Why did Jonah flee from his mission?

(Babang ) #1

In Jonah 1: 1-3

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

It does not mention why Jonah ran away. Anyone could help me please? Do I miss something about the cultural background at that time? Did Jonah hate Niniveh people? If yes, why?

Thank you!

(Timothy Loraditch) #2

@MrB you can find your answer in the fourth chapter. Jonah was mad that God forgave the Ninevites. Jonah thought that since he was such a godly man that he was deserving of God’s compassion but the Ninevites were evil people and deserved God’s wrath.

God shows Jonah what is in his heart through the plant that grows up to shade him. God says, “is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” Jonah had not planted it or cared for it but he had compassion for it. God tells him that in the same way, He has compassion for the Ninevites. Jonah was prejudice towards the Ninevites and God wanted to change that in him.

(Andrew Bulin) #3

Hey @MrB!

I really liked what @tfloraditch had to say about this. When you read through how he “prophesied” and then sat back to watch everyone hopefully die, it really stands out that Jonah had a bad attitude!

To add to this, the historical significance was that Nineveh belonged to the Assyrians (possibly a capital city), who were enemies to many nations around, and destroyed Israel around 722BC. There is discussion around a pre- or post-exile writing, but Jonah did not want the chance of this enemy repenting.

Another consideration should be made of Jonah’s message. There is discussion around if he really say what God wanted or not, but the message he gave was clear:

Jonah 3:4 NASB
[4] Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

What we should remember is that a prophet was only as good as his reputation back in these days. Sometimes simply for profit, sometimes a bad prophecy may cost them their lives:

Deuteronomy 18:20 NASB
[20] But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

Jonah was likely more concerned about himself, his hate for his enemies, and not the 120,000+ lives that God had compassion for. The interesting thing is he knew God would not kill them

Jonah 4:2 NASB
[2] He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

I really like the book of Jonah. There are so many interesting little details when you start diving into it in relation to what was going on at the time.

Great question! :slight_smile:

(Babang ) #4

Thank you @tfloraditch, good point! At times I wonder why I could not see that although I have read that chapter several times :).

Thank you @andrew.bulin for giving me the background, I just learned it from you that Niniveh was actually belonged to Assyrians, that brought me to flash back about that country destroying Israel Kingdom. Am I right? Now I could understand better why Jonah hated that city.

However, I can actually see that “Jonah” in me. If I were asked to help and save my enemies which for generations and historically in conflict with my generation, I think I would response even worse than Jonah. Probably we are talking about the deep hatred that passed down from generation to generation, Israel was a country who never really forget history, they even traced their ancestry for long and certainly they would not forget their enemies.

Indeed, there is no hope for this world to achieve peace and to love one another unless we all come to Christ!

(Matt Western) #5

I wondered this too in the past - why was Jonah disobedient to God. When reading about what the Ninevites (Assyrians) did to their enemies I can fully understand why Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah. They were absolutely brutal to their enemies and subjected them to horrible torture. Jonah had probably seen his fellow Israelites subject to this cruelty, or at the very least heard the surrounding nations speak of such cruelty.


Yet God still offered them a chance to repent, and as it says there were 120,000 that could not tell their right hand from their left (these probably were young children who were not yet participating in this horrible cultural cruelty, thought it’s not obvious that was the case: https://www.gotquestions.org/Jonah-right-from-left.html)

What’s also interesting is that Jonah, in the fish for three days and three nights, was a sign of Jesus being in the tomb for three days and three nights. Jesus quoted this as he spoke about himself. Luke 11:30, Matthew 12:38-42

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

This then creates a followup question from the passage above: How will the men of Ninevah rise up in the judgement and condemn this generation (Jesus’ generation)? The Ninevites did repent when they heard the message, starting from the King and right down to the animals wearing sackcloth to show the whole society was repenting : as opposed to the Jewish religions and political leaders who rejected Jesus.

If you are interested, there are 5 podcast episodes on Jonah here (August 2017), I enjoyed them.