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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures


- Jonah

by Gary H. Everett


Using a Theme-based Approach

to Identify Literary Structures

By Gary H. Everett


January 2013 Edition

All Scripture quotations in English are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Some words have been emphasized by the author of this commentary using bold or italics.

All Old Testament Scripture quotations in the Hebrew text are taken from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Westminster Hebrew Morphology, electronic ed., Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society, Westminster Seminary, 1996, c1925, morphology c1991, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All New Testament Scripture quotations in the Greek text are taken from Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (with Morphology), eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (United Bible Societies), c1966, 1993, 2006, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All Hebrew and Greek text for word studies are taken from James Strong in The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c1996, 1997, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

The Crucifixion image on the book cover was created by the author’s daughter Victoria Everett in 2012.

© Gary H. Everett, 1981-2013

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form without prior permission of the author.

Foundational Theme How to Serve the Lord with All Our Mind

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart,

and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5


Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures supports the view of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the biblical text of the Holy Scriptures, meaning that every word originally written down by the authors in the sixty-six books of the Holy Canon were God-breathed when recorded by men, and that the Scriptures are therefore inerrant and infallible. Any view less than this contradicts the testimony of the Holy Scriptures themselves. For this reason, the Holy Scriptures contain both divine attributes and human attributes. While textual criticism engages with the variant readings of the biblical text, acknowledging its human attributes, faith in His Word acknowledges its divine attributes. These views demand the adherence of mankind to the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures above all else. The Holy Scriptures can only be properly interpreted by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an aspect of biblical scholarship that is denied by liberal views, causing much misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

The Message of the Book of Jonah - One of the most familiar stories of the Old Testament is the story of Jonah, who ran from God and was swallowed by a whale. How often have we ran from the will of God in our own personal lives; and God worked patiently in with us to bring us back to the place where we left Him and gave us a second opportunity to do His will. There are other individuals in the Scriptures who ran from God’s will and were sent back. Moses ran from Egypt and spent forty years on the backside of the desert before God sent him back. Elijah ran from Jezebel and wished to die, but God sent him back with three new assignments to do. Hagar ran from her mistress, but God sent her back with instructions to submit to Sarah. God took them all back to the place where they departed from His will and God will work to do the same in our lives today.

Introductory Material - The introduction to the book of Jonah will deal with its historical setting, literary style, and theological framework. [1] These three aspects of introductory material will serve as an important foundation for understanding God’s message to us today from this divinely inspired book of the Holy Scriptures.

[1] Someone may associate these three categories with Hermann Gunkel’s well-known three-fold approach to form criticism when categorizing the genre found within the book of Psalms: (1) “a common setting in life,” (2) “thoughts and mood,” (3) “literary forms.” In addition, the Word Biblical Commentary uses “Form/Structure/Setting” preceding each commentary section. Although such similarities were not intentional, but rather coincidental, the author was aware of them and found encouragement from them when assigning the three-fold scheme of historical setting, literary style, and theological framework to his introductory material. See Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans. Thomas M. Horner, in Biblical Series, vol. 19, ed. John Reumann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967), 10; see also Word Biblical Commentary, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007).


“We dare not divorce our study from understanding the historical setting of every passage of Scripture

if we are going to come to grips with the truth and message of the Bible.”

(J. Hampton Keathley) [2]

[2] J. Hampton Keathley, III, “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah,” ( [on-line]; accessed 23 May 2012; available from; Internet.

Each book of the Holy Scriptures is cloaked within a unique historical setting. An examination of this setting is useful in the interpretation of the book because it provides the context of the passage of Scripture under examination. The section on the historical setting of the book of Jonah will provide a discussion on its title, historical background, authorship, date and place of writing, recipients, and occasion. This discussion supports the Jewish tradition that Jonah was the author of the book of Jonah, with him and others recording his prophecies during his public ministry.

I. The Title

The evangelist writers Matthew and Luke seemed to be familiar with the title of the book of Jonah (Matthew 16:4, Luke 11:29-30).

Matthew 16:4, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.”

Luke 11:29-30, “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.”

II. Historical Background

A. The Prophetic and Historical Times of Jonah the Prophet - From the book of Kings, we know that the ministry of the prophet Jonah’s took place shortly before or even during the reign of Jeroboam II (793 to 753 B.C.)

Archaeology reveals that the city of Nineveh is considered the greatest city of the ancient Assyrian Empire. It reigned supreme for about one hundred years (704 to 606 B.C.) until its fall to the Babylonian Empire. We associate the name of Sennacherib with this city using both biblical texts as well as archaeological writings that verify that this person lived during the time described in the Scriptures. Sennacherib was the king of Assyria (704 to 682B.C.) that encamped against Jerusalem during the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah (715 to 690 B.C.), which would have been approximately 701 B.C.

2 Kings 18:13, “Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.”

Thus, we can understand the struggle that the prophet Jonah faced in his heart when God told him to go and speak to the people of Nineveh. For this was the arch enemy of the people of God, and the Assyria Empire was a cruel and bitter power that killed and terrorized and enslaved the people of Israel during this period of history. In fact the Lord used Assyria to judge and bring an end to northern Israel, while Judah suffered under its dominating power.

B. The Biography of Jonah the Prophet - Jonah was the son of Amittai.

2 Kings 14:25, “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet , which was of Gathhepher.”

Jonah 1:1, “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,”

He was from the city of Gathhepher, which was an ancient city in northern Israel that was allotted to the tribe of Zebulun, which was in the region of Galilee.

