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  • Lea Hartline

Jonah More than a fish story

Updated: May 14, 2022

The book of Jonah is one of my favorite books in the old testament. Jonah is so complex and focuses on the very nature of humans. It points out our flaws and how often we put our personal emotions above God's calling for us. So many get stuck on only one of the many lessons learned in this short 4 chapter book. When I have asked people what they thought the most important lesson was in Jonah, most felt it was a story simply about doing what God has asked of us, but it is so much more.

Chapter 1:9 So he said to them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." (NKJV)

Chapter 1:99 He told them, "I'm a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land." (NIV)

Jonah fears and worships God, yet Jonah is fleeing God and his mission. The critical question is why. Why is Jonah trying to avoid going to Nineveh? Jonah reveals in chapter 4 that he would rather die than see God forgive Nineveh.

Chapter 4:1-3 (NIV)

But to Jonah, this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Where did this anger for Nineveh come from? When I asked people where they thought it came from, several believed that Jonah's anger towards Nineveh had to do with their sinful nature towards God. But if that were the case, wouldn't Jonah have rejoiced that they would begin to worship and fear the Lord like Jonah. Instead, Jonah became angry with God for giving them a chance to live. If Jonah's concern was for God and how the people treated God, would he not have rejoiced when the people of Ninevah were saved from judgment?

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David Henry
David Henry
May 15, 2022

In chapter 4, we finally realize that Jonah is self-righteous, something that we might not pick up on previously. Jonah's sin in all of this, more so than resisting the mission, is his disbelief that God is willing to change his mind and spare the evil doers in the same way as he was spared. How can they be as worthy of redemption as he is?

Jonah can't rejoice because he is judgemental and full of vengeance, despite having been rescued, so much so that he would rather die than relent. It seems it is his desire for God to partner with him in condemning the people of Nineveh, and he demonstrates an unyielding reluctance to let go o…

Lea Hartline
Lea Hartline
May 23, 2022
Replying to

I agree. Jonah is so complex and detailed. In 4 small chapters we can take so much of life. I am not even sure I am close to down with what I want to say about Jonah. I know I will circle back to this book again and again.

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Life on Faith and Fumes

Christian blog with stories, devotional and bible studies.

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