Faithlife Sermons

Jonah the Faithful Servant (chap.3)

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 26 views
Notes & Transcripts

Sermon: Jonah the Faithful Servant (part 3)                                                                   May 7, 2007

 

 

Jonah 3:1  Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:  2  "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."  3  Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days.  4  On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."  5  The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  6  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.  7  Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:  "By the decree of the king and his nobles:  Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  8  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.  9  Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."  10  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.

Sermón: Jonás el Siervo Fiel (parte 3)                                                  

Jonás 3:1 Vino palabra de Jehová por segunda vez a Jonás, diciendo: 2Levántate y ve a Nínive, aquella gran ciudad, y proclama en ella el mensaje que yo te diré. 3Y se levantó Jonás, y fue a Nínive conforme a la palabra de Jehová. Y era Nínive ciudad grande en extremo, de tres días de camino. 4Y comenzó Jonás a entrar por la ciudad, camino de un día, y predicaba diciendo: De aquí a cuarenta días Nínive será destruida. 5Y los hombres de Nínive creyeron a Dios, y proclamaron ayuno, y se vistieron de cilicio desde el mayor hasta el menor de ellos. 6Y llegó la noticia hasta el rey de Nínive, y se levantó de su silla, se despojó de su vestido, y se cubrió de cilicio y se sentó sobre ceniza. 7E hizo proclamar y anunciar en Nínive, por mandato del rey y de sus grandes, diciendo: Hombres y animales, bueyes y ovejas, no gusten cosa alguna; no se les dé alimento, ni beban agua; 8sino cúbranse de cilicio hombres y animales, y clamen a Dios fuertemente; y conviértase cada uno de su mal camino, de la rapiña que hay en sus manos. 9¿Quién sabe si se volverá y se arrepentirá Dios, y se apartará del ardor de su ira, y no pereceremos? 10Y vio Dios lo que hicieron, que se convirtieron de su mal camino; y se arrepintió del mal que había dicho que les haría, y no lo hizo

3:1  Then the word of the LORD came [the LORD spoke] to Jonah a second time. (RV60)  Vino palabra de Jehová por segunda vez a Jonás, diciendo:

THE GOD OF THE 2ND (777TH) CHANCE

Acts 15:37-40  Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also.  38  But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  39  And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40  But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.

2Tim 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Matt.18:2-22 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"  22  Jesus ^said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to 70 xs 7.

QUOTE: The victorious Christian life, is a series of new beginnings.”

While Jonah had taken quite a detour since the first command, God’s will remained steadfast. Although God’s word came to Jonah a second time, demonstrating his forbearance and mercy, examples in Scripture show that not everyone has a second chance to do what God has commanded (Gen 3; Num 20:12; 1 Kgs 13:26). However, this text should bring thanksgiving to the heart of every believer who has been given another opportunity to do what God requires. This text, more than anything else, points to God’s sovereignty and his insistence upon the accomplishment of his will.

if we were God and if we were confronted with the situation as we have found it at the end of chapter 2, at this point we would say that we had had just about enough of Jonah. We would recall that Jonah was a man whom we had chosen to be a prophet and to whom we had imparted a special measure of understanding in spiritual things. We would remember that we had already given him a full and blessed ministry in Israel and that we had then called him to do a tremendous work in Nineveh. Jonah should have been delighted. But instead of being delighted, he had refused this call. Finally, he had become so set in his determination that he had declared that he would rather die than return to the place of blessing. He had requested to be thrown overboard. We would recall that even then we had been gracious to him. Instead of allowing him to die, we had saved him. We had brought him to a place of repentance. Then we had spoken to the fish, and it had returned Jonah to the land. How gracious we had been! No one could expect more. So if we were God and if we should reason at this point that we had saved Jonah but that he had nevertheless disqualified himself from ever being a prophet again, who could blame us? If we were to say, “Go home now, Jonah. I am glad you have repented of your disobedience, but you are no longer useful to me,”

3:2  "[Arise and] Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim [preach, deliver] to it the message I give you." [and warn them of their doom, as I told you to before! LB] (RV60)  Levántate y ve a Nínive,  aquella gran ciudad,  y proclama [predique] en ella el mensaje que yo te diré.

DON’T MODIFY GOD’S MESSAGE….JUST DELIVER IT! (I’m just the messenger)

His job was to deliver the message, not to critique or revise it.

1:2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has

come up before me."

TWO COMMANDS: Go & Proclaim

it would take Jonah at least a month to travel 550 miles from his own land to the city of Nineveh, and during that trip, he had a lot of time available to meditate on what the Lord had taught him.

The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you and the power of God can’t use you.

TWO CHOICES only. Either it’s Lord (yes) or it’s NO

Acts 10:12  In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”14 “NO, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

3:3  [this time] Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. (RV60) Y se levantó Jonás, y fue a Nínive conforme a la palabra de Jehová. Y era Nínive ciudad grande en extremo, de tres días de camino. [(DHH)  Jonás se puso en marcha y fue a Nínive, como el Señor selo había ordenado. Nínive era una ciudad tan grande que para recorrerla toda había que caminar tres días]

WHERE DO FEELING FIT INTO OBEDIENCE?

            Obedience is not based on feelings

            Obedience when you don’t feel like it it’s not being hypocritical, it is doing what God wants

2 Cor.5:7 we walk by faith, not by sight (NBLH)  Porque por fe andamos, no por vista

*What was the difference between this time and the last?

3:4  On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed [shouted]: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned [destroyed]." (RV60)  Y comenzó Jonás a entrar por la ciudad [la recorrió], camino de un día, y predicaba diciendo: De aquí a cuarenta días Nínive será destruida.

SIN IS SERIOUS……..GOD IS SERIOUS @ JUDGMENT………GOD IS SERIOUS @ SAVING

Hos. 7:8 The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake [like a flat cake not turned over] (DHH)  [Israel] es como una torta cocida solamente por un lado.[como una torta no volteada]

2 Kgs. 21:13 ….I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down

Famous 40 in the Bible: judgment of flood (Gen.7); judgment in the wilderness; at 10 commandments; Spied out the promised land; Goliath mocks Israel army; Elijah flees; Jesus temptation; resurrection appearances

In the Hebrew text, there are only five words in Jonah’s message; yet God used those five words to stir the entire population,

3:5 The Ninevites believed God [elohim]. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.[burlap to show their sorrow; the rough, coarse garments worn at times of mourning] (RV60)  Y los hombres [habitants] de Nínive creyeron a Dios,  y proclamaron ayuno,  y se vistieron de cilicio [se pusieron ropas ásperas en señal de dolor; se vistieron de luto en señal de arrepentimiento] desde el mayor hasta el menor de ellos.

A MIRACLE……….HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MIRACLES

If the miracle of the fish is great, that of this chapter is greater. For here is the record of nothing less than the greatest mass conversion in history.

Matt 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. (RV60)  Los hombres de Nínive se levantarán en el juicio con esta generación,  y la condenarán;  porque ellos se arrepintieron a la predicación de Jonás,  y he aquí más que Jonás en este lugar.[ y aquí tienen ustedes a uno más grande que Jonás]

This shows the power of God in spite of the weakness of His servant, Pagan sailors and a pagan

city responded to the reluctant prophet,

The first noteworthy fact about this revival is that it began with God’s call to just one man:

Jonah…..and a rebellious man at that!

The people “believed God.”…..not that they believed Jonah!

There now begins a subtle interplay on the two divine names. Up to this point, with the obvious exception of the sailors before the Lord's power had been revealed to them, we consistently find the name "the LORD" (Yahweh), i.e., the name of the covenant-making God of Israel. Now alongside it we find the name "God" (Elohim) the all-powerful One, the Creator, the Lord of nature. The obvious purpose is to bring home that Jonah had not been proclaiming Yahweh to those that did not know him but that the supreme God, whatever his name, was about to show his power in judgment. The Ninevites, recognized the voice of the supreme God,

All the odds were against Nineveh’s accepting this message.

3:5b-8  The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  6  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.  7  Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:  "By the decree of the king and his nobles:  Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  8  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.         (RV60) Y los hombres de Nínive creyeron a Dios, y proclamaron ayuno, y se vistieron de cilicio desde el mayor hasta el menor de ellos. 6Y llegó la noticia hasta el rey de Nínive, y se levantó de su silla, se despojó de su vestido, y se cubrió de cilicio [ropas ásperas] y se sentó sobre ceniza. 7E hizo proclamar y anunciar en Nínive, por mandato del rey y de sus grandes, diciendo: Hombres y animales, bueyes y ovejas, no gusten [prueben] cosa alguna; no se les dé alimento, ni beban agua; 8sino cúbranse de cilicio hombres y animales, y clamen a Dios fuertemente; y conviértase cada uno de su mal camino, de la rapiña [violencia] que hay en sus manos.

CHALLENGE: Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

Ninevites’ reaction is conveyed by verbs: “believed . . . declared . . . put on.” (call on God…give up their evil ways…..stop their violence)

1Kg 21:25-29  (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.  26  He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)  27  When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.  28  Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite:  29  "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son."

PURPOSE OF FASTING:

Fasting for Consecration: Jesus (Lk.4:2); Paul y Barnabas (Acts 14:23); Daniel (Dan.1:12)

Fasting for Confession: Moses (Dt.9:18,25); Daniel (9:3); Ezra (9:1-2); Neh  (1:4); 1Samuel 7:6)         

Fasting for Revelation: Daniel (Dan.10:1-3); Moses (Deut.9:9); Paul (Acts 9:9)

Fasting for Praise: Antioch church (Acts 13:2); Anna (Luke 2:37)

Fasting for Petition: Ezra 8:21-23); Esther 4:16); Jehoshaphat (2Chr.20:1-4) David (Ps 35:13) Joel (1:14)

DURATION OF THE FAST: 40 day fast…21 day….10 day….3 day…..1 day

TYPES OF FASTS: Absolute fast (no food or water)…..food only fast…..partial diet (vegetable only)

FAST MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY PRAYER

FAST MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY RIGHTEOUSNESS (Isa.58)

JESUS EXPECTED THAT HIS DISCIPLES WOULD FAST (Matt.6:16-17; 9:15)

Matt 6:16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

Matt 9:15 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

3:9 Who knows? God may yet relent [change his mind] and “with compassion turn” [hold back] from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." [die] (RV60) ¿Quién sabe [¡Quizá; tal vez] si se volverá y se arrepentirá Dios, y se apartará del ardor de su ira, y no pereceremos?

WHAT KIND OF GOD DO YOU HAVE?

This fear of judgment from God is startling because Assyrians were cruel, violent fearless Nahum 3:1 Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! 3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses— 4 all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft.) fearing no one (2 Kgs 18:33-35 ).

Their gods were punishing, merciless, unloving, uncompassionate gods…….but the God of Jonah was different !!!

Their fasting and praying, and their humbling of themselves before God, sent a message to heaven, but the people of Nineveh had no assurance that they would be saved. They hoped that God’s great compassion would move Him to change His plan and spare the city. How did they know that the God of the Hebrews was a merciful & compassionate God?

2 Sam. 12:22 He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought,

`Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' (RV60)  Y él respondió:  Viviendo aún el niño,  yo ayunaba y lloraba,  diciendo:  ¿Quién sabe si Dios tendrá compasión de mí,  y vivirá el niño?

Joel 2:13  Rend your heart  and not your garments.  Return to the LORD your God,  for he is gracious and compassionate,  slow to anger and abounding in love,  and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity  and leave behind a blessing--  grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. (DHH) ¡Vuélvanse ustedes al Señor su Dios,  y desgárrense el corazón  en vez de desgarrarse la ropa! Porque el Señor es tierno y compasivo,  paciente y todo amor,  dispuesto siempre a levantar el castigo. (RV60)  ¿Quién sabe si volverá y se arrepentirá y dejará bendición tras de él,  esto es,  ofrenda y libación para Jehová vuestro Dios?

3:10  When God saw *what they did [their deeds] and *how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion [relented] and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. [he changed his mind; he abandoned his plan to destroy them and didn’t carry it thru] (RV60) Y vio Dios lo que hicieron [sus acciones], que se convirtieron de su mal camino; y se arrepintió del mal que había dicho que les haría,  y no lo hizo.

THE MYSTERY: GOD CHANGED HIS MIND

Num. 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (DHH)  Dios no es como los mortales: no miente ni cambia de opinión. Cuando él dice una cosa, la realiza. Cuando hace una promesa, la cumple.

THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO HIS PROMISES

Jer.17:7-8  If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,  8  and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.  (RV60)  7 En un momento yo puedo hablar contra una nación o contra un reino, de arrancar, de derribar y de destruir; 8 pero si esa nación contra la que he hablado se vuelve de su maldad, me arrepentiré del mal que pensaba traer sobre ella

 

Jonah’s obedience was followed by the outpouring of God’s power.

“The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is through his word alone that God brings blessing and opens the closed and rebellious hearts of men.

In the English Bible it is only eight words, and in Hebrew it is even shorter: five (˓od arba˓im yom wenineweh nehpaketh). The words are a simple prophecy of judgment. Yet they were greatly blessed, because they were truly God’s words and not the words of a mere man.

God’s word is on a life saving mission!

            God has saved the Sailors…God had saved Jonah….God had saved the Ninevites,

            But God wasn’t done yet….there was one more thing left to do in Jonah’s heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROPOSITO DEL AYUNO:

Ayuno de Consagración: Cristo (Lc.4:2); Pablo y Bernabé (Hechos 14:23); Daniel (Dan.1:12)

Ayundo de Confesión de Pecado: Moisés (Deut.9:18,25); Daniel (9:3); Ezdras (9:1-2); Nehemías  (1:4); 1 Samuel 7:6)     

Ayuno de Revelación: Daniel (Dan.10:1-3); Moisés (Deut.9:9); Pablo (Acts 9:9)

Ayuno de Alabanza: Iglesia de Antioquia (Hechos 13:2); Ana (Lucas 2:37)

Ayuno de Peticiónes: Esdras (8:21-23); Ester (4:16); Josafat (2 Crón.20:1-4) Ninevitas (Jonás) David (Sa. 35:13) Joel (1:14)

TIEMPO DEL AYUNO: 40 dias…21 días….10 días….3 días…..1 día

TIPOS DE AYUNOS: Ayuno total (sin comida o agua) Ayuno solo de comida; Ayuno limitado (Daniel solo comió vegetales)

El Ayundo necesita ser acompaniado con Oración

El Ayundo de ser acompaniado con Justicia (Isaías 58)

Cristo esperaba que sus discípulos íban a ayunar (Mateo 6:16-17;  9:15)

 

PURPOSE OF FASTING:

Fasting for Consecration: (Luke 4:2; Acts 14:23; Daniel 1:12)

Fasting for Confession: (Deut.9:18,25); Daniel 9:3); Ezra 9:1-2); Nehemiah 1:4; 1Sam.7:6)           

Fasting for Revelation: (Daniel 10:1-3; Deut.9:9; Acts 9:9)

Fasting for Praise: Antioch church (Acts 13:2); Anna (Luke 2:37)

Fasting for Petition: (Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:16; 2 Chron.20:1-4; Jonah 3; Psalm 35:13) Joel 1:14)

DURATION OF THE FAST: 40 day fast…21 day….10 day….3 day…..1 day

TYPES OF FASTS: 3 day Absolute fast (no food or water)…..food only fast…..partial diet (vegetable only fast)

Fast must be accompanied BY PRAYER

Fast must be accompanied BY RIGHTEOUSNESS (Isa.58)

PROPOSITO DEL AYUNO:

Ayuno de Consagración: (Lc.4:2; Hechos 14:23; Daniel 1:12)

Ayundo de Confesión de Pecado: (Deut.9:18,25; Daniel 9:3; Esdras 9:1-2); Nehemías  1:4; 1 Sam. 7:6

Ayuno de Revelación: Daniel (Dan.10:1-3); Moisés (Deut.9:9); Pablo (Acts 9:9)

Ayuno de Alabanza: Iglesia de Antioquia (Hechos 13:2); Ana (Lucas 2:37)

Ayuno de Peticiónes: Esdras (8:21-23); Ester (4:16); Josafat (2 Crón.20:1-4) Ninevitas (Jonás) David (Sa. 35:13) Joel (1:14)

TIEMPO DEL AYUNO: 40 dias…21 días….10 días….3 días…..1 día

TIPOS DE AYUNOS: Ayuno total (sin comida o agua) Ayuno solo de comida; Ayuno limitado (Daniel solo comió vegetales)

El Ayundo necesita ser acompaniado CON ORACIÓN

El Ayundo de ser acompaniado CON JUSTICIA (Isaías 58)

Cristo esperaba que sus discípulos íban a ayunar (Mateo 6:16-17;  9:15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3:1,2 Gracious in giving Jonah a second chance, God again commissioned him to go to Nineveh. Jonah is the only prophet actually sent by God to preach repentance in a foreign land. 3:3 an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey. Lit. “a great city to God,” the text emphasizes not only its size (1:2) but its importance (4:11). A metropolitan city the size of Nineveh, with a circumference of about 60 mi., would require 3 days just to get around it. These dimensions are confirmed by historians. Stopping to preach would only add to the time requirement. 3:4 Yet forty days. The time frame may harken back to Moses’ supplication for 40 days and nights at Sinai (Deut. 9:18,25). Jonah’s message, while short, accomplishes God’s intended purpose. 3:5 the people … believed God. Jonah’s experience with the fish (2:1–10), in light of the Ninevites pagan beliefs (1:2), certainly gained him an instant hearing. From the divine side, this wholesale repentance was a miraculous work of God. Pagan sailors and a pagan city responded to the reluctant prophet, showing the power of God in spite of the weakness of His servant. 3:6 The king of Nineveh, thought to be either Adad-nirari III (ca. 810–783) or Assurdan III (ca. 772–755), exchanged his royal robes for sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6; Is. 58:5). Reports of Jonah’s miraculous fish experience may have preceded him to Nineveh, accounting for the swift and widespread receptivity of his message ( 1:2). It is generally believed that acid from the fish’s stomach would have bleached Jonah’s face, thus validating the experience. 3:7–9 man nor beast. It was a Persian custom to use animals in mourning ceremonies. 3:10 God saw … God relented. See Gen. 6:6 (Jer. 18:7,8). The Ninevites truly repented.

Gene 6:6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

Jer.17:6  "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  7  If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,  8  and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.  9  And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,  10  and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.  11  "Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, `This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.'  12  But they will reply, `It's no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.'"

The Obedience of Jonah (chaps. 3-4)

The recommissioning of the prophet (3:1-2) 3:1-2. After turning Jonah from willful

disobedience the Lord again commanded the prophet to fulfill his appointed task (1:2). Three times

Nineveh is described as a great city (1:2; 3:2; 4:11; ”very large city,“ 3:3). the city was surrounded by an inner wall and an outer wall. The huge inner wall (50 feet

wide and 100 feet high) was about eight miles in circumference while the outer wall encompassed

fields and smaller towns (Gen. 10:11-12). The words ”great city“ probably included the city of

Nineveh proper and its administrative environs. His instructions were simply to travel those 550

miles to Nineveh and preach the message the Lord would provide at the appropriate time (Jonah

3:4). Interestingly in His recommissioning the prophet, God did not repeat the reason for the

proclamation (1:2b). The obedience of the prophet (3:3-4) 3:3. The prophet’s response here

differs from his response in chapter 1. Here he obeyed the . . . Lord and made his way northeast to

Nineveh. Earlier (1:3) he disobeyed the Lord and went west. Jonah again mentioned the great size of

the city, commenting that it took three days to go all through it, that is, through Nineveh and its

suburbs (3:2). 3:4. Going a day’s journey does not mean that Jonah traveled into the city for a

whole day before preaching. Instead it means on the first day he entered the city he began preaching.

The message God gave the prophet was the threat of complete destruction of Nineveh within 40 . . .

days. Perhaps this was a period of grace, giving the people an opportunity to repent before the

judgment fell. Jonah continued this proclamation for three days before going ”east of the city“ (4:5).

The conversion of the Ninevites (3:5-10) the action of the people (3:5) 3:5. The words of

Jonah spread rapidly through every quarter of greater Nineveh. The Ninevites accepted Jonah’s

message and believed God. As the prophet preached doom, the people—ironically—changed. Earlier

Jonah had repented, and now these Gentiles repented. As outward symbols of inward contrition and

humiliation they fasted (1 Sam. 7:6; 2 Sam. 1:12; Neh. 1:4; Zech. 7:5) and put on sackcloth (coarse

cloth; Gen. 37:34; 1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1; Es. 4:1-4; Lam. 2:10; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:8). People in every

social strata, from the greatest to the least, hoped that God might turn from His anger and spare

them. As previously noted, some scholars find such an extensive turning to God incredible. True,

Assyrian records make no mention of this city-wide penitence, but official historical records often

delete events, especially those that might embarrass them (Egyptian records do not refer to the

Israelites’ crossing the Red Sea or did the Assyrians record the loss of 185,000 soldiers in Jerusalem,

2 Kings 19:35). Another question about the Ninevites is whether their conversion was genuine. Was

their religious response superficial as in the case of Ahab? (1 Kings 21:27-29 25  (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.  26  He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)  27  When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.  28  Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite:  29  "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.") If the Ninevites’

conversion was genuine, it may be difficult to explain why the Assyrians continued their violence

and why they soon destroyed Israel (37 years later, in 722 b.c., the Assyrians destroyed the

Northern Kingdom). Perhaps the next generation reverted to the Assyrians’ typical violence. Also

Jonah’s message concerned repentance from evil to avoid judgment; perhaps many believed Jonah’s

words without becoming genuinely converted. They could have believed the fact of God’s threat of

judgment without trusting in Yahweh as the only true God. ”But however deep the

penitential mourning of Nineveh might be, and however sincere the repentance of the people . . . they

acted according to the king’s command; the repentance was not a lasting one, or permanent in its

effects“ . Apparently the Ninevites responded from fear (Jonah 3:8-9) under the power of Jonah’s proclamation. Though the

people were outwardly contrite (fasting and wearing sackcloth) there may have been no enduring

spiritual change. At any rate, the preaching of Jonah occasioned extensive and intensive, if not

durative, religious effects. the action of the king (3:6-9) His repentance (3:6) 3:6. Word of the

religious humiliation of the people reached the king of Nineveh (probably Ashur-dan III). Though

Nineveh did not become capital of the Assyrian Empire until some time in the reign of Sennacherib

(705-681 b.c.), some of her kings did reside there. Such news of pending, almost immediate doom

caused the king to respond in the way his people did (v. 5). Wearing sackcloth, a coarse garment,

and sitting in dust (Isa. 47:1) showed he was contrite and believed the prophet’s message. His

proclamation (3:7-9) 3:7-8. The king’s remorse led him and his nobles to issue a royal decree.

The decree instructed the people to fast (this decree may have been the reason for the fast referred to

in v. 5), to wear sackcloth (v. 5), to call urgently on God, and to relinquish their wickedness (evil

ways; v. 10). Even the animals were not allowed to eat, and were draped with sackcloth. This

practice was not strange in the Near East; it was another sign of the people’s remorse. 3:9. Who

knows? (2 Sam. 12:22 He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought,

`Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.'; Joel 2:13  Rend your heart 

and not your garments.  Return to the LORD your God,  for he is gracious and compassionate,  slow

to anger and abounding in love,  and he relents from sending calamity.  14  Who knows? He may turn

and have pity  and leave behind a blessing--  grain offerings and drink offerings  for the LORD your

God.)  hints at the possibility of God’s withdrawing His threat. By their contrition the king hoped that

Jonah’s God would relent of His judgment and turn from His . . . anger, thereby sparing the city.

