Running From God

Key Verse: “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
—Jonah 1:3

Selected Scriptures:
Jonah 1:1-4, 11-17; 2:1, 10

JONAH WAS MOST LIKELY a prophet to the ten-tribe, or northern, kingdom of Israel. His book does not prophesy concerning Israel, although he is mentioned in II Kings 14:25 as the prophet used by the Lord to forecast the restoration of land lost for awhile. The Book of Jonah deals with the wicked city of Nineveh whose crimes are described in Nahum, chapter 3. Jonah was asked to go to Nineveh and cry out against it. Instead, he went in the opposite direction boarding a ship sailing to Tarshish. No reason is given for his action, but later we find what motivated him.

Jonah boarded the ship, paid his fare, went down into the lower section, and fell asleep. The Lord caused a great wind and tempest to come upon the sea, and the storm was so violent that the ship was about to be broken up. The sailors cast some of the cargo overboard and cried unto their gods to save them. The captain of the ship went below deck and found Jonah sleeping. He awakened him and told him to cry unto his God to save them. Then the sailors decided to cast lots and determine who was responsible for this calamity. The lot fell upon Jonah, and he was interrogated thoroughly. They found out that he was a Hebrew and worshipped the God that made heaven and earth. They also learned he was running away from God.

When they asked Jonah what should be done, he told them to cast him into the sea. The sailors were reluctant to do this and tried to bring the ship to land. The storm grew worse and they were forced to hurl Jonah into the sea. As soon as they had done so, the sea became calm. They had prayed to Jonah’s God not to be charged with innocent blood and when the sea calmed, they were converted and offered up sacrifices. Meanwhile, the Lord had appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and he was in the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah knew now that he could not run away from God.

There has been much speculation as to what type of great fish was appointed by God to swallow Jonah. Two species have been suggested, the whale and the white shark. There are many species of whales, but one in particular has a deep mouth cavity with a lattice of bone-work at the end, which permits fish and crustaceans to enter the digestive system of the whale, but will hold back a large object. The whale depends on airborne oxygen to survive. Jonah’s survival was a miracle of God.

From the belly of the whale, Jonah utters a beautiful prayer. It was out of sheol (the condition of death) that Jonah recognized finally that salvation is of the Lord. (Jonah 2:9) After the three days and nights, the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land. There are many reasons why this experience befell Jonah, but one was that he was to be a sign. During the ministry of Jesus, Israel sought a sign from Jesus that he was the Messiah, but none was given except the sign of Jonah. (Matt. 12:38-42; 16:1-4; Luke 11:29-32) They missed this sign completely.

We are glad that we have not missed this sign, but see clearly that Messiah had to suffer and die and be in the grave (sheol, hades) three days and three nights.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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