Facebook Twitter

Profiles of the Prophets: Jonah

SHARE Profiles of the Prophets: Jonah

Unwilling and dissatisfied, Jonah presents an interesting picture of a servant of the Lord who was taught a lesson in both obedience and tolerance.

Jonah was an Isrealitish prophet who lived during the reign of King Jeroboam II in the 8th century B.C. He prophesied that this wicked king would restore the ancient boundaries of Israel, and also preached repentance in the Assyrian city of Nineveh. (Bible Dictionary, p. 716; 2 Kings 14:24-25.)Nineveh was a major city on the Khoser River near the Tigris River that was built by Nimrod, a grandson of Noah. It was a royal residence from 1100 B.C. Two centuries after Noah, the prophet Nahum wrote of Nineveh, "the bloody city! It is full of lies and robbery." Nahum prophesied, "The gates of the river shall be opened , and the Palaces shall be dissolved." (Nahum 2:6.) The city fell as Nahum prophesied. In August of 612 B.C., attackers released the river into the city where it dissolved the sun-dried brick. (Bible Almanac, Packer, Tenney and White, p. 132.)

Jonah's call to preach repentance to that great city in an indication that although the Bible concerns itself primarily with the Children of Israel, this book opposes the "narrowmindedness that would confine the love of God to a single nation. [The writer] shows that Jehovah reigns everywhere, over sea and land; even in the heathen world the minds of men are conscious of sin and prepared to admit the Godhead of Jehovah." (LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 716.)

When called by the Lord to go Nineveh and preach repentance, Jonah instead took a ship from Joppa in the opposite direction of Nineveh "from the presence of the Lord." A great wind tossed the sea and frightened the mariners, likely Phoenicians who, with reluctance, tossed him to the waves.

"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." (Jonah 1:17.)

During his three days and nights in the belly of the great fish - symbolic of the three days and nights between the death and resurrection of the Savior, Jonah cried out to the Lord of his travails:

"The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me right about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. . . . When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord." (Jonah 2:7.)

The fish vomited Jonah out on dry land and for the second time, the voice of the Lord came to Jonah to go to Nineveh, to "preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." (3:2.)

Jonah came to the city and told its inhabitants that in 40 days it would be overthrown. His words were heeded. All the inhabitants, even the king, dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes and began to "cry mightily unto God" and "God repented of the evil that he said he would do unto them; and he did it not." (Jonah 3:10.)

Jonah was angry that the people were not destroyed. He sat outside the city to wait. As he waited, a gourd plant grew up and gave him shade until "a worm smote the gourd and it withered." When the sun became intense, Jonah "wished in himself to die, and said, `It is better for me to die than to live.' "

The Lord spoke to Jonah, asking why Jonah pitied the gourd and whether the Lord should not spare Nineveh, "that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand [or little children]; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11.)