Warning: You are using an old browser. For the sake of the entire Internet and to ensure all functionality works properly, please upgrade your browser.

Upgrade Internet Explorer Download Google Chrome

Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Jonah 1-4

Story Summary

Jonah has 4 chapters and is divided neatly in 4 acts - like 4 acts of a play. Jonah is a relatively easy book to read, and reading it is the best way to get a feel for the story. But below we will give you a structure and some historical background of the book.

Act 1 - Jonah Disobeys God

God told Jonah to go preach a message of repentance to the people of Ninevah. Jonah was a prophet in Israel (the Northern Kingdom, see 2 Kings 14:25). Ninevah was a city in Assyria. It is important to note that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was at odds with Assyria and Ninevah was a great city in Assyria. Some time after this story of Jonah and the Ninevites, the Assyrians attacked Israel and led them into captivity. Assyria was responsible for the ultimate demise of the Northern Kingdom (we will learn about that in a future lesson).

Jonah was fleeing to Tarshish when his voyage was interrupted by the fish. Tarshish is 2200 miles away from Joppa. Ninevah was about 600 miles from Joppa. Jonah really wanted to run away!

Act 2 - Jonah Prays and God Delivers Him from the Fish

Jonah repented from inside the fish. He acknowledged who God was and committed to him that he would do what God asked him to do. This is where the story usually ends when people re-tell it. But there are 2 more acts to go!

Acts 3 - Ninevah Repents

Ninevah actually heard Jonah's message (not exactly a thoroughly-prepared "relevant" message: "In 40 days Nineveh will be destroyed."). The people fasted and prayed. The king of Ninevah got into the action as well and declared a city-wide fast (including the animals!). God responded by not destroying the city.

Acts 4 - God Relents and Jonah Sulks 

Jonah preaches, an entire city repents, God relents, and Jonah is upset? Jonah left Ninevah and went to a place overlooking the city. He made a "booth", or a shelter to give himself shade and sat waiting to see if Ninevah was really going to be destroyed. First, God miraculously sent a vine (just like the sent a fish to swallow Jonah) to grow over Jonah's booth to make him more comfortable. But then he took it away by sending a worm and he sent a dry, hot wind. Jonah was more concerned with his own comfort than seeing God work in the lives of the Ninevites.

 

Most only concern themselves with Jonah and the fish in this story. But God actually sent at least 6 of His created things to accomplish his purpose. He sent Jonah to Ninevah, a storm to his boat, the fish to swallow Jonah, the vine to give Jonah comfort, the worm to destroy the vine, and the scorching east wind.

What You Will Need

Snack Suggestion
goldfish crackers

Resource Sheet

Jonah Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts the journey Jonah took in running from God and eventually obeying him to prophesy to the Ninevites

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

Have you ever been fishing? What is the biggest fish you have ever caught? Or have you ever been swimming in a lake with fish?

Today, we are going to learn about a man named Jonah who got up close and personal with a fish for 3 days!

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or tell the story yourself.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Jonah 1:1-17; Jonah 2:9-10; Jonah 3:1-5; Jonah 4:5-10

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Where did God want Jonah to preach? (Ninevah)
  • What was Jonah to tell the Ninevites? (that in 40 days, God was going to destroy their city)
  • What country was Ninevah in? (Assyria)
  • Why didn't Jonah want to go to Ninevah? (The Israelites hated the Assyrians)
  • Where did Jonah go instead? (to Tarshish, 2200 miles away)
  • How did God stop Jonah from going to Tarshish (by sending a storm to Jonah and a fish to swallow him)
  • When did God have the fish spit Jonah out of the fish? (when he repented and agreed to go to Ninevah)
  • How did the Ninevites respond to Jonah's message? (they repented, fasted and prayed)
  • What was Jonah's reaction when God relented after the Ninevites repented? (he was angry because he hated the Ninevites)
  • What did Jonah do next? (he went and sulked on a hill, under a shelter he built, overlooking Ninevah, waiting for it to be destroyed)
  • What did God send to Jonah next? (a vine to cover his shelter to shield him from the shade)
  • When what did God send? (a worm to chew up the vine and a scorching east wind to make Jonah uncomfortable)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this story, God did not punish the Ninevites after they changed their mind and repented (they agreed with God that what they were doing was evil)
  • We can repent from our sins and ask God to forgive us our sins. When we do, he is faithful and will forgive them.

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9-10

Reinforcement Activities

Pin Jonah in Ninevah

Scripture Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah 3:3

Supplies laminated picture of city, picture of Jonah, blindfold

  • Blindfold one child at a time.
  • Have them try and place Jonah in Ninevah.

Sailor hat

Scripture 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 1:3

Supplies paper

  • Follow directions to make a sailor hat.

Jonah in the Belly of Fish

Scripture Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

Supplies blue balloons, Jonah picture, tail printout, permanent marer

  • Push Jonah cutout into balloon, prior to blowing up.
  • Blow up a blue balloon for each child.
  • Glue tail to top of balloon.
  • Add and eye and mouth with permanent marker.

Whale eating Jonah

Heads up! print the whale and Jonah for the kids to color and cut. gather supplies

Scripture But the Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

Supplies construction paper, printouts of Jonah and the whale, paint or crayons/markers/colored pencils. string, hole punch, glue, scissors

  • follow instructions at
  • http://www.pouredouthislove.com/jonah-and-the-giant-fish-kids-craft#.UbgSNbG9KSM

Make a Shelter

Scripture Jonah left the city. He sat down at a place east of it. There he put some branches over his head. He sat in their shade. He waited to see what would happen to the city. Jonah 4:5

Supplies sticks, leaves, vines, twine, tape, hot glue gun

  • Provide sticks, leaves, vines, etc for students to build a shelter.

Hide and Seek

Scripture 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 1:3

  • Jonah tried to hide from God.
  • Play hide and seek.

Clothespin Fish

Scripture But the Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

Supplies clothespins, Jonah pattern, fish pattern, glue, crayons or markers

  • Color fish and Jonah and cut out.
  • Glue fish to one side of clothespin.
  • Place bottom of the mouth to the lower part of clothespin.
  • Place the head and body on the top part of clothespin.
  • Glue Jonah on the other die of the clothespin.
Clothespin Fish Example

Spitting Contest

Heads up! Use a tarp or cloth for inside play

Scripture The Lord gave the fish a command. And it spit Jonah up onto dry land. Jonah 2:10

Supplies gummy bears

  • Jonah was spit onto dry land by the big fish.
  • Give each student a gummy bear and see how far they can spit it.
  • Have each student line up on the starting line.
  • Have students spit bears one at a time.

Blanket Fort Shelter

Scripture Jonah left the city. He sat down at a place east of it. There he put some branches over his head. He sat in their shade. He waited to see what would happen to the city. Jonah 4:5

Supplies sheets, blankets

  • Make a "booth" or "shelter" from the story with blankets or sheets while talking about the story.