Christian Churches of God

No. 021E




Commentary on Jonah


(Edition 1.5 20140928-20210620)


The Sign of Jonah was the only sign given to the Church. It is thus of great importance to the understanding of the Faith.






Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright © 2014, 2021 Wade Cox)



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Commentary on Jonah



Jonah the son of Amittai is a known historic personage. He is mentioned in 2Kings 14:25. He was from Gath-hepher which is a border town in Zebulun (cf. Josh. 19:13). It is probably identified with Khirbet ez Zurra’ which is an extensive site located three miles NE of Nazareth, which was in Galilee. The statement of the Pharisees in John 7:32 was thus a lie. Christ came out of the area of Nazareth in Galilee, as had Jonah. It was occupied in Iron Ages I and II  i.e. 1200-600 BCE and thus in the period of Jonah and before that in the Late Bronze Age from 1550 BCE onwards. Jonah was a contemporary of Jeroboam II king of Israel (793-775 BCE) and the earlier years of Uzziah (775-757 BCE). It lay a short distance to the north of the remains of the village of Meshed which is where the traditional site of the Tomb of Jonah lies.


This prophecy as the Sign of Jonah was the only sign given to the Church of God and is therefore critical to an understanding of the activities and death of the Christ and also of the prophecies given through Daniel because it is tied in to the prophecy of the Seventy weeks of Years in Daniel 9:25ff. and the fall of the Temple in 70 CE at the end of the 70 weeks of years. That relationship is covered in the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013).


It is also connected with the last days and the entry of the church to the Return of the Messiah and the First Resurrection. Christ places him on the same level of literal validity with the Queen of Sheba and declares his sign to be the only one given to that of the church (cf. Mat. 12:40). Most commentators don’t understand the sign and therefore try to diminish his importance.  As the words Christ spoke were given to him by God, the critics who deny Christ’s statements strike at the inspiration of God.


Christ was to be literally dead three days and three nights in the tomb as Jonah was in the fish and thus both must have been dead and raised from the dead.  The three days and three nights make the interval involving parts of Days an impossibility and this denies the Friday Crucifixion and Sunday Resurrection of the god Attis that entered Christianity under the Easter system or the mother goddess cult of Cybele or Easter and they are an impossibility (see also the paper Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235)).  


Luke 11:30 shows that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, as Christ was a sign to his generation.


The Jews of Christ’s day were as angry with the Repentance of the disciples under Christ as Jonah was with the repentance of the Ninevites.


God stated that He would put His words in the mouth of him whom He sent and seven times Christ attested to that fact in John’s Gospel (Jn. 7:16; 8:28, 46- 47; 12:49; 14:10, 24; 17:8).


Jonah had been commissioned to encourage Israel (2Kgs. 14:25,26) and Assyria was in great difficulties over a period of sixteen years and at this time. Jonah must have realised that Assyria was to be brought to repentance in order to be a rod of correction to Israel. His seemingly evident view was that Yahovah was true to His word and that if he made the proclamation to Nineveh and the city repented it would result in the downfall of Israel, which it indeed did. His flight was thus not one of cowardice but to spare his people and accept God’s punishment.


The structure of the book is in two divisions of four:

  1. 1:1 The Word of Yahovah
  2. 1:2 The mission to Nineveh
  3. 1:3 Jonah’s Disobedience
  4. 1:4-2:10 The Consequences and the Death and Resurrection of Jonah.
  5. 3:1 The Word of Yahovah
  6. 3:2 Mission to Nineveh
  7. 3:3,4  Obedience of Jonah
  8. 3:4-4:11 The consequences and the Correction of Jonah.


We will now go through the four chapters and look at their intent and substructure.


Chapter 1 deals with the summons and direction of Jonah and his subsequent actions. It is beyond doubt that Jonah was directed by God and knew that it was God that directed him.


Jonah Chapter 1

1Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amit'tai, saying,


This term or like terms are found seven times in Jonah at 1:1; 2:10; 3:1,3; 4:4,9, 10.


 2"Arise, go to Nin'eveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me."


It thus became apparent to Jonah that Yahovah was about to deal with Nineveh. Thus his conflict of ideas for his people arose should they repent. Nineveh (cf. Gen. 10:11,12) was the capital of Assyria on the left bank of the Tigris River named firstly Nina after the patron goddess of the city. It was of Babylonian origin from a colony from Nina in Southern Babylonia. Khamurabi from much earlier period spells it Ni-nu-a.


