Jonah put the mariners at risk. While they struggle with the storm, he sleeps (1:5). When they turn to their gods seeking answers, Jonah says nothing (1:6-7). When a response can no longer be avoided, he piously proclaims reverence for the lord. But Jonah, the prophet of the God who controls the sea, puts the burden on the others to throw him into the sea (1:8-12). Jonah takes no action while the mariners risk their lives to save Jonah (1:13). With no choice left, the mariners give in. But it is they, not the prophet Jonah, who pray, sacrifice, and make vows to God (1:14-16).
4As Jonah continues his downward flight from God (1:3, 5; 2:6) to the depths of the underworld
(Sheol, 2:2), God appoints a large fish to swallow Jonah. Though our
"Jonah and the whale" stories sometimes suggest a frightening situation, the whale is actually a savior. Jonah responds with a
typical thanksgiving psalm, but his words ring with irony (2:2-9). Facing death, Jonah suddenly "remembered the lord" who hears his prayer in the temple (2:7). He piously concludes that idol worshipers "forsake their true loyalty. But I...
will sacrifice to you.... Deliverance belongs to the lord!" (2:8-9). The references
to temple, sacrifice, and vows
suggest a planned return to the
5But after rescuing Jonah, God repeats the call (3:1-2).
This time Jonah obeys. However, the narrator provides clever word plays in Hebrew.
On the surface, the text reads "
6But this effective proclamation is "very displeasing" in Jonah's mind (4:1). Jonah uses a traditional affirmation of faith to accuse God. Jonah is quickly angry because God is slow to anger (4:2, see Exodus 34:6). Once again turning to the natural world, God appoints a bush, a worm, and a hot wind in rapid succession (4:6-8) to teach Jonah a lesson about deliverance. (See 1:17 for the first lesson and 2:9 for Jonah's affirmation.) Jonah's response becomes the occasion for God to teach that God—not the prophet—controls life and death (4:10-11).
NARRATOR: Now the word of the HOLY ONE came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying,
GOD: "Go at once
NARRATOR: But Jonah
set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the
He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the HOLY ONE.
But the HOLY ONE hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up.
Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god.
They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.
The captain came and said to him,
are you doing sound asleep?
Get up, call on your god!
Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish."
NARRATOR: The sailors said to one another,
SAILOR: "Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us."
NARRATOR: So they cast
lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Then they said to him,
SAILOR: "Tell us
why this calamity has come upon us.
What is your occupation?
Where do you come from?
What is your country?
And of what people are you?"
JONAH: "I am a
I worship the HOLY ONE, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
NARRATOR: Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him,
SAILOR: "What is this that you have done!"
NARRATOR: For the men
knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the HOLY ONE, because he had told
Then they said to him,
SAILOR: "What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?"
NARRATOR: For the sea
was growing more and more tempestuous.
He said to them,
JONAH: "Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you."
the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the
sea grew more and more stormy against them.
Then they cried out to the HOLY ONE,
SAILOR: Please, O HOLY
ONE, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this
Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O HOLY ONE, have done as it pleased you."
NARRATOR: So they
picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its
Then the men feared the HOLY ONE even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the HOLY ONE and made vows.
But the HOLY ONE provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Then Jonah prayed to the HOLY ONE his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
JONAH: "I called
to the HOLY ONE out of my distress, and God answered me; out of the belly of
Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.
Then I said, 'I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?'
The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O HOLY ONE my God.
As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the HOLY ONE; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the HOLY ONE!"
NARRATOR: Then the
HOLY ONE spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.
The word of the HOLY ONE came to Jonah a second time, saying,
GOD: "Get up, go
NARRATOR: So Jonah set
out and went to
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out,
days more, and
NARRATOR: And the
When the news reached the king of
Then he had a proclamation made in
KING: "By the
decree of the king and his nobles:
No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.
Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God.
All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.
Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish."
NARRATOR: When God saw
what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God decided not to send
any calamity upon the people.
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.
He prayed to the HOLY ONE and said,
JONAH: "O HOLY
Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?
That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.
And now, O HOLY ONE, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
NARRATOR: And the HOLY ONE said,
GOD: "Is it right for you to be angry?"
NARRATOR: Then Jonah
went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself
there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the
The HOLY God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.
But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.
When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die.
JONAH: "It is better for me to die than to live."
NARRATOR: But God said to Jonah,
GOD: "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?"
JONAH: "Yes, angry enough to die."
GOD: "You are
concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not
grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.
And should I not be concerned about