(we will not perish, in Jonah 1:6.) This fear of judgment from God is

startling because the Assyrians were a cruel, violent nation (Nahum 3:1, 3-4) fearing no one (2 Kings

18:33-35). the action of god (3:10) 3:10. The prophet’s message may have included conditions

whereby the threats of God could be rescinded. As an evidence of His mercy to the Ninevites God

sent Jonah to them, told him what to proclaim to them, and opened the hearts of a vast population.

Also, seeing their repentant actions, God relented of His threat of destruction. He had spared Jonah

(chap. 2); now He spared Nineveh. God’s mercies are always unmerited; His grace is never earned.

Repentance is never a work to be rewarded. But this is not to say that God does not act in response to

such repentance. Nineveh’s repentance delayed God’s destruction of the city for about 150 years. The

people evidently fell into sin again, so that later the city was destroyed, in 612 b.c. (see Nahum).

When God threatened punishment He provided a dark backdrop on which to etch most vividly His

forgiving mercies. This emphasized His grace most forcefully to the sinners’ hearts. God’s readiness

to have compassion on a wicked but repentant people and to withhold threatened destruction showed

Israel that her coming judgment at God’s hand was not because of His unwillingness to forgive but

because of her impenitence.

THE MARVEL OF AN UNDESERVED COMMISSION (Jonah 3:1–2) Did anybody see Jonah emerge when the great fish disgorged him on the dry land? If so, the story must have spread rapidly and perhaps even preceded him to Nineveh, and that may help explain the reception the city gave him. Had Jonah been bleached by the fish’s gastric juices? Did he look so peculiar that nobody could doubt who he was and what had happened to him? Since Jonah was a “sign” to the Ninevites (Matt. 12:38–41), perhaps this included the way he looked. What the people saw or thought really wasn’t important. The important thing was what God thought and what He would do next to His repentant prophet. “The life of Jonah cannot be written without God,” said Charles Spurgeon; “take God out of the prophet’s history, and there is no history to write.” GOD MET JONAH. We don’t know where the great fish deposited Jonah, but we do know that wherever Jonah was, the Lord was there. Remember, God is more concerned about His workers than He is about their work, for if the workers are what they ought to be, the work will be what it ought to be. Throughout Jonah’s time of rebellion, God was displeased with His servant, but He never once deserted him. It was God who controlled the storm, prepared the great fish, and rescued Jonah from the deep. His promise is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5; see Josh 1:5). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2). GOD SPOKE TO JONAH. After the way Jonah had stubbornly refused to obey God’s voice, it’s a marvel that the Lord spoke to him at all. Jonah had turned his back on God’s word, so the Lord had been forced to speak to him through thunder and rain and a stormy sea. But now that Jonah had confessed his sins and turned back to the Lord, God could once again speak to him through His word. One of the tests of our relationship to God is, “Does God speak to me as I read and ponder His Word?” If we don’t hear God speaking to us in our hearts, perhaps we have some unfinished business that needs to be settled with Him. GOD COMMISSIONED JONAH. “The victorious Christian life, “ said George H. Morrison, “is a series of new beginnings.” When we fall, the enemy wants us to believe that our ministry is ended and there’s no hope for recovery, but our God is the God of the second chance. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1). “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8). You don’t have to read very far in your Bible to discover that God forgives His servants and restores them to ministry. Abraham fled to Egypt, where he lied about his wife, but God gave him another chance (Gen. 12:10–13:4). Jacob lied to his father Isaac, but God restored him and used him to build the nation of Israel. Moses killed a man (probably in self-defense) and fled from Egypt, but God called him to be the leader of His people. Peter denied the Lord three times, but Jesus forgave him and said, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). However encouraging these examples of restoration may be, they must never be used as excuses for sin. The person who says, “I can go ahead and sin, because I know the Lord will forgive me” has no understanding of the awfulness of sin or the holiness of God. “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Ps. 130:4). God in His grace forgives our sins, but God in His government determines that we shall reap what we sow, and the harvest can be very costly. Jonah paid dearly for rebelling against the Lord. GOD CHALLENGED JONAH. Four times in this book, Nineveh is called a “great city” (1:2; 3:2–3; 4:11), and archeologists tell us that the adjective is well-deserved. It was great in history, having been founded in ancient times by Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod (Gen. 10:8–10). It was also great in size. The circumference of the city and its suburbs was sixty miles, and from the Lord’s statement in Jonah 4:11, we could infer that there were probably over 600,000 people living there. One wall of the city had a circumference of eight miles and boasted 1,500 towers. The city was great in splendor and influence, being one of the leading cities of the powerful Assyrian Empire. It was built near the Tigris River and had the Khoser River running through it. (This fact will prove to be important when we study the Book of Nahum.) Its merchants traveled the empire and brought great wealth into the city, and Assyria’s armies were feared everywhere. Nineveh was great in sin, for the Assyrians were known far and wide for their violence, showing no mercy to their enemies. They impaled live victims on sharp poles, leaving them to roast to death in the desert sun; they beheaded people by the thousands and stacked their skulls up in piles by the city gates; and they even skinned people alive. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nahum 3:10). It was to the wicked people of this great city that God sent His servant Jonah, assuring him that He would give him the message to speak. After making the necessary preparations, it would take Jonah at least a month to travel from his own land to the city of Nineveh, and during that trip, he had a lot of time available to meditate on what the Lord had taught him.The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you and the power of God can’t use you. “And who is sufficient for these things? … Our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2:16 and 3:5). THE MARVEL OF AN UNPARALLELED AWAKENING (Jonah 3:3–10) From a human perspective, this entire enterprise appears ridiculous. How could one man, claiming to be God’s prophet, confront thousands of people with this strange message, especially a message of judgment? How could a Jew, who worshiped the true God, ever get these idolatrous Gentiles to believe what he had to say? For all he knew, Jonah might end up impaled on a pole or skinned alive! But, in obedience to the Lord, Jonah went to Nineveh. Jonah’s message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3–4). “Three days’ journey” means either that it would take three days to get through the city and its suburbs or three days to go around them. The NIV translation of verse 3 suggests that it would take three days to visit all of the area. According to Genesis 10:11–12, four cities were involved in the “Nineveh metroplex”: Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen. However you interpret the “three days,” one thing is clear: Nineveh was no insignificant place. When Jonah was one day into the city, he began to declare his message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Throughout Scripture, the number forty seems to be identified with testing or judgment. During the time of Noah, it rained forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4, 12, 17). The Jewish spies explored Canaan forty days (Num. 14:34), and the nation of Israel was tested in the wilderness forty years (Deut. 2:7). The giant Goliath taunted the army of Israel forty days (1 Sam. 17:16), and the Lord gave the people of Nineveh forty days to repent and turn from their wickedness.

At this point, we must confess that we wish we knew more about Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh. Was this the only message he proclaimed? Surely he spent time telling the people about the true and living God, for we’re told, “The people of Nineveh believed God” (Jonah 3:5). They would have to know something about this God of Israel in order to exercise sincere faith (Acts 17:22ff). Did Jonah expose the folly of their idolatry? Did he recount his own personal history to show them that his God was powerful and sovereign? We simply don’t know. The important thing is that Jonah obeyed God, went to Nineveh, and declared the message God gave him. God did the rest. Nineveh’s message to God (Jonah 3:5–9). In the Hebrew text, there are only five words in Jonah’s message; yet God used those five words to stir the entire population, from the king on the throne to the lowest peasant in the field. God gave the people forty days of grace, but they didn’t need that long. We get the impression that from the very first time they saw Jonah and heard his warning, they paid attention to his message. Word spread quickly throughout the entire district and the people humbled themselves by fasting and wearing sackcloth. When the message got to the king, he too put on sackcloth and sat in the dust. He also made the fast official by issuing an edict and ordering the people to humble themselves, cry out to God, and turn from their evil ways. Even the animals were included in the activities by wearing sackcloth and abstaining from food and drink. The people were to cry “mightily” (“urgently,”) to God, for this was a matter of life and death. When Jonah was in dire straits, he recalled the promise concerning Solomon’s temple (Jonah 2:4, 7; 1 Kings 8:38–39; 2 Chron. 6:36–39), looking toward the temple, and called out for help. Included in Solomon’s temple prayer was a promise for people outside the nation of Israel, and that would include the Ninevites. “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel … when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of You, so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You” (2 Chron. 6:32–33). Jonah certainly knew this promise, and perhaps it was the basis for the whole awakening. Like the sailors in the storm, the Ninevites didn’t want to perish (Jonah 3:9; 1:6, 14). That’s what witnessing is all about, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Their fasting and praying, and their humbling of themselves before God, sent a message to heaven, but the people of Nineveh had no assurance that they would be saved. They hoped that God’s great compassion would move Him to change His plan and spare the city. Once again, how did they know that the God of the Hebrews was a merciful and compassionate God? No doubt Jonah told them, for this was a doctrine he himself believed (Jonah 4:2). God’s message (Jonah 3:10). At some point, God spoke to Jonah and told Him that He had accepted the people’s repentance and would not destroy the city. The phrase “God repented” might better be translated “God relented,” that is, changed His course. From the human point of view, it looked like repentance, but from the divine perspective, it was simply God’s response to man’s change of heart. God is utterly consistent with Himself; it only appears that he is changing His mind. The Bible uses human analogies to reveal the divine character of God (Jer. 18:1–10). How deep was the spiritual experience of the people of Nineveh? If repentance and faith are the basic conditions of salvation (Acts 20:21), then we have reason to believe that they were accepted by God; for the people of Nineveh repented and had faith in God (Jonah 3:5). The fact that Jesus used the Ninevites to shame the unbelieving Jews of His day is further evidence that their response to Jonah’s ministry was sincere (Matt. 12:38–41). Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."  39  He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  40  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  41  The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

The Greatest Revival in History Jonah 3:1–10 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. The third chapter of Jonah contains the high point of this remarkable story, for however remarkable the preceding action has been and however great the miracles, the most remarkable action and the greatest miracles are in the results of Jonah’s preaching. The result was the greatest and most thorough revival that has ever taken place. Writes Gaebelein, “Heretofore the emphasis has been upon the prophet’s preparation; tremendous as the miracle of Jonah’s preservation in the sea monster has been, it is more a preface than a conclusion. Now the veil is drawn aside, and something of the strange purpose of the Almighty in dealing with his prophet is revealed. If the miracle of the fish is great, that of this chapter is greater. For here is the record of nothing less than the greatest mass conversion in history. Though generalities must always be used with caution, we may say that never again has the world seen anything quite like the result of Jonah’s preaching in Nineveh.” The first noteworthy fact about this revival is that it began with God’s call to just one man: Jonah. And even that was after he had apparently disqualified himself from future service. The Second Time We cannot really imagine what it would be like if we were in the place of God, nor should we. But if we were God and if we were confronted with the situation as we have found it at the end of chapter 2, I imagine that at this point we would say that we had had just about enough of Jonah. We would recall that Jonah was a man whom we had chosen to be a prophet and to whom we had imparted a special measure of understanding in spiritual things. We would remember that we had already given him a full and blessed ministry in Israel and that we had then called him to do a tremendous work in Nineveh. Jonah should have been delighted. But instead of being delighted, he had refused this call. Finally, he had become so set in his determination that he had declared that he would rather die than return to the place of blessing. He had requested to be thrown overboard. We would recall that even then we had been gracious to him. Instead of allowing him to die, we had saved him. We had brought him to a place of repentance. Then we had spoken to the fish, and it had returned Jonah to the land. How gracious we had been! No one could expect more. So if we were God and if we should reason at this point that we had saved Jonah but that he had nevertheless disqualified himself from ever being a prophet again, who could blame us? If we were to say, “Go home now, Jonah. I am glad you have repented of your disobedience, but you are no longer useful to me,” we would be just and reasonable in so doing. But this is not God’s way. Thus, instead of reading of God’s rejection of Jonah, we find these words: “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you’ ” (vv. 1–2). The important point is that God came to Jonah the second time and that the commission was the same as on the first occasion. Does God always do that? Does God stoop to use those who have rejected his calling, turned a deaf ear to his word, and pursued a course of determined disobedience? Yes, he is like that. Yes, he does use such messengers. If he did not, none of us could serve him. We find the principle of the Lord coming to an individual a second time quite often in Scripture. Take the case of Abraham. The word of the Lord came to Abraham when he was a devil worshiper living in Mesopotamia, like all his family. The fact that they were a family of idol and, therefore, devil worshipers is stated in several Old Testament passages (Josh. 24:2–3, 14; Isa. 51:1–2). The story of Rachel’s having hidden the idols of her father (Gen. 31) shows that Abraham’s relatives still owned and cherished idols at least three generations after God had called him out of Mesopotamia. But God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees and sent him around the northern edge of the great Arabian desert to Palestine, which God was giving him. Stephen recalls this word in his speech, saying, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you’ ” (Acts 7:2–3). We might think that such a revelation and promise would have caused Abraham to travel all the way to the land God was giving. But when we read the account (Gen. 11–12), we find that he did not. Abraham left Ur, it is true. But he stopped at Haran, still hundreds of miles from Palestine. He would have stayed there had God not come to him a second time. God said on this occasion: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you; I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:1–2). The same is true of Moses who became, under God, one of the great leaders of history. We are not told much detail of the early life of Moses, only that he was raised by his mother with the blessing of the daughter of Pharaoh for the first months or years of life and that he was afterward raised in the palace of Pharaoh. Still, we know that God had revealed himself to Moses during this period. In the same speech of Stephen that mentions Abraham, we read that when Moses killed the Egyptian he did so supposing that “his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them” (Acts 7:25). This was Moses’ way of bringing about a deliverance, but it was not God’s. Consequently, Moses had to flee from Egypt to Midian, where he lived for the next forty years. We might say that Moses had ruined his chances and destroyed his future ministry. Yet after he had lived in Midian for this long period of time and when he was eighty years old, God appeared to him in a burning bush, saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10). God had appeared to Moses a second time. We find the same thing in the case of the apostle Peter. Peter had boasted that no matter what should happen he would not desert the Lord. “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death,” Peter said (Luke 22:33). Jesus revealed that Peter would deny him three times before morning. And Peter did (Luke 22:54–62)! What shall be done with Peter now? Shall he be cast off? Shall he be disqualified from future service? The Lord appears to Peter to recommission him to service, asking on three separate occasions (corresponding to Peter’s three denials), “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” (John 21:15–17). When Peter answers on each occasion, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” Jesus responds, “Feed my sheep.” The Lord came to Peter a second time. A number of years ago a young girl in Philadelphia felt the call of God to Christian service. But she married a non-Christian, who soon left her to go his own way. The experience brought the girl back to desiring God’s will. But what was she to do? Should she divorce her husband? The Scriptures taught that she should not follow this course. According to 1 Corinthians 7, she was to be open to any possible reconciliation. She decided to leave the matter in God’s hands. Having confessed her sin to God, she let her separated husband know that she was open to reconciliation if he desired it. When he declined, she let the matter rest. Within a few months her husband was killed in a car accident, and God directed her to apply to Wycliffe Bible Translators for missionary work. The word of the Lord clearly came to her a second time.The Lord comes a second time to all who are his true children. Have we never, like Abraham, stopped at our Harans? Of course, we have. We are sent on errands, but some sin or preoccupation detains us. Have we never, like Moses, taken matters into our own hands and formulated our own plans? Of course, we have. Like Peter, we have even denied our Lord on occasions when we should have spoken for him. We have disobeyed him. We have run away from him. Some of us, like Jonah, have run very far indeed. Does God cast us off? Does he disown us? No! He disciplines us, it is true. But, having done that and having brought us to the place of repentance, he returns the second time to recommission us to service. Moreover, he comes a third, a fourth, a hundredth, a thousandth time, if necessary, as it often is. None of us would be where we are now in our Christian lives if God had not dealt thus with us. Oh, the greatness of the unmerited grace of God! We deserve nothing. Yet we receive everything, even when we foolishly turn from it. William Banks speaks of how grace comes to people today: “We are moved to speak of Jonah’s God as the God of the Second Chance. But honest sober reflection compels the saint to speak of Him as the God of the 999th [777th] chance! Such gracious mercy as was extended to Jonah here, and to David, and to the thief dying upon the cross, and to Peter—surely it has been granted to all believers through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” Two More Lessons Two additional lessons appear in this passage. First, when the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, it came with the same commission he had received the first time. We often think, when we are on the verge of running away from God, that if we run away and if the Lord should nevertheless speak to us again, he might take note of the fact that we have run away and therefore change the command. He does not. When we think or act in this disobedient way, we are acting like children who do not like what they are being told to do and who therefore throw a tantrum, thinking that this might get the parents to change their minds. An indulgent or foolish parent might fall for this manipulation, but a wise parent will not. Nor does God! Consequently, after he has dealt with the tantrum, sometimes by means of a spanking, God returns to us with the same commission as before. Why try to resist it? Learn that if you try to run away from God, sooner or later he is going to catch up with you and that when he does you will have to face the very thing you are running away from. Experience his grace now instead of judgment. The second lesson is found in the one change in the second expression of the commission. The first commission had two key verbs in it: “go” and “preach.” In this commission the first verb is the same. But the second phrase, “preach against it,” is changed to “proclaim to it the message I give you.” When we remember that the greatest revival in history followed Jonah’s doing precisely that, we may reason that the spiritual life of our own time would be quite different if only those words were followed by the thousands of clergymen who fill our pulpits each Sunday. They preach. No one doubts that. But is their sermon the message God has given them? Is their preaching that which he has bid them proclaim? Today God’s ministers are called to proclaim the message of the Bible, embodying all the counsel of God. But many consider this unsophisticated or old-fashioned and so substitute the supposed wisdom of men. Their words lack power, and they bring judgment on their own heads. Obedient at Last

The first time the word of the Lord came to Jonah telling him to go to Nineveh, Jonah ran away. This time, having learned the consequences of running away, he obeyed. The contrast is with the similar command recorded in chapter 1. In that chapter, after God had told Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it,” we see the prophet’s disobedience: “But Jonah.” Here, after the identical commission, we read, “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh” (v. 3). This is something we should covet for every true Christian. Too often we try to outguess or outmaneuver God. We try to “out-but” him. Our response should be obedience. Did God say it? Then let us do it. Let it be said of us, “John Smith, Mary Jones (or whatever your name may be) obeyed the word of the Lord.” What will the result be? In the first chapter, after Jonah had voiced his “but” to God, he found that God opposed him. God sent the storm. On this occasion, Jonah obeyed and “the Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (v. 5). Jonah’s obedience was followed by the outpouring of God’s power. The difference was that Jonah was now walking according to “the word of the Lord.” In the first instance, he was trying to get away from God’s word. In the second instance, the Word was with him. The author of Hebrews says rightly: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is through his word alone that God brings blessing and opens the closed and rebellious hearts of men. A Great Revival When Jonah entered Nineveh he began to proclaim his message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (3:4). This does not seem to be a very impressive message. In the English Bible it is only eight words, and in Hebrew it is even shorter: five (˓od arba˓im yom wenineweh nehpaketh). The words are a simple prophecy of judgment. Yet they were greatly blessed, because they were truly God’s words and not the words of a mere man. According to the following verses, they were used of God to bring about a genuine and pervasive revival in the city. We can almost see Jonah as he entered a day’s journey into the city and began to cry out his message. What would his reception be? Would the Ninevites laugh? Would they turn against Jonah and persecute him? As he cried out people stopped to listen. The hum of commerce died down and a holy hush stole over the collecting multitudes. Soon there were weeping and other signs of a genuine repentance of sin. At last the message of Jonah entered even the palace, and the king, divesting himself of his magnificent robes, took the place of a mourner alongside his repenting subjects. We read, “When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “ ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish’ ” (vv. 6–9). What did the people believe? Whom did they believe? We are not told that the people believed Jonah, in spite of his deliverance and the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ later declared that Jonah was himself a “sign” to the Ninevites (Luke 11:30). We are told that the people “believed God.” Faith should never rest in the messenger, but in God who gives the message. This is one mark of all true revival and true preaching. Scholars have sometimes objected to this on grounds that the information furnished about the city is not accurate. It has been pointed out that though the city was indeed large—the circumference of the inner walls was about seven and three-fourth miles—it is hardly possible, even with extremely crowded streets, that it would have taken Jonah three days to cross it. But the answer to this is that the description probably refers to what we would call the fullest extent of the city including the suburbs. It may even refer to a fuller, geographical area including farms and outlying fortifications. A parallel comes from the cities of the Middle Ages. In Europe during the Middle Ages people lived near walled cities in order to be able to retreat into them when danger threatened. In times of peace, when no danger threatened, people spilled beyond the walls to farm and pursue other occupations. This was true of hundreds and thousands of cities, even little ones. It would be true of a large capital city such as Nineveh. It is breath-taking to come to the true high point of the story in the account of God’s repentance from bringing judgment: “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” (v. 10).

