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A Journey with Jonah: One Gospel for Many Nations


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Title: A Journey with Jonah: One Gospel for Many Nations

A Journey with Jonah One Gospel for Many
  • Reed Lessing M.Div., S.T.M., Ph.D.
  • Director of the Graduate School
  • Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
  • Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO

Outline of Presentation
  • Introduction
  • Many Nations
  • One Gospel
  • The Book of Jonah

  • Part 1
  • Introduction

  • Jonah doesnt seem to have a lot in common with
    any book in the Old Testament. Terrace Fretheim
    writes of Jonah It has no exact counterpart in
    the Old Testament or in known literature from the
    ancient Near East. The book is as elusive as
    it is deceptive. Augustines response to an
    inquiry made by a potential Christian convert
    perhaps gets at this best. What he asks about
    the resurrection of the dead could be settled
    But if he thinks to solve all such questions as
    those about Jonah he little knows the
    limitations of human life or of his own.

  • Father Mapple in Herman Melvilles Moby Dick
    states Even though Jonah is one of the smallest
    strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures,
    the book is one of the most puzzling and
    intriguing of the entire Old Testament. Though
    there are only 689 words in the Hebrew text of
    Jonah, numerous complexities abound. Did the
    sailors really convert? And speaking of
    conversion, did the Ninevites really convert?
    And speaking of the Ninevites did their animals
    really repent? And speaking of animals, whats
    this deal about a fish could such an animal
    really swallow Jonah? And speaking about Jonah
    well, you get the idea! In this puzzling and
    intriguing book we will journey with Jonah and
    meet a huge storm on the Mediterranean Sea, a hot
    east wind over distant lands, take a tour of
    Sheol, discover the insides of a great fish and
    watch a plant come and go in a day. Most
    surprising we will meet a God who has more love
    and grace and patience than we could ever imagine
    in his pursuit of reluctant and stubborn people
    like us. Lets get started or, to begin the
    punning anchors away!

  • Part 2
  • Many Nations

Many Nations
  • Garry Wills Pulitzer-Prize winning study on
    Abraham Lincolns most famous speech indicates
    the power of 272 words to bring about change it
    is entitled Lincoln at Gettysburg The Words That
    Remade America. Wills thesis is that Lincoln
    reframed how Americans ever since 1863 have
    construed their nations history and that he did
    this through a brilliant and polished speech that
    successfully and irrevocably reframed our
    history. Wills writes Both North and South
    strove to win the battle for interpreting
    Gettysburg as soon as the physical battle had
    ended. Lincoln is after even larger gamehe means
    to win the whole Civil War in ideological terms
    as well as military ones. And he will succeed
    the Civil War is, to most Americans, what Lincoln
    wanted it to mean. Words had to complete the work
    of the guns.

Many Nations
  • Lincoln begins reframing American history at the
    very start of his speech when he declares, Four
    score and seven years ago. By using this
    seemingly benign, biblical-sounding way of naming
    a date for Americas beginningsinstead of more
    baldly stating, In 1776... Lincoln creates a
    sense that they are looking backward into
    Americas hallowed origins. By inviting those
    present to consider their hallowed past,
    Lincoln makes it possible for them to transcend
    the actual events that have brought them to this
    cemetery, to step outside of the tragic moment
    long enough to consider the conception and birth
    of the United States of America.

Many Nations
  • So what has been reframed? After all, the United
    States celebrates the Fourth of July as a
    national holiday, annually marking its countrys
    birthday. So, other than being an interesting
    turn-of-phrase, what is the significance of
    Lincolns opening words? The importance of Four
    score and seven is that Lincoln sneaks in a
    different date for the origin of the American
    nation than the one in use by the people of his
    day, which was that of the Ratification of the
    Constitution. It is not so much that the country
    had ever been in the habit of celebrating
    Constitution-Signing Day, but that many if not
    most Americans in the mid-nineteenth century
    regarded the Constitution as the founding
    covenant of the United States, and as a result
    regarded the nation as being bound together by a
    signed compact between sovereign states.

Many Nations
  • The difference between, on the one hand, seeing
    the origins of the United States as issuing from
    a contractual agreement among separate partiesan
    agreement that presumably can be renegotiated
    and/or dissolvedand, on the other hand,
    regarding the origin as the creation of a new
    nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to
    the proposition that all men are created
    equalthis difference is, so to speak, all the
    difference in the world. In the latter case, the
    United States begins its existence as an organic
    unitya nation that undergoes a birthspringing
    from the transcendent state of liberty and
    christened by the likewise transcendent principle
    of equality. In this framework, the idea of
    individual states trying to secede from this one
    nation becomes akin to the idea of a hand, an
    ear, or an eye seeking to secede from its body.

Many Nations
  • Wills goes on But that was just the beginning
    of this complex transformation. Lincoln has
    prescinded from messy squabbles over
    constitutionality, sectionalism, property and
    states. Slavery is not mentioned, any more than
    Gettysburg is. The discussion is driven back and
    back, beyond the historical particulars, to great
    ideals that are made to grapple naked in an airy
    battle of the mind. Lincoln derives a new, a
    transcendental, significance from this bloody

Many Nations
  • It is astounding how this short speech, lasting
    perhaps three minutes, could so dramatically, so
    thoroughly reframe how Americans from that point
    forward have come to think about their history.
    Truly, as Wills concludes, Lincoln had
    revolutionized the Revolution, giving people a
    new past to live with that would change their
    future indefinitely.

