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2016 March 19

Jonah (1181)
Nicholas of Verdun (1130-1205)
Romanesque Style; Mosan School
Verduner Altar or Verdun Altar at Klosterneuburg Abbey, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Image Source: Wikipedia

     Explanation: Jonah prophesied in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.; 2 Kings 14:23-25). In Jonah 1, Jonah attempted to flee from the presence of the LORD when the LORD told him to go to Nineveh and cry against it. He took a ship going in the opposite direction, but the LORD sent a storm which stopped the voyage. The sailors were forced to throw Jonah overboard. The storm ceased; the sailors worshipped the LORD; and a great fish swallowed Jonah. [Sermons: Eric Alexander. Sinclair B Ferguson. William Still. ].
     Today's image depicts Jonah being thrown to the whale (or great fish), an incident which occurs at the end of today's chapter.

     Background Summary:

     Several lines of evidence suggest that Jonah may have preached to Nineveh around 785 BC. A key point is that Scripture records two of Jonah's prophecies. From certain hints in the Biblical and the extra-biblical historical records, it seems that a connection exists between the two prophecies. Jonah's lesser know prophecy was that Israel would regain substantial territory which it had lost. This is recorded in 2 Kings 14:25, "He [Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from the entering of Hamath to the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spoke by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher." This recapture of territory essentially restored the borders of Israel to their Davidic boundaries. (Hamath is a territory which is located about 120 miles north of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. From its first mention in Genesis 10:18 to its mention in 2 Kings 14:25 it was occupied successively by Canaanites, Hittites, and Assyrians.) Jeroboam took it from the Assyrians in about 780 BC. This recapture of territory began with the efforts of Jeroboam's father, Jehoash [or Joash], who fulfilled Elisha's deathbed prophecy [c. 796 BC] that he would win three victories (2 Kings 13:14-19 with 2 Kings 13:25). The specific theological reason given by Scripture for these victories was the compassion of the Lord in accord with his covenant (2 Kings 13:23). Those mercies continued into the reign of his son, Jeroboam II, who conquered the rest of the lost territory. The Lord had similar compassion on Nineveh when it repented.
     The Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III was contemporary with the Israeli Kings Jehoahaz, Jehoash, and Jeroboam II. He died about a year before Jehoash. According to chronologist Bruce H. Wilkinson, Jonah's ministry stretched from 785-772 BC. If this chronology is correct, Jonah began his ministry just before Jehoash died and just before Jeroboam II became sole ruler in Israel, having been co-regent with his father from 793 to 782. It seems plausible that Jonah's prophecy of success would have been sent by God to redirect Jehoash who had dealt with a slack hand in fighting the Lord's battles and had gained only 3 victories, leaving much yet to accomplish (2 Kings 13:17-19). It would also have encouraged his son, Jeroboam II, to finish what his father had left undone. Since a prophecy has to come before the event it predicts in order to be valid, I believe that this prophecy of military success came about 785.
     Then, in that same year, (I speculate), God turned Jonah's attention abruptly and surprisingly to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The LORD told him to "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me" (Jonah 1:2). The command begins with back to back imperatives: "Arise! Go!" equivalent to "Go immediately." God's compassion and forbearance would have been fresh on his mind; he saw it given to two disobedient and wicked kings of Israel, Jehoash, and Jeroboam II. Certainly, for some reason, God's mercy was prominent in Jonah's thinking before he fled from God (Jonah 4:2). It became dear to him in the belly of the fish when he cried for mercy and found it (Jonah 2). And when God spared the city, the reality of God's mercy seized his mind yet again (Jonah 4). Perhaps Jonah was distressed that unless this evil Assyrian empire was destroyed Israel could never be safe. Perhaps it was simply a desire for revenge.
     At this point the extra-biblical material comes into play. "As far as we know, there is no record of Nineveh's repentance in the Assyrian inscriptions. There are, however, traces that Adad-Nirari [ III ] - [810-783 BC] made reforms similar to those of Amenophis IV in Egypt. And, under the reigns of the three kings following Adad-Nirari [ III ] there was a let-up in Assyrian conquests. In this period Israel recovered lost territory. II Kin 14:25." ["Jonah," Halley's Bible Handbook, 1942, p. 334]
     Notice that God apparently used Nineveh's repentance to reduce their aggression and thereby open the way for Israel to regain all it lost. The threat was neutralized by God's compassion. The need for revenge was also neutralized. Perhaps this, rather than fear, was uppermost in Jonah's mind. the LORD taught Jonah that forgiveness and compassion had a just and proper place in life. God's mercy is the prominent feature of the book. But irony is also a highly significant feature.
     Jonah's ministry was one of the most ironic in Scripture. He preached to Israel's enemy, Nineveh, and saw them avoid judgment through repentance, but in stark contrast, Israel slid deeper and deeper into apostasy and drew closer and closer to judgment. In the meantime, however, Israel also had a blessing. It regained its former territory. The irony in this instance is that this territorial blessing came by the efforts of a wicked king, Jeroboam II (who, incidentally, was not a descendant of Jeroboam I). The reason for this blessing is also ironic. It is not obedience as in the case of Nineveh, rather the reason is found in 2 Kings 14:26-27 and in 2 Kings 13:23 - God was being faithful to his covenant, although Israel was not. A further irony is that two events from Jonah's disobedient episode became illustrative of the ministry of Christ. Christ cited the repentance of Nineveh in response to Jonah's preaching as a rebuke for Israel's unrepentant attitude toward the preaching of Christ. Furthermore, Christ's death and resurrection were illustrated by the incident in which Jonah was swallowed and then disgorged by the whale or great fish.


          [ CHRONOLOGY: GENERAL. Patriarchs (Traditional). Judges # 1. Judges # 2. Kings # 1. Kings # 2. Prophets # 1. Prophets # 2. NT # 1. NT # 2. NT # 3. ]

          [ MAPS: Maps # 1. Maps # 2. Maps # 3. Maps # 4. Maps # 5. ]

          [ COMMENTARIES, ETC: GENERAL: Bible Study Tools; Bible Hub: Study Light; Blue Letter Bible // PSALMS: Monergism: Precept Austin: The Treasury of David; John Gill; John Calvin - Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

          [ MUSIC: GENERAL: The Cyber Hymnal // PSALMS: Genevan Psalter (Instrumental). VARIOUS ARTISTS: Micha'el Ben David. Sons of Korah. Fernando Ortega. Janet Isaac Morrison. Music of the Bible Revealed - Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. Dr. David Erb. Gregorian Chants. ]

Jonah 1

1. Jonah's Flight From God (1:1 - 1:17)- 785 B.C., Israel

     1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 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.
     4 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. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto 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. 6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
     7 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. 8 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? 9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. 10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid [fearing, they feared], 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.
     11 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. 12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. 13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. 14 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, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee. 15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 16 Then the men feared [fearing, they feared] the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
     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.

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