The Swallowed Prophet
I. Introduction A. History 1. Timeline (B.C.) 1 Figure 1: The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. 868 The Prophet ELIJAH was taken up, succeeded by ELISHA, who received his mantle. 810 ADAD-NIRARI III ruled Assyria. 808 The Prophet ELISHA died. 798 AMOS, father of ISAIAH, prophesied to 747 B.C. and wrote “Amos” during the reign of JEROBOAM in Israel and UZZIAH in Judah. 786 The Great Earthquake of AMOS 1 destroyed Tyre, Sidon, Ashdod, from Damascus to Gaza. 776 The first Olympiad was held in Greece. 772 JONAH prophesied to the Assyrians at Nineveh, and “Jonah” was written. 753 Rome was founded and Roman dating began. 750 HOSEA prophesied. 740 ISAIAH began to prophesy. 730 MICAH prophesied. 729 HOSHEA ruled Israel 9 years and was ruling when Israel went into Assyrian captivity. 726 Israel revolted against Assyria.

724 HEZEKIAH destroyed the brazen serpent Moses had made. 710 HEZEKIAH’S tunnel was built to bring water into Jerusalem. 709 SARGON entered Babylon and declared himself king. 705 SARGON was killed in battle and succeeded by his son SENNACHERIB as king of Assyria. He made Nineveh the capital.

697 HEZEKIAH died, succeeded by his son MANASSEH, age 12. His mother was HEPHZIBAH. He ruled Judah 55 years. The Prophet ISAIAH died. He wrote “Isaiah” during the reigns of UZZIAH, JOTHAM, AHAZ and HEZEKIAH covering 784- 697 B.C. The Prophet HOSEA wrote “Hosea”, covering 784- 697 B.C. The Prophet MICAH wrote “Micah” covering 747- 697 B.C.


Chronology Of Biblical Christianity. by Dr. R.C. Wetzel, 1995.

Man’s rebellion 2. 612 NABOPOLASSAR destroyed Nineveh. but commonly believed to be Jonah himself D. Jesus refers to it as a historical account (Mt 12:39-41) Why is it important that we consider Jonah to be history instead of allegory? C.” including the region around Nineveh in Gen 10:11-12 (Near modern Mosul. covering 640-609 B. covering 697-642 B. 664 The first naval battle occurred between Corinth and Corcyra. Uses Aramaic words. 2 668 ASSURBANIPAL ruled Assyria 43 years and established a great library at Nineveh. Nineveh: the great city.C. Aramaic was the language of diplomats. 2. The Mediterranean Sea 2. 623 The Book of the Law was found (2 Kings 22). but Aramaic dates to at least 1500 B.Jonah p.C. In fact. During this time period.C. and wrote “Jeremiah” about 587 B. 642 The Prophet NAHUM wrote “Nahum” during his reign. Karelia. Book doesn’t say. Assyria was weak and unstable and would’ve been open to repentance 3. Salvation for all through faith in the true God 5. (In it. Authenticity 1.C. Accepted as history by Jews and Christians until questioned about 200 years ago 5. Iraq) . How long did that last? B. God’s deliverance 4. during the life of Jonah. so this actually supports the dating of the book being in Jonah’s time. or “Greater Nineveh. Figure 2: Russian Orthodox icon of the Prophet Jonah. Theme/Purpose: 1. 626 JEREMIAH prophesied from the reign of JOSIAH until after the captivity. 659 Byzantium was founded. “Great”: This word is used more than any other in Jonah. so claimed by some to be written later. God’s patience with sinners 3. Why do you think that’s true? E. he prophesies the destruction of Assyria) 630 ZEPHANIAH prophesied and wrote “Zephaniah” during the reign of JOSIAH. Russia). Setting 1. The people of Nineveh repented because of Jonah’s preaching. because Jonah was a historical prophet 4.C. 18th century (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery. Should be considered history. Author 1. 647-522 B.