The Repentance of God That this and other verses in the Bible speak of God changing his mind (literally, “repenting”) has been a problem for some students of Scripture. But it should not be, once the phrase is understood. To begin with, this is clearly a case of employing human language to describe that which is ultimately beyond human language. God is always beyond our understanding. Consequently, we should not be surprised when phrases like this tend to confuse us. We should balance them with other statements—like that of Balaam, who said, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19). If we must choose between apparent contradictions, we must side with the truth that God is not changeable and that he does not deal falsely in the revelation of himself to us. Second, we must realize that in this case there is not even a true contradiction, for the city that God had promised to destroy, the wicked city of Nineveh, ceased to exist after Jonah’s preaching. True, it came back, as Nineveh slipped into sin again years later. We find Nahum writing of a judgment that did eventually come. But for now the city ceased to exist as sinful Nineveh and therefore came to enjoy God’s blessing. Here Martin writes perceptively: “It was wicked, violent, unrighteous, atheistical, proud, and luxurious Nineveh which God had threatened to destroy. A city sitting in sackcloth and ashes, humbled in the depths of self-abasement, and appealing as lowly suppliants to his commiseration—a Nineveh like that—that Nineveh, he had never threatened. That Nineveh he visited not with ruin. He had never said he would. The Nineveh which God threatened to destroy passed away; it became totally another city—far more so, in virtue of this change in moral state, than if it had been translated from its olden geographical position, and wholly transformed in its architectural appearance. Surely its great moral change had made it more truly another place—a kind of new creature, old things having passed away, and all things become new—than any alteration in its physical aspect could have done. It really, in God’s estimation, is not the Nineveh he threatened at all. The terrific threatening does not apply now. ‘God saw their works’—their fruits meet for repentance, namely, that they turned from their evil way—and God ‘repented of the evil that he said that he would do unto them, and he did it not.’ ” Ultimately, however, the problem posed by the repentance of God is solved, not by observing the repentance of men and women, but by noticing that God repents of the evil he would do by taking the punishment for that evil on himself. When the Hebrew speaks of God repenting, most often the word is nacham. It refers to an inner suffering needing to be consoled. Did God suffer? Not at the time of Jonah and the Ninevites. But he did so later in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God took the world’s evil on himself precisely so that he might repent of the need to visit the outworking of that evil on men. Ellul sees this clearly. “In reality God’s repenting in the face of man’s repentance is Jesus Christ. Each time there is any question of this repenting in Scripture we thus have a new prophecy of Jesus Christ who puts into effect both the justice of God and also the love of God without doing despite to either the one or the other.” Here the message of Jonah hits quite close to home. Like Jonah and the Ninevites, each of us today needs to repent of sin and turn to the righteous and merciful God of the universe. But our repentance from sin, assuming we do repent, is made possible only because God himself first repented of the evil by taking our judgment on himself. Jesus bore our judgment. Consequently, our turning from sin must be at the same time a turning to Jesus through whom alone we have forgiveness. Steps to Revival

The repentance of the Ninevites suggests the steps we should follow if we have not come to that kind of repentance. It suggests “four distinct steps” to a revival of true godliness and religion, as Gaebelein indicates in his perceptive study. First, there must be a faithful preaching and a faithful hearing of the Word of God. Jonah preached what God had given him to preach, and it was highly effective. It was not a lengthy message, but that did not matter. It was not an intellectual message, but that did not matter either. Perhaps it was not even an eloquent message, but neither did that matter. All that was necessary was that it was God’s message, preached and heard in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers who ever lived, was saved by such a message. He was a boy at the time, and he had gone to a primitive Methodist chapel whose pulpit was filled on that particular morning by a man who had no education and could barely read or write. He preached on the text, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved.” He stuck to it, for he had little else to say. “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay, many of ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. … Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ ” After about ten minutes of such preaching the speaker had quite exhausted what he had to say. But he noticed the young Spurgeon sitting under the balcony, and fixing his eyes on him, he went on, “Young man, you look very miserable. And you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved. Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look!” It was not a polished sermon. But it was a true sermon based on God’s Word, and God blessed it. Spurgeon did look and was converted. We need this preaching today. There is no greater need in America or in any other part of the world than to hear the clear preaching of the timeless truths of the Word of God. If we would have blessing in our personal lives, it must come by response to the teachings of this Book. If we would have blessing in our churches and in our land, the same response is necessary. So flock to any faithful preaching of God’s Word, and fill your mind with it. If you are in a position to share it with others, do so clearly and without apology. Do not mind that unbelievers scoff. Do not mind that liberal scholars pronounce it untrue. God will send blessing. Second, there must be belief in God. Notice that the Ninevites did more than just hear Jonah’s message. As soon as they heard, they responded by believing God. This is the way it has always been and must be. People are not led to faith through visions. Give a person a vision of God, and he will declare it interesting. It will not lead him to faith. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Third, having heard the word of God and having believed God, the city then took action on its faith by proclaiming a fast and putting on the clothes of mourning. There is no true belief without some corresponding action. In the Book of Hebrews, in that great chapter on faith (chap. 11), we are told that Abel believed God and offered a proper sacrifice; Enoch pleased God by walking close to him; Noah built an ark; Abraham obeyed and went from his own home to a new land that God would show him; Isaac blessed Jacob according to God’s instructions; Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph; Joseph gave instructions for his body to be brought back to Canaan at the time of the Exodus; Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter but chose rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time. In each case belief resulted in specific action by which the person’s trust in God was demonstrated. In the 19th century there was an acrobat (Jean Francois Gravelet) who was known by the stage name Blondin because of his fair coloring. Blondin gained a reputation for himself in Europe before coming to America, and once here he gained even greater fame by walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Thereafter he was associated in everyone’s mind with the Falls. He did numerous stunts on his crossings. On one occasion he pushed a wheelbarrow across. On another he paused to eat an omelet. Once or twice he carried his manager on his back. On one of these latter occasions, after he had reached the edge again, he is said to have turned to a man in the crowd and to have asked him, “Do you believe I could do that with you?” “Of course,” answered the man. “I’ve just seen you do it.”

“Well, then, hop on,” invited the acrobat. “I’ll carry you across.”“Not on your life!” replied the spectator. There was clearly a form of belief in the man’s first response, but it did not result in action. What is called for spiritually is a belief that will fully commit itself to Jesus, thereby allowing him to carry the believing one over the troubled waters of this life. Tom Skinner, one of the most effective black evangelists in America, demonstrated the reality of his new belief in Christ by immediately informing the members of his New York City street gang of his conversion, even though he knew that it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and that some would welcome the opportunity to turn on him. Finally, as part of this action, there must be a turning from specific sin. The Ninevites turned from the sin that was most characteristic of them: violence. We read in verse 8: “Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” We too must turn from our specific sins, whether sexual indulgence, pride, selfishness, lack of love for our Christian brothers and sisters, laziness, materialism—whatever it may be. We must not repent in vague terms. We must repent specifically, if we would be blessed by God and come to know him fully.

The Obedient Prophet (3:1-4:11)  1. Jonah's Proclamation (3:1-9)

1 The expression "a second time" is completely vague. There are no grounds for thinking with Bewer (p. 50) that "the command came to Jonah immediately after his deliverance." Alienation from life as it is really lived is always a major risk in biblical exposition. After the experience he had passed through, we can be sure that Jonah as God's servant was given some short time for physical recuperation and even more for digesting the spiritual lessons to be learned from his experiences. Nor should we take the "second time" for granted, as we are all too ready to do. There are many examples in the Scriptures of no second chance. Indeed, we should rather ask ourselves why the second call came to Jonah, for we must rule out typological motivations. The answer seems to be that the sovereignty of God is one of the main themes of the book. It is demonstrated not only in God's control of nature but also of his prophet. In another setting God might well have used someone else. It would be very rash for the Christian worker to presume, basing himself on Jonah, that his disobedience will be overlooked.

2 Since the Hebrew word gadol ("great," "large") is used of Nineveh here and in v. 3, it would be well to retain the same rendering: "large" would seem to be indicated in both verses, the more so as 4:11 suggests that it is the number of inhabitants that is being stressed. God does not lay weight on Nineveh's political importance or on the magnificence of its buildings. "The message I give you" does not necessarily suggest that Jonah would have said otherwise. It is merely one more indication that we are dealing with the sovereignty of God. It is strange, however, that many Christian preachers who take pride in proclaiming that sovereignty seem, at times, to spend much time in proclaiming their own views.

3 "Now Nineveh was a very large city" (NIV mg.) most probably is the correct reading. "A city important to God" not only does not suit the context but, worse still, introduces a note of particularity into a book where universality is constantly being implied. True enough, Jonah went to Nineveh, but the principle would have been the same had it been some other large city, e.g., Babylon, which was a major threat to Israel. The use of the perfect (hayetah) in the clause "Nineveh was an important city" has been held by some to imply that the city had been overthrown, and this is one of the chief arguments relied on by those who uphold a late date for the book. Even if this interpretation is correct, it proves no more than that the book in its present form is late. However, it may be questioned whether this sense is demanded by the syntax. The structure would rather indicate a situation that had already come into being at the time referred to than one that had ceased to obtain at the time of writing. We may therefore be justified in translating, "Now Nineveh had (already) become a great city." Assyria had yet to become the rod of God's anger against his people, but already the sheer size of her teeming metropolis was fraught with impending menace in the prophet's intuitive vision, and deepened the feelings of dread foreboding for his beloved land and people, and this foreboding oppressed his subconscious mind and underlay his profound unwillingness that Nineveh should repent and be spared. The stress on the importance and size of Nineveh is entirely justified. Its population was at least 120,000 (4:10), while Samaria, almost certainly larger than Jerusalem, had about 30,000 (R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961], p. 66). In addition, the Israelite cities, built in naturally defensive positions, normally on hilltops and tells, were cramped and crowded; but the royal cities in the Mesopotamian plain had room to expand.

"A visit required three days" renders the Hebrew phrase that literally says "a distance of three days." This could mean that it took three days to go either across it or around it; but it certainly does not mean what the English rendering might be taken to imply, viz., that it would take three days to visit every part of it. Diodorus Siculus (first century B.C.) gave the circumference of the city as approximately sixty miles (cf. Notes), and thus many have maintained that the three days referred to the journey around the walls. Modern archaeology has shown, however, that the inner wall had a length of almost eight miles (cf. Notes). Today defenders of the historicity of the book interpret the statement as referring to "Greater Nineveh," i.e., the administrative district of Nineveh, which Parrot (p. 17) calls "the Assyrian triangle." This interpretation receives strong support from Genesis 10:11-12, where "that is the great city" seems to refer to the whole area covered by Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah (Nimrud), and Resen.

4 Jonah was not necessarily proclaiming God's message as he went into the city. But sometime "on the first day," Jonah "proclaimed" his message. There may well have been something about Jonah, his bearing, his dress, or something else, as he strode toward the center of the city, looking neither to the right nor to the left, that drew many after him. When he finally stood and shouted, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed," the news spread like wildfire. The LXX has "three days" instead of forty. There is no doubt that this suits the setting far better and helps explain the urgency of Nineveh's repentance. In addition it does not ask us to see Jonah camping outside the city for over a month, while he waited to see the outcome. Yet, in variations of this type, which can hardly be merely the result of scribal corruptions, one has to be suspicious of the highly attractive reading (cf. note at 2:4). For all that, the LXX reading should have found a place in the margin. The credibility of the message was underscored by the fact that at the time Assyria stood in considerable danger from its northern neighbors. We are not told whether Jonah repeated his message--he probably did--or whether he was interrogated by those who heard him, and, if so, what he told them. But the word of the Lord worked the miracle, not Jonah or his commentary.

Nineveh's Repentance (3:5-10) There now begins a subtle interplay on the two divine names. Up to this point, with the obvious exception of the sailors before the Lord's power had been revealed to them, we consistently find the name "the LORD" (Yahweh), i.e., the name of the covenant-making God of Israel. Now alongside it we find the name "God" (Elohim) the all-powerful One, the Creator, the Lord of nature. The obvious purpose is to bring home that Jonah had not been proclaiming Yahweh to those that did not know him but that the supreme God, whatever his name, was about to show his power in judgment. Behind all polytheism with its many gods and many lords, there was always the concept of one God who could enforce his will on the others, if he chose. There is not the slightest indication that Jonah had mentioned the God of Israel or had said that he came in his name. The Ninevites, however, recognized the voice of the supreme God, whatever name they may have given him, and repented. That Elohim ("God") is retained in v. 10 shows that the sparing of Nineveh had nothing to do with an improved faith. Correct faith, in this sense, need not lead to salvation (James 2:19).

5 The hypercritical have found a contradiction between a fast that had already been declared (v. 5) and the king's subsequent proclamation (v. 7). A very common feature of Hebrew narrative is to mention the outcome first and the way it came to pass afterwards. This could easily be the case here. The fact, however, is that "they declared" is far too narrow a translation for qara, which simply means "to call" in the widest sense. We are intended to picture the people, both those who hear Jonah and those to whom his words are reported, as saying spontaneously, "Let us fast!" That they put on sackcloth does not invalidate this interpretation, for it was a standard, virtually obligatory accompaniment of fasting at the time (2 Sam 3:31, 35; Isa 58:5; Dan 9:3). Indeed, in many cases where sackcloth is mentioned, we can assume that there was fasting as well, and vice versa. Sackcloth, the coarsest of cloth, often made of goat's hair, was the normal dress of the poor, prisoners, and slaves; it was worn by those who mourned (Ezek 7:18). Prophets wore it (2 Kings 1:8; Zech 13:4; Mark 1:6), partly to associate themselves with the poor, partly perhaps as a sign of mourning for the sins of the people. When used in mourning, it covered no more of the body than was demanded by decency. When used by the Ninevites, it expressed their complete inability to contend with the divine decree and that they were the slaves of the supreme God.

6 There is no suggestion that Jonah made any effort to reach the royal presence hence the news would have reached the king later than it did many of his subjects. He not only came down from his throne and sat on the ground--a feature of mourning rites--dressed in sackcloth like the meanest slave, but he sat in the dust, which means, presumably, in the open air, where he could be seen by his subjects. All this was done completely spontaneously. Then, however, as he sat with his courtiers ("nobles"), there came the realization that this concerned everyone; and the decree was issued (v. 7). There seems to be no doubt that the title "king of Nineveh" means the king of Assyria; and since the Assyrians did not use such a title, some point to this as one more proof of the unhistorical nature of the book. Those who take up this position are under obligation to explain why the alleged postexilic author should have invented the title the more so as he had numerous names of Assyrian kings to choose from, and he would have known who was king of Assyria. The real explanation is not so difficult to find. Our attention has been fixed on one spot. Jonah's message was not to Assyria in general but to Nineveh in particular. Especially, if we accept that the doom was to fall in three days' time (v. 4), this is not hard to understand. So it is irrelevant that the king of the doomed city is also king of a wider area; it is even irrelevant that this wider area would inevitably be involved in the destruction of Nineveh. Equally, the name, titles, and achievements of Nineveh's king are irrelevant. He and the city are linked together and share in the same fate. We call it today an existential position, a moment of crisis; neither what went before nor what might follow after has any real bearing on the story. A city and its king have to act, and according to their action so will be their fate.

7 We are intended to picture the king's courtiers and counselors sitting in the dust around him and rapidly agreeing on a decree that makes the spontaneous response official. With the mourners were to be linked the domestic animals (behemah), a touch suggesting that it was indeed "Greater Nineveh" that was involved. Though we have no records from Mesopotamia of animals being so involved in mourning rites, there is nothing alien to the Oriental mind in it. Herodotus (Histories 9.24) tells us of an analogous act by the Persians after the death of Masistius, in which they "shaved their heads, cut the manes of their horses and mules and abandoned themselves to such cries of grief that the whole of Boeotia was loud with the noise of them." Israel seems to have regarded it as natural (cf. Jud 4:10, a book written shortly before 100 B.C., and also Joel 1:10). The concept of a common Creator, today so often replaced by an impersonal idea of evolution, saw man and animal far more closely linked than does the modern concept of a purely biological link.

8 "Let them give up their evil ways and their violence" is the typically Hebrew way of joining the general and the specific. Anything and everything condemned by law and conscience is included under "evil ways." "Violence" (hamas) means a defiance of the law by one too strong to be brought to account. Its use in Genesis 16:5, where this word is usually translated by "wrong," shows that no actual force need be involved; Sarai was complaining that Abram's protection of Hagar prevented her from obtaining justice. If we think purely of the situation in Nineveh, only a relatively small section of the population would come within its scope. We should think rather of the Assyrian attitude toward others. Amos 1:3-2:3 shows that, while there was no written code of international law at the time, there was a generally accepted code of conduct. The Assyrian assumed that in virtue of his conquests he had been placed above lesser breeds and was entitled to ignore the dictates of conscience and compassion in his behavior to his neighbors. It is interesting that Habakkuk applies this same word "violence" (hamas) to the Chaldeans (Hab 1:9; 2:8, 17). It is very easy to slip into the concept that our position gives us the right to dominate others. Much racial prejudice and discrimination come from this.

9-10 The operative phrase in these two verses is that God "had compassion" (niham wayyinnahem), in a setting where KJV, RSV, RV have "repent." NIV's rendering is preferable because it avoids the possible misunderstanding linked with the traditional one; but that it is inadequate is shown by its being changed to "a God who relents" in 4:2, which in fact is nearer the sense here also. We may know the character of God only from what he does and the words he uses to explain his actions. When he does not do what he said he would, we as finite men can say only that he has changed his mind or repented, even though we should recognize, as Jonah did (4:2), that he had intended or desired this all along. Since, more often than not, it is the removal of threatened evil, punishment, and death that we experience--the opposite, however, is also true (cf. Jer 18:9-10)--we realize that the change of mind, the "repentance," is due to divine compassion for frail and mortal man. Despite all this, "compassion" is an inadequate rendering because it does not bring out the concept of a change. Thus "relent" is better. Paul could stress that the work of Christ was God reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:18), for in Christ we see the unchangeable character of God in all its loving compassion. Here God's change was due to the change in the Ninevites. Because of our almost incorrigible identification of faith with right belief, we fail to sufficiently realize that true faith must be bound up with true repentance. Notice that the name Elohim continues to be used of God. There is no suggestion that God's mercy was accompanied by any revelation of his nature and character. We are always inclined to underestimate God's "uncovenanted mercies," to use a term much loved by an earlier generation.

Preaching. 3:1-10. The Lord’s Second Command. 3:1, 2. Now that Jonah had surrendered to God, he was ready for service. The second command was almost identical with the first one (1:2). The content of the proclamation was to be given to the prophet later. Declaring the Message. 3:3, 4.  This time Jonah’s response was immediate. Following the caravan trail to the area of the upper Tigris River, he arrived at the complex known as Nineveh, that great city (v. 2), having been directed in his travels by the Lord. 3. Nineveh was. Some have maintained that the Hebrew verb translated was is in the pure past tense, which suggests that at the time of this story the city had been destroyed. We know that the destruction of the city occurred in 612 B.C. The Hebrew language has no true past tense, indeed has no tenses in its verb system. The ’perfect’ aspect of the verb may at times be translated into an English past tense, but its sense is much broader. The ’perfect’ form may also indicate an act (such as the founding of a city) which has been extended into a state of being. Consequently, all that is intended here is: Nineveh existed in Jonah’s day as a great city. City of three days’ journey. In olden times a city comprised not only its built up area, but also its territory and dependent villages or cities (see comments on 1:2). The descriptive phrase may refer to the circumference of this complex, that is, about sixty to seventy miles. On the other hand, the expression may be only an idiomatic parallelism of “that great city.” 4. Began to enter ... a day’s journey. This statement does not mean that Jonah completed a day’s journey before he started to preach; it means that he started to preach at the beginning of his visit to Nineveh. A day’s journey in open country was about twenty miles, but in an inhabited area the course of such a journey was not likely to lie in a straight line but to weave back and forth through the markets and small streets. Yet forty days. Jonah’s message was brief, and at first glance it seemed to be unconditional. It was a cry of woe and calamity. Nineveh’s Repentance. 3:5-9. 1) In Sackcloth and Ashes. 3:5, 6. 5. People ... believed God. The people of Nineveh took Jonah’s words as a message from God and became greatly concerned about their danger. Semitic people in groups have always been easily swayed, and a man of Jonah’s appearance and desolate cry probably attracted the multitudes and stirred them deeply. Mob reactions are still common in the Middle East. Here their natural tendency was no doubt heightened by the Spirit of God. Proclaimed a fast. In times of danger it was considered proper to refuse food and give full time to supplicating deity until danger was past. Put on sackcloth. Sackcloth was regarded as a symbol of humility and utter dependence on God. It was a coarse ugly cloth not fit for normal wear. 6. King of Nineveh. Not the emperor of the Assyrian empire but the ruler of the city-state. He also joined in the fast by making it official. Having put on sackcloth, along with the others, he began to plead for mercy. Sat in ashes (Job 2:8; Jer 6:26; Mic 1:10). A graphic way of declaring that man is nothing in the face of great danger. The King’s Decree. 3:7-9. 7. Published ... the decree. The response of the people was made an act of the state. It has been a common practice among Semitic people to include their animals in their times of mourning and distress. It may seem strange to Western people that the cries of the famished beasts were intentionally added to those of the people; but Orientals regarded this as essential for effective supplication. 8. Beast be covered. By putting sackcloth on the animals as well as on themselves the Ninevites symbolized the unity of man and nature in the humbling and petition. Turn ... away from his evil way. As is so often the case in times of danger, people who otherwise seem completely indifferent become very conscious of their misdeeds-a sad commentary on man’s lack of gratitude for God’s blessings in good times. From ... violence. The people of Assyria were noted for their cruelty to other people, especially prisoners of war. The Ninevites were quickened in conscience to realize that their treatment of other people was about to bring disaster upon them. 9. God will turn and repent. These two verbs do not signify that the Ninevites thought God was fickle. They indicate, instead, that these pagans believed the Lord’s greatest desire was not to destroy men but to save them. The word repent, when used of God, does not denote sorrow for sin. It points rather to a decision on God’s part to change his method of dealing with his creatures. Thorough going repudiation of sin by man is pleasing to God, and in response He graciously pours out His love. Judgment Withheld. 3:10. Jonah’s message apparently was not an “if” sentence; yet in reality it was conditional, because God’s threat of punishment can be set aside when real repentance is in evidence. The Lord’s promises of salvation take procedence over his threats. God’s love is eternal, but his expressions of wrath serve to quicken man to repentance. In the case of Nineveh, the Lord did not change in his essence; only his way of dealing with man changed. This is the wonder of mercy and love.

GOD’S FIRST CALL AND JONAH’S RESPONSE (1:1–16)

1. God’s

GOD’S SECOND COMMISSION AND JONAH’S OBEDIENCE (3:1–10)

(1)     God’s Renewal of His Commission (3:1–2)

(2)     The Prophet’s Preaching and Nineveh’s Response (3:3–9)

1.     The Short Sermon (3:3–4)

2.     The Response of the People (3:5)

3.     The Response of the King (3:6–9)

(3)     God’s Response (3:10)

GOD’S SECOND COMMISSION AND JONAH’S OBEDIENCE (3:1–10)

1. God’s Renewal of His Commission (3:1–2)

1Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

This chapter brings resolution to the primary storyline of the Book of Jonah, for it relates the fulfillment of God’s word concerning both Nineveh and Jonah. Jonah finally obeys God and preaches in Nineveh, and the greatest miracle in the book takes place: the turning or repentance of an entire nation to God. Having experienced the miraculous expulsion from the belly of the fish, Jonah found himself on dry land. Verses 1 and 2 do not mention his emotional state, so we are left to conjecture. Did he expect events to occur in this way? Though he had hoped for deliverance, did he expect it so soon? How long did it take him to regain a sense of composure? Did he simply wait in place for God to speak to him again? While the Scripture obviously does not deal with these matters, we may surmise that there was at least a brief period in which Jonah sought to regain a sense of composure and stability. 3:1 If we read the Book of Jonah in one sitting, these words will be familiar, for 3:1–2 is strikingly similar to 1:1–2. In a sense Jonah was back to where he began. However, the Jonah in chap. 3 is somewhat different from the person found in chap. 1. Much had happened, and many lessons were learned, but the process of discipleship obviously was not yet complete. The text simply points out that God spoke to Jonah again. There is no mention of reproach for the prophet’s former disobedience. The Lord simply repeated his command. While Jonah had taken quite a detour since the first command, God’s will remained steadfast. Although God’s word came to Jonah a second time, demonstrating his forbearance and mercy, examples in Scripture show that not everyone has a second chance to do what God has commanded (Gen 3; Num 20:12; 1 Kgs 13:26). However, this text should bring thanksgiving to the heart of every believer who has been given another opportunity to do what God requires. This text, more than anything else, points to God’s sovereignty and his insistence upon the accomplishment of his will. “He will not be frustrated by the effrontery of a prophet, nor has he allowed the prophet to wander indefinitely off course.”

3:2 This verse is almost identical to 1:2 except for the final clause. It uses the same three imperatives in Hebrew, literally, “Arise, go . . . proclaim.” But in 1:2 the reason for Jonah’s mission is given, while in 3:2 the stress is on delivering God’s words. Although the precise content of the message Jonah was commanded to preach to this Assyrian city is not yet mentioned, two things are made clear: where he should preach and the source of the message. Jonah was given specific “marching orders” about the destination. He also was reminded that the message would not come from him nor from anyone else, but only from the Lord. His job was to deliver the message, not to critique or revise it. The clause “I give you” is literally “which I am speaking (or about to speak) to you.” The question arises whether the message was the same as given before, a new one God gave at this moment, or one God would give upon Jonah’s arrival at Nineveh. Nevertheless, the text confirms that Jonah was assured of God’s revelation, and he was commanded to preach that message. The verb used here for “proclaim” is the one that occurs so many times in Jonah meaning either “proclaim” or “call” (see comments on 1:2). It suggests a formal type of announcement, such as one made by an official messenger or ambassador. This lends credence to the importance of the message.

