Jonah 3:1-4:11 Comments by Stephen Ricker
one tidbit at a time read & study work the soil kind & courteous be serious about books the lion king stay connected to now dig in deep CLICK TO GO TO Bible Study HOME PAGE

Jonah Reluctantly Accepts His Call
Comments for Study 2

Jonah 3:1-4:11
Memory Verse: 3:10


I. The Lord Calls Jonah Again (3:1-4)


* See the drawing "The Prophet Jonah Preaching in Nineveh" by Dore to the right. (Obtained from

>1. How did the Lord give Jonah a second chance to obey him?

* Jonah 3:1-2 "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."

* Genesis 10:8-12 "Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD." The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city."

* "Then" -A continuation to mean right after the great fish spit out Jonah.

* "the word of the Lord" -The Lord's message to mankind, nations, cities, and individuals is referred to in this way.

* "came to Jonah a second time" -The Lord had already told Jonah to preach to Nineveh. Jonah knew the message he was to deliver. The message did not change. The Lord didn't need to send his word to Jonah a second time. However, the Lord did by grace. The Lord was giving Jonah a second chance to preach to Nineveh.

* "the message I gave you" -The message Jonah was to deliver did not change. The primary mission of a prophet was to give God's word involving past, present, and future events. A third of a prophet's message had to do with future events. These future events could be; in a prophet's own time, the captivity and return, coming of the messiah (both events), and reign of the Messiah. Other ministries carried out by the prophets included herald, teacher, spokesman, intercessor, reformer, and shepherd. As shepherd one of his missions was the moral conscience of people, exposing and rebuking their sins. (Isa 40:1-2, 58:1; Ezek. 22:2; 43:10; Mic. 3:8)

* Not everyone gets a second chance like Jonah did.

* Hebrews 3:14-19 "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief."

>What are some reasons this would not be an easy mission?

* Jonah 3:3 "Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days."

* "Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord" -Jonah learned his lesson. However, he went reluctantly as shown in 4:2.

* "went to Nineveh" -Nineveh was over five hundred miles (800km) away from the Mediterranean coast.

* "a very important city" -Nineveh was the largest city in the world at the time with over 600,000 people in the greater area. See below note, the introduction, and the first study for more information.

* "a visit required three days" -Nineveh was actually a conglomerate of several cities all located within a large wall. The main cities were Nineveh, Rehoboth, Ir, Calah, and Resen. (Gen 10:11-12) These five cities were within a 60 mile (100km) circumference.

* Nineveh was know for many sins including witchcraft, sexual immorality, paganism, cruelty and plundering in war, prostitution, and commercial exploitation. All peoples and nations feared Nineveh and the Assyrians in this time period.

* The Israelites did not speak the same language of the Ninevites. Whether Jonah knew their language is not known. The Lord said to Ezekiel, "Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel-- not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you." (Ezekiel 3:4-6)

* Assyria was becoming the world power. They had defeated all the nations that surrounded them and often not only killed the survivors but made their death painful. The Israelites wondered if they were the next.

* Jonah was an Israelite, one of God's chosen people. He obeyed the law of God. They were Gentiles.

>What was the Lord's message to Nineveh?

* Jonah 3:4 "On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."

* "Forty more days" -A clock that started from when Jonah entered the city.

* "Nineveh will be overturned" -Jonah's message was not a positive one. Although this may be not all of his message, its the gist of the message. Jonah never mentioned that if they repented they would be forgiven, a part of God's message the prophets often had for Israel and Judah. Jonah's message reflects his feelings for them. Jonah's message shows he was not in harmony with God's love for this Gentile nation. God's warning was a chance for the Ninevites to repent, come to know him, and be saved.

* How often do we give the wrong message to people concerning the Lord? I wonder how many things I've gotten wrong in these web pages, besides the typos and spelling errors. I found some errors years after I wrote them and change some facts on occasion. I am not the first to do so. I've read many books and commentaries. At times they agree with each other and at times they don't. At times they only tell part of the message or tell it in a way that doesn't completely reveal the heart of God (as is Jonah's message here). I've listen to preachers and messengers in person, on the radio, and on TV. To often they give wrong or incomplete messages, especially when compared to what the Bible actually says. Jesus had to deal with this, as did the apostles. (i.e. Mark 12:24, Acts 11:2)

>How was this a word of love toward these Gentiles?

