January 26, 2020
Jonah 1:4-16 (ESV)
Fearing a Sovereign God: The Attitude of a God-Centered Life
One of the ways I learned to study a Scripture passage is by looking at it in “manuscript” form, printed on white paper with extra space between the lines and no headings, chapter or verse numbers. As we prepare for Sunday Gathered, would you do that with me?
The purpose of this kind of study is to let the text speak to us rather than us speak to the text. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t come to the text without any context. Here is some context to start:
- Jonah was active in the mid-8th century BC, in the reign of Jereboam II, along with Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah, and before the rise of Babylon. He is mentioned in 2 Ki 23-27 and described as a “true prophet.”
- Nineveh was home of the Assyrians, enemies who “were proud of their cruel and terrible reputation and went to great trouble and expense to preserve their exploits for posterity.
- Given this, Jonah’s reluctance to go to Nineveh is understandable.
- The preceding verses tell us that Jonah instead fled from God and his mission in a boat.
Now to our text. I’ve copied it on the next page, with line numbers on the left hand side which don’t correspond to the verses (they are merely a way to help find a place during discussion). Start by reading the passage once or twice, and then follow through these steps to do a very basic manuscript study.
- Find the different characters in this passage, and write them in a line below the text.
- Circle or highlight repeated or similar words and phrases. Different colors help a lot here, or you might use a different shape for each.
- What does each characters do in the passage. List the verbs of their actions under the characters. You might also include the direct object of that verb for clarity. For instance, the mariners initially “call out” (verb) to their gods (direct object).
- Step back and look. Do you see themes in the form of: plot progression, changes, time, etc? Actions, cause-effect, reasons? Connections or relationships? Images, metaphors, comparisons or contrasts? Conditions (if… then…)?
- Break out your Bible and follow some of these words and/or themes.
- Read the passage again – does it read differently this time? Record some of your thoughts.
Could you share your thoughts with others, perhaps starting with close family or friends? Would you be willing to bring these thoughts to our worship service on Sunday and discuss before or after the service with each other and/or with a small group next week? Would you be willing to send a note about what you learned in this exercise to one or more of the elders?
See you Sunday!
Jonah 1:4-16 (ESV)
But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.