After the glorious rule of King David and King Solomon, the country became a nation divided against itself, splitting into two nations: Israel and Judah. These kingdoms remained separate states for over two hundred years. Weakened by civil wars and rebellion, they were easily conquered. Surrounded by enemies both inside their borders and outside, they did not stand a chance. At that time, there were three countries vying to rule the world. These were Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered Israel. Soon after, Judah also fell victim to the power struggles between Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. Assyria was a very wicked and cruel nation, hated and feared by those they conquered. The capital city of Assyria was Nineveh. In the midst of their oppression over Israel, God spoke to Jonah to go to Nineveh and to preach repentance to them. Jonah did not want to tell the Assyrians how to avoid destruction because they were Israel’s enemy. Jonah did not want them to repent and escape God’s wrath, so instead of obeying, he went west by boat toward Tarshish even though Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was in the opposite direction. God showed mercy to Jonah despite the blatant disobedience. God got Jonah turned around and delivered in the right place to speak to the Assyrians living in Nineveh. We learn from the story of Jonah that God showed his care for Jonah by giving him a second chance, just as he gave another chance to the Assyrians in Nineveh. An often overlooked miracle in the story is the shade provided by a wild vine that grew up and sheltered Jonah. This vine becomes an illustration depicting the role of Nineveh in making some provision for Israel at that time, and it forces Jonah to confront his own emotions of compassion and bitterness. We never learn what became of Jonah after the vine died. We know from history that the repentance of Nineveh was short lived, and when they returned to their old habits, they were destroyed. Perhaps the best lesson of Jonah is that we are always better off if we obey God instead of running from what we are supposed to be doing.
Rev. Johannah Meeks Ries, Brian Wilkes Amory Nelson Chamberlain, Evelyn Lawson Meeks-Verner, Paperback Lrg edition, ISBN 10: 1515012573, ISBN 13: 9781515012573