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Jonah’s Leftovers


Welcome TO JONAH

There is a LOT of information here. So, don't try to eat it all at once; as Ted SMith says, "You Eat a whale, 1 bite at a time." So, digest portions of this scripture reference slowly and carefully. ask GHSPirit to guide you as you study. refer back to this over the full course of jonah to help you understand God's intended meaning of jonah. and bring a pen along with you as you dive into god's word, because that's a main difference in "reading," the word and "studying," the word.

Additionally: this is a combination of study materials, commentary resources, and other biblical scriptures that have been pulled together from study, in order to help us be able to examine the book of Jonah as best we can. There are areas in this blog that are "thoughts On," which means that it's not inherent scripture; therefore, you may find human erorr within it. so, As you study for yourself ask GHSPirit to reveal to you his truth from the book of Jonah and approach the text with open eyes and open hearts. And lastly, as Pastor Jo says, "Eat the meat, and leave the bones."

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." ~2 Tim. 2:15 ESV


The story of Jonah in the OT scriptures, with all of its twists and its turns, is really about how God leads His prophet named “Jonah,” (sometimes by the hand and sometimes by the scruff of his neck) to show Jonah that He is the God who is Sovereign over all things.

Jonah is really a story of God’s Sovereignty over all things. 
We see this as God “appoints,” a fish (C.1:17), a plant (C.4:6), a worm (C.4:7) and an east wind (C.4:8) throughout the narrative. 

We see in the story of Jonah that Jonah wants a god of his “own making”, a god who simply smokes the “bad” people, (for instance, the wicked Ninevites) and blesses the “good” people (like Jonah and his fellow countrymen). But, when the “real God” “YHWH,” keeps showing up (not Jonah’s counterfeit god) Jonah is thrown into madness or despair. And Jonah finds the real God (YHWH) to be an enigma because he struggles to reconcile how the mercy of God can coincide with the justice of God. “How?,” Jonah even asks, “Can God be merciful and forgiving to people who have done such violence and evil? (Nineveh)
***btw-We see this sort of juxtaposition all over the Bible, from other places, such as Ephesians 4:15, where we are reminded to, “speak the truth in love.” Truth and love (as mercy and justice) aren’t mutually exclusive either—because, truth without love is mean; and love without truth is meaningless.
The primary purpose behind Jonah is to engage us readers in a theological reflection on the compassionate character of our great God, and it’s meant for us to use this “self-reflection” to better understand whether our own character reflects or repels God’s compassion. The end goal from Jonah is that we might become vehicles of God’s compassion in a world that our Sovereign God has created and deeply cares about!
It’s important for us to remember as we walk through Jonah that Jonah isn’t the story of a “really big fish,” but instead it’s the story of a “really Big God!


The book of Jonah can be viewed as a “4 course meal,” where Jonah meets “4 sets of characters,” over the course of “4 big scenes.” Those scenes can be broken down like this:

#1 – The Sea (Jonah and the sailors)  (C.1:1-16)
#2 – The Psalm (of deliverance, with Jonah and the fish) (C.1:7-2:10)
#3 – Inside of Nineveh (Jonah and the Ninevites) (C.3:1-10)
#4 – Outside of Nineveh (Jonah and God) (C.4:1-11)



