Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh
“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)
The story of Jonah being swallowed by a fish is often mocked as being impossible, but there are several stories of men having been swallowed by fish like creatures and survived, including one in 1758, a man named James Barkley in the 1880’s, and a man survived being swallowed by a shark in the English channel about 1926. Tires, whole cows and horses, and sharks as long as sixteen feet have been discovered intact in some whales, so there is no question it is possible for them to swallow a person, even with normal fish, and the scripture says God prepared a special one.
“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. ” (Jonah 2:1-10)
At first, Jonah was undoubtedly too scared to do anything but ask God to save his life. After sixty or seventy hours inside the fish, surrounded by seaweed and water, he got serious about his relationship with God and recognized that he had lied to himself in thinking he could successfully rebell against God and caused his problems. He recognized salvation could only come from the Lord, and promised to keep his promise to tell people what God had said, and to be thankful if he saved. The fish beached itself and spirt Jonah out on the shore.
“And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:1-4)
The second time God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he didn’t refuse. It was one of the largest cities in the world in that day, and took three days to cross the city and her suburbs. Because there was no efficient means of moving large amounts of food, there had to be enough farmland inside the city and in the suburbs to provide all the fresh produce and meat, so that the population density could not be as high as it is today. The fortress at the center of the city enclosed an area of about three square miles. It is estimated to have had 100,000-150,000 inhabitants.
Like cities such As Las Vegas, Chicago, or New Orleans, Nineveh was known for their tolerance of prostitution, murder, robbery, drunkenness, and other crimes. Jonah went a single day’s into the city, shouting that in forty days Nineveh would be destroyed. His warning spread like wildfire and the within a few hours the entire city had heard.
“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:5-9)
The people of Nineveh were concerned about the growing crime rates and took Jonah’s warning seriously and acknowledged what they were doing was wrong. The king and government officials took the lead and set the examples, making proclamations that the wickedness and violence would no longer be tolerated. Though Jonah had said nothing about God changing his plan if they stopped, they hoped he would. Wicked as they were, the people of Nineveh were more receptive to God’s word than Israel was at the time.
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3:10)
Because the People of Nineveh had turned from their sin, God did not destroy Nineveh, and the Assyrian Empire continued to grow. They would survive for another two hundred years.