Journey for Jonah

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					“A Journey with Jonah:
 One Gospel for Many
    Reed Lessing M.Div., S.T.M., Ph.D.
     Director of the Graduate School
 Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
    Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO
        Outline of Presentation
1.   Introduction
2.   Many Nations
3.   One Gospel
4.   The Book of Jonah

   Part 1


Jonah doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with any book in the
   Old Testament. Terrace Fretheim writes of Jonah: ―It has no
   exact counterpart in the Old Testament or in known literature
   from the ancient Near East.‖ The book is as elusive as it is
   deceptive. Augustine’s response to an inquiry made by a
   potential Christian convert perhaps gets at this best. ―What he
   asks about the resurrection of the dead could be settled … But if
   he thinks to solve all such questions as … those about Jonah …
   he little knows the limitations of human life or of his own.‖

Father Mapple in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick states: ―Even though Jonah is one of the
   smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures, the book is one of the most
   puzzling and intriguing of the entire Old Testament.‖ Though there are only 689
   words in the Hebrew text of Jonah, numerous complexities abound. Did the sailors
   really convert? And speaking of conversion, did the Ninevites really convert? And
   speaking of the Ninevites did their animals really repent? And speaking of animals,
   what’s this deal about a fish – could such an animal really swallow Jonah? And
   speaking about Jonah … well, you get the idea! In this puzzling and intriguing book
   we will journey with Jonah and meet a huge storm on the Mediterranean Sea, a hot
   east wind over distant lands, take a tour of Sheol, discover the insides of a great fish
   and watch a plant come and go in a day. Most surprising we will meet a God who has
   more love and grace and patience than we could ever imagine in his pursuit of
   reluctant and stubborn people like us. Let’s get started – or, to begin the punning –
   anchors away!

   Part 2

Many Nations

                    Many Nations
Garry Wills’ Pulitzer-Prize winning study on Abraham Lincoln’s
  most famous speech indicates the power of 272 words to bring
  about change; it is entitled Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That
  Remade America. Wills’ thesis is that Lincoln reframed how
  Americans ever since 1863 have construed their nation’s history
  and that he did this through a brilliant and polished speech that
  successfully and irrevocably reframed our history. Wills writes:
  ―Both North and South strove to win the battle for interpreting
  Gettysburg as soon as the physical battle had ended. Lincoln is
  after even larger game—he means to ―win‖ the whole Civil War
  in ideological terms as well as military ones. And he will succeed:
  the Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln wanted it to
  mean. Words had to complete the work of the guns.‖

                    Many Nations
Lincoln begins reframing American history at the very start of his
   speech when he declares, “Four score and seven years ago.” By using
   this seemingly benign, biblical-sounding way of naming a date
   for America’s beginnings—instead of more baldly stating, “In
   1776...” —Lincoln creates a sense that they are looking backward
   into America’s hallowed origins. By inviting those present to
   consider their ―hallowed past,‖ Lincoln makes it possible for
   them to transcend the actual events that have brought them to
   this cemetery, to step outside of the tragic moment long enough
   to consider the conception and birth of the United States of

                     Many Nations
So what has been reframed? After all, the United States celebrates
   the Fourth of July as a national holiday, annually marking its
   country’s birthday. So, other than being an interesting turn-of-
   phrase, what is the significance of Lincoln’s opening words? The
   importance of “Four score and seven” is that Lincoln sneaks in a
   different date for the origin of the American nation than the one
   in use by the people of his day, which was that of the Ratification of
   the Constitution. It is not so much that the country had ever
   been in the habit of celebrating ―Constitution-Signing Day‖, but
   that many if not most Americans in the mid-nineteenth century
   regarded the Constitution as the founding covenant of the
   United States, and as a result regarded the nation as being bound
   together by a signed compact between sovereign states.

                      Many Nations
The difference between, on the one hand, seeing the origins of the
  United States as issuing from a contractual agreement among
  separate parties—an agreement that presumably can be
  renegotiated and/or dissolved—and, on the other hand,
  regarding the origin as the creation of “a new nation, conceived in
  Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”—
  this difference is, so to speak, all the difference in the world .
  In the latter case, the United States begins its existence as an
  organic unity—a nation that undergoes a birth—springing from
  the transcendent state of liberty and christened by the likewise
  transcendent principle of equality. In this framework, the idea of
  individual states trying to secede from this one nation becomes
  akin to the idea of a hand, an ear, or an eye seeking to secede
  from its body.

                Many Nations
Wills goes on: ―But that was just the beginning of this
 complex transformation. Lincoln has prescinded from
 messy squabbles over constitutionality, sectionalism,
 property and states. Slavery is not mentioned, any more
 than Gettysburg is. The discussion is driven back and
 back, beyond the historical particulars, to great ideals
 that are made to grapple naked in an airy battle of the
 mind. Lincoln derives a new, a transcendental,
 significance from this bloody episode.‖

               Many Nations
It is astounding how this short speech, lasting
   perhaps three minutes, could so dramatically, so
   thoroughly reframe how Americans from that
   point forward have come to think about their
   history. Truly, as Wills concludes, ―Lincoln had
   revolutionized the Revolution, giving people a
   new past to live with that would change their
   future indefinitely.‖

                    Many Nations
The parallels between Lincoln’s speech and the book of Jonah are
  worth exploring. Both are short documents, easily covered in a
  matter of a few minutes. Both utilize their people’s historical
  traditions in order to paint a picture, not of some new thing being
  initiated, but of something bigger; of a history that in fact extends
  further back than they were cognizant of, a story of how things
  have always been since the beginning. Most importantly, in reframing
  history, both give people a new past to live with that would
  change their future indefinitely.

