Though the book of Jonah bears the name of a character in the book, most of what is learned is about God. First, we see that God has a desire to see all people groups live righteously. God sends a teacher from Israel to a pagan nation to call them to repentance. Throughout the Old Testament God acts in similar ways. Each time he does so he is attempting to show Israel and the foreign nation involved his greatness. Jonah going to Nineveh is another attempt by God to show himself to both Jews and gentiles. He shows himself to the Ninevehites by first sending a message of judgment and repentance, and finally by keeping his word and forgiving them following their repentance. God’s heart has never stopped at the boarders of Israel, and God’s way will universally save. God also showed himself to Israel by sending a Jewish teacher to the gentile city of Nineveh. The Jews would not have understood, but they also wouldn’t have been able to deny the power and heart of God when they heard and saw the transformation of the
citizens of Nineveh
Bringing up the second point, God is a merciful God. It would have been hard for any Jew to accept that God wanted to save any gentile. But, it would have been impossible for a Jew to accept that God wanted to save Nineveh. The city was not only gentile, but it was the capital of Israel’s largest enemy at the time, Assyria. There was hatred between the two people groups. This is evident when reading Jonah. Knowing God would save the people if they repented, Jonah’s hate was so deep that he refused to go. Then in the final chapter we see that Jonah is angry the Ninevehites repented. As a reader, God did not hesitate to stay the city’s judgment as soon as their repentance took place. Regardless of our sin, God is immediate to forgive when we come to him per his Word.
God’s mercy is also shown to Jonah. As one progresses through the book it is easy to see that everyone and everything in the book is obedient to God accept the man of God, Jonah. The men on the boat Jonah attempts to flee on, the storm, fish, plant, worm, and the Ninevehites all obey God’s commands; yet, even in Jonah’s blatant and repeated disobedience, God gives him another chance. God had the fish spit Jonah out on the land and again in the final chapter we see God seeking to teach him what is right. It would be hard to think of a greater sin for a man of God to commit. First directly disobeying God, but worse than that, disobeying in hopes that no one in Nineveh would be spared. Upon hearing this story or reading this book, Israel would have been amazed at the patience and mercy shown Jonah as well.
Finally, God is the main character and focus of the book of Jonah. Often time in Sunday School young believers are taught to associate Jonah with a big fish. To give some reference here, Jonah is mentioned by name 18 times while The Lord is recorded 41 times. The author is seeking to teach the audience about the character and nature of God. They are to see that God is incredibly merciful. Readers would have acknowledged God’s patience, his power over nature, and how present he is in the lives of individuals.