I hope you're enjoying the Monthly Spiritual Challenge for May. As promised, I have put together some more information to help you get the most out of the book of Jonah. These are just my very rough teaching notes, I haven't even reformatted them or anything. I simply didn't have time to do that, but hopefully you will find them informative. You could even use them to lead a Bible study of your own. Today, I'll upload Part 1 and then the following 3 parts between now and the end of the month.
PART 1: PROFILING JONAH
Jonah is probably the most famous of all the Major Minors..what child doesn’t know the story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale? But who was Jonah? Does the Bible tell us anything else about him?
Read the following Scriptures and answer the questions.
2 Kings 14: 23 – 25
1. Which city was Jonah from?
2. Was this city in the Northern or Southern Kingdom?
3. There are two Jeroboam’s mentioned in this text. Which one was reigning when Jonah ministered?
Jeroboam the Second
4. Besides his mission to Nineveh, Jonah was also sent with a significant message to the Northern Kingdom. What was his message to them?
He prophesied to the king that he would restore the borders of Israel, the Northern Kingdom.
Take a look at this map and locate where Jonah came from (Northern Kingdom) and where he was sent to (Nineveh, Assyria).
Jonah was probably quite a highly regarded prophet, at least in the Northern Kingdom, and that he ministered at the height of the Northern Kingdom’s success, when their borders had been restored. He ministered around the reign of Jeroboam the Second, which was somewhere between 800-750 BC, after the Kingdom was split, although his ministry could have begun some 20 years earlier. Although the Northern Kingdom was at its height, the superpower of the day, Assyria, was looming as a threat. And in fact, in 722 BC they did destroy the Northern Kingdom.
Watch this video to get a quick grasp on the historical context of Jonah.
Watch this video to get a quick grasp on the historical context of Jonah.
2. STRUCTURE OF JONAH
The book of Jonah comprises only 4 short chapters, each chapter reflects a different setting.
Chapter 1: mostly at sea
Chapter 2: belly of a great fish
Chapter 4: Just outside Nineveh
3. MAIN THEME OF JONAH
Let’s look at the overall theme of Jonah before delving into each section in detail. Allow the group time to complete Exercise 2 in their notes, under MAIN THEME OF JONAH.
Read the following Scriptures and see if you can uncover the main, overarching theme of the book of Jonah. Clue: there are two stories in the book that centre around the same theme and act like bookends to the tale.
Jonah 2: 7-10 and Jonah 3: 6-10
Both of these stories are about sin and repentance..and the response of God to both. In the case of Jonah, he sinned by deliberately disobeying God’s command. God responded by putting him into a situation designed to bring him to his senses. When he did repent, God responded immediately by rescuing him and giving him a second chance. In the case of Nineveh, their sin came up before God and he made a judgement against them. However, he also gave them an opportunity to come to their senses by sending Jonah to them. When they repented, God immediately withdrew his judgment. We could call the main theme of Jonah – the power of repentance.
4. JONAH’S FIRST CALL
Read Jonah 1: 1-17 and answer the questions below.
1. What was God’s commission to Jonah?
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me”
2. What was Jonah’s response?
He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Spain, literally the opposite side of the world.
3. Knowing what you now know about the Assyrians, why do you think Jonah reacted the way he did?
The Assyrians were already forcing many countries to pay them tribute..they were overbearing and cruel and very likely to overrun Israel.
4. How did God feel about Jonah’s disobedience?
“The Lord sent out a great wind on the sea”.
5. Why did the sailors wake Jonah up?
“Perhaps your God can save us.” Ironic, isn’t it?
6. What was the result, naturally, and spiritually, after the sailors threw Jonah into the sea?
Naturally – the sea calmed down
Spiritually – those sailors honoured and recognized God
Now read Amos 6: 14. Amos and Jonah prophesied very close in time to each other. Here is God telling Israel, the Northern Kingdom, that they will be overthrown by a mighty nation..and really, the rising superpower is Assyria..and God sends Jonah to offer that very nation, a chance to repent. Ouch! No wonder he struggled to obey God.
