Dressler 11/30/03 Summary of the book of Jonah To understand the story of Jonah, one must first know the location and background of these two cities: Tarshish and Nineveh. Tarshish is a port city in modern day Spain. Nineveh is in modern day Iraq along the Tigris River, and was an enemy city of the Nation of Israel, the homeland of our friend Jonah. One day, the lord came to Jonah (as he does to most other prophets) and told him to preach to Nineveh about their wickedness. They had been committing many cruel acts including plotting against the Lord, plundering in war, prostitution, experimenting with witchcraft, and commercial exploitation. Instead of following the path of a typical prophetic calling (the call, denial, reassurance, acceptance), Jonah received the call, and then literally ran in the opposite direction where he then boarded a ship bound for Tarshish in order to evade God. God saw Jonah on the Mediterranean Sea and sent a storm to stop Jonah’s ship. Each sailor, save Jonah, called out to their respective pagan gods to save them from death. Jonah, on the other hand, was in a deep sleep at the time down below deck. Eventually, all on board attempted pinned the responsibility for the storm upon Jonah. They then began pummeling him with questions regarding his origin and god, “What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” Jonah replied, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” The crew in turn blamed the storm on Jonah since he had previously claimed he was running from his god’s calling. Since the sea grew only more turbulent, they asked him how to calm the seas. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” replied Jonah.. The men first struggled with all their might to row back to shore. They did not want to sacrifice Jonah, but the storm grew stronger yet. After the sailors prayed to Jonah’s god to apologize for killing an innocent person, they reluctantly cast Jonah to the sea just as he had suggested. This immediately calmed the storm. Just before drowning, God sent a large fish (not a whale, nor serpent, nor leviathan) to swallow up Jonah. He remained entombed inside the fish for three days and nights. Jonah cried out to God in a prayer of forgiveness. God heard his plead and released him from the whale onto dry land. God called once more to Jonah and told him to give his word to Nineveh like he had been told to do before. After three days of traveling, Jonah exclaimed “Forty more days and Nineveh will be over-turned”. Fearing God, the entire sinful city all fasted in hopes that God would forgive them and spare them. God in fact did forgive them and mp such destruction was brought upon them. Jonah then became very angry since God had compassion on an enemy of Israel. He prayed, and god grew a vine to protect him from the sun as he watched what happened to the city. Jonah was very happy with the vine, but God then sent a worm to destroy the vine that protected his head from the blazing sun. Jonah grew angry again and wished he would die. God then said to Jonah, “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 [like children] cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” This story is significant because it points out a fundamental flaw in the thinking of Israel at the time. Israel believed that God only protected them and Israel wished harm upon their enemies, but here God saves a great city of the enemies of Israel. God in fact loves everyone – even those who are wicked. Not only does God protect all things he created, but he also hates to be forced to destroy any of his own creations. He would much rather they turn from their wickedness rather than be forced to punish them, or worse, destroy them entirely.
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