BACKGROUND INFORMATION: In verse 2 Jonah utters a confession of faith, which again is a quotation of some central texts of the OT. At that region, the temperature can soar as high as 50 degrees Celsius, especially when the desert wind is blowing. In spite of this, Jonah decided to sit outside the walls of Nineveh for more than a month. The plant in verse 6 was probably a gourd which can grow quickly as long as four meters. But this does not happen in one single night without a God’s miracle.
The Lord changes his plans
- Consider different alternatives of how Jonah knew, that the Lord had changed his mind about Nineveh (3:10-4:1)?
- How can Jonah 3:10 and the following verse be reconciled: ”Whenever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.” (Deut.18:22).
- Suppose that the prediction of someone, who calls himself a prophet in our day, proves to be mistaken. Is this person, in your opinion, allowed to resort to the case of Jonah, or is he a false prophet?
- What does the verse 4:2b tell us about the situation/fate of this country and that of the whole world? What about world missions?
The missionary gets angry
- Why do you think the Lord often lets his child have a temptation after a great success?
- What exactly was it that made Jonah so angry with God (4:1-2)?
- Do you think Jonah’s rage is understandable and excusable? Give your reasons.
- What means did Jonah have to deal with his anger?
- Jonah was wishing himself dead twice in this chapter (4:3,8). Why did he want to die?
- What should Jonah have answered to God’s question (4)?
- What do you think about the explanation/ commentary, according to which Jonah was depressed in a psychological sense of the word?
- What does this chapter say about the anger/ depression of a church worker/ a person who is working for the Lord?
- Why did Jonah go outside the city instead of going home (5)?
- What other things than heat made Jonah’s condition unbearable while he was sitting in the desert?
- Jonah is said to feel joy only once during this whole story, in verse 6. What does this fact tell about him?
- How do you find God’s way of dealing with Jonah, according to verses 6-7?
- The Lord poses the same question to Jonah for a second time. Why (4,9)?
- Compare Jonah as he was in the belly of the fish to the Jonah who is sitting in the desert. What are the differences?
- Jonah is the only missionary in the whole OT who was sent to preach to heathens. In which way is he a prototype of all missionaries?
- What does chapter 4 have to say about your own anger?
- If you ever have felt that the Lord was bullying you on purpose, when was it?
- What is “the gourd” by which the Lord has tried to make you feel better?
- What should a church worker do if he/she is angry with God?
- What consolation is there for us in the 4th chapter?
- What do the last verses show us about God’s character (10-11)?
- What is the significance of the word “animals” in verse 11?
- What happened to Jonah after God had spoken to him? Think of various alternatives.
- What may the Israelites of Jonah’s day have said when they heard about his trip to Nineveh? What about the king Jerobeam II?
THE GOSPEL: The book of Jonah ends with God’s grace towards heathens. When we look at its last verses we can understand why he wanted to send his own Son to this world.
Jonah had been right when fearing that the Assyrians would sooner or later swallow Israel. The revival of Nineveh touched only one generation. From the year 745 onwards, the Assyrian Empire conquered Northern Israel bit by bit. Four decades after the eclipse (722) it destroyed Samaria and took the nine tribes into captivity, whence they never returned.
But finally there came a doomsday for Nineveh, too. In the year 612 BC, Babylonians captured the city and burned it to the ground. The prediction of Jonah didn’t materialize after 40 days, but after 150 years. For centuries nobody knew its whereabouts. It was not before the 1840s that it was found from under the desert sand near Mosul. The Nineveh is long gone but the book of Jonah is still around. As Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Luk.21:33).