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Jonah and Nahum Overview

We now come in our Overview reading of the Bible to the books of Jonah and Nahum.

Jonah is one of the most familiar books in the Bible, while Nahum is one of the least familiar books in the Bible.

In addition to both being Minor Prophets, what else do Jonah and Nahum have in common?

Jonah and Nahum both speak a prophetic message to Assyria.



Jonah is the 32nd book of the English Old Testament and Bible.

Jonah the son of Amittai prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II, around 760 B.C. Jeroboam II reigned from 793 to 753B.C.

Jonah’s name means “dove.” He was from Gath Hepher within the tribe of Zebulun in northern Israel (2 Kings 14:25). That’s about 2 miles north of Nazareth.

Jonah’s ministry would fall after Elisha and before Amos and Hosea.

The ministry Jonah had before this assignment is seen in 2 Kings 14.

Turn and read 2 Kings 14:23-29

Even though his king was wicked, Jonah had gotten to deliver the message that God was going to bless them with restored borders because He was the ultimate promise keeper!

What a “cushy” assignment:

Not “God is going to judge our sins,” but “God is going to bless us in spite of ourselves!”

Israel was experiencing a time of resurgence and prosperity.

Jonah had gotten to deliver a kind of “Joel Osteen” message: “God is going to bless you.” 

The assignment in the book of Jonah is very different!

 God calls Jonah to go on a mission trip! 

Jonah sent to Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, to tell it to repent!    1:2

Assyria was known for it’s cruelty.

It also had 100 foot high walls with towers that went 100 feet higher! They say the walls were so sick that 3 chariots could ride on top of them side by side! It was surrounded by a moat that was around 150 feet across and 60 feet deep!

It would be like Joel Osteen being told to go to Iran and preach to it to repent!

Jonah didn’t want the assignment and ran from it!

It wasn’t just from fear that he ran; he didn’t want Nineveh to be spared judgment.

Read 4:1-3


Jonah knew God would be willing to forgive even Assyrians if they repented, and he didn’t want them to be forgiven.

And he would rather die than go back to Israel having won 120,000 Assyrians to YHWH!

Romans 5:8

So there is a duel message of the book:

The beautiful heart of God, willing to forgive the repentant!

The dull heart of the people of God, unconcerned about lostness around them! 

The story presents God as Sovereign, who will make happen what He intends to despite the fickleness of His people.


Disobedience of the prophet contrasted with the surprising faith of the mariners (Nelson).

Jonah’s petty concern for the plant contrasts with his lack of regard for human souls. (Nelson, me).

Chapter 1

God uses even Jonah’s disobedience to bring people to Himself!

The Sailors!

Chapter 2

Jonah’s prayer of repentance

Salvation is of the Lord   2:9

Jonah and the fish – referred to by Jesus

Because of the fish story, some take Jonah as myth.

But Jonah presents it as historical, and that’s how Jesus took it. So do I!

3 days/ 3 nights      1:17

Matthew 12:39-41           Matthew 16:4                  Luke 11:29-32

Hebrew idiom, “three days and nights,” only requires a portion of the first and third days.

Jonah 4:10-11

God speaking not just to Jonah, but to His Jewish people, and to His church

One of the great missions passages of the Old Testament!

Not only will repentance change them, but even the way they treat their animals!

Matthew 12:41      Luke 11:32

“One of the clearest demonstrations in Scripture of God’s love and mercy for all peoples.”   -Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts


100 years later…


Nahum is the 34th book of the English Old Testament and Bible.

Nahum the Elkoshite also prophecies to Assyria.

Elkosh may be in Southern Judah between Jerusalem and Gaza.

The revival under Jonah has been forgotten.

They have returned to pagan ways: arrogance, idolatry, violence.

Nahum is written between 663 and 612 B.C.

It was clearly written after 663 BC, the year that Egypt’s city, Thebes, was captured by Assyria. It’s called “No Amon” in 3:8.

It regained it’s independence in 654 BC. Nahum doesn’t mention that, so perhaps he wrote between 663 and 654 BC. 

God had used Assyria to judge Israel in 722 B.C. and carry Israel away to captivity. In 701 BC they invaded Judah as well, but supernaturally repelled.

Israel needed judging.

Assyria was bound and determined to sinfully take over other nations.

God allowed Assyria to do what they were bound and determined to do, making them the instrument by which Israel was judged.

Assyria was still accountable for their sin, and Nahum pronounces God’s judgment on them.

2:12 speaks of atrocities by their army.

3:4 speaks of vices of the city.

“Woe to the bloody city.”          3:1

Nahum’s prophecy came true when Babylon overran Assyria in 612 B.C.

“During the time of Nineveh’s power Azariah, king of Judah, (790-739 B.C.), and Menahen, king of Israel (752-742 B.C.) paid tribute and recognized Nineveh’s dominance. Nineveh had conquered the ten tribes in 722 B.C. but was prevented by God from conquering Jerusalem when 185,000 of Sennacherib’s army were supernaturally killed while attempting to conquer Jerusalem. When the ten tribes went into captivity, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin escaped. Nineveh fell to the combined armies of the Medes and Scythians in the month of August in 612 B.C. Nineveh was so thoroughly ruined that it was lost to history until its ruins were discovered by archaeologists in 1845.”       -John Walvoord

By the way, do you know the connection between Babylon and Nineveh?

Turn to Genesis 10:8-12

Both were built by Nimrod, son of Cush, son of Ham.

So Babylon and Nineveh are two of the oldest places in the world.

Message: The most powerful city in the world is no match for God’s strength.

“Justice is sure, though not always immediate.”            -Irving Jensen

Even here God gives hope of Judah’s future:

Read 1:9-2:2          Assyria judged, Judah spared

Unrepentant sinners will experience God’s judgment, but those who trust God will experience His salvation. 


Combined message of Jonah and Nahum: the fact that God spared a previous generation who did repent won’t help us if we don’t repent and turn to God.