The book of Jonah is arguably just as jarring for us as it was for the ancients. Ninevah’s repentance, Jonah’s estrangement from God, and the book’s bracing moral conclusion all pose unsettling questions for today’s readers. For biblical theologians, Jonah also raises tough questions regarding mission and religious conversion.
Daniel Timmer embarks on a new reading of Jonah in order to secure its ongoing relevance for biblical theology. After an examination of the book’s historical backgrounds in both Israel and Assyria, he discusses the biblical text in detail, paying special attention to redemptive history and its Christocentric orientation. He then explores the relationship between Israel and the nations—including the question of mission—and the nature of religious conversion and spirituality in the Old Testament. He concludes with an injunction for scholars and lay readers to approach Jonah as a book written to facilitate spiritual change in the reader.
Get the newest volumes in the NSBT series with the New Studies in Biblical Theology Upgrade (2 vols.)
“The book of Jonah, in other words, was written to facilitate spiritual change in its readers, and our study of the book is not complete until we have wrestled with it on those terms.” (Page 19)
“Jonah wants to receive God’s grace without being changed by it, and at the same time to snatch it away from those whose lives are in fact changed by it.” (Page 133)
“It also draws the reader into the progressive unfolding of God’s intention to bless all nations through his chosen people, even raising the possibility that certain Israelites might not have wanted that to be the case.” (Page 17)
“Speaking tongue in cheek, it seems Jonah is more upset with Nineveh’s deliverance than was Yahweh with its sin!” (Page 118)
“The one praying for deliverance is more prominent in Jonah’s prayer than God the deliverer.” (Page 86)
This book is highly recommended for laypeople, students, and ministers who desire to move beyond the flat reading of Jonah found in much popular-level Christian literature.
—Jerry Hwang, Themelios
Daniel C. Timmer is professor of biblical studies for the PhD program at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Professeur d'Ancien Testament, Faculté de théologie évangélique, Montréal, Québec. His books include The Non-Israelite Nations in the Book of the Twelve, A Gracious and Compassionate God (NSBT) and Nahum (ZECOT).