The Runaway


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God told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh but Jonah did not want to go. The Israelites and the Assyrians that lived in Nineveh were enemies. 

So, Jonah ran away from God! He wanted to get as far away as possible, so he boarded a ship sailing for Tarshish.  God was angry, so He created a violent storm which threatened to destroy the ship that Jonah was sailing on. The crew begged their gods to save them, and they threw their cargo overboard, trying to save the ship.  The sailors begged Jonah to pray to his God. But Jonah knew that prayer would not be enough because he knew that God was angry that he did not go to Nineveh. 

Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard. Immediately, the sea grew calm. But God sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah up and Jonah lived in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah cried out to God for help and God heard his pleas. The giant fish spit him out on dry land. 

Again, God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. This time, Jonah listened. In Nineveh he walked throughout the city shouting the prophesy that God gave him, “Nineveh will be overthrown in forty days.” Nineveh’s king believed Jonah and called for his people to repent to God. God heard their cries and did not destroy Nineveh.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why did God tell Jonah to go to Nineveh?

  2. Where did Jonah go instead of Nineveh?

  3. What did God do because Jonah would not go to Nineveh?

  4. What did Jonah do in Nineveh?

  5. If you were Jonah, would you have feared going to Nineveh? Would you have run away from God?

Background to the Story:

  • Jonah lived during the time of Israel’s King Jeroboam II. (2 Kings 14:25) During this time, the nation of Israel was wealthy and expanding in size. Nineveh was a large city in Assyria. Later, Assyria conquers Israel, destroying the nation. 

  • The Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish but then delivered to dry land. Many cultures believed in large sea monsters that represented their gods.  The sailors knew that only the one true God could calm the waters and send the fish that swallowed Jonah. 

  • In Exodus 34:5 God declares that He is a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” This incident showed God’s unchanging character.

  • The book of Jonah reminds us that God wants everyone to repent and to believe in the one true God that is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” 

Reference - Jonah