A Christian Study of The Book of Jonah


“Can There Any Good Thing Come Out of Nazareth?”  “Search, and Look: For Out of Galilee Ariseth No Prophet”

In John 1:45 we read, “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

Why did Nathanael ask this question?  We get the feeling that it was some kind of contemporary euphemism which indicated that Nazareth, a city in Galilee, was a place of poor reputation.  We find support for this idea in John 7:52, where we read, “They (the chief priests and Pharisees) answered and said unto him (Nicodemus*), Art thou also of Galilee?  Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that these men, being Jewish “chief priests and Pharisees,” would have had to have been thoroughly familiar with the scriptures (“Moses in the law, and the prophets”…the Old Testament in that day) to allow them to make such a bold challenge to Nicodemus?  Nonetheless, all true believing Christians know that Jesus is “Good” in answer to Nathanael’s question (for He is God, as we read in John 1:1-3 and John 1:14), and that He also was the specific fulfillment of the Prophet found in Deuteronomy 18:15 (“The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;“) because Acts 3:20-26 gives us this commentary, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.  For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.”  The New Testament also makes reference to Jesus as, “the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” as we read in Matthew 21:11 for example, “And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

However, we must remember that the priests and Pharisees in Jesus’ day were looking for that coming “Prophet” only on the basis of what they found in the Old Testament “scriptures.”  It is clear from the challenge to Nicodemus by the chief priests and Pharisees that, according to their understanding and knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, there was no scriptural basis or precedent to expect that a prophet would arise out of Galilee.  How, then, are Christians (who use the New Testament to claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture) to deal with this issue?  The answer is that we must be like the Bereans of Acts 17:10&11, who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

          The Book of Jonah Is the Place to Search and Look!

             The Bible offers no “plain and simple” information from which to determine either 1) a rebuttal to the challenge made by the chief priests and Pharisees, or 2) whether or not Nicodemus was able to give them such a rebuttal.  However, when we look in Matthew 12:38-41, isn’t it interesting that we find the account in which “certain of the scribes and Pharisees” asked Jesus to show them a sign to validate that He was indeed the Messiah (that great Prophet) to which Jesus’s only response was to refer them to the book of Jonah.  They said, “Master, we would see a sign from thee.  But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas (Greek for “Jonah”):For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here.” (please also see Matt. 16:4 and Luke 11:29-32).  Could it be that the Old Testament support we seek is found in that book?

At this point, it would be quite helpful to recall what Jesus Himself said regarding the challenge of the chief priests and Pharisees to Nicodemus to “search and look.”  First, in Matthew 23:1-3, we read, “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,  Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  In other words, the scribes and Pharisees did not practice what they preached.  They didn’t search and look; but Jesus said we should do whatsoever they said to do, which in this case is to “search and look.”  Secondly, Jesus specifically told the Jews themselves to “search the scriptures,” as we read in John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (Jesus).”**  So let’s do just that.  Let’s search and look in the scriptures as Nicodemus was challenged to do; particularly looking in the book of Jonah as Jesus implied, to see if we can refute the assertion that forms the title of this paper (and also to see how the book of Jonah testifies of Jesus).

               Jonah (or Jesus?)

             Let’s begin our search by focusing on the very first verse of Jonah, where we read:         Jonah 1:1, “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

A lot of very important information is packed into this little verse.  At the start, it is clear that Jonah’s office was that of a prophet, for the word of God came specifically to the prophet to declare unto the people (Heb 1:1, Jer 29:19, Hos 12:10, and many others).  We also learn that Jonah’s father was named Amittai.

The son of Amittai?  

Who is this Amittai?  When we “search the scriptures”, we find that the only information concerning him is found in 2 Kings 14:25, and there we find that God provides pretty much the same information.  However, when we search out the meaning of Amittai we can begin to see what God has in view.  In the Hebrew, Amittai means “faithful”, “trustworthy”, or “true”.  Who is it that is repeatedly declared to be faithful and true in the scriptures?  God!  In Deuteronomy 7:9, we read, “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he [is] God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;”  In John 7:28 we read, “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.”  We can see then that Amittai is a type or figure chosen by God to represent God the Father.  So who does that suggest Jonah might spiritually represent?  Remember how above in John 5:39 Jesus said the scriptures testified of Him, hence the title of the main heading, “Jonah (or Jesus?)”

But what about Gath-hepher?