The Prophet’s Preaching and Nineveh’s Response (3:3–9) (1) The Short Sermon (3:3–4)

3Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. 4On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

3:3 The first half of v. 3 stands in stark contrast to 1:3, which begins in Hebrew with the same two words, literally, “So Jonah rose.” But whereas 1:3 continues, “to flee to Tarshish from before Yahweh,” 3:3 continues, “and went to Nineveh according to the word of Yahweh.” The last time God called, Jonah headed west. This time in response to God’s call he headed northeast. Depending upon Jonah’s starting place, the trip to Nineveh would have been approximately five hundred land miles. According to the usual manner of transport (camel or donkey caravan), it would have taken approximately one month to traverse this distance. Going by foot would have taken even longer.

Several issues are involved in interpreting the clause “Nineveh was a very important city.” First is the use of the perfect tense verb hāyětâ, translated “was.” As mentioned in the introduction, several scholars point to this as proof that Nineveh had ceased to exist by the time of Jonah’s writing. Hebrew has only two so-called tenses, and they do not necessarily mark time, especially in the kind of circumstantial clause found here. The choice of verb form here is determined not by Nineveh’s former greatness but by syntax and the past time of the surrounding narrative. It emphasizes the size and importance of the city in Jonah’s day.The phrase “a very important city” is literally “a city great to God.” Most versions have rendered the word meaning “to God” (lē˒lōhîm) as an adverb such as “exceeding” or “very.” L. C. Allen sees this phrase as a striking, biblical way of expressing a superlative by bringing it into relation with God. It is simply saying that Nineveh was “God-sized.” Although the word ˒elōhîm may serve in this way elsewhere in Scripture, Sasson claims that in such cases it is always paired with a noun, such as “prince of God” in Gen 23:6 or “mountains of God” in Ps 36:6 [Heb., v. 7]. He favors treating the phrase “as a circumlocution whereby ‘the large city’ is said to ‘belong’ to God.” It thus expresses “God’s dominion over the staunchest of Israel’s foes.” While a literal rendering “great to God” may be unnecessary, clearly God cared deeply about the Ninevites, whom he had created in his image. Therefore he sent this prophet with a message that would ultimately lead to their turning.

Following the phrase “great to God” that modifies “city” is another phrase (literally), “a journey of three days.” While some would dismiss this phrase as part of the general hyperbole or exaggeration of the writer, several scholars have shown that it can be understood in a literal sense (see Introduction, “Date,” p. 206). In the first century b.c., Diodorus Siculus correlated all the information received from the fourth-century Ctesias that Nineveh’s total circumference was approximately fifty-five miles. Given this, a three-day journey would be a reasonable trek around the city. On the other hand, the Assyrian king Sennacherib (704–681) wrote that he enlarged the circumference of the city of Nineveh from 9,300 to 21,815 cubits, or from about three miles to seven miles.But Wiseman has shown that this phrase can relate not only to Nineveh proper but to the entire administrative district of Nineveh. This metropolitan district included also the cities of Assur, Calah (Nimrud), and even Dur-Sharruken (Khorsabad). This interpretation is supported by Gen 10:11–12, where “that is the great city” seems to refer to the whole district covered by Nineveh, Rehoboth, Ir, Calah, and Resen.Regardless of the extent of Nineveh, perhaps the best way of understanding this phrase is as a description of the type of visit Jonah made to the city of Nineveh. As the NIV has translated, Jonah’s visit to Nineveh was a three-day event. Nineveh was a major diplomatic center of the ancient world, and the message God wanted the city to hear could not be shared hastily. For Jonah to have accomplished his mission, he would have had to travel to various sections, speaking to as many groups as possible. Such a visit could have taken three days. Another suggestion is that the three-day journey refers to the ancient Oriental practice of hospitality in which a visit required three days. The first day was for arrival, the second for the primary purpose of the visit, and the third for return. However the phrase is understood, it does not necessarily refer to the size of the city.

3:4 On this first day of the visit, customarily designed for meetings with city leaders, Jonah made his grand entrance. As Stuart points out, it is not likely that he simply “wandered into Nineveh” virtually unnoticed and then began shouting his message. Perhaps his first day involved meetings with officials and included the presentation of gifts to city dignitaries.Although Bewer thinks that Jonah did not preach until the end of the first day, all the text says is that he began preaching on the first day of his visit, apparently whenever he found an opportunity or place fitting for his proclamation. Jonah’s arrival in Nineveh probably was dramatic. His clothing was no doubt different from the norm, his bearing gave evidence of a different lifestyle, and a possibly bleached skin color provided for much attention.Many object to the historical reliability of this story because of the alleged unlikelihood that Jonah would have been able to communicate with the Ninevites. Bewer says that “this is another sign of the folktale character of the story.” However, if an Assyrian official could speak to the populace of Jerusalem in Hebrew in 701 b.c. (2 Kgs 18:26–28), there is no reason to doubt that a Hebrew prophet could speak to the populace of Nineveh in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the day, fifty years earlier.Allen describes the situation poetically: “Lost like a needle in a haystack inside this gigantic Vanity Fair, this Sodom of a city, the tiny figure feels he can go no further. He stops and shouts out the laconic message with which he has been entrusted.” The message from the Lord, imparted by Jonah, was a relatively short one. In the Hebrew the message was only five words long. While it is not clear that this was all he had to say, the text does suggest that God’s message was brief and that Jonah simply preached it repeatedly. If these words were the sum total of the message, no reason for the destruction was given, nor was the manner of destruction described. There was not even an explicit call to repentance.Jonah’s dialogue with God in the fourth chapter suggests that he may have preached this message with the secret hope that Nineveh would be destroyed. Fretheim states: “Jonah had just experienced the unmerited grace and goodness of God in his own life. Now he turns right around and makes it as difficult as possible for the Ninevites to experience God’s deliverance . . . a graceless message delivered by one living in the shadow of an experience of grace.”Nevertheless, although Jonah apparently did not mention the possibility of deliverance in response to repentance, both he and his audience may have assumed it. At least his audience hoped for it. If this were not so, why had Jonah’s deity given them forty days? As Stuart explains, there was ambiguity in the message, for the forty days might be “simply to assure that the divine judgment was not far off.” Also the word for “destroy” (hāpak) carries a certain vagueness, since it can mean either “turn” or “overthrow” (see comments on Amos 5:7 in this volume). It can signify “judgment, a turning upside down, a reversal, a change, a deposing of royalty, or a change of heart.” In other words, Jonah’s words could mean either that in “forty more days Nineveh would be destroyed” or that “in forty more days Nineveh would have a change of heart.” Therefore the ambiguity in these words given by the Lord may have been what opened the door of understanding for the Ninevites and led to their positive response.This also relates to the charge that Jonah’s prophecy was false since his prediction did not occur. If it was a prediction, then it was falsified by the outcome of the situation. However, if it was a warning, then it implied the condition “unless you repent.” While Jonah apparently hoped that this was a prediction, it is obvious that God meant it as a warning. Nowhere in the Book of Jonah does God call this message a prophesy. The issue is clarified even further by a reading of Jer 18:7–8, where the Lord carefully delineates the conditions under which he would relent: If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.

The discussion of warning and judgment in this passage should lead to the recognition of several key points.

1s, this passage refers to the seriousness of sin as well as the certainty of God’s judgment. Nineveh was an exceedingly wicked and violent city, and this did not escape God’s notice. In that age as well as in every age, God recognizes and condemns what is unholy and unjust. One must also recognize the issue of God’s warning to those who are outside his will and his use of believers as messengers. In the Old Testament, Israel was intended to be a light to the nations ( Isa 49:6). In the New Testament one reads of the believers’ responsibility to be ambassadors in this world and carriers of the good news. This passage in Jonah portrays beautifully God’s concern for those who are outside his will and his plan for using his disciples in the grand process of reconciliation. Thus the people of Nineveh were given time, forty days, to recognize the seriousness of the situation and to repent.

The Response of the People (3:5) 5The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. This verse gives a summary of Nineveh’s astounding response to the proclamation of this strange Hebrew prophet, which is then detailed in vv. 6–9. His message, heard by many and no doubt shared with others, spread to every part of the populace. Not only did they hear his message, they believed that it was a serious one. Thus the residents of Nineveh sought to avert their destruction. Like the reaction of the sailors in 1:5, the Ninevites’ reaction is conveyed by three verbs: “believed . . . declared . . . put on.” These describe three stages of response: inward, articulated, then outward. The events of v. 5 portray a whirlwind of activity by the populace. Since no further preaching is mentioned beyond the first day, it is possible that Jonah’s planned three-day preaching tour proved unnecessary. The revival broke out in the city on the first day. They accepted en masse the divine source of Jonah’s message, believing that what had been threatened might be carried out. The very size of Nineveh enhanced the nature of this miracle. Ellul is correct in stating that “we are here in the presence of a mystery and a miracle.”

All the odds were against Nineveh’s accepting this message. After all, “When Jeremiah preached a century or more later that Jerusalem would be overthrown, he was arrested and imprisoned for treason (Jer 26:8), although he was well known as the prophet of God.” One would not expect them to react to this strange prophet in this manner. One would imagine widespread questioning and doubt. If such a situation were to occur today, what would be the response of modern hearers? Who was going to destroy the city? How would it be done? Why should one believe such a message? We might expect that the people of Nineveh would have responded to Jonah with an incredulous sneer. Obviously the Ninevites did “believe.” The important question here, however, is what did they believe? The NIV is correct in translating this phrase, “The Ninevites believed God.” Although the Hebrew can be translated literally “and the men of Nineveh believed in God” (bē˒lōhîm), this phrase does not carry the same significance as the modern understanding of “in God,” denoting a conversion to faith. The Hebrew phrase means only that they believed what Jonah’s God said would happen. It is best to understand the phrase as the NIV (and the NRSV) translates it, “believed God.” In support of this understanding, Jonah did not mention the name Yahweh for God at this point. He used the word Elohim. The obvious purpose was to bring home that Jonah had not been proclaiming Yahweh to those who did not know him but that the supreme God, whatever his name, was about to show his power and judgment. There is not the slightest indication that Jonah at any point in his sojourn in Nineveh mentioned the God of Israel.

PREDICACIÓN. CUMPLIR CON DIOS, 3:1-10

El mensaje urgente, 3:1-4

Dios no reprende al profeta sino sencillamente le repite la orden que le había dado antes. Jonás ya sabía que era imposible huir de la presencia de Dios. No estaba de acuerdo con el mandato de Dios pero no había otra alternativa. Por lo menos aprendió esto en el estómago del gran pez. Dios pidió algo un poco distinto del primer encargo. Ya no era predicar contra la ciudad sino proclamar el mensaje que Dios le diera en el momento oportuno. Jonás no tenía que preparar un mensaje; Dios iba a darle el sermón para Nínive.

Es evidente que el autor vivió mucho tiempo después de la destrucción de Nínive ya que dice que era una ciudad grande. Sabemos que Nínive fue destruida en el 612 a. J.C. y nunca se construyo de nuevo. Es obvio que el libro se escribió después de esa fecha.

Es difícil entender la expresión que Nínive era… de tres días de camino. Probablemente significa que la “gran Nínive”, que incluía muchas poblaciones a su alrededor, abarcaba un área de más de 80 km cuadrados. Otra idea es que las calles eran tan estrechas y torcidas que un peatón tardaría tres días en caminar de un lado de la ciudad al otro. De todos modos podemos entender que Jonás llegó casi al centro de la ciudad y comenzó a dar su mensaje en un sector de densa población. Allí habló a oídos de gente de todo nivel social y económico.

Joya bíblica¡La salvación pertenece a Jehovah! (2:9c).
Una segunda oportunidadUna de las enseñanzas más interesantes en el libro de Jonás es la segunda oportunidad que el profeta tuvo para obedecer el llamado de Dios (3:1). Los dos primeros capítulos del libro hacen claro que es la voluntad y la acción de Dios lo que ha provisto esta nueva oportunidad para el profeta rebelde. Noten la acción de Dios en 1:4, 17; 2:10. Pero Jehovah… Dios obra a nuestro favor, dándonos segundas oportunidades.Qué lástima que Jonás no pudo gozarse del éxito de su misión, por lo cual su segunda oportunidad no fue de bendición personal. Qué distinto el caso de Juan Marcos quien había dejado a los misioneros Pablo y Bernabé y le fue dada una segunda oportunidad por Bernabé (Hechos 13:13; 15:37–39). Sin duda aprovechó esta segunda oportunidad y más tarde el encarcelado misionero Pablo pidió que fuera porque me es útil para el ministerio (2 Tim. 4:11). ¡Aprovechemos de estas segundas oportunidades! Son regalos preciosos de Dios.

Su mensaje era breve pero espantoso; una sola frase que el profeta repitió constantemente. Podemos imaginar la reacción de la gente hacia este extranjero con ropa distinta y aspecto físico diferente. Les dijo que dentro del espacio de cuarenta días la ciudad estaría puesta “patas arriba”. El verbo heb. hapak significa “revolcar” y significaría la destrucción total de la ciudad. Solamente se usa aquí y en Génesis 19:29 para describir la destrucción total de Sodoma y Gomorra. A pesar de la ausencia de alguna esperanza en el mensaje, tanto Jonás como sus oyentes sabían que Dios perdonaría a Nínive si la población se arrepentía de sus pecados.

2.     El gran arrepentimiento, 3:5-10

La reacción de la gente de Nínive era lo que Jonás esperaba. La RVA indica que la sentencia de destrucción no fue realizada debido al arrepentimiento rápido y masivo del pueblo. No solamente creyeron en Dios sino que depositaron toda su confianza en él; el verbo “creer” (aman) es el mismo que se usa para describir la fe de Abraham en Génesis 15:6.

Para mostrar la sinceridad de su fe emplearon dos símbolos muy conocidos en el Medio Oriente para manifestar el arrepentimiento: el ayuno y cubrirse con cilicio, que era una tela rústica, gruesa y barata. Todos, desde los de la más alta sociedad hasta los más humildes, se unieron en la búsqueda de la misericordia de Dios. ¿Se han preguntado por qué no hay evidencia de este gran avivamiento en la historia secular de la época? Hay que reconocer que los pocos documentos que nos han llegado del período no hablan mucho de movimientos religiosos, y aun más importante, el estilo del libro es el de una parábola. La falta de evidencia externa no significa que el amor de Dios no se extienda a toda persona en todo lugar.

Es importante notar que el avivamiento comenzó con el pueblo y más tarde la “palabra” llegó al rey. Al escuchar la gravedad del mensaje y ver los resultados, el rey y sus nobles se unieron con el pueblo y expidieron un decreto de penitencia general. El libro destaca que la reacción del rey pagano era muy distinta a la de los reyes de Judá e Israel, quienes pocas veces respondieron de forma favorable a la predicación de los profetas.

Algunos eruditos comentan que en ningún otro texto se refiere al emperador de Asiria como rey de Nínive. Pero existe la posibilidad de que durante la época de Jonás Nínive no fuera la capital de Asiria, sino una de varias ciudades gobernadas por un príncipe. La palabra rey (melej) en heb. puede significar “príncipe o gobernante”.

La costumbre de cubrirse con cilicio y sentarse sobre cenizas se empleaba en momentos de tristeza o tragedia (2 Sam. 3:31; Jer. 6:26), de luto (Est. 4:1–3), de arrepentimiento (Neh. 9:1; Job 42:6; ) y humillación (Dan. 9:3–5). Cilicio era una tela rústica, gruesa y barata; el contraste con la ropa fina del rey sería algo muy evidente.

El rey y sus oficiales dieron un decreto semejante a los decretos que se hallan en Daniel y Esdras (Esd. 6:1, 3; Dan. 3:10). Lo sorprendente aquí es que se incluye a los animales en la ceremonia de arrepentimiento, pero la Biblia muchas veces dice que los animales también están bajo el cuidado de Dios. (Vea Sal. 50:10; 104:10–14.) Al verlos también a ellos con la tela de arrepentimiento daría aun más fuerza a la invocación a Dios. El libro apócrifo de Judit menciona cómo los judíos incluyeron también los animales en el ayuno y la lamentación (Judit 4:9, 10).

Lo más importante del decreto se halla al final del v. 8. El arrepentimiento no sería únicamente una ceremonia externa como Isaías 58:3–8 condena, sino un cambio radical en la moralidad. Cada uno debe dejar su mal camino, o sea el seguir un estilo de vida que se caracteriza por pecado y maldad. Deben dejar de hacer violencia; que según los profetas no solamente se ve en hechos violentos como tales sino también en la opresión a los pobres, el abuso de justicia en los tribunales y la inmoralidad en la vida personal (ver Isa. 1:16, 17; Jer. 25:5; 26:3; 36:7; Amós 2:6, 7; 5:14, 15). El verbo “arrepentirse” usado en el v. 8 es el verbo heb. shub que significa un cambio radical en la dirección de la vida, una vuelta de 180 grados. No es solamente estar triste por los pecados; es la acción de dejar un estilo malo de vida y comenzar a practicar un estilo de vida nuevo con otras metas y perspectivas.

En el v. 9 el rey expresa la misma esperanza que los marineros manifestaron en el cap. 1. No está seguro de que Dios va a perdonar a los habitantes de Nínive pero sabe que tiene el poder para hacerlo. La traducción de la RVA es mejor que otras que dicen que Dios se va a arrepentir. El v. 9 significa que Dios puede tener compasión y cambiar de parecer. No es un cambio fundamental como ocurre en el pecador arrepentido, sino la manifestación del amor y la misericordia de Dios hacia personas arrepentidas. Parece que el rey sabía de la misericordia de Dios aunque Jonás no la mencionó al predicar. Jeremías recibió una palabra de Jehovah, la cual decía que Dios estaba dispuesto a perdonar a las naciones del Medio Oriente si ellos se arrepentían de su maldad (Jer. 18:7–9).

Joya bíblicaCúbranse de cilicio tanto hombres como animales. Invoquen a Dios con todas sus fuerzas, y arrepiéntase cada uno de su mal camino y de la violencia que hay en sus manos. ¿Quién sabe si Dios desiste y cambia de parecer, y se aparta del furor de su ira, y así no pereceremos? (3:8, 9).

El v. 10 es de suma importancia porque nos enseña que Dios escucha las oraciones de cualquier pueblo y observa sus acciones al dejar su mal camino para seguirlo. La misericordia de Dios se extiende a cada habitante de este planeta. Tal vez sus nombres no figuran con los de los reyes y presidentes pero Dios se acuerda de ellos y está dispuesto a bendecir a los que acuden a él. Nuestro Salvador reconoció el gran significado del cambio en la vida de la gente de Nínive cuando dijo: Los hombres de Nínive se levantarán en el juicio contra esta generación y la condenarán, porque ellos se arrepintieron ante la predicación de Jonás. ¡Y he aquí uno mayor que Jonás está en este lugar! (Luc. 11:32).

Vemos en este gran texto la expresión del amor y la misericordia de Dios. Jonás no le habló a la gente de Nínive sobre el amor de Dios, pero Dios les manifestó su amor cuando ellos cambiaron radicalmente su estilo de vida. Con esto se ve que la profecía de Jonás no era una “profecía incondicional”; todo dependía de la actitud y las acciones de sus oyentes. Otros profetas sabían que Dios podía desistir del juicio si las personas cambiaban su manera de vivir (ver Jer. 18:8 ; Ezq. 33:10–20; Joel 2:13–14).

EGOÍSMO. EL DISCIPLINAR DE DIOS, 4:1-11

El profeta enojado, 4:1-4

El capítulo comienza con una manifestación del egoísmo del profeta y su nacionalismo estrecho. Como el pecado de David “desagradó” a Dios (2 Sam. 11:27) la misericordia de Dios desagradó al profeta rebelde. La palabra enojó viene de un verbo que significa “estar caliente o prenderse” (jarah). El enojo era como fuego dentro de Jonás. Al fin Jonás reconoce el motivo de su intento de huir de la presencia de Dios. No quería que los asirios gozaran de la misericordia de Dios ni ser mensajero de Dios a ellos. En verdad, de todos los enemigos de Israel los asirios eran los más crueles; no solamente destruyeron la ciudad de Samaria y deportaron a sus habitantes sino que pusieron otra gente en la tierra de manera que los judíos ni siquiera tenían patria a la cual regresar. No solamente Jonás tendría fuertes prejuicios contra ellos; muchos de sus compatriotas tampoco hubieran ido a darles un mensaje de parte de Dios.

Otro factor que afectó a Jonás era su conocimiento de la naturaleza de Dios. Una de las tradiciones más viejas de la Biblia describe a Dios con las mismas cualidades (Éxo. 34:6, 7 y Sal. 86:5, 15; 103:8; Joel 2:13). Dios es clemente porque muestra su favor a los justos y a los injustos, es compasivo porque tiene un amor benévolo para toda la humanidad. Es paciente, lento para la ira, y grande en misericordia, que es el amor leal dispuesto a redimir al hombre de su pecado y entrar en pacto con él para siempre.

Nínive, una ciudad grandeLa ciudad de Nínive era la capital del imperio asirio, edificado al lado del río Tigris, en la parte norteña de lo que hoy en día es Iraq. Los arqueólogos dicen que la ciudad fue ocupada siglos antes de Cristo y llegó a ser capital de Asiria durante el reinado de Senaquerib (704–681 a. de J.C.).Para las personas que vivían en Israel y Judá en aquel entonces Asiria era el país más cruel. Después de derrotar a Israel en el 722 a. de J.C. por poco capturan Jerusalén (2 Rey. 18, 19). La profecía de Nahúm demuestra el miedo y el odio que los judíos tenían para los asirios por su violencia y el terrorismo con que atacaban a sus enemigos. Nahúm le da el mensaje de Dios a la odiada Nínive, Pero acerca de ti, Jehovah ha mandado: “Nunca más sea mencionado tu nombre. De la casa de tu dios destruiré los ídolos y las imágenes de fundición, y la convertiré en sepulcro; porque fuiste vil” (Nah. 1:14). Termina su profecía con las palabras tan penetrantes, No hay medicina para tu quebranto; tu llaga es incurable (Nah. 3:19a).La ciudad de Nínive cayó frente al ataque del ejército combinado de medos y babilonios en el 612 a. de J.C.

Entonces como Moisés y Elías habían hecho antes, Jonás pidió que Dios le quitara la vida (Núm. 11:10–15 y 1 Rey. 19:4). Es triste ver una oración tan distinta de su oración del capítulo 2. Viendo al “viejo Jonás” del cap. 1, podemos ver que obedeció el mandamiento de Dios porque sabía que no se puede huir de la presencia de Dios, pero quería morir antes de ver la salvación de los asirios.

La pregunta de Dios es una manera suave y compasiva de reprender al profeta. Debe moverlo a reconocer que su posición es absurda y a reflexionar sobre lo que él ya sabe es la naturaleza de Dios. Jonás no dijo nada y era evidente que Dios tendría que trabajar aún más con su mensajero rebelde.