* Isaiah 49:6 "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

* Genesis 12:1-3 "The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

* God had chosen the Israel nation to be a blessing to the other nations. Through Moses the Lord told them, "'Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." (Exodus 19:5-6)

* The Jews in Jonah's lifetime and even before had forgotten and/or ignored God's love for all men including the Gentiles. They took their special position with God to far by concluding God hated the Gentiles. They forgot that many of their ancestors were Gentiles (i.e. Judah's wives, David's great grandmother Ruth, Solomon's mother, etc.) One example of how the Jews' bigotry and contempt carried over into the early centuries A.D. is the Jewish Talmud's reference to Gentiles as "the spittle that falls from a man's mouth." Even Peter after being three and a half years with Jesus needed a vision of wild animals on a sheet to see it was wrong to call someone unclean that God called clean. (Acts 19:9-29) Paul gives an account where Peter and Barnabas backed away from believing Gentiles during a meal. Some today who call themselves Christian have a similar attitude. We begin believing that the Lord loves us because of the good we do and the evil we shun. Since we see others not doing so we begin believing that the Lord does not love them because they are sinners. John makes God's heart clear, "For God so love the world..." (John 3:16) and Mark recorded Jesus saying, "I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them." (Mark 3:28)

II. The Ninevites Repent (3:5-10)


* See a picture of sackcloth to the right.

>2. How did the Ninevites receive God's warning?

* Jonah 3:5 "The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth."

* "believed God" -The Ninevites believed the message and thus believed God. How deep their belief was has been commented on in books. All that matters is that God recognized it and accepted it.

* "fast" -Fasting is a very common outward sign of a repentant heart and a heart seeking God. (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1)

* "all of them" -The whole city.

* "sackcloth" -A harsh dark cloth made of goats hair. Often it was warn over softer pieces of clothing. However, in repentance it was warn directly on skin.

>And the king?

* Jonah 3:6 "When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust."

* "When the news reached the king" -Jonah did not speak to him directly. Instead Jonah's message was spreading throughout the city.

* "king of Nineveh" -King of Assyria not necessarily the mayor of Nineveh. According to ancient Assyrian and Babylonian lists the kings of Assyria in Jonah's life were; Adad-nirari III (811-783 B.C.), his son Shalmaneser IV (783-773), his son Ashur-Dan III (773-755), his uncle Ashur-nirari V (755-745), and his son Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727). In 612 B.C. Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, fell to the Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians; supported by the Egyptians.

Adad nirari V Stela, Assyrian King

* See a picture of a stela of Adad nirari V Stela, Assyrian King to the right.

* "he rose from his throne" -A sign of alarm for everyone in the throne room.

* "took off his royal robes" -A sign of humility.

* "sat down in the dust" -A sign of grief, humility and repentance.

>What does sincere repentance and the fear of God have in common?

* Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

* Fearing the Lord is understanding his holiness and our wretchedness. Fearing the Lord is realizing that the Lord is righteous and just.

* The combination of all the reactions in verses 5 and 6 reflect utter dependence on God.

>3. How do we know that the Ninevites' repentance was sincere? (7-8)

* Jonah 3:7-8 "Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence."

* "beast, herd or flock" -Including animals was very unusual showing just how sincere they were.

* The king knew the sins and evil ways of the people and himself. Recognizing and confessing these are a beginning of repentance.

* Wanting to stop these sins and evil ways is the next step of repentance.

* Turning to God for help and forgiveness in Jesus is the next step of repentance.

* Live a life that is pleasing to God, that is what the Lord made us to live in is the final step of repentance.

>What did they hope for?

* Jonah 3:9 "Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."

* The king and the people who followed his proclamation hoped in the love and grace of God.

* Where grace is for guilt; mercy is for misery.