                        Many Nations
Prior to reading the book of Jonah, our ancient reader was, for all intents and
   purposes, informed by the view of history as put forward by the Pentateuch, a
   history framed by genealogies and progressive covenants that led the God
   who created the heavens and the earth ultimately to concern himself with
   Israel – and Israel alone. This history can be conceived as a series of filters, by
   which the LORD begins with all of creation; then, from among those who
   survive the Flood, he chooses Abraham and his descendants; from among
   these, he ―becomes the God‖ of and for those Hebrews who come up from
   slavery in Egypt to take possession of the land of Canaan. In this history, the
   most important of these covenants becomes the last, for it is the most
   definitive, the most restrictive, the most specific. By positing the equivalence
   of the God of Creation with the God that chooses Israel, the Pentateuchal
   history affirms that Yahweh – the LORD – is not merely a tribal god among
   others, but is in fact the one and only God, the God who is supreme over all
   creation, all events, all places, and all times … and has selected Israel as His

              Many Nations
What we will discover through the book of Jonah
 is the same equivalence—but with the current
 running in the opposite direction! Through our
 journey with Jonah, we will find ourselves being
 pushed back, back, back in time … all the way
 back to Noah. And Noah means that this
 journey has a destination of MANY NATIONS.

                 Many Nations
Yes, the Pentateuch tells us that the God of all creation,
  the God of Noah becomes the God of Abraham, Isaac,
  and Jacob, the God of Israel at Mt. Sinai. Yet here, in
  the book of Jonah—for the first time— we are offered
  this assertion in its reverse form: the God of the
  Hebrews, the God of Israel—has always been the God
  of Noah, the God of all creation!

                    Many Nations
That is to say, the origin for Israel’s history is found not with the
  covenant at Sinai, nor even in the covenant with Abraham. The
  first covenant is the one made with Noah, with all subsequent
  humanity – plus many animals besides – and animals will play a
  big part in the book of Jonah. Suddenly, the very God who
  seems to have winnowed out entire peoples and nations and
  tribes and families in choosing Israel is presented as the God
  who has always and all along been the compassionate, merciful
  God of Israel, yes! but also of the Edomites, Ishmaelites,
  Canaanites, Amalakites — in short, the God of everything and
  everyone, including, of course … the Ninevites!

                 Many Nations
Entering into the belly of this scant, 48-verse story, we
  will find ourselves spit out with a new history, a story of
  a people and their God that, like the Ninevites, has
  utterly been ―turned upside-down‖! What Lincoln did
  at Gettysburg, Jonah does for us. In reframing our
  history he will give us a new past to live with that will
  change our future indefinitely!

              Many Nations
What are these rapids that take us on a ride toward
 the life and times of Noah? One answer is
 found in the presence throughout the book of
 Jonah of what is termed a "Noahic milieu."
 There are numerous and, it would seem,
 intentional connections between the stories of
 Noah and the book of Jonah.

                Many Nations
The oblique reference to Abraham (the first known
  "Hebrew") in 1:9 and Jonah's recitation of a passage
  from Exodus in Jonah 4:2 convey that a steady stream
  runs back through the God at Mt. Sinai, through the
  God of the (first) Hebrews, and into a confluence with
  the God of Noah-the Primeval God of all creation.
  With this understanding – and no other – can we build
  enough consistency in our understanding of the book
  to comprehend Jonah's intense misery, namely, that it is
  "just like God!" to care for these violent and
  questionably repentant Ninevites, simply because God
  also made them and their animals! The last destination
  Jonah seeks is MANY NATIONS!
                       Many Nations
A technique that has garnered a great deal of recent notoriety in the world of
   popular music is known as "sampling." Sampling involves taking snippets of
   other artists' songs and weaving them into a new song. The technique is, in
   fact, nothing new. Consider the lyrics of the well-known patriotic song,
   "You're a Grand Old Flag," which "samples" the much-older song, "Auld
   Lang Syne":
          You're a grand old flag.
          You're a high flying flag
          And forever in peace may you wave.
          You're the emblem of the land I love
          The home of the free and the brave.
          Ev'ry heart beats true 'neath the Red, White and Blue,
          Where there's never a boast or brag.
         Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
         Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

                  Many Nations
Such "samples" act as accents to the song itself as well as
  bring in the musical and affective associations that the
  listeners have with those songs being sampled.
  Sampling is a frequent practice in rap and hip-hop
  music; its role is explained by Daddy-0, of the group
  Stetsasonic: ―We sometimes use the words
  'recontextualization' or 'revivification,' but it means the
  same thing, which is to take something old and make it
  new again. The strong point of what sampling does for
  us, as a music form, is to establish some soul groove
  and some old funk that's lost with today's music.‖

                 Many Nations
All such samplings represent a kind of "musical
  intertextuality," and, although a newly created song can
  be enjoyed on its own merits without listener
  knowledge of any other tunes, samples provide the
  aware audience with additional, potentially meaningful
  dimensions to their musical experience. In the case of
  "You're a Grand Old Flag," the use of "Should auld
  acquaintance be forgot" brings to a musical affirmation
  of patriotism the feeling of community, by evoking a
  song traditionally sung by close friends and family
  seeing in the New Year together.