Many Nations
  • The parallels between Lincolns speech and the
    book of Jonah are worth exploring. Both are
    short documents, easily covered in a matter of a
    few minutes. Both utilize their peoples
    historical traditions in order to paint a
    picture, not of some new thing being initiated,
    but of something bigger of a history that in
    fact extends further back than they were
    cognizant of, a story of how things have always
    been since the beginning. Most importantly, in
    reframing history, both give people a new past to
    live with that would change their future

Many Nations
  • Prior to reading the book of Jonah, our ancient
    reader was, for all intents and purposes,
    informed by the view of history as put forward by
    the Pentateuch, a history framed by genealogies
    and progressive covenants that led the God who
    created the heavens and the earth ultimately to
    concern himself with Israel and Israel alone.
    This history can be conceived as a series of
    filters, by which the LORD begins with all of
    creation then, from among those who survive the
    Flood, he chooses Abraham and his descendants
    from among these, he becomes the God of and for
    those Hebrews who come up from slavery in Egypt
    to take possession of the land of Canaan. In this
    history, the most important of these covenants
    becomes the last, for it is the most definitive,
    the most restrictive, the most specific. By
    positing the equivalence of the God of Creation
    with the God that chooses Israel, the
    Pentateuchal history affirms that Yahweh the
    LORD is not merely a tribal god among others,
    but is in fact the one and only God, the God who
    is supreme over all creation, all events, all
    places, and all times and has selected Israel
    as His own.

Many Nations
  • What we will discover through the book of Jonah
    is the same equivalencebut with the current
    running in the opposite direction! Through our
    journey with Jonah, we will find ourselves being
    pushed back, back, back in time all the way
    back to Noah. And Noah means that this journey
    has a destination of MANY NATIONS.

Many Nations
  • Yes, the Pentateuch tells us that the God of all
    creation, the God of Noah becomes the God of
    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel at
    Mt. Sinai. Yet here, in the book of Jonahfor the
    first time we are offered this assertion in its
    reverse form the God of the Hebrews, the God of
    Israelhas always been the God of Noah, the God
    of all creation!

Many Nations
  • That is to say, the origin for Israels history
    is found not with the covenant at Sinai, nor even
    in the covenant with Abraham. The first covenant
    is the one made with Noah, with all subsequent
    humanity plus many animals besides and
    animals will play a big part in the book of
    Jonah. Suddenly, the very God who seems to have
    winnowed out entire peoples and nations and
    tribes and families in choosing Israel is
    presented as the God who has always and all along
    been the compassionate, merciful God of Israel,
    yes! but also of the Edomites, Ishmaelites,
    Canaanites, Amalakites in short, the God of
    everything and everyone, including, of course
    the Ninevites!

Many Nations
  • Entering into the belly of this scant, 48-verse
    story, we will find ourselves spit out with a new
    history, a story of a people and their God that,
    like the Ninevites, has utterly been turned
    upside-down! What Lincoln did at Gettysburg,
    Jonah does for us. In reframing our history he
    will give us a new past to live with that will
    change our future indefinitely!

Many Nations
  • What are these rapids that take us on a ride
    toward the life and times of Noah? One answer is
    found in the presence throughout the book of
    Jonah of what is termed a "Noahic milieu." There
    are numerous and, it would seem, intentional
    connections between the stories of Noah and the
    book of Jonah.

Many Nations
  • The oblique reference to Abraham (the first known
    "Hebrew") in 19 and Jonah's recitation of a
    passage from Exodus in Jonah 42 convey that a
    steady stream runs back through the God at Mt.
    Sinai, through the God of the (first) Hebrews,
    and into a confluence with the God of Noah-the
    Primeval God of all creation. With this
    understanding and no other can we build
    enough consistency in our understanding of the
    book to comprehend Jonah's intense misery,
    namely, that it is "just like God!" to care for
    these violent and questionably repentant
    Ninevites, simply because God also made them and
    their animals! The last destination Jonah seeks

Many Nations
  • A technique that has garnered a great deal of
    recent notoriety in the world of popular music is
    known as "sampling." Sampling involves taking
    snippets of other artists' songs and weaving them
    into a new song. The technique is, in fact,
    nothing new. Consider the lyrics of the
    well-known patriotic song, "You're a Grand Old
    Flag," which "samples" the much-older song, "Auld
    Lang Syne"
  • You're a grand old flag.
  • You're a high flying flag
  • And forever in peace may you wave.
  • You're the emblem of the land I love
  • The home of the free and the brave.
  • Ev'ry heart beats true 'neath the Red, White
    and Blue,
  • Where there's never a boast or brag.
  • Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
  • Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

