God calls on his prophet, Jonah, and gives him a particular assignment regarding the wicked nation of Assyria, Israel’s enemy. The book opens with, “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.’” We met this prophet in the book of 2 Kings, chapter 14. It appears he had a hand in helping a wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam II has a poor reference in the King’s passage. In verse 24 it says of him, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.” Yet the text goes on to tell us that he reigned for 41 years. That’s a long reign for a wicked king of the north. It’s also said that he restored much territory to Israel that had been taken from them. This accomplishment had something to do with Jonah. We read in the 2 Kings passage, verses 25-26, “He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.  For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.”

We can’t know the exact relationship that Jonah had with Jeroboam II, but it most likely was like that of other prophets and their kings. Nathan challenged David to repent of his sin. He did. Jehu challenged Baasha likewise without the best of results. Elijah always confronted Ahab and Jezebel regarding their evil actions. Elisha followed in his footsteps in dealing with kings. Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were also involved with the ministry to wicked kings. Nixon summarizes the relationship between Jeroboam II and Jonah. She writes, “Set within this broader context of continuous conflict outlined for us in 1 and 2 Kings, the Israelite king Jeroboam II was asserting his power in the face of external threat and internal weakness by strengthening Israel’s national borders. Israel stood alone, bitterly afflicted, and without a helper. The willingness of a compassionate God ‘to save Israel’ by restoring her borders, despite the habitual wickedness of King Jeroboam II, shines through in the story in 2 Kings 14. Israel is delivered by the word of the Lord through the hand of Jonah and by the hand of Jeroboam.”[1]

Jonah’s prophecy as seen in 2 Kings was one of God’s plans of salvation for His people. As Knight observes, “His prophecy shows him to be a prophet of salvation for Israel and, by implication, one of judgment for the nations.”[2] God has always wanted it to be known that he was the faithful savior of all the people. God extends an offer of salvation before he brings judgment. Not only was this the case with those who perished in the days of Noah, but it was also the case with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Before God scattered the tribes of Israel throughout the world and allowed the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, he sent prophet after prophet to make the clear offer of salvation to all who would repent. But God’s offer of salvation extends even to Israel’s enemies. God is going to send this prophet of salvation to the capital city of Israel’s enemy to offer an opportunity for salvation before judgment. To Jonah’s dismay, as well as the nation of Israel itself, Nineveh will repent.

[1] Nixon, Rosemary A. 2003. The Message of Jonah: Presence in the Storm. Edited by Alec Motyer, Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. England: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Knight, George Angus Fulton, and Friedemann W. Golka. 1988. Revelation of God. International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Edinburgh: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Handsel Press.