Shalom to you brother/sister in the name of our Lord Yahushua (Jesus Christ)
Jonah, or Yonah in Hebrew (meaning "dove"), was called by Yahweh to deliver a prophecy but, interestingly, to a gentile nation and not Israel! He was given a mission to preach to the Assyrians at their religious and judicial capital, Nineveh. He was to tell them to repent before Yahweh brought great disaster upon them. Very symbolic of the Christian message today.
This was of course no small feat! Nineveh had more religious significance and pomp than Vatican City in her prime and comprised of more that 120,000 residents. It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, which was the dominating force in the world at that time of Jonah at around 780 BC.
For context on what a force the Assyrian Empire was like in its prime, look here. In its prime, it stretched from Egypt to Iran, up to Russia and into across into Turkey. It was quite the beast, until Babylon took over. To get an idea of what Nineveh itself looked like, you can see here.
So, how did Jonah react to this gigantic mission? He ran! He got in a boat headed for Tarshish (Great Britain) to get as far away as possible! But not because he was scared. Rather, it was something much darker. Jonah was actually running away in an attempt to sabotage Yahweh's plans!
Jonah thought that if Nineveh repented then Yahweh wouldn't bring punishment upon them. But Jonah wanted them to be punished, so he decided not to deliver the message! Seemed like a good plan to him, but how foolish to run from the Creator of all things!
Why is it then, that Lord Yahushua relates Himself to Jonah? Well, just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so the Messiah was buried in a tomb. This suggests that Jonah was dead in the great fish and resurrected, which makes sense practically and of Jonah's prayer, in Jonah 2:1-10. More on this exciting passage later. As well as that similarity, the message of Jonah's is also mirrored to the Lord's - "Repent".
Now, if this happened and Nineveh did repent, this would be quite a significant event in Assyrian history! But is there any historical/archaeological evidence to support this? Yes, of course.
HISTORY LESSON ALERT (RUN!): Jonah would have probably spoke to Nineveh in 780BC. Up until then, the rulers of Assyria were absolute tyrants. They expanded their empire violently and all nations feared their "Vlad Tepes" approach to warfare, captivity and torture. Real nasty crowd. However, Ashur-dayan II, who ruled at the time of Jonah's message, was a very quiet ruler... He neither expanded the empire nor consolidated it. He was just... very, very quiet. Historians have no real idea why (being ignorant of Jonah's effect). Not only that, but Ashur-dayan II's successor (his brother) was the same as well! Just quiet, calm and, effectively, "played nice". Nowhere in the history of Assyria had this type of behaviour been witnessed before nor after. A very interesting indicative piece of evidence supporting the Bible, yet again. But sadly, in 745BC, Tiglath-Pileser III reversed the recent peaceful path of Assyria and brought the empire back with vengeance. He was the first ruler who was involved in taking captive the Northern Kingdom of Israel, as Yahweh warned through other prophets.
LESSON FOR THE CHRISTIAN TODAY:
Yahweh controls fate: In Jonah 1:7, we read that the men on the boat cast lots to find out who was responsible for the storm that shook the boat. The lot fell to Jonah. Yahweh controlled this incident of "random chance". Now, I'm not saying you should live your life according to the roll of a dice! But interestingly this isn't the first time we see Yahweh controlling random chance in the Bible. Again, we shouldn't make decisions by casting lots, the Holy Spirit graciously guides us today. However, are some seemingly insignificant random chances in your life actually events carefully guided by Yahweh?
Yahweh's ultimate control of nature: Besides the ultimate control over the great fish in the story, what else do we learn about the All-Powerful Creator? In Jonah 4:6 Yahweh prepares a plant to give Jonah shade. In 4:7, He prepares a worm to destroy the plant. In 4:8, He prepares a hot east wind. Consider this thoroughly. It shows Yahweh's great power and control over the environment. In doing so, He was providing an illustration or a "experiential parable" to Jonah. Maybe Yahweh is orchestrating big and small things in your life (good and bad events) to teach you great truths, through experience. It should also bring you great peace when you realise that the destroyer (in this instance, the worm) and great trouble (the east wind) are all in Yahweh's control. What is there to fear if you are walking with Him?
Yahweh's mercy to gentiles: The Assyrian Empire was very ferocious and an enemy of Israel. Nineveh was the capital of a false gods. Yet Yahweh, in His great grace and kindness, extended His hands to that people - "Stop! Change your ways!" Yahweh is the Elohim of Justice as well, so He will not let wickedness go unpunished - whether it's this life or the next. But He doesn't take pleasure in it. He would rather people would change. The last words of the book are a sobering message to Jonah (and us) who yearned for the wicked to be punished - "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?" They were a people so immersed in wickedness and darkness, they didn't know what was right or wrong anymore. It's even more sobering then when the Lord Yahushua would say, hundreds of years later, to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."
Yahweh's grace to believers: Jonah had the wrong heart. He desired for his enemies to be destroyed by Yahweh. At first, Jonah outright refused Yahweh's calling, and ran away. Then it's like he tries to commit suicide out of stubbornness, witnessing to gentiles that he is running from the Creator of the sea and then asking to be plunged into it! Graciously, Yahweh preserved Jonah's life for the mission He had called him for. But Jonah was still reluctant, even after this! Jonah's "heartfelt" message to save the Ninevites was his famous words: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown". And finally, Jonah set himself upon a hill hoping to witness the destruction of his enemies. What amazes me is how Yahweh is so gracious towards Jonah in all these types of disobedience - whether in action or heart. But as wrong as his heart was towards his enemies, it seems his heart was at least right towards Yahweh. Yes, Jonah tried running away but because he had so much faith in Yahweh's goodness! Jonah knew that Yahweh was gracious and faithful towards repentance, so much so he was scared to tell his enemies! The Father was very patient towards Jonah and graciously taught him through the withering plant, that Jonah held in higher esteem than the hundreds of thousands people before him. Let's all keep in mind that what may seem worthless in our eyes, may be worthy to Yahweh.
Favourite Scripture: For me, the prayer of Jonah in chapter 2 is very special. I see it as the foreshadowing of the faith we should have in Yahweh, as we face our death, which is unfortunately inevitable. That said, as its poetry, it can equally apply to a believer who is going through some really bad times. When you read chapter 2, try and replace in your mind the words "Holy Temple" with "Lord Jesus". Being the helpful chap I am, I have done so for you below, based upon the NKJV translation.
I cried out to Yahweh because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
Then I said, "I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward the Lord Jesus."
The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O Yahweh, my God.
When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered Yahweh;
And my prayer went up to You,
through the Lord Jesus.
Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of Yahweh. (in Hebrew, Yeshua is of Yahweh)
Don't get me wrong, I rarely recommend doing this type of "concept-interplay". However, in this instance, I hope you agree that it makes for an interesting prayer and meditation, for the next time you read Jonah.
Love & Shalom
When we compare the descriptions of Himself Jesus gives John to write in the letters to the seven churches (ekklesias), with the observations and mentions John makes of his initial experience in the Spirit with the ascended Christ, we notice how readily they match, along with some other passages for the sixth and seventh letters.
(1) Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things says He that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
(8) And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things says the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
(12) "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
(18) "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
(1) "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "
(7) "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;
(14) And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I hope you have enjoyed these matching passages as much as I have, especially in contemplating the differences between Christ as John observed and experienced Him whilst He was on earth, and as we read of Him after He ascended.
Blessings from Michael37.