Many Nations
  • Such "samples" act as accents to the song itself
    as well as bring in the musical and affective
    associations that the listeners have with those
    songs being sampled. Sampling is a frequent
    practice in rap and hip-hop music its role is
    explained by Daddy-0, of the group Stetsasonic
    We sometimes use the words 'recontextualization'
    or 'revivification,' but it means the same thing,
    which is to take something old and make it new
    again. The strong point of what sampling does for
    us, as a music form, is to establish some soul
    groove and some old funk that's lost with today's

Many Nations
  • All such samplings represent a kind of "musical
    intertextuality," and, although a newly created
    song can be enjoyed on its own merits without
    listener knowledge of any other tunes, samples
    provide the aware audience with additional,
    potentially meaningful dimensions to their
    musical experience. In the case of "You're a
    Grand Old Flag," the use of "Should auld
    acquaintance be forgot" brings to a musical
    affirmation of patriotism the feeling of
    community, by evoking a song traditionally sung
    by close friends and family seeing in the New
    Year together.

Many Nations
  • Just so, the book of Jonah can be said to
    "sample" the account of Noah found in the book of
    Genesis. And, although the book of Jonah can be
    appreciated without any awareness of these
    "samples," recognition of the Noahic connections
    that sprinkle throughout the story will take this
    convention to one destination MANY NATIONS.
    What follows is a list of phrases, characters,
    and images found in the stories of Noah drawn
    from Genesis 528-1032 that find resonance
    within the book of Jonah.

Many Nations
  • 1. One hundred twenty years (Gen 63) this is
    the length of time allotted to mortal life by
    Yahweh it is also how many thousands of people
    are in Nineveh at the story's end.
  • 2. Yahweh was sorry (Gen 66) literally Yahweh
    repented (that he had made humankind)
    relenting/repenting is what the Ninevites bank on
    and what Jonah is upset with Yahweh for doing in
    Jonah 3 and 4.
  • 3. ... people together with animals (Gen 67).
    This phrase occurs throughout the Noah stories
    the book of Jonah is remarkable for its very
    deliberate inclusion of animals along with
    people, both in how the Ninevites repent and in
    how God presents his final question to Jonah.

Many Nations
  • 4. Violence (Gen 611) this is the reason
    given for God's decision to destroy the earth and
    its inhabitants by means of the Flood it is also
    the sin that the Ninevites recognize as their
    own, and repent of.
  • 5. Evil (Gen. 65) is used throughout the book
    of Jonah and is one of its framing words.
  • 6. The ark (Gen 614) is the means that God
    provides Noah for the
  • protection of him, his family, and the animals
    from the impending
  • flood there is a connection between the ark and
    the ship that
  • Jonah boards, and even more so with the great
    fish-which turns
  • out to be the "vessel" that God provides Jonah
    to protect him from
  • the overwhelming flood waters.

Many Nations
  • 7. Forty days (and forty nights) (Gen 74)
    this is the period of time that the rains last,
    destroying all human and animal life that is not
    with Noah in the ark similarly, this is the
    amount of time from the moment of Jonah's
    prophecy until Nineveh is to be "turned
    upside-down." The association of "forty days" as
    a period for destruction is a link to these two
  • 8. Flood of waters ... the great deep (Gen 76,
    11) ... These are two equivalent phrases for the
    watery torrent that drowns creation in the
    Genesis story in the psalmic prayer that Jonah
    utters (Jonah 2), these same terms are used.
  • 9. The word, "great," occurs frequently
    throughout both texts.

Many Nations
  • 10. The waters ... dry land. (Gen 720-22) ...
    While it is almost a commonplace in the Old
    Testament to pair waters and dry land in the
    story of Noah, the distinction between the two is
    utterly crucial (life and death) likewise, in
    the book of Jonah, the prophet identifies Yahweh
    as the one who made "the sea and dry land" and,
    indeed, the distinction between the waters and
    the dry land onto which the great fish vomits
    Jonah is critical.
  • 11. And God made a wind blow (Gen 81). God is
    portrayed as actively controlling individual
    winds for specific purposes (this time, for the
    purpose of causing the flood waters to subside)
    in the book of Jonah, God hurls a wind into the
    sea to create a storm and, later, sends a searing
    wind from the east that adds to Jonah's misery.

Many Nations
  • 12. Then he sent out the dove ... the dove found
    no place to set its foot ... it returned to him
    ... again he sent out the dove from the ark (Gen
    88- 10). Noah uses a dove in the story to see
    if the waters had subsided from the face of the
    ground" the name Jonah is Hebrew for dove.
    Moreover, the structure of the book of Jonah
    involves God sending Jonah out the prophet does
    not alight on dry ground (specifically ending up
    in the waters) in his first journey and, of
    course, he is then sent out again.
  • 13. Offered burnt offerings on the altar (Gen
    820). Noah, once on dry land, offers up burnt
    offerings to God the mariners, once they are
    delivered from the great storm, offer offerings
    to Yahweh as Jonah pledges to do, once he
    recognizes that Yahweh has delivered him from
    the Pit. In all cases, Noah as well as the
    mariners and Jonah, their offerings to Yahweh are
    a thanksgiving for their deliverance from

Many Nations
  • 14. I will require a reckoning for human life.
    Whoever sheds the blood of a human, / by a human
    shall that person's blood be shed" (Gen 95-6).
    This is a statute that God puts down for all
    humanity and the sailors demonstrate an awareness
    of it when they plead with Yahweh not to kill
    them as a punishment for throwing Jonah
    overboard, into the sea.