                   Many Nations
Just so, the book of Jonah can be said to "sample" the account of
   Noah found in the book of Genesis. And, although the book of
   Jonah can be appreciated without any awareness of these
   "samples," recognition of the Noahic connections that sprinkle
   throughout the story will take this convention to one destination
   – MANY NATIONS. What follows is a list of phrases,
   characters, and images found in the stories of Noah drawn from
   Genesis 5:28-10:32 that find resonance within the book of

                    Many Nations
1. One hundred twenty years (Gen 6:3) – this is the length of time
      allotted to mortal life by Yahweh; it is also how many
      thousands of people are in Nineveh at the story's end.
2. Yahweh was sorry (Gen 6:6) – literally Yahweh repented (that he
      had made humankind); relenting/repenting is what the
      Ninevites bank on and what Jonah is upset with Yahweh for
      doing in Jonah 3 and 4.
3. ―... people together with animals‖ (Gen 6:7). This phrase occurs
      throughout the Noah stories; the book of Jonah is remarkable
      for its very deliberate inclusion of animals along with people,
      both in how the Ninevites repent and in how God presents his
      final question to Jonah.

                       Many Nations
4. Violence (Gen 6:11) – this is the reason given for God's decision to destroy
      the earth and its inhabitants by means of the Flood; it is also the sin that
      the Ninevites recognize as their own, and repent of.
5. Evil (Gen. 6:5) is used throughout the book of Jonah and is one of its framing
6. The ark (Gen 6:14) is the means that God provides Noah for the
      protection of him, his family, and the animals from the impending
      flood; there is a connection between the ark and the ship that
      Jonah boards, and even more so with the great fish-which turns
      out to be the "vessel" that God provides Jonah to protect him from
      the overwhelming flood waters.

                    Many Nations
7. Forty days (and forty nights) (Gen 7:4) – this is the period of
     time that the rains last, destroying all human and animal life
     that is not with Noah in the ark; similarly, this is the amount of
     time from the moment of Jonah's prophecy until Nineveh is to
     be "turned upside-down." The association of "forty days" as a
     period for destruction is a link to these two stories.
8. Flood of waters ... the great deep (Gen 7:6, 11) ... These are two
     equivalent phrases for the watery torrent that drowns creation
     in the Genesis story; in the psalmic prayer that Jonah utters
     (Jonah 2), these same terms are used.
9. The word, "great," occurs frequently throughout both texts.

                    Many Nations
10. The waters ... dry land. (Gen 7:20-22) ... While it is almost a
     commonplace in the Old Testament to pair ―waters‖ and ―dry
     land‖ in the story of Noah, the distinction between the two is
     utterly crucial (life and death); likewise, in the book of Jonah,
     the prophet identifies Yahweh as the one who made "the sea
     and dry land" and, indeed, the distinction between the waters
     and the dry land onto which the great fish vomits Jonah is
11. And God made a wind blow (Gen 8:1). God is portrayed as
     actively controlling individual winds for specific purposes (this
     time, for the purpose of causing the flood waters to subside);
     in the book of Jonah, God hurls a wind into the sea to create a
     storm and, later, sends a searing wind from the east that adds
     to Jonah's misery.

                     Many Nations
12. Then he sent out the dove ... the dove found no place to set its
     foot ... it returned to him ... again he sent out the dove from
     the ark (Gen 8:8- 10). Noah uses a dove in the story “to see if
     the waters had subsided from the face of the ground”"; the name
     ―Jonah‖ is Hebrew for ―dove.‖ Moreover, the structure of the
     book of Jonah involves God sending Jonah out; the prophet
     does not alight on dry ground (specifically ending up in the
     waters) in his first journey; and, of course, he is then sent out
13. ―Offered burnt offerings on the altar‖ (Gen 8:20). Noah, once
     on dry land, offers up burnt offerings to God; the mariners,
     once they are delivered from the great storm, ―offer offerings‖
     to Yahweh – as Jonah pledges to do, once he recognizes that
     Yahweh has delivered him ―from the Pit.‖ In all cases, Noah
     as well as the mariners and Jonah, their offerings to Yahweh
     are a thanksgiving for their deliverance from
     death-by-drowning.                                                29
                Many Nations
14. ―I will require a reckoning for human life. Whoever
    sheds the blood of a human, / by a human shall that
    person's blood be shed" (Gen 9:5-6). This is a statute
    that God puts down for all humanity and the sailors
    demonstrate an awareness of it when they plead with
    Yahweh not to kill them as a punishment for
    throwing Jonah overboard, into the sea.

