Jonah, Micah, and Nahum: A 12-Week Study

Jonah, Micah, and Nahum: A 12-Week Study

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The Knowing the Bible series is a resource designed to help Bible readers better understand and apply God’s Word. These 12-week studies lead participants through books of the Bible and are made up of four basic components: (1) reflection questions help readers engage the text at a deeper level; (2) “Gospel Glimpses” highlight the gospel of grace throughout the book; (3) “Whole-Bible Connections” show how any given passage connects to the Bible’s overarching story of redemption, culminating in Christ; and (4) “Theological Soundings” identify how historic orthodox doctrines are taught or reinforced throughout Scripture. With contributions from an array of influential pastors and church leaders, these gospel-centered studies will help Christians see and cherish the message of God’s grace on every page of the Bible.

The books of Jonah, Micah, and Nahum announce the judgment of God through his prophets—flawed messengers who nevertheless served as vehicles for God’s compassion, calling their hearers to repent of their evil, turn from their false gods, and worship the one true God.

Over the course of 12 weeks, this study helps readers see the steadfast love, mercy, and patience of the Lord, the deliverer and protector who offers forgiveness to all who turn from their sin and trust in him.

Part of the Knowing the Bible series.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433558139
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 10/15/2018
Series: Knowing the Bible
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 96
File size: 220 KB

About the Author

Kristofer D. Holroyd (PhD, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium) serves as senior pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Muncie, Indiana.

J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.

Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is the executive vice president of Bible publishing and Bible publisher at Crossway. He serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, and is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their five children in Wheaton, Illinois.

Lane T. Dennis is president and publisher of Crossway Books and Good News Tracts. Dr. Dennis earned his BS in business from Northern Illinois University, an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary, and a PhD in religion from Northwestern University. Before joining Good News Publishers in 1974, he served as a pastor in campus ministry at the University of Michigan (Sault Ste. Marie) and as the Managing Director of Verlag Grosse Freude in Switzerland. He is the author and/or editor of three books, including the Gold Medallion-award-winning book Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, and he is the former Chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Dr. Dennis serves as the Chairman of the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible Translation Oversight Committee and as the Executive Editor of the ESV Study Bible. Lane and his wife, Ebeth, live in Wheaton, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt


Week 1: Overview

Getting Acquainted

Jonah, Micah, and Nahum reveal God's directing of the nations for his purposes during the reemergence and ascendency of the Assyrian Empire. With messages of judgment against both Assyria and God's own people in Israel and Judah, these prophets bring God's explanation of world events to his people as they endure both prosperity and punishment from the Lord.

Jonah begins our study with what seems to be a simple word of judgment against the Assyrian city of Nineveh. However, as we look more closely at the book, it becomes clear that this judgment is directed not just at Israel's enemies but actually against the people of Israel themselves. In their time of military expansion, wealth, and peace, Israel has become arrogant and self-focused, delighting in God's steadfast love toward them but wanting to keep that love for themselves.

Micah continues this judgment against Israel and Judah for their turning away from God, especially through their mistreatment of the weak and powerless among them. This wickedness, perpetrated and promoted by the leaders, prophets, and priests in Israel, would bring about the judgment of God at the hands of the Assyrians and, later, of the Babylonians. Nevertheless, God forgives sins and delights in restoring his people. Accordingly, Micah promises a coming Shepherd-King who will deliver God's people, restore them, and even take away those very things that led them astray.

Nahum concludes this time period with a condemning word against the Assyrians. Although they experienced God's mercy and forgiveness because of their earlier repentance in the time of Jonah, they have once again exulted in violence and greed, and God's Word to them, like their treatment of others, is graphic and devastating. The city of Nineveh will be destroyed completely by the avenging warrior God of Israel. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 1683–1718; available online at

Placing These Three Books in the Larger Story

These three short books together highlight the patience of God. Eager to forgive sins, God often allows the evil deeds of the wicked to pile up before he executes judgment, and this eagerness to forgive extends to all people everywhere, not just to Israel. In fact, Israel is supposed to be the herald of this great patient forgiveness, but, because of her own evil, God will bring judgment upon his people, too. These books, then, expose our sin, shame, and need for forgiveness and also point to the Great Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, making such forgiveness possible. Indeed, for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ, God will tread their iniquities underfoot and cast their sins into the depths of the sea.

