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Sabbath School Lessons on Jonah
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: The "Dove" Flees *
Introduction: Jonah's name in Hebrew means "dove." When you think
about doves in the Bible, they are generally associated with good
news, right? After the great flood, a dove revealed the water had
receded. Genesis 8:11. When Jesus was baptized, God's Spirit was
pictured as a dove affirming that Jesus was God's Son. Matthew 3:16-17. On the other hand, GoBible reader Dr. Izak Wessels, sent me a
note pointing out that in Hosea 7:11 a dove is called "easily
deceived and senseless." What kind of "dove" is Jonah? A man of
good news or a silly bird? Let's jump into our lesson and learn more
about this unique prophet!
- Wrong Way
- Read Jonah 1:3. Nineveh was near the modern city of Mosul
in Iraq. Anyone know where Joppa is? How about knowing
where Tarshish is located? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary
tells us that Joppa is modern Jaffa in Israel. Tarshish
was probably Tartessus in Southern Spain - about 2,500
miles west of Joppa.)
- Is Jonah heading in the right direction? (No. He was
going the wrong way -- the opposite direction he was
supposed to go.)
- Do you think Jonah went down to the port and caught
whatever ship he could find? (No. The sequence in
verse 3 suggests that he had Tarshish in mind before
he got to the port.)
- Jonah had in mind putting about 3,000 miles between
himself and where he was supposed to be. Why?
- Let's be practical here. Would you rather go to
the beaches of southern Spain or Iraq?
- Notice that verse 3 gives us several specific details
about Jonah's actions. First, he looked for a ship
heading to Tarshish. Second, he bought a ticket.
Third, he got on board. Why do you think we have
these details? (When I get on a plane, after everyone
is seated, they announce our destination. No doubt
they do that for people who might have accidentally
gotten on the wrong plane. All these details in
Jonah's story show us this was no accident, he did
not board "the wrong plane." Jonah made the
deliberate decision to run. He ran through several
"red lights" when it came to disobeying God.)
- What was Jonah's goal in all of this running? (To
- Does this make any sense to you?
- What do you think Jonah had in mind? (The New
Bible Commentary tells us that it was common to
believe that a god only had power in those
places where he was worshiped. By going so far
away Jonah might have hoped to escape God's
sphere of influence.)
- Why would God choose a guy like this to be His
- What does the fact that God was still following
His "wrong-way dove" teach us about our God?
- You make God sound like a "stalker." Is this good?
(Generally a stalker does not have your best
interests in mind. God pursues us to save us.)
- The Storm
- Read Jonah 1:4-5. Who is God trying to reach? (Jonah, the
one who was sleeping.)
- What does this teach us about God's power to reach
out to us? (God is willing to change the course of
nature to get our attention. God has a powerful will
and powerful means.)
- If God is reaching out to Jonah, why are so many
other innocent people involved?
- Why does the owner of the boat have to suffer
damage to the boat?
- Why do the shippers have to lose their cargo?
- Why do the sailors have to suffer such mental
- What do you think about Jonah peacefully sleeping
while everyone else is suffering because of his sin?
(This brings to mind the times when I am at a traffic
light and the person ahead of me is fooling around
and does not notice the light has changed to green.
They finally notice in time to drive through the
"yellow" light. As a result, they get through the
light and I do not!)
- Should God have a more refined aim when it comes
to addressing sin? (The way this story reads,
none of the others caught in the "cross-fire"
between God and Jonah knew about God. This
experience taught them lessons about the true
God that were much more valuable then whatever
goods or tranquility they lost in the process.
Jonah 1:16 sounds like they were having an
- What does this teach us about suffering? (Some
bad things are sometimes intended to happen to
us - just as God intended to catch Jonah in the
storm. But sometimes we have bad things happen
to us simply because we live in a world in which
good and evil are locked in combat.)
- Some would argue that God never intends "bad
things" to happen to us. They would say that
Satan sent the terrible storm in an attempt to
kill Jonah and everyone else on the ship. God
intervened for good by sending the fish to save
Jonah. Anything wrong with that view? (The first
problem with that view is that it contradicts
the plain text of the Bible. Jonah 1:4,12&14-16
clearly attribute the start and end of the storm
to God. The second problem is that if you
believe that God could control the storm, what
moral superiority is there in God allowing Satan
to start the storm as opposed to starting the
storm Himself? Trusting God, rather than making
excuses for Him, is the best approach.)
- How do you explain that Jonah was sleeping during the
storm? The first thing the captain asks him (v.6) is
"How can you sleep?" I think that is a great
question! Jonah's answer is not recorded. What do you
think is the answer?
- Is this like Jesus in Mark 4:37-39? (Jesus did
not need to fear the storm. Jonah is not in
that same position. It seems there are a number
of potential explanations for Jonah's sleep. He
could be tired because he has been running so
hard away from God. He could be sleeping
because he believes he is at last safe from God.
He could be sleeping because he is depressed and
does not care about his life very much any
- Friend, running away from God is not an option. He will
not force your will, but He will pursue you. Why not make
it easier on everyone and give your heart to Him today?
- Next week: A Hebrew Prophet and Heathen Mariners.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.