Jonah: The Stage and Characters

Collin Selman
3 min readDec 13, 2022


Jonah 1:1–2

In this first session, we want to set the stage for this book. Starting with the last big “character” introduced and working backwards. But before we do that, what does everyone know of Jonah? What happens in this short book?

Character 3: Nineveh

The bottom line is that Nineveh was the Assyrian capital to the north of Israel (modern Iraq) and an enemy of Israel. They were one of the few gentile nations to receive a known OT prophet (Jonah, Nahum, and Obadiah being the prophets to prophesy to gentile nations). For a picture of what this city/nation was about, check out Nahum 3:1–4.

Short story shorter, what we really only need to know right now is that these guys were bad news.

Character 2: Jonah

And now Jonah. Who was Jonah? A prophet (2 Kings 14:23–27)

What is the role of a prophet? To speak God’s word, to carry a message

Jonah’s setting as a prophet: Prophet to an evil king, within a split kingdom, under a merciful God having just restored/protected Israel

He was the son of Amittai = “My truth”

He was from Gath-hepher — An area within Galilee just a bit to the north of Nazareth. Who do we know from that area? Keep this similarity in mind through this study as we’ll come back to it fairly often.

Jonah’s name meant “Dove.” What is the picture of a dove in the Bible? Spirit of God, peace/reconciliation, atonement/sacrifice. Where do doves show up? Creation, flood, baptism of Jesus, sacrificial system. Doves were often used as a stand in for people or the entire nation of Israel. Jonah is often considered a historical commentary/satire on the nation of Israel.

If Jonah is a stand-in for Israel of sorts, what does that tell us about Jonah?

In addition to the comparisons to be made between Jonah and Jesus, keep in mind throughout this series the parallels Jonah has with the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

An interesting side note is that this is only Minor Prophet book on a prophet instead of from a prophet.

What’s agonizing, though, is what we don’t know: Age, social standing, timelines…But the Bible being the Bible, we are given what God is trying to speak to us and that is more than enough.

All this introduction to the write of the book to lay up a question we’ll slowly reveal throughout the series: Why Jonah?

Character 1: God

Now we turn our attention to the main character of this book. We often obviously think of Jonah and we certainly think of the whale/fish. But the fish is only mentioned 3 times. Jonah then of course is mentioned more often. But who is mentioned the most? God. This book is decidedly about our Lord, how He works in the world, and who He is.

And so, in these short verses, what do we learn of God? He is a God…

  • Who hears/knows — Nineveh’s wickedness was known to Him
  • Who speaks — He spoke to Jonah
  • Of judgment — He told Jonah to “cry out against”, later we understand this “crying out” is a proclamation of judgment
  • Of mercy — But notice that though Nineveh is wicked, God’s impulse is to send a message, not immediate destruction. This is mercy and a theme for this whole book.

What is mercy? Refraining from deserved punishment

What are some examples of mercy in your life?

We serve a God who plans with purpose and with people (Romans 6:13)

Next time we will dive into God’s plans for Jonah and how that goes.




Collin Selman

A Christian, a husband, a father, a blue-collar intellectual, an engineer, a carpenter, a gardener, and who knows what else in the future.