Jonah – Atonement of Nineveh

Jonah, which means dove, is one of most interesting Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. Jonah’s plight seems to be self inflicted. Consider that since the time of Jacob the seed of Israel was not exactly open to those who didn’t come from the same family. Consider a faith that allowed those of only one linage to conduct themselves within the temple gates. Perhaps this is truly a parable and not a historic record either way the impact is great.

Yahweh sends forth a dove to a gentile people. That may not be hard to understand to us today but imagine that the people all turned around at Jonah’s warning. In all this Jonah is upset because he knew that the people would turn. We must be careful not to be like Jonah but rejoice when we see the repentance of others. This account gives us the prequel to one of Yahshua’s major accomplishments and warnings. Yahweh didn’t want a temple made with hands perhaps because as with Israel the people worshipped the temple and as Yahshua put it, they put the value on the gold in the temple. Yahweh wanted his people to follow him without physical representations and so soon after Yahshua’s sacrifice for all men as the Passover lamb the temple was destroyed in 70 CE.

Yahweh is the One we worship! So let’s read the story of Jonah and see what we can glean from this inspired teaching.

Jonah 1:1 Now the word of Yahweh came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

Jonah is recorded here and in II Kings 14:25 as being the son of Amittai, translated as, “my truth”. In other words Amittai brought forth truth in Jonah and is only referenced as being the father of Jonah. The year that this revelation from Yahweh comes to Jonah is disputed, if Jonah is truly historical then it is estimated that he lived around 815-741 BCE. This is a rather large number of years but is historically as close to the date as most scholars can estimate. It is known that around 606 BCE Nineveh was destroyed. Much of the linguistic evidence for dating found in the book of Jonah is that there is an Aramaic influence seen in the writing. The Aramaic influence via Aramaic wording leads many to conclude that Jonah is in fact a parable given in reference to Jonah. There are of course other explanations as to why the Aramaic words are used in Jonah including the fact that scribes may have later clarified the book using the words of their day. Yahweh is direct with what he would like Jonah to do concerning Nineveh.

Jonah 1:2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

Jonah is given the task to proclaim to the people of Nineveh that Yahweh has seen their wickedness. Jonah doesn’t answer this call though, he decides to head east to Tarshish (the Greeks called it Tartessus) which is in southwestern Spain.

Jonah 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh; and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh.

Jonah concludes that he can hide from Yahweh. This in a way shows that Jonah thinks really of Yahweh tied perhaps to the land of Israel. Yahweh knows what Jonah is doing and puts great trials in front of him in the form a mighty wind.

Jonah 1:4 But Yahweh sent out a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his deity; and they cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it unto them. But Jonah was gone down into the innermost parts of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

The mariners were greatly afraid that they would die and they called upon their deities without any sign of help. They knew by something about the storm that they were being punished, perhaps the storm was completely different than what they knew. Jonah was completely oblivious or perhaps thought he could hid out of Yahweh’s site so with this storm that looks like it is going to break up the ship he is asleep. This clearly distresses the shipmasters.

Jonah 1:6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy Elohim, if so be that Elohim will think upon us, that we perish not. 7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; what is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

A lot is cast and it falls on Jonah, this worries the shipmasters and so the questions begin as to what Jonah has done to cause this storm which has come as punishment. These men truly trusted that the lot was correct as they come to find out it was correct. Jonah’s choice was the reason for this storm.

Jonah 1:9 And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear Yahweh, the Elohim of heaven, who hath made the sea and the dry land. 10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, What is this that thou hast done? For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Yahweh, because he had told them. 11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. 13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to get them back to the land; but they could not: for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.

It is interesting that they attempt to row back to land making me wonder how far on this journey did they travel. The men of the ship attempt many things, like lightening the ship, not wanting to throw Jonah overboard. Perhaps they were truly kind hearted people or may be they were afraid for their lives, so that if they threw Jonah in the water it would only get worse. Only Yahweh knows for sure but their reluctance to ditch Jonah is powerful to say the least.

Jonah 1:14 Wherefore they cried unto Yahweh, and said, We beseech thee, O Yahweh, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood; for thou, O Yahweh, hast done as it pleased thee. 15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared Yahweh exceedingly; and they offered a sacrifice unto Yahweh, and made vows.

Men who worshipped pagan deities saw this powerful show of force by Yahweh and they called unto Yahweh asking for His protection and understanding that He would not take vengeance on them. The men feared Yahweh and made offerings and vows to Him. This is perhaps the first show in the book of Jonah that men of pagan faiths could change. These men by most sources would have been Phoenicians worshipping many deities but now seeing the power and glory of the Almighty giving them strong will for conversion.

Jonah 1:17 And Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Chapter 1 of Jonah concludes with Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. Yahshua fulfilled the sign of Jonah by being in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights. Three is usually used to represent a magnification of an item in the Hebrew. Chapter 2 starts by expanding on the time that Jonah spend in the belly of this giant fish.

Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto Yahweh his Elohim out of the fish’s belly. 2 And he said, I called by reason of mine affliction unto Yahweh, And he answered me; Out of the belly of Sheol cried I, And thou heardest my voice. 3 For thou didst cast me into the depth, in the heart of the seas, And the flood was round about me; All thy waves and thy billows passed over me. 4 And I said, I am cast out from before thine eyes; Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; The deep was round about me; The weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed upon me for ever: Yet hast thou brought up my life from the pit, O Yahweh my Elohim. 7 When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Yahweh; And my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple. 8 They that regard lying vanities Forsake their own mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation is of Yahweh. 10 And Yahweh spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

Jonah’s prayer to Yahweh is heard and Yahweh releases him from his watery grave. Yahweh has not given Jonah’s task to another. He remembers and reminds Jonah to go forth to Nineveh.

Jonah 3:1 And the word of Yahweh came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city, of three days’ journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Jonah makes the journey to the great city of Nineveh said to be three days journey from one end to the other. On the first day journey of entering the city Jonah proclaimed that in forty days the city would be overthrown. To Jonah’s surprise and dismay the people made an immediate atonement.

Jonah 3:5 And the people of Nineveh believed Elohim; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 And the tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water; 8 but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and beast, and let them cry mightily unto Elohim: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knoweth whether Elohim will not turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And Elohim saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and Elohim repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Not only the poor but the rich fasted. This was a great fast and mourning that went all the way down to the animals. The animals were even covered in sackcloth. The people mourned and this mourning reached the king and he too mourned and decreed that all should mourn and fast. They cried greatly to Elohim and made changes from the evil and violence that plagued their city. Yahweh saw the works of the people of Nineveh and spared them certain destruction.

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed unto Yahweh, and said, I pray thee, O Yahweh, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I hasted to flee unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious Elohim, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repentest thee of the evil. 3 Therefore now, O Yahweh, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

Nineveh was a huge success but Jonah was angry saying why did he even have to go because he knew Yahweh would turn from His anger. This of course isn’t at all why Jonah was on his way to Tarshish. Jonah begs after this beautiful change of a people that Yahweh takes his life. Jonah has no sympathy for the people of Nineveh. Rather than rejoicing he is disappointed that his words didn’t come true. Just imagine the different world we would live in if natural Israel would have harkened unto Yahweh from the beginning. Yahshua told the disciples to go to the lost sheep and this shows the strong connection between Jonah and the preparation for Yahshua’s ministry. The Nineveh people apparently had this will to obey Yahweh. Yahweh puts forth the question to Jonah; does it do you well to be angry?

Jonah 4:4 And Yahweh said, Doest thou well to be angry? 5 Then Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.

Jonah leaves the city but sets up camp to see what might happen to the city. He is still determined that something has to happen to Nineveh but Yahweh uses his sympathy for gourd to prove the value of the people Jonah doesn’t value. It is interesting to note that he sets up a booth or a Sukkoth. Perhaps this is the time of Tabernacles and the Atonement was during the Day of Atonement also called Yom Kippur.

Jonah 4:6 And Yahweh Elohim prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to deliver him from his evil case. So Jonah was exceeding glad because of the gourd. 7 But Elohim prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd, that it withered. 8 And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that Elohim prepared a sultry east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and requested for himself that he might die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

The gourd is possibly a castor-oil plant or a bottle-gourd. Any which way you look at it the importance seems to be Jonah’s sympathy for the plant over the people of Nineveh. The plant apparently wasn’t that tasty, its root means “to vomit up” so this was really a poor fruit not meant for food at all. Once again Jonah becomes so angry that the gourd dies and dries up that he prays his life be taken. It is through this example that Yahweh demonstrates to Jonah that he has set his values to a point that is ridiculous. Jonah values the gourd as much as the people or seems to be equally angry.

Jonah 4:9 And Elohim said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. 10 And Yahweh said, Thou hast had regard for the gourd, for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: 11 and should not I have regard for Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

The book of Jonah closes with a question posed by Yahweh. Something that Jonah didn’t labor for perished and Jonah was angry. Should Jonah be angry because the destruction of 120,000 people who don’t know even the smallest things is spared because they turned from their wickedness? The real problem for Jonah was that Yahweh had mercy on those who were not natural followers of Yahweh. This meant that if one would turn to Yahweh whether natural or not Yahweh would save them. This was a powerful message in the time when openness was not encouraged and physical was seen as more important than spiritual. Perhaps the exclusion of those who did all they could to follow Yahweh is the iniquity that really caused failure among the generations of Israelites. Jonah’s jealousy and self preservation lead him to flee when the calling came from Yahweh.

Yahshua is found through out the Old Testament as I hope Jonah has shown. We fast to be closer to Yahweh and mourn to ask for his intervention. Let’s learn from Jonah and not be quick to hope for the end judgment because there are many still searching. Yahweh’s mercy endures forever lets pray that we reside under the covering blood of Yahshua the Messiah who paid the ultimate price to redeem us from the sins of this world.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of Elohim hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us, to the intent that, denying unrighteousness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and righteously in this present world; 13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great Elohim and our Saviour Yahshua the Messiah; 14 who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.

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