Jews and Jonah S Ministry

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  • Topic: Jews, Book of Jonah, Judaism
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What is the date of Jonah and what historical situation might it address?

Introduction: story of Jonah.

Jonah tells the story of a man who is sent by the lord to instruct a unfamiliar city of non-Jews to regret their sins, otherwise they be destroyed[1]. Jonah personally doesn’t want to pass on this message as he doubts that they will repent and will surpass the behaviour of the Jews who don’t repent[2]. This would then cause God to destroy the Jews. Jonah eventually makes it to Nineveh and calls on the people to repent, and they do[3]. Jonah becomes miserable at this point and God teaches him a lesson by showing him that even though they were not Jews, God still loves and cares for them because they still are his creations[4].

Date

According to most sources the story of Jonah occurs during the first half of the eighth century B.C. certainly the dates must fall between the times of Jeroboam (793-753 B.C) to the collapse of Nineveh (612 B.C.)[5].

In Jewish perspective the date of the assignment by god of Jonah to Nineveh is not known for it is not mentioned in the text; however it almost certainly took place during the reign of jeroboam (the second) 646-607 B.C.E.[6]

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Historical background

During the time of Jonah’s ministry, king Jeroboam-II had restored most of the northern kingdom of Israel which ended a long conflict between Israel and Damascus.

Nevertheless, the eighth century B.C appeared to be a difficult time for the smaller nations of the Middle East. The powerful force of Assyria (Iraq of the present) was the aggressor nation of the period willing to use force in order to expand its ever growing empire. Internal affairs within Assyria enabled Israel the re-establishment of its northern borders although remaining the main threat for this period. Jonah had previously predicted this restoration of Israel by Jeroboam.

Soon after these events the people of Israel, relieved from foreign strains, began to grow in confidence regarding Gods favour of his chosen nation and distanced from the religious customs. It is during this time that Jonah was assigned to go to Nineveh, while the other ministering prophets Amos and Hosea announced to the Israelites that the lord plans to exile them if they do not repent.[7]

Nineveh was the main city of Assyria and it lay on the eastern side of the Tigris, its population exceeded one hundred and twenty thousand.

At first the book of Jonah may seem quite straightforward however; a deep literary analysis reveals themes and symbolic patterns that help uncover the historical situation of the time that Jonah is concerned with. Jonahs ultimate fear is the exile of the people of Israel.

As Jonah is asked by the lord to cal upon the people of Nineveh, “Arise go to Nineveh that great city, and cry against her, for their wickedness has ascended before me”[8], he refuses for two reasons. Firstly, Jonah knew that the people of Nineveh could very well be easily motivated to repent and therefore, would accept Gods call and earn his mercy. This would result in the most accusing of fingers towards Israel, as God has many times before warned the people of Israel. Prophets preceding Jonah had tried and failed in changing the ways of the people. Simply, it would be impossible to justify the northern kingdoms behaviour in the face of Nineveh’s obedience. Jonah felt that he would be the cause of a terrible outcome to his people’s fate and in order to prevent this he chose not to go. Secondly, previously Jonah had been accused of being a false prophet .This occurred when he had prophesised against Jerusalem and the people, following his prophecy, had repented. Jonah had foreseen the destruction of the city which in fact had not been destructed. He had been in a similar situation and had experienced a painful outcome. If he were to go to Nineveh and predict destruction in the case of the people repenting yet again he would face accusations of false prophecy. Finally,...
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