The historical Jonah, Jonah the prophet – prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-28) who ruled Israel (the Northern Kingdom) from 782 – 753 B.C. Additionally, it’s because of the sins of Jeroboam’s grandfather Jehoahaz (who ruled Israel from 814-798 B.C.) that Israel was oppressed by the Arameans (2 Kings 13:3) But, because of God’s great compassion (2 Kings 13:4/23) Israel was spared destruction and delivered from oppression (2 Kings 13:5).
Now, we don’t know who actually “wrote,” the book of Jonah. But, most scholars believe Jonah  was written in the post-exilic period (after the Babylonian exile of Judah in 586 BCE), which would be a few hundred years after the historical Jonah lived. You can find more information on this reasoning, but from a 50k foot view: (1)There are some words in the book of Jonah that seem to date to a later period of Aramaic. (2)And the literary Jonah seems to be interacting with certain Psalms and passages from Jeremiah and Joel; which would post-date the historical Jonah.
The historical Jonah, lived somewhere between 800 and 750 BCE (as mentioned above) which leaves about a 200 year gap between the historical prophet and the writing of Jonah.
–Now, that’s not a huge deal if there’s a ton of source material that connects the past to the time of writing. For example, someone writing about George Washington a couple hundred years later would have a ton of resources to look at – you would find: old letters, and old books written about George Washington right after his death – so you could then rightly recap old “Georgie”. Unfortunately, we don’t get any of that for Jonah. He is only mentioned 1x in our Bible’s OT, and not at all outside of the Bible. His only claim to fame really is in 2 Kings 14:25It’s because of the “Kings,” mentioned in the passage (2 Kings 14:23-27) we know that Jonah lived in the early 8th century BCE.

***btw – Not to get “too deep,” into this so that we’re drowning, but so you can better understand the dynamics of Israel; in which Jonah was serving under— in 1 Kings 11, after King Solomon dies we see the nation of Israel split into 2 kingdoms–the N.Kingdom and the S.Kingdom. And the N.Kingdom was still called Israel, and the S.Kingdom was called Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was a lot larger in size, and a lot stronger; it contained most of the remaining tribes of Israel. The Southern Kingdom of Judah on the other hand was a lot smaller, and they were a lot less powerful. They only had 2 tribes on their team. But historically, (in a nut-shell) the N.Kingdom was bad, and the S.Kingdom continually tried to follow God.

To summarize, if we place the historical Jonah’s life on our own real-life-geo-political timeline…he lived about a generation before Assyria came in and destroyed the Northern kingdom of Israel. This is important as, he was from the N.Kingdom of Israel and was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II.

***btwJeroboam II followed in the footsteps of Jeroboam I, an evil earthly King. We get hints in the scripture that Jonah praises Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25-27) whilst others of Jonah’s peers, like Amos, disagreed with that assessment and preached against Jeroboam II. (Amos 7:11). By comparing the two accounts in 2 Kings and in Amos we see on one hand: Jonah prophesying about Jeroboam II’s military awesomeness with success. But then we see Amos prophesying his military defeats…which is a whole nother’ conversation in itself. 

But, the historical Jonah fits into a category of what we might label as a “Third-string (3rd-person) prophet.” That is, we don’t have the full account of recorded prophecies from Jonah, like we do with many of the other “first-string (1st person) prophets,” like Isaiah, Amos and Jeremiah.


Speaking of “Prophets,”….this book in your Bible, it sits among a collection of writings called the “Prophets,” and it sits there because our main character Jonah was a “Prophet,” to the Northern Kingdom of IsraelAnd a Biblical prophet was somebody who’d received a radical encounter with God’s presence and then they were commissioned by God, to go and speak for God, on God’s behalf.


Now, I’m not for sure how familiar you are or not with the Old Testament – but, in the Old Testament books there were 12 prophets (whom after their lives were lived, were later labeled as) “The minor prophets”. And they’re labeled as “minor,NOT because they’re unimportant or because they produced a lesser quality than the “5 major prophets” (like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel  and Daniel). It wasn’t like one day a “minor prophet,” if they continued improving in their religious career would maybe get “called up to the majors,” one day…but they’re “minor,” because the work of the book that was written is a lot shorter. Plus, the minor prophets mainly revolve around a local story with a local impact; whereas, the Major prophetic writings are a lot longer; and are usually globally centered–hence the word “major.”
So we need to establish that “The 12 Minors,” weren’t less inspired by GHSpirit – – it’s just that God in His sovereignty chose to reveal more to the majors than the minors. But, both categories are in fact, Holy Spirit inspired and worthy of our attention.


