Without a doubt, the story of Jonah is better known than that of Nahum, though both books spoke of God’s judgment against Assyria. In traditional Sunday school setting, perhaps the focus of Jonah’s story would often be that of his adventure – he was swallowed by the great fish for three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17) – and that of his miraculous survival after he had prayed to God for mercy (Jonah 2:10). A serious study of the book however would reveal that the subject of Jonah’s story was God and His great mercy and love for His creation. See Jonah 4:10-11.
And the LORD said, “You [Jonah] pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
God obviously does love and care for His creation, see Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus Christ said:
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
However, God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ, that alone brings salvation; see Romans 5:8-10. The apostle Paul writing to the believers in Rome said:
But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.
Again see Acts 4:10-12.
Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Continuing on our topic, it is noteworthy to know that from within the Old Testament Scripture Jonah was mentioned once outside his book (Jonah); see 2 Kings 14:23-25.
In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke by His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.
Let me get this out first, there were two Joash in 2 Kings. One was the father of Amaziah king of Judah and the other father of Jeroboam II king of Israel.
Next, understand that after the split of the monarchy under David and Solomon, Jeroboam the son of Nebat became the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel. The other half, the southern kingdom, was known as Judah. Jeroboam the son of Josh or Jeroboam II was the fourteenth king of the northen kingdom of Israel. Also, Joash and Jehoash were the same person, the father of Jeroboam II; see 2 Kings 13:25.
Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities that he had taken from Jehoahaz his father in war. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.
Jehoahaz was the twelfth king of Israel, Jehoash or Joash the thirteenth king and Jeroboam II the fourteenth king of the northern kingdom of Israel.
Jonah then had not always been a reluctant prophet of God as seen from 2 Kings 14:25 quoted above. Also, since he had or started his ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II, Jonah then could be contemporaries with Hosea and Amos or he was shortly ahead of them; see Hosea 1:1
The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
Now see Amos 1:1.
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. (Amos 1:1)
All three prophets – Jonah, Hosea and Amos – had their ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II. On the other hand, Jonah and Nahum should be seen as Book 1 & 2 of God’s judgment against Assyria. Nahum prophesied in the time between the Assyrian capture of Thebes in Egypt which is known to have occurred in 663 or 661 B.C. (Nahum 3:8-11), and the final destruction of Nineveh in 612 B.C. (Nahum 2:8-13). Source for the dates of Nahum are taken from the Complete Word Study Bible. Nahum was a seventh century B.C. prophet; Jonah, on the other hand was an eighth century B.C. prophet of God.
An online website, History World, under History of Assyria narrated that the Assyrian empire was the greatest then destroying the northern kingdom of Israel and the coastal cities of Phoenicia in the late eighth and early seventh century B.C, next was Thebes of Egypt, far up the Nile sacked in 663 B.C. Exactly as it was detailed in Scripture.
Jeroboam II reigned in the northern kingdom of Israel 41 years (2 Kings 14:23). Zechariah succeeded him and he reigned for six months (2 Kings 15:8), followed by Shallum who reigned only for a month (2 Kings 15:13), then Menahem ruled for 10 years (2 Kings 15:17). During his reign, Assyria came against the land of northern Israel but then they left after Menahem paid tribute to the king of Assyria. Pekahiah succeeded Menahem and he reigned for two years (2 Kings 15:23), and second to the last was Pekah who reigned 20 years (2 Kings 15:27). In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Assyria again came and captured territories of the northern kingdom. This time people were exiled as captives to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). It was also Pekah king of Israel who connived with the Syrian king in attacking Judah, the other half of the former monarchy of the unified Israel (2 Kings 16:5). Pekah however was murdered by Hoshea. He was the last king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and he reigned 9 years (2 Kings 15:30; 17:1). It was during Hoshea’s reign that the northern kingdom of Israel fell completely into the hands of Assyria and the whole of the northern kingdom of Israel was exiled and scattered (2 Kings 17:6). With the end of the northern kingdom of Israel, Scripture made an important remark; see 2 Kings 17:7-8,15.
And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced … They despised His statutes and His covenant that He [God] made with their fathers and the warnings that He gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them.
See also 2 Kings 17:18-20.
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only. Judah also did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.
Altogether after Jeroboam II who reigned 41 years, the succeeding kings reigned a total of 41 years and 7 months. Also, Assyria had practically and constantly theatened the northen kingdom of Israel after the reign of Jeroboam II, all 41 years beginning with Menahem’s reign. Since it was barely seven months after the reign of Jeroboam II when Menahem came to power, perhaps Jonah saw firsthand the oppression of Assyria against his homeland. He was from Gath-hepher, a border town of Zebulun, one of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel. Jonah must have wondered why God had favored Assyria, sending him to preach His divine judgment. Jonah knew God would relent from His judgment once Assyria turned to Him for forgiveness; hence, he disobeyed God’s call and went the opposite direction, see Jonah 4:2-3.
