Old Testament Scriptural Summaries and Commentary
Old Testament, The Books of Jonah and Micah
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #33
"Sharing the Gospel with the World"
Book Reference: The Words of the Twelve Prophets, Monte S. Nyman, Farres H. Nyman, pp. 35-46.
Book Reference: The Old Testament Made Easier, Part Three, David J. Ridges
The Book of Jonah
Almost everyone knows the story of Jonah and the whale. It is written in the fifth book of the Old Testament prophets known as "minor prophets." Although the majority of the narrative is about Jonah's experience with the "big fish," there is more that is not usually told.
Jonah, the son of Amittai from the tribe of Zebulun, was a prophet of God. Jonah’s name means dove and his father's name means truthful. He was from a small town called Gath-hepher in Galilee, about three miles northeast of Nazareth. Jonah was a prophet in Israel at a time in history almost eight hundred years before the birth of Christ (788 B.C.). This was just prior to and during the reign of Jeroboam (II) the son of Joash, the evil king of Israel who was king for thirty-one years.
It has long been argued whether or not Jonah was a real person who actually lived and prophesied in Israel or was Jonah just an allegorical figure designed to teach gospel principles? The best evidence of an actual person came when Jesus on two occasions referred to "the sign of the prophet Jonah"―as a foreshadowing of Jesus' own death and resurrection (see Matthew 12: 39-41; 16:4; and Luke 11-29-30). It is doubtful that he actually wrote this book. It was probably written later by one who was directed by the Lord.
His name is also found in 2 Kings 14:25. "According to the word of the Lord God of Israel," the king, Jeroboam II, "restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, which was spoken by the hand of his servant Jonah." This is the only scripture in the Old Testament that refers to Jonah other than the book by his name.
This story is written as a sequence of events from sources including scriptures, book references, Internet information etc., that apply or add to our narrative of the book of Jonah. The quoted passages are not referenced to make it easier to read.
Chapter 1―Jonah Flees From the Lord
Jonah awoke from the silence of his sleep when the Lord came to him saying: "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city," and cry repentance to the people of the city as I am concerned about their wickedness.
Everyone of Jonah's time knew of the terror of the Assyrian army in warfare (see Nahum 3:1-5). Their gross practices in the treatment of their captives was savage and brutal. Most were beheaded immediately; however those of power or wealth were tortured by cutting off noses, ears, hands, feet, or skinned alive, and even roasted alive over a fire.
And, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria.
Now, Jonah knew he was one of the children of Israel. He knew of the Lord's covenant promises and blessings given to them as his beloved people. How could the Lord command him to go to Nineveh? Wasn't Nineveh a place of heathens who worship idols? This command from the Lord not only filled him with fear of their brutality, but he questioned the Lord's judgment in wanting him to preach repentance and salvation to the Gentiles who are taken in iniquity. And, besides, weren't they beyond saving? Instead of obeying, Jonah immediately decided to rise up and flee from the Lord to Tarshish which was the opposite direction from Nineveh. He journeyed to the seaport of Joppa [modern Tel Aviv] and boarded a ship bound for the coast of Spain.
While he was sleeping in a lower level of the boat, the Lord sent a mighty wind into the sea and the waves began to batter the sides of the ship. The sailors were so afraid they began to pray, each one to his own god. And they cast their cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah was unaware as he was fast asleep in the bottom of the boat. The shipmaster woke him and told him to pray to his god to bless them so they wouldn't perish.
It was the custom of that day to cast lots to settle a question whose answer was unknown, for they wondered "who caused this evil to come upon them." And, the lot fell upon Jonah. They questioned him about where he came from, who his people were, what his occupation was, and why he caused this evil to come upon them. And he told them, "I am Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land." And he told them he had fled from the presence of the Lord. Now, all were exceedingly afraid and they wondered what to do to calm the tempestuous sea.
Jonah said to them, "Take me, and cast me forth into the sea" for he knew he was the cause of the tempest. The men tried to row the boat to land, but the sea was too strong against them. Now, they cried to the Lord, "Let us not perish for this man's life." So they took Jonah and threw him into the sea and immediately the sea was calmed. Now the men feared the Lord and offered a sacrifice and made vows to the Lord.
As for Jonah, the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow him, and he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Chapter 2―Jonah's Prayer in the Belly of the Fish
Jonah cried to the Lord in the belly of the fish. "For thou hadest cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head."
Jonah had been tested, but when he was most distressed in the belly of the fish, he prayed mightily and the Lord heard him in his temple in heaven. Jonah repented and gave thanksgiving to the Lord. He vowed to do what the Lord ask of him for he knows salvation comes only from the Lord.
Then, the Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah out on to the dry land.
Chapter 3―Jonah Goes to Nineveh
And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." This time Jonah was filled with faith and he knew the Lord would be with him and help him.
So, Jonah did as the Lord told him and journeyed to Nineveh. Nineveh was a great city to God as Jonah was soon to find out. It was a prosperous well-know trade center with terraces, libraries, and temples. The walls of the city were broad enough that chariots could drive side-by side on them. Outside the walls were towns and villages. "The circumference of the great city was about sixty miles, or three days' journey. (See Sperry, Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 331–32; quoted in Student Manual.)
