Who wrote it?
Jonah 1:1 specifically identifies the Prophet Jonah as the author of the book of Jonah.
When(ish) was it written?
The book of Jonah was likely written between 793 and 758 BC.
Why was it written?
Disobedience and revival are the key themes in this book. Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish provides him with a unique opportunity to seek a unique deliverance, as he repents during this equally unique retreat. His initial disobedience leads not only to his personal revival, but to that of the Ninevites as well. Many classify the revival which Jonah brings to Nineveh as one of the greatest evangelistic efforts of all time.
Some Key Verses
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.
– Jonah 1:3
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
– Jonah 1:17
I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
– Jonah 2:2
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
– Jonah 3:10
A Quick Summary
Jonah’s fear and pride cause him to run from God. He does not wish to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the people, as God has commanded, because he feels they are his enemies, and he is convinced that God will not carry out his threat to destroy the city. Instead he boards a ship for Tarshish, which is in the opposite direction. Soon a raging storm causes the crew to cast lots and determine that Jonah is the problem. They throw him overboard, and he is swallowed by a great fish. In its belly for 3 days and 3 nights, Jonah repents of his sin to God, and the fish vomits him up on dry land. Jonah then makes the 500-mile trip to Nineveh and leads the city in a great revival. But the prophet is displeased (actually whines) instead of being thankful when Nineveh repents. Jonah learns his lesson, however, when God uses the wind, a gourd, and a worm to teach him that He is merciful.
That Jonah is a type of Christ is clear from Jesus’ own words. In Matthew 12:40-41, Jesus declares that He will be in the grave the same amount of time Jonah was in the fish’s belly. He goes on to say that while the Ninevites repented in the face of Jonah’s preaching, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who rejected Jesus were rejecting One who is far greater than Jonah. Just as Jonah brought the truth of God regarding repentance and salvation to the Ninevites, so too does Jesus bring the same message (Jonah 2:9; John 14:6) of salvation of and through God alone (Romans 11:36).
What does this mean?
We cannot hide from God. What He wishes to accomplish through us will come to pass, despite all our objections and foot-dragging. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that He has plans for us and will see to it that we conform to those plans.
God’s love manifests itself in His accessibility to all, regardless of our reputation, nationality, or race. The free offer of the Gospel is for all people in all times. Our task as followers of Christ is to be used by God to tell the world of the Gospel and to rejoice in the salvation of others. This is an experience God wants us to share with Him.
Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Jonah, as well as Romans 8:28-30. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What “next step” are you considering as a result of your interaction with God’s Word?
Give an example from your life of how God has used something “negative” (disobedience, sin, suffering) to bring glory to Himself. How do these moments affect your ability to trust God in all areas of your life?
Share a bit of your own faith story. How did you come to decide to put your trust in Jesus?
Read Romans 8:28-30. For some people, the truth of “for those who love God all things work together for good” actually causes them to stop working toward obedience because they believe what they do doesn’t matter anyway. How about you? Are you willing to be responsible for your part, and trust God with His?