2.     La ilustración gráfica, 4:5-8

Puesto que Jonás era una persona tan terca es posible que él haya interpretado la pregunta de Dios como si esta significara que Dios no estaba engañado por el arrepentimiento falso de la gente, y que después de los 40 días la destrucción efectivamente caería sobre Nínive. Hizo una enramada semejante a las que los judíos hicieron para celebrar la fiesta de Tabernáculos. ¿Se puede imaginar el efecto psicológico sobre la gente de Nínive al ver al profeta de “malas noticias” esperando sobre una loma para ver los resultados de su profecía?

Una vez más vemos la intervención directa de Dios en la vida de Jonás; pues Jehovah dispuso el crecimiento de una planta de ricino. Tal como había enviado la tempestad y el gran pez, y haciendo uso del mismo verbo hebreo que en el 1:17, Dios mandó otro fenómeno de la naturaleza. Se ve que Jonás no era buen constructor puesto que su enramada no le dio toda la sombra que necesitaba para refugiarse del sol del Medio Oriente. El ricino se distingue por sus hojas anchas y su rápido crecimiento. De nuevo vemos una nota del humor fino que caracteriza al libro. Un autor argentino observa que a veces no se sabe si Jonás es profeta o payaso (ver bibliografía). Jonás se pone muy contento por la planta que hace su tiempo de espera más cómodo. Parece que pone más valor sobre las cosas que sobre las personas, especialmente la gente de Nínive.

Su felicidad duró poco. Después de apenas 24 horas Dios dispuso el gusano que destruyó la planta de igual manera que Jonás pensaba que Dios haría con Nínive. En seguida Dios envió un sofocante viento oriental, el viento seco del desierto que llena el aire de polvo y calor. Aún hoy en día los habitantes de esa zona dicen que este viento los deprime cuando llega. Se nota el humor del autor cuando por perder su comodidad el profeta pide de nuevo la muerte. Es una cosa de lamentar la liberación de los enemigos tradicionales de Israel o ser señalado como profeta falso; pero Jonás demuestra una actitud muy superficial sobre la vida al pedir la muerte por tener calor y sed.

3.     La aplicación de la ilustración, 4:9-11

Otra vez Dios hace la misma pregunta del 4:4 pero esta vez con referencia a la planta. Por su respuesta Jonás demuestra su falta de madurez. El egoísmo excesivo siempre procede de la falta de madurez. Dios le demuestra que su actitud es absurda. Se desespera sobre la pérdida de una planta que ni siquiera él sembró ni cultivó; cuánto más debe pensar Dios en miles de personas que él ha creado a su imagen y semejanza. Se ve a Jonás como una persona muy impulsiva con muchos prejuicios y ahora con su escala de valores totalmente confundida.

Joya bíblica¿Y no he de preocuparme yo por Nínive, aquella gran ciudad, donde hay más de 120.000 personas que no distinguen su mano derecha de su mano izquierda, y muchos animales? (4:11).

La expresión más de l20.000 personas que no distinguen su mano derecha de su mano izquierda ha sido interpretada con el significado que, además de los adultos, había esta cantidad de niños demasiado pequeños para tener criterio moral. Si era así, la población total pudiera haber sido más de 600.000, que no sería imposible si uno tomara en cuenta las muchas poblaciones alrededor del centro de la ciudad. No obstante la cifra podría hacer referencia a los que no habían recibido la instrucción moral que Dios mandó a Israel a compartir con las naciones (Gén. 12:3).

La lección de la ilustración es bien clara; el Señor de toda la tierra ama a toda su creación incluso a los animales. Para los hebreos de la época del AT era una conclusión revolucionaria. Si el Señor de Israel es también el Dios de Nínive, ¿dónde están nuestros privilegios? ¿Tenemos que compartir el amor y el cuidado de Dios con gente de todas las naciones? Como bien ha dicho un autor, hay un poco de Jonás en el corazón de cada uno de nosotros, engañándonos con nuestros prejuicios y tradiciones inválidas.

Como una de la parábolas del Señor Jesús, el libro termina de repente. El mensaje resalta con claridad. El exclusivismo que restringe el amor universal de Dios está destinado a fracasar totalmente; el amor y la misericordia de Dios se extienden a cada persona sobre la faz de la tierra. Como bien se ha dicho, el libro termina mostrando el contraste entre Dios y Jonás. Dios desea salvarlos a todos, mientras Jonás quiere salvar a algunos; el punto de vista de Dios es universal, el de Jonás es particular. Entre Jonás y Dios había un conflicto de voluntad. Jonás no negó el sueño de Isaías y Miqueas, que un día gente de todas las naciones va a correr al monte de la casa de Jehovah (Isa. 2:1–4; Miq. 4:1–3). Como tantos en aquel entonces y hoy en día, pensó que Dios haría todo en la Era Mesiánica, no vió el imperativo de ser un pueblo misionero. Utilizando la figura del profeta rebelde, y un tanto cómico, el autor escribe un reto al pueblo de Israel llamándolos a cumplir con su tarea misionera a las naciones. Si no se cumpliera con dicha misión, Israel negaría el propósito de su elección a ser el pueblo de Dios. El libro no se escribió tanto para mostrar la compasión de Dios sino para desafiar a Israel a cumplir su destino como profeta a las naciones. Todos nosotros como cristianos somos herederos de esta misión profética al mundo entero.

Jonás era nativo de Galilea, 2 Reyes xiv, 25. Su liberación milagrosa del pez lo hizo tipo de nuestro bendito Señor que, como para mostrar la verdad certera de la narración, lo menciona. Todo lo hecho fue fácil para la omnipotencia del Autor y Sostenedor de la vida. Este libro nos muestra, por el ejemplo de los ninivitas, cuán grande es la paciencia y la tolerancia divina para con los pecadores. Muestra un contraste muy marcado entre la bondad y misericordia de Dios y la rebeldía, impaciencia y belicosidad de su siervo; y se entenderá mejor por los que conozcan bien sus propios corazones.—————————

CAPÍTULO III Versículos 1—4. Jonás, enviado nuevamente a Nínive, predica allí. 5—10. Nínive se salva por el arrepentimiento de sus habitantes.

Vv. 1—4. Dios vuelve a emplear a Jonás a su Servicio. Que nos use indica que está en paz con nosotros. —Jonás fue desobediente. No trató de eludir la orden ni rehusó obedecerla. Véase aquí la naturaleza del arrepentimiento; es nuestro cambio de idea y conducta y el regreso a nuestra obra y deber. También, el beneficio de la aflicción; lleva de regreso a su lugar a los que habían desertado. Véase el poder de la gracia divina, porque la aflicción, por sí misma, más bien alejaría de Dios a los hombres antes que acercarlos. Los siervos de Dios deben ir donde Él los mande, ir cuando los llame, y hacer lo que les ordene; debemos hacer lo que manda la palabra de Dios. —Jonás cumplió su diligencia fiel y directamente. No es seguro que Jonás haya dicho más para mostrar la ira de Dios contra ellos o si sólo repitió esas palabras una y otra vez, pero este era el propósito de su mensaje. Cuarenta días es mucho tiempo para que el justo Dios demore juicios, pero es poco tiempo para que un pueblo impío se arrepienta y se reforme. ¿No debiera despertarnos para alistarnos para la muerte la consideración de que no podemos estar tan seguros de vivir cuarenta días, como entonces lo estuvo Nínive de durar cuarenta días? Debiera alarmarnos si tuviéramos la seguridad de no vivir un mes, pero somos negligentes aunque no estamos seguros de vivir ni siquiera un día.

Vv. 5—10. Hubo un prodigio de la gracia divina en el arrepentimiento y reforma de Nínive, que condena a los hombres de la generación del evangelio, Mateo xii, 41. Un grado muy pequeño de luz puede convencer a los hombres de que humillarse ante Dios, y confesar sus pecados con oración y abandonándolos, son medios para escapar de la ira y obtener misericordia. La gente siguió el ejemplo del rey. Se volvió acto nacional y fue necesario que así fuera, cuando era para impedir la destrucción nacional. —Aun los gritos y gemidos de las bestias brutas por falta de comida, recuerdan a sus dueños que deben clamar a Dios. En oración debemos clamar con fuerza, con pensamiento fijo, fe firme y afectos devotos. Nos interesa orar para revolver todo lo que está dentro de nosotros. No basta con ayunar por el pecado; debemos ayunar del pecado, y para el éxito de nuestras oraciones, no debemos albergar más iniquidad en nuestros corazones, Salmo lxvi, 18. La obra de un día de ayuno no se termina con el día. —Los ninivitas esperaban que Dios se volviera de su furor; y que así evitarían su destrucción. Ellos no podían tener tanta confianza de hallar misericordia por arrepentirse como nosotros, que tenemos la muerte y los méritos de Cristo, en los que podemos confiar para recibir perdón al arrepentirnos. Ellos no se atrevieron a presumir, pero no se desesperaron. La esperanza de misericordia es el gran aliento para arrepentirse y reformarse. Arrojémonos osadamente al estrado de la gracia gratuita, y Dios nos mirará con compasión. —Dios ve al que se convierte de sus malos caminos y al que no. Así salvó a Nínive. No leemos de sacrificios ofrecidos a Dios para expiar el pecado, pero no despreciará al corazón contrito y humillado, como el que tuvieron los ninivitas.

4:10 But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.

4:11 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?"

2347 חוּס [chuwc /khoos/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 626; GK 2571; 24 occurrences; AV translates as “spare” 16 times, “pity” seven times, and “regard” once. 1 (Qal) to pity, have compassion, spare, look upon with compassion

חוּס ḥûs: A verb meaning to show pity or mercy. It is used in the sense that the subject of the verb is not to be concerned or worried about himself or herself, i.e., do not pity yourself (Gen. 45:20). It is used of pitying an object or other person (Deut. 19:21; Ezek. 16:5; Jon. 4:10, 11). The righteous person was to have pity or compassion on the poor (Ps. 72:13). It extends to sparing a person’s life, even an enemy if he were the anointed of the Lord (1 Sam. 24:10[11]). The Lord is said to show no pity to His people (Jer. 13:14  I will smash them one against the other, fathers and sons alike, declares the LORD. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them.'")

TWOT  626     חוּס (ḥûs) pity, spare. The ASV and RSV translate about the same. The basic meaning of ḥûs is “to look with pity” often with the added nuance “spare.” It refers to the feeling which goes out toward one who is in trouble. It should be distinguished from ḥāmal “to spare,” and rāḥam “to love, have mercy upon,” although the distinctions sometimes fade. The word occurs twenty-four times. This word is used primarily in Deut and the prophets, especially Ezk. The people are told not to feel sorry for murderers (Deut 19:13), those who bear false witness (Deut 19:21), or a woman who seizes the genitals of a man who is engaged in a fight ( Deut 25:12). These all deserve their punishment so must not be spared out of pity. In Deut 13:8 it is used in a negative sense with ḥāmal. Thus God describes how he wants his people to react toward the idolator: let not your eye pity and do not spare; they have earned their reward! So, they were not to feel sorry for the Canaanites (Deut 7:16); they were not to be spared. In Ezk the people are reminded that they received favorable treatment at their birth (as a nation) from God alone who pitied them (ḥûs) and spared them (ḥāmal) from certain destruction (16:5). They are reminded of their subsequent lack of obedient and loving response when they continually engaged in idolatry. Therefore, God intones the judgment of Deut 13:8 [H 9] (Ezk 5:11; 7:9),  death. The translations both render ḥûs, as “spare,” and ḥāmal “pity.” But there appears to be no apparent reason for this switch in meaning, especially since Ezekiel’s usages clearly recall Deut 13:8 [H 9] (where both ASV and RSV render ḥûs “pity,” and ḥāmal “spare”). Jeremiah uses ḥûs twice with both ḥāmal and rāḥam; cf. rāḥam. The basic meaning of ḥûs surfaces in Ezk 24:14 where it appears after “go back” and before “repent” apparently being parallel with both. All three are spoken by God who refuses to cancel the coming judgment. So, our word denotes God’s refusal to spare the people out of pity from the anticipated judgment. Similarly in Jon 4:10 God reminds the prophet that he felt sorry for the gourd even as God felt sorry for and spared the creatures (babes and cattle) of Nineveh. Pharaoh tells Joseph’s family to abandon most of their material possessions and not to attach themselves to them emotionally, i.e. have no regard (ḥûs) for them (Gen 45:20). Sometimes ḥûs is hard to distinguish from ḥāmal “to spare,” as in Ezk 20:17 where it is parallel to “I destroyed them not” (cf. Ps 72:13 where it is parallel to “save”). Elsewhere it appears to approach rāḥam, the inner feeling of compassion arising out of a natural bond (or, with God, due to adoption). Cf. Neh 13:22 where God is asked to remember on the basis of ḥûs and lovingkindness.

2571 חוּס (ḥûs): v.; ≡ Str 2347; TWOT 626—1. LN 88.75-88.82 (qal) take pity, show mercy, have compassion, with a focus on sparing or delivering one from a great punishment (Dt 7:16; 13:9[EB 8]; 19:13, 21; 25:12; 1Sa 24:11[EB 10]; Ne 13:22; Ps 72:13; Isa 13:18; Jer 13:14; 21:7; Eze 5:11; 7:4, 9; 8:18; 9:5, 10; 16:5; 20:17; 24:14; Joel 2:17; Jnh 4:10, 11+); 2. LN 30.38 unit: עַיִן ־כֶם אַל חוּס (˓ǎ∙yin -ḵěm ˒ǎl ḥûs) pay no attention, ignore, formally, your eye has no mercy (Ge 45:20+)

2347חוּס chus (299b); from the same as 2345; to pity, look upon with compassion:— concern*(1), had compassion(1), have compassion(3), have pity(1), have...pity(4), looked with pity(1), pity(6), show pity(2), show...pity(1), sorry(1), spare(2), spared(1)

חוס QAL: 1) Preocuparse por algo, echar de menos (Gén. 45:20). 2) Tener lástima o compasión (Deut. 19:21)

4:2 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.

 

4:1,2 Jonah, because of his rejection of Gentiles and distaste for their participation in salvation, was displeased at God’s demonstration of mercy towards the Ninevites, thereby displaying the real reason for his original flight to Tarshish. From the very beginning, Jonah had clearly understood the gracious character of God (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

1Tim 2:4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

He had received pardon, but didn’t want Nineveh to know God’s mercy (a similar attitude in Luke 15:25ff.)

Luke 15:25-32 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 Your brother has come,' he replied, `and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' 28 "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, `Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 31 "`My son,' the father said, `you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

4:2. Out of anger and disgust the prophet rebuked his Lord, saying in essence, ”I know that You are forgiving and now look what has happened!“ Jonah admitted that he fled toward Tarshish because he did not want the Ninevites to be saved from judgment. (He wanted to be delivered from calamity, 2:2, 7, but he did not want the Ninevites to be kept from disaster.) The Ninevites were more ready to accept God’s grace than Jonah was. Jonah, an object of God’s compassion, had no compassion for Nineveh’s people. Jonah knew God is willing to forgive but he did not want his enemies to know it. Their threat of doom (3:4) could be diverted if his hearers turned to his forgiving God. The prophet certainly had a clear grasp of God’s character, as reflected in his near-quotation of Exodus 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."] In fact Jonah’s words about God are almost identical with:  

Joel 2:13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Neh 9:17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

Ps 103:8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Ps 145:8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Ps 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Ps 111:4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.

Ps 112:4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. 

God is gracious (He longs for and favors others) and compassionate (tender in His affection), slow to anger (He does not delight in punishing the wicked; 2Pet 3:9), and abounding in love (ḥeseḏ, ”loyal love, or faithfulness to a covenant“). The psalmists often spoke of God being ”gracious“ and ”compassionate,“ though sometimes in reverse order (Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8). Jonah also said He knew God relents from sending calamity. The prophet feared that all these attributes of God would be extended toward the despicable, cruel Ninevites—and it happened!

4:2 I know: Jonah himself had experienced the excellencies of God. Gracious and merciful may be rephrased as “marvelously gracious.” Lovingkindness can also mean “loyal love.” This is the same word that Jonah had used in his praise of God in [2:8?]. One who relents from doing harm: In this recital of God’s blessed character, Jonah built on the revelation of the Lord to Moses (Ex. 34:6,7).

slow to anger: (Heb. ˒arek; ˒aph) (4:2; Num. 14:18 `The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation; Prov. 14:29 A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.) Strong’s #750; 639: The idiom for anger in the OT translated literally is “the nose burns” or “the nose becomes hot” (Ex. 4:14 Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you; Gen. 30:2 Jacob became angry with her and said, "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?"). The Hebrew idiom for “patient,” or “slow to anger” is literally “long of nose” (Ps. 86:15; 103:8). The nose is symbolic of anger because an angry person breathes heavily or noisily. The Hebrew idiom for slow to anger is frequently applied to God to describe His great mercy and kindness (Ps. 145:8; Joel 2:13).

4:2 oró al Señor. La oración de Jonás refleja su impaciencia y frustración ante lo grande y amplio de la compasión de Dios. El sabía que Dios es clemente y compasivo, y que si los asirios se arrepentían, El extendería su misericordia hacia ellos; pero el profeta no quería tener parte en este proceso. Jonás conocía bien el carácter de Dios (Ex 34:6, 7; Nm 14:18; Neh 9:17; Sal 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Jl 2:13)

I knew that thou art a gracious God. At last the secret was out. Jonah was not ignorant of the character of his God. He had fled to Tarshish not because he was afraid of the Ninevites, but because he did not want them to be saved. He knew that every threat of God was conditional, no matter how stated. God was gracious, meaning that He had the welfare of man upon His heart, and passionately desired to lift him from his sin. Even Jonah’s own nation could not have come into being if God had not been gracious to the children of Israel at the very beginning (Ex 34:6, 7). Any deliverance from slavery, oppression, famine, or destruction is an evidence of God’s gracious love toward man (Isa 30:18), and the Lord forgives sins because He is gracious (Hos 14:2). Merciful. A companion word with gracious, pointing to the love of God which is poured upon the undeserving sinner who repents of his sins. God retains the right to help those who show genuine sorrow for sin and who trust in His kindness. Slow to anger. It is not God’s first wish to punish the wayward. He endures much of man’s wickedness. But when it becomes evident, in any given situation, that men are too proud and headstrong to be guided by easy, agreeable discipline, He begins to teach them the “hard way,” by expressing His displeasure toward sin. Of great kindness. To the prophet, the love of God is so great that he can only multiply phrases in trying to express it. Kindness is a translation of the Hebrew word ḥesed, meaning loyalty to a covenant promise. The expression of kindness is not exhausted when the covenant is broken by the other party, but reaches out after the wayward one to draw him back to an intimate personal relation. God’s kindness is so great that He is glad to put aside judgment so that the penitent sinner may re-enter the covenant relation

4:2 In this verse Jonah shared with the Lord his reason for anger and turmoil. At least Jonah did express this to the Lord in prayer. Instead of complaining about God, he complained to God. However, this prayer was quite unlike Jonah’s prayer in 2:1. Obviously, differing circumstances call for different kinds of prayers. But often differing kinds of prayers suggest varying stages of maturity or serve as an indication of swings in commitment. In this prayer we find a reversion to the “old Jonah” who ran away from God’s stated wish. The prayer begins with a particle of entreaty, but the petition does not appear until the end. The selfishness of this prayer needs to be noted. The word “I” or “my” occurs no fewer than nine times in the original. Not only does this prayer show an extreme selfishness, but it also indicates Jonah’s shortsightedness. As stated in the prayer, he had already told the Lord what he dreaded, and yet the Lord, by his action, had brought it about. This was a grave offense to Jonah. He presumptuously felt that the Lord should have shaped his course according to his (Jonah’s) mind. Jonah did not want God to do what was right and proper according to his merciful nature. Instead of bestowing upon Nineveh the kind of grace God had granted to Israel, Jonah wished the Ninevites’ destruction without any chance to repent. It is easier to assume that God is with “us” more than he is with our foes. The natural tendency of Jonah and his readers would have been to presume that God could never be “on the side” of the Ninevites. Jonah audaciously stated, in essence, “I told you so.” Then he acted as though this was sufficient to excuse his running to Tarshish. The second half of v. 2 rehearses God’s compassionate nature. In this segment Jonah went on to argue with God by complaining about God’s goodness! To Jonah the most recent occurrences in Nineveh seemed a theological embarrassment and a divine faux pas. In this sarcastic complaint Jonah cited an ancient formula that is basically a quotation of Exod 34:6–7. The wording used here is descriptive of God’s character.

First, God is seen as a “gracious” (ḥannûn) God. This word communicates the attitude of the Lord toward those who are undeserving, thereby expressing benevolence in the ultimate sense. Second, the next word used to describe God is the word “compassionate” (raḥûm). This word is translated in many ways and can mean “loving” or “merciful.” It also expresses the understanding and loving compassion of a mother to her child, hence the idea of understanding and loving favor.

Third, God is also described as “slow to anger” (˒erek ˒appayim). This speaks to the patience and longsuffering of the Lord. Nineveh was the obvious recipient of this characteristic of the Lord. Fourth, the next phrase used to describe God in this segment is “abounding in love” (rab ḥesed). The word ḥesed refers to the covenant love of God. This attribute expresses itself in redemption from sin. It encompasses the qualities of kindness, loyalty, and unfailing love. No one term in English adequately and accurately expresses the meaning of ḥesed.

Fifth, this this covenant love issues itself in God’s being “a God who relents [niḥam] from sending calamity” (rā˓â).

Amazingly, Jonah did not use these words in praise to the Lord but as a tirade against him.

This verse is an extremely disturbing one. It indicates that while Jonah had become obedient, he still lacked a spirit of submission. Lest we judge Jonah too harshly, we should remember the common frailty of murmuring against God’s sovereign will. Throughout the pages of history, believers have stood in direct opposition to God’s revealed will and sought the implementation of their own wishes.

4:2 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.

TCWSOT

“KNEW”

3045. יָדַע yāḏa˓: A verb meaning to know, to learn, to perceive, to discern, to experience, to confess, to consider, to know people relationally, to know how, to be skillful, to be made known, to make oneself known, to make to know. The simple meaning, to know, is its most common translation out of the eight hundred or more uses. One of the primary uses means to know relationally and experientially: it refers to knowing or not knowing persons (Gen. 29:5; Ex. 1:8) personally or by reputation (Job 19:13). The word also refers to knowing a person sexually (Gen. 4:1; 19:5; 1 Kgs. 1:4). It may even describe knowing or not knowing God or foreign gods (Ex. 5:2; Deut. 11:28; Hos. 2:20[22]; 8:2), but it especially signifies knowing what to do or think in general, especially with respect to God (Isa. 1:3; 56:10). One of its most important uses is depicting God’s knowledge of people: The Lord knows their hearts entirely (Ex. 33:12; 2 Sam. 7:20; Ps. 139:4; Jer. 17:9; Hos. 5:3); God knows the suffering of His people (Ex. 2:25), and He cares.

The word also describes knowing various other things: when Adam and Eve sinned, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:22); knowing nothing (1 Sam. 20:39); and knowing the way of wisdom (Job 28:23). One could know by observation (1 Sam. 23:22, 23), as when Israel and Pharaoh came to know God through the plagues He brought on Egypt (Ex. 10:2). People knew by experience (Josh. 23:14) that God kept His promises; this kind of experience could lead to knowing by confession (Jer. 3:13; 14:20). Persons could be charged to know what they were about to do (Judg. 18:14) or what the situation implied (1 Kgs. 20:7) so they would be able to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad, what was not proper or advantageous (Deut. 1:39; 2 Sam. 19:35[36]). The word describes different aspects of knowing in its other forms. In the passive forms, it describes making something or someone known. The most famous illustration is Exodus 6:3 when God asserted to Moses that He did not make himself known to the fathers as Yahweh.

