A bit of background…
Jonah did not like the Ninevites.
That is clear as day.
Just about everyone from Israel hated the Ninevites.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. In what we today know as Iraq. And this was during a time in history, when the Assyrians were constantly attacking Israel. The book of Isaiah, Chronicles, and 2 Kings (15 & 18) records multiple accounts of the Assyrians coming in, attacking, taking over, deporting people, taking what they want from whoever they wanted. So for this prophet from Israel, writing this story to other Israelites… the readers would have instantly agreed with Jonah “of course you should go the other direction. Those people are evil. We are at war with them. They have destroyed us, and walked over us and we don't WANT anything good to happen to them!”
Has that ever happened to you?
Has anybody ever hurt you so bad, that as far as you are concerned, you don’t even want them to change. You just want them to pay.
to be punished?
God was literally telling Jonah to go into the heart of the city of his biggest enemies.
So God called Jonah to Nineveh. and instead, Jonah gets on a boat, heading toward Tarshish.
Now… Nothing about this was an accident. As you will read in the extreme amount of details that we get in the first three verses of the book… Jonah started off in Joppa. So again, Jonah was from Israel. God calls him to this great city, Nineveh. A city Northeast of Joppa about 500 miles. A city that he did not need to get on a boat to get to. and instead, he goes to the port, and he jumps on a ship, heading for the place that is the farthest in the other direction that he could possibly go.
2000 miles away at the bottom part of what we now know to be Spain. It was a paradise. It would be like God calling me to Detroit, and instead I go to Maui. I have been there… and trust me, I wondered… God, are you sure you aren’t call me here? Jonah knew, God was calling him to the city. Instead of going where he was called, he set sail not only to the place that was the farthest possible place he knew of from Nineveh, but it also was a place where he could be lazy and passive and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation rather than be active in reconciling God’s GREATEST creation, people, back to God.