One of the greatest prophets during the time of Jeroboam II was Jonah the son of Amitai, who, as a prophet disciple, had anointed Jehu and who, therefore, enjoyed the king's benevolence. Once God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, one of the largest cities of that time and foretell its destruction, because the evil of its inhabitants had reached the limit. The mission, however, was not to Jonah's liking. Nineveh was a bitter enemy of Israel, and Jonah would have liked to see its destruction. If he should succeed in his mission and Nineveh would be spared, it would remain a constant threat to Israel. Jonah therefore decided to seek escape. He boarded a ship that sailed for Tarshish, hoping to forget about his mission. Once the prophet was on the high seas, God caused a storm to break that threatened to tear the ship asunder. The sailors were frightened and each one prayed to his god. Jonah, however, lay down to sleep. The captain of the ship, seeing the sleeping man, went over to him and reprimanded him for sleeping in that fateful hour, instead of praying to God. Meanwhile the sailors drew lots to find out whose fault it was that this misfortune had been brought upon them. The lot fell upon Jonah. When the sailors questioned him as to who he was, whence he had come, and what his business was, he told them that he was a Jew and a servant of God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Then the sailors asked what they should do in order to quiet the raging sea and save their ship with all aboard. Jonah replied that all they had to do was to throw him overboard, and the storm would immediately die down, since it had been caused by his refusal to obey God's command. At first the sailors did not want to do as Jonah asked. But the storm grew fiercer and the end was seemingly unavoidable. Very reluctantly, the sailors threw Jonah into the water and the storm ceased at once.
As soon as Jonah was in the water, God sent a large fish to swallow Jonah alive. Three days and three nights Jonah stayed within the fish. In distress, he prayed to God to save him, and God ordered the fish to eject Jonah and set him on dry land.
Jonah in Nineveh
Again God ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh to convey the Divine message. This time the prophet traveled to Nineveh to carry out his mission. Upon his arrival in the city, Jonah stepped right into the middle of the busy thoroughfare and announced that the city would perish in forty days. The prophet's solemn warning electrified the city. The residents believed the prophecy and repented. They fasted and wore sackcloth; even the king himself took off his royal robes and put on the garbs of mourning. Everyone in the city honestly and sincerely decided to abandon his evil past. All the people truly tried to mend their ways. Possessions unjustly acquired were returned to their rightful owners, and false judgments were revised. God saw that they were sincere in their repentance and accepted it. Nineveh was saved
Characteristics of the book of Jonah
Anger: The book of Jonah shows the danger of focusing on anger and allowing feelings of anger to supersede reason and being humble before God. Selfish anger leads to errors in judgment and sometimes feelings of depression.
Disobeying God: The book of Jonah study clearly shows how intentional disobedience by a servant of God can lead to trouble not only for themselves but for those near them.
God uses imperfect people: God does not give up on his people although we may feel far from God when we are unfaithful.
God’s sovereignty: The Bible study of Jonah identifies several instances where God shows his sovereignty through nature as well as through uncooperative people.
God’s purpose for difficult times or pending judgment: The Jonah Bible study shows how God intends for difficult times or pending judgment is intended to turn people to Him. God’s delay in bringing judgment is for the purpose of allowing people time to repent.
Repentance: The people of Nineveh demonstrate the type of repentance God desires; acts of remorse and change in behavior.
Values: The Bible study on Jonah points out how selfishness leads us to prefer personal benefit over the salvation of enemies and that sometimes unbelievers show greater value for human life more than believers.