There are a total of 15 books of the prophets, the big ones are: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and then there are 12 smaller ones; Jonah is part of those smaller ones.
Generally speaking, the prophetic books –through poems and revelation and imagery would describe how God could turn their tragic stories of failure and exile into a story of hope and restoration for all nations. It was a twin message of warning and hope (Hey! juxtaposition again!) that the prophets cared about so much.
Now what’s interesting (to me at least) is that both the major and the minor prophets are typically among the least popular books of the Bible that believers will tend to read.
And I get it…it’s understandable. This is partly because the prophetic writings often include some pretty unusual prophetic language and there’s a lot of constant warning and condemnation that’s recorded through their prophecies. And at times they can be a little difficult to navigate whenever you’re trying to set them in a historical and current context because – – at times the prophets were looking forward from their perspective, and we are looking backward… and then sometimes it’s still looking forward for us (if that makes sense, lol).
Regardless, there’s still a lot of really valuable content that should be studied in the Major and Minor Prophets.
The biggest differences in Jonah and the rest of the 12 is that they contain, well… the 12 contain a lottttttt of prophecy! Whereas, when you read Jonah, you only get this dinky-5 word prophetic sermon that’s stuffed toward the end in chapter 3 (C.3:4).
So, why the difference? Unlike the other minor-prophets, the historical Jonah was a “third-person prophet,” (as mentioned above) and so the book of Jonah follows that tradition. Jonah is a book about Jonah, rather than being a book of Jonah’s prophetic words.


From the time of Moses (in Deuteronomy 18), God had told Israel that He was going to appoint some “prophets” to communicate His word to the people.
And these OT prophets were men of God who functioned as both “foretellers,” and “forth-tellers.” They were “foretellers,” in that they could see the future based on a custom-revealed-knowledge from God Himself, but, they were also “forth-tellers,” as they would share how the Word of God was applicable with present/relevant circumstances.
The primary mission of the prophets was to proclaim God’s truth to the people around them—in their own time, and in their own place, and in their own language. 
***Which isn’t unlike what your Pastors and teachers do today who are called to preach and teach. We are forth-tellers, NOT foretellers.
Earlier I also mentioned they would use a lot “unusual language,” in the prophetic books— and its in this cosmic imagery they’d to talk about their current circumstances and also point forward to the futureDay of the Lord,” that was coming. This would point forward (for them) to be a time of “new creation, and a new messianic King (Jesus) who would come to restore all things (This points backwards for us).
***btw – Yes, the “Day of the Lord,” also sometimes refers to “the end of the world,” (pointing forward for us) but, not always.
And Israel’s leaders (the priests and the Kings specifically) shunned the prophets just like everyone else, until their warnings came true with current (past – for us) events, like the Babylonian exile. Then after the prophets words came true people really began to take what they were saying on God’s behalf a lot more seriously.
***btw – In fact, it’s the works of these earlier prophets that were inherited later by un-named prophets that studied these texts super-intensely and they are the ones who actually arranged the Hebrew bible as we know it today…which, includes the Books of the Prophets. =)

THE PROPHETS ~ Primary Mission = COVENANT Lawyers

So the prophets in the Bible mainly cared about the partnership between God and God’s people Israel. The backstory there is: God had saved Israel from the slavery of Egypt and He’d invited them to become this nation that was marked by justice/generosity/and mercy so that to all of the other nations looking in would see God in these types of ways.
And in this “partnership,” it was required of Israel to dedicate all of their worship to God and God alone….in the scriptures that partnership was called “The Covenant,” (ask Pastor Johann if you want to learn about the New VS Old Covenant). But, (as mentioned above) what happened was that many of the leaders sucked and they led Israel away from God and they would cyclically break their side of the Covenant. This is where the prophets came in. They came in to remind Israel of their role in this covenant partnership with God (hence the preaching of condemnation alongside of a future hope).

Now that we've walked through and established the reality of "the historical jonah," let's turn our attention to the reality of the "Literary Jonah."


