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The Prophet, Jonah
There is this guy by the name of Jonah. He was born in Gath-Hepher which is on the coast of Israel. He was born to Amittai and Zarephath. Amittai was from the tribe of Zebulun and Zarephath from the tribe of Asher so the story goes. Jewish history says that Zarephath was a widow and Jonah was her only son. Elijah the Prophet was directed by God to go to Zarephath and that she would feed him during a time of drought. He goes and she is preparing the last meal for herself and Jonah. Elijah prays. God blesses her barrel of meal and for the remainder of the drought it never runs out. Later, it is believed that Jonah was among the young prophets that worked with Elijah.
Jonah the Prophet
We know that he is a prophet from the book of Jonah. He advised the house of Jehu. He was a prophet whose prophecy had come to pass. He was in good standing with the state. A prophet was a politician in those days. The state wanted to know what God was saying so the prophets were advisors to the state. God had revealed to Jonah that boundaries of the Northern Kingdom under King Jeroboam II would be restored to the original boundaries. The boundaries had been restored as Jonah had predicted.
What can happen while we wait
Time passed and Jonah had not had a word from the Lord for some time. He was possibly feeling a little insecure in his position. He seems like a melancholy personality from what I have read about him. He could have been a little depressed. Then God speaks to him. He tells him to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent. Jonah don’t much like the idea. Why you ask? Well, Nineveh was a wicked city. Their wickedness had come up unto God. The Assyrians were a brutal people, burning people and towns, beheading etc. At the time of Jonah this city was undefeated. The wall held well and the position of the city on eastern side of the Tigris river made them impenetrable. The only thing that could defeat them, and did eventually was the Tigris river. They were kind of cocky about the fact they were undefeated.
God told Jonah to tell them to repent or in forty days Nineveh would be destroyed. He had been right so far, but things didn’t look to favorable in this prophecy. This group was undefeated. It was unlikely that anyone would go to war with them. They didn’t have any major diseases and they controlled everyone who entered their city. There were no natural circumstances that could make what Jonah said come to pass. His previous prophecy could be brought about by several natural circumstances. This one took more faith. He also knew that God was a God of mercy and that they had the ability to repent and be forgiven. Israel had experienced that first hand. They had turned their back on God many a time and yet when they repented He would restore them. There was just no win/win in this situation.
So Jonah gets on a boat headed to the southwestern coast of Spain, Tarshish. If he could get far enough away, God would select another prophet to go to Nineveh. As with most of us, our biggest struggle is against our logical minds. Well, the ship hits an unusual storm. They cast lots and Jonah comes up twice. They tell him to pray to his God for help. He tells them his is running from God. They ask what they need to do to save themselves. Jonah tells them they need to throw him overboard. They didn’t want to do this, so they try everything possible to keep from drowning a man. Then when all avenues were exhausted they do as Jonah suggested, they threw him overboard.
In the beginning there was a big fish
After his is thrown overboard something happens that is illogical. A big fish swallows him. Now a whale’s entrance to their stomach is small so they would die if they swallowed a man. Most fish are not large enough to swallow a man whole. It is obviously a miracle. As lonely Golgotha was made in the beginning of time. It is believed that this fish with a large opening into his stomach was created in the beginning of time. The fish just happens to be in that part of the ocean and it swallows Jonah. Then for three days the fish has a bellyache. I believe Jonah was unconscious most of the time. He was conscious for a while, during that time he repented, and God restored him.
Relief from a bellyache
Tired of the bellyache and hearing God’s command the fish spits Jonah out. Wrapped in seaweed, blue from the cold and lack of sun, dazed from lack of air, Jonah was washed up on shore. God spoke to Jonah again. Go to Nineveh. Of all the luck. God had not sent someone else, I didn’t get far enough away, que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.
All of them
Jonah goes to Nineveh, goes a day journey into the city, cries out and tells the people to repent or in forty days the city will be destroyed. Jonah leaves the city goes to where he can watch and see what happens to the city and its people. Maybe they knew of Jonah and that what he had prophesied had happened, but whatever the reason they repented all 120,000 of them.
Gourd and worm
While Jonah is waiting a gourd grows up and shades him and he greatful for the shade. Then in the night a worm eats on the gourd and it withers. The east wind blows, the sun beats down and Jonah wishes to die. It could be a lack of food, water and proper shelter. It sounds like depression to me.
How to let Jonah know
Jonah sees that the city and its people are not destroyed in the forty days. He asks God to let him die instead of having to face friends and family. The city was not destroyed and only God knows that the people have repented. Repentance is not always visible right away. It was brutality and arrogance for which they were known. You cannot see brutality and arrogance with the visible eye.
Then God lets him know that the work is completed. He reveals to Jonah through the circumstances of the gourd and worm that they truly did repent and that God had intervened on their behalf and saved the city.
History shows that Jonah lived to 120 years of age. He was married, I am assuming after the death of his mother. They say he never died, but that the “holy spirit” descended on him while he participated on the last day of Sukkoth. There was a town named after him. Each year in September or October the story of Jonah is read in the Jewish communities to celebrate the Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, feast. This story is told to remind them that there is the ability to repent and be forgiven. The stories climax is “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah’s tomb was in Mosul, Iraq until recently when ISIS destroyed it.