Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet

Jonah's Disobedience and Flight

Jonah was the reluctant prophet as he knew what happens to all prophets and he was called not to give oracles to his jewish brethren, but to the people of Assyria, in the city of Nineveh in Persia; a city of sin and of gentiles. Most of Jonah's work was done in the post-exilic period (after 539 BCE). Despite doing all he could to run away and fail, he could not ignore God's will.

Jonah sleeps

Jonah, being a "xenophobic Jew, who understands the Lord as a supreme national god, a god who should stand with his people against his and their gentile enemies." Jonah tried running from the Lord, via ship, the Lord hurled a mighty storm upon the sea and threatened to break up. The mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. The captain woke Jonah, told him to call on his god. The crew cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. When Jonah told the crew who he was, they were even more frightened. They knew why the seas were so tempestuous. Jonah told the crew to throw him overboard and the seas shall be still. So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea.

Jonah being spewed onto dry land

The lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three day and three nights (1:17). Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, a Psalm of Thanksgiving(2:1-10). The fish appears as an instrument of divine judgement taking the prophet down to Sheol, three days and three nights is the traditional time to travel to and from the underworld. The three days in the belly of the fish could also symbolize the three days Christ was in the tomb. Then the Lord spoke to the fish and it spewed Jonah upon the dry land.

Conversion of Nineveh

"Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message I tell you." So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh. Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days walk across. Going a day's walk he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone great and small, put on sackcloth. The king of Nineveh also removed his robe, covered himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes. By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. Human beings and animals shall be covered in sackcloth and cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from violence that is in their hands. God may relent and change his mind. When God saw what they did, how they turned their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. in reference to the wearing of sackcloth and ashes, it is a traditional acts of repentance.

Jonah's Anger

Jonah was still displeased and angry as having saved Nineveh, again he asked the Lord to take his life, saying "you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing." The Lord responded" Is it right for you to be angry?" Jonah left the city and made a secure shelter, waiting to see what would become of the city, certain the city will fall back to its old ways. God gave a bush to Jonah to cover his head from the sun and to supply shade and further shelter from the elements. When the sun rose the next day God appointed worms to attack the bush and made it wither. God then prepared a sultry east wind, and sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. Again he said "It is better for me to die than to live."

Jonah was Reproved

Again God said to Jonah, "is it right for you to be angry?" Jonah responded, "Yes, angry enough to die." God tells Jonah, " You are concerned about a bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and so many animals?"

Final Reflection

Both readings that were studied for this (Carvalho and The HarperCollins Study Bible), state The book of Jonah was a farce and was used for comedic relief. In a sense I was able to see that particular angle, However on reflection I was able to see many similarities in different text in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. And some not so many differences. Most glaring was in 2Kings 14:25, we learn that Jonah was the son of Amittai in 786-746 BCE. This is two hundred years difference. How could Jonah's father have been a court prophet two hundred years sooner that the time the story of Jonah was written. And the similarities included the three days in the belly of the fish, on two accounts we hear three days compares to the time it took to go to the underworld and back and also the three days Jesus spent in the tomb. We also here the similarity with the bush in chapter 4, we can compare that with Moses and his burning bush, as well as the words Moses used in Ex 34:6-7. Jonah accuses God of having too much "steadfast love".

Created By
Richard Stello


Created with images by NazarethCollege - "Sunbeams and A Kite Over Jaffa" • Fæ - "Jonah Thrown to the Whale LACMA M.82.120.2" • Fæ - "Jonah Spat Up by the Whale LACMA M.82.120.3" • History Maps - "Mesopotamia - Nineveh Restored" • Arian Zwegers - "Petra, the Monastery" • Senol Demir - "River Dicle from Hasankeyf" • james j8246 - "dead but still angry desert poplar"

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