In the Daily Bible Readings of yesterday we read in Jonah 1 how one day the word of the Eternal One came to the prophet Jonah (Amittai’s son). He called Jonah to Nineveh, but being afraid to go to that ‘doomed place’ he goes instead 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. (Jonah 1:3)
Jonah, being a Hebrew worships the Only Eternal One God, the God of heaven, Who made the sea and the land, so He controls them (Jonah 1:9). He knows he should listen to Him and to follow His ways, but his fear for his enemies brings him to go the other way God wants him to go.
When a seastorm brought many in danger and the seamen had interrogated Jonah, the sailors were terrified because he had told them he was running away from the Eternal’s presence. Shouting over the building storm they accused him of bringing death unto them. (Jonah 1:10-11) Jonah was aware that God was using the sea to learn him a lesson (punishing him – Jonah 1:12), so he asked the sailors to throw him into the sea so that the sea will grow calm again, and they’ll be safe.
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. There the word of the Eternal came to the prophet Jonah a second time. (Jonah 3:1) Having learned his lesson, Jonah yielded to the Eternal’s command and headed on the road to Nineveh. (Jonah 3:3)
On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds:
“Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” (Jonah 3:4)
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap or sackcloth (from their gedolim even to their ketanim) to show their sorrow. (Jonah 3:6)
Even the king laid aside his royal robe, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (Jonah 3:6)
The lesson for us is that we should recognize the Most High Eternal God as the only One and as the most righteous One Who is willing to forgive.
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, He changed His mind and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)