The book of Jonah is mostly remembered for its oddity—a runaway prophet swallowed by a whale! But there must be more to the book than that. And indeed there is. For one thing, it is a book artfully constructed, with one chapter devoted to a psalm. It is a book that will reward careful reading and meditation.
But more than that, we find, in the drama of Jonah, the charted course not just of this angular prophet but also of Israel’s attitude toward its most despised neighbor in the Mediterranean world. Jonah refuses to answer God’s call to go and proclaim judgement, because he knows God is the kind of God who responds in mercy and grace should the Assyrians repent. Jonah will have no part of it—until he is compelled. And even then he pities himself.
Rosemary Nixon’s book explores the book of Jonah in its own right, and it helps us make the connections with our view of God and His world today. The irony of this prophet’s story is amusing, but it reaches out and touches us where we are today.
Get the complete Bible Speaks Today Old Testament Commentary Series (33 vols.).
“This climax portrays Jonah at ‘death’s door’, imprisoned for ever in the land of Sheol. But this is the turning point. He can descend no further.” (Page 140)
“In approaching the psalm we must begin by acknowledging the change in literary genre from narrative to poetry. Here the narrative storyline modulates into poetic language.” (Page 138)
“He admits that he is the cause of the storm, but hidden in this command is a certain awkwardness. For some reason he puts the responsibility for his death onto the poor, distraught sailors who were quite clearly reluctant to throw him overboard. What hindered him from jumping overboard and drowning himself?” (Page 112)
“Jonah was to discover for himself the impossibility of escaping God’s presence. To learn this he needed to be in the place of human powerlessness, ultimately the place of death. Salvation is not, in the first instance, the Lord God taking us ‘out’ of our mess, but God meeting us ‘within’ it. Jonah will find salvation within his watery grave, for there, in the place which eloquently speaks of death, God will meet him.” (Page 127)
“So often, however, God’s call is just unreasonable. In the New Testament Jesus calls fishermen and tax collectors to follow him. As we read the stories we are amazed by the instant obedience of these people. Attempts to rationalize their immediate response are scrutinized by Bonhoeffer.3 He counters that it misses the point to say that those whom Jesus called must have known him and been familiar with his teaching and considered carefully the cost of following him before he called them. The point of the call narratives is that when God calls, the only response is to obey whatever the cost. Those who follow are called to take up their cross, a symbol of torture and death. Such a call is surely unreasonable, as Jonah’s initial response to God’s call so shockingly demonstrated.” (Page 157)
In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.