Many Nations
  • 15. I am establishing my covenant with you and
    your descendants after you, and with every living
    creature ... my covenant that is between me and
    you and every living creature of all flesh" (Gen
    98-17). In this covenant God specifically
    includes not only humankind but also animals,
    domestic and wild this means that the umbrella
    of this covenant is extended to non-Israelite
    humans (the Ninevites) as well as their animals,
    whose donning of sackcloth and bleating perhaps
    serve to remind God of this eternal promise.
  • 16. Shem, Ham, and Japheth are the sons of Noah
    and from these the whole earth was peopled. The
    descendants of Ham include Nimrod who he went
    into Assyria, and built Nineveh, the great city
    (Gen 918-19, 106-12). Here it is made explicit
    that any covenant extending to Noah and to his
    descendants extends to Assyria, to Nineveh, and
    to its residents. The book of Jonah takes it as
    a given that this covenant is operative, and that
    the Ninevites (and Assyrians), even given their
    violence, are included in it.

Many Nations
  • The question is posed by this sampling is exactly
    the one posed by St. Paul, Is he only the God of
    the Jews? Is he not also the God of the
    Gentiles? (Rom. 329). The Greek of the text
    demands an emphatic YES! And that means our
    destination is not just Israel, not just the
    church no. Our destination is MANY NATIONS
    and this means and includes especially Nineveh!

  • Part 3
  • One Gospel

One Gospel
  • But if our destination is to MANY NATIONS, our
    conviction is that we have only ONE GOSPEL.
    Lets talk about that. By a word-association,
    Jonah would undoubtedly prompt the reaction of
    whale, but a subject that takes up only three
    verses out of a total of forty-eight cannot be
    regarded as the books main concern. Campbell
    Morgan penned these wise words Men have been
    looking so hard at the great fish that they have
    failed to see the great God. In the book of
    Jonah, the name Yahweh is mentioned 22 times,
    Elohim or El 13 times, and the combination Yahweh
    Elohim four times for a total of 39 references to
    the deity in 48 verses. This is clearly a story
    about the God of Israel.

One Gospel
  • And this God is the God who delivers. The
    sailors are saved from the raging storm Jonah is
    saved from drowning in the sea the Ninevites are
    saved from destruction ironically in the end,
    even though the LORD provides a plant to save
    Jonah (46), the prophet appears to thwart the
    idea. Although justice demands that the
    idolatrous sailors, the prodigal Jonah and the
    evil Ninevites perish mercy prevails and grants
    a new life. This ONE GOSPEL is summed up in 31,
    Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second
    time We treasure, extol, share, celebrate
    and yes, care passionately about this gospel
    because it shows us that the Creator is the God
    of the second chance. Mark 167, Go tell his
    disciples and Peter Peter, Peter after the
    cave-in, the curses, the cowardly actions you
    get a second chance.

  • Part 4
  • The Book of Jonah

  • CHAPTER ONE VERSE ONE The word of the LORD
    came to Jonah son of Amittai The expression
    And the word of the LORD came to is found in
    the OT only when contexts and circumstances
    regarding the prophet and his mission are already
    established in previous statements. This point
    is as big as the books fish! It means that the
    story of Jonah actually begins in another place
    i.e. 2 Kings 1425. This account anchors Jonah
    in the 8th century B.C. as a court-prophet of the
    Israelite king Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He
    Jeroboam II restored the border of Israel from
    Lebo-hamath i.e. Aram/Syria as far as the Sea
    of the Arabah i.e. the Gulf of Aqabah,
    according to the word of the LORD, the God of
    Israel, which he spoke by the hand of his servant
    Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from

  • Jonah is the Hebrew word for dove (Gen. 88-12
    Song of Solomon 115 41, etc.). There is
    nothing exceptional about a name derived from the
    animal world, whether in Hebrew or in other
    ancient Near Eastern languages yet, since
    biblical names often indicate the nature of a
    person, Hosea 711 is instructive. Ephraim
    became like a dove (hn"AyK. ), silly and
    brainless. They called to Egypt, they went to
    Assyria. The phrase translated brainless has
    connotations of discernment, not simply
    intelligence. Rather, the aimless activity of
    the dove here, flying from one place to another,
    suggest that it is a confused and frightened

  • VERSE TWO "Go to the great city of Nineveh and
    preach against it, because its wickedness has
    come up before me." The entire prophecy of
    Nahum, delivered sometime before Ninevehs
    downfall in 612 BC, gives a picture of this city
    of bloodshed. It is full of lies, dead bodies
    without end, a city that could be likened to a
    shapely harlot out to seduce all nations (Nah.
    31-4 cf. Zeph. 213-15). Nineveh was truly the
    chief of sinners.

