Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

This is an unusual book, in that, although it concerns a prophet of the LORD, it seems to focus more upon his disobedience, and the punishment the LORD sent upon him than it does upon any far reaching prophecy. Strangely the LORD sent Jonah, not to either Judah or Israel , but to Nineveh , the capitol of the Assyrian kingdom. The message to Nineveh turns out to be very short, but effective. As said above, the major part of this book deals with what one might even be tempted to call a controversy between God and Jonah. Of course, in such, we know to begin with who will win the controversy.

Chapter 1


(Verses 1 through 3) Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh , that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.


Thus we are introduced to Jonah. We are not told whether, or not the LORD had ever before spoken to him. But on this occasion He did. And the message was specific. The message seems to carry with it a sense of urgency. He was to arise and go to Nineveh . The manner in which it was said seems to indicate that Jonah was not to go at his leisure, but to get up and go immediately. The purpose of his going was to “cry against” Nineveh , that is, to pronounce a judgment against it. “For their wickedness is come up before Me.” Since Nineveh was a Gentile city, this is sufficient proof that the LORD watched over all the world, and not just Israel , as some seem to think. Certainly, He gave special blessings to Judah and Israel . But it is still His mercy that spared even the Gentiles. In what Jonah did as a result of this call, there appears evidence of an idea that from time to time seems to show up among the Jews, and, indeed, even among Gentiles of that era. That is that although they might admit that the LORD is the Lord of all the world, they still had some idea that they could get out of His reach. Accordingly, Jonah arose, not to do the bidding of the LORD, but to flee from the presence of the LORD. Nineveh was in a northeasterly direction from the land of Israel , while Tarshish, which we now call Spain , was at the far western edge of the Mediterranean Sea . Almost in opposite directions from each other. But Jonah found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and got on board, thinking he would flee from the presence of the LORD.


(Verses 4 through 10) But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, and call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? And whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou? And he said, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, Which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.


This is so simply and straightforwardly told that it seems no one could fail to understand it. But it sets forth a lesson that all will do well to remember. Jonah had done everything in his power to refuse the commission the LORD had given him. He had found transportation going in the opposite way from that in which he had been directed to go. He had even paid the fare on that transportation, and thinking himself safe, he had gone to sleep. But when the LORD speaks, all must answer. Now the LORD begins His work with Jonah. And, in doing so, He brings fear upon not only Jonah, but also all who were with him. Not only did Jonah have to pay the whole fare “up front,” but there was also the loss of the ship’s cargo by reason of the sailors’ throwing it overboard in an effort to save themselves. Then Jonah was also brought up for questioning before all those who were with him.. Notice that this is only the beginning of Jonah’s troubles. For the whole picture we must continue on.


(Verses 11 through 16) Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought and was tempestuous. And he said, Take me up, and cast me into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech Thee, O LORD, we beseech Thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for Thou, LORD, hast done as it pleased Thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.


Notice that the sailors of the ship had no desire to harm Jonah in any way. They were, however, very much afraid that the sea was going to destroy them. And they, just as would any other men, wanted to know what they could do to save themselves from destruction. So they asked Jonah what they could do to escape such a great catastrophe. Jonah, knowing that the storm was sent upon them for his own disobedience, instructed them that they should throw him overboard. Then the sea would be calm to them. In spite of his confession, the seamen continued striving to bring the ship to safety without sacrificing Jonah. Finally they prayed that the LORD would not hold Jonah’s destruction against them, and they cast him overboard. Immediately the storm subsided, and the sea became calm. This, apparently frightened the men still more. So they offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and “made vows.” Nothing is said about the content of their vows. But since they had just been witnesses of the great power of the LORD, they probably vowed that they would always remember, and worship Him.  Whether or not they kept those vows might be an entirely different matter.


(Verse 17) Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.


This is just a simple statement of what the LORD had already prepared to take care of Jonah at this time. There is no need for the great arguments that man has so often injected into this account. First, there is no mention made of a whale in the entire account. Many will turn to the KJV reading of what our Lord Jesus said, as proof that it was a whale. But the Greek word there translated “whale” also means “a great fish, or a sea monster.” So the argument about whether or not a whale can swallow a man is completely moot. Not only so, but the fact that “the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah” clearly signifies that it was not just any fish, but one that He had specially prepared for this particular assignment. It was not only prepared that it might swallow him, but was also prepared so that Jonah might be kept alive in its belly for three days and three nights. Whatever men may think, or say, about the LORD’S work, He never does anything in a half way manner.

Chapter 2

(Verses 1 through 4) Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice. For Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of Thy sight; yet I will look again toward Thy holy temple.


