Jonah was sent to warn Nineveh of her impending destruction. It is thought he prophesied to Nineveh around the latter
years of Joash’s reign.
Jonah flees from God
God calls on Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, because of their wickedness. Instead, Jonah tries to
hide from God by taking a ship to Tarshish, in Spain. The ship runs into a storm and the superstitious sailors, fearing for
their lives, cast lots and decide Jonah’s God is the cause. Jonah admits his behaviour is to blame, so is thrown overboard
and swallowed up by a great fish. Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
Jonah calls out to God in prayer from the fish’s belly, to which God responds and Jonah is thrown up onto a beach.
Nineveh responds to Jonah’s message
For a second time, God calls Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh. This time Jonah obeys and sets off for the great city, so
large that it takes three days to travel around it. When Jonah enters the city his message is simple: Yet forty days, and
Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Nineveh appears to respond without question, and the king orders everyone to fast and repent in sackcloth and ashes. God
acknowledges their repentance and the city is saved.
Jonah is angry that Nineveh was spared a deserved judgement and leaves the city to watch from a distance, in case their
repeal is short lived. Here, God reproves Jonah. He uses the withering of a plant (originally provided to give Jonah shade)
and Jonah’s attitude towards it to show him just how important the souls of Nineveh are.