1-3: The book of Jonah is unique among the prophets because it focused on Jonah rather than his message. Most prophets prophesied to Israel, but Jonah prophesied to a pagan, gentile nation. Nineveh was the capitol of Israel’s brutal enemy, Assyria. The Assyrians flayed, impaled, and tortured their enemies according to their own tablets and reliefs. Jonah knew God was gracious and would spare Nineveh from destruction if they repented, so he decided it was better to flee than to deliver the message and see them spared. It’s also worth ‘pointing out that it records how God can directly control nature to accomplish his will (plants, animals, wind, storms).
4-16: God caused a great storm to disrupt Jonah’s trip to Tarshish. The event lead to pagan sailors putting their faith in the God of Israel. The supernatural quality of the storm, combined with Jonah’s story frightened them. Their suspicions about Jonah’s God were confirmed when they threw him overboard and the storm ceased. Jonah tried committing suicide to disrupt God’s sovereign plan. However, God caused a fish to swallow Jonah in order to miraculously preserve him. Jesus referenced Jonah’s time in the fish as the "sign of Jonah" when speaking to Pharisees (Mathew 12:38-41).
1-10: Jonah reflected in the belly of the fish and temporarily turned back to God. He felt the weight and finality of his suicidal decision as described in vivid, poetic terms. The water closed around him and his head was wrapped in seaweed at the roots of underwater mountains. He called it "the land whose bars closed upon me forever". He thought he was going to die and see God in the heavenly temple (Hebrews 8:4-5, Revelation 11:18-19). Jonah acknowledged that God is the source of salvation and his prayer reached the Lord. Then God caused the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry ground.
1-10: Jonah finally obeyed God and warned the Ninevites they would be destroyed. They heard the message, believed God, and repented. Sackcloth and ashes were signs of sorrow and repentance. The king even made an official decree to turn from evil and fast. It’s not clear why they were so ready to accept Jonah’s message. Perhaps they heard his story about the fish or an Assyrian witnessed it. Either way, God worked in their hearts to convict them and cause a revival.
1-4: Jonah was angry that God graciously spared his enemies. He would rather have died than see their redemption, as indicated from his willingness to thrown overboard in Jonah 1:12. God was gentile in dealing with Jonah. He pointed out that anger wasn’t beneficial by asking a rhetorical question.
5: Jonah camped out and watched the city from a distance to see what would happen. Perhaps he thought their repentance wasn’t sincere and that God would destroy them as soon as they returned to their old ways.
6-11: God used the plant as an object lesson to expose Jonah’s double standard and lack of compassion. Jonah selfishly sorrowed over a dying plant that was graciously given to him, but didn’t care if about the 120,000 people who didn’t know God and were about to to die in their sins.