Jonah 1:1-16: My translation

Jonah - The Reluctant Prophet

Prophet Jonah Refusing to Go to Nineveh
Prophet Jonah Refusing to Go to Nineveh

The story of Jonah begins with Jonah running from God's voice. He incites judgment upon himself and innocent bystanders. God tells Jonah to preach against Nineveh; instead, the prophet goes to down to Joppa, down onto a ship deck, and finally plummets into the sea. His hatred grows as he sinks into an abyss of darkness. The Prophet Jonah's runaway heart isn't in sync with God's missional heartbeat to save the worst sinners in Jonah's day.

Jonah 1 Study Notes

Jonah Chapter One (Hebrew keywords and phrases in capital letters).

Jonah 1:1 |The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:

  • LORD = Yahweh (Exodus 3:14). This is God's personal name revealed first to Moses.

  • Jonah son of Amittai (2 Kings 14:25). This reference to Jonah places him in a historical time and place.

  • Jonah and the LORD had a detailed dialogue about the Word in 1:1 even though he doesn't record much about it (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah 1:2 |"RISE. GO to Nineveh the GREAT city. CRY OUT against it for their EVIL has risen before me."

  • Nineveh, the GREAT city (Genesis 10:12), is populous with many under judgment.

  • CRY OUT against Nineveh. Later, God tells Jonah to CRY OUT to it (Jonah 3:2).

  • EVIL describes the GREAT storm Jonah causes later in the chapter.

  • The verb for has risen carries the imagery of a sacrificial offering before God.

  • Ironically, EVIL rises up while Jonah goes down.

Jonah 1:3 |Jonah ROSE to flee to Tarshish away from the presence of the LORD. He WENT DOWN to Joppa. He found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid her fare and WENT DOWN onto it.

  • Jonah only partially obeys. He ROSE but did not GO to Nineveh.

  • Instead, he fled away from the LORD.

  • The ship is personified. Jonah pays her fair. The ship seems to accept money.

  • Geographically, Jonah WENT DOWN to Joppa, WENT DOWN onto the ship, and sets sail down to Tarshish.

Jonah 1:4 |But the LORD HURLED a GREAT wind onto the sea. A GREAT storm came upon the sea. The ship thought it was going to be smashed into pieces.

  • Since Jonah didn't want to CRY OUT to the GREAT city, the LORD HURLED a GREAT wind.

  • The LORD caused a GREAT storm.

  • The ship has the ability to think (personification).

Jonah 1:5 |The Sailors were AFRAID (FEARED). Each one CRIED OUT to his gods. They HURLED the cargo which was on the ship to lighten it from upon them. But Jonah WENT DOWN into the guts of the ship. He lay down. He slept deeply.

  • The sailors FEARED the storm, but Jonah didn't.

  • They CRIED OUT to their gods, but Jonah wouldn't CRY OUT to Nineveh. The contrast between Jonah and the Pagan Sailors is evident.

  • They HURLED the cargo, just as the LORD HURLED the storm earlier in Jonah 1:4.

  • Geographically, Jonah WENT DOWN into the guts of the ship. The ship has guts (personification).

  • Jonah slept deeply. The Hebrew Bible uses the noun derivative of this verb in Genesis 2:2 to describe the deep sleep God put Adam in while removing his rib.

Jonah 1:6 |The ship captain approached and said to him, "What are you doing, O' Sleeper? RISE. CRY OUT to your God! Perhaps, your Deity will notice us, so that we will not PERISH.

  • Ship Captain literally translates as the captain of the ropes.

  • The Captain's speech "RISE. CRY OUT!" echoes Jonah 1:2. Jonah wakes up to these words that the LORD spoke to him before concerning Nineveh.

  • God speaks to Jonah about his rebellion through the Ship Captain.

  • Jonah, however, has no more concern for the Sailors than he does for the Ninevites. Both are pagans.

  • But the Sailors worry that they will PERISH.

Jonah 1:7 |Each Sailor said to his companion, "Come. Let us cast lots, so that we might know on whose account this EVIL is upon us." They cast lots. The lot fell on Jonah.

  • See a commentary on the ancient practice of casting lots in Israel.

  • The Sailors want to know why this EVIL (the GREAT storm) has come upon them.

  • The lots point the blame on Jonah. His sin has affected the people all around him.

  • Jonah finally decides to pray when he nearly loses his life.

Jonah 1:8 |They said to him, "Do tell us. Please! On whose account this EVIL is upon us? What is your occupation? From where are you coming? What is your native land? From what people are you?

  • The Sailors now directly question Jonah with urgency. "Do tell us! Please!"

  • They question Jonah to find out what gods he worships, so they can discern how to appease them.

  • Again, the GREAT storm is described as "this EVIL."

  • This is also the second time "on whose account this EVIL is upon us" appears as well.

Jonah 1:9 |He said to them, "I am a Hebrew. I fear the LORD the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land."

  • Jonah answers the Sailors. I'm a Hebrew. Opposed to Gentile Pagans.

