Understanding The Bible
E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
Joel: Introduction and Simple Outline
DATE: Jonah is another "undated" prophet, but 2 Kings 14:23-29 clearly indicates that he was an accredited prophet of the Northern (10-tribe) Kingdom in the reign of Jeroboam II. Jonah began his ministry about 785-770 BC (Whitcomb).
CONTEMPORARIES: None PROPHESIED TO: Nineveh, capital of Assyria
Jonah was commanded to go and prophesy the destruction of Nineveh.
Assyria by this time was becoming a great military menace. Jonah, recognizing the danger to his nation if repentance should possibly be forthcoming (4:2), sought to flee from the danger which would be involved in "signing the death warrant" of his people. It was a mistaken patriotism on his part. (Of course, Jonah's fears were well-grounded! It was Assyria, which, though spared at this time, later destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel.)
THEME: (1) Obedience to the Lord must take precedence over our prejudices and personal desires. (2) God has ways of bringing His servants into line. (3) Finally, Jonah's disappointment that Nineveh was spared is gently but firmly rebuked by the Lord.
Much is made of the "whale" story. Such comments are beside the
point. Only once in the King James Version (Mt. 12:40), and that by mistranslation, is it said that Jonah was swallowed by a "whale." Both the Hebrew and Greek words mean "great fish" or "sea monster." We are distinctly told that God prepared it (1:17). In any event, miracles are involved, but the old argument that a whale could not swallow a man is simply not true. The narrow throated whale, the only whale which our forefathers knew, misticiti biniti, is now known to be only one of a number of whales. The spermaciti whale is quite capable of swallowing a man. Some are so large that they could swallow a cow or a horse. There are known instances of men who were swallowed by such whales. There are records of those who lived to tell their tale. But, as previously indicated, the issue is not whether a whale could swallow a man or a man could live after being swallowed. It may well not have been a whale. Jonah may have swooned or may have died and been resurrected. The point is that there is plenty of room for miracle. There is no room for the insistence in former days that the story could not be true because a whale could not swallow a man. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, authenticated Jonah's experience (Mt. 12:40).
OUTLINE: See Appendix.
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