I laugh each time I read the account of Jonah and his warning to Nineveh. It is funny when we can look from a safe distance back in time, and are removed from the immediate circumstances. But, Jonah had very real feelings about what God had told him to do, and most of us today have those same feelings. I really marvel at God’s loving patience.
It took Jonah three days to travel to Nineveh after being spit out by the great fish. (We don’t know that it was a whale, as the Bible does not say what kind of fish.) Then, once Jonah arrived at Nineveh, it took another day to walk into the city itself. (Jon. 3:1-4)
Nineveh was a large city of its time with over 120,000 people whom God described as not knowing their right hand from their left hand (Jon. 4:10). Though we casually use these words today to describe very uneducated, ignorant people, that does not necessarily agree with history’s description of the trained and skilled people of Nineveh.
The people of Nineveh made several contributions to the progress of mankind including locks and keys, paved roads, the first postal system, the first libraries, the first plumbing, flushing toilets and aqueducts, and a few other inventions.
So, God was most likely speaking of young, innocent children; ones who had not yet learned the difference between their right and left hands. It’s probably best not to assume that the 120,000 people was indicative of the total population. Most likely the population was many times larger.
Located about 250 miles north of Babylon, on the eastern bank of the river Tigris, Nineveh was known in the ancient world as the center of the idolatrous worship of the fertility goddess Ishtar (Astarte). They practiced “sacred prostitution” and employed the use of drugged wines and other intoxicating herbs in their rituals. (See link at further reading below. See also Nahum 3:1-5)
Sennacherib would later make Nineveh the capital city of Assyria, about 705 BC. But, Jonah’s mission to Nineveh occurred most probably during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of the northern tribes of Israel from 793 – 753 BC. This places God’s warning to Nineveh about 150 – 180 years before Nineveh fell to the Babylonians and Medes about 612 BC.
They were a brutal people, whose kings insured peace by violently punishing rebellions. Descriptions of the consequences are upsetting, including flaying and skinning their prisoners and nailing the skins to the walls of the city, posting their heads before the gates of the city to rot, cutting out their eyes and tongues, bleeding them dry, crucifying them, and walling them up alive to slowly die.
We are looking at the biggest bully of the local neighborhood, a corrupting influence upon the surrounding nations, one of which was Israel. Jonah had cause to dislike and even hate Nineveh. They were murderers, thieves, idolaters, practicing much wickedness. Jonah knew they were deserving of death and he wanted justice to prevail.
We can bring this closer to home with a simple analogy. Suppose you live on a nicely appointed street, your neighborhood is civil, your neighbors kind, and most are living in peace. But, down the street a new family moves in, and they turn out to be drug dealers, with all the violence and prostitution it brings. Now, there are cars parked along both sides of the street, and people going in and out at all hours of the day and night.
Soon, your children begin displaying signs of drug use. Soon, others go missing. Then, police are constantly raiding the house, and the neighborhood is descending into chaos. You just want your children and your neighborhood to be safe again, and you want the police or the authorities to get rid of that family who is destroying your children and your peace. You want to see them go to jail and to be punished. Right?
While some commentators speculate that Jonah’s reluctance to go to Nineveh was due to fear of the king and his violent military generals, I believe Jonah’s anger is a more prevailing indicator of his attitude. He just did not want God to have mercy upon those very wicked people. He would rather that God had struck them down. He even told God, in so many words, that he had predicted the outcome.
Jon. 4:1-3, ” But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” ” (NKJV)
Paraphrasing….. See, I knew this would happen! I told you so.
Jonah was so angry that God had shown mercy upon those wicked people who were deserving of death, that he went out of the city to sulk and pout.
God created a plant to provide shade for Jonah while he sulked and pouted. Some translations say a “gourd plant”, others a poisonous castor bean plant. While there might be some merit in the contrast of Jonah’s benefiting from a poisonous plant, the real point to consider is his reaction to its withering away.
Jon. 4:10-11, ” 10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”” (NKJV)
Jonah had more compassion and pity for a plant that had provided him shade than for any of the innocent children in Nineveh.
And, isn’t that just what many of us are doing today? So many people are calling for the end of the world; they are clamoring for God to do something to end the wickedness that surrounds us, and which seems close to overwhelming us. So many people are turning their desire for justice and recompense into a call for God to come in judgment, even up to and including destroying the entire world in an “end of the world” scenario which is nowhere depicted in the scriptures.
They are waiting for God to bring world-wide destruction even though it would mean the death of many innocent people, and deprive God of souls that would otherwise turn to Him. It is not only NOT God’s plan, it is very short sighted.
God knows who His people are, and He knows who else may be coming along that are not yet here, and that we are not yet aware of, or those wicked who may yet repent and turn back to Him.
Ezek. 18: 23, “ Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
John 10:2-4, ” But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”
By praying for a final judgment to come, or praying for a nation to be destroyed, praying for a “second coming” end of the world, you are in essence assuming Christ’s role of judge. Who are we to do so?
All of us will stand before Him. All of the wicked are going to answer to Him for what they have done, even if it must wait for their death. They are not going to get away with anything. He will take care of the nations that are wicked, and of those that will not repent of their sins. We have the example from the Old Testament.
Jer. 12:16-17, ” 16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people. 17 But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord.”
If the United States and Israel continue in their sins, that is exactly what will happen to them both.
But, until God has determined that judgment, how many innocent lives will you deny in your thirst for His judgment to come? How many are you willing should die and be denied the opportunity to answer the gospel call of Christ?
Would you consider, please, that the end-times teaching in which you may have been indoctrinated, is from these very same wicked people who think of themselves as elite, intelligentsia, and more worthy than all the rest of us?
Would you consider, please, that by following their teaching of some future Armageddon WWIII battle, that you are playing into their hands, and into their conspired and deliberate designs for death and destruction of a major part of the world population?
They have twisted the word of God into a future prophesy that God never foretold. Revelation is not about the end of the world, and we are not in the last days. The evil ones are using your fears against you. The Bible does not teach about a reign of Christ on earth, and it does not teach about a rapture, and it does not teach about the end of the world.
The proof from the scriptures that we are not in the “last days” are listed in the previous posts Daniel and The End Times, and in the series of It’s Not The End of The World, Part I – X; The Whore of Babylon; The Beast of Revelation; the eight parts of The Signs of Revelation and others at the right margin.
Sources: KJV, Young’s, and the NKJV. All bold emphasis is mine.