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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Jonah 1

Verses 1-3

  1. Book Intro:
    1. Book of Jonah - The Prodigal Prophet. Its right in-between Obadiah & Micah :)
    2. The Main Character:
      1. Who do you think it is? - Not the big fish (mentioned 4 x’s); not the great city (9 x’s); not even Jonah the disobedient prophet (18 x’s); but God (mentioned 38 x’s).
        1. Patricia Sjostroms bible, red heart stamp, on every time God was mentioned in Jonah.
    3. Main Themes:
      1. It is about the Grace of God to Jonah, the pagan sailors, & the Ninevehites.
      2. It is about the Will of God & how we respond to it.
      3. It is about the Love of God & how to share it w/others.
      4. It is about the Word of God & how to obey it.
      5. It is about the Missionary God & His greatest revival ever.
        1. Charles Feinburg calls Jonah, “The greatest missionary book in the O.T.”
      6. It is about the Sov. God, over plant life, animal life, the elements, & the most stubborn of all…man!
    4. Titles:
      1. Prodigal Prophet. Missing the Boat. Whale-O-Gram. Not Snail-Mail but...Whale-Mail.
      2. His name means Dove, so we have, Dove turns chicken-of-the-sea.
    5. A Story:
      1. We have diff writing styles throughout Scripture: Poetical, Historical, Didactical (Paul), Gospels, Story form.
    6. It’s not just about a man & a fish…
      1. It’s a story about sin & grace.
      2. It’s a story about desperation & deliverance.
      3. It’s a story that reveals how we are all great sinners, but that God is a great Savior.
      4. It’s a story about how a great God relentlessly pursues a self-righteous fugitive.
      5. It’s a story which shows, that while our sins reach far, Gods grace reaches farther.
      6. It’s a story that shows how God’s capacity to clean things up is infinitely greater than our capacity to mess things up. (Tullian Tchividjian, Jonah Intro.)
    1. ​​​​​​​Here’s a riddle: When is making the boat, missing the boat? - When you make the wrong boat.
    2. The Books Credibility (1)
    3. It’s found in Judaism in the Tanak, Yonah. It’s found in Islam in the Quran, Yunus (in Arabic).
      1. Jonah is the only prophet named from the Hebrew bible/Tanak in the Qur'an, in the book As-Saaffat, chapter/Surah 37, verse 139-148.
    4. We have here a real person & a real story.
      1. 2 Kings 14:25 He (Jeroboam II, 793-753bc) restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.
      2. It was a time of prosperity for Israel…but judgment was about to fall.
      3. Gath(winepress) Ha(the) Hepher(digging) – winepress of digging.
        1. Located 3 miles NE of Nazareth in Galilee.
        2. Nicodemus spoke up to the Pharisees & they responded w/Jn.7:52 Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee. (uh huh!)
        3. Archeological evidence for the occupation of this site during the life time of Jonah has been found. [Also, Jonah’s tomb is there. Jerome even visited early 400’s]
    5. Jesus Substantiates: his name, his prophetic office, his story, & thus his book.
      1. Mt.12:40,41 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
        1. So we have a real man, with a real story, at a real time in history, with a real message for us today.
    6. Look at the 3 Imperatives (2) Arise. Go. Cry out.
    7. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Obedience to God is the most serious obligation of man.
      1. ​​​​​​​To fear God is to stand in awe of Him; to be afraid of God is to run away from Him.
    8. Here God also shows again His concern for other nations (Nineveh)
      1. Both Hosea & Amos, contemporaries of Jonah’s day, also showed God’s concern for other nations.
    9. Joppa – Today it is Jaffa/Yaffa [It is where we start our tour of Israel]
      1. Where Tabitha/Dorcas was raised. Where Simon the tanner lived.
      2. From here to Nineveh…500 miles NE. From here to Tarshish…2000m West.
    10. Nineveh – Northern Iraq, on Tigris River [God speaks,“Go East young man.”]
      1. It was the capitol of the Assyrian Empire.
      2. Today - Impressive ruins of Nineveh lie on the E. bank of the Tigris.
      3. They were a cruel & heartless people, who showed no mercy to their enemies.
      4. They were known to bury their enemies alive, impale people on sharp poles in the hot sun, & even skin people alive.
    11. Tarshish – SW Spain [His flesh whispers,“Go West young man.”]
    12. Does man have a free will? (3) Yes, but an obvious “limited one”.
      1. ​​​​​​​The will of God is not an option(at least His decreed will) it is an obligation.
      2. So did Jonah have a choice in this manner?
        1. Of course, he could choose the easy way or the hard way to get there. :)
      3. I wonder why we never ask, “Does God have free Will?” - Didn’t our sovereign God have a choice to send His prophet of the day, to Nineveh???
        1. ​​​​​​​And if He is Creator & Sustainer of this world, & it was more than just His “choice” but His “decreed will”…then be guaranteed saints, it is going to come to pass, & can’t not come to pass.
