This book was written by Jonah, son of Amittai approximately 785-760 BC.
Jonah the prophet was given a task by God and was reluctant to carry it out. He chose to run away from God rather than obey him. Assyria – a great, but evil empire – was Israel’s most dreaded enemy. The Assyrians flaunted their power before God and the world through numerous acts of heartless cruelty. So when Jonah heard God tell him to go to Assyria and call the people to repentance, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.
Remarkably the heathen people of Nineveh believed Jonah’s message and repented. What a miraculous effect God’s words had on these evil people! Their repentance stood in stark contrast to Israel’s stubbornness. The Israelites heard many messages from the prophets, but they refused to repent. The people of Nineveh only needed to hear God’s message once.
Sometimes people wish that judgement and destruction would come upon sinful people whose wickedness seems to demand immediate punishment. But God is more merciful than we can imagine. He feels compassion for the sinners we want judged, and he devises plans to bring them to himself. The purpose of God’s judgement is correction, not revenge. He is always ready to show compassion to anyone willing to seek him.
God spared the sailors when they pleaded for mercy. God saved Jonah when he prayed from the belly of the fish. God saved the people of Nineveh when they responded to Jonah’s preaching.
God answers the prayers of those who call upon him, trust in him, and be saved. We can be saved if we heed God’s warnings to us through His Word. If we respond in obedience, he will be gracious, and individuals will receive his mercy, not his judgement.
What is your attitude towards those who are especially wicked? Do you want them destroyed? Or do you wish that they could experience God’s mercy and forgiveness?