Jonah - Guard your Faith, or Sin can Send you Overboard

August 8, 2014 version

 

Jonah shows that you are never too mature to stop guarding your faith. Jonah is a fascinating book that can be read on at least six different levels.

1) A story of God's power, that every child can understand

2) Liberal so-called "scholars" thought it simply a whale of a tale, a story that was all washed up.

3) But there is historical evidence that the cruel, warlike Assyrians did mysteriously give up war, at least for a couple of years from 758 to 757 B.C..

4) In Jonah are hints of Christ's redemption, and the death and resurrection of Jesus.

5) One can see it as a message that you can run from God, but you can't hide.

6) But we can read the Book of Jonah as our story, of what we have been to a large or small degree, and what we could be, if we are not careful.

7) Finally I suggest Jonah is a book of where we can learn about "exits". If we are on a path that tracks with Jonah, either of disobedience, or a path of a partial obedience, we can see and learn from Jonah how to exit that bad path, and get on a path of whole-hearted obedience.

John Hannah said, "The life of Jonah was a series of disconnected surprises and frustration. He escapes from God and is trapped. He accepts the inevitability of perishing, and is saved. He is given a second chance and is embarrasingly successful. As the book concludes, he is left to contemplate is own lack of compassion and the depth of God's compassion."

 

Dating of the book: The book of Jonah itself does not give any dates. But after 758 B.C. is very likely and before 722 B.C. when Samaria fell to the Assyrians. Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, which was very close to Nazareth in Galilee. We have a very detailed knowledge of Assyrian history from the Assyrian chronicle which kept a list of all of the conquests. Jonah lived in the times of the Assyrian kings Ashur-dan III (about 772-754 B.C.) and Ashur-nirari V (about 754-746 B.C.). Jonah was probably a contemporary of Amos and Hosea, who announced that God's people would be exiled to Assyria. This would not exactly add any love for them in Jonah's heart.

Jonah is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, Matthew 12:39-41, and Luke 11:29-32.

 

Pre-Nicene Writers who quote or allude to Jonah:

Clement of Rome (96-98 A.D.)

Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.)

Justin Martyr (c.138-165 A.D.)

Tertullian (207/208 A.D.)

Tatian's Diatessaron (died 170 A.D.)

Origen (225-254 A.D.)

Melito of Sardis (160-177/180 A.D.) (Implied, The Twelve)

Adamantius (300 A.D.)

Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.)

Methodius (270-311/312 A.D.)

 

Pre-Nicene manuscripts of Jonah

Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q76 contains Jonah 1:1-5,7-10,15-16; 2:1,7; 3:2.

Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q81 contains Jonah 1:6-8, 10-16.

Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q82 contains Jonah 1:1-9; 2:3-10; 3:1-3; 4:5-11.

Nahal Hever (50 B.C.-50 A.D.) (Greek) contains Jonah 1:14-16; 2:1-7; 3:2-5,7-10; 4:1-2,5.

wadi Murabb'at scroll (Mur XII) (from c.132 A.D.) Jonah 1:1-16; 2:1-11; 3:1-10 to 4:1-11.

Vaticanus (=B) (325-350 A.D.)

Sinaiticus (Si) 340-350 A.D.)

Alexandrinus (=A) c.450 A.D.)

Jonah is a continuous narrative, but it can be broken down into four parts:

Chapter 1 Going down to get your life digested away.

Chapter 2 God is not beyond the reach of Jonah's desperate prayer

Chapter 3 A disobedient believer can serve the Lord AGAIN

Chapter 4 But serving God without your heart can make you look ridiculous to heavenly eyes.

 

Jonah 1 - Fleeing God and Going Down!

 

1. In Jon 1:2 exactly why did God say he wanted Jonah to preach against it? What do you think are two reasons behind this reason?

 

 

 

2. In Jon 1:3,10 why did Jonah go down to Joppa (by modern Jafneh and Tel Aviv today)? Why would he not care if he kept the reason a secret?

 

 

 

3. Jonah found an "open door" when he found a ship he could sail aboard. But who gave the open door? When we encounter an open door, how do we know if it was God or Satan that provided it?

 

4. Today do we sometimes consider God's will for us a smorgasbord of many dishes, and we pick and chose which ones appeal to us?

 

 

 

5. In Jon 1:3, there are three cities named Tarshish. Paul was from the closer one in Asia Minor. Another one was on the island of Sardinia. The third one was a mining town in Iberia (modern-day Spain). Which one do you think Jonah went to, and why?

 

 

 

6. In Jn 1:1-3, it never said that Jonah told God "no" in words. How can a person be defiant in actions without using words?

 

 

 

7. In Jon 1:3, why did Jonah try to run away from God?

 

 

 

8. In Jon 1:5, what was the main point of the voyage? Why would they throw the cargo into the sea?

 

 

 

9. In Jon 1:5-6, how was this prophet asleep here? when Jonah went down to sleep, how concerned was Jonah that God would follow him or punish him? Why?

 

 

 

10. In Jon 1:6 was the captain hostile to the True God. since the captain apparently did not believe in the One True God, why would the captain want Jonah to pray to his God? Do some people today have this attitude?

 

 

 

11. In Jon 1:7, since God does not want us to follow superstition of luck, why did casting lots work for the sailors? In general, is casting lots a good thing to do?

 

 

 

12. In Jon 1:7, how is this similar to the wise men in Mt 2:1-3?

 

 

 

13. In Jon 1:8-10, why would they be afraid when Jonah said he worshipped the One who made the sea and the land? They did not worship One True God anyway.

 

 

 

14. In Jon 1:11-15 were the men right to throw Jonah overboard, to what seemed to be certain death?

 

 

 

15. In Jon 1:16, why do you think the men offered sacrifices and vows to the LORD?

 

 

 

16. In Jon 1:16, how could the sailors be led to reverence the true God through Jonah's disobedience?

 

 

17. In Jon 1:17 and Mt 12:40, what kind of fish do you think swallowed Jonah?

 

 

 

18. What happens, when a godly man, or godly nation, no longer wants to do what God wants?

 

 

 

19. Jonah probably figured that if he went far enough in the opposite direction, it would be more efficient for God to use someone else, instead of him. Do we ever think that way?

