About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Commentary On The Book OF Jonah
commentary is based on the 1978 version of the Ne International Bible.
I use chapter titles in the commentary that correspond to the
book of Jonah was written in or around the mid 700's B.C., although
there is some discrepancy about the date.
scholars say that the book of Jonah is a simple parable, a story with a
moral meaning. The reason
why they say this is that they do not believe in miracles.
They do not believe such an event as described in Jonah could
really have happened.
presupposition is that God is a God of miracles and therefore anything
can happen when He is involved. I
believe what takes place in the book of Jonah is an historical event.
reason why I believe the story of Jonah
is an historical event, and
not a parable. Is because in Matthew 12:39 to 40, Jesus refers to Jonah.
Jesus said that as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish for
three days and three nights, so He would be in the heart of the ground
for three days and three nights. If
Jesus understood this event to be a literal historical event, and if we
believe that Jesus is who He claims to be, then we must believe the book
of Jonah to be an accurate portrayal of history.
else we learn from what Jesus said in Matthew 12:39 to 40 concerns
prophecy. We often think
that prophecy is something that is spoken, but that's not always the
case. An event, a person's
life, or, what happens in a life can be prophetic. The whole story of
Jonah is more than a historical event.
It is prophetic of Jesus' death and resurrection.
This should help us understand prophecy, especially prophecy as
seen in the Old Testament. There
is more to prophecy than what follows "thus says the Lord". I've
said many times that the Law
of Moses is more than a list of 613 regulations.
It is prophetic.
Old Testament prophecies are directed towards Israel, but not this prophecy. It
is directed towards
last thing concerning Matthew 12:38 to 40.
Jesus said that His death and stay in Hades for 3 days and 3
nights can be compared to Jonah's trip to the belly of the fish.
I would like to take this one step farther if I may.
I tend to see the whole book of Jonah as prophetic of Jesus, not
only chapter 2 as we will see.
I believe I see Jesus Himself in Jonah.
Jonah was a rebellious Jew.
Of course, Jesus wasn't a rebellious Jew.
However, upon entering humanity, He took on the bodily form of a
He became human.
He struggled with the same temptation as Jonah, that is, running
from God, although He did not give into this temptation.
We know that Jesus was tempted in all ways as any ordinary man
I believe when it comes to chapters 3 and 4 that the salvation of
a Gentile city is therefore prophetic of the salvation of Gentiles that
was provided for them through Jesus' death, as we see in chapter 2.
In short, Jonah and all he experienced, not just his stay in the
fish's belly, is prophetic of Jesus.
last thought is this. Jonah represents all that is human.
Right from the beginning, after Adam ate the fruit, the basic
tendency of man is to run from God.
The basic tendency of Jesus is to stop the running process and
Flees From The Lord (ch. 1:1 - 17)
verse 1 we see "Jonah, the son of Amittai".
Jonah means "dove".
"Amittai" means "truth". In 2 Kings 14:25 we
see Jonah and Amittai mentioned during the rule of King Jeroboam.
So we can date what happened to Jonah around the mid 700 B.C.,
or, possibly around 786 to 746 B.C., since that is when King Jeroboam
Word of the Lord came to Jonah".
God spoke to Jonah. How
God spoke to Jonah, we don't know, but we do know that God does speak to
His people in various ways, through visions, through an audible voice,
and especially in these New Testament days, through His Holy Spirit.
verse 2 God told Jonah to "go to the great city of
told Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh
because "its wickedness has come up before me".
There are a few things we must note here. One thing is that
also note that sins rise up to God.
God sees all sin. For
Christians, when our sins rise to heaven, they are covered by the blood
of Jesus. Also, the
New Testament portrays Jesus as our advocate, or lawyer, before God.
He intercedes on our behalf, thus our sins are not recorded in
see in verse 3 that Jonah did not obey the Lord.
From where Jonah lived, Nineveh
was east. It was located in
Joppa, if you remember, Peter was in Joppa when he received the vision
to preach to a Gentile household. (Acts 11:5) It was from Joppa, that we
will see that Jonah will eventually leave for Nineveh
and do God's will. Joppa is
associated with preaching to the Gentile world.
went west to Tarshish. Just
where Tarshish really is, is debatable.
Some say it was in Spain. Others say it was on the
was from the tribe of Zebulun which is north of
verse 4 we see that the Lord sent a "great wind".
This tells us a couple of things.
One thing is that this was a violent storm, not just an ordinary
storm. As we will see later,
the ship's crew was concerned and in fear, and they would have been used
to storms at sea. The second
thing we learn is that the Lord caused the storm.
God can be, and often is, behind natural disasters for one reason
or another. It's not just
nature at work. It is God
Himself at work.
the ship, these ships often had two floors and the third floor would be
half the size of the other two floors.
Anywhere from 30 to 50 men rowed the ship.
see in verse 5 how afraid the crew was.
They actually though their cargo overboard.
That would have been the source of much of their income.
Out of fear they prayed to their gods.
