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Bible Lives  

12. Jonah


Chapter 12: Jonah


12.1 Jonah: A Type Of Christ

The prophecies of the crucifixion often draw on the language of Jonah, for clearly Jonah was a type of Christ. The following notes on the book are based on the fact that on the  Lord's own authority, Jonah being in the whale represented him being in the tomb. The whale died; it vomited Jonah onto dry land, not into the surf breaking on the shore. It vomited up Jonah in its death throes. The beached whale died once Jonah had been ejected; pointing forward to how the grave was destroyed by the Lordís resurrection.  

The sailors who threw Jonah to his figurative 'death' must represent Pilate in their unwillingness to be guilty of innocent blood (Jon. 1:14); yet they also seem to have been Jews, from their use of the covenant name and sacrificing to Him after the sea calmed (Jon. 1:14,16). Seeing the ship left from a Jewish port, it is not unreasonable to think that the sailors were Jews. Yet they also believed in the pagan gods (Jon. 1:5), suggesting they were apostate Jews- the type who crucified the Lord. 

Jonah's prayer to God is packed with allusions to the Psalms and Lamentations- it appears to have more connections with other Scriptures than almost any other Bible passage. This for one thing indicates the spiritual mindedness of Jonah which was required for one who would so accurately typify the Lord. If Jonah's mind was so full of the word in his sufferings, our Lord's was even more so. It also indicates that his refusal to go to Nineveh was not just rank disobedience to God, but rather an unwillingness to give Assyria a chance to repent- he wanted to see God's glory executed in her judgment. Likewise Jesus must have been tempted to disregard the calling he had received to preach, especially in connection with the Gentiles. But he was able to reflect that " (unlike Jonah) I was not rebellious, neither turned away back" (Is. 50:5). 

" All thy billows and thy waves passed over me" (Jon. 2:3 cp. Ps. 42:7) perhaps indicates a throbbing sense of continuous waves of opposition- seen in the different groups of people coming up to the cross to hurl their abuse, as well as in the throb of pain due to the posture of crucifixion. 

" I will look again unto thy holy temple" (2:4) is quoting the words of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, that Israel in their sin and dispersion could always pray towards the temple and be heard. So firm was Jonah's belief in this that even inside a whale somewhere in the Mediterranean he knew that it applied to him. Likewise our Lord took upon himself the curses of Israel, and also prayed as no man has ever done toward the Heavenly temple. 

" The depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head" (2:5). These feelings of gradual suffocation, loss of vision and control of the head, all echo the crucifixion situation. " My soul fainted within me" (2:7) indicates Jonah's tremendous fear of death, which our Lord, as any man, also shared. 

It took Jonah three days to walk through Nineveh (3:3). On the first day in the city, he told them that in 40 days God would destroy them (3:4); it follows that by the time he was in the middle of the city he was telling them that they had 37 days left. So too the Jews had between 37 and 40 years notice of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is a worthwhile speculation that for Jonah to be a sign to the Ninevites by reason of being three days in the whale (Mt. 12:38-40), he must have borne in his body the marks of his experience for all to see, as our Lord did (1). Being inside the fish for that period may have made his flesh change colour or bear some other physical mark so that he could be a sign to them of what had happened. Doubtless he recounted his story to them- so that they were encouraged by the fact of God's love to the resurrected Jonah to repent and likewise throw themselves on God's mercy. In all this we see Jonah as a type of Christ. They would have looked upon that man as we look upon Jesus, to see the love of God manifested in him; they responded by repenting in sackcloth, casting off their materialism, and living in a way that showed their complete belief that " the judge standeth before the door" . What is our response to Jonah/Jesus? 


Notes

(1) See Dudley Fifield, 'Jonah and the Ninevites', The Testimony, Vol. 54 (1984) p.112 for an excellent devotional study of the Ninevites.

 


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