We begin with Jonah which is one of my favorite of all the Bible stories. The story of Jonah has been used by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike to describe the faithfulness of God for those who repent. It describes a time period in the reign of King Jeroboam II. The command to go to the Ninevites was one that would have struck fear in any missionary’s heart. The Ninevites were ruthless and did not hesitate to mercilessly destroy any nation or people who might be in their path. Their reputation was one of being a cruel and vicious nation. Here is an ancient depiction of the Ninevites and their cruelty.
So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that when Jonah was asked he refused to go, who would ever want to go to this people? They were also sworn enemies of the Israelites, so if, just if, they did repent, Jonah did not want his name associated as being the prophet who saved the Ninevites from certain destruction. The Israelites would have wanted and even would have prayed for their destruction. So he runs, but God pursues.
Don’t get caught up if it is a whale or a fish. The point is that God sent a creature to swallow Jonah up for three days and three nights. If you go to Matthew 12:38-42 you will see that our Savior, Jesus, uses this example to describe his certain death and resurrection. Now, not everyone caught it and understood what he was saying, but when you read it you should be able to draw a pretty straight line between the story of Jonah and the death of Jesus, three days in the grave, and his subsequent resurrection.
The story and the character of Jonah get more complicated as we continue.