  • Nineveh is remembered most for her inhumane
    warfare. Note these words of one of her kings,
    Ashru-nasirpal II
  • I stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In
    the midst of the mighty mountains I slaughtered
    them with their blood I dyed the mountain red
    like wool. With the rest of them I darkened the
    gullies and precipices of the mountains. I
    carried off their spoil and their possessions.
    The heads of their warriors I cut off, and I
    formed them into a pillar over against their
    city their young men and their maidens I burned
    in the fire. I built a pillar over against the
    city gates, and I flayed all the chief men who
    had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their
    skins some I walled up within the pillar, some I
    impaled upon the pillar on stakes, and others I
    bound to stakes round about the pillar.

Assyrian Art
  • VERSE THREE But Jonah ran away from the LORD
    and went down to Tarshish. He went down to Joppa,
    where he found a ship bound for that port. After
    paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for
    Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Jonah says
    nothing to the LORD but rises to flee. Normally
    prophets protest their inability to speak Moses
    protests that he is not a man of words (Ex.
    410) Jeremiah fears that he does not know how
    to speak (Jer. 16) Isaiah insists that his
    words are unworthy, his lips unclean (Isa. 65)
    but Jonah in contrast, goes the opposite
    direction without saying a word! So already in
    this verse the reader encounters the textual
    tendency of Jonah to invert biblical tradition.
    Here the author begins his satire of Jonah and
    all who embrace his ideas.

(No Transcript)
  • And all of this leads to a progressive downhill
    slide. He goes down to Joppa (13), goes down to
    the ship (13), goes down into the innermost
    parts of the ship (15), is thrown down into the
    depths of the sea and then descends to the realm
    of death or Sheol (23, 7). Down, down, down,
    down . this is the inevitable path of those who
    seek to avoid the mission of the church. The
    only place we go is down. And going down in
    the OT depicts a movement toward death (cf. Ps.
    884-6 Prov. 55).

  • The word fare actually refers to the ship. The
    idea here is not that Jonah paid a fare (so all
    of the English versions), but rather that he
    hired the ship and its crew. First, that Jonah
    has access to the ships innermost recesses
    (15) makes sense if he owned the boat. Second,
    the sailors hesitation to throw Jonah overboard
    (113-14) is understandable because he was their
    boss. Finally, according to most scholars it
    wasnt until Roman times that the ancient world
    had a specific word for fare a charge for the
    purchase of space in an expedition, seagoing or
    otherwise. No wonder Jonah didnt want to go to
    Nineveh hes cashing in on his ministry under
    Jeroboam II enough cash that is, to buy a ship
    and her crew to run away from the LORDS

  • VERSE FOUR Then the LORD sent a great wind on
    the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the
    ship threatened to break up.

  • And as for the ship it had a mind to break
    up. The irony is that the sailors fear
    disaster, the captain of the ship fears disaster,
    indeed, even the ship thinks it is going to break
    up. The only character animate or inanimate
    that has no fear is Jonah. The pun then is this
    as the ship fears wrecking she becomes a nervous

  • VERSE FIVE All the sailors were afraid and
    each cried out to his own god. And they threw the
    cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah
    had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell
    into a deep sleep. The subsequent events will
    transform the sailors from shear terror, to an
    awe at the awareness of being in the LORDS
    presence, to finally trust, belief and worship of
    this great God. The word deep sleep may be the
    first indication that Jonah seeks to die (43).
    The same word translated deep sleep is used in
    Judges 421. It describes Sisera as in such deep
    slumber that he didnt hear Jael coming near to
    deliver his death blow (Judg. 421). Luther
    calls Jonahs sleep a sleep of death (cf. Ps.
    884-6), saying, There he lies and snores in his
    sins. As a noun the word describes Adam in Gen.

  • VERSE SIX The captain went to him and said,
    "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!
    Perhaps he will take notice of us, and we will
    not perish." Now a new character enters the
    scene. Many of the human reactions throughout
    the book deal with the question of life and
    death. This issue is particularly focused in the
    use of perish.

  • Perhaps is indicative of one of the major
    themes of the book (cf. 114b 39). The LORD
    will act as it pleases him, which may or may not
    conform to human patterns of actions. No
    demanding here, just humble awareness that there
    are two foundational truths to human
    enlightenment number one, there is a God
    number two, you are not him!

  • VERSE SEVEN Then the sailors said to each
    other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is
    responsible for this calamity." They cast lots
    and the lot fell on Jonah.

  • VERSE EIGHT So they asked him, "Tell us, who is
    responsible for making all this trouble for us?
    What do you do? Where do you come from? What is
    your country? From what people are you?"

  • VERSE NINE He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I
    worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the
    sea and the land." Jonah 14-16 (Scene II) is
    built according to a concentric or chiastic
  • A The LORD hurls the storm (14)
  • B The sailors pray, act (15ab)
  • C Jonah acts (lies down, sleeps 15c)
  • D The captain and sailors question Jonah
  • E Jonah speaks (19)
  • D The sailors question Jonah (110-11)
  • C Jonah speaks (112)
  • B The sailors act, pray (113-14)
  • A The sailors hurl Jonah and the storm ends
  • Conclusion 116

  • Jonahs words in 19, a confession of faith, have
    been carefully placed at the midpoint of this
    chiastic structure. There are 94 words in the
    Hebrew text from the scenes beginning in 14 to
    the beginning of the speech in 19 and 94 words
    in 110-15. Verse 16 stands outside the pattern
    as a conclusion. Both the chiastic structure and
    the exact balance of number of words serve to
    place the focus for this section on the
    confession in 19.

