The Book of Jonah Study Guide - Session One
I. Introduction – This is a very important book in the Bible as to the fundamental importance of God’s mercy and forgiveness. There’s an emphasis in other places on sin and punishment. Here it’s on repentance and atonement…
A. Read 1:1-3
1 The Lord’s word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: 2 “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.”
3 So Jonah got up - to flee to Tarshish from the Lord! He went down to Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord.
1. Note that the first word of God’s command to Jonah in Hebrew is "koom", which means to arise. Given our extensive Bible study, what’s the significance of that word?
2. What then does God ask of Jonah? And what’s the consequence of this?
3. How does this call from God differ entirely from the beginning of other prophetic accounts?
B. Read 1:4-10
4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, so that there was a great storm on the sea; the ship looked like it might be broken to pieces. 5 The sailors were terrified, and each one cried out to his god. They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to make it lighter.
Now Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel to lie down and was deep in sleep. 6 The ship’s officer came and said to him, “How can you possibly be sleeping so deeply? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps the god will give some thought to us so that we won’t perish.”
7 Meanwhile, the sailors said to each other, “Come on, let’s cast lots so that we might learn who is to blame for this evil that’s happening to us.” They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they said to him, “Tell us, since you’re the cause of this evil happening to us: What do you do and where are you from? What’s your country and of what people are you?”
9 He said to them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven—who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 Then the men were terrified and said to him, “What have you done?” (The men knew that Jonah was fleeing from the Lord, because he had told them.)
Question: What do you make of the first part of this plot and what it might represent - the tempest, the sailors, the sleeping Jonah, the casting of lots?
C. Read 1:11-16.
11 They said to him, “What will we do about you so that the sea will become calm around us?” (The sea was continuing to rage.)
12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea! Then the sea will become calm around you. I know it’s my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 The men rowed to reach dry land, but they couldn’t manage it because the sea continued to rage against them. 14 So they called on the Lord, saying, “Please, Lord, don’t let us perish on account of this man’s life, and don’t blame us for innocent blood! You are the Lord: whatever you want, you can do.” 15 Then they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased its raging. 16 The men worshipped the Lord with a profound reverence; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made solemn promises.
1.What do you make of the question the sailors pose to Jonah and his response?
2. What about the sailors’ not going along and continuing to row harder?
3. a) Then, finally, what of their appeal to HaShem before they threw him overboard?
b) Are they justified in acting in such a way that might kill him because of the risk to them here?
D. Read 1:17, 2:1.
17 Meanwhile, the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
2:1 Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:
1. What do you notice most in these verses, and what does it cause you most to wonder?
2. a) What do you make of the fact it took three days before Jonah prayed? And what do we make of it being a three-day period?
b) Was Jonah afraid or ashamed, and it took him three days to get the courage to come back? Was he repenting?
E. Read 2:2-10
2 “I called out to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me. From the belly of the underworld I cried out for help; you have heard my voice. 3 You had cast me into the depths in the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounds me. All your strong waves and rushing water passed over me. 4 So I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight. Will I ever again look on your holy temple? 5 Waters have grasped me to the point of death; the deep surrounds me. Seaweed is wrapped around my head 6 at the base of the undersea mountains. I have sunk down to the underworld; its bars held me with no end in sight. But you brought me out of the pit. 7 When my endurance[c] was weakening, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple. 8 Those deceived by worthless things lose their chance for mercy. 9 But me, I will offer a sacrifice to you with a voice of thanks. That which I have promised, I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!”
10 Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land.
1. What gives Jonah the confidence he’ll see God’s holy temple again?
2. Does God’s granting him mercy and salvation teach Jonah about the right attitude he should himself bring to the matter of Nineveh?
III. Conclusions – What are our takeaways from study today? Perhaps they are best seen in questions we’ve raised. What answers might we offer up to them?
What is our purpose in life? How do we respond to life’s challenges and challenges from God, too?
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