The Book of Jonah  PDF  MSWord

Jonah Chapter 1  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Jonah 1
Jon 1:1(top)
Jon 1:2(top)
Jon 1:3

“But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish.” Jonah was a great prophet, so why did he flee? Jonah knew that his country and the people he loved were caught up in great sin, and he knew that a day of reckoning was coming for Israel. The prophet Ahijah had prophesied years before that because of its sin, Israel would be destroyed by being scattered “beyond the Euphrates River” (1 Kings 14:15). Now it seemed that woeful day had come.

In Jonah’s lifetime, the only power that was able to scatter Israel beyond the Euphrates River was Assyria. Egypt was south, not north, and Syria was not far enough north to be “beyond the River.” But Assyria was poised to attack and defeat Israel and carry them beyond the Euphrates, except they had some internal struggles that might have kept them from being so aggressive. In that political environment, suddenly the word of Yahweh came to Jonah that he was to travel the over 600 miles to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria and preach against it. Although Yahweh said for Jonah to preach in Assyria because their wickedness had come up to Him, Jonah knew that all the pagan countries were wicked in the sight of God. Jonah put the history together and realized that if he preached to Nineveh and they changed, then they would come down and attack and destroy Israel and carry the people away to pagan lands (which is exactly what happened, 2 Kings 17:5-6, 18).

Not wanting Israel to be destroyed, and perhaps hoping that God would give Israel more time to repent if he did not act to hasten their destruction, Jonah fled to Tarshish rather than obeying God. God, however, intervened and via the fish incident got Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah did preach to Nineveh, the people there did repent and were spared, and Jonah, seeing the inevitable future destruction of Israel, was angered by the Ninevites’ repentance (Jonah 3:5, 10; 4:1). But Jonah was right; the Assyrians did attack Israel, conquer it, and scatter the Israelites “beyond the Euphrates River.”

“away from the presence of Yahweh.” The belief of many people was that individual gods lived in different places. Yahweh was the God of Israel, so the belief was that if Jonah could get away from Israel there was a chance that he could get away from Yahweh. [For more on people believing that different gods lived in different places on earth, see commentary on 1 Kings 20:23].

Jon 1:4(top)
Jon 1:5(top)
Jon 1:6(top)
Jon 1:7(top)
Jon 1:8(top)
Jon 1:9(top)
Jon 1:10(top)
Jon 1:11(top)
Jon 1:12(top)
Jon 1:13(top)
Jon 1:14(top)
Jon 1:15(top)
Jon 1:16(top)
Jon 1:17

“great fish.” Although the REV translation reads “fish,” we do not really know what swallowed Jonah. The reading “fish” comes from Jonah 1:17, but the Hebrew text allows for other sea creatures besides fish, including whales.” Today we very carefully classify life into things like phyla, genus, and species, and if the book of Jonah was written in modern times we would know exactly what swallowed Jonah. But the ancient classification of animals and sea life was much less exact than ours, and it was based on different standards. For example, we make a distinction between a “fish” and a “whale” based on things like whether it breathes air with lungs or via gills. Thus, a “fish” can be big or small, but they all have gills. Similarly, a “whale” can be big or relatively small—the dwarf sperm whale grows to only 8 feet and is much smaller than many “fish”—but all whales have lungs. But the ancient cultures and vocabulary did not make those exact distinctions, so all we really know about the creature that swallowed Jonah was that it was big enough to swallow Jonah whole.

Also, the text says, “Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah,” so it is also possible that the creature that swallowed Jonah was not normal, but was some kind of aberration that God prepared so Jonah could be swallowed whole and be in the creature for three days and nights without being substantially damaged. The lack of exact knowledge of what swallowed Jonah explains the difference in the English versions. Although almost all English translations of Jonah 1:17 read “fish,” the identity of the creature in Matthew 12:40 is much more diverse, which seems strange since it seems that what swallowed Jonah according to the book of Jonah would be reproduced in what Jesus said about Jonah, but nevertheless the English versions differ: “fish” (HCSB, ESV, NIV, NLT); “whale” (ASV, KJV, NAB, RSV ); and “sea monster” (CJB, NASB, NJB).

“and Jonah was in the belly of the fish.” Jonah died inside the fish and was dead for three days and three nights, just as our Lord Jesus was dead in the grave for three days and three nights (see commentary on Matthew 12:40).


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