Signs of Jonah emphasizes how the book of Jonah was received by its readers, and how it can help understanding of the culture and society of the time. Zvi focuses on how the audience would have read it, and even how they would have reread it, since books and stories are repeated and pondered time after time. He zeros in on indications throughout the text for how the text would have been read by its intended readers and actual readers. Zvi believes that the literary style and key literary strategies provide social commentary.
“Prophetic books were used to educate or better socialize the communities that accepted them as authoritative texts” (Page 2)
“I do not propose to focus on the historical author/s or editor/s of the book of Jonah, nor on their intentions. Instead I propose to focus first on the reception of the text, that is, to focus on the readers and their readings.” (Pages 3–4)
“The goal is to show through examples how this methodological approach sheds light on the study of the book of Jonah, and on the historical communities within which and for which the book was written.” (Page 12)
“Rereaders, and particularly those who meditate upon the text, are aware of the entire text even as they reread its first line.” (Page 10)
“the book of Jonah is a strange book within the Twelve, and even within the Hebrew Bible as a whole” (Page 1)
Ehud Ben Zvi is professor of history and religious studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. His previous books on the Hebrew Bible include Signs of Jonah: Reading and Rereading in Ancient Yehud, A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Obadiah, and A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Zephaniah.