Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Twenty-Second  Study.—The Book of Jonah.

[The material of this " study " is furnished by Professors Beecher and Burroughs. It is edited by Professor Harper.]



1. The chief purpose of such of these " studies " as are devoted to individual books is to obtain a clear and concise conception of the contents and scope of the book thought of as a whole. It is not possible-nor is it desirable-to enter into a minute study of each verse viewed by itself. The very object of the "Inductive Studies" is to supplement and even, in a measure, correct such Bible study. All details, therefore, found in them are to be rigidly regarded as leading the student on to the grasping of the general thought embodied in the particular writing.

2. The conception thus attained of the book as a unit is to be employed in further comparative study of the given book in its relations to other books of the same period and of the same general character. Thus, for example, the books of the prophets are to be considered separately in order that they may be thought of, subsequently, in their complemental relations.

3. By thus comparing together and unifying in thought the subject matter and scope of the books of Scripture, as they stand in mutual relation to each other, the Bible student should rise to a conception of the sacred writings as an organic whole. This is the crowning result of Inductive Bible study.


1. Oral and Written Prophecy.

(1) Collect the material previously given regarding prophecy in general,1 and prepare a brief statement concerning

(a) the prophetic function and

(b) the manifestation of this function (e. g., how? when? through whom? for what ?) in Israel up to this point in the history.

(2) From the above review, together with your knowledge of O. T. literature, supplemented by a use of the concordance, consider and answer the following questions:

(a) How does the number of prophets mentioned by name in the O. T. Scriptures compare with the number of those spoken of as exercising prophetic functions in the days of O. T. history?

(b) Does the number of prophets vary at different periods in the O. T. history? If so, at what particular junctures were they most numerous? And why? In other words, consider and state the relation of prophecy to the unfolding of Israelitish history particularly as seen in its peculiar junctures.

(c) Is it proper and necessary to make a distinction between those prophets whose mission was peculiarly personal and was confined to their contemporaries and those whose mission was more or less directly to men of later time? Name some of the former class, together with their specific missions.

(d) What bearing has this distinction upon the study of the development of written prophecy?2

(e) Why and how should we distinguish between the literary activity of the prophets as put forth in the writing of the historical books, the earlier or " former" prophets (see second, sixth and ninth " studies "), and as manifested in the books of written prophecy? Show how, in the case of these latter, the circumstances of the times both demanded the written form of prophecy and also, to a degree, provided for it.3

2. Divisions of Written Prophecy.

(1) What is the arrangement of the books of written prophecy found in our English Bible? What is its value?

(2) Divide these books according to the mission of the prophets to northern and southern Israel.

(3) Divide them according to the periods of history in which they fall, viewed in relation to foreign intercourse.4 Which writings, severally, belong to the Assyrian period? Which to the Babylonian? Which to that of the exile? Which to that of the restoration ?5

3. Written Prophecy in the Northern Kingdom. In the light of the facts relative to the character and history of the kingdom of the ten tribes, disclosed in " studies" 17-21, consider and answer the following questions:

(1) What might be anticipated, as to the characteristics of the written prophecy of the northern kingdom,

(a) from the idolatrous character of the religious worship,

(b) from the moral condition of the people,

(c) from the social situation?

(2) What might be anticipated, regarding its characteristics,

(a) from the tenor of prophecy, as it has thus far discovered itself,

(b) from the disclosure, thus far made, of the divine purpose regarding this kingdom? Briefly note down these anticipations that they may be verified, disproved or corrected, as the result of your study of the individual books of this prophecy.


1. Read carefully the Book of Jonah.6

2. Re-read and analyze each chapter in course, using the Revision so as to be uninfluenced by the chapter headings of the A. V.

3. Make a second and unified analysis of the book as a whole.

4. Make a brief written statement of your conception of the thought of the book as resulting from this perusal and analysis, and lay this condensed statement aside for comparison, after a more careful and exhaustive study of the book topically.


1. The Times of the Prophet Jonah.

(1) Study 2 Kgs. 14:23-29, and discover,

(a) at what time in the history of the northern kingdom the prophet Jonah lived and uttered prophecy;

(b) the personal circumstances recorded concerning the prophet;

(c) the character of his prophecy; its relation to the circumstances of the time of its utterance;

(d) the general moral and religious condition of the people in the time of its fulfillment.

(2) From the material considered in the two previous studies, and from any other knowledge which you may possess of the result of Assyrian studies as bearing on Israelitish history, consider the following topics:

(a) the history of the relations of Israel to Judah at this period;

(b) the history of the relations of Israel to the Syrian power;

(c) the condition of Assyrian affairs at this time.

(3) In conclusion, form an opinion as to the probable effect of this combination of circumstances on Israelitish religious thought, and indirectly upon the feelings of the prophets of the northern kingdom. To be more specific, would there or would there not be,

(a) a tendency to over-confidence in divine protection, in spite of evils in moral character and spiritual life?

(b) a strengthening of the habitual disposition to disregard the dangers from outside agencies, used, in the divine providence, for warning and chastisement?

(c) a peril through entertaining narrow thought regarding the divine interest in other nations and the divine mercy toward other peoples?

(d) a disposition to rejoice selfishly in the reverses and disasters of other nations, while blindly closing the eyes to the possibilities, and even strong probabilities, regarding Israel's own future? In other words, do you or do you not find, as the result of this study, a natural, historical background for the thought of the Book of Jonah, as you have discovered it to your mind? Was there, in the condition of affairs, a call for the instruction and warning, personal as regards the prophet and national as regards that Israel of which he is the representative, which the book has seemed to you to convey?