If we go back for a moment to 2 Kings 14:25, we are provided additional evidence to confirm that we are on the right track.  There we learn that Jonah’s abode or home was in Gath-hepher; “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which [was] of Gath-hepher.

Gath-hepher is a primary clue from at least two distinct vantage points.  First, if we look in the back of our Bibles at the ancient map of National Israel, we will find, to our utter amazement, that the town of Gath-hepher from the Old Testament is located no more than two miles north of Nazareth from the New Testament.  To assure ourselves that this is indeed the case, we have only to search it out in God’s word.  From Joshua 19:13, we learn that this town (also referred to as Gittah-hepher) was within the borders of the land given to the tribe of Zebulun, “And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittah-hepher (in the original Hebrew this is the same as “Gath-hepher”), to Ittah-kazin, and goeth out to Remmon-methoar to Neah;

From Matthew 4:12-15 (and Isaiah 9:1), we learn that the land of Zebulun (Zabulon in Greek) is identified as being within the region of Galilee, “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he (Jesus) departed into Galilee;  And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias (“Isaiah” in Greek, see Isaiah 9:1) the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, [by] the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles (nations);”

From this Bible study we can see that Jonah was the son of Amittai who was from Gath-Hepher which is in the land given as part of the inheritance to the tribe of Zebulun which is in the region known as Galilee.  Isn’t that astounding?  They were both Galileans!  God raised up the great prophet Jonah from the exact same neighborhood as Jesus (only Jonah lived about 800 years earlier than Jesus).  As we go on, we will see this is more than just coincidence, but for the moment it might be profitable to take a slight detour to review another aspect of this geographical information.

The Winepress of Shame?

From our geographical study of Gath-hepher we have found the unequivocal similarity between Jonah and Jesus based on the fact that both were prophets from Galilee.  However, there is one other aspect denoted by Gath-hepher that we must consider.  Gath-Hepher is a compound word that is generally thought to mean, “well of the winepress.”  In the Hebrew, Gath means “winepress.”  The word hepher, while sometimes translated dig, pit, or well, also means “shame” or “reproach.”  Amazingly, when we search the Bible, we can again see how this focuses our attention on Jesus.  Let’s look at the winepress first.

“Gath” (or gittah) is translated as “winepress” in Lamentations 1:15, “The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty [men] in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, [as] in a winepress (gath/gittah).”  For further insight on the role of the winepress in scripture let’s look at Isaiah 63:3, where we read, “I (Jesus) have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people [there was] none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.”  And in Revelation 14:19, “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast [it] into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand [and] six hundred furlongs.”  In Revelation 19:13, “And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

Clearly the winepress refers to God’s wrath that must be brought to bear in judgment for sin.  Jesus, as the believers’ atoning sacrifice, first had to endure that wrath and suffer the shame of God’s reproach for their sins.  Psalms 69 gives us a glimpse of the shame and reproach Jesus had to suffer.  We are also reminded how, on Judgment Day, Jesus will return as the Judge who pours out God’s wrath on the unsaved for whose sins He did not pay.  We read of this in Isaiah 47:3, “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame (hepher) shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet [thee as] a man,” and in Daniel 12:2, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame (hepher) [and] everlasting contempt.

Jonah: the “Dove” or “Pigeon”

Did you know that Jonah’s name means “dove” or “pigeon”?  Do these terms relate to/prefigure Jesus?  Indeed they do.  Remember what the pigeon or dove was used for in the scriptures?  The dove or pigeon was used as a sacrifice offering for the poor and leprous.  We read this in Leviticus 5:7, “And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.”  Also in Leviticus 14:29, “And the rest of the oil that [is] in the priest’s hand he shall put upon the head of him that is to be cleansed, to make an atonement for him before the LORD.  And he shall offer the one of the turtledoves, or of the young pigeons, such as he can get;  [Even] such as he is able to get, the one [for] a sin offering, and the other [for] a burnt offering, with the meat offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed before the LORD.  This [is] the law [of him] in whom [is] the plague of leprosy, whose hand is not able to get [that which pertaineth] to his cleansing.

