Jonah's Good News

The prophetic good news of Jonah is found in learning how God thinks. ADONAI reveals how He thinks about the ignorant wicked, repentance as a means of salvation, and the discomfort of His disagreeable chosen prophet. Interpreters have divided opinions about Jonah’s theological contribution. Is the Good News of Jonah only found in God’s viewpoint (everyone gets second chances, the repentant wicked are forgiven, and God is patiently logical with His disgruntled prophet)? Is Yonah only a flat figure who is disgruntled, disobedient and angry? Some see him as a comic figure, who, among other things, thinks he can successfully run away from HaShem. In this view, he is not a proper prophet who speaks on behalf of the Almighty because most of his words and actions are rebellious.

Nevertheless, Jonah is a mouthpiece for God’s word in the midst of his dispute with God. He is disobedient, runs away from God, and is angry about God’s clemency for the violent Ninevites. But his rebellion is grounded in God’s Word as he has learned it and as it is proclaimed in the Bible. The wicked will perish. High-handed rebellion will not be pardoned, even in repentance (Numbers 15:27-31). Jonah’s opinion concerning Nineveh, far from being rebellious, represents a major opinion that is a necessary part of any dialogue with God about wickedness in the world. Until Jonah’s dialogue with God, the prophet’s opinion about the wicked was known as God’s way in the world.

Jonah is a true prophet voicing a true theology. In this sense he is not rebellious. Jonah is being faithful to what he knows to be God’s word of strict justice when the LORD asked him to disregard that word with a new word. God’s new word is a controversial word even among believers today. Jonah’s questions and actions in reaction to this new word are faithful to the word from YHVH that he previously received. Jonah the prophet and Jonah the book faithfully struggle with this difficult question: “What should be done about the violently wicked who repent?” This is an even more difficult question than the early church’s struggle to understand how righteous Gentiles, like Cornelius in Acts 10, could receive the LORD's grace and Holy Spirit.

Jonah is a faithful prophet because he is true to speaking God’s word of justice as he had known it, even to God Himself. When he is convinced by his resurrection from the dead that God was determined to extend His forgiveness to the previously unforgivable, he goes and preaches the word to Nineveh. Although reluctantly . . . he finished his commission. Like Abraham, Moses and Jeremiah, he protested to ADONAI in chapter 4 when the Ninevites repented. Yonah demonstrated his integrity in representing traditional justice, and by preaching to Nineveh. Jonah’s protest provides an occasion for God’s revelation of a better justice (4:10-11) in the context of the life of a true and honest man. The Good News is that Jonah’s struggle is accepted by God as a legitimate human struggle to understand the continuance of wickedness in the world.15


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