Background of Jonah
The book of Jonah is just such a story. All of us have heard it. We know how God wanted to send Jonah to Nineveh, but Jonah ran from God, got swallowed by a big fish, and then finally went anyway. He preached to the people of Nineveh, they repented, and God saved the city from destruction. That’s the story we’ve been told, and that’s the story that we think we know.
Missionaries often talk about Jonah, and so we think that Jonah is a book about missions. In a way, Jonah is about missions because Jonah does go on a missionary trip… of a sort. And he does tell the people of Nineveh the message that God wants them to hear. So the book of Jonah is a story about Missions, but not in the way that most of us think.
Before we dive into the book, let me provide the historical setting of Jonah. Jonah is a prophet in Israel in the 8th Century B.C. It was a good time for Israel. In fact, Jonah was a well known and well-respected prophet.
Second Kings 14:25 says that God “restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.”
Jonah had prophesied that Israel would expand her boundaries, and look, now it had happened! There was excitement in the air. Maybe now God was going to bless Israel and let it finally become the most prominent nation in the known world. Maybe now, after all these years, Israel would, at last, receive the promised inheritance. Jonah’s prophecy might be just the start.
On top of this, Israel was in the beginning stages of an economic boom that had not been known since the reign of King Solomon. Money was pouring in from all sides. People were getting rich. And after all, isn’t money a sign of God’s blessing? (Read the book of Amos, which was written during the peak of the economic boom, if you want to see what God thought of Israel during this time).
So Jonah was a celebrity. He had strong nationalistic tendencies, and on top of being patriotic, he had God on his side! Jonah was a prophet of God, and God was using Jonah, so they thought, to give Israel everything it had ever wanted.
There was only one real problem during this time period. Israel was a great nation, but over in the east, across the desert, another nation, Assyria, was beginning to grow strong. In fact, it could be argued that Assyria was just as strong and rich as Israel. In a sense, Assyria was Israel’s competition. They were rivals. If either one grew too much more, it would be war, and only one nation would survive. The capital city of Assyria was Nineveh.
The Call of Jonah
REPENTANCE TEXT: Jonah 4:1 Repent (verb) - To be very sorry for something bad you have done in the past and wish that you had not done it: -Cambridge Luke 11:32 -
The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Acts 3:19 - Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
Acts 8:22 - Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 2
Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Isaiah 16:5 - And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.
Isaiah 55:7 - Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Revelation 9:20 - And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Proverbs 28:13 "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy".
Myers, J. (2013, September 18). Jonah 1 - Jonah Running From God: A Sermon by Jeremy Myers. Retrieved from