1. Is it really necessary to always obey God? Doesn’t grace cover our disobedience?
2. How important is it for a prophet to obey God? Why?
3. How do you feel when God shows mercy or blesses someone you can’t stand – or you think really doesn’t deserve it?
Have you ever turned away, run away, from something you knew God wanted you to do? What was the result? Do you need to make right with God now concerning this?
Read: Jonah 1: 1-5; Romans 1: 28 – 32
Can you see Jonah’s downward spiral into sin displayed in the choice of words used in the Jonah verses – “He went down to Joppa”; “He..went down into it (the ship)”; “But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship”. Sin and disobedience is seldom a sudden thing; its usually the end result of a slow, downward spiral.
The Romans verses indicate exactly the same thing.
5. THE BIG QUESTION FROM JONAH 1: Did Jonah really get swallowed by a fish or is this story just a myth?
Below are three articles written about this topic.
Did Jonah Really Get Swallowed by a Whale?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
Skeptics ridicule many portions of Scripture and let's face it—some of them are difficult to believe. Certainly one that has received a major dose of such ridicule deals with Jonah and the whale (or great fish). How could a whale or fish swallow a man whole? How could a man survive in such an environment for any length of time? As always, there are answers to the questions if we are willing to study and believe.
First, let me say that the historicity of this account is vital to the Christian. Believing it is not an option, for Jesus Christ Himself believed it and made it a model for the doctrine of His resurrection. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).
What kind of animal swallowed Jonah? In the passage above, the Greek word translated "whale" actually means a huge fish or sea monster. In the passage in Jonah (1:17; 2:1,10), the Hebrew word was the normal word for "fish," but here the word is modified by the word great. Our modern taxonomic system places whales among the mammals, sharks, among the fish and plesiosaurs among the reptiles, but, the Bible uses a different system. "All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men,another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds." (I Corinthians 15:39).
Evidently any living thing other than the creeping things (Psalm 104:25) in the seas is placed in the category of "fishes". In addition, there are several species of whale and of sharks alive today with gullets large enough to swallow a man whole. Among extinct animals like the plesiosaurs, the same could be said, and perhaps this was a heretofore unknown fish of large size. The point is, the story is not impossible. However, most importantly, the Bible says that "the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah" (Jonah 1:17). Clearly this event was miraculous and not a naturalistic phenomenon. Thus we don’t have to give it an explanation limited by modern experience or knowledge.
Could a man survive in a fish’s belly? The Hebrew idiom "three days and three nights" has been clearly shown both from Scripture and other sources to mean a period of time beginning on one day and ending on the day after the one following. It doesn't necessarily mean three full days and nights.
Furthermore, there have been several reported cases of modern sailors or other individuals swallowed by such an animal, only to be recovered many hours later.
But again, this story involves the miraculous. It may be that Jonah actually died and was resurrected by God. This is implied in his description of his experience especially Jonah 2:2. Of course, resurrection is "impossible" but it clearly happened on several occasions in Scripture requiring miraculous input. To deny the possibility of miracles, especially those miracles specifically mentioned in Scripture, is to deny the existence of God, and this is not an option for a Christian.
The point is nothing about the story is totally impossible: There are "fish" large enough to swallow a man; men have been known to survive inside a "fish"; the Bible says it really happened; Christ said Jonah’s experience was an analogy of His own death and resurrection; and God is alive and capable of this feat.
