THE BOOK OF JONAH
Jonah, the son of Amittai, was a native of Gath-hepher in Zebulon. He is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 which establishes the fact of his being one of the Hebrew prophets. The Lord Jesus also referred to him. This we find by reading Matthew 12:39-41; 16:4; and Luke 11:29-32. It is generally considered that his ministry took place during the reign of Jeroboam II, which began about 825 B.C.
Dr. Schofield speaks of Jonah as being a bigoted Jew who was unwilling to carry a message to the Gentiles, and when he finally was compelled to go, complained to God because He withheld His judgment when the people of Ninevah repented.
There are four chapters to the book and they form the natural divisions to the narrative as follows:
1. Chapter 1. Jonahís first commission and his flight.
2. Chapter 2. Jonahís prayer and Godís answer.
3. Chapter 3. The repentance of Ninevah.
4. Chapter 4. A lesson on Divine compassion.
JONAHíS FIRST COMMISSION AND HIS FLIGHT.
In Ch. 1:2 we read of how God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and cry against it. Such a commission was not easy to accept and the prophet deliberately took a ship and went in an opposite direction. We learn from the scriptures that one cannot hide from God, and it was surely proven in this case. A great storm arose, and until Jonah was cast overboard at his own request, the shipmen could not handle the situation. Then the sea ceased from her raging, vs. 12-15. In His mercy, God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and for three days and three nights he was miraculously kept alive.
JONAHíS PRAYER AND GODíS ANSWER.
From Ch. 2:5-6 it would seem that Jonah went right to the bottom of the sea among the weeds before the fish swallowed him. Then from the inside of the fish he sent forth his prayer, v.4. God heard and spoke unto the fish, which then vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
THE REPENTANCE OF NINEVAH.
In Ch.3:2, we read how God repeated Jonahís commission. Greatly humbled by his chastening, he went to Ninevah and gave his message, which was that the city was to be overthrown after forty days, v.4. It is quite likely that the prophet gave a word of his own experience which no doubt made a deep impression upon the people. To Jonahís surprise, the whole city from the king down sincerely repented, and the judgment of God was averted, v.10.
A LESSON ON DIVINE COMPASSION.
In Ch. 4:1, we read that it displeased Jonah that God should change His mind and refrain from His intention to overthrow Ninevah. He said that he thought that something like that would happen, v.2. Evidently God had a good reputation for mercy and compassion. In order to teach the prophet a lesson, the Lord prepared a beautiful gourd, which sprang up overnight, this pleased Jonah exceedingly, as he rested under a shady booth and admired the gourd and was refreshed by its shadow, v.6. Then to his dismay Jonah saw the gourd quickly wither as it was bitten by a worm, and it angered him greatly, v.9. Having thus gained his attention, God spoke to him and showed how that if a man could have compassion upon a frail piece of vegetation, should he find fault with God who had been moved to tender pity for a whole city of living souls?
Thus the book ends, but it places on record that the grace of God is extended to all people, and whosoever turn to Him in sincere repentance will obtain mercy and be granted remission of sins.