Bullinger quotes the Encyc. Britannica (11th Cambridge edition) as stating the excavations that revealed the mound of Nabi Yunus (the prophet Jonah) crowned by the tomb could not be explored.


He was ordered to cry against it (Heb. Kara’) and thus make a general proclamation.


Nineveh was noted from its own bas reliefs alone for its wickedness and cruelty (cf. also Nah. 2:8-13). (The Heb is in the plural ra’a’.)


3But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.


Jonah knew that Assyria was to be the sword of God’s punishment against Israel and he thus was in intolerable conflict that if Assyria was not spared through repentance and God’s Mercy Israel might be saved. It seems most probably as the cause of his displeasure and flight (cf. also 4:1-3). He went to Joppa which is now Jaffa (cf. Josh. 19:46; 2Chr. 2:16; Acts 9:36) and took a ship for Tarshish.  He thus fled and as far as he was able at that time which was to Tarshish (cf. 1Kgs 10:22) which is in the southern point of Spain and was the source of all Transatlantic trade into the Mediterranean as we now are fully aware. Who knows where he was actually intending to go. They were certainly trading with South America before that time. The ship (Heb. ‘aniyah) was any large merchant ship and not the same word as verse 5.

4But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 

(The wind was a ruach or great spirit.)


The word for Mariners in the next verse is the Hebrew word mallach or salts.  Thus the sailors were termed salts as was common in English.


5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god; and they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.


Each cried in prayer (Heb. Ze’ah (not as per vv. 2,14)) to his god. And they threw the wares (i.e. tackling Heb. Keli, or implements) into the sea.


The word for captain here is chief of the rope which is Phoenician for captain (Heb. Rab hachobel). For the discussion on the occurrence of the term captain see Bullinger fn. 6 Comp. Bible p. 1248).


6So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish."


Here the term is Elohim with eth meaning the true God also in the second occurrence. Thus the captain considered Jonah or Yunus’ god to be the true God.


The structure of the text in 1:7-12 shows the self sacrifice of Jonah.

Verse 7 sees the casting of lots and Jonah was taken.

Verse 8 shows the interrogation

Verse 9 shows his confession

Verses 10-11 show their fear and confusion.

Verse 12 shows Jonah’s determination resulting from the action of God.

7And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 8Then they said to him, "Tell us, on whose account this evil has come upon us? What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country? And of what people are you?"


Note they ask his occupation but he says only I fear the lord God. He did not declare that he was a prophet but they were enraged that he had so exposed them to such danger as he had told them that he was fleeing from God.


9And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." 10Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.


The men then seek his guidance as to how he can get them out of the problem that he himself had created. He then understands the seriousness and says “Take me up” seeing the consequence and solution.


11Then they said to him, "What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?"For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.12He said to them, "Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."


Despite his advice the men still tried to save him in that they did not fear his God.


13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14Therefore they cried to the LORD, "We beseech thee, O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood; for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee."


They then prayed to God in fear because they knew he was an innocent man that had simply run away in fear.  They did not understand his disobedience.  They were forced to comply and throw him overboard. The sea stopped raging and that made them fear God even more and they then sacrificed to the God of the Hebrews.

15So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. 17And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.


God had known what Jonah would do and what would become of this and had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. 


Jonah Chapter 2

1Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2saying, "I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and thou didst hear my voice. 3For thou didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all thy waves and thy billows passed over me. 4Then I said, `I am cast out from thy presence; how shall I again look upon thy holy temple?' 5The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet thou didst bring up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. 7When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came to thee, into thy holy temple. 8Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their true loyalty. 9But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to thee; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the LORD!" 10And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.


The word whale is nowhere mentioned and this was a great fish and Jonah could not have survived in that fish for three days and three nights. He prayed and he was then dead as Christ prayed and then died. He was resurrected in the belly of the fish as Christ was resurrected in the tomb at the end of three days and three nights and Jonah was vomited out on dry ground where God wished him to be.


Jonah Chapter 3

Here we see the second command to Jonah and this time he obeys. The sequence of the timing is important in this mission as it relates to the mission of Christ.


1Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2"Arise, go to Nin'eveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." 3So Jonah arose and went to Nin'eveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nin'eveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth.


It is this sequence that Nineveh is three days journey across. Jonah goes into the city one day and then preaches for two days: declaring that it had forty days in which to repent or it would be thrown down.


4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he cried, "Yet forty days, and Nin'eveh shall be overthrown!" 5And the people of Nin'eveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6Then tidings reached the king of Nin'eveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7And he made proclamation and published through Nin'eveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, 8but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?"