                       Many Nations
15. ―I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
      and with every living creature ... my covenant that is between me and you
      and every living creature of all flesh" (Gen 9:8-17). In this covenant God
      specifically includes not only humankind but also animals, domestic and
      wild; this means that the umbrella of this covenant is extended to
      non-Israelite humans (the Ninevites) as well as their animals, whose
      donning of sackcloth and bleating perhaps serve to remind God of this
      eternal promise.
16. Shem, Ham, and Japheth are the sons of Noah; and from these the whole
      earth was peopled. The descendants of Ham include Nimrod who he went
      into Assyria, and built Nineveh, the great city (Gen 9:18-19, 10:6-12). Here
      it is made explicit that any covenant extending to Noah and to his
      descendants extends to Assyria, to Nineveh, and to its residents. The book
      of Jonah takes it as a given that this covenant is operative, and that the
      Ninevites (and Assyrians), even given their violence, are included in it.

                  Many Nations
The question is posed by this sampling is exactly the one
  posed by St. Paul, “Is he only the God of the Jews? Is he not
  also the God of the Gentiles?” (Rom. 3:29). The Greek of
  the text demands an emphatic YES! And that means
  our destination is not just Israel, not just the church –
  no. Our destination is MANY NATIONS … and this
  means and includes especially … Nineveh!

  Part 3

One Gospel

                      One Gospel
But if our destination is to MANY NATIONS, our conviction is
  that we have only ONE GOSPEL. Let’s talk about that. By a
  word-association, ―Jonah‖ would undoubtedly prompt the
  reaction of … ―whale,‖ but a subject that takes up only three
  verses out of a total of forty-eight cannot be regarded as the
  book’s main concern. Campbell Morgan penned these wise
  words: ―Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that
  they have failed to see the great God.‖ In the book of Jonah, the
  name Yahweh is mentioned 22 times, Elohim or El 13 times,
  and the combination Yahweh Elohim four times for a total of 39
  references to the deity in 48 verses. This is clearly a story about
  the God of Israel.

                      One Gospel
And this God is the God who delivers. The sailors are saved from
  the raging storm; Jonah is saved from drowning in the sea; the
  Ninevites are saved from destruction; ironically in the end, even
  though the LORD provides a plant to save Jonah (4:6), the
  prophet appears to thwart the idea. Although justice demands
  that the idolatrous sailors, the prodigal Jonah and the evil
  Ninevites perish – mercy prevails and grants a new life. This
  ONE GOSPEL is summed up in 3:1, ―Now the word of the
  LORD came to Jonah a second time …‖ We treasure, extol,
  share, celebrate and yes, care passionately about this gospel
  because it shows us that the Creator is the God of the second
  chance. Mark 16:7, ―Go tell his disciples and Peter …‖ Peter,
  Peter … after the cave-in, the curses, the cowardly actions …
  you get a second chance.

     Part 4

The Book of Jonah

CHAPTER ONE – VERSE ONE – The word of the LORD
  came to Jonah son of Amittai: The expression “And the word
  of the LORD came to …” is found in the OT only when contexts
  and circumstances regarding the prophet and his mission are
  already established in previous statements. This point is as big as
  the book’s fish! It means that the story of Jonah actually begins
  in another place; i.e. 2 Kings 14:25. This account anchors Jonah
  in the 8th century B.C. as a court-prophet of the Israelite king
  Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). “He [Jeroboam II] restored the border of
  Israel from Lebo-hamath [i.e. Aram/Syria] as far as the Sea of the
  Arabah [i.e. the Gulf of Aqabah], according to the word of the LORD, the
  God of Israel, which he spoke by the hand of his servant Jonah son of
  Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.”

Jonah is the Hebrew word for dove (Gen. 8:8-12; Song of Solomon
   1:15; 4:1, etc.). There is nothing exceptional about a name
   derived from the animal world, whether in Hebrew or in other
   ancient Near Eastern languages; yet, since biblical names often
   indicate the nature of a person, Hosea 7:11 is instructive.
  ―Ephraim became like a dove (  hn"AyK.            ), silly and
  brainless. They called to Egypt, they went to Assyria.‖ The
  phrase translated ―brainless‖ has connotations of discernment,
  not simply intelligence. Rather, the aimless activity of the dove
  here, flying from one place to another, suggest that it is a
  confused and frightened bird.

VERSE TWO – "Go to the great city of Nineveh and
 preach against it, because its wickedness has come
 up before me." The entire prophecy of Nahum,
  delivered sometime before Nineveh’s downfall in 612
  BC, gives a picture of this city of bloodshed. It is full
  of lies, dead bodies without end, a city that could be
  likened to a shapely harlot out to seduce all nations
  (Nah. 3:1-4; cf. Zeph. 2:13-15). Nineveh was truly the
  ―chief of sinners.‖

Nineveh is remembered most for her inhumane warfare. Note
  these words of one of her kings, Ashru-nasirpal II:
  ―I stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In the midst of
  the mighty mountains I slaughtered them; with their blood I
  dyed the mountain red like wool. With the rest of them I
  darkened the gullies and precipices of the mountains. I carried
  off their spoil and their possessions. The heads of their warriors
  I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against their city;
  their young men and their maidens I burned in the fire. I built a
  pillar over against the city gates, and I flayed all the chief men
  who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins; some
  I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on
  stakes, and others I bound to stakes round about the pillar.‖


VERSE THREE – But Jonah ran away from the LORD and
  went down to 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 says nothing to the LORD but rises to flee. Normally
  prophets protest their inability to speak – Moses protests that he
  is not a ―man of words‖ (Ex. 4:10); Jeremiah fears that he ―does
  not know how to speak‖ (Jer. 1:6); Isaiah insists that his words
  are unworthy, his lips unclean (Isa. 6:5) – but Jonah in contrast,
  goes the opposite direction without saying a word! So already in
  this verse the reader encounters the textual tendency of Jonah to
  invert biblical tradition. Here the author begins his satire of
  Jonah and all who embrace his ideas.