      4. Also remember, the will of God is the expression of the love of God.
        1. Ps.33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. What a blessing. Not a capricious (subject to whim; impulsive/unpredictable) kind of God.
    13. How does this verse illustrate the deceptive danger of seeking guidance from convenient or coincidental circumstances?
      1. What false security might have Jonah seen as maybe being in the will of God because all was working in his favor?
        1. If I’m Jonah, I’m thinking: Oh my gosh, I found a ship waiting at the shipyard. I have the exact fare that was needed. I was able to sleep soundly (5). MUST be the Lord!
      2. ​​​​​​​“When a person decides to run from the Lord, Satan is always happy to provided transportation, or accommodations.”
      3. Oh, the grace of God to allow him a good sleep before going down for a lesson.
      4. Ever notice that backsliding is always followed by a spiraling downward.
        1. ​​​​​​​3a down to Joppa. 3b down into the ship. 15 down into the sea. 17 down into the fish.
      5. See Jonah needed Nineveh as much as Nineveh needed Jonah.
    14. Running from God’s will
      1. ​​​​​​​Are you running from the will of God?
      2. Have you ever ran away from something you knew God wanted you to do?
        1. Maybe a situation you’re running from. Making a phone call you really don’t want to make. Setting up a meeting. Sharing your faith w/_______. Going on a certain Mission Trip. Turning off that TV show you know is stumbling you.
      3. We run from God’s will daily...don’t we?
      4. Answer today, what are you running from?
    15. Running from God’s presence
    16. Jonah ran from the presence of the Lord (see vs.3a,3b,& 10)
      1. He had to know he really couldn’t run away from God’s presence.
        1. Surely he knew…Ps.139:7-10 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
      2. So, what he was really running from was: his office, his working for God, his calling. He moved out of the sweet spot of Gods will.
        1. ​​​​​​​He stopped preaching, he became a backslidden prophet, the prodigal Prophet.
      3. Jeremiah thought it, but couldn’t do it. Moses, Elijah & others have struggled with it.
    17. This time period was only 30 years from Assyria invading Israel. Maybe Jonah knew this (from Amos or Hosea), so all the more didn’t want to help a future conquerer.
    18. Where would be the last place on earth you would want to be sent by God? And why?
      1. ​​​​​​​Maybe to the Pashtun Tribesman of Afghanistan (aka Taliban).
      2. Maybe to the terrorist organization Al Queda. Or to the Abu Sayyaf in So. Philip.
      3. Maybe you wouldn’t want to be sent to Iraq. Or to the Somalia Pirates.
      4. Maybe it’s to specifically a humid place, or a cold place you wouldn’t want to go?
      5. Maybe a war torn place? Or a place that is cut off from the outside world/no communication?
      6. Maybe its as scary as going to your neighbor across the street?
    19. Sometimes God asks us to do some things we don’t want to do because they are difficult, uncomfortable, or even painful.
      1. But, our disobedience can be more costly than our obedience.
      2. Ever moved when you weren’t supposed to? Ever changed jobs when it wasn’t Gods will?
    20. You Can't Outrun God. [You can run, but you cannot hide]
    21. Two ways that people run from God:
      1. Some by breaking all the rules.
      2. Some by keeping all the rules.
        1. Immoral people are trying to save/free themselves by breaking all the rules.
        2. Moral people are trying to save themselves by keeping all the rules.
      3. As J.I.Packer used to say, there is always 2 ways to fall off a tight rope.
        1. ​​​​​​​There are always 2 ways to run from God.
      4. Neither rule breaking nor rule keeping is strong enough to save us.
        1. Being good can’t save us anymore than being bad can.
        2. Only The Gospel can truly save you (what God has done for you, not what you can do for Him).
        3. The Gospel isn’t the ABC’s of Christianity, but the A-Z. (Timothy Keller)
          1. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day. Tullian Tchividjian
      5. Jonah proves both in this story.
        1. 1st 2 chapters, Jonah’s disobedience, ruler breaking.
        2. Last 2 chapters, Jonah’s obedience, ruler keeping (but with a wrong heart).
          1. Running from God in either direction is...running from God.
          2. Note: we all do this every day.
    22. Many years later God would send another messenger.
      1. Only when He came it was willingly & joyfully.
        1. Because He knew the heart of God, in fact He was the heart of God.
      2. He would be God’s Message (aka The Word) to a running away world.
        1. He was everything God wanted to say in a person.
        2. And like Jonah he would spend 3 days in utter darkness.
        3. But unlike Jonah....this Prophet, this Redeemer, this Rescuer would emerge from darkness w/determination to pursue His enemies...with life giving love.