C. Is 38:14) fit Jonah? e) From Gath-Hepher (3 miles north of Nazareth) Read John 7:52.” which marks it as a historical narrative. The Disobedience to the First Call (1:1-3) Figure 3: “Jonah Flees” by Johann Christoph Weigel. given that this miracle occurred around 875 B. 3 F. “And it came to pass that…. . 1695 Did you ever want to run away from home? How much has “distance from mom and dad” had a role in your life decisions? Note: the book begins with “And.” What do you find surprising about God’s command in 1:1-2? What does this command tell us about God? How does Jonah’s action contrast with his action in 2Ki 14:25-28? 2 Outline taken from The Open Bible.Jonah p. not a parable. Primary Characters 1. Expanded Edition. Jonah a) Believed by some rabbis to be the son of the widow of Zarephath (1Ki 17:8-24) If this is the case. Inc. about how old was Jonah when he preached to Nineveh. The First Commission of Jonah (1:1-2:10) 1. Thomas Nelson. It might be translated as something like.? Does this seem likely? b) Also believed to be the messenger of Elisha to Jehu (2Kings 9:1-14) c) Appears in 2 Kings 14:25 d) Name means “dove” How does the Old Testament use of dove (Hos 7:11. Was the argument of the Pharisees valid? II. The Text2 A. Eze 7:16. God 2. La Habra: 1985.

turns to sleep as an escape. trying to flee. the sailors’ fear. 5. God told Jonah to “Arise. (Ex 4:10. 15. What else do people turn to in order to escape reality? How are the shipmaster’s words ironic? . and Israel. too. Jonah. 2:3. how did Jesus respond? (Jn 4. how would that affect Christians? God pursued Jonah. Why might Jonah have chosen this instead? What does the Bible tell us about ships going to Tarshish? (2Ch 20:35-37. Mt 15:21) Did Jesus choose comfort and security? Other prophets were reluctant. 4:2) Ask yourself: “Is there anyone so bad that I wouldn’t want God to show mercy on them?” 2. the description of Nineveh. but he hoped to escape from God’s special Sacramental presence associated with the temple. 7) Where is Tarshish? The name “Tarshish” refers to riches and comfort. Why? When everyone else was afraid. figuring God won’t do anything about it? Note the theme of “growing” throughout the book: the storm. Ps 48:7. “ What did Jonah do instead? (1:3. Eze 27:25-26) What does this tell us about Jonah’s trip? Jonah knew that he could not flee from an omnipresent God. Have you ever seen someone avoid a church building or pastor because of wanting to avoid God? Israelites generally feared the sea. 4 When God called Jesus to go beyond Israel’s borders. How does Jonah’s journey to the sea show his rebellion? Have you ever gone to extremes to avoid God’s plan for you? What was the main reason Jonah fled? (cf. Jonah slept. 1695 If God intervened in a miraculous way more often. Is 23:14. and the plant.Jonah p. Why? Do you ever sin. Jerusalem. The Judgment of Jonah is Exacted (1:417) a) The Great Storm (1:4-16) Figure 4: "Jonah overboard" by Johann Christoph Weigel. Jer 1:4-10) How was Jonah different? In 1:2.

5 God calls on Jonah directly. trying to go against God for what you thought a greater good? How is the sailors’ action in 1:14 contrasted with Jonah’s? These sailors were trapped between the 1st and 5th Commandments. through this book.8 help answer this question? Figure 5: “Border with Jonah Cast into the Sea” by Simon Bening. Ten of the twelve questions are directed at Jonah and in turn at us. they’d already thrown them overboard. (1:12-14) What other option did Jonah have? What other possible reasons would Jonah have for being thrown into the sea? Why was God so intent on pursuing Jonah? Have you ever fled from God. How does God thwart his intentions? (1:9-10) Why do we speak creeds in our liturgy? How is Jonah’s confession of God in 1:9 ironic. As you read each question. does God call Jonah? Compare 1:6 and 3:9? What do these two have in common? Throughout the book. how would you answer? How does the need to cast lots show the depth of Jonah’s sin? How is Jonah’s statement in 1:9 ironic? According to 1:10. the pagan sailors’ attitude toward life. Why did they ask him? Jonah had no intention of bringing any heathens to faith. we find 12 questions. knowing He wants you to do something and refusing? Check Ps 139:7-12 for an escape plan! Did it take some kind of storm in your life to bring you back? Have you ever been like the sailors in 1:13. through the storm. c. . considering his escape route? Why do you think Jonah ask to be thrown into the sea? Do you think 4:3. How else. 1525-1530 Note again the contrast of Jonah’s attitude toward life vs.Jonah p. the sailors knew what Jonah was doing. Do they make the right decision? Which Commandment is greater? How could the sailors offer a sacrifice on the boat? Even if they had animals as cargo. and through the sailors.

