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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 1: Biblical Prophets, Modern Critics *
Introduction: Do you remember "Jonah and the Whale?" This week we
begin a new quarter of studies on the book of Jonah. Years ago, when
I was teaching the book of Jonah, an elderly man in my class reported
that when he was a boy a whale had been transported on a flatbed
railroad car to his hometown. He had never before seen a whale. Part
of the "whale show" informed the public that the throat of the whale
was very narrow - thus making it impossible for a man to be swallowed
whole by a whale. The old man wanted to know how the Jonah story
could be true. This week we look at some of the "historical markers"
that support Jonah's story. Let's jump in and see what we can learn!
- Jonah, the Military Guide.
- Read 2 Kings 14:23-25. Figuring this out could make your
eyes cross. We have altogether too many "Jeroboams" in
these verses. Can anyone tell how Jeroboam did not turn
away from the sins of Jeroboam? (We have two different
"Jeroboams." Jeroboam I is "Jeroboam son of Nebat" and
Jeroboam II is "Jeroboam son of Jehoash.")
- What kind of king was Jeroboam II? (He did evil in
God's eyes. He did not turn away from the sins
instituted by Jeroboam I.)
- When we read about these kings, we often read of the
prophet of God who would give God's message to the
king and people. Who is the prophet of God who was on
the scene during the time of Jeroboam II? (Jonah, son
- What message did Jonah have from God? (It was a
military message about securing and expanding the
borders of Israel.)
- Read 2 Kings 14:26-27. Why would God help an evil king
like Jeroboam II? (It was a combination of God's concern
over the suffering of the people and keeping His promise
to His people. God loved His people.)
- What does this teach us about God's willingness to
work with less than perfect people? (He is willing.
This is a theme we will see developed in the book of
- What attitude do you think the people of Israel had
towards Jonah? (He was a "God-fearing patriot!" Everyone
likes good news. He was predicting military victory and it
- Read Jonah 1:1-2. Is this the same Jonah who guided
Jeroboam II? (Yes, Jonah, son of Amittai.)
- What does this tell us about whether Jonah was a
historical figure in the Bible, as opposed to a
fictional character created for the "whale story?"
(This shows that Jonah was a historical figure
because his influence on military matters is recorded
in the account of the kings of Israel.)
- Jonah and Jesus.
- Read Matthew 12:38. Does this seem to be a reasonable
request made of Jesus? (This shows unbelief. The attitude
is "prove to me you can do a miracle.")
- Read Matthew 12:39-40. Why does Jesus compare Jonah to
- What parallels do you see between the experience of
Jonah and that of Jesus? (As we will study in the
coming weeks, Jonah's life was turned around by this
three day experience. He would have drowned in the
storm, but the fish rescued him by taking him
underwater. Ultimately, the fish spit him out to a
new life of obedience. Jesus, by dying for us, gives
us new life.)
- Why is Jesus' death the only "sign" given to
these Jewish leaders? (This suggests that these
leaders had already decided that Jesus must die.
Jesus tells them that after they kill Him they
will see the sign of His resurrection from the
dead on the third day.)
- Is this a sign to unbelievers today?
- Compare the believability of Jesus'
resurrection to Jonah's whale experience?
- Read Matthew 12:41. How would you react to this if you
were a Jewish leader? (Jesus is telling them that the
gentiles of Nineveh were more spiritually alert than they
- What does this statement say to religious sceptics
today? (Those theologians who consider the Jonah
account to be a myth stand in the same shoes as the
unbelieving Jewish leaders who would not accept
- What does this little interchange suggest about Jesus'
view of the historical accuracy of the Jonah account?
(Jesus relies not only on the detail of a literal three-day period, but He also compares Himself to Jonah. Jesus
clearly credits the Jonah account.)
- Jonah, the Patriot.
- Let's go back to Jonah 1:1-2. Put yourself in Jonah's
place. You are a prophet and a patriot. Your messages from
God have been an important part of the defeat of the
enemy. Nineveh has terrorized the people of Israel for
many years. How do you react to this new assignment?
- Is it like your old assignments? (No. He is now going
to be a prophet to the enemy.)
- A prophet's job is to go to his own people, right?
- Why would the patriot prophet be sent to the
land of the enemy? (One commentary that I read
said Jonah is the only case of a prophet being
sent to the heathen. I've got to believe that
Jonah did not want to hear this command from the
Lord. The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us
that after Jonah's day Nineveh was the capital
of the Assyrian Empire which ultimately
destroyed Israel. Verse 2 tells us that God
wanted to send Jonah because He had noticed the
wickedness of the people of Nineveh.)
- What reason does Jonah have to go to Nineveh? (The
important part is the introduction: "The word of the
Lord." Jonah was told by God to do this.)
- Let's step back a minute. We all agree (God, Jonah
and the Israelites) that the Ninevites were evil
people. What solution do you think Jonah would have
preferred to this problem? (Just destroy them. That
was his message before from God when it came to
- What lesson does this teach us today in dealing
with unbelievers? (The most obnoxious
unbelievers can still be subject to conversion.
Conversion, rather than defeat, is God's
- Is this question of mixing patriotism with
nationalism a problem for us today? Do we sometimes
mix up our duties to God and our patriotic duties to
our country? (It is just fine when those two
interests are aligned, as they were for Jonah earlier
in his life. But now they are in conflict and he is
having trouble handling this.)
- Do you know how far a trip to Nineveh would be for
Jonah? (It was 550 miles, which would take him a
month to walk. Jonah had a lot of reasons not to want
to obey God.)
- Let's skip ahead a minute. Read Jonah 3:4. This is the
message that Jonah ultimately gave to the people of
Nineveh. If Jonah were truly a patriot, why wouldn't he
want to spit in the eye of the Assyrians and tell them
their city would be destroyed? (An obvious problem is that
he does not have the army of Israel with him. He is going
to Nineveh "alone.")
- Read Jonah 3:10-4:2 to get a greater insight into Jonah's
thinking about his new assignment. What does Jonah say
that he feared? (Now we see what we might expect of
"patriot prophet" thinking. He feared that his message
might work and those people of Nineveh might be spared.)
- Friend, does God sometimes call you to do something that
goes against the grain of your will? Something that seems
out of character with your past assignments? As we
continue our study of this story, Jonah has a lesson for
- Next week: People and Places.
* 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.