This is a simplified version of the Bible story found in Jonah 3-4, written for children to understand. For the original version, please refer to the Bible passage.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Jonah. God spoke to Jonah and said, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
But Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He was afraid and didn’t think the people there would listen. So Jonah got on a ship going in the opposite direction of Nineveh.
But while he was on the ship, a big storm came and the sailors knew that something was wrong. They asked Jonah what was going on, and Jonah told them that he was running away from God. He said, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” The sailors were very scared and asked Jonah what they could do to stop the storm.
Jonah told them to throw him into the sea. He said, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” The sailors didn’t want to do it, but the storm was getting worse, so they threw Jonah into the sea.
As Jonah was sinking down into the water, a big fish swallowed him up! Jonah was inside the big fish for three days and three nights. While he was inside, he prayed to God and asked for forgiveness. Then God made the fish spit Jonah out onto the beach.
God spoke to Jonah again and said, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
This time Jonah listened to God. When he got to Nineveh, he walked around the city and called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
Amazingly, the people of Nineveh listened to Jonah! They stopped doing bad things and even fasted to show God they were sorry.
The king of Nineveh heard what Jonah had said and was very sorry for what he and his people had done. He made everyone wear sackcloth and ashes and prayed to God for forgiveness. He said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw that the people of Nineveh had turned away from their evil ways, He decided not to destroy the city. But this made Jonah very angry. He went outside the city and sat down to see what would happen. God made a plant grow up to give Jonah some shade, and Jonah was very happy about this.
But the next day, God sent a worm to eat the plant and it died. Then God sent a scorching wind and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head. Jonah was very unhappy about this, and he said to God, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”
Then God said to Jonah, “You feel bad about the plant that died, but you didn’t make it grow or take care of it. It was just here for a little while and then it was gone. Shouldn’t I feel bad for the people of Nineveh, who don’t know any better and don’t know the right way to live? I care about these 120,000 people, just like you cared about that little plant.”
God was reminding Jonah that even though he cared about the plant, God cared about the people of Nineveh even more. God wanted Jonah to see that His love and mercy extend to everyone, even those who are far from Him.
- God is merciful and forgiving, even to people who have done bad things.
- It’s important to listen to God and do what He says, even if it’s hard.
- It’s important to be sorry for the bad things we do and ask God for forgiveness.
- God cares about people, even those who don’t know Him yet.
- We should be grateful for the things God gives us, even if they’re just small things like a plant.