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Online Text for Jonah

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J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The content of the book enjoys more notoriety than it deserves because of the miraculous elements which make up a large part of it. Yahweh calls the prophet Jonah to go and preach judgement on Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. However, the prophet is unwilling to assume a certainly burdensome and perhaps even dangerous task, and escapes in the opposite direction, taking a ship directly westwards, to Tarshish. During a severe storm the crew connect his presence on board ship with the danger to the voyage and finally, to placate the deity of the sea, throw Jonah into the waves. Devoured by a great fish, within which he remains for three days, he is then cast up by the monster on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. This time Jonah prefers to obey and goes to Nineveh, where he preaches judgment, so that the inhabitants are converted. In these circumstances God decides to suspend judgment, and this irritates the prophet, who fears that he has cut a bad figure. He sits under a gourd which has miraculously sprung up as a shade from the sun, but God unexpectedly makes the tree shrivel. Still more annoyed, Jonah remonstrates with God, but is given the reply: 'You pity the plant . . . which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city?' With this thought the book ends." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 355)

Jay G. Williams writes: "The book of Jonah is unique among the books of the prophets, for it is not a collection of oracles at al. Rather it is a well-wrought, comic novella which, through its broad humor, makes a very decisive prophetic point. It was written with tongue-in-cheek and must be read accordingly if its message is to be properly assessed." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 245)

Douglas Stuart writes: "The actual composition of the book is not datable except within the broadest boundaries (ca. 750-250 B.C.) simply because there are no certain indications in it of date. The considerations most seriously cited as relevent to the issue of dating are four: (1) the supposed Aramaisms in the language, such as 'on whose account?' in 1:7 and 1:12; (2) the possible dependence of certain motifs or theological considerations on the book of Jeremiah; (3) the close verbal connections with Joel 2; (4) the supposedly erroneous identification of Nineveh as the actual royal capital of Assyria in Jonah's time." (Hosea-Jonah, p. 432)

Terence E. Fretheim writes: "The exact reference to Jonah in 1:1 roots the book in history (2 Kings 14:25), but literary features (e.g., irony, satire, hyperbole, repetition, humor, and the ending) indicate a nonhistoriographic purpose. The book is best seen as an interpretive development of these roots in the form of a short story pervasively didactic and carefully structured. Jonah himself becomes a type representing certain pious Israelites who hold a problematic theological perspective; Nineveh (cf. Nah. 3:1) is probably cipher for the Persians (cf. Jth. 1:1). The book is a unity, as most recent scholars recognize, though the author uses many earlier motifs and traditions (cf. Gen. 18; 1 Kings 19; Jer. 18, 36; Joel 2). The book is prophetic in that it speaks a word of judgment and grace to a specific audience, evoking amendment of thought and life." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 728)

Jean C. McGowan writes: "Commentators who have interpreted the book as an historical narrative identify Jonah with the 8th-cent. Prophet mentioned in 2 Kgs 14:25 and consider him to be the author of the book. However, the majority of scholars today deny Jonah's authorship and date the bok between 400 and 200 BC. Their arguments can be summarized as follows. The satirical tone in which the author writes about the Prophet in the third person suggests that he was not writing about himself. The lack of significant details, such as the name of the land where the fish left Jonah and the name of the king of Nineveh, suggest that the author was not writing about contemporary events. The language of the book is not that of the 8th-cent. A number of words used are not found elsewhere in the OT but only in later Hebr literature. The use of a number of Aramaisms indicate a date later than the 8th cent. (cf. A. Gelin, R-T 1, 745; Loretz, BZ, 5, 19-25). The mentality of the author is more like the mentality of the mid-5th cent. Other OT books, such as Ezr, Neh, and Ru, bear witness to the fact that in post-exilic Israel there was a strong current of interest in the question of Israel's relations to the nations, which would form a natural background for the theme of Jon. For these reasons, this book of unknown authorship is dated between 400-200." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 633)

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