READ JONAH ONE
The book of Jonah wastes no time jumping in. The very first words on the page are simple, straightforward, and pregnant with meaning.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Let’s break this verse down phrase-by-phrase (this is what is meant by “exegetical” study, if you remember our definition from a few days ago).
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai…
This phrase occurs many times throughout the Old Testament. It is the phrase that introduces the prophets who received the word. Look up the following couple of verses and make note of which prophet of Yahweh is announced with this, or a similar, phrase:
I Kings 6:11
II Kings 20:4
This short phrase isn’t just telling us the logistics of what is occurring, but is setting the scene for us. The word of the Lord, spoken by God’s Spirit to God’s people, is coming with authority and power. And it is coming to a man named Jonah.
“Arise, go to Nineveh…”
The Hebrew word for “arise” in this command is ק֠וּם, and it is literally translated, “Up! Go!” Embedded in the word itself is a sense of urgency, and a dual sense of purpose. The one Hebrew verb is commanding Jonah to get up from his place of comfort, from wherever he currently finds himself, and to go urgently to the place God is calling him.
One of the most rewarding things about studying the original languages is finding different places in the Word of God where the same original words are used. The vocabulary helps us connect dots we wouldn’t otherwise notice, and it makes our study rich and satisfying. Today, we’re going to pause on this first Hebrew word by doing two things.
First, if you have a scrap piece of paper nearby, try copying the Hebrew verb onto it.
A quick little Hebrew tutorial: that Hebrew is copied right to left, the opposite of the English language. In the verb we’re working with, we have three letters: Qof-Vav-Mem. Each letter makes the following sounds: Qof: hard KVav: long U (oo)Mem: short M. The word is pronounced qūm (or, “koom”). See, you’re getting the hang of Hebrew already! Second, just like we saw various places (and prophets) where the phrase “Now, the word of the Lord came to …” is used in the Scriptures, let’s look a few other places where this Hebrew verb is used. Look up the following passages, and make a mental (or physical) note of whom the command is given to and what they are called to do.
I Kings 17:9
I Kings 21:18
1 Samuel 16:12
Do you notice a pattern? When God calls one of His own to join Him in what He is doing He often uses this word, qūm. The voice of God calling to His people and prophets saying, “Up! Go!” is often an invitation to join God in a mighty work He is doing!
And this is the word God whispers in Jonah’s ear.
Throughout the rest of Jonah’s narrative we will need to keep this close in mind: the call of God is also the invitation of God to join Him in what He is already doing. Our God, faithful through time and space, is always at work. He is preparing hearts for repentance, providing where there is need, and relentlessly causing creation to sing Him praise. When He calls us, He is not calling us in isolation, but, like the prophets of old, He is inviting us to join Him in what He is doing.
PRAY & REFLECT Thank God that He is at work in the world in a myriad of ways of which you aren’t even aware. Ask Him to give you a heart always ready to heed His call to join in His work.
How did you find the Hebrew tutorial? Did you like it? Was it exciting? Intimidating? I want to hear! Look for this graphic on Facebook and let us know!