Key Verses

"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." (Mic. 7:18–19)

Date and Historical Background

Around 780–745 BC the Assyrian Empire, which had largely ruled the ancient world for nearly a century, seemed to wane in power, and as a result of this temporarily waning influence, Jeroboam II continued his father's military expansion of Israel (2 Kings 14:23–28). Assyria's ebbing power, however, would not last long. Tiglath-pileser became king of the Assyrian Empire in 745 BC and quickly reestablished Assyrian dominance throughout the region. Like many of the Assyrian kings before him, Tiglath-pileser's reign was characterized by cruelty and destruction, especially upon those nations and peoples the Assyrians conquered. The northern kingdom of Israel experienced this cruelty, and in 722 BC it was devastated by the subsequent Assyrian king, Shalmaneser V, who ruled from 727–722 BC. Two kings later, Sennacherib (704–681 BC), made the prominent Assyrian city Nineveh the capital of the empire, enhancing the city and its defenses. However, less than one hundred years later, the city would be completely destroyed, and only a handful of years after that the empire itself would also be totally removed from history.

Into these world events, God sends his prophets with a message not just for Israel and Judah but also for Nineveh. The prophets of Jonah and Nahum sit as bookends surrounding Nineveh's reestablishment as a world power, with Jonah prophesying during the reign of Israel's king Jeroboam II (782–753 BC) and Nahum recording his oracles4 and visions in Judah likely sometime between 660 and 630 BC. The ministry of Micah lasts a minimum of 20–25 years, though perhaps longer, as he prophesies during the reigns of Judah's kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, placing Micah's words sometime between 750 and 687 BC.



