Jonah revisited – from the OT to Christianity and Islam

Yes.  Jonah, the reluctant prophet with 4 short chapters, has ties to both Christianity and Islam.

This isn’t going at all like I expected when I started this project.  I went into it with the feeling that Muslims and Christians couldn’t possibly be talking about the same God.  And I expected to be writing about the evidence to prove that.  But the deeper I look, the more I realize that they did start with the same God.  The evidence is there – in the Old Testament.  In the history that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have in common.

Then something happened.  We learned about abrogation in my last post – Abrogation in the Qur’an.  Before looking at  The Abrogation of Jonah, let’s look at the impact of Jonah – how his actions and prophecy related to all three peoples – Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  Of course, in Jonah’s time, there were no Christians or Muslims.  But like so many OT prophecies, they existed at multiple levels.  There was the immediate impact – there was possibly a Messianic link – and finally “end times” events.  

But – while the actual religions were not there by name – the ancestors of those who would come to form them most certainly did exist.  And – they most certainly were addressed in the Jonah prophecy.  Jesus referred to the sign of Jonah.  And the city of Nineveh was in modern day Turkey.

With that in mind, let’s proceed.


OK – back to Jonah – again!

If you haven’t read the earlier references to Jonah – please do. Otherwise, this probably won’t make much sense. It’s best to start at the very beginning – but I encourage you to at least check out the Jonah references.  There is a list of the entire Islam series here.

So – If you have read any of the earlier articles, you’ve seen my encouragement to pray to –
the God of Abraham –
the God who heard Hagar –
the God who protected Ishmael.

I hope you’ve been doing that.

I’ve been praying to my God –
the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob –
to Isa –
and I have to say –
I’m really shocked as to where He has led me.

But –
I have to admit –
where He has led me does make sense.

It also answered a question that I’ve had for a long time –
something I’d noticed –
wondered what it meant –
came to a partial conclusion –
and He filled in the missing pieces in a way that is just so amazing.

See the invisible.  Believe the impossible.

The symmetry of it is mind boggling.
It all makes sense –
if it was possible.
It seems impossible.
But then – isn’t that what really shows it’s from God –
because only He can do the impossible.

If you’re not hooked now –
if you don’t want to read more –
please go pray first – then come back.

This isn’t an issue of the mind –
although it does require thinking.

This is an issue of the heart –
because it mostly involves feeling –
feeling the presence of God – Sakina, as Muslims call it.

[48:4] He is the One who places contentment into the hearts of believers to augment more faith, in addition to their faith. To GOD belongs all forces of the heavens and the earth. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.

In Hebrew – this word is Shekinah.

For Christians – we call the the presence of The Holy Spirit.

That’s what we need to really understand –
not some mental gymnastics –
not some debate among people –
but really examining God’s word.

And it goes beyond just seeing –
beyond just hearing –
even beyond just understanding –
but being able to live it.

Not that it’s going to be easy.
As one author put it –

“It is important that we see the invisible and believe for the impossible”.

Sounds impossible, right?

And yet –

When Isa was asked about whether a rich man could go to Heaven, He responded as follows, from Matthew 19:23-26 –

Mt 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Mt 19:25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Mt 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Seeing the invisible – believing the impossible –
these things are like the rich man getting into Heaven.
By ourselves – we can do none of these things.
But – with God –
if we have Sakina / Shekinah / the presence of the Holy Spirit-
All of these things are possible!

And so – let’s proceed to see how the impossible could be done.

And that takes us back to Jonah – again.

Quick Jonah Review

Remember how Jonah starts –

Jnh 1:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

Talk about impossible –
God actually wants Jonah – an Israelite – to go warn Nineveh – a land full of Ishmael’s descendants.  
To warn them that God is considering destroying them – with the intent that they turn away from their pagan gods – 
and turn towards the God of Abraham and Isaac!

You’ve got to be kidding – right?

Jonah apparently didn’t think God was kidding –
since we saw the following for his response to God –

Jnh 1:3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

Jonah didn’t want to do this!
No way did he want the Ninevites saved.
No way did he want His God saving them!
This was wrong – in his mind – and he didn’t want any part of it.

As we know –
after the little side trip in a ship that was about to sink –
and three days in the belly of the great fish –
Jonah did change his mind –
and grudgingly went to Nineveh.

Yes – Jonah – the Israelite –
preached to the people of Nineveh –
descendants of Ishmael –
predecessors of today’s Muslims –
to turn towards the God that he thought was “The God of Israel” (not the God of anyone else).