 

 

 

20. Why do you think God does not always do what is not efficient?

 

 

 

21. Have you ever had a time when God wanted you, or someone you know to do something, and God was refused and you or the other person went the other way instead? How did it turn out?

 

 

 

22. Very few people in Old Testament times had the Spirit of God where they could prophesy, but since Jonah did, how could even he be disobedient and turn his back on God?

 

 

Jonah 2 - Feeding the fishes in sin; When your life seem no more valuable than fish bait

 

We should tremble at God's word, because persisting in disobeying God can take guts, - so to speak.

 

1. In Jon 1:17-21 some see the great fish as an answer to Jonah's prayer to preserve his life? Do you agree or not?

 

 

 

2. How you feel if you were constrained with very limited movement, could not get fresh air, and the only air you could get would smell so bad that you would want to throw up, it was totally dark, you were probably hundreds of feet below sea level, and if you did get out you would be too deep to swim to the surface for air? Actually it would not matter, because even if you swam straight up you would get the bends anyway.

 

 

 

3. Just how desperate was Jonah's situation? Would anyone even know what happened to Jonah, much less be able to help him?

 

 

 

4. How does Jon 2:2-6 show us Jonah felt?

 

 

 

5. In Jon 2:1, did Jonah really die or not?

 

 

 

 

6. When you are in a crushing situation, how do you tend to react? Does it make a difference if you are in the situation because of external factors vs. your own foolishness or wickedness?

 

 

 

7. In Jon 2:6, how did the earth bar Jonah in?

 

 

 

8. In Jon 2:4,6,7-8, what enduring quality did Jonah have? How can we cultivate that quality?

 

 

 

10. In Jon 2:9 how else did Jonah react, and what did God command once Jonah did this?

 

 

 

11. In Jon 2:2-9, how could Jonah pray so eloquently after this traumatic experience?

 

 

 

12. In Jon 2:8, how do people who cling to idols forfeit what could be theirs? What about predestination?

 

 

 

13. What are different ways in which idols are worthless?

 

 

 

14. In Jon 2, how might Jonah's experience be similar to Paul handing an immoral brother over to Satan in 1 Cor 5:4-5?

 

 

 

15. In Jon 2, how would you share with a wicked or immoral non-believer (or believer), the importance of obeying God?

 

 

 

16. What is one key advantage when you are laid low and flat on your back? Was there a time in your life you were flat on your back, and God used it?

 

 

 

17. In Jon 2:9-10, do you think God was patiently waiting for something here? Do you think God is waiting for something in your life?

 

 

 

Being under God's discipline can be like going fishing, when you are the bait. Scripture is silent on whether or not Jonah ever wanted to go fishing again after that.

 

 

Jonah 3 - Going to Obey Again

 

1. In Jon 3:1-2, Jonah disobeyed and failed God, apparently in what God thought was a big way. How could someone who disobeyed God like that every serve Him again, especially telling others they need to repent and turn to God?

 

 

 

2. In Jon 3:1-2, should Jonah have asked God whether he should go to Nineveh after this?

 

 

 

3. In Jon 3:2, did Jonah seem particularly concerned that he did not yet have the message he was supposed to proclaim? Should we be concerned if God calls us to a ministry and things are not all mapped out for us?

 

 

 

4. In Jon 3:3 and Jon 4:11, how was Nineveh such a great city, with 200,000 people?

 

 

 

5. In Jon 3:3-4, Do you think Jonah felt safe going to such a blood-soaked city?

 

 

 

6. In Jon 3:5,6,8, what is sackcloth?

 

 

 

7. In Jon 3:6, why is the king called the King of Nineveh?

 

 

 

8. In Jon 3:6, what do you see as the very first step of repentance here?

 

 

 

9. In Jon 3:7, why would the decree be by the king and his nobles, and why would the nobles want fasting?

 

 

 

10. In Jon 3:7, how do you get other people to repent?

 

 

 

11. In Jon 3:7, how could we metaphorically put on sackcloth today?

 

 

 

12. In Jon 3:7, why would the Assyrians make the animals have to show repentance too?

 

 

 

13. In Jon 3:8 did God listen to the prayer/call of these non-believers? Were they praying for salvation?

 

 

 

14. In Jon 3:9, how certain were they that their repentance would have any effect on their future outcome at all?

 

 

 

15. In Jon 3:9 is it good to tell non-believers about the fierce anger of God?

 

 

 

16. In Jon 3:10, why did God have Jonah prophecy the Ninevites would be destroyed, and then they were spared?

 

 

 

17. In Jon 3:10, why did the Ninevites repent?

 

 

 

18. In Jon 3:10, was God going to do evil here?

 

 

 

19. In Jon 3:10, how did God repent of what He said He would do?

 

 

 

20. In Jon 3:10b, why would God have compassion on such an evil people, and why would Jonah not?

 

 

 

21. In Jon 3:10b, when our heart is not aligned with God's, how can our heart be changed?

 

 

Jonah 4 - Obedience without Love

 

1. In Jon 4:1-2, exactly why was Jonah so angry that the Ninevites were spared? Was it primarily because his words did not come to pass, or because he wanted to see the Ninevites destroyed?

 

 

 

 

2. In Jon 4:3,9b, just how angry was Jonah?

 

 

 

 

3. In Jon 4:1-2, regardless of the reason Jonah was angry, did Jonah value is words coming to pass more of the lives of the Ninevites more. Are there any examples in the Bible or today where we care more about our words than about people?

 

 

 

 

4. In Jon 4:1,4,9b why would Jonah both have and keep his anger at what God did?

 

 

 

 

5. In Jn 1:1,4,9, when (if ever) do we have a right to be angry at what God did? What does it mean when we are angry at what God did?

