Jonah: A Reluctant Prophet & the Great City of Nineveh - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-08-14
Jonah: A Reluctant Prophet & the Great City of Nineveh - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Christianity Bible
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1387 words
12 min read


The Book of Jonah is constituted one of the prophetic books in the Bible and the fifth of the twelve Minor Prophets. Broadly, Jonah is portrayed as a reluctant prophet within the Judeo-Christian scriptures, especially during the reign of King Jeroboam II. Yahweh is called by Yahweh to proclaim the destruction of the Great City of Nineveh, a city situated Far East of Jerusalem. It is through the unique story of Prophet Jonah that many fundamental truths within the Judeo –Christian faiths are explored (Blumenthal, 2007). These core truths include the faithfulness and love of God towards the Jew and Gentile, the capacity of the unrighteous gentile in the world, and critical tension between justice and mercy. Through miraculous intervention, Prophet Jonah proclaims this message to the people of Nineveh, despite resenting Yahweh's love and kindness towards Israel's enemies. A closer look at Jonah's story would reveal that radical and unprecedented repentance by the people of Nineveh greatly influences God's decision to absolve His declaration to destroy, despite Jonah's outcry.

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Unlike other minor prophets in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, Jonah is unique from others based on two factors. First, the book is named after its protagonist rather than merely its writer or active prophet. Secondly, it has not been woven into the history of Israel. Just like the parables, the passages lack historical information or details. A closer look would further reveal that the Great City of Nineveh has unnamed King as well as the innumerable population and is far from the city of Jerusalem (Goswell, 2016). There is thus a substantial stylistic vagueness throughout Jonah's book, based on the fact that he is the only character named in the entire book, for instance. This technique implies that the Book of Jonah is not meant to be understood as a historical event. As such, the readers are left with the question of whether or not the Book of Jonah is an educational, historical fiction.

The Historical Context of the Book of Jonah

Though a prophet in Israel, Jonah is not remembered for his ministry in Israel, which can provide explanations why Pharisees erringly claimed that no prophet had originated from Galilee during the days of Jesus. Instead, the Book of Jonah tremendously relates to the account of his call to proclaim the Gospel, preach repentance to the Nineveh as well as his refusal to go. A closer look at the passage reveals Nineveh as the capital of Assyria, which is highly known for its cruelty. It is a historical nemesis of both the land of Judah and Israel. Ideally, this book focuses mainly on the Gentile city, which was established by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:6-12). It may be the largest city in the world, according to some of the verses within the Judeo-Christian world (Blumenthal, 2007).

However, it was subjected to destruction of about 136 years after the generation's repentance in Jonah's visit (612 B.C.). Nahum primarily prophesied all these events. Thus, the political aversion of Israel for Assyria, coupled with a sense of spiritual superiority as the recipient of God's covenant blessing, generated a recalcitrant attitude in Jonah, towards God's request to serve him through missionary service. His mission was therefore meant to mock and shame Israel by the fact that a pagan city repented at the preaching of a stranger, while they (Israel) refused to repent even though many prophets preached them (Goswell, 2016). As a result, Jonah learned that God's mercy and love extend to all if His creatures and not just the people He has covenanted with (Gen. 9:27; 12:3).

Through the book of Jonah, Christians can learn and understand the sovereign rule of God over man and the entire creation. The creation came into existence through him and thus must respond to all His commands. Fascinatingly, Jesus Christ employed the repentance of the Ninevites purposely to rebuke the Pharisees. This way, they were able to illustrate the rigidity of the Pharisees' heart and their willingness to repent. It is thus critical to note that Nineveh embraced repentance at all the teaching of Prophet Jonah. Still, the Pharisees would not repent at the teachings and preaching of all Major Prophets who had visited the land of Israel. Even amid such refusal to repent, there existed overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah and the Lord. Thus, Jonah is a reflection of Israel who had been chosen and ordained by God as His witness.

Literary Features and the Poetic Devices in the Book of Jonah

A closer look at the book would reveal the employment of numerous literacy features and poetic devices. However, it is critical that dealing with the book as a work of literary art should not diminish its value to faith or theology. Notably, the book is mainly a human experience, which typically involves an encounter with God. A close reading of the text provides a tremendous revelation of the significant repetitions and patterns, which should draw our attention to the centrality of Chapter One. The first chapter is artistically structured purposely to allude, in subtle forms to some of the most critical aspects of the text. Therefore, a keen reader would be able to observe repetition from the beginning of the book. This involves the repetition of various words and phrases used in such a way as to arouse their attention (Goswell, 2016). While it is evident that they have been used, the repetition does not contribute to any new information in the text but serves as clues for the understanding of the story and the message it brings. The repetition further enriches the artistic narrative of the book.

The reaction of Jonah is mainly portrayed through silence (Blumenthal, 2007). The silence constitutes to the lacuna in the text. It characterizes Jonah as a runaway prophet throughout the book. Thus, the lacuna makes the reader seek explanations and ask various questions revolving around Jonah's answer to the shipmaster. If he does not speak, then what does he says? The apparent omission of Jonah's response to the sailors is a skillful planned technique whose intention is to establish the reader's expectations and open the story for a number of possible future developments (Goswell, 2016).

Theological Truths in the Book of Jonah

According to Andrews (2018), the book of Jonah presents various theological truths. Notably, Jonah was one of the only four writings prophets mentioned by Jesus by name during His earthly ministry. However, Jonah received more than a simple mention. Jesus identified Himself with Jonah's three-day sojourn within the belly of the Great Fish, and this foreshadows His death and resurrection. The Lord's identification with Jonah at his lowest point of life echoes in the book of Hebrews. In the book, we are taught that Jesus had to be made like His brethren in all things so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest (Hebrews 2:17). From the theological perspective, thus, the text offers a critical link within the prophetic chain, which provides the readers with a glimpse of Christ's death and resurrection for centuries before they took place (Blumenthal, 2007).

Application of the Book of Jonah to Church and Christians Today

The Book of Jonah broadly shows God's love and compassion for the Gentiles and the Jews (Blumenthal, 2007). It is based on the fact that God wants to establish a presence with his people. One message that the church and Christians can take from this text is that we cannot escape God's presence. Just as Jonah tried to escape the Lord's presence, we too cannot escape His presence. He can see us whenever we travel or rest at home because He is aware of everything that we do. Secondly, Christian must understand that obedience is vital to God. Jonah's first call resulted in disobedience and made him run away. However, his second call led to his obedience, which later yielded good results. The church must, therefore, be able to embrace these principles to ensure that God's love and mercy dwell upon us forever.


Andrews, M. W. (2018). The Sign of Jonah: Jesus in the Heart of the Earth. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 61(1), 105-119.

Blumenthal, F. (2007). Jonah, the reluctant prophet: Prophecy and allegory. Jewish Bible Quarterly, 35(2), 103.

Goswell, G. (2016). Jonah among the Twelve Prophets. Journal of Biblical Literature, 135(2), 283-299.

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