0 The sign of Jonah (Jonah 1-4)

Episode 224: The sign of Jonah

Jonah 1-4

Jonah runs away from God

1 1 The word of God came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, and said

2 Go to Nineveh and cry against it, because I've heard about its wickedness.

Jonah is swallowed by a big fish

3 So Jonah fled from the presence of God.

He went to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish.

4 But God sent a storm on the sea, which threatened to sink the ship.

5 The crew threw things overboard to lighten the ship, while Jonah slept below deck.

6 The captain came to Jonah and said, "Get up and ask your God to save us."

7 Meanwhile the crew cast lots to find the source of the evil. And the lot fell upon Jonah.

8 So they asked Jonah, "Why are you causing the storm?"

9 Jonah said, "I'm a Hebrew. I think God is after me."

11 The sailors said, "What should we do to you, so the sea will be calm?"

12 Jonah said, "Throw me overboard."

15 So they threw Jonah overboard. And the sea became calm.

17 A great fish swallowed Jonah, and he was in the fish's belly for three days and three nights.

Jonah's prayer from the fish's belly

2 1 Jonah prayed in the fish's belly, saying,

3 You threw me into the sea.

9 I'll sacrifice to you in thanksgiving, and do what I promised to do.

10 Then God spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah on the dry land.

Jonah preaches to Nineveh

3 1 The word of God came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 "Go to Nineveh and preach to it."

3 So Jonah went to Nineveh. (Nineveh was a huge city, three days' journey in across.)

4 When he entered the city, he cried out saying, "Nineveh will be overthrown in forty days."

Everyone in Nineveh (man and beast) fasts and puts on sackcloth

5 So everyone in Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth.

6 The king of Nineveh put on sackcloth and sat in ashes.

7 And proclaimed a decree, saying,

No one in the kingdom, man or beast, will eat anything or drink any water.

8 And everyone, including the animals, must cover themselves with sackcloth and cry out to God.

9 Who knows? Maybe God will repent and not kill us all.

God repents

10 And God repented of the evil he said he'd do to them.

Jonah is angry with God (for not destroying Nineveh)

41 But Jonah was exceedingly angry at God for not destroying Nineveh.

2 So he prayed to God, saying,

I knew you wouldn't destroy Nineveh, so I fled from you to Tarshish.

3 Go ahead and kill me. It's better for me to die than to live.

4 Then God said to Jonah, "Do you think it's a good idea for you to be angry with me?"

5 So Jonah went to the east side of the city, made a booth, and waited to see what would happen to the city.

God makes (and destroys) a gourd for Jonah

6 God made a gourd and put it over Jonah's head to shade him.

Jonah was exceedingly happy with the gourd.

7 But God made a worm that destroyed the gourd.

8 When the sun rose the next morning, God made an east wind and the sun beat down so hard on Jonah's head, that he fainted, and wished that he was dead.

9 God said to Jonah, "Do you think it's a good idea to be angry with the gourd?"

Jonah said, "Yes, it's a good idea for me to be angry, even to death."

10 Then God said to him,

You had pity on the gourd."

11 Shouldn't I spare Nineveh, where more than 120,000 people live, who don't know their right hand from the left? And also many cattle.

A few more words about this episode

Jonah, the son of Amittai (1:1)
A rather obscure prophet with the same name and father is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, who lived in Galilee during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (786-746 BCE). So the unknown author, writing several centuries later, probably named his fictional character after him.
Go to Nineveh (1:2)
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh - the Assyrian capital on the Tigris River, nearly 1000 km to the east of Israel.
He went to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. (1:3)
Joppa is a town on the Mediterranean coastline, which is now Tel Aviv, Israel. Tarshish is often mentioned in the Bible, but its geographical location is unknown, but is probably in southern Spain. Wherever it was, it was far away and in the opposite direction from where God told Jonah to go - and it was someplace where Jonah thought God wouldn't be (since he was going away from the presence of the Lord).
A great fish swallowed Jonah. (1:17)
When Jesus told the story in Matthew 12:40, he said Jonah was swallowed by a whale, in the King James Version, anyway. The Greek word that the author of Matthew used was ketos, which means a "large sea creature" - which would probably apply to either whale or a big fish.
Nineveh was a huge city, three days' journey in across. (3:3)
Nineveh was a large city, but it wouldn't have taken three days to walk across it. The archeological data indicate that it was a few kilometers in diameter, and so would take an hour or so to traverse. (Wikipedia: Nineveh (Geography))
The Oxford Annotated Bible note for verse 3:3 says, "excavations have revealed a city about three miles in length and somewhat less than one and one-half miles wide."
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