Welcome to our Bible Study Series on the Minor Prophets.

This is – Jonah, God’s Mercy on the Repentant

Click on the link above for the study session. Find the notes below.

Jonah, God’s Mercy on the Repentant:

  • He is our fifth prophet into this series, we’ve looked at Hosea from the North, Joel in the South, then Amos, who was from the South, but served in the North. And finally Obadiah in the South.
  • Now as for Jonah, a prophet from the North, who tried to outrun God’s call. So the theme of this book teaches us that God is merciful on those who repent.

1. Jonah’s Setting:

  • Jonah was called by the Lord to preach His message of salvation and hope to the wicked city of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t like his assignment and he headed for Tarshish. But God would demonstrate His sovereign power and that His calling is final.
  • See, after the episode at sea and the big fish, Jonah realised that God was serious about His command. God commissioned Jonah to proclaim a message of repentance to the Assyrian City of Nineveh. But Jewish nationalism blinded him to God’s world-wide purposes of salvation.
  • Nonetheless, the story of Jonah is one of the clearest demonstrations in Scripture of God’s love and mercy for all peoples. But if it weren’t for the reference to himself as being the son of Amittai and a prophet of the
    Lord during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel – 2 Kings 14: 25 – nothing more would have known about this man.
  • From this passage we know that it was under Jeroboam’s reign that Israel’s lost territory was regained. Jonah was a Galilean and Jonah had a mind of his own. Even when he knew that he had lost the battle, he still waged his personal battle – 4: 1-11.
  • Now Jonah ministered after the time of Elisha and just before the time of Amos and Hosea. This was while Israel was enjoying a period of resurgence and prosperity. Assyria, a nation that had achieved a near-legendary reputation for cruelty, was in mild decline during these years, but it remained a threat. And, the repentance of Nineveh probably occurred in 773–755BC.

2. Jonah’s Purpose:

  • Jonah reveals the power of God in nature and the mercy of God in human affairs. Jonah himself learned that “salvation is of the Lord” – Jonah 2:9. I mean, he had to learn that God’s gracious offer of grace extends to all that repent and turn to Him. As Jonah wanted God to show no mercy to the people of Nineveh, but later he learned how selfish he was.
  • At a stage, Jonah said “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” – Jonah 1:9. Therefore the book of Jonah also served to challenge the nationalistic pride of Israel and her failure to comprehend the nature of her missionary task and the purpose of God to bestow his loving kindness upon all peoples.
  • The change in Jonah’s own attitude is symbolic of the change God required of Israel as a whole. Jonah’s three-day experience in the belly of the fish also serves as a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Matt. 12:39–41). Here it should be noted that the Hebrew idiom, “three days and three nights,” only requires a portion of the first and third days.

3. Jonah’s Message:

  • The book’s message is two-fold. Firstly, the pervading theme in Jonah is God’s gracious extension of His mercy to gentile nations. Secondly, the sovereignty of God over life, elements, and circumstances is clearly stressed in the descriptions of the storm (1:4), the fish (1:17), the plant (4:6), and the worm (4:7).
  • In fact, more than any other Old Testament book Jonah reveals JHWH’s concern for all men. It is significant that Nineveh responded better to the preaching of Jonah than Israel and Judah ever responded to any of their prophets.
  • So the message of Jonah tells us that it is impossible to succeed in running away from God and that there is no limit to what God can do to get one’s attention.

4. The Book’s Application:

  • We are taught that we should have compassion for the lost and be willing to proclaim the Gospel to all men in hope that some will repent and be saved. That points us to Christ! Jonah is the only prophet that Jesus likened to Himself.
  • In Matthew 12:39-41 Jesus answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.
  • And so Jonah teaches us that God expects us to be obedient to His commands.
  • That it is not possible to run out of God’s presence.
  • That it is not possible to run from God’s purpose.  
  • That God will move “heaven and earth” to accomplish His will.
  • That everything in creation is subject to God’s sovereignty.
  • That God’s desire is for all lost people to repent and be saved.
  • That God’s Word brings great conviction of sin.
  • That God has great compassion on and mercy for the lost.
  • That God wants us to have His compassion.
  • And that the Gospel and salvation are not exclusively for the Jews but the Gentiles as well.