At one day's journey into the city, Jonah stopped and cried to the people, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." When the people heard Jonah preach, they believed his sayings and proclaimed a fast. And, everyone from the greatest to the least of them put on sackcloth and sat in ashes to humble themselves.
When the king of Nineveh heard of Jonah's sayings, he also laid aside his royal robes and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes. And the king and his nobles published a decree throughout Nineveh that no man nor beast would eat food nor drink water during the fast. All were to clothe themselves in sackcloth and cry mightily to God. And they repented of their evil and violent ways, and turned to God. But they wondered if God would turn away from his fierce anger towards them.
And, God saw that they had repented; that they turned away from their evil. And God turned away from the evil that he said he would bring upon them.
And, God saw that they had repented; that they turned away from their evil. And God turned away from the evil that he said he would bring upon them.
Chapter 4―Jonah Learns a Final Lesson
But, Jonah was displeased with the Lord, and was very angry. He prayed to the Lord saying, "I knew [when I fled to Tarshish] that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness." Jonah "knew that God could revoke the calamity decreed, but expected he would do so even without the repentance of the people" (see footnote 4:2b). Jonah seemed to be jealous that God would also love the heathen oppressors when Israel was his cherished people. Jonah prayed "O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live." And the Lord ask Jonah, "Doest thou well to be angry?"
So, Jonah went outside the city and made a covering to sit under so he could watch what would become of the city. And that day, the Lord caused a gourd to grow over his head "to deliver him from his grief." The shade and coolness of the gourd made Jonah happy. It wasn't to last, as the next day the Lord caused a worm to eat the gourd and it withered. And the Lord caused a hot wind with the heat of the sun to beat down on Jonah and he fainted and wished himself once again to die.
Now the Lord teaches Jonah a lesson. God said to Jonah, "Are you angry because of the gourd"―[it's planting, growing, or withering in one day that Jonah had nothing to do with?] And Jonah answered; "I do well to be angry, even unto death." And the Lord answers Jonah: "And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city wherein are more than six score thousand persons that did not know the difference between right and wrong?" And Jonah learned that if he could be so grieved over a plant, how much more pity and compassion the Lord felt for the lost souls of Nineveh.
What We Learned From the story of the Prophet Jonah
1. Don't' question the Lord's judgment.
2. You can't run away from the Lord. He knows you and will always be with you if you will seek him.
3. Do not be afraid. Always do what the Lord or his servants ask of you. He will watch over and help you.
4. Don't be prideful about your station in life. Even the lowliest is still a child of God.
5. Jonah's burial in the belly of the fish was a type and shadow of the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ (see Matthew 12:39-41).
6. Humble prayer can help you overcome your problems and difficulties.
7. Unrighteous anger is not helpful.
8. To the Lord the worth of souls is great.
The Holy Bible, King James Version, Old Testament, Book of Jonah, pp. 1147-1150.
Old Testament Student Manual―1 Kings-Malachi, pp. 97-100.
The Words of the Twelve Prophets, Monte S. Nyman, Farres H. Nyman, pp. 35-46.
The Fourth Thousand Years, W. Cleon Skousen, pp. 448-468.
Internet; Wikipedia; Nineveh; Zebulun; Hamath .
The Book of Micah
Micah was a prophet from a small town of Moresheth-Gath which is believed to have been located in the low hills of Judea, about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem. He prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (v. 1). The dates of these kings indicate that Micah's preaching took place from about 740-697 B.C. This dating places Micah as a contemporary of Isaiah and possibly of Hosea and Amos. (Old Testament Student Manual―1Kings-Malachi, p. 119.)
The Book of Micah is the sixth book of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament. The Student Manual (SM) tells us the name Micah is an abbreviation of Micaiah as found in Jeremiah 26:18, and is probably a contraction of Mikayahu, which means "who is like unto Jehovah?" This Micah has to be distinguished from eleven other Micah's of the same name in the Old Testament (SM, p.119).
Nyman and Nyman call Micah, "the second Witness to Isaiah." They list twenty places in Micah that are similar to Isaiah. The authors describe this as the Lord's law of witnesses (see Deuteronomy 19:15) (The Words of the Twelve Prophets, pp. 89-90).
Micah was called as a prophet specifically to warn the people of Israel and Judah of their future destruction if they refuse to repent. This was nothing new. The Lord always sends his prophets to foretell of catastrophic events if the people turn away from him. We have already seen this pattern in the words of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and even Jonah as we continue our study of the words of the "minor" prophets of the Old Testament.
Chapter 2―The Remnant of Israel will Return to the Church
The Lord will not leave his people forever. Micah prophesies that the Lord will gather the remnant of Israel back "as the sheep of Bozrah" into the fold of the church [in the latter days]. "They shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men"―the church will grow rapidly. "They have broken up, and passed through the gate." And "the breaker" [leader] will lead the way, "and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD [Christ] on the head of them" (vv. 12-13).
Compare Isaiah 10: 21: "The remnant shall return , even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God."