 

 

 

 

6. In Jon 4:1,4,,9 what happens when we are angry at God? (You might think back to Job).

 

 

 

 

7. In Jon 4:2, many people are angry at God because they have a wrong view of God. Was this the case with Jonah here?

 

 

 

 

8. In Jon 4:3, how is Jonah saying he is angry enough to die similar to what Elijah said in 1 Ki 19:4?

 

 

 

 

9. In Jon 4:5-6, why would Jonah get sun, if he had built a shelter?

 

 

 

 

10. In Jon 4:6, why would Jonah be happy about the miraculously-growing vine?

 

 

 

 

11. In Jon 4:7, after all Jonah went through, why would God provide a small worm to destroy the vine? Does God ever want to destroy things, or take them away, just because they make us happy?

 

 

 

 

12. In Jon 4:8, what do we know about east winds in this part of the world?

 

 

 

 

13. In Jon 4:8-9, why would Jonah think he had a right to be angry about the vine?

 

 

 

 

14. In Jon 4:10-11, God's main point was not about vines or Jonah's anger about vines? What was the whole point God was trying to communicate to Jonah about the vine?

 

 

 

 

15. In Jon 4:11, a vine is different than an idol. This kind of vine is a good thing God gives us, then once we are used to it God takes it away, to teach us something. Were there any examples of vines in your life or in the lives of people you know?

 

 

 

 

16. In Jon 4:8-11, even if God is firmly the most important in your life, are there other things that are more important to you than other people, and their salvation?

 

 

 

 

17. In Jon 4:11, if God is number 1, but you love other things rather than other people, can you still be right in your love for God? (See 1 Jn 3:17; 4:12,20-21)

 

 

 

As the book of Jonah shows, you are never too mature to stop guarding your faith.

 

 

Jonah 1 - Fleeing God and Going Down! - my brief answers

 

1. In Jon 1:2 exactly why did God say he wanted Jonah to preach against it? What do you think are two reasons behind this reason?

A: The Bible states is was because its wickedness has come up before God. There are three ways to take this observation.

1) Some might hear Jonah's preaching and repent and continue to follow God after that.

2) Others Ninevites would clearly hear that God was displeased with their wickedness, and have more basis for judgment because they were warned.

3) Other non-Assyrians would hear and see that the destruction of the virtually invincible Assyrians was God's doing.

In general, when God warns people or a person that is a good thing if the person repents. But that is a calamity for that person if they heard the warning and disobey it. See Jeremiah 42, especially 42:19-22 for more on this concept.

 

2. In Jon 1:3,10 why did Jonah go down to Joppa (by modern Jafneh and Tel Aviv today)? Why would he not care if he kept the reason a secret?

A: While there were many Phoenician ports in modern day Lebanon and the coast of Syria, there was almost no place that was suitable for a port youth of Joppa, until the Romans built a man-made part at Caesarea centuries later. Jonah would not need to travel to Joppa to a land journey, but it was the closest port for a sea voyage.

 

3. In Jon 1:3, Jonah found an "open door" in the form of a ship he could sail aboard. But who gave the open door? When we encounter an open door, how do we know if it was God or Satan that provided it?

A: As Satan gave Jesus an "open door" for an easier way to be ruler of the world, Satan can facilitate for us open doors to try to escape obeying God. When you see an open door, don't necessarily go through it. First check scripture and then ask God if that is what He wants you to do.

 

4. In Jon 1:3-10, today do we sometimes consider God's will for us a smorgasbord of many dishes, and we pick and chose which ones appeal to us?

A: A smorgasbord is a banquet with more choices or food than one person can possibly eat. So a person takes a little bit of what they prefer, and nothing of what they don't like. Do you want more desert, more meat, more of your favorite fruit, the choice is all up to you. But effectively serving God is more like being in the army, where you eat everything that is given to you.

Sometimes people want to serve God "in their own special way". Why not rather serve God in His way? Now God's way of serving God is not identical for everyone, because we have different spiritual gifts. But common to serving in God's way for everyone, is obedience to what He desires, not what we desire. Sometimes we desire to do godly ministries, but our priorities in our life are the God's priorities. Pray that God would show you His priorities for your life, and commit to following God's priorities over your own.

 

5. In Jon 1:3, there are three cities named Tarshish. Paul was from the closer one in Asia Minor. Another one was on the island of Sardinia. The third one was a mining town in Iberia (modern-day Spain). Which one do you think Jonah went to, and why?

A: Let's look at the three possibilities.

Unlikely: Tarshish (Tarsus) in Asia Minor: This was a medium-sized port city about ten miles (16 kilometers) from the Mediterranean Sea. Centuries later, Paul the apostle came from here. It would not make sense for Jonah to travel south to take a boat to this inland city, when he could have just walked there.

Most likely: Tarshish (Tartessus) in Spain: This is the more likely location. Tarshish, mentioned in Herodotus 4:152, was probably west of Gibraltar, in modern-day Spain or Portugal. It was the farthest west civilized city at that time, short of the Olmec civilization in Mexico. Tarshish was founded by the Phoenicians in the ninth or tenth century B.C. The New International Bible Dictionary p.987 says this was the Tarshish to which Jonah was fleeing. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1662 says that the gold, silver, and copper mined there make this one of the richest mining districts in the Mediterranean today. This would be as far from Nineveh as Jonah could reasonably get.

Unlikely: Tarshish in Sardinia: According to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1662, the Phoenician word Tarshish comes from the Akkadian word for "to melt" or "to be smelted". In the ninth century the Phoenicians captured a smelting town in Sardinia which they also called Tarshish. We know this because of the inscription on the Nora stone. However, besides the name, there is no other reason to link this city to Jonah. It was not as famous as the Tarshish in Spain, though this was probably the Tarshish that provided silver to King Solomon in later times.

See Today's Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.54-55 for more info.

 

6. In Jn 1:1-3, it never said that Jonah told God "no" in words. How can a person be defiant in actions without using words?