2. The Literary Character of the Book of Jonah. Re-read the book, having in mind simply the character of its literary style. Compare this, as you read, with the impressions you have gained regarding the style of other O. T. books, historical and prophetical, and consider the following questions:

(1) Is this book written in the historical style? Does it appear to be intended to be history in the strict and limited sense of that term?

(2) In as far as you have a conception of the prophetic style of the O. T. as seen in the writings of the prophets taken as a whole, does this book appear to be written in such style?

(3) What is the character of the style, as far as it can be classed? Is there a dramatic element in it? If so, in what respects?

(4) As far as the purpose of the book may be considered to be reflected in its style and revealed by it, was it

(a) simply to state facts? or,

(b) simply to utter a direct warning or message? or

(c) does there appear to be a combination of history and prophecy?

(d) does the teaching stand connected by way of inference, with the matters narrated? Is it typical and symbolical? How does the allusion of Christ to the book, Matt. 12:38-41; Luke 11:29-32, seem to agree with such a view?

3. The Historical Character of the Book of Jonah.7 Is the book founded upon historical fact, or is it parable8 In the light of the narrative itself, weigh the following considerations for and against the parabolic character of the book.

(1) The lack of historical details. But on the other hand consider,

(a) the style of the book as suited to its purpose (topic 2), and

(b) the large number of details if it is a mere parable.

(2) 1 he unusual amount and character of the supernatural. Is it,

(a) apparently required in connection with the mission to Nineveh?

(b) to be anticipated in relation to a people outside of the line of special preparation for the Christian revelation? But

(c) must we not guard, in biblical criticism, against being unduly influenced, even unconsciously, by the doubt of the supernatural? and

(d) how great may have been the need of the prophet's mission, indirectly indeed, but none the less truly and powerfully, to Israel?

(3) The readiness of the repentance of the Ninevites, and the strange conduct of the prophet. But

(a) consider the circumstances in their relation to oriental religious character, especially that of the Assyrians as we are discovering it from a study of the monuments; and

(b) recall that the lesson taught the prophet in connection with his strange conduct is the lesson for Israel, whose representative he is in thought and conduct.

(4) Over against any other objections to the historic foundation of the narrative which may occur to you, weigh the contravening of Jewish thought and prejudice which the book presents in connection with its position in the list of Jewish sacred books. Unless founded upon fact would it be likely to occupy this position?

4. Authorship and Date.

(1) Contents of the book which seem inconsistent with the supposition that the prophet was its writer.*

(2) Particulars which seem to you to favor this idea.

5. The Message of the Book.

(1) Write out, in order, what appear to be the several teachings of the book.

(2) Select

(a) those which are of more importance generally considered,

(b) those which seem to be particularly emphasized in the book itself,

(c) those which seem to have a peculiar bearing upon the condition of Israel in the time of the prophet.

(3) Bearing in mind the language of Christ, Matt. 12:38-45; Luke 11:29-36, as the result of the above study, state concisely what seems to you to be the message of the Book of Jonah, first to Israel; second, to men of all time.


1) (a) See "studies" 6 and 19, together with incidental references in other studies; e. g., third "study," HI. 2; fourth " study." II. 3, (2), (5); eighth "study," III. 5, etc.; (b) review your notes containing the condensed results of your reading of the literature of the subject; (c) see references in foot-notes in connection with first " study," p. 21; third " study," p. 28; fourth " study," p. 31; eighth "study," p. 66, etc.

2) See von Orelli, O. T. Prophecy, pp. 193,194.

3) See, for many suggestive thoughts, Ewald, Prophets of the O. T., vol. i., pp. 59-84; The Prophets as Writers.

4) See first " study," pp. 22, 23.

5) For a fuller consideration of the matters here treated, see the Introductions to the O. T.

6) It is both more convenient, and also falls in better with the plan and purpose of these "studies," to take up first, as a whole, the written prophecy of the northern kingdom. In the treatment of this prophecy, there are many reasons why the consideration of the Book of Jonah may well come first, among which may be mentioned the character of the book as combining the personal and symbolic action of the prophet with the written message, its style as, in a sense, combining the historical and prophetic writing, and, more particularly, the scope and peculiar message of the book, which may well be emphasized at this introductory point in the study of the written prophecy.

7) "It is not possible, in the space devoted to these studies." to treat, in any comprehensive and exhaustive manner, such a topic as this, the literature regarding which is so extensive. The " "purpose of these studies is not to present opinions, whether of those who prepare them or of others, about the biblical writings, but the rather to aid the student in forming an independent judgment, as far as may be possible, from a study of and thought upon the biblical books themselves, as they are presented to us in their English form. For the guidance of any who desire to pursue this topic more fully than it is presented here, the following literature is suggested: "The Cambridge Bible for Schools, Obadiah and Jonah," T. T. Perowne, in which the introduction is valuable for its concise brevity; the volume of Lange's Commentary on the Minor Prophets, "Jonah," by Paul Kleinert and Charles Elliott, more extended in character; two articles in the O. T. STUDENT, October and November, '83, Is the Book of Jonah Historical? by W. R. Harper. In the use of this material, sufficient references will be found for following out the study to any extent desired. Emphasis, however, should be distinctly and strongly laid upon this point, viz., that the consideration of this topic is not the study of the Book of Jonah, nor, indeed, its most important part. The great question is, What is the message of the Book of Jonah? The question of the historical character of the book is of value as it is related to this wider

8) While and more this question important should, matter. as far as possible, be thought of quite separately from the consideration of that of the prophet's time and activity in the history of Israel, and also of that of the date and authorship of the book (see next topic), still, no doubt, in the majority of minds the result reached regarding it will influence, to a degree at least, the consideration of these others.