Jonah 1-4 The Voice (VOICE)
1 One day the word of the Eternal One came to the prophet Jonah (Amittai’s son).
Eternal One: 2 Get up, and go to that powerful and notorious city of Nineveh. Call out My message against it because the wickedness of its people has come to My attention.
3 In hearing those instructions, Jonah got up and ran toward Tarshish from the Eternal’s presence. He went down to the port at Joppa and found a ship bound for Tarshish. He climbed aboard, paid the fare, and made himself comfortable in the hold of the ship.
The Lord calls Jonah to Nineveh, but instead he runs full speed to Tarshish, a great and wealthy city on the coast of Spain. It is about as far to the west as most Israelites have ever ventured, while Nineveh is about as far to the east as most Israelites have ever gone. Nineveh is a great city and the fiercest enemy of Jonah’s people, so Jonah is afraid and wants to be completely away from this calling and from anyone who may be inclined to go on this ill-fated adventure.
4 Not to be deterred, the Eternal One threw an intense wind at the sea. The violence of the storm put Jonah’s ship in jeopardy of breaking apart. 5 The sailors panicked! They started running back and forth, throwing cargo overboard to lighten the boat; every man, out of desperation, cried to his own deity. Eventually, a sailor found Jonah down in the hold of the ship, where he had lain down and fallen into a deep slumber. 6 When the captain heard, he went down and woke Jonah up.
Captain: How can you sleep so deeply? Get up, and call out to your deity! Maybe your deity will see what is happening and save us from this catastrophe.
Sailors (to one another): 7 You know what we should do? We should cast lots to find out who is ultimately responsible for our distress!
So they cast their lots, and Jonah’s name was chosen.
Sailors: 8 Who are you? We must know who is responsible for this disaster that would swallow us in the sea. What do you do? Where are you from? What country is your home? Whom are you descended from?
Jonah: 9 I am Hebrew, and the God whom I worship is the Eternal One, the God of heaven. He made the sea and the land, so He controls them.
10 After interrogating him, the sailors were terrified because Jonah had told them he was running away from the Eternal’s presence.
Sailors (to Jonah): What have you done? Because of you, we’re all going to be killed.
11 (shouting over the building storm) What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?
Jonah (shouting back): 12 God is using the sea to punish me, so pick me up and throw me into the sea! Then the sea will grow calm again, and you’ll be safe! This is all my fault! This great storm of my God’s anger has built against you because of me!
The sailors fear what will happen to them if they kill one of God’s people.
13 The sailors ignored Jonah’s advice and tried to row back to land. They made no headway because the violence of the storm kept growing.
Sailors (to God): 14 Eternal One! Please, we beg You—do not kill us as if we had murdered this man. And don’t punish us as if we’d killed an innocent person. We understand that You, Eternal One, do as You please.
15 At that, they grabbed Jonah by his arms and legs and threw him overboard. And when they did, the raging sea grew calm. 16 The sailors were even more terrified of the Eternal One. They offered sacrifices to Him and made promises to Him.
17 The Eternal didn’t let Jonah die. He chose a large fish to swallow Jonah; for three days and three nights the prophet Jonah sat safely inside the belly of this fish.
2 To his God, the Eternal, Jonah prayed from inside this great fish.
Jonah reveals in his prayer a change of heart: he thanks God for saving him from the angry sea.
2 Jonah: With desperate cries
Yet You lifted me up from the pit.
10 Then the Eternal One directed the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto the shore.
3 The word of the Eternal came to the prophet Jonah a second time.
Eternal One: 2 Get up, and go to that powerful and notorious city of Nineveh, and pass on to them the message I’m giving you.
3 Having learned his lesson, Jonah yielded to the Eternal’s command and headed on the road to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was an important city, so large that it took three days to travel throughout it. 4 Jonah had barely begun to walk the first day’s journey into the city when he stopped.
Jonah (shouting out to the people of Nineveh): After 40 days, Nineveh will be annihilated.
5 With that announcement, the people of Nineveh started to trust in Jonah’s God! Every person—whether young or old, rich or poor, male or female—fasted and wore a sack as a sign of remorse for his past wickedness. 6 The people of Nineveh told each other about this, until the news made it all the way to the king of Nineveh, who ruled the entire Assyrian Empire. The king changed from his royal robes to sackcloth, and instead of sitting up high on his throne, he sat down low in the dust. 7 He sent an official message to his subjects.
King’s Message: By order of the king of Nineveh and his nobles, “No human being, animal, cattle, or flock may taste anything. None of them may go out to eat or drink any water. 8 Instead let both humans and animals cover themselves with sacks. Let all who belong to this empire call to God sincerely and turn from their wicked ways and violent acts. 9 Perhaps Jonah’s God will show mercy and relent from His judgment. Perhaps out of compassion He will not unleash His fierce anger against us, and we may be spared.”
10 God saw all they did and how they turned from their evil ways. So He relented and decided not to unleash the disasters He said He would through His servant Jonah.
4 The mercy God extended toward Nineveh upset Jonah terribly. The more he thought about it, the angrier he became. 2 So he prayed to the Eternal.
Jonah has time to think of how greatly the Assyrians are oppressing Israel, and he can’t reconcile their deliverance.
Jonah: Eternal One, isn’t this what I said would happen when I was still in my own country? This is exactly the reason I ran away to Tarshish in the first place. I know how You are! I know that You are not like other gods, that You are full of grace and compassion, that it takes a lot to make You angry, and that Your loyal love is so great that You are always ready to relent from inflicting misery. 3 Eternal One, since You didn’t kill them, please take my life away from me. For my death now is so much better than my life tomorrow.
Eternal One: 4 Jonah, do you have any good reason to be angry?
5 Jonah headed east out of the city instead of west toward his home to look for a place high above the city to sit down. He found a suitable spot and built a shelter from the hot sun. He sat there waiting to see what might happen to the city. 6 Then the Eternal God chose a gourd plant to grow up and to shade Jonah from the discomfort of the intense heat. The large, thick leaves of this vine made Jonah very, very happy. 7 But at dawn the next day, God chose a worm to chew through the gourd’s vine; that night, it shriveled. 8 Then when the sun rose, God chose a scorching east wind to blow. As the sun beat down from a cloudless sky on Jonah’s head, he became faint. Again, he asked to die.
Jonah: My death now is so much better than my life tomorrow.
Eternal One: 9 Do you have any good reason to be angry about this gourd’s vine?
Jonah: Yes, I do. I’m angry enough to die.
Eternal One: 10 Jonah, don’t you understand? You care about this gourd’s vine, and yet you didn’t do anything to make it grow; you didn’t plant it, water it, or protect it. It appeared one night then died another. 11 Should I not have pity on that great city of Nineveh where there are more than 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?