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Why would God give Jonah a godly revelatory message to warn the city of Nineveh? (like why wouldn't God just raise a prophet from Nineveh who could have warned them? Why Jonah, an Israelite foreigner in the eyes of Nineveh, of all people?)

Jonah 1:1-3

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Update:
@levan-gigineishvili, thank you for posting back.
However, would there also be a possibility that Jonah was apathetic to the dire circumstances that Nineveh faced (i.e that Nineveh's sinfulness had reached a God-defined threshold that would lead to severe Godly disciplining/Godly wrath)?

Let's say a Christian in America's Southern Bible Belt receives a Godly revelation message to become a Christian missionary in today's secular modern Western Europe (modern-day France, Germany, Sweden, etc.). In today's world, modern Western Europe is quite socially liberal, and the Christian movement is relatively weak compared to the American Southern Bible Belt. Broadly speaking, Americans get along reasonably well with Europeans politically, socially, etc. But, the American from the American South could be reluctant to go because he is apathetic like Jonah.

But God sees him as the perfect candidate because he has no vested interest/no fleshly desires that can be satisfied by preaching to secular Europe.

Jonah might have just been apathetic about Nineveh. Would that be a possibility?

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  • Why does verse 1 not answer your question?
    – Austin
    Mar 5, 2022 at 15:13
  • @Austin Sorry, let me rephrase it. Mar 5, 2022 at 20:56
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    @crazyTech I would not subscribe under the "apathetic" theory, because Jonah shows even a desire that Ninevehians do not repent sufficiently to appease God so that He could flood them, because we see that Jonah is embittered with God that He did not flood the Nineveh (Jonah 4:1), indifferent guy would not be so embittered, even to the limit of a desire for death, for saving of Ninevehians. Mar 6, 2022 at 21:39
  • @levan-gigineishvili (Jonah 4:1) might just be about Jonah being frustrated about him being sent all the way to Nineveh, and warning the people of their sin, but in the end thinking that it was all in vain because God forgave the Ninevehians after they repented. It might be just Jonah being upset about why he had to go on this voyage, and thinking it was all in vain. Mar 7, 2022 at 1:33
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    @crazyTech then any prophet must be upset for any outcome with the same fatalistic logic: “since this happened so, then it was divine will, so then why was I ordered to preach at all, would not it have been better to stay home and watch TV?” Mar 7, 2022 at 4:55

3 Answers 3

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Nineveh was not a Jewish city, on the contrary, it was a habitat of people that were enemies of Jews. Now, it was impossible for a prophet to rise in non-Jewish people in Old Testament times.

But that Jonah was to be sent has a fundamental significance: had there even been a possibility of a prophet to rise among the Ninevehians themselves, then this prophet would not have any conflict in himself, but would have prophesied with a natural care for his native people. But here, with Jonah, a stranger is to preach, and moreover, a stranger who naturally hates those people, because they were killers and oppressors of his people, and Jonah's natural desire is not, thus, to preach to them and deliver them from God's wrath, but rather, to incite God's wrath over them. For Jonah this desire for just divine reprisal over the enemies of His chosen nation is so dear, so cherished, that he is ready to die rather than see this reprisal not happening; exactly that's why he wants to be dead rather than fulfill God-given duty and preach to the enemies.

Actually, Jonah is afraid that God is more merciful and forgiving than just and punishing, and he cannot suffer such God (Jonah 4:2), so, actually, Jonah by committing suicide and thus delivering himself from duty of doing God's will, is killing God Himself, thus it is not only suicide but deicide, for he wants to kill true God in order to secure vindictive god created according to his, Jonah's, image and likeness and desire. But the time spent in the whale's belly, was a repenting time for him and he eventually accepted the forgiving God, the real God in his heart. And his final development is the acceptance of God's teaching that one should do good to enemies not only out of duty, but also out of a sincere compassion (Jonah 4:10-11).

Thus, you see why it was important for a prophet from an enemy nation of Jews to preach to the Nineveh. Actually, Jonah prefigures Christ, for that which is implied in Jonah, is said by the Lord Jesus Christ as a plain and direct commandment (Matthew 5:44), and thus Jonah being three days in belly of a whale is also a prefiguration of the resurrection of the Lord's who was three days in the belly of the earth: for our minds are resurrected from dead only when we, through Christ working in us and through accepting His Mind as ours start really loving our enemies. I write now this and when I think how incredibly, how impossibly high and demanding, how supra-human this commandment is, I can understand that if I will really start loving those who oppress me and calumniate me, I will have to die then to myself, i.e. my innermost desires, and be resurrected to Christ, that is to say, let Christ live in me (Galatians 2:20). Thus, receive my post as a post of a yet dead man who understands what it is to be resurrected, and wishes to reach the resurrection through Christ's grace.

