Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jonah 1 & 2 - Don’t Go West Young Man!

By NordNordWest (self-made, using  GTOPO-30 Elevation Data by USGS) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
LINK: Jonah 1 & 2

Please read INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHETICAL BOOKS if you have not already done so. 

BACKGROUND

Here is where Jonah fits within the historical narrative of the Bible:


2 Chr. 25-26:    796-750 (Parallel in 2 Kings 14-15)
                         784-772 - JONAH 1-4 (Northern)
                         760-750 - AMOS 1-9 (Northern)

Jonah prophesied right before Amos and Hosea. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. The northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. 2 Kings 14:23-27 mentions Jonah and his ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel (793-753 B.C.). The king of Assyria at that time was Shalmanesar IV who reigned from 783-772 B.C.

Nineveh was about 500 miles northeast of Israel. It was on the east side of the Tigris River and the distance required for the journey would have taken more than a month. (15-20 miles a day). Nineveh was in what is today Iraq opposite the modern-day town of Mosul. The name is "Ninive" on the map above. 

Instead of going east like God told him, Jonah went west away “from the presence of the Lord” toward Tarshish in Spain. Historians believe it is probably the southern city of Tartessus, which was 2,500 miles west of Joppa.

Why would Jonah want to run the opposite way? Well, for one thing, Assyrians were known for their savagery. Here is an excerpt from the journal of an Assyrian king:
Three thousand captives burned with fire . . . their corpses I formed into pillars . . . their governor I flayed; his skin I spread upon the wall of the city . . . from some I cut off their hands and their fingers and their noses . . . of many I put out their eyes . . . I formed a pillar . . . of heads against the city gate, and 700 men I impaled on stakes.
Secondly, they were steeped in idolatry with temples dedicated to the gods of Nabu, Asshur, Adad, and Ishtar (goddess of love and war).

If we put ourselves in Jonah’s shoes, we might have gone west too!

We will learn more about the wickedness of Nineveh when we read the book of Nahum later this year. Nahum prophesied from 650-620 B.C.

Can a Man be Swallowed by a Whale and Live?
A whale hunter, James Bartley, was swallowed by a whale in 1891. A day later, the whale was cut open, and James Batley was still alive, although it was a month before he was able to think clearly. 
(Vedral, Joyce; A Literary Survey of the Bible, p. 95)
REFLECTION

THE SCARLET THREAD OF REDEMPTION

Jesus mentions Jonah’s three days in the whale as a picture of his death and resurrection in Matthew 12:38-42:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here."
APPLICATION

As I update this for 2014, the area around Nineveh has a modern savagery going on in the name of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Pray that God will raise up a modern day Jonah to proclaim His message to the people there.

Also pray through this 30 Day Prayer Guide for ISIS.

PRAYER

Lord, help us to not want to flee from Your presence and go the opposite way from Your will for our lives, no matter how scary it might feel to go Your way. Thank You that You are with us always, even to the end of the age. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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