We learn about Jonah from the book of the Bible that bears his name. He was a Jewish prophet who lived around 850 BC. God told him to go to Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian Empire (modern Iraq) and ask them to repent, that is turn from their wickedness and honor the God of the Bible, failing which God would destroy Nineveh. Instead, Jonah took a ship that was headed for Spain.
The Jewish prophet's reluctance to go to Assyria is understandable, since the Assyrians cruelly oppressed the Jews in his day. However, God sent a storm; after briefing the sailors about his background, Jonah asked the sailors in his ship to throw him overboard. When the sailors did this, the storm suddenly became still. The sailors became convinced that Jehovah, the God of the Bible is the true God.
Meanwhile, Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish. From inside the fish, he cried out to God. God made the fish vomit Jonah out near the shore. Then Jonah went to Nineveh and preached the word of God to the people there. The entire city turned to God, and God did not destroy it.
There is a strange parallel between these incidents in Jonah's life and the history of Israel.
Just like God wanted Jonah to preach to others, God wanted the people of Israel to tell others about Him. Just like Jonah, the Israelites failed miserably. However, just like Jonah's disobedience resulted in a few sailors turning to God, the disobedience of Israel has resulted in blessings for many of us non-Jews (Romans 11:11), because God has temporarily set them aside and set up the church (a non-Jewish body), His new people.
God didn't let Jonah continue with his disobedience, and neither will He do so with Israel. The Bible says that God will shape the circumstances such that Israel falls in big trouble - all the nations will come against Israel. Such a war of global proportions is prophesied in Biblical passages such as Joel 3:1-17 and Zechariah 12:1-9. According to the latter passage (which was written four centuries after Jonah!), the Israelis will cry out to God when they are on the brink of annihilation, and He will rescue them (just like He rescued Jonah!). Then the Israelis will submit to God, preach His word, and this will bring tremendous blessings for the whole world, just like Jonah's preaching resulted in blessing for Nineveh. This last bit was written in Romans 11:12 by the apostle Paul - he lived in the first century AD! The video shows American troops visiting the ruins of Nineveh.
The parallel between Jonah's life and the history of Israel is a structure whose writing was completed in about a thousand years - and whose historical fulfillment is only partially complete nearly three thousand years after Jonah lived. Such a structure could not have been thought of by a human and is thus proof of the divine origin of the Bible.
If you suspect the authenticity of Jonah since the story sounds fanciful, consider the following:-
- While it sounds unlikely for a man to be swallowed and vomited out by a fish, it is even more unlikely that a cooked up story would parallel history that spans thousands of years.
- As demonstrated below, Jonah's story shows Jonah making a total fool of himself. This proves that Jonah did not cook up his story to become rich or famous. Nor does the book contain anything that can be used by anyone else. So, why would anyone make up such a story?
Jonah tells us how he made a fool of himself as follows:-
- When God asked him to go to Nineveh (800 miles NE), he headed for Spain (2000 miles NW) - the ultimate in disobedience.
- Jonah admits he was sleeping while the ship was in danger and all the sailors and other passengers were praying to their respective gods.
- When the people of Nineveh were converted by his preaching, Jonah was upset and threw a tantrum to God saying he preferred the Ninevites to remain wicked and get punished by God.
- God gave Jonah a piece of His mind with an object lesson that involved Jonah having to bear the heat of the desert sun with no shade. Needless to say, Jonah was all moody and frustrated.