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  • Tabernacle Baptist Church

Jonah - An Introduction - 3/27/24

Some helpful background information as we begin our new Wednesday Night study through Jonah

The Book of Jonah Nineveh is northeast; Tarshish is west. When God calls Jonah to preach repentance to the wicked Ninevites, the prophet knows that God’s mercy may follow. He turns down the assignment and heads for Tarshish instead. But once God has dampened his spirits (by tossing him out of the boat and into the water) and has demonstrated His protection (by moving him out of the water and into the fish), Jonah realizes God is serious about His command. Nineveh must hear the word of the Lord; therefore Jonah goes. Although the preaching is a success, the preacher comes away angry and discouraged. He must learn firsthand of God’s compassion for sinful men. Yonah is the Hebrew word for “dove.” The Septuagint hellenized this word into Ionas, and the Latin Vulgate used the title Jonas. The Time of Jonah Jonah was a contemporary of Jeroboam II of Israel (782–753 B.C.) who ministered after the time of Elisha and just before the time of Amos and Hosea. Israel under Jeroboam II was enjoying a period of resurgence and prosperity (see “The Time of Amos”). Conditions looked promising after many bleak years, and nationalistic fervor was probably high. During these years, Assyria was in a period of mild decline. Weak rulers had ascended the throne, but Assyria remained a threat. By the time of Jonah, Assyrian cruelty had become legendary. Graphic accounts of their cruel treatment of captives have been found in ancient Assyrian records, especially from the ninth and seventh centuries B.C. The repentance of Nineveh probably occurred in the reign of Ashurdan III (773–755 B.C.). Two plagues (765 and 759 B.C.) and a solar eclipse (763 B.C.) may have prepared the people for Jonah’s message of judgment. THE OPEN BIBLE: NEW KING JAMES VERSION, ELECTRONIC ED. (NASHVILLE: THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERS, 1998).
Key Themes The primary theme in Jonah is that God’s compassion is boundless, not limited just to “us” but also available for “them.” This is clear from the flow of the story and its conclusion: (1) Jonah is the object of God’s compassion throughout the book, and the pagan sailors and pagan Ninevites are also the benefactors of this compassion. (2) The story ends with the question, “Should I not pity Nineveh …?” (4:11). Tied to this theological teaching is the anthropological question, Do readers of the story have hearts that are like the heart of God? While Jonah was concerned about a plant that “perished” (4:10), he showed no such concern for the Ninevites. Conversely, the pagan sailors (1:14), their captain (1:6), and the king of Nineveh (3:9) all showed concern that human beings, including Jonah, not “perish.” Several other major themes in the book include: 1. God’s sovereign control over events on the earth 2. God’s determination to get his message to the nations 3. The need for repentance from sin in general 4. The need for repentance from self-centeredness and hypocrisy in particular 5. The full assurance that God will relent when people repent History of Salvation Summary Jonah’s rescue from death provides an analogy for the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 12:39–40). The repentance of the Ninevites anticipates the wide-scale repentance of Gentiles in the messianic era (Matt. 28:18–20; Luke 24:47). (For an explanation of the “History of Salvation,” see the Overview of the Bible. See also History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ.) CROSSWAY BIBLES, THE ESV STUDY BIBLE (WHEATON, IL: CROSSWAY BIBLES, 2008), 1684.
Outline I. Running from God’s Will (1:1–17) A. The Commission of Jonah (1:1, 2) B. The Flight of Jonah (1:3) C. The Pursuit of Jonah (1:4–16) D. The Preservation of Jonah (1:17) II. Submitting to God’s Will (2:1–10) A. The Helplessness of Jonah (2:1–3) B. The Prayer of Jonah (2:4–7) C. The Repentance of Jonah (2:8, 9) D. The Deliverance of Jonah (2:10) III. Fulfilling God’s Will (3:1–10) A. The Commission Renewed (3:1, 2) B. The Prophet Obeys (3:3, 4) C. The City Repents (3:5–9) D. The Lord Relents (3:10) IV. Questioning God’s Will (4:1–11) A. The Prophet Displeased (4:1–5) B. The Prophet Rebuked (4:6–11) JOHN F. MACARTHUR JR., THE MACARTHUR BIBLE COMMENTARY (NASHVILLE: THOMAS NELSON, 2005)

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