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  • Thanks. please see my question update. Mar 6, 2022 at 21:11
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God knew Jonah's initial response would be to attempt to avoid preaching to the Ninevites:

But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:3)

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17)

The fish had been prepared in advance not only of Jonah being thrown overboard, but in advance of the LORD calling Jonah to go to Nineveh. From a natural point of view, Jonah's "stay" in the belly of the fish would have subjected him to the acids and other fluids in the stomach. This exposure would affect his skin. The story of James Bartley, while questionable, shows how Jonah's skin would have been affected. When Jonah actually arrived in Nineveh, his message was not only from the LORD, but from a person who had "survived" being swallowed by a great fish.

The sequence of events leading up to Jonah's arrival in Nineveh takes on added significance because the Assyrians worshipped Dagon, the fish god. So Jonah's message to the Ninevites was not simply from the LORD, but the LORD who controlled Dagon, even to the point of having him save Jonah for the purpose of preaching to the Ninevites:

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (2:10)

Even if the Ninevites were unaware of Jonah's exploits, those reading Jonah know the truth and the LORD's authority over the fish serves as an "object lesson" of His rule over all creation and the foolishness of worshipping Dagon.

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    Given that the sailors survived the great storm, they would have returned to port and their homes full of the account of Jonah, the great fish and the instant, miraculous calming of the storm. Word may well have got to the Ninevites before Jonah eventually did as God told him and got to Nineveh. They could have been in awe at then seeing how he'd miraculously survived. That could help account for their swift repentance. Just a thought!
    – Anne
    Mar 7, 2022 at 17:34
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There is strong circumstantial evidence to indicate that Jonah is an Israelite based on

the fact that he went down to Joppa(which is a seaport city in Israel) in order to get on boat to Tarshish Also, based on this Britannica's webpage which strongly suggests that he is an Israelite:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Book-of-Jonah

"According to the opening verse, Jonah is the son of Amittai. This lineage identifies him with the Jonah mentioned in II Kings 14:25 who prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II, about 785 bc. It is possible that some of the traditional materials taken over by the book were associated with Jonah at an early date, but the book in its present form reflects a much later composition. "

We can infer/deduce that since Jonah is an Israelite, and therefore foreign in the eyes of the Nineveh's people:

a) Jonah, an Israelite, probably had fleshly apathetic feelings for Nineveh's people

i) Furthermore, since Jonah is apathetic to Nineveh's fate, we can infer that he has No personal vested interest, No fleshly desires/needs that the people of Nineveh can provide in return to Jonah

Galatians 6:2 comes to mind.

There is strong circumstantial evidence to indicate that Jonah is an Israelite based on

the fact that he went down to Joppa(which is a seaport city in Israel) in order to get on boat to Tarshish Also, based on this Britannica's webpage which strongly suggests that he is an Israelite:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Book-of-Jonah

"According to the opening verse, Jonah is the son of Amittai. This lineage identifies him with the Jonah mentioned in II Kings 14:25 who prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II, about 785 bc. It is possible that some of the traditional materials taken over by the book were associated with Jonah at an early date, but the book in its present form reflects a much later composition. "

We can infer/deduce that since Jonah is an Israelite, and therefore foreign in the eyes of the Nineveh's people a) Jonah, an Israelite, probably had fleshly apathetic feelings for Nineveh's people i) Furthermore, since Jonah is apathetic to Nineveh's fate, we can infer that he has No personal vested interest, No fleshly desires/needs that the people of Nineveh can provide in return to Jonah

Galatians 6:2 comes to mind.

Galatians 6:2 (New American Standard Bible 1995)

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

When we as Christians have No personal vested interest, No personal fleshly desires/need for a particular challenge/situation then it is highly likely that God will reveal messages pertaining to said challenge/situation.(It's also a challenge for us to change our apathy to Godly caring therefore, Galatians 6:2 is very relevant here)

Galatians 6:2 (New American Standard Bible 1995)

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

That is probably why God chose Jonah to warn the city of Nineveh because:

-No personal vested interest in a foreign place like Nineveh

-No selfish fleshly desires/need when it comes getting something back for taking on the task of warning the city of Nineveh

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