The literary side of Jonah is a masterpiece. It includes a story line that’s so simple that even a little kid can follow it, Yet, the story itself is marked by a high degree of literary sophistication. The writer behind Jonah uses humor, hyperbole, structure, irony, double entendres, and literary figures like merism to communicate with different rhetorical tools.

One reason I like Jonah so much is because biblical scholars aren’t exactly sure whatsort of book,” it is. But, like all good prophetic + wisdom books in the Word, it doesn’t come right out and tell us the point it’s trying to make…instead it forces us to work for it ourselves.

So, what kind of "text" is this?!

Some say that Jonah is: allegory, Midrash, didactic fiction, parable, legend, philospohical treatise, tragedy, short story, comedy, parody, satire, and narrative history….and the good news, is yes! We find all of these elements from Jonah. As you read Jonah it is very difficult to pick out just 1. 

The easiest way for me to classify it for us is like this: The literary Jonah is a “Historical-Moral-Theological Story.” There is some allegory, and some midrash, and it’s part parable, and it’s part philosophical treatise, and part parody, and historical figure, and a lot of satire. But, again, what we need to see is that Jonah is a story that’s told to get us think about God’s relationship to the world, our relationship to God, and our relationship to one another in God’s world.


Since the writing style of Jonah isn’t like the Epistles or Gospels this means that we can’t read or preach Jonah like a typical “historical text,” though it does have historicity in it. We have to take into mind how it’s written. The literary Jonah isn’t “history” for “history’s sake,” but is definitely didactic (w/a ton of allegorical and parabolic interpretations)…ie. – it’s why the story is told to teach us readers some key lessons about God and people.

***btw Didactic character shows up from the repeated usage of questions used throughout Jonah. In fact, 11 of the 14 are being addressed to Jonah himself – and the question that closes the whole book leaves us readers asking ourselves how we will respond to the “end” of the story?

Unfortunately, we don’t know who the author of Jonah is, and even if we did they would be dead now and so we couldn’t ask them anyway. So, we have to rely on clues within the book itself to gain a better understanding on the book itself.


If you forced me (like life or death) to “choose” a main genre for Jonah I would tell you that the book is “satire” – aka the exposure of human vice or folly. And from Jonah we see 4 big elements of satire take on these “forms,” in the book.

  1. The OBJECT OF ATTACK is Jonah and what he represents as a whole. This is, Jonah in his bigotry and ethnocentrism regarding God as the exclusive property of Israel; so, he says, “Why save anyone else?” (more on this below).
  2. The SATRIC VEHICLE is a narrative or story
  3. The SATRIC NORM or standard (to which Jonah’s bad attitudes are judged) is the character of God Himself, as God is portrayed as a God of universal mercy – whose mercy isn’t limited by national boundaries or magnitudes of sin.
  4. The SATRIC TONE is laughing, with Jonah emerging as an almost laughable figure – He is someone who “runs away from God,” (lol, like you can ‘run away from God,’) and he’s caught by a fish. He seems to be a childish and pouting prophet that continually prefers death over life, like when his “‘comfort blanket’ shade tree,” gets smashed by a worm.


The way Jonah is written also uses a ton of parallelism; which is unlike the Epistles and Gospels as it’s more akin to the Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.

For example: In C.1-2 of Jonah, he is given a command from God but fails to obey it; and then in C.3-4 he’s given the command again and this time he carries it out. And these 2 accounts are laid out in almost completely parallel patterns as you read below, compare “SCENE 1,” to “SCENE 2,”:

SCENE 1 (Jonah, the Pagans, and the Sea)
1:1 – God’s word comes to Jonah
1:2 – The MSG to be conveyed
1:3 – The response of Jonah
1:4 – The word of warning
1:5 – The response of the pagans
1:6 – The response of the pagan leader(s)
1:7ff – How the pagans’ response was ult. better than Jonah’s
2:1-10 – How God taught grace to Jonah through the fish
SCENE 2 (Jonah, the Pagans, and the City)
3:1 – God’s word comes to Jonah
3:2 – The MSG to be conveyed
3:3 – The response of Jonah
3:4 – The word of warning
3:5 – The response of the pagans
3:6 – The response of the pagan leader
3:7ff – How the pagans’ response was ult. better than Jonah’s
4:1-10 – How God taught grace to Jonah through the plant
***btw – Again, let me reiterate that NONE of the Gospels or Epistles flow like this, because Jonah is a different Hebrew literary writing style. This DOES NOT discredit its historicity, however we MUST take it’s writing style into account as we exposit the text together.

