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Book of Jonas

Book of Jonas by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The Book of Jonah (Greek=Jonas) tells the story of an obscure Hebrew prophet named Jonas ben Amittai who is sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission. Set in the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC), it was probably written in the post-exilic period (after 530 BC). The Holy Prophet Jonas was a successor of the Prophet Elisha. His Feast Day in the Orthodox Church is September 22nd.

The Book of the Prophet Jonas contains prophecies about the judgments on the Israelite nation, the sufferings of the Savior, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. Besides the prophecies, the Book of Jonas relates how he was sent to the Ninevites to preach repentance (Jon 3:3-10).

Our Lord Jesus Christ, addressing the Scribes and the Pharisees who demanded a sign from Him, said that no sign would be given except for the sign of the Prophet Jonas, "As Jonas was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so also shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Mt 12:40). From these words the Lord shows clearly the symbolic meaning of the Book of the Prophet Jonas in relation to Christ's death on the Cross, descent into Hell, and the Resurrection.

Reproaching the lack of penitence and recalcitrance of the Jews, the Lord said, "The Ninevites shall rise in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and one greater than Jonas is here" (Mt. 12: 41).

The Book of Jonas is primarily a story about the character of God, even His compassion. As such, it can be divided into four sections, roughly divided by each chapter:

  1. God's sovereignty
  2. God’s deliverance
  3. God's mercy
  4. God's righteousness.

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It may also be outlined in the following detailed manner:

I. God's first commission and Jonas' rebellion.

1:1-1:17 Jonas Tries to Run Away from God.

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II. God's deliverance toward Jonas and Jonas' prayer of thanksgiving.

2:1-2:10 A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

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III. God's second commission and Jonas' obedience.

3:1-3:10 Conversion of Nineveh

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IV. God's deliverance toward Nineveh and Jonas' complaint of ingratitude.

4:1-4:8 Jonas' Anger.
4:9-4:11 Jonas Is Reproved.

In the first half of the book, God's deliverance is demonstrated through His sovereignty. In the second half, God's deliverance is demonstrated through His mercy. Finally, God declares His righteousness in choosing to force and choosing to repent.

Our next biblical article takes us to the Book of Micah.

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