The LORD had prepared this great fish, not only to swallow Jonah, but also to keep him until He ordered him released. No doubt, to those who know nothing of the power of the LORD, this sounds like a fable. But anyone who believes Genesis 1:1 should have no difficulty in believing this account also. For the GOD, Who can create a world, can certainly prepare a fish for any purpose of His choosing. No doubt Jonah was in great fear while in the belly of this fish, and he likely felt that his end had come. Yet he remembered the LORD, and prayed to Him. His affliction while in this fish was so great that he says, “out of the belly of hell cried I.” He could not conceive of the thought of hell being any worse than where he was. The most wonderful part of the whole is that when he cried to the LORD, the LORD heard him. That is He not only heard the words of his cry, but gave favorable audience to it. Jonah realized that it was the LORD Who cast him into the deep. Surely it was by the agency of the seamen; but it was purposed of the LORD. The floods, or waters, of the sea were all around him, and the billows and waves passed over him. And he realized, and confessed that they were the billows and waves of the LORD. When he was thus brought to the realization that they were of the LORD, he was made to understand that although he thought he was cast out of the sight of the LORD, he must look toward the LORD’S holy temple. This is the lesson we all sometimes have to learn. It was not easy for Jonah, and, surely, it is not easy for us. We may not have been swallowed up by a fish, but we can, and sometimes do, experience this feeling of being cast off from the LORD, and overwhelmed by His billows and waves. Then we too, just as did Jonah, will pray to the LORD. And just as He heard Jonah, so will He hear us, and cause us to look toward His holy temple.


(Verses 5 through 9) The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came unto Thee, into Thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.


Jonah continues to describe the terrible condition in which he found himself. As that great fish went down into the sea, of course Jonah was with him. Thus he went even to the bottoms of the mountains. He felt that he was forever imprisoned in the bars of the earth. But the LORD had compassion on him, and brought up his life from corruption, or from death. His statement, “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD,” seems to carry the thought that until his very soul fainted away by reason of fear and the hopelessness of the situation he did not think of the LORD. But when that terrible realization came upon him, he did remember the LORD, and prayed to Him. Sadly, we often have the same experience. We don’t remember the LORD until we have exhausted all other considerations of help. Yet even the LORD is gracious to us, and lets our prayer come unto Him, in His holy temple. When He does this great changes are made. Notice the lessons Jonah learned from this. First he learned that “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” Think of what he had done. He knew that the LORD is merciful. Yet, rather than do what the LORD commanded him he observed lying vanities. He thought he could escape from the LORD, and thus not do what He had commanded. This was indeed a lying vanity. By observing it he did indeed forsake his own mercy. Had he obeyed the LORD instead, he would not have had to suffer the terrible things that his disobedience brought upon him. He also learned that it is far better to serve the LORD, or sacrifice to the LORD, with the voice of thanksgiving. He is now determined to pay whatever he has vowed to the LORD. Why? Because “Salvation is of the LORD.” It is to be always found with Him, instead of in the vain imagination of the minds of men.


(Verse 10) And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon dry ground.


Thus after Jonah had learned the lesson the LORD laid upon him, the LORD released him from the prison in which he had been for three days and three nights.


Chapter 3

(Verses 1 through 4) And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh , that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh , according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.


A great lesson for us from this is that, although Jonah had put forth considerable effort, and had suffered much in that effort, he could not escape the commandment of the LORD. And neither can we. When the LORD had the fish deliver Jonah on the dry ground, He still did not release him from the commission He had given him. Instead, He called him the second time, with the very same message; “Arise, go to Nineveh , that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” Apparently all thought of disobeying the LORD again had been removed from the mind of Jonah. He arose and went to Nineveh , just as the LORD had commanded. By this we can see that the call of the LORD is effective, regardless of the attitude of the one who has been called. If he is rebellious, the LORD is able to overcome that rebellion. And when he is made willing, he goes immediately to the work. Nineveh was a great city, so great that it would take three days to walk across it. As Jonah entered into the city, and began his march through it, he began preaching that within forty days the city of Nineveh would be overthrown. This he did as he made his first day’s journey through the city. Had this been only Jonah’s word, it could have had disastrous consequences for Jonah. But it was the word of GOD. And therefore the LORD protected His messenger.


(Verses 5 through 9) So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For the word came unto the king of Nineveh , and he arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?


This is indeed an amazing account. Here we have a Jewish prophet of the LORD going to a great city of the Gentiles with a message of judgment to come upon that city for its wickedness. And instead of attempting to harm this prophet in any way, the whole city, from the king to the beggars, repent of their sins, cover themselves with sackcloth, sit down in the ashes, fast, and pray unto the LORD, not knowing whether or not He will be gracious unto them, but hoping that He will, and will turn aside the destruction that he has declared upon them. Lest anyone think that the message of the LORD was not fulfilled, consider this. There are more ways than one to overthrow a city, or a people. Had they not repented, God is fully able to have overthrown them by sending their enemies against them, or by some catastrophic means. And He could have done it within forty days. But instead, He overthrew it in one day in a far more miraculous manner. He brought them to repentance. It is possible to see in this whole episode a type that sets a beautiful picture before us. Certainly, the early part of this story will not apply to such; for Our Lord Jesus was never rebellious. But just as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the fish, our Lord was three days and nights in the grave. As the fish cast forth Jonah at the word of the LORD, so did the grave cast forth our Lord Jesus. His gospel was then sent unto the Gentiles. And although every Gentile did not repent and believe God, the gospel did have phenomenal reception among the Gentiles. So in this some see Jonah as a type of the Christ.


