The Prophet Jonah and His Message Part 1 -- By: Gerald B. Stanton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 108:430 (Apr 1951)
Article: The Prophet Jonah and His Message Part 1
Author: Gerald B. Stanton

The Prophet Jonah and His Message
Part 1

Gerald B. Stanton

[Author’s note: When Jonah fled from the face of God and ended up in the belly of a great fish, he had both time and need for thought. But never did he dream of the tumult the incident would create within the pages of history. Jonah has been discussed, argued, attacked and defended probably more than any other Old Testament book. It is not the purpose of this present discussion to raise old issues, although some helpful material on the background and authenticity of Jonah is included. Some have meditated upon “Jonah and the whale” to the point of missing the God-given purpose of the book. The purpose here is to see what else is in Jonah, and what message this ancient prophet has for men of our day. In the treatment of the subject, a second purpose is to be found: to suggest to the reader an excellent approach to the study of almost any Old Testament book. It is a threefold approach of searching first for the historical setting, then for the prophetic revelation, and finally for the personal application. There are scores of ways to study the Scripture, but the author recommends that way as one of the most fruitful. The greatest need of our day is for Christians who are willing to ponder for themselves the Word of God, after which they can transmit its message into consistent lives and earnest testimony. May the prophet of Jonah and his message stimulate in us that purpose of heart. (Ed. note: the author, since graduating from Dallas Seminary, has been doing unusual evangelistic work.)]

The Book of Jonah is more than a fish story. It is one of the most discussed and least understood portions of the Word of God. It is the record of an Old Testament prophet—of how God dealt with him during the course of his rebellion. It is the account of the greatest revival of history. It is a prophecy of Christ and foretells the history of Israel, through whom Christ came. It is all of this and more. Its greatest miracle is not that of the whale, but of the wideness of God’s mercy. Its greatest message is not the one to Nineveh, but to those today who will read its pages and heed its lessons. God had a message for Jonah, and Jonah has a message for us. We will understand him best, however, if first we see him in the historical setting.

I. The Historical Setting

The Book. One reason why the Book of Jonah is so remarkable is that so much action, history, and spiritual truth has been packed into the compass of a narrative which may easily be read in five or six minutes. “Jonah is the most beautiful story ever written in so small a compass. It contains 48 verses and 1,328 words. There is growth of character, a distinct plot worked out withou...

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