Today we are reading the final chapter of Jonah. It’s a brief story of God sending a messenger to a place called Nineveh, to tell them they have fallen short and need to change their mindset. Jonah had no interest in doing so, because he hated the people of Nineveh, based on a long-standing, hostile relationship.
In Chapter 1, Jonah ignored God and ran. In Chapter 2, he was forced to pause and apologize. In Chapter 3 He actually ventured into the large town to tell people about God and they truly repented.
They were forgiven, and this is where we pick up the story.
Episode #67 Jonah 4 Common English Bible (CEB)
But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. 3 At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.”
4 The Lord responded, “Is your anger a good thing?” 5 But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city.
6 Then the Lord God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. 7 But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died.8 Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.”
9 God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?”
Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good—even to the point of death!”
10 But the Lord said, “You ‘pitied’ the shrub, for which you didn’t work and which you didn’t raise; it grew in a night and perished in a night. 11 Yet for my part, can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - "We open chapter 4 with a dejected prophet. God had planned to destroy Nineveh, but He “did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened” (Jonah 3: 10). The very notion that God could change was completely unacceptable to Jonah. It infuriated him and filled him with righteous indignation. What kind of perfect God changes His decree? Never mind that God did; according to the prophet, He could not. God’s actions, in Jonah’s limited mind, were divine and, therefore, immutable." Brown, Erica. Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet (Kindle Locations 3510-3513). the Toby Press. Kindle Edition.
Quote #2 - "In the above passage, God explained to Job that not only did he not understand the world and the way it operates in delicate balance and confluence, he failed to understand that the Creator’s job is also as Sustainer. God sets the world in motion as its chief operator, day after day after day. God must sustain it and care for it – as God reminded Jonah with His last, enduring question. Jonah’s rigid certainty about his four cubits was neither very certain nor very vast, as God tried to demonstrate with repeated rhetorical questions." Brown, Erica. Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet (Kindle Locations 3545-3549). the Toby Press. Kindle Edition.
Quote #3 - "Jonah is the only biblical book to end with a question. Just as the beginning of the story is filled with oddities and unexplained tensions, so does the end leave the reader unsatisfied, curious, unfulfilled. Did Jonah learn his lesson, painstakingly delivered by God as a “teaching moment” in the form of a miracle tree and a very determined worm? Did Jonah turn around, leave his makeshift hut on the margins of Nineveh, and step back into the city, spitting himself out as the fish spat him out two chapters earlier? Phyllis Trible believes that the form of a question is an important literary flourish here, stressing that “rhetorical eloquence is theological eloquence.” 2 God’s rhetoric hides a not-so-subtle jab at the prophet about the nature of his job and the nature of divine work. Trible also believes that this way of concluding has other benefits: “By stopping with a question, the book of Jonah remains open-ended. By stopping with a question, the rhetorical analysis of Jonah remains open-ended." Brown, Erica. Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet (Kindle Locations 3986-3994). the Toby Press. Kindle Edition.
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