Morning Bible Study
Jonah’s ministry began around the year 786 BC
Jonah was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, and the message of his
early ministry was “conquer”, to encourage King Jeroboam II to enlarge the
kingdom of Israel. (2Ki. 14:25)
The events in our book won’t take place until 759 BC.
Last week we saw Jonah charged by God to go and preach to the city of
Nineveh, the ancient city of the Assyrians, but instead of going to Nineveh, he
ran the opposite way. When a storm threatens his boat, the sailors toss him
overboard when he tells them that it's his fault for running from God. He finds
himself in the belly of a huge fish.
Video: Assyrian Empire map clip
In Jonah’s day, the Assyrians were the big dogs on the block. They controlled most of the land of
Mesopotamia, though they had not yet reached their peak. They would one day be twice the size they
were in Jonah’s day.
The city of Nineveh lay on an important crossroads between trade routes
going north-south and those going east-west.
Nineveh was also an important religious center for the worship of the
goddess Ishtar, also known as She was the
“goddess of love”.
Aphrodite, or Venus.
2:1-10 Jonah’s Prayer
:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.
:2 And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He
answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And
You heard my voice.
:3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart
of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves
passed over me.
:3 You cast me into the deep
If I understand the book correctly, Jonah has been inside this fish for a
while before he prayed.
(Jonah 1:17 NKJV)
Now the Lord had
prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three
days and three nights.
If that’s so, then what took him so long?
They say that for a person to change their behavior, they have to hit some
sort of “bottom”.
You can determine just where “bottom” is for you.
I imagine that Jonah could have decided to “pray” after he told his fellow
passengers that he was running from Yahweh.
Shouldn’t a statement like that have caused some level of
conviction in his soul?
He could have decided to “pray” while the ship was leaving the port of
Joppa, heading in the opposite direction from Nineveh.
He could have prayed when the captain woke him up in the middle of the
He could have prayed when he first got tossed overboard.
He could have prayed the moment that the fish swallowed him.
But Jonah took three days and nights in the belly of that fish before he
finally gave in.
I have to give him this much – he at least finally figured
it out before it was too late.
Some people are so stubborn in their rebellion against God
that they never turn around.
Jonah was being disobedient to the Lord and running from what God wanted
him to do.
The sailors actually did Jonah a favor when they reluctantly threw him
We talked last week that sometimes the best thing we can do for a friend
who is stubbornly rebelling against the Lord is to toss them overboard.
On Jonah’s part – Maturity in the believer isn’t about achieving some sort
of “sinless” perfection.
Maturity is knowing that your sin will be
discovered, so you better deal with it now.
32:23b NKJV) … be sure your sin will find you out.
Maturity is learning to hit “bottom” a little quicker.
:4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your
sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
:5 The waters surrounded me, even to my
soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.
:6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought
up my life from the pit, O Lord,
:7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered
the Lord; And my prayer went up
to You, Into Your holy temple.
:8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their
:8 worthless idols
The folks in recovery programs talk about the importance of having a “higher
There are lots of “higher powers” that people turn to. Some sponsors will tell you it doesn’t matter
what your higher power is, as long as you have one. I’d disagree.
There is only One who is true, real, strong enough
to save. He’s the one with mercy.
NKJV) —5 I am the Lord,
and there is no other; There is no God
besides Me. I will
gird you, though you have not known Me, 6 That they
may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there
is none besides Me. I am the Lord,
and there is no other;
Who created the heavens,Who is God,I declare things that are right.
NKJV) “Look to Me, and be saved, All you
ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
:9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of
thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”
:9 Salvation is of the Lord
I think this is the statement that God has been waiting to hear from Jonah.
Jonah’s salvation from the fish will come from the Lord
But there’s more.
Nineveh’s salvation from destruction will also come from the Lord
Your salvation from hell comes from the Lord
It is interesting to note the Hebrew word for
salvation – yeshuw’ah – salvation,
The word sounds very similar (and is related) to Jesus’
name in Hebrew – Yehowshuwa’
Peter told the Jewish leaders:
4:12 NKJV) Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name
under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
2:32 NKJV) …whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
:10 So the Lord
spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
:10 onto dry land
We aren’t told where Jonah was deposited, but only that it was on dry land.
Note: It was NOT on the “shores of Nineveh”.
For years I remember thinking that Jonah ended his fish ride by being taken
directly to Nineveh, where he went out and preached with his head covered in
seaweed and his skin, hair, and clothes bleached from the whale’s stomach
It would be quite a miracle if Jonah was deposited at Nineveh since Nineveh
is almost four hundred miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Talk about projectile vomit! Nineveh is closer to the Black Sea and the
Caspian Sea than it is to the Mediterranean Sea.
Of course the other possibility would be if the fish swam around Africa,
then up the Tigris River to Nineveh … all in three days…
When Jonah reaches dry land, he will still have a ways to travel to
3:1-4 Preaching at Nineveh
:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,
:1 came to Jonah the second time
We aren’t told how long after Jonah hit dry land that this happened, just
that it did.
I’d like to tell you that God will always give you a second chance at
something if you blow it the first time, but I don’t think that’s true.
If you are watching a house on fire and you hear a child inside screaming,
you are faced with a choice. If you
don’t do anything, I don’t think God is going to give you another chance
Sometimes the opportunities we pass are just momentary and
there isn’t an opportunity for a second chance.
