Who Was Jonah?


The questions below come from Chapter 4 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Who was Jonah and what was the time of his writing?

According to 2 Kings 14, he was the son of a prophet named Amittai and he
prophesied during the regin of King Jeroboam II in Israel.  He grew up in a
small town just north of Nazareth.

What are the New Testament scriptural references to the book of Jonah?

Matt 12:39-41, Matt 16:4, Luke 11:29-32 all record Jesus prophesying the “sign
of Jonah” to the evil generation of His day.

What is the purpose of this book?

1) To teach that salvation is possible for the gentiles
2) To illustrate true repentance – Jonah, Ninevites
3) To typify Christ

What is the style and character of the book?

The book is not prophetical, but rather historical.  It is included in the
prophets because Jonah was himself a prophet.

What doctrines are illustrated by the incidents of the book?

1) Resurrection (see Mt 12:39)
2) Repentance
3) Mercy and kindness of God
4) Will of God triumphs over the will of man

Give an account of Nineveh

– Nineveh was founded by Nimrod (Gn 10:11), as a colony of Babylon
– Shalmaaneser joined with Moab and Ammon against Israel, but the Israelites
were victorious
– Jonah teaches that Nineveh was a “great city” on the Tigris river and that
it’s breadth was 3 days journey (60 miles)
– According to Carroll, “Its walls were sixty feet high, with 1,500 towers, 200
feet high. The walls were broad enough on top to receive three chariots
driving side by side. It is almost certain that this city was larger than
Babylon, especially if we include in the estimate its suburbs.

What was the form of religion in Nineveh at this time?

– The Ninevites worshiped a fish god “merman” named Dagon.  Several carvings of this god have been found in excavations of the ancient city.  It is this same Dagon that the Philistines worshiped and in whose temple the Ark of the Covenant was placed, when it was captured (1 Sam 5).

What is the outline of this book?

1) Jonah’s disobedience and casting into the sea
2) Jonah’s deliverance from the sea
3) Jonah’s obedience and preaching
4) Jonah’s displeasure at God’s mercy

What were Jonah’s reasons for not wanting to go to Nineveh?

1) He hated the idolatrous gentiles
2) He knew God would be merciful to them, if they repented
3) Assyria was becoming a political threat to Israel

What was the casting lots in 1:7?

It was the method used to determine the Providence of Yahweh.  It was used in Acts 1 to determine which follower of Jesus would serve in Judas’ place as Apostle.

What was the remedy for the case as proposed by Jonah and how did it meet the approval of the sailors?

The sailors did not want to be guilty of innocent blood (by casting Jonah into the sea), but relented when they feared the storm would kill them. In this, the sailors showed a greater fear for the One True God than His prophet Jonah, who tried to flee from His will.

How do you explain their fearing Jehovah and sacrificing unto him?

When the sea stopped raging, after Jonah was thrown overboard, the sailors knew
that the powerful storm was from Yahweh.  They offered sacrifices to Him as
evidence of their faith in His power.

What about the fish that swallowed Jonah?

According to Carrol, the Mediterranean contains sperm whales and white sharks
large enough to swallow a man whole.

What was Jonah’s second commission?

God gave Jonah the opportunity to repent from his sin and a second chance to be
obedient to God’s will.  After this episode, Jonah was enabled to impress upon
the Ninevites the power of Yahweh over the Ninevite fish-god Dagon.  In 3:1-2,
we see God’s Call, God’s Commandment, and God’s Instruction.

What is God’s attitude toward sinners shown in 3:4?

God thunders the law of Sinai over sinners heads, but offers sweet mercy if they
repent.  In this case, Jonah repented from fleeing God’s will.  At the preaching
of Jonah, the Ninevites repent of their sins.  At the repentence of the
Ninevites, God repents of the calamity He threatened to bring on the city.

What happens in 3:5-10?

In 3:5-10, the people repent.  The sackcloth and fasting are evidences that followed
their faith and repentance.

How did Jonah receive the fact of the conversion of the Ninevites and God’s mercy to them and how did God deal with him?

Jonah demonstrated the heart of a legalist, because he was bitter that God showed
the Ninevites mercy.  God dealt gently with Jonah, by showing him the
illustration of the gourd.

How is the relation of the resurrection and the commission of Christ illustrated
in this book?

After Jonah was 3 days in the belly of fish, he came forth and preached
repentance and faith in God to the gentiles.  Christ was 3 days in the belly of
the earth, and resurrected, and by His Spirit preached repentance and faith in
God to the gentile nations.

An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign
be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days
and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in
judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at
the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matt
12:39-42)

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