This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Jonah 1:1 ‘Now the word of Jehovah came unto Jonah the son of Amittai.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Jonah 1:1

‘Now the word of Jehovah came unto Jonah the son of Amittai.’

    What a strange tale is here before us in this relatively small book out of the Old Testament. There are a large number of ‘surprises’ contained in this brief account of a prophet of God. But, just who was Jonah; this seems to be a very abrupt statement here at the very beginning of this Old Testament bible narrative, under the title, The Book of Jonah. We are simply informed that the Word of Jehovah came unto this Jonah, and that he was the son of one, Amittai. The only other reference to this prophet, outside of the book called by his name, at least in the Older Testament, is that found in 2 Kings 14:25, where is appears to confirm the description of Jonah given in the book under his name. The writer of 2 Kings has given us the following to ponder. We are given to understand, in the pericope from which our verse is found, 

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of Jehovah, the God of Israel, which he spake by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-Hepher.—2 Kings 14:23-25.

The majority of scholars and commentators, agree that this ‘Jonah’ is indeed, our Jonah who was called to go to Nineveh. And this gives us some additional information with regard to this prophet’s likely dates, as well as the location of his activities. In referring to Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, the human author of the second book of Kings, indicates that he lived during the reign of ‘Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, who began to reign in the fifteenth year of Amaziah king of Judah.’      

    Hugh Martin, an eminent scholar and minister of the Free Church of Scotland in the later half of the nineteenth century, helps us in these matters with the following remarks; “Speaking generally, [he has written] the prophet Jonah lived about midway between the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam and their fatal and final captivity by Assyria. The commencement of his ministry—whether that ministry was more stated or more occasional we do not know—seems to have been contemporaneous with the close of Elisha’s. And like Elisha, Jonah prophesied in Israel—in the kingdom of Samaria.” Among other items, this would mean that the Jeroboam of 2 Kings 14, is actually Jeroboam II. So that, we have, outside of the book of Jonah, only this 2 Kings reference of Jonah, in the Older Testament. In the Newer Testament, we do have, additionally, several references, and these utterances of our Lord Jesus Christ. It, likely the most relevant for us, is that which He spoke, particularly, in Matthew 12:38-41, with a parallel in Luke 11:29-32, where we read:

Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here. 

The importance of the necessity of repentance unto salvation rolls off of the lips of our Savior, in this statement, when He reminds His auditory, that the people of Nineveh, that sat, or stood, under the preaching of Jonah, actually, and truly, repented. This from the tongue of our Lord Jesus, who began His personal ministry, after His baptism, in the very same vein. We may read of this in at least, two of the synoptics, namely, Matthew 4:17, From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And, again, in Mark 1:14-15, Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. With the examples of John Baptist and Christ Himself, along with many others, in the written Word, clearly preaching the necessity of repentance, how is it that it is so disdained and left aside from many pulpits in our day?    

    Jesus also taught us elsewhere, in Luke 4:24, that no prophet is acceptable in his own country. Is this, not likely, true of the ministry of Jonah in his own country. We read of no results from his ‘preaching’ until he preaches what God sends him to preach to those in Nineveh. It does not appear that there is any warrant for assuming that Jonah ‘preached’ in his own country. In any event, Jehovah determined to send him to Nineveh to preach. What was the result in Nineveh? We may read this result in Jonah 3:5, And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Scrolling down to verses 9 and 10, we are given the words of the king of Nineveh, and he said;

Who knoweth whether God will not turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Are we not reminded of the words of Jesus, twice given, in Luke 13:3, 5, I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. Is it not reasonable and fair, to hold that Jonah was preaching this reality to the people of Niveveh? Was he not, in other words, preaching, I tell you, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. And the people believed God; they fasted; they repented; God forgave them. It is sad and hard to understand the reaction of Jonah. We are told in the immediate sequel, which begins the fourth chapter, But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. It seems clear that God was not angry, for He is the One who granted to them this very repentance. It is He that Himself repented of that which He said He would do, and did it not. We wish that we could advise Jonah to read Acts 11:18; And when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life. Amen.


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church  


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