I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice
and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with
him, and he with Me."
Rev. 3: 20
Disobedience and Punishment
Now the word of the LORD
came to Jonah the son of Amittai (Matay), saying, "Arise,
go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it;
for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah
arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish;
so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with
them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
The Storm at Sea
But the LORD sent out a
great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on
the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.
mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god,
and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to
lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest
parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.
So the captain
came to him, and said to him, "What do you mean, sleeper?
Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider
us, so that we may not perish."
And they said
to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know
for whose cause this trouble has come upon us." So they
cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to
him, "Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon
us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from?
What is your country? And of what people are you?"
So he said to
them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of
heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
Jonah Thrown into
Then the men were
exceedingly afraid, and said to him, "Why have you done
this?" For the men knew that he fled from the presence of
the LORD, because he had told them.
11Then they said to him,
"What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for
us?"--for the sea was growing more tempestuous.
And he said to them,
"Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will
become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is
because of me."
Nevertheless the men
rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the
sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them.
Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, "We pray, O
LORD, please do not let us perish for this man's life, and
do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD,
have done as it pleased You." So they picked up Jonah and
threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its
raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and
offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.
Jonah's Prayer and
Now the LORD had prepared a
great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of
the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah's Prayer and
Then Jonah prayed to the
LORD his God from the fish's belly. And he said:
"I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
"Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
Then I said, "I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.'
The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD, my God.
"When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.
"Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD."
So the LORD spoke to the
fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah Preaches at Nineveh
Now the word of the LORD
came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to
Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message
that I tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh,
according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an
exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And
Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk.
Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh
shall be overthrown!"
The People of Nineveh
So the people of Nineveh
believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth,
from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to
the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid
aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in
ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published
throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his
Let neither man nor
beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them
eat, or drink water. 8But
let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry
mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way
and from the violence that is in his hands.
9Who can tell if God will
turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so
that we may not perish?
Then God saw their
works, that they turned from their evil way; and God
relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring
upon them, and He did not do it.
Jonah's Anger and God's Kindness
But it displeased Jonah
exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the
LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I
was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to
Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful
God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One
who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please
take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than
Then the LORD said, "Is
it right for you to be angry?"
So Jonah went out of the
city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made
himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he
might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God
prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it
might be shade for his head to deliver him from his
misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as
morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so
damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when
the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and
the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint. Then
he wished death for himself, and said, "It is better for
me to die than to live."
Then God said to Jonah,
"Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"
And he said, "It is
right for me to be angry, even to death!"
But the LORD said, "You
have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored,
nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in
a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city,
in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand
persons who cannot discern between their right hand and
their left--and much livestock?" Book of Jonah
Reading from the New Testament
Acts 9: 1-22; Epistle of: 1
Timothy 2: 1-15
The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch tradition attaches great significance to
the Fast of Ninevities and three days of Jonah the prophet, which is followed by
the Sunday of the departed priests and the Sunday of faithful departed before we
enter the Great Lent. The story of Jonah
the prophet and Nineveh people is written in this site as it is in the Book of Jonah in the Old
(In fact, all we know about Jonah himself
comes just from his book and a single reference to him in 2Kings 14:25.)
Succinctly put, the Church sees within this book's simple story an icon of
Christ symbolically represented.
The Example Of Jonah
To illustrate how deceptive this attitude of the heart can
be, we find that the even the prophet Jonah was deceived by it. Jonah’s
Pharisaic attitude surfaced when God called him to go and preach to the Gentiles
living in the city of Nineveh. To see how wrong this attitude is and how God
feels about the lost, let us read what happened with Jonah, the people of
Nineveh and God.
We begin by reading God’s call to Jonah to go and preach to
the inhabitants of Nineveh. Jonah 1:1-3
The reason Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh was because he
knew that God was merciful and compassionate, and since the people living in
Nineveh (the Assyrians) were enemies of Israel, Jonah did not want to associate
with them or see them saved. In other words, Jonah did not want to preach in
Nineveh because not only were they not Jewish but they were also enemies of the
However, God did not allow Jonah to run away from His call.
Instead God caused a major storm to arise and threaten the safety of the ship.
Realizing that he was the reason for the storm and not wanting the people on
board to perish, Jonah insisted that he be thrown overboard. Once in the sea,
God commanded a large fish to swallow Jonah. While in the belly of the fish
Jonah cried out to God to save him. Hearing Jonah's cry, God commanded the fish
to vomit Jonah up on dry land. After Jonah's ordeal in the fish, he obeyed God's
command and preached to the people living in Nineveh. Even though Jonah obeyed
God, he still did not do it motivated by love or mercy for the people in
Nineveh. To see this let us read what happened between Jonah and God after Jonah
finished preaching in the city of Nineveh.
Let us notice the following verses, Jonah
10 … Because the people of Nineveh repented as a result
of Jonah’s preaching, God did not bring upon them the destruction that He
2 … This was the very reason why Jonah did not want to go
to Nineveh. He knew that God would do this. In other words, even with seeing
God’s blessing being extended to the people of Nineveh, Jonah was still
angry. He obviously went and preached in Nineveh out of pure obedience to
God, that is as a sacrifice not out of love or concern for the people.
Remember, to get him to go, God had a large fish swallow Jonah for three
days and nights. In other words, Jonah got the message that he was to go to
Nineveh, but he was not happy about it.
6 … In order to teach Jonah and us of how wrong an
attitude this is, God first provided Jonah a vine to shade him from the
7-8 … Then God took the vine away so that the heat and
wind would bear down upon Jonah’s head. As a result, Jonah became very angry
because he no longer had the comfort from the shade of the vine.
