Bible Book of the Month


Background Material

     A.  AUTHOR: 

         1.    From the title of the book and the introduction formula, which
                    is similar to the other prophetic books, Jonah has been
                    accepted as the author of the book from antiquity. 

         2. The prophet Jonah prophesied in the reign of Jeroboam II,
                 king of Israel  ca. 790-749 BC   From 2 Kings 14:23-27 we
                 see that Jonah was a well known prophet of God and
                 associated with the royal court of Israel probably somewhat
                 like Isaiah and Jeremiah were with Judah.  Jonah was a
                 statesman prophet, not a 'backwoods' prophet like Elijah or
                 John the Baptist.

         3.    The event in the book probably occurred early in his prophetic

         4. Jonah was from Geth-helper, about 3 miles NE of Nazareth.
                 His name means "Dove". 

      B.  BACKGROUND: 

         1. Jonah was called to cry against that "great city" Nineveh,
                 capital of Assyria, and long the enemy of his people, Israel. 

         2. Nineveh was surrounded by a complex of suburbs with a
                 heavy population of about 600,000 at this time.  At its height
                 it was fortified with several walls, the greatest inner defense
                 being a wall 8 miles long and 100 feet high and wide enough
                 for three chariots to drive abreast, with 1500 towers which
                 were 200 ft high. 

         3.    Assyrian inscriptions tell of reforms at this time and of an
                    attempt by Adad-Nirari III toward monotheism. 

      C.  CHARACTER: 

         1.    The form of the book is unlike that of any other Old
                    Testament prophetic boos, it is biographical. 

         2.    The book is often accused of being myth by modernist and
                    religious liberals because of the miracle of the great fish. 

            a.   Jonah was a real person -- 2 Kings 14:24. 

            b.   Jesus accredited the story of the great sea-monster as
                      factual.  Matthew 12:39-41.

            c.   The Lord also represents the story as true that Nineveh
                      repented.  Luke 11:29-32. 

            d.   There is no way to doubt the historicity of Jonah and have
                      regard for the integrity of Jesus. 

         3.    Many disbelievers who lavishly praise the book of Jonah reject
                    its historicity and treat Jonah despicable.  They classify the
                    book as:

            a.   Myth -- grounded in "dragon-myth" (C.B. Taylor).

            b.   Legend -- "The book of Jonah... rests upon legends of
                      different sorts" (Bentzen).

            c.   Allegory --  "It is neither literal history nor a short story
                      pure and simple, but an allegory similar to the parables of
                      Jesus." (Calkins).  (Jonah in the belly represents the
                      Babylonian captivity, etc).

            d.   Parable --  "a finely-told parable." (S.B. Frost).  ("The
                      book is Hebrew prophecy at its highest level, told in the
                      form of a parable.")

            e.   Fiction, poetry, folk-tale, satire, midrash.

            f.   Dream --  "...a dream produced in that sleep which fell
                      upon him as he lay in the side of the ship." (Grimm).

            g.   Compound -- Various views together.

         4.    Some other arguments for the historicity of the book of Jonah

            a.   The natural, obvious interpretation of the language.  

            b.   The style of the book is historical.  

            c.   The dissimilarity between this account and heathen myths
                      and legends.  

            d.   The voice of antiquity. The book was always accepted by
                      early Jewish audiences as historical.  

            e. Jonah was not a mythological person but a real man who
                    lived at a definite time and place in history and among
                    men (2 Kings 14:24).

            f.   The canonicity of the book of Jonah and its placement in
                      the Old Testament. 

            g.   The use made of the account of Jonah by Jesus (see #2
     D.  DESIGN: 

         1.    The book itself is the self-humiliating confession of Jonah. It
                    shows us his growth in the Lord as he becomes the great
                    prophet of 2 Kings 14. 

            Jonah's sin was great--but so was his repentance and the
                 lesson he learned-- the very existence of the book reveals this. 

         2.    The design of the book is Didactic -- to rebuke any tendency
                    toward bigotry on the part of the Hebrew people and to show
                    that "in every nation he that feareth [God] and worketh
                    righteousness is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34,35).

         3.    The book is Typical -- to typify the death, burial and
                    resurrection of Jesus.  Matthew 12:38-41; Luke 11:29-32 
    4.    Outline: 

            Chapter 1  Jonah Running AWAY from God 

            Chapter 2  Jonah Running  TO  God 

            Chapter 3  Jonah Running WITH God 

            Chapter 4  Jonah Running AHEAD of God 
          Some Suggestive Lessons From the Book of Jonah

     1.  God is the God of all nations. (Acts 10:34,35; Acts 11:18).

     2.  God loves all men.  (John 3:16).

     3.  God's love is holy. Holy love cannot approve sin, but He
              graciously provides the way of redemption for the sinner.

     4.  God rules in all places and over all elements.

     5.  The book of Jonah is a rebuke to those who long for the
              conversion of sinners provided that only certain types of sinners

     6.  "... the wonderful power of true repentance."

     7.  The book of Jonah is a rebuke to every Christian who does not
              have the passion to win men to Christ.

     8.  The preacher must constantly realize his own desperate need for
              God's grace.  ("Do I have the right motive?")

     9.  The man who questions the wisdom of God really claims to know
              more than God.

     10. The very universality of the divine plan of human redemption
              demands world-wide evangelization.

     11. It is the duty and privilege of God's servants to render prompt and
              eager obedience.

     12. It is refreshing to see a man who is big enough to admit his

     13. In what a marvelous way is the miraculous experience of Jonah
              typical of the death and the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

     14. "The universal concern of God for man."  (Jack Lewis)

     15. The book of Jonah is the book of evangelism in the Old

     16. The book of Jonah is a confession story.

     17. God's promises, warnings, and threats are conditional. Jeremiah
              18:7f; Ezek. 18:32; Hebrews 5:9; 2 Peter 3:9

     18. The secret of successful preaching is preaching the Word; Jonah
              3:1; 2 Timothy 4:2

     19. Obedience is necessary to please God.  2 Thes. 1:9

     20. The power of God is infinite.  

     21. "Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life."
              Acts 11:18.

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