Introduction to Human and Christic Peace Studies
Mr. Rommel C. Jocson
Sr Malou Solijon, MAT
Different people in the Bible, whether great or common, imparted important roles in the history of our salvation. They can be our role model in living the faith in this present world. Let me focus on Jonah, the prophet, who played a great role in the Old Testament people especially to the people of Nineveh.
THE BIBLE CHARACTER
Jonah in Hebrew is “Yona” or “Yunus” in Islam which means Dove is placed in the tradition of the prophets called by God and sent to announce His Word. He was the son of Mitta according to a Tradition quoted in Sahih Bukhari but the Torah states that his father's name was Amittai, “…the prophet Jonah, the son of Amittai from Gath-hepher” (2 Kings 14:25). Anxious of the limit of God’s mercy, he epitomizes post-exilic Israel, narrow-minded towards her neighbors. His mission is reminiscent with Jeremiah’s mission to the nations “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer.1:5). Jonah is unique among the 12 Minor Prophets in that his book contains little prophecy; its single oracular statement, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Instead of prophecies, the book tells how Jonah was swallowed by “a great fish” and survived “in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” His tale begins with the Lord’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come before me”. But Jonah decided to disobey God the reason why he is also called a disobedient prophet. He was best known as the prophet who was swallowed by a large fish. Realizing that God sent a storm because of his disobedience, Jonah begged to be thrown overboard. His wish was reluctantly granted and, as soon as he was cast into the sea, the storm abated. Swallowed by the fish, Jonah cried out to God for deliverance. Heeding the prophet’s anguish prayer, “the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah into the dry land”.
It is significant to note the division of the book corresponding to the two missions (First: Jon.1:1-2:11 and Second: Jon.3:1-4:11) of the prophet. In the first part, the recalcitrant Prophet is the recipient of God’s mercy; in the second part, he begrudges that mercy to others. Let me focus on some events in the story that are relevant to the present; Jonah’ Vocation (Jon.1:1-2), The Storm (Jon.1:4-16), The Large Fish (Jon.2:1-11), and Jonah under the Gourd Plant (Jon.4:5-11).
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE PASSAGE
Looking at its Authorship and Date, commentators who have interpreted the book as an historical narrative identify Jonah with the 8th-Century. Prophet mentioned in 2Kings 14:25 and consider him to be the author of the book. However, majority of the scholars today deny Jonah’s authorship and date the book 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, suggests that the author was not writing of contemporary events. The language of the book is not that of the 8th Century. A number of words used are not found elsewhere in the Old Testament but only in later Hebrew literature. The use of a number of Aramaisms indicates a date later than the 8th Century. The mentality of the author is more like the mentality of the middle 5th century. For these reasons, this book of unknown authorship is dated between 400-200. In its Literary Form, if the book is studied in relation to its life setting in post-exilic Israel, if it is compared to the legends of the prophets, the...