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BibleProject - Old Testament - Lesson 34

Jonah - BibleProject

In this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the book of Jonah as you explore its historical context, literary features, themes, and significance in the Old Testament. You will learn how the book portrays God's mercy and compassion towards all people, the human tendency to rebel and the importance of repentance, and the critical role of mission in spreading God's message. This study will also highlight the connections between Jonah and other biblical narratives, providing insight into the book's impact on its original audience.
Taught by a Team
Taught by a Team
BibleProject - Old Testament
Lesson 34
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Jonah - BibleProject

BP100-34: Jonah

I. Introduction and Background

A. Historical Context

B. Authorship and Date

II. Literary Features

A. Structure and Style

B. Use of Imagery and Repetition

III. Themes and Message of Jonah

A. God's Mercy and Compassion

B. Human Rebellion and Repentance

C. The Importance of Mission

IV. Significance of Jonah in the Old Testament

A. Connections to Other Biblical Narratives

B. Impact on the Original Audience


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  • By watching this video, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the Old Testament, including its literary design and flow of thought. You will learn about the different sections of the Old Testament, including the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. You will also gain insights into the stories, themes, and messages of each of these sections and how they contribute to the overall narrative of God's relationship with humanity.
  • By studying Genesis, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Old Testament and its key themes and characters, as well as the literary features of the book, such as its structure, style, and genre. The creation story is a key part of the book, as are the stories of Abraham and the patriarchs, the fall and sin, the flood and Noah, and God's covenant with Israel. Additionally, Genesis introduces readers to the Old Testament and sets the stage for the Pentateuch and Books of Moses, while also introducing many themes and motifs that continue throughout the Bible.
  • Discover the captivating stories of the patriarchs in Genesis Part 2, exploring themes of covenant, God's sovereignty, human responsibility, faith, and obedience.
  • Explore the Bible's book of Exodus to gain insight into God's rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the significance of the covenant and law, and its connection to the New Testament.
  • Gain insight into the book of Exodus and its themes of salvation and redemption, revealing God's character through his interactions with Israel, with significant influence on Jewish and Christian traditions and connections to the New Testament through its foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.
  • By studying Leviticus with The Bible Project, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the historical and literary context, themes, and structure of this important book in the Old Testament. You will also learn about the significance of Leviticus for understanding the Torah and its relevance for Christians today.
  • By studying The Bible Project's lesson on Numbers, you'll comprehensively understand its structure, themes, and significance, gaining insight into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness, God's guidance, rebellion, priesthood, and offerings, as well as its historical, theological, and contemporary relevance.
  • Explore Numbers' authorship, context, structure, and theology to gain a comprehensive understanding of its significance to the Pentateuch and the Old Testament, as well as its relevance to the Christian faith today.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the book of Joshua, including its historical context, literary genre, and summary. You will learn about the book's themes, such as God's faithfulness, obedience, and judgment, and its significance in foreshadowing Christ's work and providing historical and theological implications.
  • Explore the historical and cultural context, literary design, and theological significance of the book of Judges in the Old Testament, and learn how it fits into the broader biblical storyline, including its relevance for today.
  • Explore the Book of Ruth to understand its historical context, literary features, themes of loyalty and faithfulness, redemption, the kinsman-redeemer's role, and its Old Testament significance.
  • Studying the Book of Samuel provides insight into the rise of the Israelite monarchy, the lives of Saul and David, and the importance of obedience to God, covering themes of leadership and kingship with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.
  • By exploring the story of Absalom in 2 Samuel and the broader context of the Old Testament Historical Books, you will gain insight into the themes and messages of these books, as well as their historical and modern-day significance.
  • Through the study of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, you will gain a deeper understanding of the history of Israel and Judah, as well as valuable spiritual lessons from these Old Testament books.
