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Read Jonah 1

Jonah Flees From the Lord

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Jonah’s Prayer

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Go Deeper

We are all probably familiar with the story of Jonah running from God and being swallowed up by the large fish, before being spit out in the land where God originally told him to go. We are also likely familiar with the lessons about God carrying out His purposes and fulfilling His plans despite our willingness to obey. However, another important lesson weaves its way through this book.

We see Jonah’s anger and frustration with God as a thread throughout this story. And why is Jonah mad? Because God loves those Jonah considers his enemies. Jonah is a biblical example of us on the days we ask God, “Why does it feel like the bad guys always win?” 

We are not told in this chapter why Jonah runs in the opposite direction of Nineveh, but we know that he falls asleep aboard the ship. When God sends a storm to wake Jonah up, even the pagan sailors are able to discern that this is not a normal storm. They ask Jonah to explain himself and, somewhat hypocritically, he claims to worship the God “that made the sea.” Remember, based on what we know about Jonah from 2 Kings, there should be some skepticism about Jonah’s statement. If he truly worships the God who made the sea, why is he running from that God? We also can be skeptical about Jonah’s request for the sailors to throw him overboard. While this might initially seem unselfish, it could also be another way to run from what God is telling him to do. A way to die and escape everything that Jonah feels is unjust and unfair.

But God foils his plans when the big fish enters the story. Just as Ephesians 2 tells us, God has planned in advance good works for each of us to do. Jonah was no different. We will see in the remainder of the book how Jonah’s anger at God remained, despite God’s relentless and merciful pursuit of him–the same merciful pursuit that angered Jonah when it was aimed at his enemies. 

We can read this book as a question to all of us: are we ok with God loving our enemies? As The Bible Project explains, the book of Jonah is like a mirror that allows us to see the worst parts of our character magnified. God puts up with the Jonah in all of us. The good news is that the vastness of God’s mercy is for all of us.


  1. Do you feel angry when it feels like the “bad guys” are winning? If so, what do you do with those feelings?
  2. Read Matthew 5:43-48.  These verses are a reminder that it is easy to love those who love us, but as Christians, we are called to something greater. 
  3. If there is anyone that you can identify as an “enemy”, spend time today praying for that person rather than allowing seeds of anger and bitterness against them to grow in your heart.

Watch This

Check out this video from The Bible Project for a more thorough overview of the Book of Jonah.

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7 thoughts on “Jonah 1”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    What captures my attention right from the start is the far reaching extent of God’s grace. Those we deem as unworthy are the very ones God pursues, because his salvation extends to all. No one is beyond redemption! Jonah has been labeled the “reluctant prophet” as he couldn’t possibly get on board with God’s plan to redeem one of Israel’s greatest enemies. He turn and ran from the distasteful mission, but God ran even harder after him. I’ve been Jonah more times than I’d like to admit, when I’ve subtly defied God’s plan, thinking I know best. Today, I’m convicted to pray for those I’ve labeled enemies as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5:44 “I say to you—love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” Let’s allow God to prepare our hearts to be on mission with him to take the gospel to ALL, because it is God’s plan that everyone receive salvation.

  2. Even those we deem “unworthy” in our heads are worthy in God’s eyes. He wants ALL to have the opportunity and choice to choose Him. As we see over and over again God chooses to use some of the people who have a very messy past to get His message across. I am so thankful that even when I do like Jonah and run He purses me and still LOVES me again and again and again!!! I am soooooooo amazed at His overwhelming never ending Love for me!!!!

    God as I go through this day thank you for helping me to show and see others with Your love. God may I be bold in speaking what You have done and are doing in my life in Jesus name amen.

  3. Johanna Warner

    Something that I always am in awe about when reading Jonah 1 is how, at the end of the chapter, Jonah is in the belly of the fish for 3 days and 3 nights but is not being digested. God’s power and control is so evident in this chapter – even His protecting hand is seen in the belly of a fish. God is mighty enough to change hearts in an instant. He is full of love and mercy and fights for a relationship with us.
    Feeling blessed and grateful this morning. Hope everyone has an amazing day!!

  4. Christi Seale

    What a switch in character from Amos! Amos, the obedient servant—and Jonah, the runaway! This will interesting to dive into to really dissect Jonah vs the Ninevites! Such a short, cliff-hanger story, but so much to really learn from.
    Like Ella mentioned, we have all been Jonah’s at one point in our lives. We’ve all ran and been disobedient at some point. But today’s scripture that has me reading over is what happened on that ship? The sailors went from crying out to their own god, to praying to our God. V14. What a conversion! Note how they were even afraid and knew in their hearts that Jonah worshipped someone higher than their own. (Makes you question true atheism) Even in the midst of a storm, hiding from God —God is still about winning lost souls. All Jonah had to do was voice who he worshipped and they became believers! We sometimes overthink and underestimate how to win lost souls because it’s not our own doing. We can’t see all the behind scenes and prior work God has done or used to win the lost. All it make take is one declaration, one question, one storm to help save someone from drowning in sin. ‘Even (in) your mess, (it) can be your message’. JP
    Romans 10:9-13
    May we learn to declare God to the world today! 🐟🙌🏻

  5. In the world I would make, everyone everywhere would get along. Not because of any biblical prescription for unity—but because I HATE conflict! Interestingly (ironically), God has called me into a “country” where that happens all the time. I serve in an arena filled with controversy, in which people I love on both sides of an issue are pitted against each other..

    It is temptingly easy to take sides, sparing myself the pain of being split down the middle. “Us vs. them” becomes my default setting. I insulate myself with like-minded others, where together we can feel justified in our righteous indignation. My goal becomes self-protection … rather than RECONCILIATION.

    The belly of a fish may protect me from the elements—but it prevents me from making any kind of kingdom difference.

    I’m reminded of something I read just yesterday:
    “When we spend the energy of our lives trying to eliminate risk, we wind up in a cocoon of self-protection … and wonder why we’re suffocating.” (John Eldredge at “Wild at Heart, paraphrased)

    To be a “reconciliation people” is risky.
    It’s demanding.

    But on this one, God’s not going to let us off the hook.

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
    -2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV

  6. Wolfgang Henle

    Jonah is about running away from confronting and possibly reconciling with those we resent.
    Is there a more important book of the Bible in these diverted times I wonder?
    He is literally shaking up Jonah to wake him. Wake him to remind Jonah of his duty to talk to those he cannot stand to listen too. But Jonah chooses to sleep even then.

    He’d rather die than go to talk and listen to those he despises.

    How many of us in the divided western world a doing the same thing right now?

    Let us not forget that the Lord does not save Jonah by denying him to die in that storm. The Lord gives Jonah another chance to choose.

    Jonah like all of us is not the Lord’s puppet. He could have still denied to talk and listen to those he despised after that fish spit him out.

    In the end he chooses to follow the Lord’s demand. That choice my yet be before many of us.

  7. Audrey Andrews

    Love how this chapter is an example of the living, active Word of God. It is applicable right now and forever.

    God wants our hearts. Once He has our hearts, actions will follow. Not the other way around. We can discern when those are out of order in others and when we are just doing something to check the box.

    I’m a box checker! ✅ ✅ ✅ but I pray for a surrendered heart. “Oh break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am for your Kingdom’s cause. As I walk from earth into eternity.”

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