Jonah is the 5th book of the Minor Prophets and is deemed to have been written in 450BC. There is some dispute as to its genre.
Reasons for it being Historical
- Jonah is a known established prophet from the book of Kings in the 8th century.
- Historic precedent of a whaler being recovered alive a few days after being swallowed by a whale. His skin had been bleached by digestive juices. This could show a possible reason for Jonah to be so sensitive to the sun and that perhaps the leaders of Nineveh thought Jonah was a ghost of sorts coming to warn them from the underground.
- The book seems to be an historical narrative from a cursory reading.
Reasons against it being historical
- How would Jonah know what the sailors had prayed and the vows they made after being thrown over board
- Majority of modern scholars believe the book was written and added to the 12 in 450BC
- With close analysis the book shows prophetic parallelism
- Going down into bowels of the boat, then to the depths of the sea.. 3 days in fish… 3 days going through hell in Nineveh… culturally refers to the mythical 3 day trip into Sheol.
- The book is filled with satire and irony.
Drawing from the Old Testament.
- There are parallels with Job in this book. Job / Jonah want to die. God questions Job /Jonah. God wants Job / Jonah to reply.
- We read how the Babylonians repented under King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Kings
- Jonahs outburst to God stems from 4:2 Exodus 34:6 in regards to Gods merciful nature, yet he wants God’s mercy for himself and not for others.
- A thread of Gods sovereignty over all creation runs through Jonah; wind, sea, seaweed, fish, night, cattle, vine, worm, humanity.
Drawing from the New Testament
- In Pauls shipwreck he tells the sailors to stay with the ship and no lives are lost.He knows God is with them for he is doing God’s will.
- Jesus is sleeping in the storm while his disciples are panicking…He orders the storm to stop and the disciples are amazed, asking “Who is this?”
- Jesus refers to Jonah in relation to his resurrection and rebukes the religious leaders in Matt 12:41 and Luke 11:32. The shock of this statement would have been as huge as the Jewish nation would have been reading it.
Jonah knew that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He didn’t want this for Nineveh and so judged them, avoided them, and was angry at God for showing them mercy. Jesus warns us not to judge or we too will be judged and therefore Jonah challenges our deeply held thoughts, attitudes and actions towards those whom we consider “THEM” God is asking us through Jonah; are we willing to stop judging “THEM” and go and extend and live within Gods grace and mercy and in doing so cause “THEM” to become “US” living together in a broken world.