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זרע זה מלך המשיח מדרש רבה כג ה
that Moshiach, through his sufferings, will win our victory over Satan.)
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IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE TREE OF LIFE (ETZ CHAYIM), MAY WE FIRST SHOW YOU THE TREE OF DEATH?
THE SIGN OF JONAH
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Why your soul's salvation hangs on the inerrancy of the Bible
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First let's get something clear about erroneous notions of Paul and his founding a new religion, which he didn't. True, the halakhah of his Judaism switched from the Pharisaic oral law to the Ruach Hakodesh, but his religion was still one of the Judaisms of the time, not a new non-Judaism Gentile religion.
The point of the story is that G-d loves more people than know
it, and those that know it don't know the half of it. But the
problem is that His prophets and preachers tend to be
narrow-minded, touchy, selfish, racially biased vindictive little
prima dons and therefore G-d has to work miracles as fast as a
magician (out of his hat G-d pulls a wind, a lottery draw, a
submarine fish, a revival, a quick-growing castor-oil plant and a
worm) to get any use out of his hard-to-manage ministers.
In 1:3 we see that Jonah didn't want to preach to his people's
traditional enemies because he wanted G-d to judge them and he
knew a forgiving G-d like his would not judge them if they
believed Jonah's message and repented. This is so typical today
of the religious feelings of many Christians against Jews, Jews
against Christians, and Muslims against both and vice versa.
Whereas Jonah was a Jew with these kinds of feelings toward
non-Jews, today we are in a reverse situation: we know Jews are
guilty of rejecting the Moshiach so we don't preach to them
because we want prophecy to be fulfilled against them. We know
Muslims are guilty of rejecting the prophetic finality of
Moshiach Yehoshua's coming so we don't preach to them because we
want prophesy to be fulfilled against them. What petty little
religious Jonahs we all are! And no wonder this religious hatred
has desolated Lebanon in our generation and threatens to ignite
the Middle East into World War III. The book of Jonah shows that
G-d wants reconciliation and peace between G-d and man and
between man and his fellow men, and this little book shows the
folly of disobeying G-d and backsliding away from G-d's Matthew
28:19-20 Great Commission. What madness that Jonah would trust
his own opinion and a fragile little boat in a precarious sea
more than the wisdom of a compassionate omnicient G-d who
commends him to preach salvation to even Israel's enemies.
Shliach Sha'ul must have been thinking of what happened to Jonah
when he said, "Woe to me if I preach not the Besuras Hageulah!"
(I Cor. 9:16).
Joppa, where this story really sets sail, is also the scene in
Acts 10 and 15:6-11 where another maggid (preacher) named Simon
Shliach Kefa son of Jonah had to learn Jonah's lesson...a maggid
(preacher) not like Jonah, the man caught by a fish, but like the
other Shluchim, a fisher catching men. Shliach Kefa had to learn
that in this world's Jewish/non-Jewish confrontation, G-d is not
a respecter of persons but draws near to any who are willing to
repent. The author of the book of Jonah ironically emphasizes the
G-d-fearing quality of the pagan sailors and contrasts their fear
of G-d (and that of the Ninevites) with the brazen
presumptuousness of the disobedient and uncompassionate prophet
Jonah. Like the voyage narrative at the conclusion of the book of
Acts, the author is making the subtle point in chapter one of the
book of Jonah that we of the human race are all in this little
boat of life together, and that unless we listen to G-d's
prophecy we will all alike perish. However, we see that very
often G-d has to send a wind of tribulation to get His prophet to
spit out the saving message (just as He had to cause the big fish
to spit out the prophet!), and, since we all tend to be Jonahs
most of the time, we can understand why Shliach Sha'ul warned all
believers that we must go through much tribulation to enter the
Kingdom of G-d (Acts 14:22).
Look at 1:7. Have you ever noticed how the unbelievers who are
in the same existential boat with you always find out you are a
believer--even when, like Jonah, you try to hide it?
There are many unbelievers, even many among college-educated
Bible scholars. Unfortunately, Moshiach Yehoshua was not
college-educated, so he thought this "big fish" story was
historical, whereas our modern college-educated Bible scholars
assure both us and G-d that this "big fish" story did not really
happen. Like Jonah, our preachers trust their own notions more
than G-d's miraculous Word. However, there have been incidents
recorded of people survivng being swallowed by sperm whales,
which could be large enough to swallow a living man "if he
managed to negotiate the air-supply tract of the mammal and reach
the great laryngeal pouch" (R.K. Harrison, Introduction, p.907).
The story of Jonah has the literary density of meaning to provide
a parabolic moral lesson or an allegorical picture of a
disobedient chosen prophet of a disobedient chosen people who
must be chastened in death and resurrection in order to be a
witness to the rest of the world's remnant (which G-d has also
chosen to save). Thus the book provides a subtle rationale for
why the Exile had to happen: to move Israel from idolatry to a
more universal vision of their service to a world-embracing G-d.
Yet, there is no reason to eliminate the spiritual biography of
the historical Jonah, an anti-hero like Shliach Kefa in the
Besuras Hageulahs and Shliach Sha'ul in the early part of Acts.
Those who deny the story any veracity have an anti-supernatural
bias, that is not particularly modern or sophisticated.