Joshua 19:13, “And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittahhepher , to Ittahkazin, and goeth out to Remmonmethoar to Neah;”

III. Authorship

A. Internal Evidence

B. External Evidence - If we look outside of biblical literature for clues to authorship and into other ancient Jewish literature from which much Jewish tradition is found, the Babylonian Talmud says that the men of the great assembly wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and the Book of Esther.

“And who wrote all the books? Moses wrote his book and a portion of Bil’am [Numbers, xxii.], and Job. Jehoshua wrote his book and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch beginning: “And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died.” Samuel wrote his book, Judges, and Ruth. David wrote Psalms, with the assistance of ten elders, viz.: Adam the First, Malachi Zedek, Abraham, Moses, Hyman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korach. Jeremiah wrote his book, Kings, and Lamentations. King Hezekiah and his company wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Songs, and Ecclesiastes. The men of the great assembly wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and the Book of Esther. Ezra wrote his book, and Chronicles the order of all generations down to himself. [This may be a support to Rabh’s theory, as to which, R. Jehudah said in his name, that Ezra had not ascended from Babylon to Palestine until he wrote his genealogy.] And who finished Ezra’s book? Nehemiah ben Chachalyah.” ( Babylonian Talmud, Tract Baba Bathra (Last Gate), 1.Mishna 5) [3]

[3] Michael L. Rodkinson, New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, vol. 13 (New York: New Talmud Publishing Company, 1902), 45.

IV. Date

V. Recipients

VI. Occasion


“Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.

If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew.”

(Thomas Schreiner) [4]

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011), 11.

Within the historical setting of the kingdom of Israel, the author of the book of Jonah chose to write using the literary style of the ancient prophetic literature. Thus, the book of Jonah is assigned to the literary genre called “prophecy.” Included in the genre of prophecy are the three books of the Old Testament major prophets and twelve minor prophets.

A. Lack of Prophetic Material - The book of Jonah is unique to the minor prophets in that it is almost entirely narrative material, while the other eleven books record mostly prophetic material.

B. Key Features of Jonah as Narrative Literature The conflict that emerges in the book of Jonah is between the prophet Jonah and the Lord. It is this conflict that will link the events of this narrative, and move it along. The irony of this story is when Jonah tries to run from God in order to escape from his calling, which the reader understands is an impossible task.

The story will end with God asking Jonah a rhetorical question, “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11) This conflict is never resolved. This type of ending in a narrative story has an effect on the reader similar to the parables that Jesus told as a way of His hearers to make a decision. It forces the hearers to decide whether to side with Jonah or God, knowing that God’s compassion was the correct view to take.


“Scholarly excellence requires a proper theological framework.”

(Andreas Kösenberger) [5]

[5] Andreas J. Kösenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011), 161.

Based upon the historical setting and literary style of the book of Jonah, an examination of the purpose, thematic scheme, and literary structure to this book of the Holy Scriptures will reveal its theological framework. This introductory section will sum up its theological framework in the form of an outline, which is then used to identify smaller units or pericopes within the book of Jonah for preaching and teaching passages of Scripture while following the overriding message of the book. Following this outline allows the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take his followers on a spiritual journey that brings them to the same destination that the author intended his readers to reach.

VII. Purpose

VIII. Thematic Scheme

Rick Joyner, in his book The Call, gives an analogy of the Church to being like Jonah. [6] In his vision Jonah explained that the Church has run to Tarshish, choosing to be involved with the world, rather than in the presence of the Lord. He goes on to say that as Jonah slept in the midst of the storm, the Church is asleep while the storms are going upon the earth. Just as the heathen woke up Jonah because they discerned the storm, the world is trying to wake up the Church so that it can call upon God for deliverance.

[6] Rick Joyner, The Call (Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1999), 45-51.

If the church will wake itself up, it will not have to be judged by the beast that swallowed Jonah. Jonah referred to Revelations 13 as the beast that will judge the Church and persecute if for a time.

The church is running to activity rather than to the presence of the Lord. The weeds that entangled itself about Jonah in the belly of the whale represent the cares of this world that entangle the Church.

IX. Literary Structure

X. Outline of Book



Clarke, Adam. The Book of the Prophet Jonah. In Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996. In P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000.

Metzger, Bruce M., David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker, eds. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007.

Stuart, Douglas. Hosea-Jonah. In Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 31. Eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Dallas: Word Inc., 2002. In Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.


Cicero. The Treatises of M. T. Cicero on the Nature of the Gods; on Divination; on Fate; on the Republic; on the Laws; and on Standing for the Consulship. Trans. C. D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853.

Duplantis, Jesse. Heaven Close Endounters of the God Kind. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 1996.

Gunkel, Hermann. The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction. Trans. Thomas M. Horner. In Biblical Series, vol. 19. Ed. John Reumann. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990.

Joyner, Rick. The Call, Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1999.

Keathley, III, J. Hampton. “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah.” ( [on-line]. Accessed 23 May 2012. Available from; Internet.

Kösenberger, Andreas J. Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011.

Ladouceur, David. “Hellenistic Preconceptions of Shipwreck and Pollution as a context for Acts 27-28.” Harvard Theological Review 73, 1980, pp. 435-449.

Miles G. B. and G. Tromph. “Luke and Antiphon: The Theology of Acts 27-28 in the Light of Pagan Beliefs about Divine Retribution, Pollution and Shipwreck.” Harvard Theological Review 69, 1976, pp. 259-267.

Rodkinson, Michael L. New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, vol. 13. New York: New Talmud Publishing Company, 1902.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011.

Suetonius. The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius. Trans. Joseph Gavorse. New York: Modern Library, 1931.

Wiese, Bill. 23 Minutes in Hell. Lake Mary, Florida: Charis House, c2006.