Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | April 10, 2019

Jonah & Nineveh

(3 Minute Read)

Jonah was a rebellious prophet whom Yahweh used to bring repentance to a sin-soaked city — Nineveh in Assyria.

Yahweh ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian empire. Jonah’s assignment was to preach the judgment of Yahweh to the wicked city.

Assyria, however, was Israel’s oppressive enemy. So Jonah took a ship in the opposite direction — west to Tarshish in Spain. He did not want Assyria to repent and receive mercy.

But Yahweh’s purposes cannot be thwarted. In response to Jonah’s rebellion, Yahweh hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up (Jonah 1:4). To save their lives, the veteran sailors finally threw Jonah into the raging sea at his instruction.

Immediately the sea calmed, the sailors worshiped the Lord, and the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17).

Who Was Jonah?

Jonah was a creationist, a God-fearer, and a Hebrew. In the midst of one of the most dangerous and stressful situations ever faced by man, Jonah clearly identified himself:
“I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

Jonah, son of Amittai (“truthful”), was from Gath-hepher (2 Kings 14:25), just north of Nazareth in Galilee in the territory allotted to the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:10-13).

The first-century Pharisees overlooked Jonah when they disputed Jesus’ credentials. These Pharisees were thus mistaken to say, “No prophet arises out of Galilee” (John 7:45-52). Jonah and Jesus both came from Galilee.

Unsubstantiated Jewish tradition says Jonah was the widow’s son whom Elijah raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). Jonah likely knew Elijah’s successor Elisha. Possibly he was even one of the “sons of the prophets” trained by Elisha (2 Kings 6:1).

Jonah ministered around 790 BC, roughly 70 years before Assyria conquered Israel. He prophesied Israel’s restoration to Solomon’s borders. Scripture documents Jonah’s prophecy and its fulfillment by Jeroboam II. Scripture also documents Jonah’s father and hometown. This firmly plants Jonah in middle-eastern history. (2 Kings 14:23-25)

Jonah, Hosea, and Amos, all prophets to Israel, were contemporaries. Hosea warned Israel to reform or be conquered by Assyria. Jonah, the only prophet to a foreign nation, was sent to Assyria, the dominant world power threatening the northern kingdom of Israel. Jonah immediately preceded Isaiah and Micah and may have known both.

Jonah means “dove.” How appropriate for the only prophet to whom Jesus compared Himself — one who served as a sacrificial type of Christ.

Simon Bar-Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah) was the Apostle Peter’s full name (Matthew 16:17). Peter’s father was probably named for the prophet Jonah, indicating that Jonah was especially honored among the Jews of Galilee in Jesus’ day.

Jonah is a significant prophet, primarily due to the comparison Jesus made of Himself with Jonah. But outside of Genesis, Jonah’s narrative is the most scorned and ridiculed account of the entire Old Testament. How do we know it’s true? These issues will be covered next week in Jonah, Jesus, & the Resurrection.

Was Nineveh Real?

Nineveh was founded in the time of the Tower of Babel by Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-11) in the land of Assyria. Shortly after the time of Jonah, the prophet Micah called Assyria “the land of Nimrod” (Micah 5:5-6).

Almost 2,000 years after Babel, Nineveh was conquered by Babylon in 612 BC. Skeptics long denied Nineveh’s existence. Then archaeologists excavated Nineveh in the mid-1800s and discovered the palaces of the Assyrian kings Sennacherib and his grandson Ashurbanipal (Asnapper), both of whom are mentioned in the Bible (2 Chronicles 32; Ezra 4:10).

Today across the Tigris River from Mosul in northern Iraq is a mound of ruins from ancient Nineveh that is claimed to be Jonah’s Tomb. It is called Nebi Yunis, “Prophet Jonah.” How intriguing that Jonah’s name is still associated with Nineveh 2800 years later. This supports the Biblical record.

Jewish historian Josephus says the great fish vomited Jonah onto a Black Sea shore. This was 400 miles from Nineveh across rugged terrain.
(Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews — Book IX, Chapter 10, Paragraph 2.
Wikipedia, Euxine Sea.)

According to Jonah’s account, Nineveh was an “exceedingly great city” requiring a “three-day walk” to cross it (Jonah 3:3). Thus it must have been 75-100 miles across. Nineveh must have had a population of several million people since it had 120,000 babies (Jonah 4:11).

Extra-Biblical confirmation of Nineveh’s revival has not yet surfaced. Many skeptics consider the entire book legendary, heaping it with ridicule and scorn.

But what did Jesus think about Jonah and Nineveh? That’s the subject of the next blog post, Jonah, Jesus, & the Resurrection.

Questions to Ponder

1. Why do skeptics want so badly to discredit the book of Jonah?
2. How would you defend the historical reality of Jonah and his record?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the second of three blog posts on Jonah.
Read the prequel:
Ravenous Fish Gulps Jonah

Read the sequel:
Jonah, Jesus, & the Resurrection

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday April 10, 2019 A.D.

Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

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