Verses 4-17

  1. Intro:
    1. Title: Great Wind - Great God
    2. A mom recounts, Hurrying my 11-year-old daughter to school, I turned right on a red light where it was prohibited. "Uh, oh," I said, realizing my mistake. "I just made an illegal turn." "It's all right," my daughter said. "The police car behind us did the same thing."
      1. Last week we noted, Jonah made an illegal turn.
      2. Numb.32:23…be sure your sin will find you out.
    3. Slide#4 We’ll note…
      1. Jonah runs from his enemies - God runs toward His enemies.
      2. Jonah is on a mission of revenge - God is on a mission of rescue.
      3. Jonah is racially exclusive - God is racially inclusive.
      4. Jonah is about self-protection - God is about sacrifice.
    4. Slide#5 Outline:
      1. Crawling Down Into The Hold. All Hands On Deck. Climbing Up To The Crows Nest.
    1. ​​​​​​​The Phoenicians dominated the Mediterranean Sea for 3 centuries from 10-8bc [Jonah 8bc]
      1. Their ships were built for trading but had the capacity to fight. [pics of Phoenician Assyrian ship 8 cent.bc]
    2. But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea –
      1. ​​​​​​​The story isn’t...God’s ticked at Jonah. Jonah you disobeyed. I’m sending a storm as your punishment. No!
      2. The storm wasn’t a punishment from God, but the intervention of God.
      3. Intervention is for people in trouble & don’t realize it. (alcohol, drugs, porn)
    3. Note…because Jonah was sleep, Jonah misses the prayer meeting.
      1. While the pagans were entreating, the prophet was sleeping.
      2. Prov.24:33 NLT A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - then (spiritual) poverty will pounce on you like a bandit.
    4. (6) Arise, call on your God - This was the exact thing he was running from.
      1. The sailors need was so great that the men despaired of their lives; yet God’s servant slept. :(
        1. What an object lesson to God’s people then & now, to awaken from apathy, as crying people perish on the sea of life.
          1. Oh that our apathy (w/o feeling), would turn into sympathy (w/feeling), that would result in empathy (in feeling; I can do something, I must do something).
      2. He didn’t want to pray. He didn’t want to seek God. He had heard from God already…THIS WAS THE PROBLEM.
      3. Jonah would have first had to of confessed his sin & determined to obey God.
        1. Ps.66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
    1. ​​​​​​​(8) Come on, please tell us!…Name, rank, & serial number.
      1. ​​​​​​​Occupation? Prophet Where from? Galilee Your country? Israel What people? Jews
      2. He wasn’t living up to prophet, for prophets said what God told them to say.
      3. He wasn’t living up to being a Jew for he was not being a blessing to the Gentiles.
        1. Unfortunately, the man that was to be saving the lost was being saved by the lost.
    2. (9) God of heaven - as opposed to your false earth-gods.
    3. (10) Why have you done this? (ouch)
      1. More a Statement of horror at Jonah’s disobedience than a question of inquiry.
      2. How embarrassing to get rebuked by the unbeliever.
    4. (12) Was this Resignation or Repentance?
      1. Resignation – I believe his arms were folded until 2:1.
      2. Jonah wasn’t a martyr; he was playing a martyr.
      3. Martyr’s die for the glory of God, but Jonah offered to die because selfishly he would rather die than obey the will of God. Warren Wiersbe, OT Outlines.
        1. He’s misrepresenting God as The Angry God & in need to be appeased by his death.
          1. And they believe him, as they start rowing, i.e. we don’t want Him to turn His anger toward us if we throw him over.
          2. No wonder why the people that flocked to Jesus won’t flock to our churches/ ourselves today. We’ve misrepresented our God.
          3. Rom.2:4 the goodness/kindness of God leads you to repentance.
      4. Throw me into the sea - might sound heroic, but No. He would rather die than surrender. Kill me, because that is my angry God. He’s cranky & abusive when he doesn’t get His way.
        1. Jonah’s commended for telling the truth, but not for taking his own life in his hands.
        2. He should have said, my God is sooo gracious, turn around the ship & bring me back to Joppa.
        3. Remember, Jonah was not afraid of going to Nineveh for fear of failure, but fear of success...because he knew the mercy God would show on those Nasty Ninevites. see 4:2
    5. Let’s look at the trouble we put those around us in…when we are in sin.
      1. Would God hurl a storm into your home saints because of your disobedience?