[[ In the next 3 sections below we'll look at a few examples of this particular HEBREW writing style, to better make sense of the literary jonah ]]

Hebrew writing style ~ Exaggeration + Symmetry pt.1

Exaggeration or symmetry is used to put an exclamation mark behind the point an author is making. A quick example of this would be from Isaiah 6:3, as Isaiah describes the angels declaring that God is, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Repetition/symmetry is like a ‘Hebrew highlighter,’ used to get our attention. In our text, for example we see:
#1 – The people repent in some “over the top” ways (C.3:6) even their animals are fasting and covered in sackcloth at one point (C.3:7-8).
#2 – There is a poetic prayer about a trip to the realm of the dead that uses parts of various Psalms in C.2 
#3 – There’s an overall symmetry between our 4 scenes (Sailors, Fish, Ninevites, and God–mentioned above) that directs us away from history and more toward literature.
#4 God and Jonah are given the exact same number of words to speak in C.4 – – this would be highly-highly (did I say “highly?”) unlikely if we were getting a word-for-word transcript of a historical conversation between God and Jonah – it’s just not how any of the other historical OT is written. Now to be fare, it definitely “could’ve happened,” because God’s cool like that — but, there is no where else in the scriptures where this sort of symmetry is found in a word-for-word transcript of a literal-historical account.

Hebrew WRITING Style ~ Hyperbole pt.2

Hyperbole is used as a rhetorical tool (exaggeration for effect) to make a story even more dramatic, or to drive home an intended meaning We see this in all the descriptions of how “big” or how “great” everything seems to be in the story. 
The book of Jonah uses the Hebrew word for “big” (gadol) 14 times in its 48 verses; that’s a lot! Here are a couple of highlights of this:
#1 – Nineveh was a great city (C.1:2)
**btw – this is allegory, because it is additionally historically true; Nineveh was indeed a cultural and economic powerhouse.
#2 – God (YHWH) hurled a great wind and it caused a great storm (C.1:4)
#3 – The sailors became greatly afraid (C.1:10)
#4 – God (YHWH) appointed a great fish (C.1:17)
#5 – Jonah rejoiced over the qiqayon plant with great joy (C.4:6)
This sort of “intended exaggeration,” reminds me of that song from the “Lego Movie,” where – -“Everything is awesome!”

Hebrew WRITING Style ~ Personfication cont'd pt.3

Lastly, we see the usage of Personification in Jonah. Probably the most famous, or at least well known usage of this in the scriptures comes from the book of Proverbs, whereas “Wisdom,” “she,” is often personified as a “woman.” (Proverbs 1:20-32) Or, in the book of Genesis we see a sort of zoomorphism with the description of “sin,” as it is “crouching at the doorstep–(like an animal would do),” of Cain (Genesis 4:7).
We see this Hebrew usage of personification behind C.1:4-5 as Jonah hits the sea, because it reads something like this: “The ship, threatened to break up.” Now you and I know that “ships” literally do not “threaten” to “break up” with people, like a real life person might do. But, with personification, we get the sense that not only is the ship literally about tobreak,” because of the raging storm behind it, but also what’s super cool here is that just like thesailors“….. the “ship” is also “afraid of or in submission to God (YHWH)”.
Now, of course this isn’t the last time that animals and inanimate objects revere and/or obey God in Jonah. They seemingly obey God “more than,” Jonah does in the book, but it’s written this way to reiterate an intended meaning.
***btw – The “sea” is a “raging agent” of God in Jonah – as He’s the one who does the “hurling,” of it. The “boat” is a “fearful obstacle,” to God – as it’s a tool used to “run away from the presence of God.” The “fear and anger” that’s “swirling” between the two symbolizes for us the real tension between God and Jonah.