Thus the entire city repented. This was what Jonah feared most.  This sequence mirrored the mission of Christ.  The sequence was:

Day 1=Year 1.  The mission of John the Baptist

commenced in 27 CE and Christ came to be baptised and to select his disciples.

Day 2 and 3 = year 2 and 3.  Christ taught from after Passover 28 CE when John was imprisoned until Christ was killed at Passover 30 CE and resurrected and spoke to the church on his resurrection.


10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.  


Those that repented, which was all of Nineveh, were spared by God. They were given forty days and repented immediately. Judah was given forty years and did not repent and they were destroyed and dispersed from 70 CE.


That angered Jonah and he was very annoyed that God had spared the very people that were to be the instrument in capturing Israel in the North and dispersing them far beyond the Araxes.


God does not repent as He is Omniscient and He relents of the disaster or punishment He states He was about to inflict or perform.


Jonah Chapter 4

Here we see Jonah in dialogue with Yahovah of Israel on behalf of the One True God. He reminded God of what he had said to him while in Israel and which was the reason he fled to Tarshish.


1But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2And he prayed to the LORD and said, "I pray thee, LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil. 3Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live."


Jonah knew from the Pentateuch (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18-19); David knew (Ps. 86:5); Hosea knew (Hos. 11:8-9); Joel knew (Joel 2:13) and Micah knew (Mic. 7:18). They all understood the plan of God to the extent they had been informed.


He would rather die than live.  He was unhappy that he had been a successful prophet. Because in saving Nineveh he condemned Israel but his faith in God should have been greater.

4And the LORD said, "Do you do well to be angry?"


God then rebuked him seemingly as a child. However, he was vexed as a prophet for his people.


5Then Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.


He had not given up hope that Nineveh would return to sin and be destroyed. He then sat in a huff to see what would become of Nineveh. Then God protected him during his wait and used that as an example to Jonah.


6And the LORD God appointed a plant, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm which attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he was faint; and he asked that he might die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." 9But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."  10And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. 11And should not I pity Nin'eveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"


The wind was a ruach as a spirit. Thus the example of the plant and Nineveh was used to show the mercy of God. He should thus have known that had Israel repented it would not have been cast abroad.


As we saw from The Fall of Egypt (No. 036), in 732 BCE the Assyrian Tiglath Pileser III annexed Damascus making Israel and Judah tributary states. In 729 BCE Tiglath Pileser III annexed Babylon and Shalmaneser V (from 724-721 BCE) annexed Israel in 722 BCE. His successor Sargon II deported the ten tribes.


In 710 BCE the Cimmerians invaded trans-Caucasia from the Russian steppes. They devastated Urartu and the kingdom of Phrygia in Anatolia. In 705 BCE Sargon II was killed fighting the Cimmerians. In 701 BCE Sennacherib's army unexpectedly withdrew from a punitive campaign in Judah. In 720 BCE Sargon II had established the Assyrian capital at Dur Sharrukin or Fort Sargon. In 701 BCE Sennacherib abandoned Fort Sargon and made Nineveh the capital again. There is thus a seeming reconcentration on the prophecies concerning Nineveh.


The witness of Jonah was over forty years from the reign of Jeroboam II (793-775) to Uzziah (775-753) and the combined reigns was a period of forty years with the probation period from the third year of the reign of Uzziah ca 772-732 to Tributary status to the Assyrians. Israel was sent into captivity to the Assyrians over the period from 722 BCE which was approximately 40 years and then 50 years or a jubilee from the prophesies of Jonah to Israel. Jonah should have learned from the mission to Nineveh and warned Israel of what God did to them and what was then to happen to Israel but they did not listen as Judah did not listen during its forty years given for repentance (see also the paper the Outline Table of the Age (No. 272)).


Had Judah repented it would not have been destroyed with the Temple in 70 CE and Judah dispersed.


Judah was given exactly 40 years on a year for day basis with Nineveh.  Nineveh repented and Judah did not. They killed Christ on 14 Abib 30 CE and Jerusalem was surrounded on 1 Abib 70 CE and the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem. The Temple at Heliopolis in Egypt was closed by order of Vespasian in the sacred year 70-71 CE, before Abib 71 CE.


In each case God gave Israel and Judah 40 years to repent which is the standard period and they did not repent. Since Christ and the church was formed, God has given the world 40 jubilees from 27 CE to 2027 to repent and they have not and they will not and the world is to come into captivity under Messiah and to Judgment for the Millennium as the Sabbath Rest of God under Christ.