Jonah – Session Two – Study Guide
I. Re-cap and Introduction
A. Read 3 :1-10. (Note the 40 days. We won’t dwell on it, but it corresponds to the number of days (or years) we find elsewhere in the Bible of “long periods of time,” such as Moses with God to get Torah or after the golden calf, or the rains, for revitalization, or Jesus’ fast in the face of Satan’s temptation.)
1 The Lord’s word came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.” 3 And Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s word. (Now Nineveh was indeed an enormous city, a three days’ walk across.)
4 Jonah started into the city, walking one day, and he cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant.
6 When word of it reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, stripped himself of his robe, covered himself with mourning clothes, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he announced, “In Nineveh, by decree of the king and his officials: Neither human nor animal, cattle nor flock, will taste anything! No grazing and no drinking water! 8 Let humans and animals alike put on mourning clothes, and let them call upon God forcefully! And let all persons stop their evil behavior and the violence that’s under their control!” 9 He thought, Who knows? God may see this and turn from his wrath, so that we might not perish.
10 God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.
1. Describe the reaction of Nineveh to the prophecy. Have you ever read such a response? What impresses you about it? What might have caused this response?
2. Go through each element of the response, and account for them.
3. Does the fact that the city is not overturned somehow make a fraud of the prophecy that it would be overturned?
4. What seems most significant about God’s relenting in the promised punishment?
B. Read 4:1-3
1 But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. 3 At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.”
1. Why was Jonah aggrieved?
2. To go deeper, read Jonah 4:2 and compare to its root in Exodus 34:6
4:2 He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy.
Exodus 34:6 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
The two passages are very much alike, but different in one key respect. What is it, and what does it show us about Jonah, how he perceives the world, and what disappoints him about the trajectory of this story?
C. Read 4:6-11
6 Then the Lord God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. 7 But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. 8 Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.”
9 God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?”
Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good—even to the point of death!”
10 But the Lord said, “You ‘pitied’ the shrub, for which you didn’t work and which you didn’t raise; it grew in a night and perished in a night. 11 Yet for my part, can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
1. God wants to show Jonah an object lesson. It’s powerful. Can you describe it?
2. How do you explain those who do not know their right hand from their left?
III. Conclusion – what are your takeaways and lessons learned? (We all came into this study mostly uncertain of this book and its meaning. LET’S SHOW ‘EM WE WILL LEAVE OUR STUDY WITH AT LEAST ONE OR TWO FIRM IDEAS ABOUT ITS RELEVANCE AND IMPORTANCE TO PEOPLE OF FAITH.
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