And all of this leads to a progressive downhill slide. He
  goes down to Joppa (1:3), goes down to the ship (1:3),
  goes down into the innermost parts of the ship (1:5), is
  thrown down into the depths of the sea and then
  descends to the realm of death or Sheol (2:3, 7). Down,
  down, down, down …. this is the inevitable path of
  those who seek to avoid the mission of the church.
  The only place we go is … down. And going down in
  the OT depicts a movement toward death (cf. Ps. 88:4-
  6; Prov. 5:5).

The word “fare” actually refers to the ship. The idea here is not that
  Jonah paid a fare (so all of the English versions), but rather that
  he hired the ship and its crew. First, that Jonah has access to the
  ship’s “innermost recesses” (1:5) makes sense if he owned the boat.
  Second, the sailor’s hesitation to throw Jonah overboard (1:13-
  14) is understandable because he was their ―boss.‖ Finally,
  according to most scholars it wasn’t until Roman times that the
  ancient world had a specific word for ―fare‖ – a charge for the
  purchase of space in an expedition, seagoing or otherwise. No
  wonder Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh – he’s cashing in on
  his ministry under Jeroboam II – enough cash that is, to buy a
  ship and her crew to run away from the LORD’S presence!

VERSE FOUR – Then the LORD sent a
 great wind on the sea, and such a
 violent storm arose that the ship
 threatened to break up.

―And as for the ship – it had a mind to break up.‖
  The irony is that the sailors fear disaster, the
  captain of the ship fears disaster, indeed, even
  the ship thinks it is going to break up. The only
  character – animate or inanimate – that has no
  fear is Jonah. The pun then is this: as the ship
  fears wrecking she becomes a nervous wreck!

VERSE FIVE – All the sailors were afraid and each cried out
  to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to
  lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he
  lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The subsequent events
  will transform the sailors from shear terror, to an awe at the
  awareness of being in the LORD’S presence, to finally trust,
  belief and worship of this great God. The word “deep sleep” may
  be the first indication that Jonah seeks to die (4:3). The same
  word translated “deep sleep” is used in Judges 4:21. It describes
  Sisera as in such deep slumber that he didn’t hear Jael coming
  near to deliver his death blow (Judg. 4:21). Luther calls Jonah’s
  sleep a ―sleep of death‖ (cf. Ps. 88:4-6), saying, ―There he lies
  and snores in his sins.‖ As a noun the word describes Adam in
  Gen. 2:21.

VERSE SIX – The captain went to him and said,
 "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!
 Perhaps he will take notice of us, and we will not
 perish." Now a new character enters the scene. Many
  of the human reactions throughout the book deal with
  the question of life and death. This issue is particularly
  focused in the use of ―perish‖.

―Perhaps‖ is indicative of one of the major themes of the
  book (cf. 1:14b; 3:9). The LORD will act as it pleases
  him, which may or may not conform to human patterns
  of actions. No demanding here, just humble awareness
  that there are two foundational truths to human
  enlightenment – number one, there is a God; number
  two, you are not him!

VERSE SEVEN – Then the sailors
 said to each other, "Come, let us
 cast lots to find out who is
 responsible for this calamity." They
 cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

VERSE EIGHT – So they asked him, "Tell
 us, who is responsible for making all this
 trouble for us? What do you do? Where do
 you come from? What is your country? From
 what people are you?"

VERSE NINE – He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I
  worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea
  and the land." Jonah 1:4-16 (Scene II) is built according to a
  concentric or chiastic pattern:
  A The LORD hurls the storm (1:4)
      B The sailors pray, act (1:5ab)
               C Jonah acts (lies down, sleeps – 1:5c)
                  D The captain and sailors question Jonah (1:6-8)
                               E Jonah speaks (1:9)
                   D’ The sailors question Jonah (1:10-11)
               C’ Jonah speaks (1:12)
      B’ The sailors act, pray (1:13-14)
  A’ The sailors hurl Jonah and the storm ends (1:15)
  Conclusion – 1:16
Jonah’s words in 1:9, a confession of faith, have been
  carefully placed at the midpoint of this chiastic
  structure. There are 94 words in the Hebrew text from
  the scene’s beginning in 1:4 to the beginning of the
  speech in 1:9 and 94 words in 1:10-15. Verse 16 stands
  outside the pattern as a conclusion. Both the chiastic
  structure and the exact balance of number of words
  serve to place the focus for this section on the
  confession in 1:9.