דָּעָה, יָדַע [yada` /yaw·dah/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 848; GK 1977 and 3359; 947 occurrences; AV translates as “know” 645 times, “known” 105 times, “knowledge” 19 times, “perceive” 18 times, “shew” 17 times, “tell” eight times, “wist” seven times, “understand” seven times, “certainly” seven times, “acknowledge” six times, “acquaintance” six times, “consider” six times, “declare” six times, “teach” five times, and translated miscellaneously 85 times. 1 to know. 1a (Qal). 1a1 to know. 1a1a to know, learn to know. 1a1b to perceive. 1a1c to perceive and see, find out and discern. 1a1d to discriminate, distinguish. 1a1e to know by experience. 1a1f to recognise, admit, acknowledge, confess. 1a1g to consider. 1a2 to know, be acquainted with. 1a3 to know (a person carnally). 1a4 to know how, be skilful in. 1a5 to have knowledge, be wise. 1b (Niphal). 1b1 to be made known, be or become known, be revealed. 1b2 to make oneself known. 1b3 to be perceived. 1b4 to be instructed. 1c (Piel) to cause to know. 1d (Poal) to cause to know. 1e (Pual). 1e1 to be known. 1e2 known, one known, acquaintance (participle). 1f (Hiphil) to make known, declare. 1g (Hophal) to be made known. 1h (Hithpael) to make oneself known, reveal oneself.

“GRACIOUS”

2587. חַנּוּן ḥannûn: An adjective meaning gracious, merciful. This word is used solely as a descriptive term of God. The Lord used this word when He revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 34:6), as One who is, above all else, merciful and abounding in compassion (Ps. 86:15; 103:8). Elsewhere, it expresses the Lord’s response to the cry of the oppressed (Ex. 22:27[26]); His treatment of those that reverence Him (Ps. 111:4; 112:4); His attitude toward those who repent (Joel 2:13); His mercy in the face of rebellion (Neh. 9:17, 31; Jon. 4:2); and His leniency toward His people in the midst of judgment (2 Chr. 30:9)

Enhanced Strong's Lexicon: 2587 חַנּוּן [channuwn /khan·noon/] adj. From 2603; TWOT 694d; GK 2843; 13 occurrences; AV translates as “gracious” 13 times. 1 gracious.

COMPASSIONATE

7349. רַחוּם raḥûm: An adjective meaning compassionate, merciful. It indicates a merciful and forgiving character and attitude. It is an important word defining the character of God, and every use is in reference to God. It is part of the moral definition of God given in Exodus 34:6 (Deut. 4:31; Ps. 78:38; 86:15; 103:8). It is used in the phrase ḥannûn weraḥûm, gracious and compassionate (2 Chr. 30:9; Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 111:4; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2).

רַחוּם [rachuwm /rakh·oom/] adj. From 7355; TWOT 2146c; GK 8157; 13 occurrences; AV translates as “merciful” eight times, and “compassion” five times. 1 compassionate. 1a always of God with one possible exception.

This root refers to deep love (usually of a “superior” for an “inferior”) rooted in some “natural” bond. In the Piel it is used for the deep inward feeling we know variously as compassion, pity, mercy. Probably rāḥam is related to Akkadian rêmu (cf. Ugaritic rḥm, G. Schmuttermayr, “RHM—Eine lexikalische Studie,” Bib 51:499ff.). This root is to be distinguished in emphasis from ḥûs and ḥāmal. Sometimes ḥānēn is rendered “mercy” with emphasis on the graciousness with which such is extended. This verb and its derivatives occur 133 times.

rāḥam is used infrequently (twelve of forty-seven times) of men. It is used only once in the Qal when the Psalmist confesses his love for Jehovah (18:1 [H 2]). The depth of this love is shown by the connection of this word with reḥem/raḥam. Compare. Isaiah (49:15) who uses it of a mother’s love toward her nursing baby. It can also refer to a father’s love (Ps 103:13). Apparently. this verb connotes the feeling of mercy which men have for each other by virtue of the fact that they are human beings (Jer 50:42) and which is most easily prompted by small babies (Isa 13:18) or other helpless people. It is this natural mercy for the helpless that Israel’s and Babylon’s enemies will lack in their cruelty (Isa 13:18; Jer 6:23), although God may give Israel’s enemies such feeling (compassion) (I Kgs 8:50; Jer 42:12). Indeed, the prophets (Isa 13:18) conjoin ḥûs (the feeling which flows from one to another), ḥāmal (the strength of feeling which leads one to action in behalf of another, i.e. to spare them some difficulty), and rāḥam (the deep inner feeling based on some “natural” bond) when describing what Babylon (Jer 21:7) and God (Jer 13:14) will lack toward Israel. This root is frequently used of God. It incorporates two concepts: first, the strong tie God has with those whom he has called as his children (Ps 103:13). God looks upon his own as a father looks upon his children; he has pity on them (cf. Mic 7:17). The second concept is that of God’s unconditioned choice (ḥānēn, grace). God tells Moses that he is gracious and merciful to whomever he chooses (Ex 33:19). There are several ideas attached to God’s deep, tender love: first, the unconditional election of God (Ex 33:19); next, his mercy and forgiveness toward his people in the face of deserved judgment and upon the condition of their repentance (Deut 13:17 [H 18]); also, God’s continuing mercy and grace in preserving his unrepentant people from judgment (II Kgs 13:23). Thus this attribute becomes the basis in part of an eschatological hope (cf. Isa 14:1; 49:13; 54:7; Jer 12:15; 33:26; Ezk 34:25; Mic 7:19; Zech 1:16). It is noteworthy that Deuteronomy (30:3) prophesies the exile because of Israel’s sin, stipulating that repentance will meet with God’s tender compassion. So we read of the withdrawal of God’s mercy resulting in harsh judgment at the hands of Babylon (Isa 9:17 [H 16]; 27:11; Hos 2:4 [H 6]). During the exile Israel’s leaders encouraged the people with God’s electing love and tender-mercy (Lam 3:32), and led them in humbling themselves in repentance, calling upon God to reinstate his fatherlike compassion (Zech 1:12). The restitution of the father-son relationship and the return from the exile witnesses this accompanying loving care (Hos 2:23 [H 25]). Scripture makes it certain that the exile was brought by God and terminated by God (Ezk 39:25) according to his sovereign providence (Isa 30:18; cf. E. J. Young, The Bool of Isaiah, II, p. 353f.). Finally, the prophets’ message regarding the return from the exile opens onto a permanent state where the father-son relationship will never be broken (Hos 2:23 [H 25]; Isa 54:8, 10).

SLOW to ANGER

750. אָרֵךְ ˒ārēḵ: An adjective meaning long, drawn out, or slow. This word primarily describes feelings pertaining to a person: either being slow of temper or patient. In wisdom literature, the person who is patient and does not anger quickly is extolled as a person of understanding (Prov. 14:29; Eccl. 7:8). When used to describe God, the Hebrew word means slow to anger and is immediately contrasted with God’s great love, faithfulness, and power, demonstrating His true nature and His long-suffering (Ex. 34:6). Also, this Hebrew word is used of an eagle’s long pinions or feathers (Ezek. 17:3).

750 אָרֵךְ, אֶרֶךְ [’arek /aw·rake/] adj. From 748; TWOT 162b; GK 800 and 803; 15 occurrences; AV translates as “slow” nine times, “longsuffering + 639” four times, “longwinged + 83” once, and “patient” once. 1 long (pinions). 2 patient, slow to anger.

639. אַף ˒ap̱: A masculine noun meaning nose, nostril, and anger. These meanings are used together in an interesting wordplay in Proverbs 30:33. This word may, by extension, refer to the whole face, particularly in the expression, to bow one’s face to the ground (Gen. 3:19; 19:1; 1 Sam. 24:8[9]). To have length of nose is to be slow to wrath; to have shortness of nose is to be quick tempered (Prov. 14:17, 29; Jer. 15:14, 15). This Hebrew term is often intensified by being paired with another word for anger or by associating it with various words for burning (Num. 22:27; Deut. 9:19; Jer. 4:8; 7:20). Human anger is almost always viewed negatively with only a few possible exceptions (Ex. 32:19; 1 Sam. 11:6; Prov. 27:4). The anger of the Lord is a frequent topic in the Old Testament. The Old Testament describes how God is reluctant to exercise His anger and how fierce His anger is (Ex. 4:14; 34:6; Ps. 30:5[6]; 78:38; Jer. 51:45).

639 אַף, אַפַּיִם [’aph /af/] n m. From 599; TWOT 133a; GK 678 and 690; 276 occurrences; AV translates as “anger” 172 times, “wrath” 42 times, “face” 22 times, “nostrils” 13 times, “nose” 12 times, “angry” four times, “longsuffering + 750” four times, “before” twice, “countenance” once, “forbearing” once, “forehead” once, “snout” once, and “worthy” once. 1 nostril, nose, face. 2 anger.

אַף (˒ap). Nostril, face, anger. The term ˒ap in Hebrew refers first of all to a part of the body, specifically the nose, nostril, (snout of pigs, Prov 11:22) and also face (II Sam 25:23) or countenance (cf. UT 19: no. 264, an opening of the body, or possibly the body itself, e.g., nose, nipple). It is considered a vital part of the body. God made man a living being by breathing into his nose/nostrils (Gen 2:7). The nose, although referred to as the organ for smelling (Deut 33:10) or a place for ornaments (Isa 3:21) or for hooks by which to lead captives (II Kgs 19:28), is also spoken of as an organ necessary if a man’s or animal’s life is to continue (Isa 2:22). By the act of breathing, emotions can be expressed. Perhaps it was observed that the nose dilates in anger. God is said to be “˒erek ˒appayim” (lit. “long of anger,” i.e. long before getting angry) in such passages as Ex 34:6; Num 14:18; Ps 86:15; Neh 9:17. The thought is that God takes a long, deep breath as he holds his anger in abeyance. A ruler is said to be persuaded by a display of forbearance, patience, i.e. “the long of breath” (Prov 25:15). The main use of ˒ap is to refer to the anger of men and of God. This anger is expressed in the appearance of the nostrils. ˒ap gives specific emphasis to the emotional aspect of anger and wrath, whereas its synonyms and terms related to them give particular expression to other aspects. The anger of God is particularly related to the sin of his people, which pains and deeply displeases him (II Kgs 13:3). Sin offends and wounds his love. The emotional response to this is divine anger. This anger, though fierce (Jer 25:37) is not sinful, evil, or the source of capricious attitudes or deeds. However, it is expressed in chastisement (Ps 6:1 [H 2]; Isa 12:1) and punishment (II Sam 6:7; Jer 44:6). Man’s anger can be legitimate (II Sam 12:5). But the ot Scriptures warn that anger can be outrageous (Prov 27:4) and, stirs up strife (Prov 29:22). In contrast, it is said that the man slow to anger appeases strife (Prov 15:18) and a wise man turns from it (Prov 29:8).

ABOUNDING in LOVE (hesed)

2617. חֶסֶד ḥeseḏ: A masculine noun indicating kindness, lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, love, acts of kindness. This aspect of God is one of several important features of His character: truth; faithfulness; mercy; steadfastness; justice; righteousness; goodness. The classic text for understanding the significance of this word is Psalm 136 where it is used twenty-six times to proclaim that God’s kindness and love are eternal. The psalmist made it clear that God’s kindness and faithfulness serves as the foundation for His actions and His character: it underlies His goodness (Ps. 136:1); it supports His unchallenged position as God and Lord (Ps. 136:2, 3); it is the basis for His great and wondrous acts in creation (Ps. 136:4–9) and delivering and redeeming His people from Pharaoh and the Red Sea (Ps. 136:10–15); the reason for His guidance in the desert (Ps. 136:16); His gift of the land to Israel and defeat of their enemies (Ps. 136:17–22); His ancient as well as His continuing deliverance of His people (Ps. 136:23–25); His rulership in heaven (Ps. 136:26). The entire span of creation to God’s redemption, preservation, and permanent establishment is touched upon in this psalm. It all happened, is happening, and will continue to happen because of the Lord’s covenant faithfulness and kindness. The other more specific uses of the term develop the ideas contained in Psalm 136 in greater detail. Because of His kindness, He meets the needs of His creation by delivering them from enemies and despair (Gen. 19:19; Ex. 15:13; Ps. 109:26; Jer. 31:3); He preserves their lives and redeems them from sin (Ps. 51:1[3]; 86:13). As Psalm 136 demonstrates, God’s kindness is abundant, exceedingly great, without end, and good (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:19; Ps. 103:8; 109:21; Jer. 33:11). The plural of the noun indicates the many acts of God on behalf of His people (Gen. 32:10[11]; Isa. 63:7). He is the covenant-keeping God who maintains kindness and mercy (Deut. 7:9) to those who love Him. People are to imitate God. They are to display kindness and faithfulness toward each other (1 Sam. 20:15; Ps. 141:5; Prov. 19:22), especially toward the poor, weak, and needy (Job 6:14; Prov. 20:28). Israel was to show kindness and faithfulness toward the Lord but often failed. In its youth, Israel showed faithfulness to God, but its devotion lagged later (Jer. 2:2). It was not constant (Hos. 6:4), appearing and leaving as the morning mist even though God desired this from His people more than sacrifices (Hos. 6:6; cf. 1 Sam 15:22). He looked for pious people (Isa. 57:1) who would perform deeds of piety, faithfulness, and kindness (2 Chr. 32:32; 35:26; Neh. 13:14); the Lord desired people who would maintain covenant loyalty and responsibility so that He could build His righteous community.

3045 דָּעָה, יָדַע [yada` /yaw·dah/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 848; GK 1977 and 3359; 947 occurrences; AV translates as “know” 645 times, “known” 105 times, “knowledge” 19 times, “perceive” 18 times, “shew” 17 times, “tell” eight times, “wist” seven times, “understand” seven times, “certainly” seven times, “acknowledge” six times, “acquaintance” six times, “consider” six times, “declare” six times, “teach” five times, and translated miscellaneously 85 times. 1 to know. 1a (Qal). 1a1 to know. 1a1a to know, learn to know. 1a1b to perceive. 1a1c to perceive and see, find out and discern. 1a1d to discriminate, distinguish. 1a1e to know by experience. 1a1f to recognise, admit, acknowledge, confess. 1a1g to consider. 1a2 to know, be acquainted with. 1a3 to know (a person carnally). 1a4 to know how, be skilful in. 1a5 to have knowledge, be wise. 1b (Niphal). 1b1 to be made known, be or become known, be revealed. 1b2 to make oneself known. 1b3 to be perceived. 1b4 to be instructed. 1c (Piel) to cause to know. 1d (Poal) to cause to know. 1e (Pual). 1e1 to be known. 1e2 known, one known, acquaintance (participle). 1f (Hiphil) to make known, declare. 1g (Hophal) to be made known. 1h (Hithpael) to make oneself known, reveal oneself.

For centuries the word ḥesed was translated with words like mercy, kindness, love. The LXX usually uses eleos “mercy,” and the Latin misericordia.

The word “lovingkindness” of the KJV is archaic, but not far from the fulness of meaning of the word.

RELENTS from sending CALAMITY

5162. נָחַם nāḥam: A verb meaning to be sorry, to pity, to comfort, to avenge. The verb often means to be sorry or to regret: the Lord was sorry that He had made people (Gen. 6:6); He led Israel in a direction to avoid war when they left Egypt, lest they became so sorry and grieved that they would turn back (Ex. 13:17). The Lord had compassion on His people (i.e., He became sorry for them because of the oppression their enemies placed on them [Judg. 2:18]). While the Lord could be grieved, He did not grieve or become sorry so that He changed His mind as a human does (1 Sam. 15:29). The word also means to comfort or console oneself. Isaac was comforted after Sarah, his mother, died (Gen. 24:67).

The verb always means to console or comfort. Jacob refused to be comforted when he believed that Joseph had been killed (Gen. 37:35). To console is synonymous with showing kindness to someone, as when David consoled Hanun, king of the Ammonites, over the death of his father (2 Sam. 10:2). God refused to be consoled over the destruction of His people (Isa. 22:4; 40:1); yet He comforts those who need it (Ps. 119:82; Isa. 12:1). The passive form of the word means to be comforted: the afflicted city of Zion would be comforted by the Lord (Isa. 54:11; 66:13). In the reflexive stem, it can mean to get revenge for oneself (Gen. 27:42; Ezek. 5:13); to let oneself be sorry or have compassion (Num. 23:19; Deut. 32:36); and to let oneself be comforted (Gen. 37:35; Ps. 119:52).

5162 נָחַם [nacham /naw·kham/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 1344; GK 5714; 108 occurrences; AV translates as “comfort” 57 times, “repent” 41 times, “comforter” nine times, and “ease” once. 1 to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted. 1a (Niphal). 1a1 to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion. 1a2 to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent. 1a3 to comfort oneself, be comforted. 1a4 to comfort oneself, ease oneself. 1b (Piel) to comfort, console. 1c (Pual) to be comforted, be consoled. 1d (Hithpael). 1d1 to be sorry, have compassion. 1d2 to rue, repent of. 1d3 to comfort oneself, be comforted. 1d4 to ease oneself.

The origin of the root seems to reflect the idea of “breathing deeply,” hence the physical display of one’s feelings, usually sorrow, compassion, or comfort. The root occurs in Ugaritic (see “to console” in UT 19: no. 1230) and is found in ot proper names such as Nehemiah, Nahum, and Menehem. The LXX renders nḥm by both metanoeō and metamelomai. The KJV translates the Niphal of nḥm “repent” thirty-eight times. The majority of these instances refer to God’s repentance, not man’s. The word most frequently employed to indicate man’s repentance is šûb (q.v.), meaning “to turn” (from sin to God). Unlike man, who under the conviction of sin feels genuine remorse and sorrow, God is free from sin. Yet the Scriptures inform us that God repents (Gen 6:6–7: Ex 32:14; Jud 2:18; I Sam 15:11 et al.), i.e. he relents or changes his dealings with men according to his sovereign purposes. On the surface, such language seems inconsistent, if not contradictory, with certain passages which affirm God’s immutability: “God is not a man … that he should repent” (I Sam 15:29 contra v. I I); “The lord has sworn and will not change his mind” (Ps 110:4). When nāḥam is used of God, however, the expression is anthropopathic and there is not ultimate tension. From man’s limited, earthly, finite perspective it only appears that God’s purposes have changed. Thus the ot states that God “repented” of the judgments or “evil” which he had planned to carry out (I Chr 21:15; Jer 18:8; 26:3, 19; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:10). Certainly Jer 18:7–10 is a striking reminder that from God’s perspective, most prophecy (excluding messianic predictions) is conditional upon the response of men. In this regard, A. J. Heschel (The Prophets, p. 194) has said, “No word is God’s final word. Judgment, far from being absolute, is conditional. A change in man’s conduct brings about a change in God’s judgment.” The second primary meaning of nāḥam is “to comfort” (Piel) or “to be comforted” (Niphal, Pual, and Hithpael). This Hebrew word was well known to every pious Jew living in exile as he recalled the opening words of Isaiah’s “Book of Consolation,” naḥămû naḥămû ˓ammı̂ “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (Isa 40:1). The same word occurs in Ps 23:4, where David says of his heavenly Shepherd, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” Many passages. however, deal with being comforted for the dead (II Sam 10:2; I Chr 19:2; Isa 61:2; Jer 16:7; 31:15). People were consoled for a death of an infant child (II Sam 12:24), teenage son (Gen 37:35), mother (Gen 24:67), wife (Gen 38:12) et al. A mother might comfort her child (Isa 66:13) but it is God who comforts his people (Ps 71:21; 86:17; 119:82; Isa 12:1; 49:13; 52:9). God’s “compassion (niḥûm, a derivative of nḥm) grows warm and tender” for Israel (Hos 11:8)

CALAMITY [evil]

9567 (7463a). raah (949a); from the same as 07455 ; evil, misery, distress, injury :-- adversity(7), afflictions(1),calamities(1), calamity(47), disaster(19), discomfort(1), distress(2), distresses(1), evil(115), evildoer*(1), evildoing(1), evils(5), great wickedness(1), harm(19), hurt(5), ill(1), injure(2), misery(2), misfortune(6), misfortunes(1), pain(1), situation(1), sorrow(m)(1), trouble(9), troubles(1), very*(1), wicked(3), wicked deeds(1), wickedly(1), wickedness(39), woe(1), wretchedness(1), wrong(4), wrongdoing(1).

07451 ra` {rah}from 07489; TWOT - 2191a,2191c AV - evil 442, wickedness 59, wicked 25, mischief 21, hurt 20, bad 13, trouble 10, sore 9, affliction 6, ill 5, adversity 4, favoured 3, harm 3, naught 3, noisome 2, grievous 2, sad 2, misc 34; 663 Adj

The Targum and Syriac use frequently a cognate of ṭob. The root is not found in Akkadian or Ugaritic. The lexicons up through BDB and GB (which said Liebe, Gunst, Gnade, love, goodness, grace) are similar. KB however is the “mutual liability of those … belonging together.” In 1927 Nelson Glueck, shortly preceded by I. Elbogen, published a doctoral dissertation in German translated into English by A. Gottschalk, Hesed in the Bible with an introduction by G. A. LaRue which is a watershed in the discussion. His views have been widely accepted. In brief, Glueck built on the growing idea that Israel was bound to its deity by covenants like the Hittite and other treaties. He held that God is pictured as dealing basically in this way with Israel. The Ten Commandments, etc. were stipulations of the covenant, Israel’s victories were rewards of covenant keeping, her apostasy was covenant violation and God’s hesed was not basically mercy, but loyalty to his covenant obligations, a loyalty which the Israelites should also show. He was followed substantially by W. F. Lofthouse (1933), N. H. Snaith (1944), H. W. Robinson (1946), Ugo Masing (1954), and many others. There were others, however, who disagreed. F. Assension (1949) argued for mercy, basing his views on the ot versions. H. J. Stoebe (doctoral dissertation 1951, also articles in 1952 VT and in THAT) argued for good-heartedness, kindness. Sidney Hills and also Katherine D. Sakenfeld (The Meaning of Ḥesed in the Hebrew Bible, a Nevi Inquiry), held in general that ḥesed denotes free acts of rescue or deliverance which in prophetic usage includes faithfulness. For this historical survey and references see Sakenfeld pp. 1–13 (hereafter called Sak.); also LaRue in the book by Glueck (here called G.) The writer would stress that the theological difference is considerable whether the Ten Commandments are stipulations to a covenant restricted to Israel to which God remains true and to which he demands loyalty, or whether they are eternal principles stemming from God’s nature and his creation to which all men are obligated and according to which God will judge in justice or beyond that will show love, mercy and kindness.