9-11 … In other words, God was revealing to Jonah and us
that he, Jonah, had more concern for something that provided him comfort or
relief than he did for a multitude of people who were lost and about to
perish. To see this, prayerfully read what our Lord said in verses 10 and
How could such a "cute" story about an
unwilling prophet who gets swallowed by a fish when he tries to escape doing
God's will carry such a profound meaning? Unlike other prophetic books, the
Book of Jonah does not contain "words of prophecy," as such, but rather it tells
a tale of Jonah's personal encounter with the Lord. Using a story motif,
Jonah's prophecy speaks to us not with words but with symbols as we saw. Reading these
symbols spiritually, we behold the mystery of salvation in Christ exemplified in
imagistic types. Indeed, it is no wonder that this book also portrays a unique
instance in the Old Testament of God's love and concern not just for His own
people, Israel, but for a nation of Gentiles who were actually Israel's
enemies. Here again we find an archetype of Christ's mission of salvation
extending beyond Israel to embrace the whole world, all the enemies of God.
"let us recall the message arising from readings of the day.
The reading from the Acts bring back our memory of the experience on the Road to
Damascus. In acts the messenger, Saul, was not running away from his errand. On the
other hand he was trying to run it meticulously. However he did not know that he
was moving against God's plan for him. Therefore God intervened directly, as
through the storm and the whale in the case of Jonah. Unlike Jonah who grieved
even after the ship and whale experience Saul willingly surrendered himself to
be made Paul. Jonah had preached halfheartedly as evidenced by his dialogue
later, but Paul did it enthusiastically as we see from the Pauline Reading of
the day (2 Corinthians 4).
The Gospel is the clear path giver in the
circumstances for the Jonahs and the Sauls that we are. In Mark we hear about
the response of the early disciples who left their entire world behind to follow
an unknown carpenter. Something told them that here was a carpenter who could
build boats for them to make them fishers of men. The Church seems to teach that
whether we are like Jonah who rebelled or Saul who went against the Will of God
albeit unknowingly God is out to rescue us, Jesus in search of Peters and
Andrews and Jameses and Johns, and that is the promise and that is where hope
finds its origin.
The crux of the message is that we shall
not be judgmental in our approach. Let us concentrate on this aspect week to
eliminate the tendency in us to judge others by our standards. Let God judge.
Let us become conduits of his mercy and compassion, and remove from our
personality whatever blocks and barricades we have erected knowingly or
unknowingly which go block God's unending compassion"
(Dr. D. Babu Paul) //www.socdigest.org
The Syriac Orthodox Church called
this fast after
Nineveh because the Ninevites were the first to practice such a fast praying for
God’s mercy and forgiveness.
fast used to be six days, but now is only three days starting on the third
Monday which precedes Lent.
The three day fast of
Nineveh commemorates the three days that Prophet Jonah spent inside the fish.
The Fast of Nineveh is ritualistically similar to the Fast of the
Historically, This fast
is one of the most rigorously observed fasts in the Syriac Orthodox Church,
and is unique to this Church. Began
to be practiced in our Church at least towards the fourth century A.D. This can
be inferred from the writings and hymns composed by St. Ephrem the Syrian (+373).
Mor Dionysius Bar Salibi (+1171) states that Mor Marutha of Tikrit (+649) was
the one who enjoined it on the Church of the East first in the region of
Nineveh. Mor Gregorios Bar Hebraeus states that the confirmation of this fast
was due to the crises the Church went through in Hirat. The Syriac people there fasted
three days and three nights, praying constantly according to the demand of
their bishop, and they were rescued from their ordeal by God.
Afterward, the fast of
Nineveh passed to other Oriental Churches such as Coptic and Armenian.
The Copts did the same during the
reign of the sixty-second Patriarch of Alexandria, Anba Abram Zaraa the Syrian. The Armenians
practice of the Syrians, calling it Sourp Sarkis.
This fast is highly favored among faithful.
In this fast, faithful
traditionally refrain from food and drink for three consecutive days, from
Monday till Wednesday! Some
faithful abstain from food and drink throughout the three days, receiving Holy
Communion on the third day and continuing to eat fasting food until Thursday
morning. The rest of the faithful abstain from having food till noon or till
late afternoon and afterwards eat fasting food.
The church enjoins all
faithful to at least refrain from meat, fish and dairy products during the
period of this fast. Prayers
which are sung to melodies of Lent usually accompany this fast.
Usually the faithful who kept this fast are
urged to attend the Divine Liturgy on Wednesday,
and receive the Holy
Qurbono (the Communion).
During this fast it is mandatory that we observe the feast carry out the
celebration of the Holy Liturgy in the morning as usual. The prayers of
Nineveh’s Fast are then said at noon. Abstinence from food ends directly after
the Liturgy by eating fasting food.
(Syriac Orthodox Book of Simple Prayer)
The Ninevites trembled
at the voice of Jonah, the son of Matay, and took refuge in penitence by
watching, fasting and prayer; and by tears and groans the sentence of judgment
pronounced by Jonah concerning the destruction of Nineveh was annulled. Blessed
be the Compassionate one who turned them from evil to good. (Thursday Evening
God, who heard the prayer
of the son of Matay in the sea and commanded the mighty fish to cast him up in
three days, hear our prayer and be reconciled with us and respond in your mercy
to our requests; and if we have angered you, there are those who will reconcile
you with us, the just who died for your love (Wednesday Morning Prayer).