” The latter terms are seen as enemies. even though he’s essentially in a watery grave.” How do 1:17 and Hos 6:2-3 show that Jesus had to rise on the third day? (q. whale. so it would be inappropriate to use a “scary” term. How was Jonah’s destination different? Even though God is always with us. He rose again according to the Scripture. 6 Compare Jonah’s attitude with Lk 13:10-17. we confess that. God used the fish to save. “three days and three nights” was an expression of a great journey. How does this give us comfort? (God can deliver from the grave. “On the third day. Gal 2:11-14) b) The Great Salvation of Jonah by the Fish (1:17) What kind of fish swallowed Jonah? Does it matter whether it was a fish.) Note that Jonah uses the generic word for “fish” here instead of “Sea Monster” or “Leviathan. This is not in Jonah’s own words. 16:21) 3.Jonah p. The Prayer of Jonah (2:1-9) Which came first. why does it sometimes take us a long time to return to God? Can you think of other times God used fish to “provide” for people? How does this event point us to the cross? Jonah has already been delivered. or reptile? Figure 6: “Reconstruction of Basilosaurus” by Pavel Riha What was the purpose of the fish swallowing him? Has Jonah finally escaped God there? In literature of this time. Is it symbolic or literal? Note: Nearly every expression of Jonah’s prayer is drawn from the Psalms.v. How does this show Jonah’s background and the value of memorizing God’s Word? . but the generic term is neutral. Jonah’s prayer or God’s deliverance? Is Jonah asking for God’s deliverance in this prayer? Look at the imagery of this prayer. How does even the fish show more faithfulness than Jonah? In the Nicene Creed. Mt 12:39. such as the journey to hell.

Why does deep distress bring us closer to God? In 2:7. the use of crude body functions demonstrates shame. a call for help. 1964-7 Note in 2:4 which direction Jonah wants to go and where he doesn’t mention going. he wants to die. whom is Jonah blaming? Who sent Jesus to the grave? In 2:4. recommitment. Whom does Jonah see in control? In 2:3. Why the change? How is this attitude reflected in our society? In 2:8-9. Jonah refers to God’s temple. and the temple was in the Southern Kingdom. The Obedience to the Second Call (3:1-4) Why does 3:1 have no condemnation of Jonah? What is the first thing God calls Jonah to do on the third day? (3:2) . The Second Commission of Jonah (3:1-4:11) 1.8. but in 4:3. Jonah wants to live. they had golden calves to worship. The Deliverance of Jonah (2:10) What did the obedient fish think of Jonah? (2:10) Note: like Judg 3:24 and 1Ki 18:27. or something else? Is Jonah still in trouble? Compare 2:3 with 1:15. What temple do we pray toward? Figure 7: “Ionas in ventre piscis” by Salvador Dalí. 7 What do you see in this prayer: thanks. B. Jonah was a Northern Kingdom prophet.Jonah p. 2:7 is the halfway point in the book (# of verses) and also where Jonah and God are closest. Jonah distances himself from idol-worshippers. life out of your control? 4. but how has he been one? Why does Jonah confess faith in the LORD’s salvation but still not expect it for the gentiles? When have you felt like Jonah. In the north.

