Jonah 1

DateVersionReading Plan
@November 20, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Jonah Flees the Presence of the Lord
  • Jonah is Thrown into the Sea
  • A Great Fish


The word of the LORD came to Jonah to call out Ninevah (one of the capitals of Assyria) for its violence and immorality. Jonah’s response was to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. The LORD hurled a great wind that threatened to break up the ship, causing great fear among the mariners but having no effect on Jonah who was asleep in the inner part of the ship. In their pagan worldview that the storm was due to an angry god, the mariners cast lots to establish blame. The lot fell on Jonah and the mariners confronted him with a battery of questions. Jonah told them that He was a Hebrew who feared the LORD, that he was at fault for the storm and that tossing him overboard would bring calm. The mariners held out from his request, trying first to reach dry land on their own, but in their failure cried out to God that they would not perish for Jonah’s life. The mariners tossed Jonah into the sea and the sea ceased from raging, causing exceeding fear of the LORD among the sailors. The LORD then appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, in whose belly he stayed for “three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17).

There is so much that one could unpack from this chapter, but it was the fear among the mariners leading to their conversion that seemed especially striking. Before their tossing Jonah into the sea and its subsequent calming, the word “afraid” (ירא in the Hebrew) is used 2x to describe the disposition of the men with respect to the storm. They were afraid as to the severity of the storm and seeking salvation on self-serving terms. But, once Jonah was tossed overboard and the sea stopped its raging, their focus shifts from the storm to God and the very same Hebrew word is used (albeit translated as “feared” in the ESV) to describe their posture toward God. And not only that they feared the LORD, but they “feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” (Jonah 1:16). The experience so overpowered them that they could do nothing but worship the one, true God. This continues to be one of the most profound testimonies of the power of God to use situation to foster awareness and worship of Himself.

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