At the heart of this section is Jonah’s confession that is
  analogous to his sermon in 3:4. Both accomplish the
  salvation of unbelievers. Whatever Jonah’s intention,
  this confession functions as a means of grace whereby
  the sailors are brought to faith. Such is the power of the
  ONE GOSPEL – albeit in a very brief expression –
  indeed, it is the power of God for the salvation of all
  who believe, first the Jew and then – in this case – the
  Gentile sailors (cf. Is. 55:10-11).

VERSE TEN – This terrified them and they asked,
 "What have you done?" (They knew he was
 running away from the LORD, because he had
 already told them so.) The sailors react in a way
  more indicative of an Israelite, than in a manner one
  would expect from unbelievers. The sailors cannot
  imagine anyone treating a deity in such a fashion. Here
  they are revealed as having a respect for the divine that
  Jonah does not have. This is an ongoing theme of the
  book – that is, the outsiders get it, the insider doesn’t.

Jonah as “The Older Brother”

 was getting rougher and
 rougher. So they asked him,
 "What should we do to you to
 make the sea calm down for
 up and throw me into the
 sea," he replied, "and it will
 become calm. I know that it
 is my fault that this great
 storm has come upon you."

VERSE THIRTEEN – Instead, the men did their best to
  row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even
  wilder than before. Normally it is the prophet’s role to save the
  people from some divinely-inspired disaster or punishment, but
  here it is the pagan sailors who attempt to save a prophet of the
  LORD who refuses to speak. Against navigational experience
  spanning centuries that has taught mariners to remain in open
  sea during a storm, these sailors attempt to return to ―dry
  ground‖. Such is their concern for life!

VERSE FOURTEEN – Then they cried to the
 LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for
 taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable
 for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD,
 have done as you pleased." The role of prophet and
  people is reversed – the sailors refuse to commit a
  crime after the prophet has asked them to do so.
  Moreover, the sailors are praying the prayer Jonah
  should be praying. The sailors confess that the LORD
  does as he pleases (cf. Ps. 115:3; 135:6), while Jonah
  expresses his frustration because God does precisely

  and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
  At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered
  a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. ―The
  LORD is found by those who did not seek‖ him (Is. 65:1). The
  response of the sailors is striking in its simplicity and
  overpowering in its implications. The key word is ―fear‖, here
  understood as worship. They can now make the same
  confession as Jonah did in v. 9. Luther also believes that these
  sailors ―are also delivered from death, also from unbelief and sin,
  and they are brought to a knowledge of God so that they now
  become pious and true servants of God, such humble and timid

VERSE SEVENTEEN But the LORD provided a
 great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside
 the fish three days and three nights. Although
  Jonah apparently believed that he would be able to
  escape the LORD’S commission by his own death,
  God makes it clear that there will be no escape. Rather
  than kill him or let him die, he imprisons Jonah in the
  belly of the fish to demonstrate further that there is
  nowhere in the world, even death, where Jonah can flee
  (cf. Amos 9:2-3).

Jonah being swallowed

The word ―provide‖ or direct, ordain, appoint is
 used the first of four times in the book here,
 then again in 4:6, 7, 8. Each time a non-human
 agent is appointed and each occurrence is used
 with a different divine name. And each non-
 human agent is different; what does all this
 mean? The LORD ―appoints‖ a fish, a plant
 (4:6), a worm (4:7) and a wind (4:8). These
 elements of nature are appointed for salvation
 (the fish and plant), as well for judgment (the
 worm and wind).
Two observations regarding the use of this word
  ―provide‖ in the book are as follows. With
  each use a different divine name is used as the
  subject of the verb –
    1:17 – Yahweh
    4:6 – Yahweh-Elohim
    4:7 – Ha-Elohim
    4:8 – Elohim

When the verb occurs the object of the
  LORD’S control belongs to a different
  realm in nature –
    1:17 – the fish (sea)
    4:6 – the plant (vegetation)
    4:7 – the worm (animals)
    4:8 – the wind (air)
Jonah at prayer

From the Book of Psalms:
  + ―my distress‖ 18:6; 120:1
  + ―Sheol‖ 18:4-5
  + ―all thy waves and thy billows passed over me‖ 42:7
  + ―from thy presence‖ 139:7
  + ―upon thy holy temple‖ 5:7
  + ―the waters closed in over me‖ 69:2
  + ―my life from the Pit‖ 30:3
  + ―my soul fainted within me‖ 142:3
  + ―into thy holy temple‖ 18:6
  + ―deliverance belongs to Yahweh‖ 3:8

VERSE TEN – And the LORD commanded the fish,
 and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jonah is not
  placed or gently laid upon the beach. No. He is
  vomited. It’s as if three days of undigested Jonah is
  enough! Just where he was sprawled out is not known
  – all we have is the word “dry ground”. So it is there that
  the LORD places the prodigal prophet.

VERSES ONE – FOUR – Then the word of the LORD came
  to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh
  and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed
  the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh
  was a very important city-- a visit required three days. On
  the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed:
  "Forty more days and Nineveh will be turned over.“ The
  approximate travel time from Jerusalem to Nineveh in antiquity
  would have been about 45 days. This is estimated according to
  caravan speed.