  • At the heart of this section is Jonahs
    confession that is analogous to his sermon in
    34. Both accomplish the salvation of
    unbelievers. Whatever Jonahs intention, this
    confession functions as a means of grace whereby
    the sailors are brought to faith. Such is the
    power of the ONE GOSPEL albeit in a very brief
    expression indeed, it is the power of God for
    the salvation of all who believe, first the Jew
    and then in this case the Gentile sailors
    (cf. Is. 5510-11).

  • VERSE TEN This terrified them and they asked,
    "What have you done?" (They knew he was running
    away from the LORD, because he had already told
    them so.) The sailors react in a way more
    indicative of an Israelite, than in a manner one
    would expect from unbelievers. The sailors
    cannot imagine anyone treating a deity in such a
    fashion. Here they are revealed as having a
    respect for the divine that Jonah does not have.
    This is an ongoing theme of the book that is,
    the outsiders get it, the insider doesnt.

Jonah as The Older Brother
  • VERSE ELEVEN The sea was getting rougher and
    rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to
    you to make the sea calm down for us?"

  • VERSE TWELVE "Pick me up and throw me into the
    sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I
    know that it is my fault that this great storm
    has come upon you."

  • VERSE THIRTEEN Instead, the men did their
    best to row back to land. But they could not, for
    the sea grew even wilder than before. Normally
    it is the prophets role to save the people from
    some divinely-inspired disaster or punishment,
    but here it is the pagan sailors who attempt to
    save a prophet of the LORD who refuses to speak.
    Against navigational experience spanning
    centuries that has taught mariners to remain in
    open sea during a storm, these sailors attempt to
    return to dry ground. Such is their concern
    for life!

  • VERSE FOURTEEN Then they cried to the LORD, "O
    LORD, please do not let us die for taking this
    man's life. Do not hold us accountable for
    killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have
    done as you pleased." The role of prophet and
    people is reversed the sailors refuse to commit
    a crime after the prophet has asked them to do
    so. Moreover, the sailors are praying the prayer
    Jonah should be praying. The sailors confess that
    the LORD does as he pleases (cf. Ps. 1153
    1356), while Jonah expresses his frustration
    because God does precisely that.

  • VERSES FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN Then they took Jonah
    and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew
    calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD,
    and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made
    vows to him. The LORD is found by those who did
    not seek him (Is. 651). The response of the
    sailors is striking in its simplicity and
    overpowering in its implications. The key word is
    fear, here understood as worship. They can now
    make the same confession as Jonah did in v. 9.
    Luther also believes that these sailors are also
    delivered from death, also from unbelief and sin,
    and they are brought to a knowledge of God so
    that they now become pious and true servants of
    God, such humble and timid servants.

  • VERSE SEVENTEEN But the LORD provided a great
    fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the
    fish three days and three nights. Although Jonah
    apparently believed that he would be able to
    escape the LORDS commission by his own death,
    God makes it clear that there will be no escape.
    Rather than kill him or let him die, he imprisons
    Jonah in the belly of the fish to demonstrate
    further that there is nowhere in the world, even
    death, where Jonah can flee (cf. Amos 92-3).

Jonah being swallowed
  • The word provide or direct, ordain, appoint is
    used the first of four times in the book here,
    then again in 46, 7, 8. Each time a non-human
    agent is appointed and each occurrence is used
    with a different divine name. And each non-human
    agent is different what does all this mean? The
    LORD appoints a fish, a plant (46), a worm
    (47) and a wind (48). These elements of nature
    are appointed for salvation (the fish and plant),
    as well for judgment (the worm and wind).

  • Two observations regarding the use of this word
    provide in the book are as follows. With each
    use a different divine name is used as the
    subject of the verb
  • 117 Yahweh
  • 46 Yahweh-Elohim
  • 47 Ha-Elohim
  • 48 Elohim

  • When the verb occurs the object of the LORDS
    control belongs to a different realm in nature
  • 117 the fish (sea)
  • 46 the plant (vegetation)
  • 47 the worm (animals)
  • 48 the wind (air)

Jonah at prayer
  • From the Book of Psalms
  • my distress 186 1201
  • Sheol 184-5
  • all thy waves and thy billows passed over
    me 427
  • from thy presence 1397
  • upon thy holy temple 57
  • the waters closed in over me 692
  • my life from the Pit 303
  • my soul fainted within me 1423
  • into thy holy temple 186
  • deliverance belongs to Yahweh 38

  • VERSE TEN And the LORD commanded the fish, and
    it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jonah is not
    placed or gently laid upon the beach. No. He is
    vomited. Its as if three days of undigested
    Jonah is enough! Just where he was sprawled out
    is not known all we have is the word dry
    ground. So it is there that the LORD places the
    prodigal prophet.