A: A person does not have to say anything; they can simply do actions against what God wants, and continue doing them. Whether defiance is loud or quiet, it is still defiance.

 

7. In Jon 1:3, why did Jonah try to run away from God?

A: Scripture does not say, but we can speculate. Jonah believed in God, wanted to worship and serve God, and undoubtedly wanted to obey God in general. However, Jonah did not want to obey God in this specific area; Jonah gives us a glimpse as to his reason in Jonah 4:2.

Jonah was not disbelieving in God's power, knowledge, or love. Rather, Jonah did not love the cruel Assyrians and God did love them. Jonah did not like that characteristic of God, that God still loved the cruel and wicked. Curiously, one cannot excuse Jonah by saying he did not have all the facts, or that he did not know enough about God.

Rather, Jonah chose to hate the cruelty of the Assyrians, and knowingly turned his back on the fact that God loved them. Today, if there is something about God that you do not like, it is OK to be honest about your shortcoming. However, remember that it is you who need to change, and all that live in Heaven will be changed, and there is no point in running away from your ultimate sanctification.

 

8. In Jon 1:5, what was the main point of the voyage? Why would they throw the cargo into the sea?

A: Large ships could transport a few passengers, but they main point of the bustling Mediterranean shipping was cargo. When they were throwing the goods to be sold at their destination overboard, they were throwing away the main point of sailing in the first place. Financially this would be disastrous for the owner. Throwing away the cargo would lighten the ship, which would make it ride up higher on the water, which would give them more of a safety margin if the boat started filling up with water. It would also slightly reducing the chance it would be hit by submerged rocks.

 

9. In Jon 1:5-6, how was this prophet asleep here? when Jonah went down to sleep, how concerned was Jonah that God would follow him or punish him? Why?

A: Jonah apparently was not too concerned about being out of God's will. Jonah was sound asleep in at least three ways.

Physically: Either Jonah was physically exhausted to sleep through this heavy storm, or God gave him a deep sleep to rest, because this would be the most comfortable sleep he would have for a while.

Spiritually: Jonah was a believer whose will was in open rebellion against God. Ephesians 5:14 also talks about the importance of believers not being asleep spiritually.

Intelligence: If God directly commands you to do something, any child who follows God knows that God is capable of stopping you if you disobey. Perhaps Jonah thought that God would just ignore him if he "got out of range" of Nineveh.

 

10. In Jon 1:6 was the captain hostile to the True God. since the captain apparently did not believe in the One True God, why would the captain want Jonah to pray to his God? Do some people today have this attitude?

A: Many people's beliefs are "eclectic". The captain thought it could not hurt, and might help. Some people don't outright reject God, but rather merely want to add the one True God alongside their other deities. Many early Christians were killed, not for worshipping God, but rather for refusing to worship anyone besides God.

 

11. In Jon 1:7, since God does not want us to follow superstition of luck, why did casting lots work for the sailors? In general, is casting lots a good thing to do?

A: Casting lots is not necessarily good for finding out information. In general, when non-believers do something in the Bible, even when God blesses their [possibly] misguided efforts, that is not an endorsement for believers to do so.

In the Bible, believers sometimes cast lots, too. For example, the apostles cast lots, and this was recorded, without either endorsement or criticism, in Acts 1:24-26.

See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.331-332 for more info.

 

12. In Jon 1:7, how is this similar to the wise men in Mt 2:1-3?

A: God can us any means for non-believers to find out information. For example, when the Magi followed the star, that does not mean Christians should be looking to the stars to find the Messiah.

God never said He was restricted to using only good means to draw people to Himself. Sometimes God uses truly wicked means, such as the Babylonian army (Habakkuk 1:6,13). God can use disease, evil people, and even unintentional sin (as with the Magi) to draw people to Himself.

Most strange of all, is that God has used deliberate, willful sin by believers to rescue those same believers. You can read all about this in the narrative of Joseph and his brothers, in Genesis 37 and 50, and especially Genesis 50:20. As a matter of fact, God can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and for His purposes (Ephesians 1:11)

In conclusion, as God using kidnapping of Joseph for his purposes does not justify kidnapping, God using astrology for his purposes does not justify astrology.

 

13. In Jon 1:8-10, why would they be afraid when Jonah said he worshipped the One who made the sea and the land? They did not worship One True God anyway.

A: The did not believe the One True God, but apparently they did not rule Him out either. Pagans tended to be accepting of new deities, and if there was the claim that He made the sea, then that God would be one to be reckoned with in these circumstances. Some people are like this today. They don't accept the One True God, but they don't rule Him out either. They like to sit on the fence.

 

14. In Jon 1:11-15 were the men right to throw Jonah overboard, to what seemed to be certain death?

A: Normally no. But they were desperate, and when Jonah told them to, they did what they felt they had to do.

 

15. In Jon 1:16, why do you think the men offered sacrifices and vows to the LORD?

A: Scripture does not explicitly say. Either:

a) the did convert and worship only the true God,

b) they merely now greatly respected the true God, and sacrificed to him as well as continuing to sacrifice to their idols.

 

16. In Jon 1:16, how could the sailors be led to reverence the true God through Jonah's disobedience?

A: God sometimes works wonders in strange ways, doesn't He? God not only can use good things to work out good things, but Romans 8:28 says that God works out all things together for the good for those who believe. Ephesians 1:11 even goes so far as to say that God works out all things according to the counsel of His will. Even the things God did not desire, God is still powerful enough to work out as a part of His plan.

 

17. In Jon 1:17 and Matt 12:40, how could this be a whale, since only sperm whales have throats large enough to swallow a man whole, and sperm whales do not live in the Mediterranean Sea, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.647 says?

A: There are four possibilities.

1. Jewfish are various species of large sea bass. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica vol.12 1972 p.1040, many of them reach 500 to 700 pounds and 7 to 12 feet long.

2. Whale sharks (Rhineodon typicus) have swallowed men who were later found alive in their stomachs.

3. Sperm whales can swallow large objects whole. One even swallowed a 15-foot shark. This was documented by Frank T. Bullen, in Cruise of the Cachalot Round the World after Sperm Whales. (1898).