>How is our hope the same? (Rom. 5:1-5)

* Romans 5:1-5 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

* Ephesians 2:3-5 "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved."

* Luke 1:77-79 "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

* Jesus is salvation for all mankind, to those who accept him.

>4. How did God respond to the Ninevites' actions?

* Jonah 3:10 "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."

* "When God saw what they did" -God knows all that happens. He is involved in all our lives.

* "they turned" -The meaning of repentance is "to turn".

* "he had compassion" -Compassion is an expression of God's love. Jesus had compassion on the crowds that came to him and listened to his message because, "They were like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34; Mark 1:41)

* "he had threatened" -The Lord's course up to the response of the people.

* Some translations incorrectly use the phrase "God repented" in verse 10. God does not and cannot change his mind since he already knows the outcome of all events.

>How is the Lord's compassion towards these Gentiles something that many Israelites did not expect? (Luke 11:32, 3:7-8; John 1:12-13)

* Luke 11:32 "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."

* Luke 3:7-8 "John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham."

* John 1:12-13 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

* Matthew 12:41 "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."

* Jesus used the Ninevites to illustrate that the Lord's love and response to sincere repentance is not discriminatory.

III. Jonah's Deliverance and Rebuke (5:1-11)


* See the drawing "The Prophet Jonah before the Walls of Nineveh" by Rembrandt, ca. 1655 to the right.

>5. Was Jonah happy that the city repented of its evil ways?

* Jonah 4:1 "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry."

* Read the short story, "Introspection Intentions" by clicking this link. It concerns chapter 5.

* "greatly displeased" -Jonah wrote this about himself after he returned. He did not want to see the Ninevites repent. He did not want to see them in sackcloth. Jonah did not want his ministry to be a success.

* "became angry" -Anger is a deep emotion. God is angry with stubborn unrepentant hearts and continual sin. (Mark 3:5) Yet the Lord is slow to anger. (Exodus 34:6) Jonah's anger quickly rose when he saw the people repent.

* Reflecting on why we are angry is important. Are we angry at our sin? Do we have an unrighteous anger? Are we angry all the time? Why? Righteous anger leads to repentance and forgiveness. Unrighteous anger leads to disaster, destruction, and death.

>Why did he react as he did? (2)

* Jonah 4:2 "He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."

* Plain an simple. Jonah wanted to see the Ninevites destroyed. He had no love and no compassion for them.

* "I knew" -Jonah had head knowledge of the Lord God of Israel without being one with the Lord's heart. This was the very thing that Jesus told the religious leaders of his day to repent of. (Matt. 22:29; Mark 10:18-23; John 5:42, 7:28)

* Jonah wanted God's kindness to be only shown to Israel.

* Jonah had accepted his mission without his heart being right.

>To what point was he angry?

* Jonah 4:3 "Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

* "take my life away" -Jonah did not want to live with the reality of the world he was in. He could not take his life for that would be a sin. Yet is asking to die different than wanting to die?

* Jonah wanted suicide by the hand of God. So many have committed suicide especially in recent years. There was a time in my young life that I considered suicide. Thoughts of suicide are possible when we lose all hope. Had Jonah lost hope?

* Jonah seems to believe that the Lord's love toward Nineveh was an end to the Lord's love toward Israel. Just a few days before this Jonah praise the Lord for grace on his own life. Now he was upset when that same grace was shown toward his enemies.

* Luke 6:27-31 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

>6. What did the Lord ask Jonah? (4)

* Jonah 4:4 "But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

* The Lord wanted Jonah to search his heart. In doing so he could see the error of his thinking and repent.

>Why might Jonah not answer the Lord's question?

* Jonah stubbornly held onto his own righteousness just as the Pharisees did in Jesus' day.

* Mark 3:5-6 "He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."

* When we are wronged by someone our sinful nature wants revenge. A sense of justice mingles with self justification. We want to be the hand of judgement. However the Lord says, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," (Romans 12:19)

>7. What do you think Jonah was still hoping would happen to Nineveh? (5)

* Jonah 4:5 "Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city."