      2. Would God send a storm into your workplace because of your spiritual mutiny?
      3. Would God send a storm into your surroundings because of your relocation rebellion?
        1. Does He send then blessings to those around you for your obedience? :)
      4. So, who was effected by Jonah’s sin? Jonah. The sailors. The Ninevites. And any/all other ships on the Mediterranean (and they have no clue why this storm has come up).
    6. When we start backsliding...we normally do not feel the movement.
      1. When you’re sitting on your surfboard out in the water, you don’t feel the currents pull.
      2. Normally you look up & see what landmark you’re in front of (i.e. where you enter the water) so you can watch your drift.
        1. Never underestimate the power of the drift...toward sin. It’s slow. It’s subtle.
        2. Our only hope is to stop running from God & start running to God.
        3. God always welcomes those who run to Him. Even better, like the prodigal, once there is the least amount of movement in His direction...our Father who art in heaven comes running toward us to bridge that ugly/scary gap.
          1. God to Adam, Adam where are you?
          2. Jesus to the blind man Jn.9:35 when he heard he was cast out of the Temple, & when He had found him, He said to him, Do you believe in the Son of God?
          3. Sometimes His running to our rescue looks like a big fish...but that’s next week
    7. Jonah could say as the psalmist, The LORD has chastened me severely, But He has not given me over to death. Ps.118:18
    8. (5) How did the Sailors respond to the storm?
      1. 1st, these polytheists cried out to their gods. Each cried out to their own deity.
        1. They weren’t sure which god was offended. This is Co-Exist at its finest. Covering all bases. Maybe Jesus’ mom can help, lets throw up a Hail Mary.
      2. Yet it is very interesting that these pagan sailors seem far more concerned about obedience…than Gods Prophet.
      3. Ever been better treated by an unbeliever then by a believer? Ever have better work done by an unbeliever then by a believer?
        1. Sometimes unsaved people put believers to shame by their honesty, sympathy, & sacrifice.
    9. (7) Wow...the dice came up right...on Jonah.
      1. Prov.16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.
      2. I bet Bob Larson could have captured this scene on a Far Side comic. Jonah just gets up, comes up on deck, stretching, yawning, wiping sleep from his eyes & asking, hey guys, watcha playin? Slide#11b Then realizing they are all looking at him!
    10. (12,13) It is significant that the heathen sailors at 1st rejected Jonah’s offer & began to work harder to save him & the ship.
      1. Interesting, they had more compassion for 1 life then Jonah did w/hundreds of thousands.
    11. (14) They have some basic theology: The existence of Jonah’s God. Their own guilt before Him. And His sovereignty over creation...for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.
    12. ​​​​​​​(16) Note their progression of fear (5,10,16) and why.
      1. Feared the Storm itself (5)
      2. Feared the Creator of the Storm (10) - Wow...his God actually made the sea.
        1. This terrified them. He was more powerful then they imagined.
      3. Feared the God of the Storm (16) He did what their gods could never do.
        1. ​​​​​​​Jonah’s God answered their prayer from vs.5.
        2. God did quiet the storm, which was more terrifying than the storm itself.
      4. Some say they just placed another god on their god shelf. Others say this was true repentance. - I bel this was true repentance. They now use YHWH, 5x’s in vs.14,16.
    1. ​​​​​​​Now let’s take a look from the crows nest down.
    2. (4) How did the Sovereign One respond to the storm?
      1. Trick question...He didn’t respond to the storm…He was the reason for the storm.
        1. ​​​​​​​He sent/hurled/cast it out.
      2. God loves His children too much than to let them run.
        1. Spurgeon said, “God never allows his children to sin successfully.”
        2. Heb12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves & chastises every son whom he receives
      3. When you won’t listen to His whisper from His word, often he will get our attention from the shouting of a storm. *Read Ps.107:23-32
      4. The Lord who can calm the troubled waters in your life is the same Lord who can stir them up to great frenzy.
    3. I summed up chapter 1 like this:
      1. Jehovah pleas. Jonah flees.
        God said, Go. Jonah said, No.
        Ship sought. Ticket bought.
        Down deep. Fast asleep.
        Captain awoke. Prayer invoked.
        Lots cast. Jonah last.