We know that only Jesus is the valid atoning sacrifice which can satisfy God’s Levitical Law of Sacrifice for our spiritual destitution and the cleansing of our sin, our spiritual uncleannesses (typified by leprosy) and that it was He who was prefigured by the dove and the pigeon.  Interestingly, when we look in Jonah 1:4-16, we find that the mariners were forced to cast Jonah into the sea, because it was the only way that they could be saved from the tempest.  In essence, Jonah was “sacrificed” by the mariners to appease the wrath of God that otherwise would have destroyed the ship and all who were aboard it.  We should also remember God’s usage of the dove in the account of our LORD’s baptism, see Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21&22, and John 1:31-34.

I trust that you have begun to see the amazing informational potential of the book of Jonah and its answer to both the question raised by Nathanael in John 1:45 and the challenge laid down by the chief priests and Pharisees to Nicodemus in Jesus’s day in John 7:52.  By way of exhortation, let’s review what we’ve learned:

Jonah was a prophet (a “Good” thing, in answer to Nathanael’s question) and, perhaps more importantly (regarding the challenge and erroneous assertion of the chief priests and Pharisees to their peer, Nicodemus), he arose from Galilee (the exact same region as Jesus!).  Furthermore, Jonah’s dwelling place was in Gath-hepher, which pointed to the judgment of God as we have seen.  That winepress was where the LORD became sin for the believers as God the Father pressed out of Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, the sweat as it were great drops of blood as one treading under foot the grapes in the vat. This was indeed the dwelling place of Jesus!  It was most necessary for Him to dwell in Gath-hepher for a time that He might become a sacrifice for the poor in spirit, the spiritually unclean.  For the believers, Jesus became poor and unclean, that they might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9) and clean before God.  Jesus was also referred to by God as the Prophet.  Jonah was also the son of Amittai, which means faithful and true.  We know that Jesus is the Son of God who is Faithful and True.  Finally, the dove again points us to the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of God’s elect and reminds us of the Holy Spirit as He came upon Jesus to validate His ministry as the Priest, Prophet, and King, and His evangelical work through His believers bringing salvation to a hostile world, yours and mine (typified by Nineveh in the book of Jonah).

     Jonah’s Sojourn in the Sea Prefigures Jesus Christ’s Eternal Sacrifice 

            Some critics might dismiss the above exposition of Jonah as simply another one of so many so-called “fanciful” or “allegorical” interpretations.  They might say that these comparisons are only curious “coincidences” and have no validation other than in the mind of the beholder.  On that, you’ll have to judge for yourself.  However, before you pass judgment, it might be helpful to look at one more key element of comparison whereby God Himself provides the unequivocal validation for the above exposition.  When we carefully look at the corollary between: 1) what we find in the book of Jonah with 2) what we know about from the Bible concerning death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (that Jesus pointed to in Matthew 12:38-41), we will find something very interesting.  We know that Jesus was referring to the three-day and night period that began with His torment beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night and which was completed at His resurrection on Easter Sunday morning because of what we read in Jonah 1:17: Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

In Hell Forever?

             However, in Jonah 2:1&2, we also read, “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell(***) cried I, [and] thou heardest my voice.”  Jonah is described here as being in “Hell”, but we know he was only in a fish/whale at the bottom of the sea, correct?  Then, later, in Jonah 2:6 we read, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [was] about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.”  But doesn’t it explicitly state in Jonah 1:17 that Jonah was only in the belly of the fish/whale for three days and three nights?  And why does it say “the earth with her bars,” if Jonah was only in the sea?  Please remember, I didn’t put these words here, and neither did any New Testament era theologian.  These words are in the original Hebrew texts just as they have been for over 2500 years.  They were put in the Bible by God Himself through the work of His Holy Spirit (please see 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21).  They unequivocally pre-figured Jesus’s torment, death, and resurrection; as well as the fact that Jesus, in the space of the referenced “three days and nights”, actually endured the equivalent of an eternity (forever!) in Hell for the sins of all who would ever believe on Him as their Savior.  As for “the earth with her bars,” we are given another reference to the prison house of hell, which also parallels with Jesus’s description of his atoning sacrifice in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

(Note also the similarity with Psalm 18:4-6, where we read, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.“)

One additional note of interest from Jonah chapter 2 is where we read in the preceding verse, Jonah verse 5, we read “The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.”  The word weeds comes from the Hebrew word for “reeds” or “red” as in Red Sea, but isn’t it true that “weeds” can also be likened to thorns and thistles.  Therefore, couldn’t it be said that the weeds that were wrapped about the head of Jonah during his torment were similar to the crown of thorns placed around the head of Jesus during his torment?

