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Thematic Essay On The Book Of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is a special and interesting book in the Hebrew Bible. Unlike other eleven prophets’ books which focus on the prophecies from the Lord, the Book of Jonah is a book which focuses on the prophet himself. Jonah alone is the main human character in this book. The fours chapters are like four acts; together they tell a story about Jonah’s special travelling experience and portray the image of this running-away prophet.

However, the Book of Jonah does not tell the readers about Jonah’s life before he receives the words from God about the great city of Nineveh; neither does it tell us what happens after God’s answer to Jonah’s question. Surely it does not necessary mean that what happened before the words come to Jonah and what happens after God’s response to Jonah are not important, but the story of Jonah’s struggles of obeying God’s commands and God’s consistent love, patience and forgiveness are much more crucial.

The story of Jonah is considered happened during the age of the northern King Jeroboam II son of Jehoash because Jonah son of Amittai was mentioned as a servant of God during the reign of Jeroboam II in 2 King 14. Since the Book of Jonah does not have details about the story background, nor does it have a complete ending, it is like an independent story that even without it would not affect much about the Israel’s history. Instead of a true story of Prophet Jonah, some scholars would regard it as a tale or a work of imagination to teach the Israel about God.

The name “Jonah” means “dove” in Hebrew, and it is commonly accepted as the representation the “Jewish people as a whole”. It is possible that the Book of Jonah is a “symbolic writing” which only focuses on delivering the meaning of the story itself. Since the Book of Jonah is one of the twelve prophetic books, by using Jonah as a symbol of the Israel, I think the entire story of Jonah is the real prophecy in disguised in the Book of Jonah. The prophecy about the great city of Nineveh works as an instrument to show how Jonah responses to God’s commands and God’s mercy to gentiles.

My thesis is that the Book of Jonah is a reminder of God’s love, patience and salvation towards the Israel and the gentiles through God’s consistent patience and mercy towards Jonah and the Nineveh city in the story of Jonah. God’s Love Jonah was chosen as the prophet of the Lord to the foreign city Nineveh to ask them to turn away from their wickedness. In addition to the Book of Jonah, the name Jonah was only mentioned once in the 2 King 14.

Though scholars found that Jonah was the “son of prophets” (2 King 9) who anointed Jehu as the King, according to the records in the Hebrew Bible as well as the influences in the history, Jonah apparently was not as great as his teacher Elijah and Elisha. Nowhere in the Hebrew shows him as a righteous man as Abraham or Job, neither could we find any comments about Jonah. If Jonah was surely the one who anointed Jehu, according to 2 King 9, he did not ask any questions when Elijah asked him to anoint Jehu; and he “opened the door and ran” after anointing Jehu (verses 4, 10).

The main characters we could see from what this young prophet did were quite, obedient and shy. He did not look like an aggressive, eloquent prophet, however, God chose him as the speaker of God’s mercy to the people in the foreign city Nineveh. It is God’s trust, as well as God’s love to him. Same were the people of God, the Israelites, who were not as good as they were supposed to be, but God loved them and consistently forgave them as long as they repent. The Israelites were chosen by God, but they forgot God’s wonders on them and were disobedient. Same was Jonah. Why did Jonah flee from God? Scholars have different opinions.

Rabbi Zlotowitz and Rabbi Scherman thought that Jonah had two concerns: firstly, if the people in Nineveh repent after hearing God’s message, their obedience would made Israel look worse in the eyes of the Lord; secondly, though the Northern Kingdom reached its zenith of wealth and power in the reign of Jeroboam II, Assyria, in where Nineveh was the capital, would become a thread to the Northern Kingdom if they repent and fond favor in God’s eyes. Based on their study, Jonah’s disobedience was out of the love to his people. J. Ellul had similar interpretation based on the relationship between Israel and Assyria.

It was better for Nineveh to be destroyed other than becoming a thread to Israel. But Ellul thought that Jonah fled away from God because he wanted to break the connection to either God or Israel, even though he knew that the God of Israel is the only true God. As a prophet during the dynasty of Jehu, surely Jonah witnessed how disobedient Israelites were. When he faced the challenges, he turned away from God as his people did. If God just let Jonah go, the Book of Jonah would never exist. God loved Jonah and forgave him as soon as he repented, just as what God did to the Israelites. God shook Jonah’s ship to remind him of his mission.

God’s hand was so powerful that everyone in the ship was frightened. The storm did not stop until Jonah was thrown into the sea. As we all know, God provided a large fish to save him. However, God did not prepare a big fish waiting for Jonah as soon as he was thrown into the sea. Jonah experienced the darkness of the sea and the death. Only with the experience of death would Jonah knew his mistake and obeyed God. The love of God here was not a love of spoil, but a love of wisdom and justice. When Jonah finally realized that his life was in God and repented, God gave him a second chance to fulfil his mission.

God’s love is not only limited to the Israelites, but everyone he created. Not sure whether those people in the ship had heard of the God of heaven before, but they were blessed to experience and know the true God through Jonah’s disobedience. In chapter one verse 16 says the men in the ship “offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows”. God’s love is not only to these gentiles, but also the wicked people. Though the wickedness of Nineveh was so great that it came up before the Lord, God loves and treasures the innocent babies and kid so much that he wanted this wicked city to repent so God could save them with mercy.

Jonah was chosen as the speaker of God’s love and mercy; he was chosen as the instrument of Nineveh’s salvation. Even he ran away, God used storms to teach him a lesson and then forgave him after his repentance. And God’s word came to Jonah a second time. Jonah did as commended to warn the people in Nineveh. God’s love to the innocent people was not stop by human decisions. God gave the people in the Nineveh a new chance to repent. From Jonah’s prayer in the chapter four we could see that “God is abounding in steadfast love”.

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