  • By studying this lesson, you understand the historical and literary aspects of 1 and 2 Chronicles, emphasizing God's sovereignty, covenant faithfulness, worship, and obedience.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the historical context, key themes, and modern applications of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, enriching your understanding of faith, community, and commitment to God's Word.
  • You will gain an understanding of the book of Esther, a narrative in the Hebrew Bible that tells the story of a Jewish woman named Esther who becomes queen in the Persian court and, with the help of her cousin Mordecai, saves the Jews from genocide orchestrated by the villain Haman. The story highlights God's sovereignty and providential care, and the feast of Purim celebrates the Jews' victory.
  • By studying the Book of Job, you will explore the complexities of human suffering, the search for divine wisdom, and the tension between God's sovereignty and human limitations within a unique literary structure.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the book of Psalms, including its background, structure, authorship, and theology. You will also learn about the various themes and motifs present in the Psalms, which will help you better understand and appreciate this important book in the Old Testament.
  • By studying Proverbs, you will understand the definition and purpose of wisdom, the fear of the Lord, and the personification of wisdom in the book. You will also gain insights into the literary structure of Proverbs and the themes of the book, including the importance of listening to wisdom, the power of words, and the value of hard work.
  • In the Ecclesiastes lesson, you gain insights into the book's structure, themes, and significance, while exploring the search for meaning, vanity, and the importance of fearing God and enjoying life.
  • You will gain an understanding of the literary features, interpretation, theology, and application of the book Song of Songs, including its authorship, historical and cultural context, allegorical and literal interpretation, and its teachings on God and human love, sexuality, and relationships.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Isaiah's historical context, literary features, major themes, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover how Isaiah's prophetic message of judgment and hope for Jerusalem evolves, as it predicts the fall of Israel's kingdom and envisions a new, purified Jerusalem where God's kingdom will be restored through a future messianic king, uniting all nations in peace.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain understanding of the book of Jeremiah, including its historical and cultural context, literary features, major themes and message, and significance in the Old Testament.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the Book of Lamentations, its structure, themes, and the role of God in the midst of suffering and divine judgment, while ultimately highlighting His faithfulness and mercy.
  • In the book of Ezekiel, you follow the story of a priest named Ezekiel who has a vision of God's glory riding on a royal throne chariot, and is commissioned by God to accuse Israel of rebellion and warn them of their impending destruction due to their covenant violations and rampant social injustice, while also providing a small glimmer of hope for the future.
  • By viewing this lesson on Daniel, you will gain understanding of its structure, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, gaining knowledge about living as faithful exiles in a hostile culture, God's sovereignty and faithfulness in times of trial, and remaining faithful to God even in difficult circumstances.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the complexities of Hosea, discovering the book's themes, messages, and its role in the Old Testament, emphasizing the relationship between Israel's unfaithfulness and God's unwavering love.
  • By studying the book of Joel, you will gain insight into the historical and cultural context of Judah, the literary features of prophetic literature, and the themes of repentance, restoration, and the Day of the Lord. Joel's prophecy also has significance in the New Testament as it is quoted by Peter at Pentecost, emphasizing the fulfillment of Joel's vision through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • In the Amos lesson, you explore its historical context, literary features, and themes, enhancing your understanding of justice, the Day of the Lord, and God's sovereignty within the Old Testament.
  • By studying Obadiah, you will gain insight into the historical context and literary features of this prophetic oracle. You will learn about the pride of Edom, their judgment, and the hope for Israel. Through understanding the significance of Obadiah in the Old Testament, you will have a deeper appreciation for the themes and message of this book.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jonah's themes, including God's mercy, human rebellion, repentance, and the significance of mission, while also understanding its connections to other biblical narratives.
