Jonah 1


Jonah’s name means ‘dove’, which is a name that God called Ephraim, Hosea 7:11, who are viewed as being easily deceived and senseless. Jonah’s father was Amittai who was a prophet from Gath Hepher, 2 Kings 14:25 / Joshua 19:10 / Joshua 19:13.

He was the first prophet after the death of Elisha to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and he was successful in his mission of telling the people of the Northern Kingdom how the territory would expand and would become prosperous under Jeroboam.

He worked in the early reign of Jeroboam II., and was contemporary with Hosea and Amos, but it’s possible he came before them. As with most of the Old Testament prophets, all we know about him and his personal life comes from the book itself. We know that he was sent on a mission trip by God to Nineveh.

There’s no doubt that Jonah loved his people, his fellow Israelites, but he does appear to have a problem with loving other nations, Exodus 19:5-6 / Isaiah 49:6.


The book of Jonah is probably of the most attacked books in the Bible, concerning its authenticity. Some see the book as a myth, some see it as an allegorical story and some see it as a fable but if people took the time to read outside the book itself, they would find sufficient proof that Jonah was a real person and what happened to him, really happened.

2 Kings 14:25 tells us that Jonah was around and was a prophet of that time, Jesus Himself refers to Jonah, He uses what happened to Jonah as a sign for the Pharisees, He also speaks of the people of Nineveh condemning others in judgment, He speaks of how they repented, and how they would stand as a condemnation to all those who didn’t, Matthew 12:39-49 / Matthew 16:4 / Luke 11:28-32.


Jonah tries to run from God. Jonah 1
Jonah’s prayer. Jonah 2
Nineveh’s repentance. Jonah 3
Jonah isn’t happy. Jonah 4

The theme of the book is simply, God’s dealings with the Assyrians.

‘The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.’ Jonah 1:1-3

Although Jonah served as a prophet for many years doing various other things, 2 Kings 14:25, his book specifically zones in on one of his missions from God, ‘go to Nineveh and command them to repent’.

The great city of Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria which was heavily fortified, it has enormous temples within and the city itself was greatly occupied by many people.

The Ninevites were notorious for their wickedness and the way they treated their enemies, they impaled people on walls and trees, they led prisoners in chains and hooks through their noses and other parts of the body and so, we can understand why Jonah himself was hesitant in going there in the first place.

Because Jonah, who was a prophet from Israel, we can understand why he saw Nineveh as a real threat to him and his people.

We’re not told at this point in time, why Jonah ran away and headed west for Tarshish, 1 Kings 10:22 / 1 Kings 22:48 / 2 Chronicles 9:21 / 2 Chronicles 20:36-37 / Isaiah 2:16 / Isaiah 23:1-12 / Ezekiel 27:12 / Ezekiel 27:25 / Jeremiah 10:9 / Psalms 72:10, which was in the opposite direction from which God told him to go, but later in Jonah 4:2, we’re told the reason why he was afraid that Nineveh would actually repent at the Lord’s command.

It’s doubtful if Jonah was aware that the Assyrians would eventually capture Israel but if he was aware of what they are going to do in the future, this would also explain why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh and give them the chance to repent and be saved in the first place.

When Jonah fled from the Lord, I don’t think we’re to understand that Jonah actually believed He could escape God’s presence, Psalm 139:7-10, maybe we’re supposed to understand how he was actually feeling.

Just like Paul was afraid and didn’t want to stay at Corinth because of all the sinfulness of the city, Acts 18:9, Jonah’s fear was possibly taking over him.

Instead of fearing God, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, he feared the Ninevites more, Matthew 10:28. It was fear that caused him to run away, it was fear which caused him to go to Joppa, it was fear which caused him to find and ship, pay for his ticket and sail off.

‘Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.’ Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So, they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’ He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Jonah 1:4-9

As we go through the book we can’t help but notice that God is the great provider, here God sends a great wind, in Jonah 1:17 He provides a huge fish, in Jonah 4:6 God provides Jonah with shelter, in Jonah 4:7 we see God providing a worm, to eat the shelter, in Jonah 4:8 we see God providing a scorching east wind.

