Studies in Prophets and Writings

Jonah 4: God does not desire the death of the wicked

The primary lesson of the book of Jonah is this: God is willing to hear to remove sin, even for people you don’t like. God doesn’t want to kill anyone: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever. God wants all these groups to be saved. When Yeshua (Jesus) said that the sign of His being the Messiah was the “sign of Jonah” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29), it was not only about the three days in the fish representing his three days in the grave. The entire book of Jonah is the “sign of Jonah” Yeshua references.

Jonah is angry after his prophesy against Nineveh didn’t come true. The nation of Assyria is named about one of Noah’s great grandsons. They are a very ancient nation even at this time. They do not like Israel, Israel does not like them. They are perennial enemies and in a way they are even to this day. 

Jonah is aware of the prophesies his predecessors spoke out against the nation of Israel. He knows that Israel’s days are numbered and he knows that Syria’s days are numbered as well. Assyria is taking over Syria, which is a buffer-zone, in a matter of speaking between the two nations. Assyria is growing in strength and their cruelty is renown.

Both Joel and Jonah understood the depths of God’s compassion. 

“I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:2 NASB)

Jonah’s anger about Ninevah’s repentance is not justified, that is why he doesn’t respond when God asks, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4 NASB)

Then something unusual happens. 

“So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:6–8 NASB)

Jonah feels this time that his anger is justified that God’s “punishment” on the gourd, which was providing him shelter and protection from the sun and wind  was unfair. 

For our purposes, Jonah 4 has another layer of meaning. 

Jonah and the festivals of Israel

When comparing Jonah and Moses to each other, both of them are sent to places they don’t want to go. There are a number of parallels between themes in Jonah and the מעדים mo’edim (appointed times of the LORD):

  • Jonah was sent to Nineveh. Moses was sent to Egypt. They were both sent to save suffering people. 
  • Moses was sent to the suffering slaves of Israel, while the sailors were suffering in the ocean.
  • Passover: The lamb saves the people. Jonah was “killed” to save the sailors. 
  • First Fruits (Wave Offering): Jonah was removed from the fish after three days. The Messiah was raised on the third day. 
  • Shavuot (Pentecost): After the three days, the commandments were given at Sinai. Jonah was called to proclaim God’s word after emerging from three days in the sea creature. 
  • Atonement: The people of Nineveh repent, then God forgives them and removes the prospect of punishment from them. 
  • Trumpets: The symbols of Yom Teruah (Day of Blowing Trumpets), is about sounding an alarm about coming judgment (Yom haKippurim, Day of Atonement). Jonah sounds the alarm of judgement. 
  • Sukkot (Tabernacles): Jonah built himself a shelter — essentially, a sukkah — outside of Nineveh. Those who do not obey God’s command to keep Sukkot will be punished with heat and a lack of rain (Zech. 14:16–21), as Jonah suffered. 
  • Shimeni Atzeret (Convocation of the Eighth Day): provides shelter, suffering comes but salvation comes as a result of the suffering. 

Passover is similar but fundamentally different from Atonement. In Passover, sins are covered. In Atonement, sins are not covered but taken away. It’s also a removal of the desire to sin. This is why Jonah is read every year at Day of Atonement. God is willing to remove sin, even for people you don’t like. Jonah did not like Nineveh, yet they received the same salvation Israel receives. 

God doesn’t want to kill anyone: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist. God wants all these groups to be saved.  You might not like Muslims or Buddhists, but God wants to save all of them whether you want to save them or not.

Jonah didn’t want that. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved. He wanted them to die in their wickedness. 

When Yeshua said that His sign was the “sign of Jonah,” it was not only about the three days in the fish representing his three days in the grave. The entire book of Jonah is the “sign of Jonah” Yeshua references. 

Speaker: Daniel Agee. Reader: Tammy. 

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