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Jonah's Lesson in Grace

Jonah's Lesson in Grace

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Published by Ben
A research paper over Jonah 4 I wrote for an Old Testament class.
A research paper over Jonah 4 I wrote for an Old Testament class.

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Published by: Ben on Jul 08, 2007
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Jonah’s Lesson of Grace
An Exegetical Study of Jonah 4:1-11
Ben WulpiOld Testament IIDr. BergdallApril 23, 2007
 
Everyone knows the story of Jonah and the whale. It is told as bedtime stories toour  children. But not many people are aware of the real purpose behind the book of Jonah, which is illustrated in chapter four of the book. Chapter four is where Jonahexpresses his reasoning for fleeing from God when given the assignment to prophecy at Nineveh and his anger at God for sparing the city. It reveals Jonah’s character, tarnished by his jealous nationalism and personal pride. The message of this short chapter, and thusof the whole book, is of God’s grace extending to all people. “…God is interested in all people whatever their nationality or race and expects those who know him to dedicatethemselves to sharing that knowledge” (Reed 161). It is about judging based on a systemof merit versus God’s mercy. God’s mercy is ultimately sovereign over any amount of merit.There is no information in the Book of Jonah as to the author’s identity, andscholars debate the time period in which the book was written. The information musthave come from Jonah himself, but since it is written in third person, and there is no clueas to authorship, it could have been written by another. Some suggest Jonah was writtenin a postexilic time period based on the usage of past tense when referring to Nineveh(“Nineveh
was
a great city”), the allegedly exaggerated picture of Nineveh, anddifferences in style between Hosea (a contemporary of Jonah) and Jonah.The time setting of the book is estimated at somewhere between 782 and 745B.C., during a time of Assyrian weakness, which could help to explain Jonah’s successthere. “The consciousness of weakness and possible defeat would go far to explain thereadiness of Nineveh to accept the prophet’s message” (Gaebelein 361). Nineveh was thecapital of Assyria, a brutal enemy of Israel. It was known as the greatest city in the world,
 
a metropolis filled with prosperity and great wickedness. Assyria’s enemy status to Israel plays a part in explaining Jonah’s anger toward God for sparing the city.Jonah son of Amittai was from the town of Gath-Hepher in Zebulun. He was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (about 786-746 B.C.). He is mentionedin 2 Kings 14:25 as a prophet who predicted prosperity and territorial gains for Israel,which would have given him a good reputation as a popular, highly esteemed prophet inIsrael. The people always loved to hear good news prophesied, so those prophets that bore good news were highly regarded. Jonah may also have been the shy, young prophetof 2 Kings 9:1-11 who anointed Jehu king over Israel. Jonah represents Israel, as well asall of humankind, in its selfish rebellion against God’s sovereignty. “There is no character in the Bible who epitomizes humankind quite like Jonah” (Pickard 91). Jonah is depictedas narrow, vindictive, nationalistic, and bitterly exclusive. His attitude can be comparedto that of the prodigal’s elder brother in Luke 15, who is angered at the Father’sunconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance for his long lost son. Jonah also appearsto be very depressed throughout the book, going through intense swings of emotion.“Jonah ben Amittai is quite possibly the most persistently and intensely dejectedcharacter in literature” (Perry 52).Jonah is the fifth book of the Minor Prophets, and it is unique among the latter  prophets in being almost completely narrative, with the exception of Jonah’s psalm inchapter 2. The book is either (a) historical or (b) allegorical or parabolic. Most viewJonah as undoubtedly a historical figure, based on the accurate descriptions of thehistorical setting and the fact that he was mentioned by Jesus as a historical figure(Matthew 12:39-41, Luke 11:29-32). But many people have trouble viewing Jonah as

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