The Book of Jonah

The book of Jonah was written by Jonah, the son of Amittai the prophet, who is referenced in 2 Kings 14:25. Jonah is later referenced by Jesus Christ in Luke 11:30 and Matthew 12:39-41. The book of Jonah was written in the ninth century B.C, and it contains the personal account of events in Jonah's life.

God commanded Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah to speak for Him. Jonah disobeyed God by fleeing on a ship to Tarshish. When the ship was caught up in a terrible storm, the sailors on the ship believed that God had sent the storm because of Jonah, so they threw him overboard, and the storm stopped. A fish swallowed Jonah, and Jonah survived inside the fish for three days. During this time, Jonah prayed and repented. God heard Jonah's prayers, and the fish spat him out. He then went to Ninevah as God commanded, and he called for the people to repent. The king acknowledged Jonah's advice, and God spared the people when they repented. However, this upset Jonah, so he complained to God. God told Jonah that he had no right to be angry. He caused a vine to quickly grow to provide shelter for Jonah from the sun, but a worm ate the vine, causing Jonah to be miserable again. God explained that He is the only one who has the right to make any judgments about anything, because it was God who created the world--not man.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee noted that the essentials in this story are God and man (Jonah), and the incidentals are the fish, the gourd, the boat, the east wind, and the city of Ninevah. Dr. McGee was trying to rebuff those critics who claim that this story was not an actual experience in Jonah's life. McGee saw this as a miraculous experience, but I believe that the story is entirely possible in our earthly existence, short of a miracle. We know of fish large enough to swallow a man, and there would be pockets of air inside the fish to sustain a man for three days, even in miserable conditions.

Dr. McGee goes on to offer the following observations:

- We know from Jesus' comments in Matthew 12 that this story was a prophecy of His resurrection. Christ said that just as Jonah was inside the fish for three days, so would He be inside the earth for three days.

- The most significant verse is Jonah 2:9, "Salvation is of the Lord." Although we have many verses in the New Testament that salvation is by faith alone, and not by works, here we even have confirmation of this in the Old Testament.

- This book also confirms the doctrine of the grace of God, which is also much more emphatically proclaimed in the New Testament than in the Old Testament. God's grace was not limited by Jonah's refusal, and it wouldn't have been limited if Jonah has still refused, after the fish incident. God is determined to reach His elect with the gospel message.

- God didn't give up on Jonah after his first failure. Jonah 3:1 should be encouraging to all of us who have failed, "And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time."

- The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament--a God of Love as well as a God of wrath.

- In accordance with Romans 3:29, the book of Jonah confirms that God is the God of the Gentiles in the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament.