Introduction: Do you remember “Jonah and the Whale?” This week we
begin a new quarter of studies on the book of Jonah. Years ago, when
I was teaching the book of Jonah, an elderly man in my class reported
that when he was a boy a whale had been transported on a flatbed
railroad car to his hometown. He had never before seen a whale. Part
of the “whale show” informed the public that the throat of the whale
was very narrow – thus making it impossible for a man to be swallowed
whole by a whale. The old man wanted to know how the Jonah story
could be true. This week we look at some of the “historical markers”
that support Jonah’s story. Let’s jump in and see what we can learn!

  1. Jonah, the Military Guide.

    1. Read 2 Kings 14:23-25. Figuring this out could make your
      eyes cross. We have altogether too many “Jeroboams” in
      these verses. Can anyone tell how Jeroboam did not turn
      away from the sins of Jeroboam? (We have two different
      “Jeroboams.” Jeroboam I is “Jeroboam son of Nebat” and
      Jeroboam II is “Jeroboam son of Jehoash.”)

      1. What kind of king was Jeroboam II? (He did evil in
        God’s eyes. He did not turn away from the sins
        instituted by Jeroboam I.)

      2. When we read about these kings, we often read of the
        prophet of God who would give God’s message to the
        king and people. Who is the prophet of God who was on
        the scene during the time of Jeroboam II? (Jonah, son
        of Amittai.)

      3. What message did Jonah have from God? (It was a
        military message about securing and expanding the
        borders of Israel.)

    2. Read 2 Kings 14:26-27. Why would God help an evil king
      like Jeroboam II? (It was a combination of God’s concern
      over the suffering of the people and keeping His promise
      to His people. God loved His people.)

      1. What does this teach us about God’s willingness to
        work with less than perfect people? (He is willing.
        This is a theme we will see developed in the book of

    3. What attitude do you think the people of Israel had
      towards Jonah? (He was a “God-fearing patriot!” Everyone
      likes good news. He was predicting military victory and it

    4. Read Jonah 1:1-2. Is this the same Jonah who guided
      Jeroboam II? (Yes, Jonah, son of Amittai.)

      1. What does this tell us about whether Jonah was a
        historical figure in the Bible, as opposed to a
        fictional character created for the “whale story?”
        (This shows that Jonah was a historical figure
        because his influence on military matters is recorded
        in the account of the kings of Israel.)

  2. Jonah and Jesus.

    1. Read Matthew 12:38. Does this seem to be a reasonable
      request made of Jesus? (This shows unbelief. The attitude
      is “prove to me you can do a miracle.”)

    2. Read Matthew 12:39-40. Why does Jesus compare Jonah to

      1. What parallels do you see between the experience of
        Jonah and that of Jesus? (As we will study in the
        coming weeks, Jonah’s life was turned around by this
        three day experience. He would have drowned in the
        storm, but the fish rescued him by taking him
        underwater. Ultimately, the fish spit him out to a
        new life of obedience. Jesus, by dying for us, gives
        us new life.)

        1. Why is Jesus’ death the only “sign” given to
          these Jewish leaders? (This suggests that these
          leaders had already decided that Jesus must die.
          Jesus tells them that after they kill Him they
          will see the sign of His resurrection from the
          dead on the third day.)

          1. Is this a sign to unbelievers today?

          2. Compare the believability of Jesus’
            resurrection to Jonah’s whale experience?

    3. Read Matthew 12:41. How would you react to this if you
      were a Jewish leader? (Jesus is telling them that the
      gentiles of Nineveh were more spiritually alert than they

      1. What does this statement say to religious sceptics
        today? (Those theologians who consider the Jonah
        account to be a myth stand in the same shoes as the
        unbelieving Jewish leaders who would not accept
        Jesus’ resurrection.)

    4. What does this little interchange suggest about Jesus’
      view of the historical accuracy of the Jonah account?
      (Jesus relies not only on the detail of a literal three-day period, but He also compares Himself to Jonah. Jesus
      clearly credits the Jonah account.)

  3. Jonah, the Patriot.

    1. Let’s go back to Jonah 1:1-2. Put yourself in Jonah’s
      place. You are a prophet and a patriot. Your messages from
      God have been an important part of the defeat of the
      enemy. Nineveh has terrorized the people of Israel for
      many years. How do you react to this new assignment?

      1. Is it like your old assignments? (No. He is now going
        to be a prophet to the enemy.)

      1. A prophet’s job is to go to his own people, right?

        1. Why would the patriot prophet be sent to the
          land of the enemy? (One commentary that I read
          said Jonah is the only case of a prophet being
          sent to the heathen. I’ve got to believe that
          Jonah did not want to hear this command from the
          Lord. The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us
          that after Jonah’s day Nineveh was the capital
          of the Assyrian Empire which ultimately
          destroyed Israel. Verse 2 tells us that God
          wanted to send Jonah because He had noticed the
          wickedness of the people of Nineveh.)

      2. What reason does Jonah have to go to Nineveh? (The
        important part is the introduction: “The word of the
        Lord.” Jonah was told by God to do this.)

      3. Let’s step back a minute. We all agree (God, Jonah
        and the Israelites) that the Ninevites were evil
        people. What solution do you think Jonah would have
        preferred to this problem? (Just destroy them. That
        was his message before from God when it came to
        heathen enemies.)

        1. What lesson does this teach us today in dealing
          with unbelievers? (The most obnoxious
          unbelievers can still be subject to conversion.
          Conversion, rather than defeat, is God’s
          preferred plan.)

      4. Is this question of mixing patriotism with
        nationalism a problem for us today? Do we sometimes
        mix up our duties to God and our patriotic duties to
        our country? (It is just fine when those two
        interests are aligned, as they were for Jonah earlier
        in his life. But now they are in conflict and he is
        having trouble handling this.)

      5. Do you know how far a trip to Nineveh would be for
        Jonah? (It was 550 miles, which would take him a
        month to walk. Jonah had a lot of reasons not to want
        to obey God.)

    1. Let’s skip ahead a minute. Read Jonah 3:4. This is the
      message that Jonah ultimately gave to the people of
      Nineveh. If Jonah were truly a patriot, why wouldn’t he
      want to spit in the eye of the Assyrians and tell them
      their city would be destroyed? (An obvious problem is that
      he does not have the army of Israel with him. He is going
      to Nineveh “alone.”)

    2. Read Jonah 3:10-4:2 to get a greater insight into Jonah’s
      thinking about his new assignment. What does Jonah say
      that he feared? (Now we see what we might expect of
      “patriot prophet” thinking. He feared that his message
      might work and those people of Nineveh might be spared.)

    3. Friend, does God sometimes call you to do something that
      goes against the grain of your will? Something that seems
      out of character with your past assignments? As we
      continue our study of this story, Jonah has a lesson for

  1. Next week: People and Places.