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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 11: The Last Word *
Introduction: Last week we left Jonah, as we have at previous points
in the story, as an angry, unhappy man. Jonah tells God that the
loss of his shade vine and the hot weather has left him "angry enough
to die" ( Jonah 4:9). God provides a dose of logic to Jonah to calm
him down and convert his heart. Let's dive into our story and see how
God deals with angry saints.
- Jonah's Concern
- Read Jonah 4:10. God says that Jonah was concerned about
the vine. Why was Jonah concerned? Was he a plant lover?
(I doubt that Jonah had any regard for the vine itself.
What Jonah was concerned about was himself - he had lost
his excellent shade.)
- Is there any logical reason that you can think of why
Jonah should be so angry that he wanted to die about
the loss of his shade? (Last week we discussed
Jonah's view of the shade vine. He no doubt thought
it had a supernatural origin. Thus, God was showing
him a favor. With the death of the vine, and his
extreme discomfort, Jonah now believed that he no
longer enjoyed God's favor. That seems the only
logical explanation for Jonah's extreme anger.)
- Had Jonah actually lost the favor of God? (No.
God was trying to teach Jonah a lesson.)
- In verse ten God says two things about Jonah and the vine:
Jonah did not have anything to do with growing the vine
and it only existed for a day. Does God have his facts
- What do you think is God's point in bringing these
facts to Jonah's attention? (God is showing Jonah
what a small loss this is. Jonah had nothing invested
in the plant and Jonah did not enjoy the shade of the
vine two days before. How is a death wish a
reasonable reaction to such a small "hiccup" in
- Have you ever found yourself unreasonably angry
over a very small thing in life?
- Think back to the last time you were angry with someone
you loved. Was it over something that could change the
course of your life?
- What about the last time you were angry with God, was
it over something that could change the course of
- Do you really think that Jonah is angry about the vine?
Or, is he angry about the entire course of events and the
vine was the "last straw?" (Jonah has had a couple of
previous "last straws" - for example, Jonah 1:12 and 4:3.
However, God follows with a question that clarifies this
issue. We turn to that question next.)
- God's Concern
- Read Jonah 4:11. Why does God compare Nineveh to the vine?
(This shows that God realizes that Jonah is not just angry
about the vine, Jonah is angry about the entire course of
events. God wants Jonah to look at the big picture -
which is to consider the lives of the citizens of
- Why do you think God has to keep telling Jonah to think
about the lives of the Ninevites? Isn't this something
that should be obvious? (The only thing that makes sense
is that Jonah considered these people to be inferior.
They were not Jews, they did not enjoy the favor of God,
and worse they were the enemy of Israel. Jonah probably
does not like to hear that God is concerned about them. He
probably does not like the not-so-subtle comparison
between the Ninevites and his own rebellion.)
- Notice in verse 11 the reference to hands. Whenever I tell
someone to turn or look right, and they look left, I say
"Your other right." Was this a big problem in Nineveh?
- Was a substantial part of the population
- Several weeks ago we discussed the fact that the
Assyrian army had been losing battles. Have we pin-pointed the problem: when in battle they were told to
march left or march right and they often went the
- What is God talking about when He says these people
cannot tell their left hand from their right hand?
(Our lesson (Monday)suggests this means the Ninevites
did not have the kind of moral direction that the
Lord gave to the Israelites. Perhaps that is what is
meant. A number of commentaries interpret this to
mean this is the number of children in the city who
are under the age of accountability. They place the
total population of Nineveh at 600,000. Thus, about
20% are children. I like the children interpretation
because the adults in Nineveh showed their ability to
tell right from wrong when they repented. The Today's
English Version of the Bible actually translates this
"120,000 innocent children.")
- Why should God be especially concerned about the
children? (They would be destroyed without
having the opportunity to make a proper moral
- Why should Jonah be especially concerned about
the children? (Remember our conclusion that
Jonah did not care about the Ninevites because,
in part, they were the enemy? This should remind
him that not everyone in that great city was a
danger to Israel.)
- What larger lesson does this teach us about the
final judgment of God and whether or not we will
have a fair chance? (This shows that God is very
sensitive to the issue of whether those being
judged clearly understood the issues that govern
- The end of verse 11 has God saying "Should I not be
concerned about that great city?" Compare Jonah's concern
about his vine with God's concern about Nineveh. (God
created and cared for the people of Nineveh. He has a
legitimate reason to be concerned about the people of this
- The last part of Jonah 4:11 mentions the animals of the
city of Nineveh. Read Job 39:1-4. This is God speaking to
Job. What point is God making to Job? (God is telling Job
what God knows about the animals and Job does not.)
- Why does God think it is a sign of greatness that He
knows these things about the animals? (This shows
that God puts a premium on all of creation -
including the animals. God cares about the animals
so much that he knows these intimate details about
- Read Matthew 8:30-32. How do you explain this in the
context of God's concern for animals?
- Read 1 Samuel 15:2-3. How do you explain these
instructions from God? (The book of Jonah gives us a
closer, more intimate look at the thinking of God. The
Jonah story convinces me that whatever God's knew when He
commanded 1 Samuel 15, that it must have been just.)
- Jonah's Future
- Look again at Jonah 4:11. The book of Jonah ends with a
question. What is your answer to God's question?
- What do you think was Jonah's answer?
- Since the book ends with a question, we do not know how
Jonah ultimately responded. Do you think Jonah ended up
agreeing with God?
- Why do you think that God did not tell us Jonah's
final decision? (The reason why we are not told how
this turns out for Jonah is that this information is
not important (except to Jonah). When you watch a
magician, the point is to watch the important moves!
What Jonah is doing is not the important move to
watch in this book. Instead, the important move is
how God deals with an unhappy, selfish, angry and
twisted prophet like Jonah. God constantly approaches
Jonah with love and logic. He does not let Jonah go
and He does not let the citizens of Nineveh go. Just
as God pursued, engaged and tried to save Jonah and
the Ninevites, so God pursues, engages and tries to
- Friend, God is pursuing you. Will you repent and give your
heart to him?
- Next week: The Sign of the Prophet Jonah.
* 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.