Taken from - Christian Answers
How could Jonah survive three days in the belly of a “whale”? See this page in: Dutch, French, Indonesian, Spanish This is one of the Bible stories most ridiculed by people who consider themselves sophisticated and intellectual. Skeptics say that no whale could swallow a man in the first place, and, even if he did, the man would certainly never survive three days and three nights in his belly, as the Bible claims. “Christian liberals” have attempted to avoid this problem by saying that the story of Jonah was only an allegory and was never meant to be understood as actual history. However, whenever the Bible writers used allegories or parables or other symbolic stories, they always either said so or else made it evident in the context. The book of Jonah is certainly written as though it were actual history. Jonah was a real prophet who is mentioned also in II Kings 14:25. None of the ancient Jews or early Christians ever doubted the authenticity and historicity of the book of Jonah and its story. JESUS CHRIST Most importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ accepted the account as true. He said that the people of Nineveh repented of their sins as a consequence of his preaching (Matthew 12:41). He even said: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth” (Matthew 12:40). Thus Christ actually compared Jonah’s experience to His own coming death and resurrection, pointing out the miraculous nature of both. One cannot deny the factuality of Jonah’s experience, therefore, without charging the Lord Jesus Christ with either deception or ignorance, either of which is equivalent to denying His deity. A MIRACLE There is little question that the event was a miracle, but this fact certainly does not disprove it! The account, in fact, says as much: "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." -Jonah 1:17 (King James Version) Later it says: "And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." -Jonah 2:10 (King James Version) God was certainly able to accomplish this if He wished; to deny the possibility of miracles is atheism. The actual occurrence of this particular miracle is adequately attested by the very fact of its record in the Holy Scriptures, and is doubly confirmed by the testimony of Christ. Whole animals as large or larger than a man have been found in the stomachs of the sperm whale, the whale shark and the white shark. What Was the “Great Fish”? The “great fish” may have been either a whale or a shark or even a fish specially prepared by the Lord for this purpose. (The Hebrew and Greek words that are used merely mean "a great aquatic animal.") Some species of whales and some species of sharks are quite capable of swallowing a man whole. Among these are the sperm whale, the white shark, and the whale shark, all of which have been found with whole animals as large or larger than a man in their stomachs. HOW DID JONAH SURVIVE? As to whether a man could survive “three days and three nights” under such conditions, there are three possible answers that could be suggested in defense of the Biblical narrative. NATURAL. In the first place, it has been well established that the phrase “three days and three nights” in ancient Hebrew usage was an idiomatic expression meaning simply “three days,” and was applicable even if the beginning and ending days of the period were only partial days. Thus it could refer to a period as short as about 38 hours. There is always some air in the whale’s stomach, and, as long as the animal it has swallowed is still alive, digestive activity will not begin. Thus, Jonah’s experience could possibly have happened entirely with the framework of natural law. MIRACLE. It is much more likely, however, that the event involved a divine miracle, as the Scripture strongly implies. The “great fish” was prepared and sent by God, as was the intense storm that threatened the ship on which Jonah was traveling. The storm ceased as soon as Jonah was cast overboard (Jonah 1:4, 15). In like manner, it was quite probable that God preserved Jonah’s life miraculously all through the horrifying experience. RESURRECTION. A third possibility is that Jonah actually suffocated and died in the great fish and then God later brought him back from the dead. There are at least eight other such “resurrections” recorded in the Bible, as well as the glorious bodily resurrection of Christ—of which Jonah’s experience in particular was said by Christ to be a prophetic sign. This is also implied by Jonah’s prayer, when he said: “…out of the belly of hell (i.e. “sheol,” the place of departed spirits) cried I, and thou heardest my voice” (Jonah 2:2). In any case, it was a mighty experience, evidently well known and certified in his day, probably contributing in significant degree to the fact that all people of Ninevah repented and turned to God (Jonah 3:5) when Jonah returned “from the dead,” as it were, to preach to them. Even in Jesus’ day, it was so well known that He could use it as a “sign” of His own impending death and resurrection, which were to constitute God’s crowning proof of the deity of His Son and the great work of salvation which He would accomplish on the cross for all who would receive Him. “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” —Acts 17:30, 31 (King James Version)
Read more at: http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t004.html
The Historicity of Jonah by John Piper
Before we look at this chapter, let me mention briefly why I regard the book as historical rather than as a parable. Not only was Jonah a historical person, as we saw from 2 Kings 14:25, but also in the New Testament Jesus treats Jonah's story as historical. He says in Matthew 12:40, "Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." Those of us who respect the wisdom of Jesus will be very slow to call his judgment into question. He thought the story was historical. We should, too. If you ask how a man can survive in the belly of a fish three days, the answer is, he probably can't—any more than a person can stay three days in the grave and live again. That's why Jesus called it a "sign." In Matthew 12:39 he says, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah, the prophet." Jesus knew this was no ordinary event. It was a miraculous sign of God's gracious and powerful intervention. There is no point in trying to explain it scientifically any more than the miraculous signs of Jesus' ministry. Jonah cried for help, and God saved him miraculously with a fish.