Monday 05 October 2009

Bible Book:

"But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." (1:17)

Jonah 1:1 - 2:10 Monday 5 October 2009


Jonah is an odd book to find among the minorprophets. To see how odd, have quick look at the book of Amos,which comes before it, and Micah, which follows it. Instead ofgreat speeches of the prophets on behalf of God, Jonah presents uswith a larger than life tale of a prophet who spends most of thebook being disobedient to God's instructions to him. Try thinkingof it as a comic cartoon.

The book starts with God sending Jonah to Nineveh: the capital ofAssyria, the world superpower at the time. It's a scary place to goto and Jonah decides to make a run for it instead, thinking he canescape God by going to sea. But God has other plans, sending a bigstorm that doesn't let up until Jonah is thrown overboard.

Things look bad for Jonah: so bad that even getting swallowed by a"large fish" is an improvement. The writer may be thinking of awhale. Inside it, Jonah gets serious about faith for the firsttime, addressing a prayer that would be moving if it wasn'tdelivered from a whale's stomach (2:1-9). God hearsJonah's prayer and tells the whale to spew him up on the land. Thewhale (which is a lot more obedient than Jonah) does so.

To picture Jonah as a cartoon is not to say that it doesn't haveanything serious to say to us. Comedies can tell us importantthings alongside their humour. Many people in dire situations havefound comfort in praying Jonah's whale prayer. Some theologianshave seen in his time in the whale a pre-figuring of Christ'sexperience between death and resurrection.

To Ponder

What do you think this book is doing in theBible?

What do these chapters tell us about God and howGod calls people to do things?

Jonah is clear that God threw him into the sea,as well as rescuing him from it. Do you agree that God sometimesmakes bad things happen?

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