In 1771 Marshall Jenkins was swallowed by a sperm whale. James Bartley also was swallowed by a sperm whale in 1891. The October 1928 issue of the Princeton Theological Review shows that some details of Bartley's story are inaccurate, but that the evidence of inaccuracy on some details does not disprove it. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.95 for more on these two occurrences.

While sperm whales are not normally found in the Mediterranean, they can swim great distances, and God could have one swim to the Mediterranean. Asimov's dismissal of a sperm whale in the Mediterranean presupposes there is no God who causes events to occur.

4. It was a unique fish, especially prepared by God for this purpose. However, perhaps this was unnecessary, as there are three other types of fish that not only are theoretically capable of swallowing a man alive, but they have actually done so.

There have been other accounts of men swallowed alive by some great fish and living to tell about it. One was a sailor off the New England coast in the 1800's. A more recent one is in The Dallas Morning News in the 1970's in the Gulf of Mexico.

See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1462-1463 for more info.

 

18. In Jon 1:16-17, what happens, when a godly man, or godly nation, no longer wants to do what God wants?

A: It can vary. God can choose to take action, to show the person how important their work is in the Lord. Or God can take unpleasant action, and rebuke a person so that they will come back to Him. Or God can be through with them, and not use them anymore, like a useless tool. Of God can do all of the above, in a sequence, depending on our response

 

19. Jonah probably figured that if he went far enough in the opposite direction, it would be more efficient for God to use someone else, instead of him. Do we ever think that way?

A: It is all too easy to think the God has the same limitations and ways of working that we do. But Isaiah 55:8-11 says that God's thoughts and ways are not like ours. His word will accomplish what He intended for it.

 

20. Why do you think God does not always do what is not efficient?

A: God does not need to hurry; He has all the time in the world. God does not need to gather power; He is already all-powerful. God does not need to find out more information; He already knows everything. God is interested in the process, and not only the end result.

 

21. Have you ever had a time when God wanted you, or someone you know to do something, and God was refused and you or the other person went the other way instead? How did it turn out?

A: (answer)

22. Very few people in Old Testament times had the Spirit of God where they could prophesy, but since Jonah did, how could even he be disobedient and turn his back on God?

A: Just ask Balaam. If God gives you a special gift, whatever it might be, your requirement to obey God's commands is not any less. Your need for vigilance, to examine yourself that you are still walking in the Lord, has not been removed for you any more than it was removed for Paul and his initial readers in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6.

 

 

Jonah 2 - Feeding the fishes in sin; When your life seem no more valuable than fish bait - my brief answers

 

We should tremble at God's word, because persisting in disobeying God can take guts, - so to speak.

 

1. In Jon 1:17-21 some see the great fish as an answer to Jonah's prayer to preserve his life? Do you agree or not?

A: No, because Jonah was already inside the fish when he started praying, according to Jonah 2:1.

 

2. How you feel if you were constrained with very limited movement, could not get fresh air, and the only air you could get would smell so bad that you would want to throw up, it was totally dark, you were probably hundreds of feet below sea level, and if you did get out you would be too deep to swim to the surface for air? Actually it would not matter, because even if you swam straight up you would get the bends anyway.

A: Either I might feel lethargic and depressed, having lost all hope, or else agitated and anxious at my impending death.

 

3. Just how desperate was Jonah's situation? Would anyone even know what happened to Jonah, much less be able to help him?

A: Not only would he die, but no one would bury him, or even know what happened to him. He would not be remembered with honor, running away from the Lord, and might not be remembered at all. It would be as though he just disappeared from this earth, with no one to know how or why.

 

4. How does Jon 2:2-6 show us Jonah felt?

A: Jonah was not at all complacent, and he did not take God's deliverance for granted. Jonah was fully aware that he was in a desperate situation.

 

5. In Jon 2:1, did Jonah really die or not?

A: There are two views.

No: Most Christians see the phrase "going down to sheol" as a poetic metaphor for literally being buried at sea. Jonah recognized that this fish was going to be Jonah's literal coffin unless God rescued him. The NIV Study Bible p.1367 gives this view.

Yes: Some Christians, such as J. Vernon McGee, say that this indicates Jonah really did die in that fish, and God raised Him from the dead. R.A. Torrey in Difficulties in the Bible p.115-116 also thinks it likely that Jonah was allowed to die.

Regardless, all Christians agree that if God had wanted to, He could have preserved Jonah alive in that fish, or God could have let Jonah die and then be brought back to life in that fish.

 

6. When you are in a crushing situation, how do you tend to react? Does it make a difference if you are in the situation because of external factors vs. your own foolishness or wickedness?

A: (your answer)

 

7. In Jon 2:6, how did the earth bar Jonah in?

A: Imagine Jonah's predicament, knowing he was deep beneath the land and the sea. He had what you might think of as a deep feeling of claustrophobia. Jonah's poetic language in 2:5-6 mentions that he was lower than the roots of the highest mountains in the sea.

Today, if a person feels the lowest of low, remember there is one virtue to being flat on your back: it is easier to look up. A prophet who knew better was flagrantly disobeying God and running away. Jonah was disciplined strictly, but the time passed, and Jonah was restored and again used by God.

 

8. In Jon 2:4,6,7-8, what enduring quality did Jonah have? How can we cultivate that quality?

A: For all of Jonah's bad attitude, lack of love, and disobedience, Jonah still had great faith that God would rescue Him and He would see God's temple again, at least in Heaven. Even though Jonah's life was ebbing away, he had hope to see God's template and sacrifice to God again.

 

9. In Jon 2:9 how else did Jonah react, and what did God command once Jonah did this?

A: After he had prayed his distress and fear, and his faith and hope, Jonah finally prayed a statement to God that he would do what he vowed and obey God. The next thing we know, the great fish vomited Jonah out onto dry land.

