By J. B. Tidell, A.M., D. D.
The Prophet. His name means "done," and he is the son of Amittai. His home was Gath-hepher, a village of Zebulun, and he, therefore, belonged to the ten tribes and not to Judah. He is first mentioned in 2 Kings 14:28, where he prophesied the success of Jeroboam II, in his war with Syria, by which he would restore the territory that other nations had wrested from Israel. He very likely prophesied at an early date, though all attempts to determine the time of his prophecy or the time and place of his death have failed.
The Prophecy. It differs from all the other prophecies in that it is a narrative and more "the history of a prophecy than prophecy itself". All the others are taken up chiefly with prophetic utterances, while this book records the experiences and work of Jonah, but tells us little of his utterances. The story of Jonah has been compared to those of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17-19, and 2 Kings 4-6).
Although full of the miraculous element, the evident purpose is to teach great moral and spiritual lessons, and it is unfortunate that its supernatural element has made this book the subject of infidel attack. But the facts, though extraordinary, are in no way contradictory or inconsistent. Indeed, Mr. Driver has well said that "no doubt the outlines of the narrative are historical." Christ spoke of Jonah and accredited it by likening his own death for three days to Jonah's three days in the fish's belly.
It is the most "Christian" of all the Old Testament books, its central truth being the universality of the divine plan of redemption. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is such stress laid upon the love of God as embracing in its scope the whole human race.
I. Jonah's First Call and Flight from Duty, Chs. 1-2.
II. Jonah's Second Call and Preaching at Nineveh, Ch. 3.
III. Jonah's Anger and God's Mercy, Ch. 4.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The different elements of character noticeable in Jonah. (2) The dangers of disobedience, to self and to others. (3) The possibilities of influence for the man commissioned of God. Jonah's influence on the sailors and on Nineveh. (4) God's care for heathen nations (4-11), and its bearing upon the Foreign Mission enterprise. (5) The nature of true repentance and God's forgiveness. (6) The prophet, or preacher-his call, his message and place of service.
The Prophet. His name means "who is the Lord?" and he was Moresheth. a small town of Gath. He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah and prophesied to both Israel and Judah during the time of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; and of Pekah and Hoshea, the last two kings of Israel. He sympathized deeply with the common people, being moved by the social wrongs of his time (Ch. 2-3), and became the people's advocate and defender as well as their accuser. He clearly sets forth the wickedness of Judah and Israel, their punishment, their restoration and the coming Christ. As compared with Isaiah, he was a simple countryman, born of obscure parentage and recognized as one of the peasant classes, while Isaiah was a city prophet of high social standing and a counselor of kings.
The Great Truths of the Prophecy Are: (1) The destruction of Israel (1:6-7) (2) The desolation of Jerusalem and the temple (3:12 and 7:13). (3) The carrying off of the Jews to Babylon (4:10). (4) The return from captivity with peace and prosperity and with spiritual blessing (4:1-8 and 7:11-17). (5) The ruler in Zion (Messiah) (4:8). (6) Where and when he should be born (5:2). This is his great prophecy and is accepted as final in the announcement to Herod.
I. The Impending Calamity, Ch. 1.
II. The Sins That Have Brought on This Calamity. Chs. 2-3.
III. The Promised Restoration and Glory, Chs. 4-5.
IV. God's Controversy With Israel. Chs. 6-7.
For Study and discussion. (1) The several accusations and threatenings against Israel and Judah. (2) The different things mentioned to describe the coming prosperity of Israel and of the Messianic period. (3) The false authority of civil rulers, of moral leaders, of spiritual teachers.