does Jonah call Nineveh to repent? Why did Jonah give such a short message? Faith comes through hearing the Gospel. 1712 In 3:3. but in 3:2. Mt 12:41) Did the people repent or just follow the king’s edict? How did the Ninevites show the sincerity of their repentance? What would be the modern equivalent of “fasting and sackcloth”? When would you do this? How is the repentance of the Ninevites different from Jonah’s prayer in the fish? (3:8) How do the words. Why did Jonah go this time? Why does Jonah go to Nineveh this time? Figure 8: “Jonah preaches to Nineveh” by Caspar Luiken. Ps 78:22. Does this call into question the historicity of the book? Did God save the Ninevites by grace or because of their works? b) The Great Salvation of Nineveh by God (3:10) . The Judgment of Nineveh Averted (3:5-10) a) The Great Fast (3:5-9) What does it mean in 3:5 that they believed in God? Did the people of Nineveh believe in a god or in the true God? (cf. Jonah is called to cry out against Nineveh.Jonah p. How did the Ninevites come to faith? Did Jonah’s prophetic message in 3:4 come true? Would it take three days to walk to the middle of the city? How is Jonah’s sermon ironic? 2. 8 In 1:2. What might this difference reflect? The walk to Nineveh would have been 30-45 days. what does “a great city to God” (literal translation) mean? In 3:4. “Who knows?” (3:9) show the faith of the Ninevites? No extant documents recovered from Nineveh at this time mention Jonah or this conversion event. he’s told to call out to it.

Jonah p. What does this tell us about God? When have you felt like God gave you a second chance? (Think of a specific example) Did the Ninevites earn their salvation by their repentance? If God had still destroyed the city. but he turns from God other times. “God is anger.” Given that He is a just and righteous God. as a prophet.” but never. How does his anger in 4:1 contrast with God’s? What is the greatest evil in the book? Was Jonah’s desire for justice justified? Jonah rejoices in God’s deliverance through the fish and the plant. why does it not describe Him that way? Jonah. but Jonah knows (4:2). “God is love. He repented. How can you explain his behavior? The king of Nineveh doesn’t know (3:9). is a representative of God. 9 Figure 9: “Nineveh Repents” by unknown illustrator of 'L'Histoire du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament'. The Prayer of Jonah (4:1-3) What is evil in 4:1? Have you ever seen Jonah’s attitude in modern people? The Bible says. 1670 God didn’t destroy the city. would that decision have been just? Does the decision to save the city contradict God’s justice? 3. But how does Jonah show that he doesn’t really know God? Why did Jonah want to die? What do you see as Jonah’s biggest problem? Have you ever withheld mercy from someone? What do we say about God when we do? Do you ever get angry with God? . Nicolas Fontaine (author).

How is Jonah like the Prodigal Son? How does 4:4 show the depth of God’s grace? A prophet’s calling is to speak repentance and faith for his hearers’ salvation. How are these painful things “providence”? Throughout the entire book. and how is this different? What evil is God saving Jonah from? Both the worm and scorching wind are “provided” by God. 10 What people do you have trouble reaching out to? How if the forgiveness of Nineveh like or unlike the forgiveness given to us? Considering the catechesis and faith of the sailors and the Ninevites. how would you define. The Rebuke of Jonah by God (4:4-11) Figure 10: “Jonah and the vine” by Caspar Luiken. any of which could have been the “worm. How are these sitting peoples’ attitudes different? Note: in 4:6. we find two shelters. “to save him from his evil. 1712. aka the castor oil plant. besides himself. “disciple”? If we hold to that definition. How is Jonah’s silence in 4:4 ironic? If Jonah knew God was going to spare the city. what does this passage tell us? Compare 3:6 and 4:5. What is the difference between them? Which is more effective? When we need refuge.” What does your translation say. the literal translation should read. which often serves as host to several species of larvae. for what does Jonah show concern? How is this ironic? . how does that affect our congregational life? 4. why did he set up camp to watch it be destroyed? What three things does God provide for Jonah? For what purpose? What do these show us about God and about Jonah? Note: the plant was probably a Ricinus.Jonah p.” In 4:5-6.

Why is Jonah relevant to all eras of Godʼs people? ©2009 . do you think Jonah understood God’s message and repented? III. Summary Questions A. Joe Burnham Images used are public domain or © their respective owners and used for educational purposes only according to fair use laws. as most believe he did. 11 What do you think happens to Jonah after the book ends? Why do you think the book ends this way? What are we supposed to walk away from this book thinking about? If Jonah wrote this book.Jonah p. How is Jonahʼs time like ours? B. Dale Critchley lcmspastor. Special thanks to Rev. How is Jonahʼs message particularly applicable to our daily lives? C.

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