* "Jonah went out" -Jonah left Nineveh.

* "sat down at a place east of the city" -This would have been opposite of the direction he would have taken to go back to Jerusalem. His actions were deliberate.

* "he made himself" -No one from those he preached too helped him or he rejected their help. As for me, even though I spend so much time working on this web sight as of today March 4, 2013 no one has donated to help support this site even though it has been possible for over two years.

* "a shelter" -Not very big or strong since the vine gave better shelter.

* "waited to see what would happen" -He obviously hoped that they would be destroyed by a natural disaster.

>What does this say about his understanding of the Lord even though he was a prophet of the Lord?

* Jonah is out of harmony with God's tender mercy.

* 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

>8. What grace did the Lord God show Jonah as he sat staring at the city?

* Jonah 4:6 "Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine."

* "provided" -As he had provided the great fish.

* "a vine and made it grow up over Jonah" -A miracle for a plant to grow this fast. This was probably a castor oil plant, a shrub growing over twelve feet (3.6m) high with large leaves.

Caster Oil Plant

* See a picture of a caster oil plant (China) to the right.

* "ease his discomfort" -Not only from the mission but also from the consequences of being in a great fish.

* "Jonah was very happy about the vine" -This implies that Jonah almost believed he deserved it after completing his mission. He did not realize that God was going to use it to teach him.

>Why do you think the Lord took the vine away?

* Jonah 4:7 "But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered."

* "provided" -As he provided the great fish and the plant.

* The Lord was teaching Jonah about his character.

* Job when he lost his children and possessions said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21)

* The Lord loved his reluctant prophet.

>Was the sun and wind punishment or training to Jonah? (8)

* Jonah 4:8 "When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."

* "provided" -As he provided the great fish, the plant and the worm.

* "grew faint" -Jonah was exhausted and dehydrated.

* "he wanted to die" -This time he wanted to die because of his physical state.

* The Lord was not punishing Jonah as much as training him.

>9. What did the Lord ask and how did Jonah answer?

* Jonah 4:9 "But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

* "about the vine?" -Before the Lord asked this question he only asked, "Do you have a right to be angry?" (4) Now he asks specifically about the vine because the vine represented grace towards Jonah.

* "I do" -By saying "I do" Jonah was stating his understanding that he and God's people deserved the Lord's blessing. Many like him today believe that because they do the Lord's will we deserve blessings from heaven all the days of our life. The Lord may not give us blessings from heaven for a specific time in our life. Consider the persecution of many other prophets and the apostles. However, Jesus did say, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matt. 6:31-34)

>Why was Jonah concerned about the vine more than people?

* Jonah 4:10-11 "But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

* "you did not tend it or make it grow" -Jonah's experience with the vine was in passing.

* "more than a hundred and twenty thousand people"

* "who cannot tell their right hand from their left" -They did not have the law of the Lord and prophets like the Israelites were given. The only witness to truth and righteousness they had was on their conscience and in nature.

* Pride and prejudice resulting in more head knowledge of God than the Lord's heart.

>What is the Lord teaching us here? (Matt. 5:43-48)

* Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

* Forgiveness of those who sin against us is a very hard thing to do. Yet the Lord's taught us to pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." Love for an enemy goes against our sinful nature. Yet grace, compassion, mercy and love are the character of the Lord.

>10. How does Jesus' parable in Luke 15:25-32 repeat the lesson that the Lord gave Jonah?

* Luke 15:25-32 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

* G. Campbell Morgan wrote, "Thus the last picture we have of Jonah is that of a man still out of harmony with the tender mercy of God, and the last vision of Jehovah is that of a God full of pity and compassion even for a city such as Nineveh... (The book reveals) a side of the Divine nature of which the people had no appreciation. It was a revelation far in advance of the age in which Jonah exercised his ministry. As a matter of fact, the people as a whole never came to understand it, and thus in his persistent displeasure Jonah represented the nation in its ultimate failure to understand the deepest truth concerning their God." (The Analysed Bible, 1964)