Background: Israel, Assyria, and Jonah
To set the historical context, remember that the kingdom of Israel split in the time of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. Rehoboam remained king of what was called the Southern Kingdom, or Judah, consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the Levites. Jeroboam I became king of what was henceforth referred to as the Northern Kingdom, or Israel, consisting of the other ten tribes. Jonah lived among the people of the Northern Kingdom.
Jonah was no stranger to God’s call when Jehovah spoke to him and sent him to Nineveh. Jonah was a prophet to the king of Israel, Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25). Historians place Jeroboam II as king near 750 BC. This coincided with one of the periods of Assyrian decline mentioned in last week’s post. Jonah’s home of origin, Gath Hepher also gives us a clue about his lineage. Gath Hepher was a town in the region that was given to the tribe of Zebulun during the conquest. It is very likely, then, that Jonah was of the tribe of Zebulun.