  • VERSES ONE FOUR Then the word of the LORD
    came to Jonah a second time "Go to the great
    city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I
    give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and
    went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important
    city-- a visit required three days. On the first
    day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed
    "Forty more days and Nineveh will be turned
    over. The approximate travel time from Jerusalem
    to Nineveh in antiquity would have been about 45
    days. This is estimated according to caravan

Jonah answers the 2nd call
Jonah preaching to the Ninevites
  • Forty days is a term that denotes a time of
    testing, with a new beginning at the end. Without
    citing every Scriptural instances in which
    multiples of forty are use, the following are
    noteworthy (1) forty years Israels journey
    from Egypt to Canaan (Ex. 1635) peace in Israel
    upon the LORDS selection of a judge (Judg.
    311) (2) forty days rain leading up to the
    flood (Gen. 712) Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex.
    2418) spies in Canaan (Num. 1325) Elijahs
    fast (1 Kings 198) Jesus fast (Matt. 42) the
    post-resurrection epiphanies (Acts 13). Forty
    not only takes us to a Noahic sampling it
    also takes us to the slow and merciful LORD who
    could have said to Nineveh, Ill make all new
    things, the old wont do. But instead he said,
    Ill make all things even you new!

  • VERSE FIVE The Ninevites believed God. They
    declared a fast, and all of them, from the
    greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. The
    verbal root here is !ma (believe, trust
    AMEN) the same root that forms the name of
    Jonahs father (11), now ironically appears, not
    with Jonah, but with the Ninevites.

  • VERSE SIX When the news reached the king of
    Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his
    royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and
    sat down in the dust. This reaction of the king
    is all the more remarkable in that elsewhere the
    king of Assyria is portrayed as an arrogant,
    boasting monarch who not only defies the LORD and
    threatens Jerusalem, but argues that his power is
    great than the LORDS because he has been able to
    defeat the God of Israel/Judah just as he
    defeated the gods of other nations (Is. 105-34,
    36-27/ 2 Kings 18-19 Nahum 2-3). He rises from
    his throne, removes his robe, puts on sackcloth,
    and sits in the dust or ashes (cf. Job 28 Dan.
    93 Esther 41, 3).

  • VERSE SEVEN Then he issued a proclamation in
    Nineveh "By the decree of the king and his
    nobles Do not let any man or beast, herd or
    flock, taste anything do not let them eat or
    drink. The book has already indicated that a
    fish had a great responsibility now more
    animals join in. The verse is not some kind of
    hyperbole rather, the idea is that the
    conversion is so complete that it includes
    people and animals and all the company of
    creatures. Remember Noah?? Those who are
    tuned into this sampling understand the idea
    a new past to live with that changes our future
    indefinitely MANY NATIONS!

  • VERSE EIGHT But let man and beast be covered
    with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on
    God. Let them give up their evil ways and their
    violence. While fear/worship is the word
    governing the conversion of the sailors,
    turn/repent is the word that describes the
    conversion of the Ninevites. It is used in this
    chapter five times, with much the same rhythm as
    that of fear in chapter one. The Ninevites turn
    from their wicked way (38) in the hope that the
    LORD may turn from his anger (39). When he does
    sees that the city has turned/repented he relents
    (310) from his judgment.

  • VERSES NINE TEN Who knows? God may yet relent
    and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so
    that we will not perish." When God saw what they
    did and how they turned from their evil ways, he
    had compassion and did not bring upon them the
    destruction he had threatened. But does God
    really relent, or, as the KJV translates the
    Hebrew word, repent?

  • That is to say, this God reveals himself as one
    who is not immutable in some absolute sense.
    Just so, Karl Barth calls it the holy mutability
    of God. This is perhaps at least one reason for
    Israels aniconic perspective that idols do not
    change (cf. Ps 1155-7 Jer 104-5). Understood
    this way, this prohibition of images is a concern
    to protect the LORDS relatedness rather than his
    transcendence, though the two are not mutually
    exclusive. Also, one of the characteristics of
    the gods of the nations is that they cannot be
    moved or affected (cf. 1 Kings 1827-29).

  • Divine repentance enables the primary attributes
    of the LORD to be kept primary, namely, his
    steadfast love and mercy. He is not unbending or
    unyielding, as a focus on immutability suggests.
    He is not a take it or leave it, like it or
    lump it God. He will change course in midstream
    in view of the interaction with his world.

  • VERSE ONE But Jonah was greatly displeased and
    became angry. A key word in the book that is
    repeated as a noun and a verb is evil occurring
    ten times (12, 7, 8 38, 10a, 10b 41a, 1b, 2,
    6). There has been evil beginning with the
    Ninevites (12), moving to the sailors (17),
    returning to the Ninevites (310), coming to the
    LORD (310 42), and here with Jonah. Except in
    the reference to Jonah, all the evil is taken
    away. In v. 6 the LORD tries, but to no avail.
    Evil is used in two closely related ways. On
    the one hand it refers to the wickedness of the
    Ninevites (12 38, 10) and Jonah (46). On
    the other hand, it refers to the judgment which
    is sometimes threatened and other times carried
    out by the LORD (17, 8 310 42).

  • VERSE TWO He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is
    this not what I said when I was still at home?
    That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I
    knew that you are a gracious and compassionate
    God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God
    who relents from sending calamity. We must now
    ask the question in its fullest sense why did
    Jonah flee to Tarshish? The text never mentions
    that he is afraid (cf. 1 Kings 192-3). Nor does
    it indicate that Jonah viewed his task as too
    difficult or beneath his dignity.