On the contrary, what happened to Jonah is a key historical
"sign" of the central historical miracle of the Bible--the
sacrificial death and saving resurrection of the Messianic
prophet who is greater than Jonah (Moshiach Yehoshua), and the
men of Ninevah will stand up at the judgment and rebuke the
unbelievers of our generation as worse than them, far they
apparently repented when they believed Jonah's testimony of his
resurrection from the sea, whereas "someone greater than Jonah
(Moshiach Yehoshua) is here" with a greater burial-tevilah and
resurrection (Matthew 12:38-41). The repentant Gentiles of
Ninevah will one day rebuke the Jewish rabbis of our day who say
that the Jewish Bible knows nothing of a buried and resurrected
prophet type of Moshiach; foregleamings of this type of prophet
are found not only in Psalms 16, 22, Isa. 53 and Gen. 37:24 but
also in Jer. 38:5-9, to say nothing of the motif of national
burial-exile and resurrection-return in the pre-exilic prophets
and in places like Ezekiel 37. The picture of death swallowing
and then vomiting up a prophet is the most graphic predictive
sign of the death and resurrection of the Moshiach that we could
expect in the Tanakh. The "three days and three nights" of Jon.
1:17 is the time period after which decomposition of the body
begins (see Yochanan 11:39 and Hos. 6:1-3). The fundamentals of
the Good News entail the fact that G-d raised the Moshiach on the
third day (I Cor. 15:4), since the Moshiach was to die but his
body was not to see corruption (Ps. 16:10). Notice that Jonah
gets to this extreme point of desperation before he even prays
about his condition of being stubbornly out of the will of G-d
(Jon. 2:1; compare 1:5-6).
Since Jonah is an important character in the Qur'an (37:139-148;
68:48f; etc.), here is an important point for witness to Muslims
as well. Actually Jonah, ministering ca. 800-750 B.C. did
prophesy that Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) would expand the
northern kingdom (II Kg. 14:25), but what happened to Jonah is as
important as anything he ever prophesied. This is also true of
Yehoshua. This is also true of each of us, and is why we should
never tire of giving our personal testimony of what happened to
us when Moshiach Yehoshua came into our lives.
But apparently Jonah was a small man (small enough to be
swallowed) and in 3:3 he apparently felt swallowed up by a vast
metropolis. He had a great testimony of a great personal
deliverance, but the city was so large how could he be equal to
the task? How many days would it take a street preacher to preach
across your city? How many days would it take a visitor to
minister to people house to house? Verse 4 says that "he started
out" and apparently he took it one day at a time in some
systematic fashion that G-d revealed to him, and G-d gave him an
audience with people who gave him a bigger audience until even
the king had heard and was his ally. Thus a great revival came to
a city because one man finally (end unheroically) obeyed G-d.
Look at 2:7. G-d used an instrument of certain death--a great
fish--to save both his prophet and the Ninevites out of the
primal waters of chaos and death, just as later G-d used another
instrument of certain death--the wood of Golgotha--to save us
Look at 4:10. The "Gardener" of Ninevah, the Creator of all men,
rebukes the self-centered and ethnically prejudiced mourner of a
castor bean plant for his lack of compassion and love for G-d's
planting, Ninevah. Jonah is so blind (he is a type of that blind
Servant of the L-rd Israel seen so clearly in the second half of
Isaiah) that he cannot even see his own great personal investment
in G-d's "Garden" Ninevah and all the many trials and tests that
constitute Jonah's personal stake in G-d's harvest. What blind
laborers we are! We cannot even see and properly weigh our own
struggles! So it is that many ministers, after pouring out vast
energy for many years, sometimes backslide at the end of their
ministry, like a rich man stupidly discarding his hard-earned
bank deposit book. The point is that we who have been called by
G-d have been called not as an end in itself but as a means to
call others. G-d wants us to know his heart for the lost and to
share it so that His promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3) would be
fulfilled: that all the peoples of the earth would not be enemies
but would bless themselves in one another as fellow heirs of
The Moshiach is the Prophet like Moses, the Prophet like Jonah,
whom Death swallows and then vomits up: Moshiach the Firstborn
from the dead, the King of Kings, who does not see death's
corruption. Instead He sees the light of resurrection light and
divides its booty with those He makes righteous by bearing away
the curse of their wicked depravity. See Deut. 18:15-18; Isa.
49:9-10; Hos. 11:1; Ps. 89:27; 16:10; 21:5; 61:7; 89:4; Isa.
53:5, 10-12; Gen. 22:4; Hos. 6:2; Amos 9:11.
Note well: Jon. 1:14. People are perishing because of disobedient
street preachers who don't go.
Jonah has to have reality splashed in his face to wake up. He has
to be reminded of G-d's having personally saved him (Jon. 2:6)
from the pit. He has to repent of stubborn disobedience and he
has to stop forsaking his true loyalty (Jon. 2:8). Read Jon.
chps. 2-3 again. Notice: the street preacher changes his mind,
the people hear and change their mind, and then G-d relents and
changes his mind, all as a result of forsaking stubbornness
regarding preaching on the street.
Notice: the street preacher is often angry, and G-d may put
righteous anger in his heart. However, he may be angry about the
wrong things. Jonah was (see Jon. 4:l-4). Does G-d not have a
right to be angry if his street preachers don't obey Him and
don't show His compassion for the work of his hands, his lost
sheep that he so urgently desires to be found? (See Jon.
JONAH 1:17b (HEBREW 2:lb)
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three
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