Most people have heard the story of Jonah. It is arguably one of the more familiar stories in all of Scripture. As such, people—especially Christians—believe they know what the story of Jonah is all about. Most believe it is about a man who is asked by God to go preach to a city so they can be saved. This man doesn’t want to go, but after the near-death experience of getting swallowed by a fish, he ends up doing what God asks, and the entire city repents and is saved. The message then is that when God calls us to preach the Gospel to other people, we had better go.
The following Commentary on Jonah will challenge this way of reading Jonah. There are some elements of truth to this traditional way of reading Jonah, but this approach is not the main message in Jonah, nor is it the main point of the story. But to see the point and to grasp the message, we must forget everything we think we know about Jonah, and read the story with fresh eyes, letting the story speak for itself. We must place ourselves in the sandals of Jonah, reminding ourselves of his popularity and success as a prophet of God in Israel, and also remembering the situation that Israel faced with the growing threat of Assyria to the east. When we read Jonah with this perspective, we immerse ourselves within the story and gain new insight and understanding into what the book of Jonah is all about.
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