These men were polytheistic pagans.
along, while the storm was raging, Jonah was sleeping in the hull of the
ship. How or why he was
sleeping is only a guess. He
might have been exhausted, but still, you wonder why he was not awake.
verse 6 the captain of the ship wondered the same thing.
How could Jonah be sleeping through this storm.
The captain woke Jonah and told him to pray to his god.
I guess everyone needed to pray to each one to their gods.
Maybe one of these gods would save the ship from sinking. Of
course, why would Jonah want to pray to his God when he was running away
from his God.
captain thought that maybe Jonah's god could save them.
Little did he know at that moment that it was Jonah's God that
caused the storm. Therefore
it could only be Jonah's God that could save them from the storm.
verse 7 we see the superstitious side of religion.
The crew cast lots to see who the culprit was, the one who caused
this storm. These
polytheistic pagans might have had more sense than many people in our
day. They clearly believed
that one of them caused this storm and that the storm came from a god.
In today's world, we do not relate natural disasters to someone's
or some nation's sin, but the Bible is full of this reality.
I'm not saying that all natural disasters are a result of God
judging due to man's sin, but we cannot discount the possibility of such
a disaster to be from the Lord. Natural
disasters can simply be a result of what the apostle Paul calls
"creation groaning, while waiting for the restoration".
casting of the lots determined Jonah to be the culprit.
Either this was luck or divine intervention.
I do believe that God can intervene, even in these superstitious
verse 8 the crew drilled Jonah with all sorts of questions.
They wanted to know all about him and why they were in this mess.
I'm sure by now Jonah's heart was beating pretty fast.
He probably wasn't just afraid because of the storm but because
of the men asking all these questions.
verse 9 Jonah answered by saying that he was a Hebrew and that he
"worshipped the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the
land". One thing we
learn is that Jonah, like many, associated their ethnicity with their
religion. They were
name "Hebrew" means "to cross over", as to cross
over the Jordan River into the promised land of
to verse 10, at some prior point, not sure how much prior, Jonah told
the men that he was running away from his God, so at this point they
were even more afraid. They
wondered why he was running. All along, as verse 11 states, the storm
was getting worse.
verse 11, the crew asked Jonah, the prophet, what they should do.
Since Jonah was the reason for the storm in the first place, he
must have some idea what to do in their present trouble.
They thought that either Jonah or Jonah's God could cause the
storm to subside, and of course, they were right.
Everyone was experiencing the reality of God when one of God's
servant's was in direct disobedience.
verse 12 Jonah admits that he was the cause of the storm.
His solution was that they throw him into the see.
If Jonah would drown, then God's judgment would be complete and
the storm would go away. Jonah
misread the will of God. God
did not want Jonah did. He
simply wanted Jonah's attention so Jonah would do His will.
This is often the case. The
Lord will often cause rough times in our lives, not to hurt us, but to
get our attention. Jonah
drowning at see would have simply disrupted the will of God.
not sure why Jonah told the crew to throw him over.
He could have simply jumped over himself.
Some Bible teachers suggest that act of the crew throwing him
overboard was a means of punishment.
verse 13 we see that the crew did not throw Jonah overboard right away,
and he didn't jump overboard. Instead,
the crew tried their best to row back to land, but with no success.
We're not sure why the crew didn't throw Jonah into the sea right then,
but they didn't. You would
think that due to their superstitious nature they might have done that.
crew finally gives up trying to row back to the land and they throw
Jonah overboard, but not without much prayer to the Lord. That is
Jonah's God, not any of their gods.
These men were now in fear of God.
They thought they'd be in trouble by killing, who they called, an
Bible teachers suggest that the reason why the men had to throw Jonah
overboard and not Jonah jump overboard was to fulfill the prophetic
nature of this event. Jesus
was handed over to the Jews and then to the Romans, and they killed Him.
We should also note that Jesus was willing to be killed.
He actually said that no one takes His life from Him but He
freely gives it up. (John 10:18) So
to with Jonah. He freely
gave his life to the crew of the ship for them to throw him overboard.
Jonah was thrown overboard because of his sin.
Jesus was thrown overboard, not because of His sin, but because
of our sin. Both men were
thrown overboard because of sin.
verse 15 Jonah is thrown overboard and the sea grew calm.
whole experience made the crew fear the Lord.
As we see in verse 16, they even offered some kind of sacrifice
to God, probably a sacrifice similar to the pagan sacrifices they would
have been used to offering their gods.
17 closes this section. Note
that the Lord provided a big fish to swallow Jonah.
This was a miracle, not a happenstance.
We've seen miracles all the way through this first chapter.
The book of Jonah has a number of miracles, not just the one
concerning the big fish.
that the text calls this a big fish, not a whale.
Jonah was inside this big fish for three days and three nights,
thus the reason why Jesus related His death to Jonah being in the fish
for three days and three nights in Matthew 12:39-40.
This historical event in itself is prophetic of the death of
Jesus. Prophecy is not
something that is merely spoken. Prophecy
comes in all sorts of ways. Historical
events in themselves can be prophetic.
The life of Hosea and his adulterous wife is one example of
historic events being prophetic.