“Unit 31: Day 2, Jonah,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 31: Day 2,” Old Testament Study Guide
The Lord called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah fled and was eventually swallowed by a great fish. After God delivered him, Jonah travelled to Nineveh and prophesied that the Lord would destroy the city because of its wickedness. The people of Nineveh repented, and God spared the city. The Lord then taught Jonah about His love for the people of Nineveh.
Can you think of one or more individuals whom you feel it may be difficult to love or forgive?
As you study the book of Jonah, look for principles that can help you choose to love and forgive others.
Read Jonah 1:1–2, looking for what the Lord called Jonah to do.
Look at the accompanying map and locate Gath-hepher and Ninevah.
Jonah lived in Gath-hepher (see 2 Kings 14:25). Nineveh was a major city of the Assyrians, who were enemies of the Israelites. The Assyrian kings and soldiers were known for their brutality, which included torturing and cruelly murdering the people they conquered. If you were Jonah, what thoughts or feelings might you have had about preaching to the people of Nineveh?
Read Jonah 1:3, looking for what Jonah did in response to his call from the Lord.
Look at the map again, and locate Joppa and Tarshish. (We do not know the exact location of Tarshish, but it may have been located in present-day Spain.)
Based on Jonah’s response, how do you think he felt about his call to go to Nineveh?
Read Jonah 1:4, looking for what the Lord did as Jonah was fleeing to Tarshish.
In Jonah 1:5–9 we learn that the men on the ship were afraid they might perish in the storm. They believed that Jonah was responsible, and they asked him why the storm had come upon them.
Read Jonah 1:10–12, looking for the cause of the storm and Jonah’s instruction to the men on the boat.
In Jonah 1:13–16 we read that the men reluctantly threw Jonah overboard. Once they had done so, the storm ceased.
Jonah had accepted a call from the Lord to be one of His prophets, and he had made a commitment to follow and teach the Lord’s will. From Jonah’s experience we can learn that the Lord will hold us accountable for the responsibilities He gives us, even if we try to avoid them. You may want to write this truth in the margin of your scriptures near Jonah 1:15.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why might some people today try to avoid responsibilities the Lord has given them, such as serving a mission (for young men) or fulfilling callings they accepted?
Why is it important to do our best to fulfill responsibilities the Lord gives us?
What are some negative consequences that can come to individuals who try to avoid responsibilities the Lord has given them?
Read Jonah 1:17, looking for what happened after Jonah was cast into the sea.
Jonah 2 contains the prayer Jonah offered while he was in the fish’s belly. Read Jonah 2:1–9, looking for phrases in Jonah’s prayer that indicate his willingness to repent. You may want to mark these phrases in your scriptures.
The phrase “I will look again toward thy holy temple” in verse 4 indicates that Jonah would no longer flee from the Lord. The phrase “I will pay that that I have vowed” in verse 9 indicates that Jonah promised to honor his commitments to the Lord.
Read Jonah 2:10, looking for what the Lord did after Jonah expressed his willingness to repent.
From Jonah 2 we can learn that if we cry unto the Lord and repent when we have sinned, we can receive His mercy.
As you read the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, consider ways you have experienced the Lord’s mercy: “Many of us backslide, many stumble, and I believe firmly in the gospel of the second chance. But the gospel of the second chance means that having once been found weak, … thereafter we become steadfast” (“Stand Up and Be Counted,” Ensign, Feb. 1982, 71).
Just as He did for Jonah, the Lord is willing to mercifully give us opportunities to repent of our sins as we learn to obey His commandments.
Read Jonah 3:1–4, looking for how the Lord gave Jonah a second chance.
How did Jonah respond this time?
Read Jonah 3:5, 10, looking for how the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s preaching.
The Joseph Smith Translation of Jonah 3:9–10 clarifies that the people of Nineveh declared, “We will repent, and turn unto God” (Joseph Smith Translation, Jonah 3:9 [in Jonah 3:9, footnote a]) and that “God turned away the evil that he had said he would bring upon them” (Joseph Smith Translation, Jonah 3:10 [in Jonah 3:10, footnote c]). (The words in italics show the changes the Prophet Joseph Smith made.)
- Imagine you are Jonah, and you are writing a journal entry after your successful mission to Nineveh. In your scripture study journal, complete the following statement based on the feelings you think Jonah might have had: After the people of Nineveh repented, I felt … because …
Read Jonah 4:1–3, looking for how Jonah felt after the Lord spared the people of Nineveh.
What did Jonah want to deny the people of Nineveh that he had himself received?
You may want to mark the Lord’s attributes that Jonah listed in verse 2. Although he was blessed because of these attributes when the Lord mercifully gave him a second chance, Jonah resented them when the Lord gave the people of Nineveh a second chance.
Throughout the remaining verses of Jonah 4, the Lord taught Jonah about love and forgiveness. Read each scripture passage in the following chart. In the box below the scripture reference, draw a simple picture or write a brief summary of what the passage describes. As you read these verses, it might be helpful to know that the word booth in verse 5 refers to a shelter, and the gourd mentioned in verses 6–7, 9 refers to a large plant that could provide abundant shade.
How did Jonah feel about the gourd when God first prepared it for him? How did he feel after it withered?
Read Jonah 4:10–11, looking for what Jonah’s experience with the gourd was meant to teach him about the Lord’s feelings for the people of Nineveh.
While Jonah had loved the gourd and was sad when it had withered, the Lord loved the people of Nineveh vastly more and did not want them to perish.
From this account we learn that to become like the Lord, we must learn to love and forgive others as He does.
As you read the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, think of any person or people you feel might be difficult to love or forgive:
“When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
“It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. …
“We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
“Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven? …
“The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other” (“The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 75–76).
- Ponder an occasion when you tried to love and forgive as the Lord does. In your scripture study journal, write how you were blessed for doing so.
Think of how you can become more like the Lord by choosing to love and forgive others, particularly individuals who may be difficult for you to love and forgive.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Jonah and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: