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The Prophets: Jonah

Jonah, from the Hebrew name pronounced yo-naw, meaning a dove, was a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel (see The Prophets: North and South) at the time when the Assyrian Empire (see Ancient Empires - Assyria) was a growing threat to Israel. Ironically, Jonah was sent to prophesy to the Assyrians, warning the Assyrians to repent, so that they would not be destroyed before their God-given task of destroying Israel because of their unfaithfulness to the LORD. Jonah naturally would rather have seen the Assyrians devastated because they were a growing threat to Israel (i.e. Jonah at first put his patriotism to Israel ahead of his obedience to the LORD God that Israel was rebelling against), so Jonah attempted to flee on a ship - and hence his famous encounter with a "great fish."

"1:1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 1:2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. 1:4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken." (Jonah 1:1-4 KJV)

"1:15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 1:16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." (Jonah 1:15-17 KJV)

"Three days and three nights"

Jonah was a contemporary with other prophets (each of whom will be studied individually in this series) who were given to warn Israel directly, but Jonah was sent to warn Israel's enemy Assyria, to keep themselves from being destroyed before they were to be set loose upon Israel if Israel refused to heed the warnings of the other prophets (which Israel did not - and so the LORD brought about The Galilee Captivity). With his at-sea lesson learned, Jonah went to Nineveh, Assyria's capital city, and warned them. Much to Jonah's regret, He was successful at getting the Assyrians to repent.

Map Of The Assyrian Empire

"3:1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 3:2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

3:3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 3:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 3:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." (Jonah 3:1-10 KJV)

The object lesson was that just being "Israel" does not make one righteous. It's a matter of what you do, not who you think you are. Ironically as well, Assyria was the northern part of Babylon, the country where Abraham came from (see Israel's Iraqi Roots); Jonah was warning Abraham's own relatives back in the old country. Jonah found himself in a quandary - he was aware that the LORD forgives anyone who repents, but Jonah didn't want the people of an enemy nation to repent, even though they were an enemy nation merely as an agent of the LORD's wrath.

"4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 4:2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil." (Jonah 4:1-2 KJV)

The Messiah spoke directly of Jonah's "three days and three nights" and the repentance of the people of Nineveh.

"12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here." (Matthew 12:40-41 KJV)

Fact Finder: What were the actual "three days and three nights" that Christ was in the tomb?
See Nisan 14: The Day That Christ Died and The Messiah's Sabbath Day Resurrection

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