Jonah + Jesus

So….where does this leave us with Jonah and Jesus? Well, we will get more into this as we move toward (C.1:17) and Pastor Cody preaches that text, but I wanted to bring this up now before we continue through the book because it’s sometimes difficult to understand when we think through the “Literary Jonah.”

The argument usually goes something like this: Jonah HAS to be a historical book with a historical transcript because Jesus mentions it in the NT. And there are 2 reasons this argument doesn’t really hold up. (Matthew 12:39-40)

#1 – Just because Jesus references a story doesn’t mean that story MUST be a historical-transcript. We often refer to fiction in our own real lives without confusing it with reality all of the time. For example: You or your kids probably do this to communicate an idea. This might look like: (A) Your kids are talking about wanting to “go on an adventure… like Darkwing Duck”. Or (B)You might pass around “Office,” memes with your co-workers whenever your boss is, “trying too hard and lacks a self-awareness.” The truth is, that neither your kids, nor co-workers, nor any of the general population believe that Darkwing Duck, or Michael Scott is a “real -historical-person,” nor do they believe it’s a “real-historical transcript.” Rather, they are referencing them in real life because that’s the point of fiction: You are relating “made-up people,” to our real lives in profound ways.

***btw – Jesus uses this rhetorical strategy in the exact same way as He mentions “literary figures,” to illustrate a larger point (see below).

#2, Another compelling refutation for this argument is that Jesus Himself references an actual historical figure in one of his parables (Luke 16:22-26), this is sort of a “reverse” application from Jonah. And in Luke 16, it seems pretty clear that Jesus has no problem using a historical figure in a fictional parable (that’s what a parable is) to make a theological point. This seems to be exactly the blueprint we find the author of Jonah using. Or, to take this a step further— if you and I look at the “broader culture” at the time Jonah was written, this was a pretty common blueprint as religious leaders often attributed “new words,” to the respected patriarchs. When this was done, it gave their words more authority and weight.
The reality is that some biblical scholars dismiss the “reality of a man staying alive inside of a big fish for 3 days,” and they label this as “impossible,” and toss the story away as “complete fiction,” but—we must also take into account that God as the Creator of all things is able to bend the laws of nature and physics to His demands and can do whatever He wants to do with them because He exists outside of them and He created the law in the first place (which He does this countless times in the scriptures).
****btw–A better question for us to think about when it comes to Jesus and Jonah is this: Why did Jesus refer to the story of Jonah in Matthew 12 in the first place? This is a great question to think through as we move forward through Jonah. 

So...did JonAH really happen?!

The answer is: Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter! But…Yes! There was a real life “historical Jonah,” who was a “prophet of God,” who’s been placed in the “minor prophets,” that was tasked to reiterate “God’s covenant” to Israel. And also….Yes!, there seems to be a Hebrew writing style that’s more conditioned toward a “literary Jonah,” where the usage of “hyperbole,” “exaggeration,” “personification,” and etc., are applied to drive home an intended meaning for the reader. As I personally study Jonah, the book of Jonah seems to be a combination of both. But–we could sit here all day and argue both thought processes…but, if we do that we miss the whole point of Jonah in the first place.

It doesn’t matter if you think the story actually took place or not. The value of Jonah doesn’t hinge on it being a historical transcript between God and Jonah — after all, it lies in the message that’s being conveyed through the narrative of a sometimes funny, and sometimes upsetting set of scenarios and relationships.
Remember Church—Jonah isn’t the story of a “really big sushi-fish,” but instead it’s the story of a “really big sovereign-God!
How will you respond to Jonah’s story?

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