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Who is Jonah? March 28, 2005

Posted by mjtilley in Uncategorized.

This Sunday, we began examining the background of the book of Jonah by trying to understand who Jonah was.

First, Hebrew tradition indicates he may have been the son of the widow of Zaraphath that was brought back to life by Elijah (I Kings 17:17-24). If true, the faith of a spiritual giant like Elijah probably had a huge impact on his later ministry as did the amazing early experience of physical resurrection.

Second, Jonah was a prophet – a mouthpiece of God for the king of Israel (Jeroboam II) and the people of Israel and Nineveh. Although Jonah served under a wicked king – one of a series of very wicked kings – God used Jonah to deliver the good political news of expanded borders to Jeroboam II (II Kings 14:23-25). This unique position could have made Jonah a bit of a popular hero. Is it possible that, while he evidently continued preaching against sin, this popularity could have made him a bit lax in his stand on things? Or that it may have made him comfortable – less willing to pursue the hard work of preaching to Nineveh?

Third, Jonah was a faithful preacher. A careful reading of Jonah 4:2 shows that Jonah had obviously been preaching for some time in Israel before God’s call to Nineveh. Even though its evident that Jonah had not seen any real results to speak of, it’s equally evident that he continued preaching the message of God.

Fourth, God’s call of Jonah suggests that Jonah was also a reliable servant. In Jonah 1:1, we find God calling on Jonah for a special mission. The very fact that God chose to speak to Jonah denotes a level of trust, an existing (and probably strong) relationship and a history of obedience.

We also began uncovering some information about the city of Nineveh. We read Nahum 3:1-4 (Nahum was a contemporary to Jonah) were we learn just how wicked a city this was.

Homework: Your mission, should you choose to accept it – answer these questions:

  • What modern city in the Middle East is Nineveh close to?
  • Where is Tarshish?
  • Exactly how large a city was Nineveh?


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