 

10. In Jon 2:2-9, how could Jonah pray so eloquently after this traumatic experience?

A: As his skin was being bleached and digested, Jonah had a lot of time, without external distractions, to consider his ways and talk with God. It is easier to compose a prayer, when your life around you is decomposing. Jonah could have "polished his prayer" as the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.946 suggests. However, Jonah's prayer could be both a polished response and a "gut-level" plea. -the fish's gut that is.

 

11. In Jon 2:8, how do people who cling to idols forfeit what could be theirs? What about predestination?

A: Predestined is a biblical word (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:11) but it does NOT mean God has the blame for someone not going to Heaven. People in Hell cannot truthfully say "God forced me", it's "God's fault", or "God gave me no opportunity. They can only say it was their own fault, and even if they did not have all of the knowledge they could have had, they rejected the truth they were given.

 

12. In Jon 2:8, what are different ways in which idols are worthless?

A: The are worthless physically, spiritually, and contagiously.

Physically idols are worthless; even if a piece of wood is only burned, it serves more of a good purpose than an idol does.

Spiritually they point away from the true God.

Idols are also worthless in a contagious way. People who worship and believe in them become worthless spiritually too.

 

13. In Jon 2, how might Jonah's experience be similar to Paul handing an immoral brother over to Satan in 1 Cor 5:4-5?

A: Paul handed an immoral brother over to Satan as an instrument of discipline. Satan can be thought of as the unwilling servant of God Most High here. This would be unpleasant for the immoral brother, but might shake him up so that he would want to repent.

 

14. In Jon 2, how would you share with a wicked or immoral non-believer (or believer), the importance of obeying God?

A: The great Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll remarked that of the people in immorality that he counseled, many of them were focused exclusively on the pleasure of the present. You might want them to see the present consequences of those around them, both those who know and those will likely find out later. Ask them to think about the future, and how they will answer for that before God. Ask them to think about their rewards in heaven, or the loss of rewards. Is an eternity of a reward in heaven worth less than the pleasures of sin for a short season, followed by the guilt? But if they do not care about these things at all, perhaps they don't have to be concerned about rewards in heaven. they should instead be concerned about escaping the eternal flames of the Lake of Fire in the second death. If they have no concern about these eternal things, then perhaps they never had eternal salvation in the first place.

 

15. In Jon 2, what is one key advantage when you are laid low and flat on your back? Was there a time in your life you were flat on your back, and God used it?

A: One key advantage is that you have no where to look but up. Sometimes God has to get people flat on their back before they will look up to Him.

 

16. In Jon 2:9-10, do you think God was patiently waiting for something here? Do you think God is waiting for something in your life?

A: God showed no indication that he would do anything "if" Jonah did something. When Jonah showed sorrow for being in the belly of the great fish, God listened. When Jonah "renewed is vow" and told God he would honor what he should do, the next thing scripture tells us is that Jonah was out of the fish on dry ground.

 

Being under God's discipline can be like going fishing, when you are the bait. Scripture is silent on whether or not Jonah ever wanted to go fishing again after that.

 

Jonah 3 - Going to Obey Again

 

1. In Jon 3:1-2, Jonah disobeyed and failed God, apparently in what God thought was a big way. How could someone who disobeyed God like that every serve Him again, especially telling others they need to repent and turn to God?

A: The power of the message was not with Jonah's obedience, or with anything about Jonah. The power of the message was with God. Jonah could no longer do anything about his past disobedience that he had repented of. Now was the time to pick himself up and keep on going, only this time in God's direction, not his own.

Jonah knew about repenting, and he could tell others how to do it too, though perhaps with less hardship that Jonah had.

 

2. In Jon 3:1-2, should Jonah have asked God whether he should go to Nineveh after this?

A: In general yes, because we should be in constant communication with God and always ask Him to show us if we are going not the best way. We might not be going the wrong way, but we also might not be going in the way God wants us to go.

However, in Jonah's case this is a moot point, because God apparently spoke right away. It is possible, after turning away from God, that a servant of God such as Jonah would need a confirmation from God before continuing in the ministry God had him in before his time of turning away. God provided that.

 

3. In Jon 3:2, did Jonah seem particularly concerned that he did not yet have the message he was supposed to proclaim? Should we be concerned if God calls us to a ministry and things are not all mapped out for us?

A: Not at all. God apparently wanted Jonah to talk to the Ninevites more than Jonah wanted to talk to the Ninevites. The God who carried Jonah this far, who cared so much for the Ninevites that he would sent a big fish rather than let Jonah go AWOL, was not going to fail to give Jonah the words to say, when the time came that they were needed.

 

4. In Jon 3:3 and Jon 4:11, how was Nineveh such a great city, with 200,000 people?

A: According to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1208, the city of Calah was less than half as large as Nineveh, and in 879 B.C. it had 69,574 inhabitants. (This is based on an inscription by Asurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C., where he invited 69,574 people of Nimrod to a feast according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1472.)

As Geisler and Howe say in When Critics Ask p.308, three days does not refer to a straight walk through open territory, but the time to go in and around through the city. A city 16 miles (26 kilometers) in diameter would be about 50 miles (80 kilometers) in circumference, and could be about 600,000 people.

 

5. In Jon 3:3-4, Do you think Jonah felt safe going to such a blood-soaked city?

A: Jonah probably felt safer among the wicked Ninevites, who enjoyed torture, being in God's will, than Jonah would feel alone with God when God was angry towards him. So on going to Nineveh Jonah probably felt safer, and possibly drier too. Likewise we, and our heavenly rewards, are safer going into a dangerous place, following God's will, than we are playing it safe by trying to run away from God. Hopefully we can digest this lesson faster than Jonah did.

 

6. In Jon 3:5,6,8, what is sackcloth?

A: Sackcloth was not made for use in clothes, it was for making heavy bags that would not easily tear when carrying things. Sackcloth was plain-looking, coarse cloth, usually made from goat's hair. Slaves and the poor often wore it because they had nothing else to wear. People wore that as a sign of deep mourning and repentance.

