BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Niniveh is mentioned in the Bible soon after the Flood – and already then it is called a big city (Gen.10:12). Archaeology shows us that there has been on settlement in Nineveh as early as 4500 BC. Jonah and the people of that city understood each other, because Hebrew and Accad are related languages.
The names and ruling years of Assyrian kings are well known, thanks to the clay tablets. But because we don’t know the year Jonah went to Nineveh, we can’t be sure of the name of the king either. In the middle of the 8th century BC there were many kings in succession.
Call to be a missionary – once more!
- Try to imagine the physical state of Jonah after the fish had vomited him on some beach of the eastern Mediterranean (2:11)?
- What was the God like in whom Jonah believed at this point of his life? Compare it to the concept of God he had had before his trip (1:9; 2:10b and 4:2)?
- Where had Jonah got hold of/ obtained the faith he now had in God?
- Do you think it was easier for Jonah to become a missionary after his flight than it would have been before it?
- Look at a map. How many kilometres approximately did Jonah have to walk? How long do you think it took him?
Jonah is preaching the Law
- How do you think your countrymen would react, if someone started to preach on the streets of the capital: “Forty more days and this city will be destroyed”?
- How would you react if you heard this kind of a sermon in your church?
- How did Jonah muster the courage to preach like this to the notoriously violent Assyrians?
- Why didn’t Jonah describe in his sermon in detail how he was saved from the belly of a whale?
- Why did the Lord want to warn Nineveh (unlike, say, Sodom) that a catastrophe was imminent?
- Think of various reasons why the inhabitants of Nineveh did not silence the foreign prophet?
- What surprises you most in the response of the king to Jonah’s message (6-9)?
- What made the king wish that Jonah’s God would perhaps have mercy on his city?
The prerequisite of a revival
- What made Jonah’s message so powerful?
- What would have happened if Jonah had walked through Nineveh shouting: “God loves all the people of the world, you included”?
- Why must the law be preached before a revival can take place?
- Where could we muster the courage to preach to our own contemporaries as sharp a law as Jonah preached to Nineveh?
- Jesus said about himself that he is “greater than Jonah” (Matth.12:41). What did he mean by that? (We will return to this theme next time.)
An ominous sign?
- Assyrian clay tablets mention over and over again “an ominous sign” from the year 763 - a complete eclipse. This is but a guess, but let’s suppose that this happened just before Jonah arrived at Nineveh. How much do you think that would have affected the minds of the people there.
- What was Jonah needed for, if such an ominous sign had already made people frightened?
THE GOSPEL: This story proves that there is no hopeless case on this earth, neither a person nor a city. If the word of God can break the hearts of cruel Assyrians, it can do the same with any other nation, or with ourselves, or with the person for whom you are worrying today.