Book of Jonah

National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series

The Book of Jonah tells the story of a prophet named Jonah and his encounter with God’s call to preach a message of repentance to the city of Nineveh. The book is composed of four chapters and offers valuable lessons about obedience, repentance, and God’s compassion.

The story begins with God instructing Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and prophesy against it because of its wickedness. However, Jonah, instead of obeying God’s command, attempts to flee from his mission by boarding a ship heading in the opposite direction. God sends a great storm, and the terrified sailors cast lots to identify the cause. Jonah admits that he is running away from God and suggests that they throw him into the sea to calm the storm. Reluctantly, the sailors toss Jonah overboard, and the sea immediately becomes calm.

God appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah, where he spends three days and nights in its belly. During this time, Jonah prays to God, acknowledging his disobedience and promising to fulfill his original mission. After three days, the fish vomits Jonah onto dry land.

God reissues his command to Jonah, and this time, the prophet heads to Nineveh. He preaches a message of impending judgment, proclaiming that the city will be destroyed in forty days. Surprisingly, the people of Nineveh, from the king to the ordinary citizens, respond with genuine repentance. They fast, wear sackcloth, and turn from their evil ways, hoping that God may show them mercy. Witnessing their sincere repentance, God relents and decides not to bring disaster upon them.

This outcome angers Jonah, who had hoped to see Nineveh destroyed. He becomes frustrated with God’s mercy, feeling it undermines his credibility as a prophet. Jonah goes outside the city, where God causes a plant to grow to provide shade for Jonah. But the next day, God sends a worm to attack the plant, causing it to wither, and exposes Jonah to the scorching sun. Jonah becomes even more resentful and expresses his desire for death. God questions Jonah’s anger and compassionately explains that He cares for all people, even those outside of Israel.

The book concludes with God emphasizing His concern for the numerous people living in Nineveh and Jonah’s inability to understand His compassionate nature. It serves as a reminder that God’s mercy and love extend beyond borders and that humans should embody compassion towards others.

In summary, the Book of Jonah narrates the prophet’s attempt to escape God’s call, his encounter with the consequences of his disobedience, his eventual fulfillment of the prophetic mission, and his struggle to accept God’s compassion towards the repentant people of Nineveh.