        Questions pop-ed. Jonah cop-ed.
        Stormy sea. All about me.

        To calm the tide? It’s over the side.
        Row & row. Still too slow.

        1,2,3. Into the sea.

        Storm cleared. Sailors feared.
        Jonah despaired. Fish prepared.
        Sumptuous dish. Belly of a fish.
    4. Spurgeon - While I was walking in the garden one bright morning, a breeze came through and set all the flowers and leaves a fluttering. Now that is the way flowers talk, so I pricked up my ears and listened. Presently an old elder tree said, "Flowers, shake off your caterpillars!"

      "Why?" said a dozen all together - for they were like some children, who always say "Why?" when they are told to do anything. The elder said, If you don't, they'll eat you up alive. So the flowers set themselves a shaking until the caterpillars were shaken off. In one of the middle beds there was a beautiful rose, who shook off all but one, and she said to herself, "Oh, that's a beauty! I'll keep that one." The elder overheard her, and called out, "One caterpillar is enough to spoil you." "But," said the rose, "look at his brown and crimson fur, and his beautiful black eyes, and scores of little feet. I want to keep him. Surely one won't hurt me." A few mornings after, I passed the rose again. There was not a whole leaf on her. Her beauty was gone; she was all but killed, and had only life enough to weep over her folly, while the tears stood like dew-drops on her tattered leaves. "Alas! I didn't think one caterpillar would ruin me."
      1. Is there one caterpillar of disobedience in your life that you must remove?
        1. Squish it today!
    5. Gods grace sent another Prophet. And more than a Prophet...a Savior.
      1. Who lived a life we could not live. Who died a death we should have died.
      2. Jesus is the new & better & obedient Jonah.

Verse 17

  1. Intro:
    1. We left off with Jonah in the Mediterranean, looking like Jason Bourne floating in the East River, at the end of Bourne Ultimatum.
    2. Jonah 2 slows down the pace of the story.
      1. This is a tool used by writers, and especially the Biblical writers. When the pace slows down, the writer wants you to focus on something or catch a specific detail. Here we see a little window into the life of Jonah in this slow down prayer.
    3. Remember the last time you were out swimming at the lake or the pool, and everyone was jumping around, screaming and yelling? What happened when you went under?
      1. It gets quiet real quick doesn’t it. The water muffles all the sounds.
      2. So it is getting quiet and dark, and Jonah is slowly sinking down deeper and deeper down into the darkness, into the pressure of the deep water.
      3. There is where we find Jonah today. Sinking further into the darkness, farther away from his family and friends, down he goes. And then Jonah cries out to the Lord from inside of the belly of the fish God sent to save him. Jonah finally prays. He wouldn’t pray for God to save the pagan sailors, but he does to thank God for saving him.
    1. (1:17) The great fish might have been…
      1. A Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) Known to have swallowed unusually large objects including even a 15’t shark. (Frank T. Bullen, Cruise of the Cachalot Round the World after Sperm Whales. London: Smith, 1898)
      2. A Whale sharks (Rhineodon Typicus) have swallowed men who later were found alive in the sharks’ stomachs.
      3. If man could prepare a big fish (submarine) to hold a man for 3 weeks even 3 months, couldn’t God prepare a big fish (what ever it was) to hold a man for 3 days?
    2. This is the prophet’s description of his plunge into what appeared to be a watery grave.
    3. The Hebrew phrase, 3 days & 3 nights, need not to be understood as a 72-hour period...but as 1 24-hour period & parts of 2 other days.
    4. Gen.George Patton(old BloodnGuts) said Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom
      1. Patton’s words remind us that all of us hit bottom at some point.
        1. Life has its ups/downs, its highs/lows. No matter how you try to stay on the high peaks of the mountain, at some point you descend into the deep dark valley. At some point you hit bottom.
        2. You may hit bottom when you make wrong, foolish choices, or you may hit bottom because of the wrong foolish choices of others.
          1. When your money runs low, or your health is snatched away. When depression drags you down and you can’t seem to find any hope. When you find out divorce is now inevitable. When you feel all alone and God feels far away - you look around and discover you’ve hit bottom.
      2. Everybody goes through it at some time or another. Everybody hits bottom. The real issue is: How do you bounce back when you hit bottom?
        1. Let’s ask a man who’s been there. He knows what’s like to go as low as you can go.
          1. Jonah went to the bottom and bounced back.
    5. Title: Bouncing Back from the Bottom
    6. Outline: To Bounce Back: Cry Out - Ask 3 Questions - Expect His Hand of Help.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Jonah 1". "Bell's Commentary". 2017.