  • Studying the book of Micah will give you an understanding of its historical context, literary genre, prophetic message of judgment and restoration, and insights into God's character and how He interacts with His people.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the historical context, structure, and themes of the book of Nahum, learning about God's sovereignty, justice, and the relevance of these concepts in today's world.
  • Studying Habakkuk will deepen your understanding of how to wrestle with difficult questions about God's character and the problem of evil and respond with faith and trust in God's sovereignty.
  • In this lesson, you explore the book of Zephaniah, gaining insights into its background, context, literary features, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, including the central message of the Day of the Lord and the promise of future hope.
  • You will gain an in-depth understanding of the Book of Haggai, including its historical and cultural context, literary structure, purpose and themes, individual sections, and theological significance in relation to the Exile, Restoration, and Messiah.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into Zechariah's historical context, structure, themes of restoration, the coming Messiah, God's sovereignty, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover the last book of the Old Testament and its themes, such as God's love for Israel, the importance of worship, and the coming of the messenger and the day of the Lord, as well as its connection to the New Testament, which prophesies the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus and calls for a return to God.
BP100-34 Jonah The Book of Jonah. A subversive story about a rebellious prophet who hates God for loving his enemies. Jonah’s unique among the prophets of the Old Testament because they’re typically collections of God’s words spoken through the prophet. But this book doesn’t actually focus on the words of the prophet; rather it’s a story about a prophet, a really mean and nasty prophet. Jonah appears only one other time in the Old Testament; it’s during the reign of Jeroboam II, one of Israel’s worst kings. And Jonah prophesized in his favor; promising that he would win a battle and regain all his territory on Israel’s’ northern border. Now it’s important to know, that the prophet Amos also confronted Jeroboam and through him God specifically reversed Jonah’s prophesy; promising that Jeroboam would lose all those same territories because he was so horrible. So before the story of Jonah even begins, we are suspicious of Jonah’s character. The book of Jonah has a beautiful design with all this literary pairing and symmetry. So you have chapters 1and 3, telling the story of Jonah's encounter with non-Israelites, first with, some sailors and then with Jonah's hated enemies, the Ninevites. And each part offers a comic contrast between Jonah's selfishness and the pagans’ humility and repentance Chapters two and four contain prayers of Jonah; one is a prayer of repentance, kind of, and the other is a prayer in which Jonah chews out God for being too nice. Now this careful design of the book is matched by a really unique style of narration. The story's full of all of these stereotyped characters, who ironically do the exact opposite of what you think they would do. So you have the prophet, the man of God, who rebels and hates his own God. You have the sailors who are supposed to be really immoral but actually they have soft repentant hearts and turn to God in humility. You have the king of the most powerful murderous empire on the planet and he humbles himself before God because of Jonah's five-word sermon. And even the king's cows repent. This kind of story fits what today we would call satire. These are stories about well-known figures who are placed in extreme circumstances and they use humor and irony to critique their stupidity and character flaws. Let's just dive in and we'll see how all the pieces work together. The story opens as God addresses Jonah and commissions him to go preach against the evil and injustice in Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, Israel's bitter enemy. But instead of going east to Nineveh, Jonah goes in the opposite direction, finding a ship going as far west as you can go to Tarshish. Now the big question here is, why? Why does Jonah run? Is he afraid? Does he just not like the Ninevites? And were not told yet. So the man of God tries to run from God. And he boards a ship full of pagan sailors. He goes down into the ship and then he falls asleep. So God sends a huge storm to wake up His prophet. Well, ironically the sailors above-board are wide awake to everything that's happening. They can discern that there's a divine power at work here. So they throw the dice and they discovered that Jonah, he is the culprit. So they ask Jonah to explain himself and Jonah spouts off a whole bunch of religious mumbo-jumbo he says "Yeah, I'm Hebrew and I worship the LORD the God who made the sea and the dry land." What a joke, right? God made the sea and the dry land alright, and Jonah's dumb enough to run from this God by getting on a boat? And when the sailors ask Jonah what they should do, he says "kill me, by throwing me overboard." Which kind of seems noble at first until you realize this could actually be his