 

7. In Jon 3:6, why is the king called the King of Nineveh?

A: He was the King of Assyria, not just Nineveh. We can speculate on two reasons.

Jonah's perspective: Jonah came to Nineveh, a residence of the Assyrian king. Regardless of the lands that Assyria conquered, which were contesting its rule, he was king of Nineveh.

Jonah's readers: Since he was king of Assyria, he was king of the cities of Assyria. It was simpler, and still correct, just to call him the king of the place to where Jonah went.

When Critics Ask p.309 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1463 both mention that it was not uncommon in these times to mention a king by his capital city. In 1 Kings 21:1, Ahab the king of Israel, is called the king of Samaria. Likewise, Ahaziah, king of Israel, is also called the king of Samaria in 2 Kings 1:3, and Ben-Hadad King of Aram is referred to as the king of Damascus in 2 Chronicles 24:23.

 

8. In Jon 3:6, what do you see as the very first step of repentance here?

A: As a sign of his humility before God, the king rose up off his throne. The first step in repentance is to rise up off our throne, acknowledge that we are not, and don't want to be the lord of our own lives, and instead will do what God wants, and stop doing what God does not want.

 

9. In Jon 3:7, why would the decree be by the king and his nobles, and why would the nobles want fasting?

A: Assyria was a military state, and his nobles were military commanders. If the king lost the support of his military commanders, he would not be alive long. The nobles would want to avoid the plague, because if word got out that the army ranks were decimated by many dying and sick soldiers, that might provide the spark of a reason for the many people who wanted revenge on Assyria to march against her. According to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.361 the people of Urartu, along with the Mannai and the Madai had combined to push their border to less than a hundred miles from Nineveh, between 782 and 745 B.C.

 

10. In Jon 3:7, how do you get other people to repent?

A: For the Assyrian king it was easy, he could issue a proclamation, followed by punishment for any who disobeyed. That does not work for us today. But in addition to that, the king rose up off his throne, and set an example by fasting and putting on sackcloth himself. Today we can tell people they need to repent, set an example, and provide encouragement to others to repent.

 

11. In Jon 3:7, how could we metaphorically put on sackcloth today?

A: We could dress in mourning, with a black armband, or give up something that is ordinarily fine to do, as a sign of our mourning for a person or a people. Both God and other people hear our communication, and we communicate not just with words.

 

12. In Jon 3:7, why would the Assyrians make the animals have to show repentance too?

A: While the animals obviously would not know what was going on, this was a desperate attempt the Assyrians thought of to show their mourning and appease God. Historically they had already had two plagues, and the superstitious Assyrians had seen a solar eclipse. This is not the only time people in that region mourned with animals. The historian Herodotus in Histories book 9 ch.24 p.292-293 tells of a later time when the Persians shaved their heads and cut the manes of their horses and mules after Masistius, a cavalry commander, died in battle against the Greeks. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.383 for more info.

 

13. In Jon 3:8 did God listen to the prayer/call of these non-believers? Were they praying for salvation?

A: While we do not know what all they prayed for, we know that they prayed that God would turn the impending disaster away from them.

 

14. In Jon 3:9, how certain were they that their repentance would have any effect on their future outcome at all?

A: The Ninevites had no certainty, only hope. They knew that God was angry at them because of their violent wickedness, and they knew that God wanted them to stop and repent. Today we have far more certainty. God will save us when we repent and come to Him. However, sometimes we might still suffer consequences in this life for our sins.

 

15. In Jon 3:9 is it good to tell non-believers about the fierce anger of God?

A: Yes, in this case it helped them repent.

 

16. In Jon 3:10, why did God have Jonah prophecy the Ninevites would be destroyed, and then they were spared?

A: God's character does not change, and God's ultimate will does not change. However, God's revealed will towards a person or people does change when the people change and repent, as Jeremiah 18:1-11 shows.

There are numerous other examples of this in the Bible, including Genesis 20:3-7, 2 Kings 20:1-6, and even a prediction that God's revealed will toward them will change in Deuteronomy 28:68.

 

17. In Jon 3:10, why did the Ninevites repent?

A: In more modern accounts of people swallowed by a jewfish that have survived, their skin looks very bleached. Undoubtedly Jonah must have had a strange appearance when he came to Nineveh. God might also have used a few other factors prior to Jonah's coming around 758-757 B.C.

Plague in Nineveh 765 B.C. The mightiest army in the world was powerless before a plague.

Eclipse in 6/15/763 B.C. The ancient people were afraid of eclipses, and the Assyrians as well as others saw a solar eclipse in 763 B.C. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.636 also accepts the fact of an eclipse occurring then.

Another plague in Assyria 759 B.C. This was just one to two years prior to Jonah.

 

18. In Jon 3:10, was God going to do evil here?

A: The word "evil" in Hebrew has two meanings: moral evil, and physical harm and pain. Muslims should not be surprised that the term "evil" can mean harm, and not just moral evil. The term is used in this way in their own writings, in the Bukhari Hadith volume 3 book 29 ch.7 no.56 p.35.

 

19. In Jon 3:10, how did God repent of what He said He would do?

A: God does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). God ultimately does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:24). However, Ezekiel 33:12-20 shows that God's revealed will towards people can change when they change. Jeremiah 18:5-10 goes into detail on this. See the discussion on Ex 33:5-6; Dt 20:17; Jer 15:6; Jon 3-4; Jon 3:10; and Jon 4:1-2 for more info.

 

20. In Jon 3:10b, why would God have compassion on such an evil people, and why would Jonah not?

A: While God made them, and God sustained them, as He does all people, those are not the root reasons. The root reason is that God loved them, cared for them, and God has compassion on all He has made, according to Psalm 145:13b,17.

 

21. In Jon 3:10b, when our heart is not aligned with God's, how can our heart be changed?

A: The Holy Spirit can work to change our hearts; however, as believers we have a responsibility to be pliant and responsive to God too.