And what was even worse –

Jnh 3:3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. 4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

Jnh 3:6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

Jnh 3:10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

Yes –
the Ninevites believed –
they turned to this God that was supposedly the “God of the Israelites” –
and He did not destroy them.

(Note – As time went on – they turned away from Him –
and they were destroyed. However – the point is that when they turned to Him –
they were on the right path and He had compassion for them.)

And – as we remember – Jonah was none to happy about this.
He really wanted God to destroy them.

Jonah was mad that God killed the vine that was giving him shade – but would have been all to happy to have God kill all the people of Nineveh. But – remember God’s response to Jonah regarding this –

Jnh 4:10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

How could this be?

How could the God who chose the Hebrew people to be His special people be concerned for the people of Nineveh?

And yet – He was.

Is He still?

Or was this a fluke – just a one time thing to teach a lesson?

Joseph and Ishmael?

Let’s go back a bit –

Back to the time of another Hebrew person – Joseph.

Remember – Abraham was the father of Isaac and Ishmael.

Isaac was the father of Jacob and Esau.

And Jacob – who was later renamed “Israel” was the father of 12 sons –
one of whom was Joseph.

Joseph ended up in Egypt –
has some issues there –
but ends up pretty much in charge – #2 to the Pharaoh –
because of his ability from God to interpret dreams.

In that position –
he ends up saving both Egypt and the sons of Israel from a devastating famine.

Say what?
Joseph –
one of the sons of Israel –
saves the people of Egypt –
from where Ishmael’s wife came from –
who are now included among the world’s Muslims?

Again – although this took place earlier (in Genesis) –
we have an example of God using one of the Hebrew people to save the forefathers of today’s Muslims.

But – that’s not the only way it went.

Let’s look a bit into how Joseph ended up in this place –
how he got to Egypt in order to even be able to do what he did.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him –
and they did the following –

Joseph Sold by His Brothers

Ge 37:12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”

“Very well,” he replied.

Ge 37:14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

Ge 37:16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

Ge 37:17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

Ge 37:19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

Ge 37:21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

Ge 37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

Ge 37:25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

Ge 37:26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

Ge 37:28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Ge 37:29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

Ge 37:31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”

Ge 37:33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

Ge 37:34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.” So his father wept for him.

Ge 37:36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

That’s a rather long sequence, but did you catch that part in the middle –

27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites

Now we have the Ishmaelites – from whom today’s Muslims are descended –
saving Joseph – one of the sons of Israel – from death.

True – they didn’t know they were doing this –
but they did!

Furthermore –
by this act, the Ishmaelites ended up (again, unknowingly, but they did it) saving both the sons of Israel and their own people from the famine. And even that act – interpreting the dream and ending up with Joseph in charge of Egypt to prevent famine in the midst of an incredible drought – was cooperation between the predecessors of today’s Muslims and one of the sons of Israel.


Talk about impossible!

Are you starting to get really curious?
Are you starting to realize that God’s in control of all of this –
because it’s just too impossible to be random or coincidence?
Are you starting to feel just a little bit of Sakina?

There are other examples as well, such as we see in one of my favorite books – Daniel.
but having read and studied it multiple times –
and not actually seeing things quite this way –
it’s like now being able to see the invisible.

In spite of all the fighting that has gone on throughout history –
the survival of these two groups of people has also been intertwined throughout history.

Seriously? Ishmael? Back to Genesis

Again – how can this be?

Was not Ishmael cast off?
Was Ishmael not disowned by Abraham –
leaving him and his descendants as orphans – without a father?

To answer these questions –
let’s go back to Genesis again –
to revisit Abraham / Hagar / Ishmael / God – again.

Remember – Sarai wanted Abram to have a son –
and even though God said it would happen by her, she didn’t believe it.
So – she intervened and set it up for Abram to sleep with Hagar.
Sure enough – that worked.

But – it wasn’t what God had in mind.

Anyway – Sarai gets mad at Abraham because if the way things are progressing –

Ge 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

Ge 16:6 “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

Not going so well, is it?

Hagar runs away from Sarai (and Abram).

Then we see –

Ge 16:7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Ge 16:9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

Ge 16:11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:

“You are now with child

and you will have a son.

You shall name him Ishmael,

for the LORD has heard of your misery.

