Jonah is one of the best known stories of the Old Testament, let alone of the Minor Prophets. Jonah is a prophet who is sent to the terrible Assyrian capital of Ninevah, but he attempts to run away. Even when the Lord redirects his paths, he reluctantly preaches in the city. Then he runs outside the city to await the results.
Author and Date
Jonah would have traveled to Ninevah somewhere between 800 and 750 B.C. Israel had not yet been taken captive by Assyria (722 B.C.). 2 Kings 14 also mentions a prophet by the name of Jonah during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.).
- God calls Jonah.
- Jonah flees from God.
- God brings Jonah to Ninevah.
- God brings repentance to the Assyrians.
- Jonah despises God’s mercy.
The theme of Jonah is generally accepted as God’s mercy upon the Gentiles, or “God will have mercy on whom God will have mercy.” Though this is true and a part of the teaching of the book, it does not take into account the dialogue concerning the plant at the end.
God sets up a contrast for Jonah from which the reader can draw certain propositions. 1) Jonah did not love the Ninevites as God loved the Ninevites—he loved them less. 2) Jonah did not love the plant as God loved the plant—he loved it more. 3) Jonah loved the plant more than he loved the Ninevites. In each of these three propositions, Jonah does not have his loves in order; they do not line up with God’s loves. That is Jonah’s real problem and the real theme of the book.