 

Jonah 4 - Obedience without Love

 

1. In Jon 4:1-2, exactly why was Jonah so angry that the Ninevites were spared? Was it primarily because his words did not come to pass, or because he wanted to see the Ninevites destroyed?

A: It might have been both. The idea that his prophetic words would come to pass was more important to him than the lives of the Ninevites. On the other hand, knowing how cruel and warlike the Ninevites were, and perhaps knowing it was only a matter of time before they attacked Israel, he did not want them spared for that reason.

 

2. In Jon 4:3,9b, just how angry was Jonah?

A: Jonah reiterated that he was angry enough to die.

 

3. In Jon 4:1-2, regardless of the reason Jonah was angry, did Jonah value is words coming to pass more of the lives of the Ninevites more. Are there any examples in the Bible or today where we care more about our words than about people?

A: Jephthah was wrong in caring more about keeping his rash vow than his own daughter. Herod cared more about fulfilling his promise to Salome than the life of John the Baptist.

 

4. In Jon 4:1,4,9b why would Jonah both have and keep his anger at what God did?

A: Jonah did not just momentarily get angry; Jonah felt he somehow had the right to hold on to his anger. As Ephesians 4:26 shows, we never have the right to hold on to our anger.

 

5. In Jn 1:1,4,9, when (if ever) do we have a right to be angry at what God did? What does it mean when we are angry at what God did?

A: Jonah had no more right than we have a right to be angry at how another person chooses to spend their money. Ultimately our anger is that God is not acting like a team player, playing on our team as we think He should. We forget that God is not on our team, and God is not on our side. We are supposed to be on God's team, and on God's side.

 

6. In Jon 4:1,4,,9 what happens when we are angry at God? (You might think back to Job).

A: God can take it. Keep talking with God, and ask God to change your heart to align with His. God can take our other sins too.

 

7. In Jon 4:2, many people are angry at God because they have a wrong view of God. Was this the case with Jonah here?

A: No. Jonah had a correct view of God's power, and God wanting to relent and spare. Jonah had no love for the Ninevites, whom God created. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.385 for more info.

 

8. In Jon 4:3, how is Jonah saying he is angry enough to die similar to what Elijah said in 1 Ki 19:4?

A: No. In both cases they thought they were serving God faithfully, and they felt alone. However, Elijah suffered from exhaustion, and was depressed (not angry) because Jezebel was trying to get him and he was in danger. Jonah was angry because the Ninevites were spared, and God showed his displeasure with Jonah. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.386 for more info.

 

9. In Jon 4:5-6, why would Jonah get sun, if he had built a shelter?

A: It said he built the shelter east of the city, so he would probably get the afternoon sun.

 

10. In Jon 4:6, why would Jonah be happy about the miraculously-growing vine?

A: Of course he would be happy it provided him shade. But more than that, it would seem to be a sign that God paid special attention to him, he was in God's favor, and God would make his words come true. When someone gives you a nice little gift, you are happy about the usefulness of the gift, but you are typically more happy that the person especially thought about you to give you a gift at all. Despite all he went through, Jonah could feel happy about this sign that he was vindicated and in God's will now.

 

11. In Jon 4:7, after all Jonah went through, why would God provide a small worm to destroy the vine? Does God ever want to destroy things, or take them away, just because they make us happy?

A: It would feel like someone gave you a nice gift, and after you had it for an hour or so, they came and deliberately destroyed it in front of your eyes. Jonah's attitude and smoldering anger became visible, and that was the point. Jonah was not lukewarm any more.

 

12. In Jon 4:8, what do we know about east winds in this part of the world?

A: A strong, hot east wind today in Palestine and Mesopotamia is called a sirocco. It can raise the temperature by 16 to 22 degrees F. The is very dry, drying up both skin and vegetation. When a sirocco comes, people will run to shelter. The sirocco came upon Jonah, but we don't know that it even affected Nineveh or not. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.387 for more info.

 

13. In Jon 4:8-9, why would Jonah think he had a right to be angry about the vine?

A: Jonah might have thought that he had endured so much with God in the fish, and he had done so much for God, that God had the obligation to keep that vine that God had already provided. Jonah might have ignored the idea that God wants obedience more than sacrifice. God is not under obligation to us for anything. We are here to serve and please God, not the other way around.

 

14. In Jon 4:10-11, God's main point was not about vines or Jonah's anger about vines? What was the whole point God was trying to communicate to Jonah about the vine?

A: Jonah could have gotten some materials and made his own shade. The vine only served to reveal to Jonah what was in Jonah's heart.

God was basically calling Jonah a hypocrite. Jonah cared about that vine, though Jonah had not cared for or tended it. Yet Jonah was made that God cared about these Ninevites, whom God had created.

 

15. In Jon 4:11, a vine is different than an idol. This kind of vine is a good thing God gives us, then once we are used to it God takes it away, to teach us something. Were there any examples of vines in your life or in the lives of people you know?

A: It could be in school, jobs, or business opportunities. For a single person it could be romantic relationship.

 

16. In Jon 4:8-11, even if God is firmly the most important in your life, are there other things that are more important to you than other people, and their salvation?

A: Sometimes people can let hobbies, entertainment, family, or even church and God's work be more important to them than God.

 

17. In Jon 4:11, if God is number 1, but you love other things rather than other people, can you still be right in your love for God? (See 1 Jn 3:17; 4:12,20-21)

A: No. 1 John 3:17; 4:12,20-21 shows us that we are not really loving God when we do not love others. John tells us that love is bound up in obedience to God, and God commands us to love others. This is regardless of whether we feel like it or not.

 

As the book of Jonah shows, you are never too mature to stop guarding your faith.

There are four key questions we could ask about Jonah. But when we ask about Jonah, we can also ask about ourselves.

Can Jonah travel far away enough from God's will for God to forget him?

Can Jonah sink down enough for God to abandon him?

Was it too late for Jonah to effectively server God again?

Could Jonah's heart have God's compassion for the lost?


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