Bible Study: Jonah

  • Jonah’s name means “dove,” and he tried to fly away to be at peace.
  • Two books end with a question, Jonah and Nahum, and both are about Nineveh. They are about 150 years or more apart, one showing Nineveh’s repentance and the other prophesying its destruction.
  • Books to foreign nations: Jonah, Obadiah, Nahum.
  • Jonah is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 as being a prophet from an area very close to Nazareth. He is also mentioned in Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29,30. Jonah was a sign himself, and his experience was a sign.

How the Book Is to Be Understood


  • A Prodigal Prophet who actually experienced all that is written here.
  • The Penman – Jonah’s autobiography? If so, then he learned the lesson of the book as he does not make himself look good or excuse himself.
  • His Past2 Kings 14:25.
  • Attested to by the Lord Himself in Matthew 12:39.
  • Propet during the reign of Jeroboam II. Was perhaps exposed to Elisha and would have prophesied about the time of Amos and Hosea. Spoke to Israel. Second Kings 14:25 suggests that he had spoken for God and seen God work through him. He also spoke of mercy to the nation at a time of great evil. Jonah had seen the compassion of God toward his own people. He had known “success” as a prophet.


  • A picture of Israel in many ways but especially in her failure to know the heart of God and display the character of God to Gentile nations.
  • “This whole book is about one to whom God had disclosed Himself but who turned out to be unfaithful, ungracious … the history of Israel” (C.A. Coates).
  • Through her disobedience, the Gentiles are blessed (1:16; 3:5).
  • Jonah buried in the fish’s belly is a picture of Israel buried among the nations. When“resurrected” there will be even greater blessing for Gentiles.


  • One of the greatest examples of the mercy and tenderness of God is that the Lord Jesus actually takes up Jonah and his failure and turns it to good by speaking of the sign of Jonah the prophet. His three days and nights in the belly of the fish is a picture of His death and resurrection.


  • God disciplining His servant.


  • A prodigal prophet; a backsliding, rebellious believer. Consider that 1) heathen men told him to pray, 2) heathen men expressed amazement at his behavior in light of  his beliefs, 3) heathen men rebuked him for his sin, 4) heathen men cared more for him, a Jew, than the Jew cared for Gentiles in chapter 4.
  • In chapter 3 Nineveh repented, heaven rejoiced (Luke 15), but Jonah was angry. A man out of fellowship with the heart of God.
  • Three chapters deal with God’s work in Jonah and only one with God’s work through Jonah. Proportion is important to see.


  • Chapter 1 has a similarity to chapter 3 (and ch2 to ch4).
  • Jonah prophesied during the days of Jeroboam II. He prophesied expansion and nationalism. Borders were extended according to his prophecy in 2 Kings. God had shown grace to Israel despite their failure and idolatry. Thus, Jonah was a super patriot.
  • Jonah followed in time Elijah and Elisha. He is the only prophet sent to Gentiles.

Key Verse

  • Salvation is of the Lord (2:9) – whether that of the sailors, Jonah or Nineveh.


  1. Chapter 1 – Prophet and Disobedience, Flight, Wind and Waves, God’s Greatness
  2. Chapter 2 – Prophet and Distress, Fish, Whale, God’s Government
  3. Chapter 3 – Prophet and His Declaration, Fast, Warning, God’s Grace
  4. Chapter 4 – Prophet and His Displeasure, Fretting and Fury, Worm, God’s Gentleness


  • Great things: city (1:2), wind (1:4), tempest (1:12), fish (1:17), kindness (4:2).
  • God prepared: great fish (1:17), great wind (1:4), gourd (4:6), worm (4:7), wind (4:8).
  • Book is composed of two sections: chapters 1 and 2, and chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 1:1-3 is paralleled in 3:1-3. Prayer of chapter 2 is paralleled in prayer of chapter 4.
  • Heathen men pray to God in chapters 1 and 3.
  • Book was written to Israel. God is the central figure and has the first word (1:1-2) and the last word (4:11).
  • Jonah would rather have the Ninevites perish than reduce his self-importance. He would prefer the whole population to perish rather than lose his reputation.
  • The Lord Jesus referred to four OT prophets in His ministry: Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jonah.
  • The book ends with an unanswered question, and yet it is answered. Jonah probably wrote the book when he was restored, and the book is his answer to the question, demonstrating that God was right and righteous, and he was wrong.