Chapter 4―The Mountain of the Lord Shall be Established
As Micah states in verse one, this is a prophecy for the last days. He writes of two centers in this day where the "word of the Lord" will go out. By modern revelation we know the mountain of the Lord in the tops of the mountain, the New Jerusalem, is where the temple will be built in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri; also, the remnant of Israel will be gathered from throughout the world and will return and restore the temple to Zion in Jerusalem. "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD [church and temple] shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it" (v. 1).
Compare Isaiah 2:2: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."
Both Isaiah and Micah refer to the time right before the Millennium when the temple will be built both in Jerusalem and in the New Jerusalem in Missouri.
Nyman and Nyman suggest that "the top of the mountains is undoubtedly a synonym for 'the everlasting hills,' as prophesied by Jacob, father of the twelve tribes" (see Genesis 49:26) (The Words of the Twelve Prophets; pp. 79-80).
Many nations [converts] will come to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob to learn in the temples and walk in his paths―keep his commandments. For the law shall go forth of Zion [New Jerusalem] and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (v. 2). President Harold B. Lee gave the following commentary on the law that shall go forth, quoted from the Idaho Falls Temple dedicatory prayer:
"We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom under thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah and Micah that “… out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1945, p. 504; quoted in Old Testament Student Manual (SM) 1 Kings-Malachi, p.121.)
"And he [Christ] shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off" and the wicked will be destroyed at the Second Coming. During the Millennium "nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (v. 3). And there will be peace when "all will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever." The Lord will gather all those who are lame and those who have been "driven out" and those whom he has afflicted [Israel]. And he will make them "a remnant" [part of the covenant people], " and he that was cast far off" [Israel] a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion…for ever" (vv. 4-7).
Now, Micah foretells of the Battle of Armageddon: "many nations are gathered against thee [Israel], that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they [the nations of the world] know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel [plans]: for he shall gather them [Israel] as the sheaves into the [threshing] floor" (vv. 11-12).
Compare Isaiah 55:8: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."
Finally, Micah exhorts us, "Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion [people of the Church]: for I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth" (v. 13).
Compare D&C 133:59: "And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thrash the nations by the power of his Spirit."
Chapter 5―Micah's Messianic Prophecies
Micah 5:2 is perhaps the most well-known prophecy in this book. It is relevant to the birth of Jesus. "But thou Beth-lehem Ephratah though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old from everlasting."
"[This scripture] is, in fact, the one quoted by Matthew in the New Testament as having been fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Ephratah is simply an additional name to distinguish the Bethlehem in Judah from another Bethlehem in the land assigned to the tribe of Zebulun" (see Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1–20) (SM, p. 122).
"Therefore will he give them up [the Lord will reject Israel for a time because of apostasy, Ridges, p. 454], until the time that she which travalleth hath brought forth"―the restoration of the gospel; "then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel." And when Israel is restored in the latter days, they will "stand and feed in the strength of the LORD," and they will abide [remain]; for the majesty of the Lord's name will be great "unto the ends of the earth" (vv. 3-4).
Micah prophesies of the final war between good and evil when the man of peace [Christ] will deliver them "from the Assyrians" and the land of Nimrod―symbolic of the armies of many nations. "And the remnant of Jacob" [members of the Church] "shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass"―a metaphor for missionary work [dew] among the spiritually thirsty [showers upon the grass] "that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men" (vv. 5-7).
"And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest"―a symbol of strength throughout the world ; "as a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver"―none can stop the growth of the Church in the last days (Ridges, p. 454). And, "thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off" (vv. 8-9).
Nyman and Nyman explain: "Those who do not repent and accept the gospel will be cut off from among the house of Israel and will then be trodden down by the house of Israel. Those who do repent will have the Church established among them, be numbered among the remnant of Jacob to whom this land was given, and assist …in building the New Jerusalem (3 Nephi 15: 12-13). Thus the house of Israel will eventually tread down the rebellious Gentiles, but those who repent can escape this treading down if they accept the gospel and are numbered with Israel" (Twelve Prophets, p. 84).
Chapter 6―What Doth the Lord Require of Thee
And a man asks: "wherewith shall I come [what offering should I bring] before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"―like they offered to Baal?
Now, Micah answers: "He hath shewed [shown] thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly [justice], and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (vv. 6-8).
"The laws of God can all be summarized, as Micah did in verses 6–8, in three words: keep the commandments! Micah said in these verses that sin is the breaking of a divine law and that the offering of blood sacrifices could have no effect in remitting sin unless there was also a change of heart" (SM, p. 122).
Chapter 7―Micah's Hymn of Praise to the Lord
Micah ends with a hymn of praise to the Lord: "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by [forgives] the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage [Israel; his covenant people]? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy (Ridges, p. 455) (v. 18).
"He will turn again [welcome us back with outstretched arms], he will have compassion upon us, he will subdue our iniquities [he will pay the price for our sins]; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea (Ridges, p. 455) (v. 19).
"Thou will perform the truth [covenants made] to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn [promised] unto our fathers from the days of old" [from the beginning] (v. 20) (Ridges, The Old Testament Made Easier, pt. 3, p. 455, vv. 18-20).