The Book Of Jonah Essay, Research Paper
The book of Jonah differs from the books of all the other prophets in that its only message was addressed to the people of a foreign nation. Furthermore, the book is strictly narrative in form, and contains no direct message from God except His command to the Ninevites to repent. This is where Jonah’s role in the Bible takes place.
Jonah was a prophet from God, who at first tried to avoid that role by running away to from his quest, God, and responsibilities given to him by God. Jonah’s duty was to “Go to great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before it” (Jonah 1:2-3). Summoned to announce the doom of Nineveh, having no desire to go as a prophet to a foreign city, and being unconcerned about the conversion of its inhabitants–obviously with an invitation to repent, Jonah sets out in the opposite direction, for Tarshish (Jonah 3:510), intending to flee from the presence of God. The seeming hopelessness of the mission to Nineveh and of the prospect that its non-Israelite population might repent was another reason that led Jonah to shrink from the commission.
On his way to Tarshish on a ship, God sent a great wind on the sea, which scared the sailors, and made them question Jonah’s actions, because they knew that he was running away from God (Jonah 1:10). The only way to save the sailors from the rough see that was getting rougher was for him to be thrown in to the sea. He didn’t care what happened to him. He was sacrificing himself for the people, they would be safe and God wouldn’t use him as an instrument of the destruction. After the sailors threw him overboard the raging sea grew calm (Jonah 1:11-15). Jonah would have been finished anyway because he knows he has disobeyed God, but God has shown mercy to him
and “…provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for tree days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). This demonstration of physical courage stands in sharp contrast with Jonah s moral cowardice in attempting to run away from God.
After spending three days inside the fish with a prayer Jonah realized that salvation comes from God, and God commanded the fish to let Jonah onto land (Jonah 2:9-10). Then the word of God came to Jonah for the second time with the same message as the first. Jonah had pictured this state of affairs, it apparently being God’s intention to grant the nation a period of favor as an inducement to return to the true God. The Ninevites believed in God and the Ninevites repent, God spares the city (Jonah 3:5-10). Despite the mercy shown him, Jonah resents God s mercy extended to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 4:1-2), and is “very angry.”
In the first place, it condemns the intolerant prejudice of the Hebrew patriot, who refused to admit that non-Israelites could be considered eligible to salvation. Also his distorted sense of values is evident from his utter indifference toward the Ninevites. Why should Jonah be the only one who gets a chance to repent? God is giving the Ninevites an opportunity to repent, and Jonah is being selfish and inconsiderate because in his own selfish way he thinks that the only nation and the only category of people that deserve to be saved are the Hebrew. His distorted sense of values is evident from his utter indifference toward the Ninevites and his great concern over the gourd that has withered. After realizing that his actions do not seem like the standard of a profit he wants his life to be taken away by God (Jonah 4:3). Still after those words, and after all of his actions Jonah manages to get angry at God, and for what? For being alive, or for saving a city?
Jonah’s actions don t explain why God’s great mercy was demonstrated in sparing the lives of the heathen seamen. In sparing Jonah’s life despite his disobedience. In giving the Ninevites an opportunity to repent and in averting punishment when they did so, and in His patient dealings with Jonah (Jonah 4:111). But by an object lesson God shows Jonah the folly of his attitude and justifies the decision to spare the people of Nineveh (Jonah 4:4 11). The narrative also reveals the simple means God often employs to accomplish His will (Jonah 1:4, 17; 2:10; 4:68).