     Conclusion

             The big lesson of the book of Jonah is that God sent the prophet Jonah to the wicked city of Nineveh (typifying the world) to warn them of His impending judgment.  Although in the historical account, Jonah was acting rebelliously, he was nonetheless used by God to portray Jesus Who voluntarily left His Heavenly habitation and from the face of God the Father to come to this sin cursed earth to dwell among men, become the atoning sacrifice for the sins of God’s elect, and calm the raging sea of God’s wrath that would otherwise have destroyed them for their sins (and thereby reiterating what we read in Jonah 2:9, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay [that] that I have vowed. Salvation [is] of the LORD.”  As a result of Jonah’s atonement and resurrection after three days (typifying that of Jesus according to Jesus’s own teaching), the people of Nineveh were able to hear the warning, repent of their evil ways, and cry out to God for mercy; and then God showed them mercy.  (Psalms 51:17, “The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.“)  However, if the people of Nineveh had not repented, then God would surely have destroyed them.  Now each of us, who hear the similar warning of the impending Judgment of God from God’s Word the Bible, are in the same position before God as were the people of Nineveh.  The big difference is that the next time, on Judgment Day, while God does promise to spare (from His just wrath) all individuals who repent and cry out to Him for mercy, His judgment on the rest of world will not be stayed.  Those remaining non-believers will end up in Hell forever as the just payment for their sins.  According to the Bible, Judgment Day is inevitable!  Regardless of how soon Judgment Day is for all of this creation, for any one individual it is actually only a heartbeat away (and therefore generally much sooner than anyone might think).

Today’s Application: Are You Ready?

            The Bible makes it clear that if God was willing to put His own Son through Hell to save a people for Himself, how much more would He be willing to send the wicked who reject Him to Hell for their sins (please see Romans 8:32).  Jesus is the only Way of escape from the just penalty for our sins. All other ways that man can devise will lead only to Hell.  Have you made peace with God through Jesus Christ? Please pray to God for mercy through Jesus Christ and He will show you mercy.

POSTSCRIPT:  Yet Another Proof: A Condensed Version of God’s Salvation Program Interwoven in the Book of Jonah

Please also note how in Jonah 1:5, “the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god;”.  They cried out to their false gods for salvation and found no help, but then in verse 9, Jonah witnessed to them about his God, the True God, the “LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry [land].“.  Then in Jonah 1:14 we read that they “cried unto the LORD” asking for mercy; and finally, after they cast Jonah into the sea (who in effect became their atoning sacrifice), “the sea ceased from her raging” (the demands of hell, according to the Law of God, were assuaged) in verse 16, “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.”  In effect, these men were converted and received salvation from God.  Please, dear reader, do not miss the very important and unambiguous fact that no matter how hard the mariners tried to save themselves through their own efforts (by rowing or lightening the ship), they remained doomed to a watery grave.  In the same way, mankind cannot hope for a moment to find salvation from God’s wrath and hell by doing “good works” or through faith in any other god, because “Salvation is of the Lord.”  (It should be noted here that this quote is taken verbatim  from Jonah 2:9.) Salvation can only come through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  That ultimately is the essence of the book of Jonah.

P.S. It is also interesting to note how the whole account in Jonah chapter 1 is also quite similar to what we find in Psalms 107:23-30.  “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;  These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.  For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.  Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.  Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.


     * The chief scribes and Pharisees were specifically addressing Nicodemus, a fellow “man of the Pharisees,” “a ruler of the Jews,” but “who came to Jesus at night,” and who lastly gave evidence that he had become a believer in Christ.  Please see John 3:1, 7:50, and 19:39.

     ** In Luke 24:27, where we find Jesus searching out the scriptures for His disciples, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets (which would have included Jonah), he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

     *** From the Hebrew word “sheol,” which is the only word in the Old Testament that is translated as “hell” as we read in the following sample of verses: Deuteronomy 32:22, “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Psalms 18:5, “The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.” Psalms 116:3, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.”  (Incidently please note the similarities in the language of the last two verses with what we find in Jonah 2:3, “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” and in Jonah 2:6, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [was] about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.“)  Finally in Psalms 86:13, “For great [is] thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

 

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2 Comments on “A Christian Study of The Book of Jonah”


  1. I am amazed at searching the scripture how God the father explain his salvaton to all man kind.


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