“Jonah” Bible Study

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Big Idea: God offers grace that we do not deserve and we should too.

Background Information

            The story of Jonah is a lot like the parables that Jesus told in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The parables were earthly stories with spiritual lessons behind them. The story of Jonah closely parallels the events that transpired throughout the ancient history of Israel. If you read have ever read through the Old Testament, you have probably gotten bogged down by archaic laws and weird stories about battles and wars and you may have wondered why anyone would have even taken the time to write it all down.

But throughout the Old Testament, there is an overarching storyline about the people of Israel. And here it is in a nutshell: God made a covenant with the people of Israel. This covenant basically stated that God would love them and bless them as long as they remained faithful to him. So, throughout the story, the people of Israel turn from God. When they do, the blessings that God promised them were taken away. When bad things started to happen to them, they turned to God for help. When they did, God gave them the blessings again. But once times were good again, the people turned their backs.

This cycle continues throughout the story until two major events happen. The first event occurred in 722 BC when the nation of Assyria conquered the northern half of Israel and took the people into slavery. The second event happened in 587 BC when the nation of Babylon conquered the southern half of Israel and took the rest of the people into slavery. These events are represented by the things that happen to Jonah in the fourth chapter.

Jonah sits down outside the city and a plant grows up to offer him shade from the sun. This represents the growth of the nation of Israel in power, wealth, and global prestige. The height of the nation’s power occurred under King Solomon. Next, a worm comes and eats through the roots of the plant and kills the plant. The worm represents foreign religions infiltrating Israel and causing the people of Israel to worship false gods instead of the one true God. This worm effectively ate the roots, which was the people’s faithfulness to God. This caused the plant to die, the culminating event being the conquering of the northern portion of Israel.

Last, God sends a scorching east wind to blow against Jonah. This represents the conquering of the southern portion of Israel. Jonah’s constant complaining mirrors the complaints of the people of Israel during their time in slavery and Jonah’s anger reminds us of the anger of the people of Israel as foreign nations seemingly receive God’s favor instead of the ones who believe they are God’s only favored people. The Israelites took pride in being the people of God and held a deep disdain for other nations because they thought they were better. When God showed favor to other nations, the people of Israel burned with anger toward God.

 

Reading Guide

Day 1: Jonah 1 – 2

Day 2: Jonah 3

Day 3: Jonah 4

 

Questions for Discussion

  • Have you ever wanted God to punish someone for something they did to you?
  • Have you ever wondered why good things happen to bad people?
  • Why is it so difficult to forgive other people?
  • Why do you think that God forgives those people?
  • How can we work toward forgiving the way God forgives?

 

Action Step

Write a poem or a song about how God has forgiven you similar to the one in Jonah chapter 2.

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