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The Old Testament | The Books of the Minor Prophets


Things to know

Where does the book begin?

Jonah begins sometime before Assyria fought against Israel*.

Places to go

God spoke to Jonah.
Jonah 1:1-4

Jonah was in the storm.
Jonah 1:7-16

Jonah met the fish.
Jonah 1:17-2:10

Jonah was in Nineveh.
Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah was like the plant.
Jonah 4

Where does the book end?

The book ends a few months after it began.

People to know

The Sailors

The Story of Jonah

The book of Jonah is a story. It tells about how God gave one prophet* a message. Then it tells what that prophet* did with the message. It also tells a story of how God showed mercy* to a place called Nineveh.

The book tells us the story of Jonah, but it also teaches us about God. We get to see that God was kind. He cared about the nations, not just Israel*. Jonah was a prophet* of God, but he did not act like it. He did not want God to show mercy* to the other nations. He only wanted God to show mercy* to his own people.

The book begins when God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. It was a big city. The people who lived there were the enemies of God’s people. The people there were very wicked. Nineveh stood against God’s people. They did not listen to God’s words. So God wanted Jonah to give them a message.

But Jonah decided that he would not go. He would not do what God told him to do. So he tried to run away instead. But Jonah found out that you cannot run away from God. You cannot hide from him.

Jonah went to find a boat that would take him away from Ninevah. But God would not let him go. First, God sent a storm that almost sank the boat he was in. Then the men in the boat threw Jonah into the sea. Soon, a great fish swallowed him.

You see in the very first part of the story that God was in control of his world. Jonah could not hide from him. Jonah did not obey God. But even when Jonah did not obey, God still showed that he was in control. Jonah was trying to run away, but God was using his trip to show grace* to the sailors on the boat. When the sailors saw how God calmed the sea on Jonah’s behalf, they ‘greatly feared the LORD*… and they offered a sacrifice* to the LORD and made vows to him.’ [1] Jonah ran from God, but the journey led to the salvation* of the Gentiles*.

When Jonah was in the stomach of the fish, he prayed to God for help. The second part of the book is about Jonah’s prayer. Jonah thanked God that God used the fish to rescue him. He gave praise* to God because God saves. Jonah had learned a lesson about trying to run from God. And the fish spat out Jonah onto the shore.

Jonah went to Nineveh and gave God’s words to them. He did not preach* long before the people of Nineveh turned from their idols and put their trust* in God. God had mercy* on them when they repented* and believed his words. But Jonah was not happy. He did not want God to bless* Nineveh. He wanted God to curse* them. Jonah cared more about himself than he did about Nineveh. Jonah was a selfish man, but the God he served was generous. God had sympathy on all of the living things he made. God asked Jonah a question at the end of the book. ‘Should I not care about that great city?’ [2] Jonah knew that the answer was yes. He also knew that a prophet* who spoke for God should care about people just like God does.

We do not know if Jonah ever changed his mind. But he did decide to tell us the story.


[1] Jonah 1:16

[2] Jonah 4:11

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