Jonah answers the   2 nd   call

preaching to the Ninevites

“Forty days” is a term that denotes a time of testing, with a new
  beginning at the end. Without citing every Scriptural instances in
  which multiples of forty are use, the following are noteworthy:
  (1) forty years – Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan (Ex.
  16:35); peace in Israel upon the LORD’S selection of a judge
  (Judg. 3:11): (2) forty days – rain leading up to the flood (Gen.
  7:12); Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:18); spies in Canaan (Num.
  13:25); Elijah’s fast (1 Kings 19:8); Jesus’ fast (Matt. 4:2); the
  post-resurrection epiphanies (Acts 1:3). Forty not only takes us
  to a Noahic ―sampling‖ – it also takes us to the slow and
  merciful LORD who could have said to Nineveh, ―I’ll make all
  new things, the old won’t do.‖ But instead he said, ―I’ll make all
  things – even you – new!‖

VERSE FIVE – The Ninevites believed God.
 They declared a fast, and all of them, from
 the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
 The verbal root here is !ma (―believe, trust‖ –
 ―AMEN‖) the same root that forms the name of
 Jonah’s father (1:1), now ironically appears, not
 with Jonah, but with the Ninevites.

VERSE SIX – When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
  he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered
  himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This
  reaction of the king is all the more remarkable in that elsewhere
  the king of Assyria is portrayed as an arrogant, boasting monarch
  who not only defies the LORD and threatens Jerusalem, but
  argues that his power is great than the LORD’S because he has
  been able to defeat the God of Israel/Judah just as he defeated
  the gods of other nations (Is. 10:5-34, 36-27/ 2 Kings 18-19;
  Nahum 2-3). He rises from his throne, removes his robe, puts on
  sackcloth, and sits in the dust or ashes (cf. Job 2:8; Dan. 9:3;
  Esther 4:1, 3).

VERSE SEVEN – Then he issued a proclamation in
 Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his
 nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock,
 taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. The
  book has already indicated that a fish had a great
  responsibility – now more animals join in. The verse is
  not some kind of hyperbole; rather, the idea is that the
  conversion is so complete that it includes “people and
  animals and all the company of creatures.” Remember …
  Noah?? Those who are tuned into this ―sampling‖
  understand the idea – a new past to live with that
  changes our future indefinitely … MANY NATIONS!

VERSE EIGHT – But let man and beast be covered
 with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God.
 Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
  While ―fear/worship‖ is the word governing the
  conversion of the sailors, ―turn/repent‖ is the word
  that describes the conversion of the Ninevites. It is
  used in this chapter five times, with much the same
  rhythm as that of fear in chapter one. The Ninevites
  turn from their wicked way (3:8) in the hope that the
  LORD may turn from his anger (3:9). When he does
  sees that the city has turned/repented he relents (3:10)
  from his judgment.

VERSES NINE – TEN Who knows? God may yet
 relent and with compassion turn from his fierce
 anger so that we will not perish." When God saw
  what they did and how they turned from their evil ways,
  he had compassion and did not bring upon them the
  destruction he had threatened. But does God really
  relent, or, as the KJV translates the Hebrew word,

That is to say, this God reveals himself as one who is not
  immutable in some absolute sense. Just so, Karl Barth calls it
  ―the holy mutability of God.‖ This is perhaps at least one reason
  for Israel’s aniconic perspective that idols do not change (cf. Ps
  115:5-7; Jer 10:4-5). Understood this way, this prohibition of
  images is a concern to protect the LORD’S relatedness rather
  than his transcendence, though the two are not mutually
  exclusive. Also, one of the characteristics of the gods of the
  nations is that they cannot be moved or affected (cf. 1 Kings

Divine repentance enables the primary attributes
 of the LORD to be kept primary, namely, his
 steadfast love and mercy. He is not unbending
 or unyielding, as a focus on immutability
 suggests. He is not a ―take it or leave it,‖ ―like it
 or lump it‖ God. He will change course in
 midstream in view of the interaction with his

VERSE ONE – But Jonah was greatly displeased and became
  angry. A key word in the book that is repeated as a noun and a
  verb is ―evil‖ occurring ten times (1:2, 7, 8: 3:8, 10a, 10b; 4:1a,
  1b, 2, 6). There has been ―evil‖ beginning with the Ninevites
  (1:2), moving to the sailors (1:7), returning to the Ninevites
  (3:10), coming to the LORD (3:10; 4:2), and here with Jonah.
  Except in the reference to Jonah, all the evil is taken away. In v.
  6 the LORD tries, but to no avail. ―Evil‖ is used in two closely
  related ways. On the one hand it refers to the wickedness of the
  Ninevites (1:2; 3:8, 10) and Jonah (4:6). On the other hand, it
  refers to the judgment which is sometimes threatened and other
  times carried out by the LORD (1:7, 8; 3:10; 4:2).

VERSE TWO – He prayed to the LORD, "O
 LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at
 home? That is why I was so quick to flee to
 Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and
 compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding
 in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
  We must now ask the question in its fullest sense – why
  did Jonah flee to Tarshish? The text never mentions
  that he is afraid (cf. 1 Kings 19:2-3). Nor does it
  indicate that Jonah viewed his task as too difficult or
  beneath his dignity.

