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Jonah 1 Part 1 - God Calls a Prophet
Jonah 1:1-2, John 7:50-52 - God sees and calls out wickedness everywhere.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.””
Jonah 1:1-2 NASB1995
After the challenging journey through 1 Peter, I am turning my attention to one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament - Jonah. In one of those non-coincidences that God does all the time, one of our church pastors on Sunday had a sermon on doubt, which drives disobedience (the sermon series is on soul thieves) and the text was the book of Jonah! Steve and I looked at each other in amazement at how He guides us; I had picked this book for my next series well before the sermon, but as I said, there are no coincidences where God is concerned. A few elements from that sermon will come in handy as I dive deeper into Jonah.
The map above shows the Middle East around the time of the prophet Jonah, around 760 B.C. What do we know about Jonah? Here are some relevant facts from A. M. Hodgkin, author of “Christ in All of the Scriptures”, as collected in Precept Austin:
Jonah was the son of Amittai, the prophet, a native of Gath-hepher, a Galillean village, a little to the north of Nazareth, the home of his great Anti-type. Jewish tradition says that he was the son of the widow of Zarephath, whom Elijah restored to life [1Kings 17:8-24]. But though we have no sufficient ground for this tradition, Jonah was the successor of Elijah and Elisha, and was probably acquainted with them both, and was the link between them and Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah. It is likely that he was trained in the schools of the prophets, and that he exercised his ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II, and perhaps before it.
His name signifies ''the dove,'' and his first prophetic utterance was one in keeping with his name. It was a message of comfort to Israel, that the Lord had seen the affliction of His people, and that He would save them by the hand of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, and restore to them the border lands which they had lost through the invasion of the Syrians. We are told this in 2Kings 14:25-27, a record which was probably written long before Jonah wrote his book; and it would seem that the writer [of that earlier record] took special care to do honor to God's prophet, who has been so unsparing of his own character [faults] in his faithful record.
The fact, that Jonah was a historic character, tells [ie., argues] against the idea that the book is a mere parable. The writer of a parable would not have been likely to invent an imaginary story about a real man. Jonah's candid record of his own faults is another evidence of the truth of the account, as also the fact that the Jews admitted the book to the Canon of Scripture, though it militated against their national prejudices in exhibiting God's mercy to another nation.
As noted in this commentary, Jonah is from Galilee and his name signifies “the dove”. He prophesied in 2 Kings 14 and was likely exercising his ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II. His book was admitted to the Jewish canon of scripture, validating its authenticity. Interestingly, in a debate between the religious leaders in John 7 on what to do with Jesus, they make this comment to Nicodemus, showing their ignorance of Jonah and his origins:
“Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) *said to them, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.”
John 7:50-52 NASB1995
In the first two verses of Jonah, God speaks to His prophet, telling Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh in Assyria and cry against it for its wickedness. This is a rather stunning request from God, as Nineveh is a bustling metropolis full of pagan Gentiles and the Assyrians have shown themselves to be the enemy of Israel (and Judah) on multiple occasions. In fact, the Assyrians began the forced re-locations of the northern tribes (Kingdom of Israel) starting in 732 B.C., not long after the events in Jonah. The artist’s conception, above, is an attempt to show the magnificence of this Assyrian empire city, located on the Tigris River.
Here is what David Guzik in Enduring Word says about this command from God:
The word of the LORD came to Jonah: God spoke to Jonah in His own unique and powerful way and He told Jonah to do two things. First, go to Nineveh; second, cry out against it – that is, rebuke them for their sin and call them to repentance.
Go to Nineveh: The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was a large and prominent city in its day. It was not a city of Israel at all; God called Jonah to go to a pagan, Gentile city and call them to repentance.
Ancient historians say that Nineveh was the foremost city in the world at that time. It was the large, important capital of a dominating empire – surely an intimidating place to go.
For their wickedness has come up before Me: God wanted Jonah to go because He saw their wickedness. None of man’s wickedness is hidden before God. He sees it all, and it may come to a point where it demands the specific warning and judgment of God.
God is concerned with wickedness everywhere and it cannot be hidden!
So what does our prophet do next? He flees, trying to get as far away as possible, as I will explore in the next devotional from Jonah 1:3.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Thank you for speaking through your prophets and being concerned with wickedness everywhere, not just with the people of Israel and Judah. We must obey your commands and warnings. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.