(Verse 10) And God saw their works, that they turned away from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them: and He did it not.


Since the LORD had granted these Ninevites repentance from their sins, He turned aside the evil He had declared upon them and spared them. Although essentially God never changes, and has no need for repentance, He does set before them declarations of punishment, and does remove it as they repent from their evils. He is always gracious to those who repent. So this is not an unusual manner of His working with men.


Chapter 4

(Verses 1 through 3) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray Thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, and slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.


One would think that if the LORD called him to go to a wicked city, warn it about the judgment of the Lord that was to come upon it, and was blessed to see it completely turn from its wickedness, and show the deepest repentance, he would be overjoyed. But this was not the case with Jonah. .even after the chastisement the LORD had sent upon him for his disobedience, and possibly because of it, Jonah felt that his prediction of judgment upon the Ninevites should have been fulfilled. Perhaps, he even felt as people today seem to think. If he had to be chastised for his little episode of disobedience, surely these, much worse sinners, should have to suffer for their sins. We may not want to admit it; but that very spirit sometimes operates in us today. He was far more interested in seeing what he had said come to pass than in seeing the gracious result of its bringing the Ninevites to repentance. If we are entirely honest, we will admit that sometimes we are more interested in seeing punishment meted out than in seeing grace manifested. At any rate, it so displeased Jonah that he even tried to rebuke the LORD for being gracious to these people. He said to the LORD, “Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and repentest Thee of the evil.” That is, since he knew that God is go gracious and merciful, he did not want any part in telling these people about the judgment God had declared against them. He thought such a declaration was foolishness, since the LORD was so merciful that He would, likely, turn the punishment away from them. Thus Jonah felt that he would be found a false witness when the LORD did turn aside the punishment. He did not consider that, as we have pointed out before, there are more ways than one in which a people can be overthrown. And the manner the LORD used in this instance is the best way of all. But Jonah was so angry about the matter that he thought it would be better for him to die than to live after the LORD did not punish the Ninevites by bringing destruction upon them.


(Verses 4 through 6) Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.


We sometimes today hear people talking about being angry with the LORD because of some event that has taken place. Just after the great Trade Towers Disaster, we even heard some professed gospel ministers tell people that they had a right to be angry with God because He let that event take place. Such have no right to claim to be ministers of our LORD. No creature ever has a right to be angry with his Creator. But Jonah was angry with the LORD. And the LORD asked him, “Doest thou well to be angry?” That is, “Do you have a right to be angry?” Jonah made no answer to this. He simply walked out of the city on its east side, made himself a booth, or, as we would call it today, a brush arbor, and sat down under the shadow of it. He wanted to see what would become of the city. So there he waited. Although this booth did afford a little shadow under which Jonah could rest, the LORD made it much better for him, by preparing a gourd, which came up, and ran its vine over the booth, giving much more shade than did the booth alone. This gourd, by its shade, made Jonah much happier.


(Verses 7 through 9) But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.


In this part of the account the LORD begins to bring a lesson to Jonah that is not only good for him, but for us also. He prepares a worm to attack the gourd vine, and cause it to wither and die. Now all the shade Jonah has left is that which he prepared for himself, the booth. Not only did the LORD thus take away the shade of the gourd, which He had given Jonah, but He also caused a strong east wind to blow, and let the sun shins down upon Jonah’s head so that he fainted. Then Jonah returned to his former state of mind in which he thought it would be better for him to die than to live. It made him very angry that the gourd, which had given him such pleasant shade, was so soon cut down. Then the LORD asked Jonah, “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” Jonah’s reply was, “I do well to be angry, even unto death.” Notice that this is not a question of his being angry with the LORD, so much as it is anger that his shade , which he so much enjoyed, was taken away. It may also be that he felt some anger against the LORD for permitting such to happen. This the LORD uses in the remainder of this chapter to teach Jonah, and us, a great lesson.


(Verses 10 and 11) Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city in which are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?


It really seems somewhat redundant to repeat this lesson, inasmuch as it is so clearly set forth in the words of the writer. The first thing therein that draws our attention is how frivolous are our concerns when compared to those of the LORD. The gourd vine, so far as Jonah was concerned, accidentally grew up, and was accidentally cut down. (Certainly, we recognize that both events were prepared of the LORD. But Jonah had nothing to do with either.) Yet it was of such great importance to Jonah that he was greatly angered by the destruction of the vine. So it is with many of our concerns. When properly analyzed, they become of much less importance. Then consider the city of Nineveh . We do not know what the population of the city was. But the LORD said that in it were one hundred twenty thousand persons who could not even discern between their right hand and their left hand. In addition to this there were many cattle in the city. If Jonah was so troubled at the destruction of a simple gourd vine that grew up in a night, and was cut down in a night, How much more concerned should the LORD be to spare such a great city as Nineveh ? If we could only have our vision broadened to see the overall picture, how much less concern would we have with the trivial things that so often trouble us?


Close Window