Old Testament Story List

Jonah

Some few centuries before the birth of Jesus, there came out of Galilee a prophet named Jonah whom the Lord commanded to go to preach before the wicked inhabitants of the city of Nineveh.

But Jonah, afraid to go to a strange city alone and preach against the people, thought to escape the task the Lord had commanded him to

do. He fled in the opposite direction, to Joppa, on the coast. There he found a boat going to Tarshish. He paid his fare, boarded the boat, and went inside to sleep.

But the Lord sent a mighty tempest, so violent that the boat was in danger of being broken up. The sailors were terrified. They threw the cargo overboard and cried out to their gods, but nothing helped. Then they cast lots to find out who was to blame for this evil that had come to them, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

Jonah told them how he had fled the Lord. He added, "It is because of me that this tempest has descended upon you. Throw me into the sea, and the waves will be calmed."

Nevertheless the men tried to row the boat to shore to save Jonah. When they could not move against the storm, they cried to the Lord, "Let us not perish for this man's life. This is not our will but Yours," and they took Jonah up and cast him into the sea. And the tempest abated and the waves became calm.

But Jonah did not drown. Jehovah caused a great fish to swim near, and the fish swallowed Jonah. For three days and nights Jonah remained in the fish's belly, repenting of his folly and praying to the Lord.

After the third day the fish cast Jonah up on the shore. Now Jonah obeyed the voice of the Lord and hastened to Nineveh. As soon as he had entered the gates of the wicked city, he began to declare that unless the people mended their ways, in forty days they would all be destroyed, and their city as well.

And the people of Nineveh heeded the warning of Jonah, and God spared them and their city. But, this made Jonah very angry. He did not wish to have Nineveh spared, because it was the enemy of his own land, and also he feared that men would call him a false prophet when his word did not come to pass. 

And Jonah said to the Lord: "O Lord, I was sure that it would be thus, that you would spare the city; and for that reason I tried to flee; for I knew that you are a gracious God, full of pity, slow to anger, and rich in mercy. No, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live"

Jonah went out of the city, and built a little hut on the east side of it, and sat under its roof, to see whether God would keep the word that he had spoken. The Lord caused a plant with thick leaves to grow up, and to shade Jonah from the sun; and Jonah was glad, and sat under its shadow. But a worm destroyed the plant, and, the next day a hot wind blew, and Jonah suffered from the heat. Again, Jonah wished that he might die.

The Lord said to Jonah: "You were sorry to see the plant die, though you did not make it grow, and though it came up in a night and died in a night. And should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, where there are more than a hundred thousand little children, and also many cattle, all helpless and knowing nothing?"

Jonah learned that men, and women, and little children, are all precious in the sight of the Lord, even if they do not know God.

In most of the books of the Old Testament, we read of the Israelite people, and of God's care for them; but we do not find in the Old Testament much about God as the Father of all men of every nation and every land. The book of Jonah stands almost alone in the Old Testament, as showing that God loves people of other nations than Israel. Even the people of Nineveh, who worshiped images, were under God's love; God was ready to hear their prayer and to save them. So the book of Jonah shows us God as "our Heavenly Father."


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