  • He claims to fear the LORD. Yahweh is his God, contrary to pagan gods.

  • Fear is an adjective in this verse meaning reverence for the LORD.

  • Jonah cannot escape the LORD. He is the God of heaven, sea, and dry land.

  • Now the Sailors know the God of the sea or Yahweh brought "this EVIL" (the GREAT storm) upon them. Now they can pray directly to the LORD.

Jonah 1:10 |The men FEARED with a GREAT FEAR. They said to him, "What is this you have done?" The men knew that he was fleeing away from the Presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

  • FEARED with a GREAT FEAR translates as "extremely afraid" in English Bibles.

  • Both the verb FEARED and the noun FEAR are Hebrew keywords.

  • The narrator explains that the Sailors already knew Jonah's plight.

  • Jonah had already told them he had fled away from the LORD. It's pointless to run from the God of heaven, sea, and dry land.

Jonah 1:11 |They said to him, "What should we do to you, so that the sea may calm down?" The sea was becoming increasingly stormy.

  • The Sailors want to know what the LORD of the sea demands of them.

  • They knew that something needed to happen to Jonah to calm the storm.

  • The narrator says that the storm continues to grow increasingly worse by the moment.

Jonah 1:12 |He said to them, "Lift me up and HURL me into the sea. Then the sea will calm down, for I know that on account of me this GREAT storm has come upon you."

  • Jonah tells the Sailors to HURL him overboard.

  • In the same way the LORD HURLED the GREAT wind (Jonah 1:4), and the Sailors HURLED the cargo (Jonah 1:5).

  • Jonah admits that he is the reason for the GREAT storm. Note earlier the Sailors asked twice, "on whose account this EVIL" had come upon them.

  • The keyword GREAT has ties with God's judgment on evil behavior; for example: GREAT city, GREAT wind, GREAT storm, GREAT fish.

Jonah 1:13 |But the men rowed desperately to return to dry land. They were not able for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.

  • The conjunction but indicates the Sailors didn't heed Jonah's advice. They cannot escape the LORD of dry land either.

  • The narrator makes it clear the intensity of the storm continues to escalate. Twice now we notice the sea was becoming increasingly stormy (Jonah 1:11).

  • Unlike Jonah's lack of concern for the Pagan Sailors (deep sleep in the guts of the ship), they didn't want the prophet to die.

Jonah 1:14 |They CRIED OUT to the LORD and said, "Please O' LORD, Let us not PERISH for this man's life. Do not put upon us innocent blood, for You O' LORD have done as You pleased."

  • Since Jonah finally revealed the LORD's name to the Sailors in Jonah 1:9, they can pray to Yahweh.

  • The narrator states that the Sailors repeatedly CRY OUT to the LORD. In contrast, Jonah doesn't pray.

  • The Sailors beg the LORD not to charge them with the murder of innocent blood.

  • They don't want to PERISH (Jonah 1:6; 3:9).

Jonah 1:15 |They lifted Jonah up. They HURLED him into the sea. The sea ceased its raging.

  • The Sailors pick Jonah up and HURL him overboard.

  • The raging sea calms its anger (personification). The sea becomes placid.

Jonah 1:16 |The men FEARED the LORD with a GREAT FEAR. They offered a sacrifice to the LORD. They vowed vows.

  • Jonah claimed to FEAR the LORD in Jonah 1:9. But the narrator clarifies that the Sailors truly FEARED the LORD with a GREAT FEAR.

  • Their FEAR of the LORD compares with the size of Nineveh and the intensity of the storm, both deemed GREAT.

  • This chapter began with imagery of a sacrifice of EVIL, but it ends with a sacrifice of obedience to the LORD by Pagan Sailors.

  • Perhaps the narrator foreshadows the Ninevites’ repentance already here in Jonah chapter one.

A Relief with Jonah's Experiences Etched on It.
A Relief with Jonah's Experiences Etched on It.

Intro: Jonah preached against Nineveh during the reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-27). Under Jeroboam II's reign, the Israelites practice idolatry and wickedness. Ironically, it is the evil practices of the Ninevites that rise up before God in heaven. The Lord speaks to the prophet Jonah in his rebellious homeland of Israel. God wants Jonah to preach against Nineveh. This city has a long history of violence against Israel, so Jonah wants no part of God's command. As Christians, we should not run from God's plan unless we want to experience two consequences: 1) God relentlessly pursuing us with disciplinary measures, and 2) Our actions inflicting harm on innocent bystanders.

Let's look at the first consequence of running from God's plan:

I. God will relentlessly pursue us with disciplinary measures (Jonah 1:1-3).

  1. God will allow us to go down on our own before He steps in and takes us down in chastisement.

    • Jonah went down to Joppa, down onto the ship deck (Jonah 1:3), and down into the ship (Jonah 1:5). Eventually, a great fish swallows him and takes him down into the depths of the sea (Jonah 2:6).

    • Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah chose to go down geographically to the different places. He even told the Pagan Sailors to throw him down into the sea. God helped Jonah in his downward spiral by appointing a great fish to swallow him and plunge him into the sea depths.

    • When we decide to run away from God's plan, we start on a path downward. Our own choices lead us astray, but eventually God will get fed up with our rebellion and take disciplinary actions against us. We may not encounter a great fish, but life storms will blow our way.

    • God doesn't enjoy our self-inflicted troubles. He wants us to change our attitude. He will send people to us to speak on His behalf.

  2. God will pursue us by reminding us of His plan through the mouths of bystanders.

    • God spoke to Jonah at the beginning of the chapter, "Rise...Cry Out" (Jonah 1:2). The prophet is unconcerned about the fierce storm above deck, so he sleeps deeply. The cognate noun of this verb is used in Genesis to describe the deep sleep that God induced upon Adam to take his rib. The Ship Captain repeats the same words to Jonah later on as he stormed below deck to wake him up, "Rise...Cry Out!"

    • God ultimately wants us to carry out His plan. He doesn't enjoy disciplining His children. When we step outside of God's will, He will place people in our path who will remind us of the direction we should be going. If we choose to listen to these messengers of God, we will not continue to suffer God's disciplinary measures against us. He will relent and calm our life storms.

    • Jonah chose not to listen to the Ship Captain. His actions not only made his own life worse, but also brought trouble on those around him.

Now let's take a look at the second consequences of running from God's plan:

II. Our actions may inflict harm upon innocent bystanders (Jonah 1:4-16).

  1. When God disciplines us, we may put at risk the lives of innocent people.

    • God hurls a great wind on the sea. The narrator wants us to know that the storm is so dangerous that the ship fears it will be broken up (Jonah 1:4). The sailors hurl their cargo overboard to try and outrun God's disciplinary action against Jonah, but to no avail (Jonah 1:5). The storm intensifies further into the story (Jonah 1:11, 13). Jonah eventually tells the Sailors to hurl him overboard (Jonah 1:12, 15).

    • Jonah's actions bring the storm in the first place. He runs from God's plan for his life. Now danger threatens the lives of the Pagan Sailors. We may not experience God's discipline to this degree, but He will definitely cause circumstances in our lives to drive us to repentance. These disciplinary strategies may threaten the livelihood of individuals around us including our friends and family members.

    • More specifically, when our eyes are on our self-inflicted storms, we are not focused on the welfare of those around us. Our lack of prayer and concern for others inflicts more spiritual damage than any physical calamity could bring. The prophet Jonah should have been concerned about the Sailors, but instead his rebellious heart caused them distress.

  2. When God disciplines us, we may cause emotional distress for innocent people.

    • Jonah sleeps deeply while the Pagan Sailors earnestly cry out to their gods. They greatly feared for their lives (Jonah 1:5). The Captain tries to get Jonah to cry out to the LORD, but he doesn't comply (Jonah 1:6). Once they discover that Jonah's actions had invoked the great storm, they inquire about his God (Jonah 1:8). Fear grips them when they realize the God of the heavens, sea, and dry land caused the storm (Jonah1:9-10). The Sailors also cry out to Yahweh begging Him not to issue a charge of murder against them for tossing him overboard (Jonah 1:14).

    • When we run from God's plan, our attitudes fester. We transform into unconcerned Christians while innocent bystanders cry out for our help. If we allow ourselves to descend downward for too long, we may even try to escape God's plan through extreme measures. The prophet doesn't want to share his God with Pagan Sailors. We too risk the danger of not sharing our God with people desperate for Him. This only strengthens God's resolve against our stubbornness.

    • In Jonah 2, the prophet will learn that God assists His rebellious people in their downfall. The great fish swallows Jonah and takes him to the bottom of the sea. Even inside the fish, Jonah tries to manipulate God to get his own way. Then the fish vomits Jonah out of his mouth onto dry land. Soaked in stomach acid, the prophet heads toward Nineveh.

In conclusion, we should not run from God's plan unless we want to experience two consequences: 1) God relentlessly pursuing us with disciplinary measures, and 2) Our actions inflicting harm on innocent bystanders. God will allow us to walk in rebellion for a period of time, but eventually He will intervene and bring us down to our knees in repentance. He will also send messengers to remind us to embrace His plan once again. If we refuse to listen, our actions can potentially harm us and the people around us. God may bring horrible circumstances to pass that threaten to harm both our lives and the lives of those around us. If we yet resist, our attitude will transform into an unconcerned, apathetic Christian. It is dangerous to reject God's Word for our lives!

Jonah 1 Sermon

Jonah 1:1-16

Jonah, the Reluctant Prophet

Jonah 1 | The Story of Jonah: Running from God's Voice

Explore the captivating tale of Jonah as he flees from God's voice, inciting judgment upon himself and innocent bystanders. Discover the prophet's journey downward leading him into choas and the depths of the sea.

Rob Sportsman ~