The striking answer to why Jonah took flight is in 4:2 –
  Jonah’s God is simply too merciful! The reason for
  Jonah’s running is delayed so that we may pause to
  consider why we run from God. Most of us will not
  admit to the reason given in 4:2 – at least initially. Most
  Christians don’t go around saying, or even admitting to
  themselves, that they don’t like the fact that God is too
  merciful. One author writes: ―The author thus holds
  back on the real reason until his audience is fully
  identified with Jonah and is brought along to the point
  where the truth of the matter can have its sharpest

VERSE THREE – Now, O LORD, take away my
 life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
  ―Die‖ is used as a verb and noun four times in this
  chapter – 4:3, 8b, 8c, 9). The captain (1:6), the sailors
  (1:14) and the king of Nineveh (3:9) all pray for life in
  the face of the threat of death. However, when the
  Ninevites are spared from death, ironically Jonah
  wishes to die (4:3). On the other hand, when Jonah’s
  own plant is not spared (4:10), he expresses the wish to
  die (4:8ff).

 LORD replied, "Have you any right to
 be angry?" Jonah went out and sat
 down at a place east of the city. There
 he made himself a shelter, sat in its
 shade and waited to see what would
 happen to the city.

Jonah waits for Nineveh’s

Why does the author tell us where Jonah sat? As the same verb is
  used here and also in 3:6 to describe the king’s actions it could
  be to contrast Jonah’s sitting high and the king’s sitting low.
  Nineveh was flanked on the west and north by the Tigris and the
  Khoser rivers; there were a few hills on the town’s remaining
  sides where Jonah in all likelihood perched himself to witness the
  city’s immanent judgment. The irony is exactly this – the king
  who is – after-all the king – is seated low. Jonah who is – after-
  all just a prophet – is seated high. What the king was willing to
  do – that is, humble himself – his Jonah is unwilling to do. Luke
  14:11, “For everyone who is exalting himself will be humbled and the one
  humbling himself will be exalted.”

VERSE SIX – Then the LORD God provided a vine
 and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for
 his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was
 very happy about the vine. Rather than attempt to
  speak further to Jonah, which is clearly useless at this
  point, the LORD provides the second of his four
  provisions. As the LORD provided the fish and Jonah
  rejoiced via the psalm, so the plant brings him great joy.

VERSE SEVEN – But at dawn the next day God provided a
  worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. By now
  we are familiar with the way the word ―provide‖ is functioning.
  Thus, Elohim punishes Jonah by appointing a worm to attack
  the vine. Then Elohim appointed a hot east wind to attack Jonah
  (4:8). It will also be Elohim who disciplines the prophet in 4:9.
  In 4:10, however, where the emphasis is on divine grace and
  mercy, the more personal description of Yahweh – the LORD –
  again appears. In his wisdom the LORD properly uses Law and
  Gospel – and physical means – in order to shape Jonah – and us
  – into more faithful communicators of his Word.

VERSE EIGHT – When the sun rose, God provided
 a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on
 Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to
 die, and said, "It would be better for me to die
 than to live." The progression of the divine names
  connected with ―provide‖ comes to an end in this
  verse. The subject in each occurrence is Yahweh (2:1),
  Yahweh God (4:6), the God (4:7) and God here.

VERSES NINE – ELEVEN – But God said to Jonah, "Do
  you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he
  said. "I am angry enough to die." But the LORD said,
  "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did
  not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died
  overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and
  twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand
  from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be
  concerned about that great city?"

Nowhere in the book of Jonah is it stated that Yahweh
 has made a covenant with all of creation. This is simply
 assumed, much the way that Abraham Lincoln assumes
 on behalf of his audience that of course the roots of the
 United States began eighty-seven years prior to his
 speech that day in Gettysburg. In the latter example,
 Lincoln frames his speech in terms of preserving a
 people that liberty labored over and helped to grow
 great, inviting those present into a discussion about the
 best way to honor those dead, while deftly setting aside
 any and all competing ideas about how or why ―this
 nation‖ ever came about.

This very idea of granting an equal status to the ―other nations‖ – a
  hallmark of our Lord’s ministry – might well have been met with
  a reception similar to that given Lincoln’s speech by the Chicago
  Times. In an article entitled ―The President at Gettysburg‖ and
  printed on November 23, 1863—less than a week after his
  speech—this presumed journalistic ally to Lincoln and to the
  Union bristled: ―It was to uphold this constitution, and the
  Union created by it, that our officers and soldiers gave their lives
  at Gettysburg. How dare he, then, standing on their graves,
  misstate the cause for which they died, and libel the statesmen
  who founded the government? They were men possessing too
  much self-respect to declare that negroes were their equals, or
  were entitled to equal privileges.‖

You guessed it – the author’s strategy of withholding
  Jonah’s answer to the LORD’S question leaves room
  for you and I to provide a personal answer. This is the
  author’s attempt to keep the story current for readers of
  every generation. Whatever Jonah’s answer may have
  been, or whatever our answers are just now, in the
  fullness of time one greater than Jonah (Matt. 12:41)
  appeared who spoke the whole answer with his whole
  heart and wrote it with his blood. His name? Jesus.


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