most selfish move yet. I mean what better way to avoid going to Nineveh. So he puts his blood on these innocent sailors hands by trying to force them to kill him. They're reluctant, of course. And they repent to God even as they tossed him over. The storm subsides and they end up fearing the God of Israel. And unlike Jonah, they actually worship God. But God foils Jonah's plans to escape Nineveh. As Jonah's sinking, God provides this strange watery tomb for him, the stomach of a large fish. Now, of course under normal circumstances this would be certain death, but in this story, everything's upside down. And so Jonah's submarine death becomes his passage back to life. Cramped in the stomach of this beast, Jonah utters a prayer; where he never technically says that he's sorry but he does thank God for not abandoning him and he promises that he will obey God from this point on no matter what. And God's response is quite comic: the whale vomits Jonah back onto dry land. So once again God commissions Jonah to go and preach in Nineveh and Jonah complies. We're told that Nineveh was a gigantic city; it would take days to walk through. So Jonah gets one day in and here is his message "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." It's five words in Hebrew. Now, his sermon is very short and it's also odd; I mean look at what's missing. There's no mention of what the Ninevites have done wrong or of what they should do to respond. There's no mention of who might overturn them. And most noticeable, there's no mention of God. What's going on here? Has Jonah intentionally given the bare minimum of information? It's like he's trying to sabotage his own message or ensure the Ninevites destruction. There's just no effort on Jonas part here. Whatever his motives are, the plan doesn't work. Because no sooner does he utter this five-word sermon that the king of Nineveh, the entire city including all its cows, repent in sorrow and ashes. So for the second time, these evil pagan show themselves to be more responsive than God's own prophet. So God forgives the Ninevites. And He doesn't bring destruction on the city Now here's the brilliant part of the story. The last word of Jonah's short sermon "overturned" means just that "turned over". And it can refer to a city being overthrown or destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah. But it can also be used of something being transformed, like turned over and changed into its opposite. And so comically Jonah's words actually came true but not in the way that he intended. Nineveh does get turned over as Jonah's enemies repent and find God's mercy. The final chapter brings all the pieces together. Jonah, he's fuming mad. And he utters his second prayer. He first tells God why he ran away back in chapter one. It was not because he was afraid. Rather it was because he knew that God was so merciful. And this is great, Jonah actually quotes God's own description of Himself from the book of Exodus and he throws it back in God's face as an insult He says he knew that God is compassionate and that He would find and that He would find some way to forgive these horrible Ninevites. You can just hear the disgust in Jonah's voice. Jonah then cuts off the conversation. And he prays that God would kill him on the spot He'd rather die than live with the God who forgives His enemies. Fortunate for Jonah, God doesn't comply and simply asks if Jonah's anger is even justified. Jonah ignores the question and he goes outside the city to camp on a nearby hill waiting to see what might happen, you know, the Ninevites might repent of their repentance and get roasted after all. What happens next is very odd. God provides this viney plant to shade Jonah from the sun and that makes him quite happy. But then God sends a tiny worm to eat up the plant and so Jonah loses his shade. And there in the heat of the sun, Jonah asks again that God kill him. So God again, asks Jonah if his anger is justified and Jonah barks back "Absolutely just let me die!" And those are Jonah's last words in the story. God's final words or what concludes the book. He says that this whole vine incident was an attempt to get through to Jonah. Right, Jonah got all concerned and emotional over this vine, which he only enjoyed for a day. And God asked Jonah "you know, aren't humans a bit more valuable than vines? I mean, isn't it ok if God might feel the same kind of emotion and concern for the city of Nineveh, that's full of thousands of people, who have lost their way and also their cows?" And that's how the book ends, with God asking Jonah for permission to show mercy to His enemies. And what is Jonah's answer? The story doesn't say. Because that's not the point. The point is that the book is trying to mess with you. And God’s questions And God's questions here actually addressed to you, the reader. Are you ok with the fact that God loves your enemy? And so this book holds a mirror up to the one who reads it. In Jonah we see the worst parts of our own character magnified, which should generate humility and gratitude that God would love his enemies and put up with the Jonah in all of us. And so this strange story actually becomes a message of good news about the wideness of God's mercy that ought to challenge us to the core. And that's the book of Jonah.