Yet sometimes God is gracious to give us a second chance at something.
On the night before Jesus was betrayed, He had warned Peter that he was going
to deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
And that’s exactly what Peter did.
After the resurrection, Jesus showed up on the shore of
Galilee while the disciples had been out fishing all night.
21:15–17 NKJV) —15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than
these?” He said to
Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to
him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do
you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that
I love You.” He said to
him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you
love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the
third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said
to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said
to him, “Feed My sheep.
What was Jesus doing asking Peter if he loved Him three
times? He was sort of “undoing” Peter’s
three denials of Jesus.
Jesus told Peter each time that He had things for him to
He didn’t just “forgive” Peter and never use him
again. Peter needed to give up his
fishing because Jesus had sheep that needed feeding.
Have you said “no” to something the Lord has asked you to do?
God may be prompting you today to get up and do what He asked you before.
:2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and
preach to it the message that I tell you.”
:3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according
to the word of the Lord. Now
Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.
:3 exceeding great city
When Jonah arrived at Nineveh, I wonder if he checked out the “information
channel” in his hotel room …
Nineveh was about 6 square miles in size. (I’ve read it was 30 miles long,
but not when you lay the
ancient map on top of Google
Video: Nineveh and Fullerton map clip
Nineveh was located where the Tigris and Khosr
Rivers flowed together. Today, the
modern Iraqi city of Mosul surrounds the ancient city.
To get an idea of the size of the city in Fullerton, it would be the area
from the 57 fwy to Harbor, and from Chapman Avenue up
to Skyline Drive.
The “three-day journey” would be going up and down each of the city
streets, not just walking from one end to the other.
:4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first
day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be
:4 Yet forty days…
Jesus compared His own death and resurrection to Jonah getting out of the
fish after three days and nights. He
tied this to the repentance of Nineveh.
NKJV) The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this
generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and
indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
It’s possible that people knew who Jonah was.
It seems they might have even heard about the fish story.
But to be honest, Jonah didn’t give an elaborate forty minute sermon.
He didn’t tell the people to specifically turn to Yahweh.
He didn’t even tell the people to “repent”.
He just warned them of judgment to come.
Your message doesn’t have to be fancy.
You may even forget some of the parts of the story.
But God’s word is powerful.
The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so
if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him
for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes!
See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a
clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent
upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open
that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to
encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel
go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will
soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.
The Bible says,
4:12 NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than
any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of
joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Here’s a simple message: Jesus
3:5-10 Repentance and salvation
:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God,
proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of
:5 proclaimed a fast
Fasting is when you make a conscious decision to withhold something from
yourself, and usually we think of not eating as a “fast”.
The problem is that not eating by itself doesn’t do anything, other than
make you hungry.
It can even do spiritual damage to yourself if you do it for the wrong
6:16–18 NKJV) —16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad
countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be
fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you,
when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that
you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the
secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
If you fast for the sake of getting people to think you’re something special, then there is no value
Video: Skinny on Fasting
If you do fasting for the right reasons (and hopefully with your doctor’s
okay if appropriate), then there can be great value.
We’ll see with Nineveh that it was part of how God could see that these
people were serious about turning from their sin.
In Isaiah’s day, the people took part in fasts, but their hearts weren’t in
it, and their lives showed it.
They didn’t eat a meal or two, yet the businessmen still
exploited their employees and their lives didn’t look like they were following
58:6–9 NKJV) —6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the
To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that
you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you
see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your
light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth
speedily, And your
righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord
shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord
will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you
take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and
Fasting will strengthen the effect of your prayers if it
is accompanied by an effort to also turn away from sin as much as you turn away
:6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he
arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with
sackcloth and sat in ashes.
:6 the king of Nineveh
We believe the king of Nineveh at the time was named Ashur-Dan III (772-754
Jonah would have shown up toward the last five years of his reign.
Ashur-Dan III’s reign had been marred with problems.
The kingdom had already experienced a plague in 765 BC.
There had been an ominous solar eclipse on June 15, 762 BC.
The year that Jonah arrived (759 BC), another plague had hit the kingdom
:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout
Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor
beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.
:8 But let man and beast be covered with
sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one
turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
:9 Who can tell if God will turn and
relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?
:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned
from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He
would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
:10 God relented from the disaster
God held back judgment because the people believed Jonah and they turned
from their sin.
Repent and be saved
Not everyone gets this.
Sometimes people fool themselves because they are “religious”.
They think that all God wants is for them to go to church, dress up on
Sundays, and learn to talk churchy talk like saying “amen, brother” a lot.
They don’t want to get too serious about God.
Perhaps they don’t think that their rebellion against God
isn’t that serious.
Perhaps they think they don’t think they need to take
Jesus too seriously.
That’s what some of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day thought.
12:38–41 NKJV) —38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher,
we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He
answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a
sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as
Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will
the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of
Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it,
because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than
Jonah is here.
The people of Nineveh got it.
They had a guy with a fish story and a simple message warning
They “turned from their evil way”, and they were saved.
Jesus wasn’t swallowed by a fish. He actually died for real.
And He rose again.
I had a friend tell me the other day about some church
people he knew who were starting to study Buddhism.
His comment was, “Why would you study a dead guy when you
have a risen Savior?”
Isn’t that enough for you to get serious about God?