The Message of Jonah: A Gracious and Compassionate God

The Message of Jonah: A Gracious and Compassionate GodText: Jonah 4:2

In this series, we are going to do an overview of the Minor Prophets. The goal is to (1) understand the overall theme of each book and (2) see what lessons there are for us. In this lesson, we are going to see what we can learn from the book of Jonah.

Historical Context

  • Nineveh was the capital of Assyria – world empire from about 900-607 BC; would eventually take the northern kingdom (Israel) into captivity (2 Kings 17:5-6)
  • Jonah is mentioned in connection with Jeroboam son of Joash (2 Kings 14:23-25) – suggesting that Jonah prophesied during this time; contemporary with Hosea (Hosea 1:1) and Amos (Amos 1:1)
  • Some question whether this book is history or a myth – Jesus spoke of it as history (Matthew 12:40-41)

Overall Theme: A Gracious and Compassionate God

  • Jonah recognize this about God (4:2) – yet this was not praise, it was a complaint; this was the reason why Jonah fled to Tarshish; he did not want God to spare the Ninevites
  • This is not only directed to God’s chosen people – to another nation like Nineveh
  • We often think of this book as being about Jonah and the great fish (1:17) – yet it is more about Jonah and God; Jonah’s reaction to God being gracious and compassionate

Main Points

  • God wanted Nineveh to hear His message (1:2) – not just to condemn them (3:4); implied a call to repentance (3:10)
  • Jonah did not want to take the message to Nineveh (1:3) – tried to flee to Tarshish (southern Spain); took being swallowed by a great fish to turn him around (2:3, 9; 3:1-3); even then, he was still not enthusiastic about it (4:1-3)
  • Nineveh responded to God’s message – very simple message (3:4); it was a dramatic and universal response (3:5-9)
  • God’s compassion is reasonable – God questioned if Jonah had a “good reason to be angry” (4:4), then taught a lesson with a plant and a worm (4:5-9); God then explained that He had good reason to be compassionate (4:10-11); He created them and, therefore, would not want them to be destroyed (cf. Ezekiel 18:32)

Lessons for Us

  • God wants all men to repent (Acts 17:30-31) – “all people everywhere“; not just a certain class/race; those who do not repent will perish (Luke 13:3, 5); God does not want this to happen (2 Peter 3:9)
  • God’s word can save in spite of us – it is God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16); we are weak and inadequate (2 Corinthians 4:7); the gospel can even overcome a bad attitude of the proclaimer (Philippians 1:15-18)
  • We should not judge others as unworthy of God’s mercy – Paul was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15); Ananias had to be convinced to preach to him (Acts 9:10-15); Christians in Jerusalem had to be convinced to accept him (Acts 9:26-27); yet he was an example to show that ANYONE can find mercy from God (1 Timothy 1:16)


  • Jonah reminds us that God is a gracious and compassionate God – to ALL people
  • We should show this same mercy toward others so we can try to lead them to the truth

When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on the Gospel, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Road Trip.