The Book of Jonah
Jonah or The Book of Jonah is a Biblical text included in the Minor Prophets section of the Nevi’im in the Jewish Bible Tanakh. Although the book of Jonah does not make any explicit reference to the author, it is traditionally believed to be written by Jonah himself. Jonah was the son of Amittai and he hailed from the city of Gath Hepher in Zebulun. The book of Jonah is widely considered to be written during the post-exilic centuries. Although the story presented in The Book of Jonah is framed against the socio-political backdrop of Israel during the 8th or 7th centuries BC, it deals with the social and religious issues of late 6th to 4th centuries BC. The city of Nineveh which holds a central position in The Book of Jonah was once the capital city of ancient Assyrian empire. Known as a great city both for its size and affluence, Assyria mostly had an antagonistic relationship with Israel and took the Israelites as hostages during 722 BC and 721 BC.
The main plot of the Book of Jonah revolves around the conflicting relationship between Jonah the prophet and Yahweh. God calls Jonah and asks him to carry his message of divine judgment to the citizens of Nineveh. However, Jonah resists this divine call and instead attempts to escape. He travels to the port city of Japho and boards a Tarshish-bound ship. As the ship sails through the sea, God calls forth a raging storm at the sea and all the ship’s crew threw Jonah overboard in order to please God. God sends a great whale to swallow Jonah. The prophet then spends the next 3 days and 3 nights inside the large fish’s belly. The fish is initially referred to be a male, but at a later stage, it is mysteriously referred to as female. The reason for such a change in sexuality remains a topic of debate among researchers. In the book of Jonah, Jonah sings a prayer of repentance for his disobedience at which Yahweh speaks to the whale and makes it vomit out Jonah into the dry land.
Later in the Book of Jonah after he was rescued, Jonah sets forth to communicate God’s prophetic message against Nineveh. The people of Nineveh surprisingly believe in Jonah’s words and carry out necessary acts of repentance (i.e. by wearing sackcloth and smearing their bodies with ashes). Seeing this, God decides to forgive them and not carry out His act of vengeance. When Jonah sees that the citizens of Assyria are forgiven for their sinful acts, he gets furious and complains that it was precisely for this reason that he chose to disobey God, as he knew Yahweh to be merciful and not likely to bestow punishment on the enemies of Israel. Jonah requests God to take his life, a request which God denies. Instead, God lets a vine grow over him to give him shade. Although initially grateful, the prophet becomes angry once more when he finds that God has sent a worm to consume the plant, letting it to wither and die. When Jonah complains once more, God replies by saying that Jonah is worried about a bush that came and went away in a night, even though he did nothing to bring it into existence. So should God not be worried about the citizens and animals of the great city of Nineveh who are lost and needs His guidance? The Book of Jonah is enjoyed by people of all ages including children who are engaged by the story and thoughts of living inside the belly of a whale.
To learn more about the Book of Jonah or receive Bible Quotes Click Here.