Jonah (and the Big Fish)
Chaplain Chuck’s Version
Jonah gets the message and runs away
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 gets tossed overboard and swallowed
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.” … Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm… But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah Repents and goes to Nineveh
Jonah 2:1 – 3:3
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God…. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple… But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.” And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city–a visit required three days.
Jonah the reluctant preacher
Jonah 3:4 – 4:11
On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 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. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 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. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” … 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?”
Uncle Chux Version
Jonah was a prophet from Galilee and his story takes place somewhere between 780 B.C and 760 B.C. During this period of history, Assyria was a powerful, evil nation and Israel’s most dreaded enemy. The Lord spoke to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and preach to the Ninevites. (Jonah 1:2) Jonah was supposed to warn the Ninevites to repent or suffer the consequences of their wickedness. Jonah hated all Ninevites and wanted to see God destroy them for their wickedness. Perhaps people from that city had done something to him or his family, we don’t know.
Jonah not only did not do as God said and go east to preach, he went south to find a ship going as far west so he could get as far away from Nineveh as possible. He found a ship going to Spain (Tarshish) and got on thinking that would end it and that God would choose another.
Unfortunately for him, God does not let go of him after choosing him and commanding him to go. God sends a huge storm to whip the ship around enough to scare the sailors to death. They are superstitious and cast lots to find out who was responsible for this. The lot fell on Jonah and he admitted he was running away from God’s calling on his life.
Jonah gets a great idea. He thinks that maybe if he dies then Nineveh will also be destroyed because they would not hear the message to repent. He told the crew to toss him overboard and they would be saved and they did it.
Unfortunately for Jonah, God had another plan. We are not told what kind of fish swallowed Jonah. People say “Whale” because they want something big enough to swallow a man whole and give him enough room to live and breathe for 3 days and nights. Perhaps it was or perhaps it was a singular kind of fish never again seen or heard of.
Anyways, Jonah is in this fish for 3 days and 3 nights. No light, no food or water and most likely no sleep. The stomach acids of the fish are working on his clothes, hair and skin, most likely bleaching them all white.
After 3 days Jonah decides that living is better than dying and so he repents and prays that if God is so gracious to forgive the Ninevites maybe he also could be forgiven. God hears him and has the fish spit him out close to where he got on the ship.
Jonah goes to Nineveh just as he is, white hair, skin and clothes (rather scary looking I believe) and he preaches to them “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned”. No message of grace. No call for them to repent and be saved. Jonah wanted them destroyed still so he did not tell them anything about avoiding it. He simply told them that destruction was coming in 40 days.
Perhaps it was his scary appearance or perhaps they knew he served God before he came to them, but whatever it was, they believed him and the entire city repented of their evil actions. God forgave them and decided not to destroy the city. Jonah was so upset he told God that he knew they would repent and God would forgive them and he wanted God to end his life NOW! God reminded him that there were 120,000 Children in the city who had done nothing to deserve death.
Here we see God’s great mercy. He could have let Jonah suffer the consequences of his actions and drown. Yet, God intervenes and spares Jonah’s life and the lives of the innocent of the city filled with evil acting people.