Ge 16:12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;

his hand will be against everyone

and everyone’s hand against him,

and he will live in hostility

toward all his brothers. ”

Ge 16:13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi ; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

Ge 16:15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

There’s a few things to note here –

First – things aren’t going to be all nice and smooth between Ishmael and his brothers –

Ge 16:12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;

his hand will be against everyone

and everyone’s hand against him,

and he will live in hostility

toward all his brothers. ”

Second – God gave Hagar his name – Ishmael.

There are two significant things about this act of giving the child a name before he was born.
1.  The meaning of the name –

You shall name him Ishmael,

for the LORD has heard of your misery.

Remember this – Ishmael’s name was given because the LORD heard of Hagar’s misery,

2.  Ishmael’s name was given by the LORD!

This is a very rare occurrence. I was able to identify six times when this happened in the Bible –

Ishmael – Genesis 16:11

Isaac – Genesis 17:19

Josiah – 1 Kings 13:2

Solomon – 1 Chronicles 22:9

John the Baptist – Luke 1:13

Jesus (Isa) – Matthew 1:21

Ishmael is in rare company here.

Further – he is the first to have been given a name by God before birth.

Somehow – it doesn’t seem likely that the first person God chose to give a name is someone who wasn’t going to be important. I mean – really – look at the company he’s in.

With that in mind – let’s fast forward just a little bit.

Hagar goes back to Sarai (and Abram).
Isaac is born.
There are sibling issues between Ishmael and Isaac –

Ge 21:8 The child <Isaac> grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

Uh Oh. Here we go again.

Ge 21:11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Ge 21:14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.

Yes – the covenant between God and Abraham will be through Isaac.

But – Abraham is still concerned about Ishmael.

God tells Abraham not to be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant.
Does that mean God doesn’t care about Ishmael & Hagar?

Some may take this meaning.
Others will keep reading.

Ge 21:13 I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Ge 21:14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.

So – yes – Ishmael is disinherited from Abraham.

Hagar and Ishmael are sent out with nothing but food and water.
And likely not much of either.
And then they went out to the desert.

But – were they really alone?

Ge 21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob.

Ge 21:17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Ge 21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Ge 21:20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

Apparently they were not alone –

Ge 21:17 God heard the boy crying

So we see that God heard Hagar –
and God heard Ishmael.

And then God tells Hagar that He’s going to make a great nation of Ishmael –
so apparently Ishmael isn’t to go away and never be heard from again –
and won’t be a minor figure –
but at some point – will be a great nation.
Hold onto that thought – it will come back in a future article.

But look at what happens next –

Ge 21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Are you feeling Sakina yet?
If not –
may I gently suggest that you check whether you’re reading with you’re mind – or you’re heart.
Remember – God gave you you’re mind.
He wants you’re heart –
but you have to choose whether or not to give it to Him.

Remember that line I had towards the beginning of this article –
the one line I took from a very informative book –
and it wasn’t like I was consciously thinking of using it here –
it just seemed like probably the single most important thing he wrote –
so I put it in the article.

Here is that line –

“It is important that we see the invisible and believe for the impossible”.


See the invisible.

Believe the impossible.

Hagar and Ishmael are about to die of thirst.

There’s a well right there next to them.

But they cannot see it.

Until God allows them to.

Ishmael cries out to God –
God hears Ishmael –

and the invisible becomes visible!

Impossible – right?

“It is important that we see the invisible and believe for the impossible”.

Ge 21:17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Ge 21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Something to think about

I want to leave you with a couple things to think about –

first thought

God said Ishmael would be a great nation.
Hagar was told to leave Abram.
She did.
God told her to go back to Abram.
She did.
Hagar was told to leave Abraham – with Ishmael – with no inheritance.
They did.

But – God said Ishmael would be a great nation.

Ishmael was about to die of thirst –
but God heard his cry –
and made invisible water visible.

So – what does that mean for today?

The other thought 

Invisible water –
that can be made “visible” –
if we ask for it.

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re a Christian – you should be able to get this one.

If you’re a Muslim – you should be very interested in what this has to do with you.

What if it ties the two things together –
Ishmael being a great nation –
and the well of water being made visible.

Pray about these things –
as I’ve said – not with you’re mind, but with your heart.

Pray to the God of Abraham,
the God who heard Hagar –
the God who heard Ishmael –
the God who said He would make Ishmael a great nation.

Pray that He will make the answer to this mystery visible to you.

I’ll be praying with you – and for you.

<To be continued…>

This is part of a continuing series looking at The Qur’an and The Bible to see the relationship between Islam and Christianity.
Click here to see a page listing the current posts, with a short description of each.
The plan is to at least start by going through the Qur’an, in the order in which each of the Sura’s was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.


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