On the meaning of our word ḥesed it is convenient to start, as G. and Sak. have done, with the secular usage, i.e. between man and man. Glueck argues that ḥesed is practiced in an ethically binding relationship of relatives, hosts, allies, friends and rulers. It is fidelity to covenantal obligations real or implied. Sakenfeld goes over the same material and concludes that indeed a relationship is present (love almost necessitates a subject-object relation) but that the ḥesed is freely given. “Freedom of decision” is essential. The help is vital, someone is in a position to help, the helper does so in his own freedom and this “is the central feature in all the texts” (p. 45). Glueck certainly seems to find obligation where there is none. Stoebe gives an extensive treatment of ḥesed in THAT (pp. 599–622) and remarks (p. 607) that I Kgs is an instance where ḥesed is unexpected. Benhaded was defeated. He could claim no obligation. He hoped for mercy, kindness. Stoebe cites the men of Jabesh also (II Sam 2:5). Saul had died in defeat. The care of Saul’s body seems clearly to have been a free act of kindness. Also Laban’s willingness to send Rebekah to Isaac was not from any covenant obligation (though G. cites the appeal to providence in v. 50). It was a kindness to a long-lost relative. He could easily have said “no.” The beautiful story of Ruth is tarnished by considering Ruth’s action as motivated by contractual obligations. The Lord had no obligation to get the widows new husbands in Moab (1:8–9). Ruth went with Naomi from pure love. Boaz recognized her action as goodness in 2:11–12 and calls it ḥesed in 3:10. Even Glueck inclined toward kindness here. The action of Rahab was kindness (Josh 2:12). Her loyalty would naturally and legally be to her king and city. The angels in Gen 19:19 were hardly bound by covenant obligation—or any obligation—to Lot. Indeed the basis of their action is said in v. 16 to have been their compassion (cf. Isa 63:9). In Gen 21:23 Abimelech cites his previous ḥesed as grounds for making the covenant with Abraham which required further ḥesed. Glueck makes something of I Sam 20:8, 14, 15 where David and Jonathan swore friendship. This covenant, says G. was the basis of the ḥesed. Here, perhaps, is G’s major mistake. He forgets that covenants arise on the basis of a relationship and that the obligations are often deeper than the covenant. Verse 17 shows that Jonathan’s love moved him to make the covenant. When Jonathan died, David lamented for him out of love, not obligation (II Sam 1:26). David’s ḥesed to Saul’s house is said to be for the sake of Jonathan, not because of a legal obligation (II Sam 9:1, 3, 7). Glueck seems to miss the mark widely when he says it was neither grace nor mercy; it was brotherliness required by covenantal loyalty. Such a view has failed to see the depth of David’s character. Stoebe calls it the spontaneous proof of a cordial friendly attitude (herzlich freundlich Gesinnung). Other examples must be omitted, but they are similar. All parties agree that in Est 2:9, 17 the word is used of favor, kindness, but some try to make this usage unusual being post-exilic. When we come to the ḥesed of God, the problem is that of course God was in covenant relation with the patriarchs and with Israel. Therefore his ḥesed can be called covenant ḥesed without contradiction. But by the same token God’s righteousness, judgment, fidelity, etc. could be called covenant judgment, etc. The question is, do the texts ascribe his ḥesed to his covenants or to his everlasting love’? Is not ḥesed as Dom Sorg observed (see Bibliography) really the ot reflex of “God is love”? A prominent early usage is in God’s declaration of his own character: Ex 20:6 parallel to Deut 5:10 and also Ex 34:6–7. These passages are discussed by G., Sak. and Stoebe from the viewpoint of documentary division first. But aside from this Sak. emphasizes the freedom of God’s ḥesed. in all these passages. She notes the proximity to words for mercy in Ex 34:6–7 and remarks that it is “this aspect of God’s ḥesed (as his mercy) which takes on greater importance in exilic and postexilic writing”—of which she envisions a good bit—(p. 119). However, she considers Ex 20 and Deut 5 as in a “covenantal context” (p. 131) and holds that “those who are loyal (loving) will receive ḥesed while those who are disloyal (hating) will be punished” (p. 131). She is led into this covenantal emphasis by the prior idea that since secular treaties speak of love, brotherhood and friendship between suzerain and vassal, that therefore these are covenant words and show that a covenant was at least implied. This view forgets that love is a covenant word because kings borrowed it from general use to try to render covenants effective. They tried to make the vassal promise to act like a brother, friend and husband. It does not follow that God’s love is merely a factor in a covenant; rather the covenant is the sign and expression of his love. McCarthy more acceptably says, “the form of the Sinai story in Ex 19–24 which is reflected in the text without later additions does not bear out the contention that the story reflects an organization according to covenant form.” His view is that the power and glory of Yahweh and the ceremonies conducted effected the union “more than history, oath, threat and promise” (McCarthy, D. J., Treaty and Covenant, Pontif. Bib. Inst., ed. of 1963, p. 163). The text itself of Ex 20 and Deut 5 simply says that God’s love (ḥesed) to those who love him (˒āhab) is the opposite of what he will show to those who hate him. The context of these commands is surely God’s will for all mankind, although his special care, indeed his covenant, is with Israel. That ḥesed refers only to this covenant and not to the eternal divine kindness back of it, however, is a fallacious assumption. The text of Ex 34:6–7 is fuller and more solemn, coming as it does after the great apostasy. It was a tender revelation of God’s self to Moses. Sakenfeld is right here “that forgiveness must always have been latent [at least!] in the theological usage of ḥesed” even before the exile (p. 119). The association with divine mercy is surely patent in the words and in the context of the occasion of the apostasy. The word raḥûm with its overtones of mother love, and ḥannûn “grace” combined with the phrase “slow to anger” all emphasize the character of God who is love. He is great in ḥesed and ˒emet (of which more later). He keeps ḥesed for thousands which is immediately related to forgiveness of sin. That all this simply says that God keeps his oath seems trivial. The oath is kept because it is the loving God who speaks the oath. Sakenfeld nicely brings together the several passages dependent on Ex 34:6–7. They are: Num 14:18–19; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 145:8 (cf. 9 and 10); Joel 2:13; and Jon 4:2. Of these passages, only Ps 86:15 includes the word ˒emet after ḥesed. They all speak of the love of the Lord and some mention his forgiveness. None specifically ground the ḥesed in covenant.

The phrase ḥesed and ˒emet “truth” mentioned above is thought by some to argue for the concept of loyalty or fidelity in ḥesed. It occurs some twenty-five times with about seven more in less close connection. Most agree it is a hendiadys and one noun serves to describe the other. Therefore the phrase means “faithful love” or “true kindness” or the like. Kindness and faithfulness is a fair equivalent hendiadys in English. The combination hardly seems to further the idea of fidelity to a covenant in the word ḥesed. If the term already meant that, why would the qualifier “faithful” be added? Usually, as in the usage of ḥesed alone, there is no covenant expressed to which fidelity is due. It is alleged in I Kgs 3:3, but although God’s ḥesed to David in making his son king was indeed according to covenant; it was also according to his love which lay back of his covenant. The text does not ascribe it to covenant loyalty. Stoebe points out in Ps 89 that the covenant of v. 3 is based on the ḥesed of v. 2 [H 4 and 3] (THAT, p. 615). Another pair of nouns is covenant, bĕrı̂t, and ḥesed used seven times with some other instances of use in near contexts. The main instance is Deut 7:9, 12 which has echoes in I Kgs 8:23; II Chr 6:14; Neh 1:5; 9:32; and Dan 9:4. It itself is called by Stoebe (THAT, p. 616) a paraphrase of Ex 34:6. He remarks that Deut 7:8 already bases all God’s favor on his love. If this pair be translated “covenantal love” or “covenant and love,” it should be remembered that the love is back of the covenant. This point is illustrated by Jer 2:2 where the ḥesed of Israel’s youth is likened to the love of a bride. The love of a bride is the basis of the promise, not the result. It should be mentioned that ḥesed is also paired about fifteen times with nouns of mercy like raḥûm, e.g. Ps 103:4; Zech 7:9 (and cf. Ex 34:6–7 above), ḥēn, e.g. Gen 19:19; Ps 109:12, tanḥûm, Ps 94:18–19, etc. These instances usually stand as paired nouns not really in an adjectival relation. The implication is that ḥesed is one of the words descriptive of the love of God. So, it is obvious that God was in covenant relation with Israel, also that he expressed this relation in ḥesed, that God’s ḥesed was eternal (Note the refrain of Ps 136)—though the ḥesed of Ephraim and others was not (Hos 6:4). However, it is by no means clear that ḥesed necessarily involves a covenant or means fidelity to a covenant. Stoebe argues that it refers to an attitude as well as to actions. This attitude is parallel to love, raḥûm goodness, ṭôb, etc. It is a kind of love, including mercy, ḥannûn, when the object is in a pitiful state. It often takes verbs of action, “do,” “keep,” and so refers to acts of love as well as to the attribute.

4:1. Jonah blatantly rejected and repudiated the goodness of God to

the Ninevites. In that attitude he symbolized the nation Israel. Jonah’s self-interests were a reminder

to Israel of her lack of concern for the ways and mercies of God. The word but points up the contrast

between God’s compassion (3:10) and Jonah’s displeasure, and between God’s turning from His

anger (3:9-10) and Jonah’s turning to anger. Jonah’s anger (became angry is lit., ”became hot“) at

God for sparing Nineveh stemmed from his unbalanced patriotic fervor. Jonah probably knew from

Amos and Hosea that Assyria would be Israel’s destroyer. Jonah’s fickle attitude toward God’s

dealings with him are remarkably abrupt and variegated (disobedience, chap. 1; thanksgiving, chap.

2; obedience, chap. 3; displeasure, chap. 4). Jonah’s prayer (4:2-3) 4:2. Out of anger and disgust

the prophet rebuked his Lord, saying in essence, ”I know that You are forgiving and now look what

has happened!“ Jonah admitted that he fled toward Tarshish because he did not want the Ninevites

to be saved from judgment. (He wanted to be delivered from calamity, 2:2, 7, but he did not want the

Ninevites to be kept from disaster.) The Ninevites were more ready to accept God’s grace than Jonah

was. Jonah, an object of God’s compassion, had no compassion for Nineveh’s people. Jonah knew

God is willing to forgive but he did not want his enemies to know it. Their threat of doom (3:4) could

be diverted if his hearers turned to his forgiving God. The prophet certainly had a clear grasp of

God’s character, as reflected in his near-quotation of Exodus 34:6. In fact Jonah’s words about God

are almost identical with Joel’s description of Him (Joel 2:13; Neh. 9:17; Pss. 103:8; 145:8). God is

gracious (He longs for and favors others) and compassionate (tender in His affection), slow to

anger (He does not delight in punishing the wicked; 2 Peter 3:9), and abounding in love (ḥeseḏ,

”loyal love, or faithfulness to a covenant“). The psalmists often spoke of God being ”gracious“ and

”compassionate,“ though sometimes in reverse order (Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8). Jonah

also said He knew God relents from sending calamity. The prophet feared that all these attributes of

God would be extended toward the despicable, cruel Ninevites—and it happened! 4:3. Jonah’s

anguish over what God did led him to request that he might die (Jonah 4:8; 1 Kings 19:4). Earlier he

had prayed to live (Jonah 2:2). Perhaps now he was embarrassed that his threat was not carried out.

Because God relented of His wrath and did not destroy the city, Jonah was so emotionally

disappointed that he lost all reason for living. God was concerned about the city (4:11) but Jonah was

not. Jonah’s action (4:4-5) 4:4-5. Though Jonah knew that God is slow to anger (v. 2) he still

wanted the Lord to execute His wrath swiftly. Yet God, hesitant to be angry with even His prophet,

sought to reason with him. God asked the sulking messenger whether his anger was justified (v.9).

This question implied a negative response: Jonah had no right to be angry. A person should never

angrily question what God does, even when it differs from what he expects or wants. Jonah was so

distraught that he did not reply to God. Instead he left the city and built a crude shelter, perhaps from

tree branches, and sat down (the king’s sitting in the dust, 3:6) in its shade (Elijah under a broom

tree, 1 Kings 19:4). Apparently Jonah had a clear view of the city. Why he waited to see what would

happen to the city is difficult to understand. Perhaps he felt that God would answer his plea and

judge the city anyway. Unable to imagine God not carrying out His justice on people who deserved

it, Jonah was determined to wait till Nineveh was in fact judged. But he was wrong and his action

was childish. Obviously he had forgotten that he, who also deserved death for disobedience, was

delivered by God (chap. 2). the explanation of the lord (4:6-11) The illustration prepared

(4:6-8) God, being slow to anger (v. 2), again attempted to reason with Jonah (v. 4). This time

God gave him a visual lesson. God erected an object of Jonah’s affection (creaturely comfort) and

contrasted it with the object of His own concern (the souls of people). God rebuked Jonah, not

through a storm in this instance, but by exposing the selfishness of his likes and dislikes. 4:6. God

provided (”provided“ in 1:17; 4:7-8) a vine to give the prophet shade that his crude shelter (v. 5)

could not provide. The God of the sea, who could provide a fish to swallow Jonah, is also the God of

the land (1:9) and its vegetation. Here is evidence that God is compassionate (4:2)—even when His

servants are upset and depressed. As this plant grew it covered the prophet’s hut. The shade from the

green plant, covering his booth with its dense foliage, protected him from the rays of the desert sun.

The plant (qîqāyôn) may have been a castor-bean plant (Ricinus communis), which grows rapidly in

hot climates to a height of 12 feet and has large leaves. It easily withers if its stalk is injured. The fact

that the plant grew overnight (”at dawn the next day,“ v. 7, and note v. 10) shows that more-than-

usual rapid growth was as much a miracle as God’s providing the fish for Jonah. Delighted with this

relief, Jonah, though he had been angry and depressed, was now overjoyed. Ironically he was glad

for his own comfort but not for the Ninevites’ relief from judgment. 4:7-8. Early the next day God

provided (”provided“ in 1:17; 4:6) a worm that destroyed the plant that had brought joy to the

prophet. Then the following day God provided a scorching east wind that left Jonah comfortless

and faint. The prophet’s own shelter was not enough to protect him from the terribly hot wind from

the east. Strikingly in chapter 1 God intervened by a storm and a huge fish; now He intervened with a

lowly worm and a sultry wind. Again the prophet was so discomforted—first by Nineveh’s

repentance and now by the loss of the shade from the vine—that he wanted to die (4:3).The

explanation stated (4:9-11) 4:9. God asked Jonah the same question He posed earlier. Do you

have a right to be angry? (v. 4) But here He added the words about the vine. God was wanting

Jonah to see the contrast between His sparing Nineveh and His destroying the vine—the contrast

between Jonah’s lack of concern for the spiritual welfare of the Ninevites and his concern for his

own physical welfare. Both Jonah’s unconcern (for Nineveh) and concern (for himself) were selfish.

Jonah replied that his anger over the withered plant was justified, and that he was so angry he wanted

to die.Life for Jonah [is] a series of disconcerting surprises and frustrations. He tries to escape

from God and is trapped. He then gives up, accepts the inevitability of perishing, and is saved.

He obeys when given a second chance, and is frustratingly, embarrassingly successful. He blows

up; his frustration is intensified“ (Judson Mather, ”The Comic Act of the Book of Jonah,“

Soundings 65. Fall 1982, p. 283). 4:10-11. God wanted Jonah to see that he had no right to be angry

over Nineveh or the vine because Jonah did not give life to or sustain either of them. Nor was he

sovereign over them. He had no control over the plant’s growth or withering. The vine was quite

temporal (it sprang up overnight and died overnight) and was of relatively little value. Yet Jonah

grieved over it. Whereas Jonah had no part in making the plant grow, God had created the Ninevites.

Jonah’s affections were distorted; he cared more for a vine than for human lives. He cared more for

his personal comfort than for the spiritual destiny of thousands of people. What a picture of Israel in

Jonah’s day. God’s words to the prophet indicate that Jonah had no right to be angry. Donald E.

Baker paraphrases the Lord’s response this way: ”Let’s analyze this anger of yours, Jonah. . . . It

represents your concern over your beloved plant—but what did it really mean to you? Your

attachment to it couldn’t be very deep, for it was here one day and gone the next. Your concern was

dictated by self-interest, not by genuine love. You never had the devotion of a gardener. If you feel as

bad as you do, what would you expect a gardener to feel like, who tended a plant and watched it

grow only to see it wither and die? This is how I feel about Nineveh, only much more so. All those

people, all those animals—I made them; I have cherished them all these years. Nineveh has cost Me

no end of effort, and it means the world to Me. Your pain is nothing compared to Mine when I

contemplate their destruction“ (”Jonah and the Worm,“ His. October 1983, p. 12). Whereas Jonah

had thought God was absurd in sparing the Assyrians, God exposed Jonah as the one whose thinking

was absurd. In contrast with an insignificant vine, greater Nineveh was significant; it had more than

120,000 people. The words, who cannot tell their right hand from their left, may refer to young

children, in which case the population of Nineveh and its environs may have been, as some

commentators state, about 600,000. But other commentators suggest that the 120,000 were adults,

who were as undisciplined or undiscerning as children, thus picturing their spiritual and moral

condition without God. (In that case the total population may have been about 300,000.) The figure

of 120,000 for Nineveh proper accords with the adult population of Nimrod (Gen. 10:11-12; also

known as Calah, a suburb of Nineveh). An inscription states that Ashurnaṣirpal II (883-859) invited

69,574 people of Nimrod to a feast (Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah,

p. 234, n. 27; Daniel David Luckenbill, The Annals of Sennacherib. Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1924, p. 116). And according to Donald J. Wiseman, Nineveh’s walls enclosed an area twice

that of Calah (”Jonah’s Nineveh,“ Tyndale Bulletin 30. 1979, p. 37). Jonah is a remarkably tragic

example of the plight of the nation Israel. Both Jonah and Israel were accused of religious

disobedience and disaffection. What a tragedy when God’s people care more for creaturely comforts

than for the interests of God’s will among men. By contrast, God is unselfish. He has a right to be

concerned about (ḥûs, ”to spare“; Joel 2:17) that great city, a city with many people who needed

His grace. The two Minor Prophets that deal almost exclusively with Nineveh—Jonah and Nahum—

each end with a question (Nahum 3:19). The question in Jonah 4:11 leaves the reader with a sense of

uneasiness, for the curtain seems to drop abruptly. No response from Jonah is recorded. How is this

silence to be understood? Most likely Jonah could not have written the book unless he had learned

the point God was seeking to bring home to him. Apparently Jonah perceived his error and then

wrote this historical-biographical narrative to urge Israel to flee from her disobedience and spiritual

callousness. As the book concludes, Jonah was angry, depressed, hot, and faint. And he was left to

contemplate God’s words about his own lack of compassion and God’s depth of compassion. The

Lord had made His points:

(a) He is gracious toward all nations, toward Gentiles as well as Israelites;

(b) He is sovereign;

(c) He punishes rebellion;

(d) He wants His own people to obey Him, to be rid of religious sham, and to place no limits on His

universal love and grace.

THE MARVEL OF AN UNHAPPY SERVANT (Jonah 4:1–11) If this book had ended at the last verse of chapter 3, history would have portrayed Jonah as the greatest of the prophets. After all, preaching one message that motivated thousands of people to repent and turn to God was no mean accomplishment. But the Lord doesn’t look on the outward things; He looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) and weighs the motives (1 Cor. 4:5). That’s why Chapter 4 was included in the book, for it reveals “the thoughts and intents” of Johah’s heart and exposes his sins. If in chapter 1 Jonah is like the Prodigal Son, insisting on doing his own thing and going his own way (Luke 15:11–32); then in chapter 4, he’s like the Prodigal’s Elder Brother—critical, selfish, sullen, angry, and unhappy with what was going on. It isn’t enough for God’s servants simply to do their Master’s will; they must do “the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6). The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart, and that’s where Jonah’s problems were to be found. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 4:1). The remarkable thing is that God tenderly dealt with His sulking servant and sought to bring him back to the place of joy and fellowship. God listened to Jonah (Jonah 4:1–4). For the second time in this account, Jonah prays, but his second prayer was much different in content and intent. He prayed his best prayer in the worst place, the fish’s belly, and he prayed his worst prayer in the best place, at Nineveh where God was working. His first prayer came from a broken heart, but his second prayer came from an angry heart. In his first prayer, he asked God to save him, but in his second prayer, he asked God to take his life! Once again, Jonah would rather die than not have his own way. This  prayer lets us in on the secret of why Jonah tried to run away in the first place. Being a good theologian, Jonah knew the attributes of God, that He was “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (v. 2). Knowing this, Jonah was sure that if he announced judgment to the Ninevites and they repented, God would forgive them and not send His judgment, and then Jonah would be branded as a false prophet! Remember, Jonah’s message merely announced the impending judgment; it didn’t offer conditions for salvation. Jonah was concerned about his reputation, not only before the Ninevites, but also before the Jews back home. His Jewish friends would want to see all of the Assyrians destroyed, not just the people of Nineveh. When Jonah’s friends found out that he had been the means of saving Nineveh from God’s wrath, they could have considered him a traitor to official Jewish foreign policy. Jonah was a narrow-minded patriot who saw Assyria only as a dangerous enemy to destroy, not as a company of repentant sinners to be brought to the Lord.