There’s no doubt that these sailors had experienced violent storms before on their travels, but the one God provides seems to be stronger than anything they’ve experienced before because they’re afraid that the ship is about to break up. Sailors, even today, are notorious for being very superstitious, here, these sailors begin to cry out to their own gods for help.

They decide the best thing to do at this point is lighten the load of the ship by throwing some of the cargo overboard.

Notice what Jonah is doing whilst all this chaos is happening, he’s sleeping, he’s in a deep sleep, totally oblivious as to what is happening all around him. The sailors, like the disciples, were afraid and they did what the disciples did with Jesus, when He was asleep amidst the storm in a boat, they woke him up, Mark 4:38-40.

When the sailors ask Jonah to call upon his ‘god’, they didn’t know the God of Israel, to them, God was one of many gods who existed in their own minds. The sailors knew that there was something totally different about this storm, this is the reason why they cast lots, Numbers 26:55 / 1 Samuel 10:20-21 / Acta 1:26, but we shouldn’t miss the fact that God is making the choice here, we see this because the lot fell on Jonah.

Although Jonah tried to run away from God, he now has to admit who he is and who God is, He is the creator of all things, including the sea and the land, Psalm 8:1-4 / Psalm 65:5-7 / Psalm 107:23-32.

It’s possible that Jonah now understands he’s doing wrong and needs to repent and go where God wants him to go. He knows who caused the storm, in the next few verses, we see that he knows how to stop the storm, and we must give him credit for being open and honest about what’s happening and as he’s willing to take any punishment which will come his way because of his disobedience towards God.

‘This terrified them, and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So, they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’ ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’ Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, ‘Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.’ Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.’ Jonah 1:10-17

The sailors have become terrified as they conclude that Jonah’s God was the cause of this great storm, which was getting worse, and so, they conclude that God Himself must be feared.

They appear to be puzzled as to what Jonah has done to offend His God, even though Jonah explained it to them earlier, and so Jonah tells them to throw him overboard, if they didn’t understand, Jonah certainly did, He knew he could run away from God.

Notice that the sailors now ‘cry out to the Lord’, it appears as though God used the storm not only to get Jonah back on track but to convert the sailors into believing in the One true God. If this tells us anything, it tells us that these once superstitious sailors came to the conclusion that no one can flee from the Lord, Psalm 139:7-10.

Although they didn’t want to throw Jonah overboard, they soon realised if they wanted to live, they would have to do ask Jonah asked. After throwing Jonah overboard the sailors must have known they did the right thing because not only did the storm calm, but they greatly feared the Lord and offered sacrifices and made vows to Him.

Notice that the sailor’s response was similar to the disciple’s response when Jesus calmed the storm, Matthew 14:22-33, they recognised that God had full control over the seas.

As Jonah is in the sea the Lord provides a huge fish to swallow Jonah and although there are many theories about what kind of fish this was, be it a whale or some other kind of fish, we mustn’t miss the point, whatever kind of fish this was, it was provided by God. After all, He created all things, so why couldn’t God create this fish for this very purpose! The purpose of which was to keep Jonah alive until he comes to his senses and fully accepts his mission from God.

Remember that Jesus Himself spoke about this very event. ‘As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’. Matthew 12:40.

The four Gospels reveal that, repeatedly, the Lord Himself declared in unequivocal terms, that He would be put to death and would rise from the dead ‘on the third day’.

He first predicted His resurrection early as John 2:19, in a statement which John admits His disciples only later understood, but later He began to speak about it openly, after Peter had declared Him to be ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’, in Matthew 16:16.

Similar statements are recorded in the Gospels, Matthew 17:23 / Matthew 20:19 / Mark 9:31 / Mark 10:34 / Luke 9:22 / Luke 13:32 / Luke 18:33 / Luke 24:7 / Luke 24:21 / Luke 24:46.

The very fact that Jesus referred to Jonah and his experience in the fish, tells us that this experience of Jonah really did happen.

When it comes to Christ’s reference about Jonah, we must remember He spoke of and used it to prove that just as Jonah was in the fish for three days and nights, then He Himself, would be buried and rise on the third day.

Go To Jonah 2