I. Jonah's Commissioning and Response (1:1–2:10)

A. Jonah's commissioning and flight (1:1–3)

B. Jonah and the pagan sailors (1:4–16)

C. Jonah's grateful prayer (1:17–2:10)

II. Jonah's Recommissioning and Response (3:1–4:4)

A. Jonah's recommissioning and compliance (3:1–3a)

B. Jonah and the pagan Ninevites (3:3b–10)

C. Jonah's angry prayer (4:1–4)

III. Jonah's Lesson about Compassion (4:5–11)


I. Superscription (1:1)

II. The Announcement of Judgment on Israel and Judah (1:2–2:13)

A. God's punishment of Samaria and Judah (1:2–16)

1. Judgment on Samaria (1:2–7)

2. Judgment on Judah (1:8–16)

B. Abuses and abusers of Yahweh's land (2:1–11)

1. Indictment and future punishment (2:1–5)

2. Rejection of the prophetic word (2:6–11)

C. The divine promise to gather Jacob (2:12–13)

III. The Present Injustice and the Future Prospect of Just Rule in Jerusalem (3:1–5:15)

A. Present leaders denounced (3:1–12)

1. Judgment against the heads of Jacob (1.3:1–4)

2. Judgment against the prophets (2.3:5–8)

3. Judgment against the heads of Jacob (3.3:9–12)

B. Jerusalem's restoration among the nations — promised (4:1–7)

1. Nations approach Zion in peace (4:1–5)

2. Divine promise to gather Zion (4:6–7)

C. Jerusalem's restoration among the nations — accomplished (4:8–5:15)

1. Restoration of Zion's dominion (4:8)

2. Nations approach Zion for battle (4:9–13)

3. The Shepherd-King arrives and the remnant is restored (5:1–15)

IV. The Lord's Indictment and Restoration of His People (6:1–7:20)

A. Israel accused: covenant violation (6:1–8)

1. The prophetic summons (6:1–2)

2. Divine interrogation and saving acts (6:3–5)

3. People's response and prophetic reply (6:6–8)

B. Crisis in relationship (6:9–7:7)

1. Divine indictment of treachery (6:9–12)

2. Divine sentence for treachery (6:13–16)

3. Consequence of disobedience: social upheaval (7:1–7)

C. Zion's repentance and renewed faith in Yahweh's help (7:8–13)

D. Restoration of the relationship between Israel and Yahweh (7:14–20)


I. Introduction (1:1)

II. A Psalm Descriptively Praising the Lord (1:2–8)

A. The Lord takes vengeance on his guilty adversaries (1:2–3a)

B. The Lord rules creation in majesty, and no one can stand before his wrath (1:3b–6)

C. The Lord delivers those who take refuge in him (1:7)

D. The Lord destroys his adversaries (1:8)

III. The Lord's Coming Judgment on Nineveh and Deliverance of Judah (1:9–15)

A. The destruction of wicked, plotting Nineveh (1:9–12a)

B. Judah, having been afflicted by the Lord, is freed from Assyrian bondage (1:12b–13) B.

C. The termination of vile, idolatrous Nineveh (1:14)

D. Peace and deliverance for Judah (1:15)

IV. Focus on Nineveh: The Lord's Coming Judgment (2:1–13)

A. The beginning of the attack on Nineveh (2:1)

B. Reasons for judgment: the Assyrians' plundering of Judah, though Judah's restoration by God is planned (2:2)

C. Attacking soldiers and military action at Nineveh (2:3–5)

D. The fall and plundering of Nineveh (2:6–9)

E. A taunting song portraying Nineveh's destruction because of the city's lust for conquest (2:10–12)

F. The Lord speaks a word of judgment (2:13)

V. Again, Focus on Nineveh: More concerning the Lord's Coming Judgment (3:1–19)

A. Reasons for judgment: the violence, lying, and greed of Nineveh (3:1)

B. Military action at Nineveh and the ensuing slaughter of the Assyrians (3:2–3)

C. Reasons for judgment: the wickedness of Nineveh (3:4)

D. The Lord speaks a word of judgment (3:5–7)

E. Comparison with the conquest of Thebes ( E.3:8–11)

F. A taunting song presenting Nine F.veh's inevitable destruction because of the city's incessant evil (3:12–19)

As You Get Started

Read each book — Jonah, Micah, and Nahum — straight through in one sitting. What are your first impressions? What stands out to you?

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What words, phrases, and themes seem to span across these three books?

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What questions do you have as you begin this study?

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As You Finish This Unit ...

Take a few minutes to ask God to bless you with increased understanding and a transformed heart and life as you begin this study of Jonah, Micah, and Nahum.


Week 2: The Fear of the Lord

Jonah 1:1–2:10

The Place of the Passage

The book of Jonah opens with God calling the prophet to go and proclaim judgment against the enemies of Israel in the city of Nineveh; instead of following God's call, however, Jonah hops a boat going in the opposite direction from Nineveh. A violent storm threatens to overthrow the boat and take the life of everyone on it, but Jonah confesses his running from God and is thrown overboard, and the storm subsides. God sends a great fish to swallow Jonah, and while in the fish's belly the prophet offers up a prayer of thanksgiving for being rescued from death. After three days, the fish spits Jonah back onto dry land, preparing him for another opportunity to obey the Lord.

The Big Picture

Sometimes God uses terrifying situations so that we might learn to fear the Lord rightly.

Reflection and Discussion

Read through the complete passage for this study, Jonah 1:1–2:10. Then write your reflections on the following questions. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 1687–1689; available online at

* * *

1. The Call and Flight of Jonah (1:1–3)

In the time of Jonah, the Assyrian Empire had not yet achieved the size and power that it would display several decades later. Nevertheless, the empire was dominant, and Assyrian kings were known for their violence and savagery, notably demonstrated in their torture of prisoners. Nineveh was one of Assyria's large and important cities, located more than 500 miles away from Jonah. What initial reasons might Jonah have for not wanting to go to Nineveh and "call out against it"?

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Pronouncements of judgment in the Bible often serve as a warning and a call to repentance for the people against whom judgment has been pronounced, and Jonah runs away from proclaiming judgment against Nineveh because he understands the message to be an opportunity for Nineveh to repent (see 4:2). Why do you think Jonah does not want the Ninevites to repent and turn to God?

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Read Psalm 139:7–12. Twice in Jonah 1, the text says that Jonah is trying to get away "from the presence of the Lord." In light of Psalm 139, what do you think it means to flee from the presence of God? How do we try to do so today?

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Where in your own life have you tried to get away from the presence of the Lord or to run from his Word, commands, or call?

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2. The Fear of the Lord (1:4–2:10)

In 1:5 and 1:10, the sailors are afraid, and in 1:9 Jonah says that he "fears" the Lord. What is the difference between the sailors' fear and the fear of the Lord that Jonah says he has?

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Once the sailors finally cast Jonah into the sea, the storm calms down and the sailors turn to the Lord. This turning to the Lord involves offering a sacrifice, a public expression of their worship, and it also involves their making certain vows, likely public expressions of their intention to continue to worship God. Notably, verse 16 describes this new relationship to the Lord in these words: "[They] feared the Lord exceedingly." How does their new fear of the Lord contrast with Jonah's so-called fear of the Lord?

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Read Jonah's prayer in 2:1–9 again, paying special attention to images he uses to describe his distress. How desperate is Jonah's situation? Note some of the ways in which he describes his desperation.