When reputation is more important than character, and pleasing ourselves and our friends is more important than pleasing God, then we’re in danger of becoming like Jonah and living to defend our prejudices instead of fulfilling our spiritual responsibilities. Jonah certainly had good theology, but it stayed in his head and never got to his heart, and he was so distraught that he wanted to die! God’s tender response was to ask Jonah to examine his heart and see why he really was angry. God comforted Jonah (Jonah 4:5–8). For the second time in this book, Jonah abandoned his place of ministry, left the city, and sat down in a place east of the city where he could see what would happen. Like the Elder Brother in the parable, he wouldn’t go in and enjoy the feast (Luke 15:28). He could have taught the Ninevites so much about the true God of Israel, but he preferred to have his own way. What a tragedy it is when God’s servants are a means of blessing to others but miss the blessing themselves! God knew that Jonah was very uncomfortable sitting in that booth, so He graciously caused a vine (gourd) to grow whose large leaves would protect Jonah from the hot sun. This made Jonah happy, but the next morning, when God prepared a worm to kill the vine, Jonah was unhappy. The combination of the hot sun and the smothering desert wind made him want to die even more. As He had done in the depths of the sea, God was reminding Jonah of what it was like to be lost: helpless, hopeless, miserable. Jonah was experiencing a taste of hell as he sat and watched the city. A simple test of character is to ask, “WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY? WHAT MAKES ME ANGRY? WHAT MAKES ME WANT TO GIVE UP? Jonah was “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8, nkjv). One minute he’s preaching God’s Word, but the next minute he’s disobeying it and fleeing his post of duty. While inside the great fish, he prayed to be delivered, but now he asks the Lord to kill him. He called the city to repentance, but he wouldn’t repent himself! He was more concerned about creature comforts than he was about winning the lost. The Ninevites, the vine, the worm, and the wind have all obeyed God, but Jonah still refuses to obey, and he has the most to gain. God instructed Jonah (Jonah 4:9–11). God is still speaking to Jonah and Jonah is still listening and answering, even though he’s not giving the right answers. Unrighteous anger feeds the ego and produces the poison of selfishness in the heart. Jonah still had a problem with the will of God. In chapter 1, his mind understood God’s will, but he refused to obey it and took his body in the opposite direction. In chapter 2, he cried out for help, God rescued him, and he gave his body back to the Lord. In chapter 3, he yielded his will to the Lord and went to Nineveh to preach, but his heart was not yet surrendered to the Lord. Jonah did the will of God, but not from his heart. Jonah had one more lesson to learn, perhaps the most important one of all. In chap 1, he learned the lesson of God’s PROVIDENCE And Patience, that you can’t run away from God. In chapter 2, he learned the lesson of God’s PARDON, that God forgives those who call upon Him. In chapter 3, he learned the lesson of God’s POWER as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord. Now he had to learn the lesson of God’s PITY, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites; and his servants must also have compassion. It seems incredible, but Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord and yet he didn’t love the people he was preaching to! The people who could not “discern between their right hand and their left hand” (4:11) were immature little children (Deut. 1:39), and if there were 120,000 of them in Nineveh and its suburbs, the population was not small. God certainly has a special concern for the children (Mark 10:13–16); but whether children or adults, the Assyrians all needed to know the Lord. Jonah had pity on the vine that perished, but he didn’t have compassion for the people who would perish and live eternally apart from God. Jeremiah and Jesus looked on the city of Jerusalem and wept over it (Jer. 9:1, 10; 23:9; Luke 19:41), and Paul beheld the city of Athens and "was greatly distressed” (Acts 17:16), but Jonah looked on the city of Nineveh and seethed with anger. He needed to learn the lesson of God’s pity and have a heart of compassion for lost souls. THE MARVEL OF AN UNANSWERED QUESTION (Jonah 4:11) Jonah and Nahum are the only books in the Bible that end with questions, and both books have to do with the city of Nineveh. Nahum ends with a question about God’s punishment of Nineveh (Nahum 3:19), while Jonah ends with a question about God’s pity for Nineveh.This is a strange way to end such a dramatic book as the Book of Jonah. God has the first word (Jonah 1:1–2) and God has the last word (4:11), and that’s as it should be, but we aren’t told how Jonah answered God’s final question. It’s like the ending of Frank Stockton’s famous short story “The Lady or the Tiger?” When the handsome youth opened the door, what came out: the beautiful princess or the man-eating tiger? We sincerely hope that Jonah yielded to God’s loving entreaty and followed the example of the Ninevites by repenting and seeking the face of God. The famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte believed that Jonah did experience a change of heart. He wrote, “But Jonah came to himself again during those five-and-twenty days or so, from the east gate of Nineveh back to Gath Hepher, his father’s house.” Spurgeon said, “Let us hope that, during the rest of his life, he so lived as to rejoice in the sparing mercy of God.” After all, hadn’t Jonah himself been spared because of God’s mercy? God was willing to spare Nineveh, but in order to do that, He could not spare His own Son. Somebody had to die for their sins or they would die in their sins. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Jesus used Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh to show the Jews how guilty they were in rejecting His witness. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41). How is Jesus greater than Jonah? Certainly Jesus is greater than Jonah in His person, for though both were Jews and both were prophets, Jesus is the very Son of God. He is greater in His message, for Jonah preached a message of judgment, but Jesus preached a message of grace and salvation (John 3:16–17). Jonah almost died for his own sins, but Jesus willingly died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Jonah’s ministry was to but one city, but Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Jonah’s obedience was not from the heart, but Jesus always did whatever pleased His father (John 8:29). Jonah didn’t love the people he came to save, but Jesus had compassion for sinners and proved His love by dying for them on the cross (Rom. 5:6–8). On the cross, outside the city, Jesus asked God to forgive those who killed Him (Luke 23:34), but Jonah waited outside the city to see if God would kill those he would not forgive.Yes, Jesus is greater than Jonah, and because He is, we must give greater heed to what He says to us. Those who reject Him will face greater judgment because the greater the light, the greater the responsibility. But the real issue isn’t how Jonah answered God’s question; the real issue is how you and I today are answering God’s question. Do we agree with God that people without Christ are lost? Like God, do we have compassion for those who are lost? How do we show this compassion? Do we have a concern for those in our great cities where there is so much sin and so little witness? Do we pray that the Gospel will go to people in every part of the world, and are we helping to send it there? Do we rejoice when sinners repent and trust the Savior?All of those questions and more are wrapped up in what God asked Jonah. We can’t answer for him, but we can answer for ourselves. Let’s give God the right answer.

BOICE - The Prophet Who Ran Away Jonah 1:1–3 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.

Many years ago in Chicago two homosexuals by the names of Leopold and Loeb were brought to trial for the murder of a young lad. Their lawyer was the well-known agnostic defense attorney Clarence Darrow, the man famous for his arguments at the Scopes’ trial regarding the teaching of evolution in the public schools of Tennessee. The Chicago trial was a long one, but at last it drew to a close and Darrow found himself summing up the evidence. The testimony of one witness had been particularly damaging. So Darrow referred to it, saying, “Why, a person could as easily believe this man’s testimony as he could believe that the whale swallowed Jonah.” There were some people on the jury who believed that the whale had indeed swallowed Jonah. Moreover, they believed that Leopold and Loeb were guilty and convicted them. But the statement, “A person can as easily believe that as believe that the whale swallowed Jonah,” became a rallying cry for many who wished to deny the truthfulness of this narrative. Sign of Jonah We live somewhat later in history and have knowledge about fish that was not available to those living in Darrow’s day. Christians are less inclined to insist that the fish was a whale; neither the Old Testament Hebrew nor the New Testament Greek says “whale.” The references are only to “a great fish.” Nevertheless, those who adhere to the total trustworthiness of the Bible, now as then, rightly insist that Jonah was literally swallowed and was thus preserved alive for three days by the fish’s action. To those who believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, such an event is not at all impossible. Moreover, there is a direct connection between the two. When unbelieving scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign that might substantiate his extraordinary claims, Jesus replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39–40). Jesus referred to the experience of Jonah as a historical illustration of his own literal resurrection, thus reinforcing the truthfulness of this narrative.

To believe this is not popular, of course. It will not gain the world’s attention. If Christian people, particularly a Christian minister, deny such things—if I should say, “Now, of course, a whale cannot swallow a man, and therefore we know that we should not take the story of Jonah literally”—some people at least would pay attention. They would say, “Dr. Boice is denying the Bible. He does not believe in Jonah.” This would be news. But if I maintain, as I do, that this story is factual and, furthermore, that the words of Christ also indicate that this is true, people shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what do you expect a preacher to believe?” To regard Jonah as factual is not calculated to gain either respect or attention. Yet the book is true, and it is only when we regard it as true that it speaks to us forcefully. There are a number of reasons why many will not believe the historical nature of Jonah’s experience. They are summarized by Frank E. Gaebelein in Four Minor Prophets: (1) the abundance of the supernatural; (2) the unprecedented nature of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh; (3) the reference to Nineveh is the past tense, “was”; (4) the supposed grossly exaggerated size of Nineveh; (5) supposed inaccuracies; and (6) the fact that the book contains late words supposedly incompatible with vocabulary used during the time Jonah was living. But there are answers to each of these points, as Gaebelein shows. First, the problem with miracles begs the question of God’s omnipotence; for if God is able to raise up Jesus, he is certainly able to preserve Jonah and do the other supernatural acts attributed to him. Second, other prophets also went to foreign nations—Elijah to Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8–24; Luke 4:26), Elisha to Damascus (2 Kings 8:7–15). Third, the use of “was” is merely a convention of narrative writing. Fourth, the reported size of Nineveh may well include the adjacent populations, what we would call suburbs. Fifth, the so-called inaccuracies are unproven. Sixth, so-called late words occur in Old Testament books from both early and late periods. Mercy and Sovereignty There are other reasons beyond the miraculous to study this book. An obvious one is for what it teaches of the mercy of God. What is the story about if not God’s mercy? There is the mercy of God to Nineveh, which made Jonah angry. There is the mercy of God to Jonah himself, for Jonah certainly did not deserve it. There is even the mercy of God to the pagan sailors mentioned in Jonah 1. All were recipients of God’s mercy. If we understand the book at this point, we will find ourselves identifying with those who perhaps, from our natural point of view, are unworthy of such mercy. These will be people like the woman next door who lets her dog run through your flower bed, or like the couple down the street who are “swingers.” They will be Jews or blacks, rich or poor, those of some other ethnic background, or someone who has wronged you by slander or a hostile act. These are the ones we should love for Christ’s sake. As Gaebelein writes: “In a day when prejudice and hate inflame men’s emotions and pervert their judgment, Jonah speaks with compelling force about limiting our love and sympathies only to some of our fellow human beings and excluding others from our pity and compassion.” Jonah should also be studied for what it teaches about God’s sovereignty, the point on which the book is most informative and most profound. Understanding God’s sovereignty is a problem for some Christians, though there are some features of sovereignty that are not a problem. Most of us do not have problems with God’s sovereign rule in natural law. Gravity is one illustration. God exercises his rule through gravity, and we do not have difficulty at this point. In fact, we are even somewhat reassured that objects conform to such laws. The point at which we do have problems is when the sovereign will of God comes into opposition with a contrary human will. For example, there is the Christian who is married to another Christian but who, for whatever reason, is seeking a divorce. The Scriptures are plain. The couple are to remain together. But one of them declares, “I know what the Bible says, but I don’t care. I have had it! I am going to get a divorce anyway.” What happens here? Again, we may imagine a person who begins to get far from the Lord and who therefore gives up his or her times of Bible reading, fellowship with Christian friends, church attendance, and giving to support the Lord’s work. Each of these duties is clearly prescribed in the pages of God’s Word, but the Christian neglects them, sometimes with great energy and determination. What happens at that point? God could crush the human will and thereby accomplish his own purpose with a ruthless hand. There are times when he has done this, as in the contest between Moses and Pharaoh. But generally he does not. What happens in such cases? Does God give up? Does he change his mind? Or does he accomplish his purposes in some other way, perhaps indirectly? The answer is in the Book of Jonah. A Great Commission Interestingly enough, the book starts with a lesson on sovereignty—a commission to Jonah, and with Jonah’s refusal to heed it. That is, it begins with a formal expression of God’s sovereign will and a man’s determined opposition to it. We read, “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” (1:1–3). The location of Tarshish is disputed. It has been identified with one of the cities of Phoenicia, which is unlikely. It has also been identified with ancient Carthage. Most probably, Tarshish was on the far coast of Spain, beyond Gibraltar. If this is right, it means that Jonah was determined to go as far as possible in the opposite direction from which God was sending him. Nineveh was east. Tarshish was west. We can visualize the geography if we imagine Jonah coming out of his house in Palestine, looking left down the long road that led around the great Arabian desert to the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and then turning on his heel and going down the road to his right. Why did he do it? We can imagine some reasons. We can imagine, first, that Jonah was overcome by thoughts of the mission’s difficulties, which are expressed very well in the commission. God told Jonah that Nineveh was a very “great city,” and indeed it was. In addition to what the book itself tells us—that the city was so large that it took three days to cross it and that it had 120,000 infants or small children (4:11)—we also know that it was the capital of the great Assyrian empire, that it had walls a hundred feet high and so broad that three chariots could run abreast around them. Within the walls were gardens and even fields for cattle. For one man to arrive all alone with a message from an unknown God against such a city was ludicrous in the extreme. What could one man do? Who would listen? Where were the armies that could break down such walls or storm such garrisons? The men of Nineveh would ridicule the strange Jewish prophet. “Certainly,” as Hugh Martin, one of the most comprehensive commentators on this book, has written, “Jonah could not foresee that some such reception in ‘that great city’ was about the most friendly he could anticipate. To be despised and simply laughed at, as a fanatic and fool, must have appeared to him inevitable, if indeed his fate should not be worse.” If Jonah had been overcome with the thought of the difficulties of such a mission and because of them had fled to Tarshish, we could well understand him. Yet not a word in the story indicates that it was the difficulties that upset this rebellious prophet. Perhaps it was danger? The second word in God’s description of the city is “wickedness.” If Jonah had taken note of that wickedness and had refused to obey for that reason, this too would be understandable. Indeed, the more we learn of Nineveh the more dangerous the mission seems. We think of the prophecy of Nahum. Nahum’s entire prophecy was against the wickedness of Nineveh, and the descriptions of it are vivid. “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without  number, people stumbling over the corpses—all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft” (3:1–4). What was one poor preacher to do against such wickedness? Indeed, would people like this not simply kill him and add his body to the already high heap of carcasses? Thoughts like these could have made Jonah afraid; and if he had been afraid, we would not blame him. But again, not a word in the story indicates that it was danger that turned Jonah in the opposite direction. What was the reason then? In the fourth chapter of the book, after God has already brought about the revival and has spared the Ninevites from judgment, Jonah explains the reason, arguing that it was precisely because of this outcome that he had disobeyed originally. He knew that God was gracious and that God was not sending him to Nineveh only to announce a pending judgment. He was sending him so Nineveh might repent. Jonah’s own words are: “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” (4:2). As we read these words carefully we realize the reason why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. Those who lived there were enemies of his people, the Jews, and he was afraid that if he did go to them with his message of judgment, they would believe it and repent, and God would bless them. He did not want them blessed! God could bless Israel. But Jonah would be damned (literally) before he would see God’s blessing shed on these enemies. He fled to Tarshish. We can understand the geography and Jonah’s motives if we can imagine the word of the Lord coming to a Jew who lived in New York during World War II, telling him to go to Berlin to preach to Nazi Germany, and instead of this, he goes to San Francisco and takes a boat for Hong Kong.  Are we in the spiritual ancestry of Jonah? We have never been sent to Nineveh. We may never have had to run away to Tarshish. But the commission that has been given to us is no less demanding than Jonah’s, if we are Christians. Is it not true that our attempts to avoid it are often no less determined than Jonah’s when he tried to run away? Most Christians come into contact with the world in at least three places: in their neighborhoods, at work (unless they work for a totally Christian organization), and in their spare-time activities—clubs, hobbies, sports, and adult education courses. The people they meet in these places all have great needs. They need Christ, first of all, if they are not Christians. But they also need friendship, understanding, achievement. In some cases, there are even physical needs brought on by sickness, poverty, or some other physical deprivation. Christians are often strangely insensitive to these needs and often make excuses to avoid the personal sacrifices necessary to carry out the work of Christ. They say—we have all heard the excuses and, I am afraid, often make them ourselves—“I am too busy,” “I have too many problems of my own,” “Charity begins at home,” or even “I am not called.” Jonah’s commission consisted of two main words. He was to “go,” and he was to “preach”—precisely what we have been told to do in the Great Commission. We are to go into all the world. And we are to preach (or teach) all that we have been taught by Jesus. Matthew’s form of the Great Commission says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20). We are to go; but we remain inactive. We are to preach; but our tongues are often strangely silent. Strangely silent! Strange that we should be silent when there is such a wonderful story to tell! John R. W. Stott illustrates in his book Our Guilty Silence what we often do. He describes how he was on an overnight train from London to Pembrokeshire in South Wales and how a young land agent, who shared the sleeper, repeatedly took the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in vain. He had the upper bunk. In the morning, while getting ready to wash, he accidentally dropped his shaving equipment and swore about it. At this point Stott remained silent, making all the usual excuses—“It’s none of your business”; “You’ve no responsibility for him”; “He’ll only laugh at you.” It was only after an inner struggle of some fifteen minutes that Stott eventually spoke of Christ and managed to leave the man an evangelistic booklet. We all have these difficulties. Only not all of us eventually overcome them and actually share the gospel. Wings of the Dawn Verse 3 tells of Jonah’s attempt to get away from God and gives the consequences of that attempt. It is surprising that Jonah did not think of these consequences before he ran or consider how impossible it is to escape from God. Jonah lived relatively late in Old Testament history, certainly long after the Psalms were written. He therefore had ample opportunity to know those great words in Psalm 139: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (vv. 7–10). Did Jonah know these words? Probably. Then why did he not remember them as he set out in the ship for Tarshish? As I read that psalm I find myself wondering if the name of the ship on which Jonah set out might not have been The Wings of the Dawn. The story does not give the name. But that would have been a good name for a ship; and if the ship mentioned in Jonah were so named, how well suited it would have been to Jonah’s situation! Did he notice the name, if this is what it was? Did he notice the rats getting off as he stepped on? If I understand sin and disobedience at all, I suspect that Jonah noticed none of these things, so set was he on disobedience. No more do we when we take our “wings of the dawn”—whether they be preoccupations with a job, an attitude, a cherished sin, or some other form of disobedience—to sail away from God. God’s Sovereignty At this point we find our first great lesson regarding God’s sovereignty. Built into Jonah’s first attempts to get away from God are two results that will follow anyone who tries to disobey him. First, Jonah’s course was downhill. He would not have described it that way. He would have said that he was improving his life, just as we do when we choose our own course instead of God’s. But it was downhill nevertheless. This is suggested in verse 3, where we are told that Jonah went “down” to Joppa. It is always that way when a person runs from the presence of the Lord. The way of the Lord is up! Consequently, any way that is away from him is down. The way may look beautiful when we start. The seas may look peaceful and the ship attractive, but the way is still down. There was another result. In his excellent preaching on Jonah, Donald Grey Barnhouse often called attention to it by highlighting the phrase about Jonah “paying the fare.” He noted that Jonah did not get to where he was going, since he was thrown overboard, and that he obviously did not get a refund on his ticket. So he paid the full fare and did not get to the end of his journey. Barnhouse said, “It is always that way. When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. On the other hand, when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and he pays the fare.” That is worth repeating: When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. But when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and he pays the fare. Jonah illustrates one half of that statement. The story of Moses’ mother, Jochebed, illustrates the other half. Jochebed conceived Moses during a time of great persecution by the Egyptians, a time in which Hebrew male infants were being thrown into the Nile River to die. When the child was born, Jochebed and her husband, Amran, tried to hide him as long as possible, suspecting, I believe, that this was the one who had been promised by God to be the deliverer of the people. But at last the baby’s cries grew too loud, and another plan was necessary. The mother made a little boat of bulrushes, covering it with tar. She placed Moses in it and set it in the reeds by the riverbank. Then she stationed Miriam, Moses’ sister, at a distance to see what would become of him. Though she wanted her baby more than anything else in the world, Jochebed entrusted the matter to God, allowing him to do as he wished with the child. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river, saw the ark in the water, and sent her maids to fetch it. When it was opened, she saw the baby. He was crying. This so touched the woman’s heart that she determined to save him and raise him in the palace. But what was she to do? The child needed a wet nurse. Where could she find one? At this point, Miriam, who had been watching from a distance, came forward and asked if she could be of assistance. “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Miriam asked. “Yes,” said the princess. Jochebed was brought. Jochebed was about to receive back the child she most dearly wanted. She would have done anything to have kept him. She would have scrubbed floors in the palace! In fact, if the daughter of the Pharaoh had said, “I am going to give you this child to raise, but I want you to know that I have seen through your stratagem. I know that this young girl was not up on that hill watching by accident. She must be the sister of this baby and, therefore, you must be the mother. You can have your child. But as a sign of your disobedience to the Pharaoh, I am going to cut off your right hand”—if she had said that, Moses’ mother would probably have held out both hands, if only she could have had the child back. But that is not what happened. Instead, Pharaoh’s daughter gave the child back, declaring, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you” (Exod. 2:9). “I will pay you.” That is the point for which I tell the story. Jonah went his own way, paid his own fare, and got nothing. Jochebed went God’s way. Consequently, God paid the fare, and she got everything. I repeat it once more: When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. But when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and he pays the fare. But the Lord In one sense Jonah’s story is over at this point; that is, the story of his choice, his disobedience, is over. God has given his command. Jonah has disobeyed. Now Jonah must sit back and suffer the consequences as God intervenes supernaturally to alter the story. This is made clear by the contrast between the first two words of verse 3 (“But Jonah” ) and the first three words of verse 4 (“Then the Lord”). It is true that Jonah had rejected God. He had voiced his little “but,” as we sometimes do. He is allowed to do it. God’s sovereignty does not rule it out. But now God is to act, and his actions will be more substantial than Jonah’s. What did God do? He did three great things. First, he sent a GREAT STORM. The text indicates that it was a storm of unusual ferocity, so fierce that even experienced sailors were frightened. Each time I read about it I think of that other storm that also frightened experienced men on the Sea of Galilee. The men were Christ’s disciples, and Christ was with them, though asleep in the boat. For a while they rowed. But they were in danger of sinking and were afraid. So they awoke Jesus and cried, “Lord, save us!” Jesus replied, “Why are you so afraid?” Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. The disciples asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matt. 8:26–27). Note the contrast. The Lord who can calm the troubled waters of your life is the same Lord who can stir them up to great frenzy. What he does depends on whether he is with you in the boat or, a better way of putting it, whether or not you are with him. If Jesus is in your boat—if you are going his way and are trusting him—then, when the storms come, you can cry out, “Master, help me!” and he will calm the violence. But if you are running from him—if he is not in your boat and you are disobeying him—then he will stir the waves up. Second, the Lord prepared a GREAT FISH. Farther on in the story God also prepared a small worm to eat the root and so destroy the plant that shaded Jonah. On the one hand, God used one of the largest creatures on earth to do his bidding. On the other hand, he used one of the smallest. Apparently it makes no difference to God. He will use whatever it takes to get the disobedient one back into the place of blessing. Are you running away from God? If so, he may use the cankerworm to spoil your harvest. He may use the whirlwind to destroy your barns and buildings. If necessary, he will touch your person. He will use whatever it takes, because he is faithful to himself, to you, and to his purposes. Finally, God saved a GREAT CITY. This last act, like the others, is an act of mercy. The city did not deserve saving. Yet he saved it, thereby preserving it from destruction for a time. A Continuous Performance God’s perseverance will be discussed in later chapters, but it is important to look at one aspect of it in this present connection. The apostle Paul wrote: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Quite often we look at that verse merely as a statement of the “eternal security” of the Christian, which is all right. God will certainly continue his work with us, regardless of what happens, and will preserve us for heaven. But this verse also means—we must not miss it—that God is so determined to perfect his good work in us that he will continue to do so with whatever it takes, regardless of the obedience or disobedience of the Christian. Will you go in his way? Then he will bless your life and encourage you. Will you run, as Jonah ran? Then he will trouble your life. If necessary, he will even break it into little pieces, if by so doing he enables you to walk in his way once again. If you disobey, you will find your initial disobedience easy. But after that the way will grow hard. If you obey him, you will find the way paved with blessing. The God Who Will Not Let Go Jonah 1:4–16  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) 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.”Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the Lord, “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

The lessons of the first three verses of Jonah are great, for they concern the impossibility of running away from God and the consequences of such an attempt. The consequences are that the path we take is downhill, that we never get to where we are going, and that we always pay our own bills. At this point of the story, however, God himself intervened in a supernatural way, so that the lessons of the remainder of the chapter are as great as those at the beginning. We learn that disobedience always involves others in peril. We learn how God acts when his will is opposed. Special Intervention The way God operates when his will is opposed leads again to the issue of God’s sovereignty and carries us a step farther in our understanding of it. First, we saw that God’s sovereignty expresses itself in what we might call a natural spiritual order. According to this principle, no path of disobedience is ever blessed. Now we also learn that God will intervene in special ways to insure the accomplishment of his purposes. This special intervention occurs twice in the first chapter. The first is in the way God dealt with Jonah when he ran away. The second is in God’s dealing with the sailors. Jonah had sinned. According to some theologies, in which almost everything depends on man’s obedience to God and very little on God’s elective purposes with man, this should have been the end of the matter. If Jonah had sinned, God should simply have said, “Jonah, you have done it now. You have disobeyed me, and as a result of that, you have forfeited the right to be called my child. I am casting you off.” That kind of response makes sense according to a man-centered theology. But it is not the way God operates. To put it in theological language, God had elected Jonah to a special task and had determined that the task be accomplished. God took his election of Jonah so seriously that he would actually sink the ship on which the disobedient prophet was sailing,