Around 760 B.C.
We first met Jonah, son of Amittai, in 2 Kings 14. He served, like Hosea and Amos, during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel, a time when the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, and He turned their fortunes in their favor for a time. Remember, though, that this was also a moment of Assyrian weakness. This was not a permanent decline, however, and within a few decades Israel and all its neighbors, save Judah, would be under Assyrian control.
But that is not what this book is about. It is unique among these prophets in presenting a narrative – the story of when Jonah was called by the LORD to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians. Jonah, however, heads in the opposite direction.
Notice that the first chapter doesn’t tell us why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. In fact, aside from his prayer in chapter 2, Jonah’s only lines of dialogue in the first three chapters are to the sailors: “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you…” and to the people of Nineveh: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Aside from that, all of Jonah’s motivations must be inferred from his actions.
Finally, in chapter 4 this character takes shape, when Jonah’s redirected mission has proven successful – too successful in his mind. As we’ve seen elsewhere in the Bible, dialogue reveals character. Listen closely to Jonah’s complaint, to the feelings he repeats, and to the LORD’s response.
Try to place yourself, also, in the shoes of Jonah’s contemporaries. How would an Israelite farmer, priest, or king, feel about the word of the LORD to Jonah? How would this story impact your sense of who the LORD is and who you are as one of His covenant people?
Our verse for this week is Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The Prophet Jonah. Now let’s read it!
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.