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Both Jonah and the sailors are brought to places of distress, panic, and desperation before they learn to "fear the Lord." What does this teach us about God and the hard things we may endure in this life?

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Although Jonah tried to flee from the Lord, God used the storm, the sailors, and the great fish to bring Jonah back to trusting in and following him. How, then, is the story of Jonah a comfort to God's people?

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* * *

Read through the following three sections on Gospel Glimpses, Whole-Bible Connections, And Theological Soundings. Then take time to consider The Personal Implications these sections may have for you.

Gospel Glimpses

THREE DAYS. Jonah's near-death experience in the storm and sea, his "burial" in the fish, and his "resurrection" upon the dry land are used by Jesus to predict his own death, burial in the "heart of the earth," and eventual resurrection (Matt. 12:38–42). When Jesus in that passage says that "no sign will be given" to the people of his day "except the sign of the prophet Jonah," the sign — the miracle — to which Jesus points is not the appearance of the great fish but rather Jonah's rescue from death as a kind of resurrection. Jesus' actual resurrection from death would serve as the vindication of Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners and as the verification of our very faith(1 Cor. 15:12–34).

THE FEAR OF THE LORD. The fear of the Lord is not a fear of rejection or a cowering and trembling before a tyrant but rather a reverent awe of and devotion to God, along with a healthy fear of his fatherly displeasure and discipline (see Acts 5:5; 9:31; Phil. 2:12–13; 1 Pet. 1:17; 1 John 4:18). Such fear of the Lord is the foundation of knowledge (Prov. 1:7) and wisdom (Prov. 9:10) as we bow in humility before the Creator and Savior of the world.

Whole-Bible Connections

THE JUDGMENT OF STORMS. It was considered bad fortune to travel with prisoners or condemned persons in the ancient world, because it was believed that the gods would bring storms and calamity upon a ship that carried people of bad repute — as evidenced in the book of Jonah, as sailors cast lots in order to identify the person responsible for the supposed judgment from the gods. Furthermore, death from a shipwreck was often considered evidence of a person's guilt. In the New Testament, Luke would use these cultural beliefs to demonstrate the apostle Paul's innocence: though Paul was a prisoner on the way to trial in Rome, he survived unharmed both a storm and a shipwreck in Acts 27.

SLEEPING THROUGH THE STORM. Similar to Jonah, Jesus gets in a boat with his disciples in order to cross the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35–41). Jesus, like Jonah, falls asleep and is deep in sleep during a violent storm. The disciples, like the sailors, fear for their lives and seek out their sleeping passenger to help them. Unlike Jonah, however, Jesus rises, rebukes the storm into silence, and then rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith. Undoubtedly told in such a way as to remind readers of the story of Jonah, this Gospel narrative relates how the disciples recognize Jesus' power to command the wind and sea, and, like the sailors when Jonah is cast into the sea, they turn and fear the Lord.

Theological Soundings

IRRESISTIBLE GOD. God's purposes will not be thwarted, nor, when "his hand is stretched out," can anyone turn it back (Isa. 14:27). This same sovereign power of God applies to his pursuit of his people: those whom God sets out to save and use for his purposes cannot resist him. This irresistibility applies to God's using those opposed to him — such as Pharaoh (Ex. 14:4), Joseph's brothers (Gen. 50:20), and even Jonah — to bring about his purposes. It applies especially to God's salvation of his people, ensuring that all those whom God sets out to save will indeed be saved by him (John 6:37).


Excerpted from "Knowing the Bible: Jonah, Micah, and Nahum, A 12-Week Study"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Crossway.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Series Preface J. I. Packer Lane T. Dennis 6

Week 1 Overview 7

Week 2 The Fear of the Lord (Jonah 1:1-2:10) 13

Week 3 Stubbornness and Repentance (Jonah 3:1-4:11) 21

Week 4 The Lord of Creation against His People (Micah 1:1-16) 29

Week 5 A Failure of Leadership (Micah 2:1-3:12) 37

Week 6 He Shall Be Their Peace (Micah 4:1-5:15) 45

Week 7 The Case against Israel (Micah 6:1-7:7) 53

Week 8 God's Steadfast Love (Micah 7:8-20) 61

Week 9 The Divine Warrior (Nahum 1:1-15) 67

Week 10 Behold, I Am against You (Nahum 2:1-13) 75

Week 11 The Shame of Sin (Nahum 3:1-19) 83

Week 12 Summary and Conclusion 91

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