  • The striking answer to why Jonah took flight is
    in 42 Jonahs God is simply too merciful! The
    reason for Jonahs running is delayed so that we
    may pause to consider why we run from God. Most
    of us will not admit to the reason given in 42
    at least initially. Most Christians dont go
    around saying, or even admitting to themselves,
    that they dont like the fact that God is too
    merciful. One author writes The author thus
    holds back on the real reason until his audience
    is fully identified with Jonah and is brought
    along to the point where the truth of the matter
    can have its sharpest impact.

  • VERSE THREE Now, O LORD, take away my life,
    for it is better for me to die than to live."
    Die is used as a verb and noun four times in
    this chapter 43, 8b, 8c, 9). The captain
    (16), the sailors (114) and the king of Nineveh
    (39) all pray for life in the face of the threat
    of death. However, when the Ninevites are spared
    from death, ironically Jonah wishes to die (43).
    On the other hand, when Jonahs own plant is not
    spared (410), he expresses the wish to die

  • VERSES FOUR FIVE But the LORD replied, "Have
    you any right to be angry?" Jonah went out and
    sat down at a place east of the city. There he
    made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and
    waited to see what would happen to the city.

Jonah waits for Ninevehs destruction
  • Why does the author tell us where Jonah sat? As
    the same verb is used here and also in 36 to
    describe the kings actions it could be to
    contrast Jonahs sitting high and the kings
    sitting low. Nineveh was flanked on the west and
    north by the Tigris and the Khoser rivers there
    were a few hills on the towns remaining sides
    where Jonah in all likelihood perched himself to
    witness the citys immanent judgment. The irony
    is exactly this the king who is after-all the
    king is seated low. Jonah who is after-all
    just a prophet is seated high. What the king
    was willing to do that is, humble himself his
    Jonah is unwilling to do. Luke 1411, For
    everyone who is exalting himself will be humbled
    and the one humbling himself will be exalted.

  • VERSE SIX Then the LORD God provided a vine
    and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for
    his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was
    very happy about the vine. Rather than attempt
    to speak further to Jonah, which is clearly
    useless at this point, the LORD provides the
    second of his four provisions. As the LORD
    provided the fish and Jonah rejoiced via the
    psalm, so the plant brings him great joy.

  • VERSE SEVEN But at dawn the next day God
    provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it
    withered. By now we are familiar with the way
    the word provide is functioning. Thus, Elohim
    punishes Jonah by appointing a worm to attack the
    vine. Then Elohim appointed a hot east wind to
    attack Jonah (48). It will also be Elohim who
    disciplines the prophet in 49. In 410,
    however, where the emphasis is on divine grace
    and mercy, the more personal description of
    Yahweh the LORD again appears. In his wisdom
    the LORD properly uses Law and Gospel and
    physical means in order to shape Jonah and us
    into more faithful communicators of his Word.

  • VERSE EIGHT When the sun rose, God provided a
    scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on
    Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to
    die, and said, "It would be better for me to die
    than to live." The progression of the divine
    names connected with provide comes to an end in
    this verse. The subject in each occurrence is
    Yahweh (21), Yahweh God (46), the God (47) and
    God here.

  • VERSES NINE ELEVEN But God said to Jonah,
    "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
    "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
    But the LORD said, "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 cannot tell their right hand
    from their left, and many cattle as well. Should
    I not be concerned about that great city?"

  • Nowhere in the book of Jonah is it stated that
    Yahweh has made a covenant with all of creation.
    This is simply assumed, much the way that Abraham
    Lincoln assumes on behalf of his audience that of
    course the roots of the United States began
    eighty-seven years prior to his speech that day
    in Gettysburg. In the latter example, Lincoln
    frames his speech in terms of preserving a people
    that liberty labored over and helped to grow
    great, inviting those present into a discussion
    about the best way to honor those dead, while
    deftly setting aside any and all competing ideas
    about how or why this nation ever came about.

  • This very idea of granting an equal status to the
    other nations a hallmark of our Lords
    ministry might well have been met with a
    reception similar to that given Lincolns speech
    by the Chicago Times. In an article entitled The
    President at Gettysburg and printed on November
    23, 1863less than a week after his speechthis
    presumed journalistic ally to Lincoln and to the
    Union bristled It was to uphold this
    constitution, and the Union created by it, that
    our officers and soldiers gave their lives at
    Gettysburg. How dare he, then, standing on their
    graves, misstate the cause for which they died,
    and libel the statesmen who founded the
    government? They were men possessing too much
    self-respect to declare that negroes were their
    equals, or were entitled to equal privileges.

  • You guessed it the authors strategy of
    withholding Jonahs answer to the LORDS question
    leaves room for you and I to provide a personal
    answer. This is the authors attempt to keep the
    story current for readers of every generation.
    Whatever Jonahs answer may have been, or
    whatever our answers are just now, in the
    fullness of time one greater than Jonah (Matt.
    1241) appeared who spoke the whole answer with
    his whole heart and wrote it with his blood.
    His name? Jesus.
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