Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read the entire book. Orientation Jonah is book #32 of 39 in the Old Testament, and the fifth book of the Minor Prophets. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Jonah, although considered a book of prophecy, only contains one - that Ninevah will be destroyed (3:4), and even that does not come to pass. The theme of the book is how God can use people who do not want to be used!
Synopsis God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh (1:2), a big city deep within the Assyrian empire. Jonah's assignment is to tell the citizens that God will destroy their city in 40 days. Jonah fears the Assyrians more than he fears God, so he boards a ship headed in the opposite direction, to Spain (1:3). A big storm erupts and the crew suspects Jonah is responsible. The crew throws him overboard (1:15), and he is swallowed by a giant fish (1:17).
Three days later, the fish spits Jonah up on a beach (2:10). Jonah walks 500 miles to Ninevah and delivers the message. The people repent (3:5) and God spares them. Jonah is somewhat annoyed his prophecy has not come to pass (4:1), so he sets out into the desert. While he sits and pouts, God provides a vine for shade (4:6), but then a worm to cut down the vine (4:7). The book ends abruptly when God compares Jonah's discomfort to that of Ninevah (4:11).
Discussion points Notice how God has specific plans for animals (the fish in 1:17, the worm in 4:7) and plants (the vine in 4:6). Does God use plants and animals in other instances in the Bible? *
God changes his mind and decides not to destroy Ninevah after all (3:10). Are there other instances in which this has happened? Does God's ability to change his mind affect our understanding of him?
When Jonah moves to the desert, God provides a vine for shade (4:6) but then provides a worm to cut down the vine (4:7). After reading God's explantion, do we ignore the big issues and worry about the small ones?
Connections One of Jonah's successful prophecies is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25.
Ninevah does not fall during Jonah's time, but does eventually ... as described in Nahum.
Jesus teaches using Jonah as an example in Matthew 12:39.
Compare the storm at sea (1:4) with that in Matthew 8:23. In each case, what does it take to calm the storm?
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 9 2014
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*SOME EXAMPLES OF GOD USING PLANTS Eve eats fruit in Eden - GEN 3:6 Dove finds dry land for Noah - GEN 8:11 God speaks to Moses through a burning bush - EXO 3:2 Oak tree catches Absalom's hair, results in his death - 2 SAM 18:9 Jesus curses fig tree, uses it for a lesson - MARK 11:13 Crown of Thorns placed on Jesus - MATT 27:29, MARK 15:17 (there are likely more) SOME EXAMPLES OF GOD USING ANIMALS Plague of frogs - EXO 8:5 Plague of gnats - EXO 8:16 Plague of flies - EXO 8:20 Plague of locusts - EXO 10:12 Balaam's donkey speaks - NUM 22:21 Ravens feed Elijah - 1 KINGS 17:6 We are told to learn from the animals - JOB 12:7 Jesus casts demons into pigs - MAT 8:28, MARK 5:1, LUKE 8:26 Jesus foretells a coin inside a fish - MATT 17:24 Worms eat Herod to death - ACTS 12:21 (there are likely more)