And he [Jonah] prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Perhaps we could relate to Jonah’s displeasure and anger. After all, his own homeland had been threatened by the Assyrians whom God have forgiven. Did God really favored Assyria over Israel? Could Jonah be asking as well, “Why can’t God offer the same favor and forgive Israel too as He had done for Assyria?”
Remember I explained earlier that Pekah the king of Israel connived with Syria to attack Judah. The combined attack did occur, but they just can’t conquer Judah (2 Kings 16:5). Also, it was by God’s design that Israel should fall into the hands of the Assyrian because they have broken God’s covenant (2 Kings 17:7-9,13-15). Yes, Judah also did the same against God, yet they were spared? See 2 Kings 17:18-20.
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of His sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only. Judah also did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of his sight.
God seemed to have relented on His earlier judgment against Nineveh because Assyria was His vessel of vengeance against Israel; see Isaiah 7:7-9.
Thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you [King Ahaz of Judah] are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”
God never backed down from His word, and He changes not. Israel was punished according to the stipulation of God’s Covenant with them; see Deuteronomy 28:15.
But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all His commandments and His statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
Continue with Deuteronomy 28:25-26.
The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away.
Also Deuteronomy 28:33-34.
A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see.
And again Deuteronomy 28:36-37.
The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away.
Finally Deuteronomy 28:45-49.
All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes that He commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand …
No wonder then, at the time of Pekah king of Israel, Isaiah 7:17 said:
The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!
As you can see, first, Nineveh turned to the LORD for forgiveness with God’s judgment by Jonah. Perhaps a second reason – God is sovereign and He knew all things, so Assyria was preserved for God’s purpose against Israel. Same with Judah, though they have followed Israel and disobeyed God’s commandments (2 Kings 17:18-19) yet they were preserved for the meantime until the coming of Jesus Christ, see Isaiah 7:13-14.
And he [Isaiah] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.“
See also Matthew 1:22-23.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
This passage spoke of the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:13-14, the coming of Jesus Christ. At that time, Jerusalem together with its temple which was in Judah was the known nation of the Jew. But within forty years after the crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Jerusalem (Judah) was destroyed and the surviving Jews were scattered for close to two millennium fulfilling exactly Deuteronomy 28.
It is therefore not surprising that Jonah failed to comprehend God’s purpose. Truly, just as God said in Isaiah 55:8-9,
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
At this point, having understood how God’s word remained true and was fulfilled in history, let us learn to always trust God, especially when times are tough, perplexed and doubtful. Always put our faith in God for He alone holds our future and He is good. Let us also obey God’s word though circumstances may seem to suggest otherwise. For no one can ever thwart His good purpose and will, He alone reigns sovereign.
In conclusion, Jonah was an eighth century prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II as mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25. Biblical scholars have differing dates for Jeroboam II. Both Easton Bible Dictionary and Smith Bible Dictionary dated his reigned 825-784 B.C. But taking the dating from the Jewish Virtual Library, it should be around 789-748 B.C. Jonah then should be a hundred or so years ahead of Nahum ministry – after 663-661 B.C. but before 612 B.C.
As I have said earlier, history proved true God’s word. It is ironic that God illustrated His impending judgment against Assyria by their own capture of Thebes. See Nahum 3:8-11.
Are you [Assyria] better than Thebes that sat by the Nile, with water around her, her rampart a sea, and water her wall? Cush was her strength; Egypt too, and that without limit; Put and the Libyans were her helpers. Yet she became an exile; she went into captivity; her infants were dashed in pieces at the head of every street; for her honored men lots were cast, and all her great men were bound in chains. You [Assyria] also will be drunken; you will go into hiding; you will seek a refuge from the enemy.
I have mentioned earlier that an online website (History World, History of Assyria) proved to us the fulfillment of God’s Word. We having the benefit of history now see the truthfulness of God’s word so we should also learn that most of the time it is only on hindsight that we get to see God’s good purpose for things that He have allowed into our lives.
Also as I have said earlier, both Jonah and Nahum preached about God’s judgment against Assyria. In Jonah’s time, Nineveh repented so God relented upon His judgment; in Nahum’s, the LORD affirmed with finality His destruction of Assyria. See Nahum 2:8-13.
Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back. Plunder the silver, plunder the gold! There is no end of the treasure or of the wealth of all precious things. Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all loins; all faces grow pale! Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? The lion tore enough for his cubs and strangled prey for his lionesses; he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh. Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.
Jonah and Nahum indeed are the stories of God’s justice, mercy and grace. Assyria, Israel and Judah were mere actors portraying God’s greater purpose in creation. Judah was spared for awhile simply because the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Immanuel, would be brought into the world through them. Scripture is not simply telling us stories of people but of God’s character and His divine purpose for salvation. Life is complex and profound. It is easy to be led astray by the humps and bumps of life causing us to made choices or decisions base on human perspective. Never leave God out of the equation of life. Focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, He alone should be at the center of our life and the decision we make. Only then may we truly glorify and honor God.
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