God called Jonah to preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. This merciless and brutal nation dominated the ancient world and was especially feared and hated by the Israelites. As a patriot, Jonah was afraid God would be merciful to Assyria and therefore resisted God’s directive. Jonah finally repents, obeys, and witnesses revival. But though his mission is successful, he is discouraged and angry that God spared Nineveh. As the book closes, Jonah is taught a great lesson regarding God’s mercy on foreign nations.
Jonah was the only Old Testament prophet sent directly to the Gentiles. Nineveh responded better to Jonah’s preaching than Judah and Israel responded to their own prophets. Although the Ninevites repented when Jonah preached, decades later they would decimate the nation of Israel.
The purpose of the book is to depict God’s universal love and to broaden the narrow-mindedness of anyone who thinks otherwise. Jonah’s story helps bridge the gap between Jews and Gentiles and reiterates God’s commitment to save all who repent.
1. Briefly paraphrase Jonah’s reluctance to obey God (1:3-17), his repentance (2:1-10), and his re-commissioning (3:1-4).
2. Comment on God’s willingness to work with individuals despite their shortcomings. How can God use people who do not want to be used by Him? What does the book teach regarding running from God, complaining, and disobedience?
3. Comment on how far God will go to bring a person in line with His will.
Why are some people inclined to evade responsibility when facing difficult tasks? In what ways can personal prejudices hinder one’s willingness to obey God?
4. Summarize Jonah’s renewed receptivity to God (3:5-10), and his final reprimand by God (4:1-11). Contrast God’s empathy with Jonah’s lack of compassion.
5. Comment on the reaction of the sailors to Jonah’s words and actions (1:6-17). In what ways did Jonah’s life impact theirs?
6. Read Matthew 12:39-41 and the facts recorded in Jonah 1:17. What is Jesus teaching through His analogy?
7. Compare and contrast Jonah’s prayer in 2:1-9 with his prayer in 4:2-3.
8. Read Romans 1:16-17; Romans 2:9-11 and Mark 16:15-16. What does the book of Jonah teach regarding the Believer’s responsibility to deliver God’s message of salvation to all people?
9. List the miracles in Jonah and give the significance of each. What does the book teach regarding God’s control over nature?
10. What is proven by the revival in Nineveh? How does the book of Jonah give insight into God’s worldwide love, compassion, and forgiveness? How does the book prove no nation has exclusive rights to Jehovah’s loving care?