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Don’t Put God in a Field, Until You Wish to Be Swallowed by a Fish


This weblog collection is taken, roughly as is, from my newest guideHow The Bible Truly Works. You’ll be able to learn the primary posts on this collectionright here and right here and right here.

The guide of Jonah tells the well-known story of the prophet Jonah who wished nothing to do together with his divinely given task—to go to town of Nineveh and cry out in opposition to it for its wickedness (1:2), which is to say, give town an opportunity to repent. Nineveh, by the best way, was the capital of Assyria, which sacked the northern kingdom, Israel, in 722 BCE and continued to harass the southern kingdom, Judah, all through the seventh century BCE till the Babylonians gained management of the area.

The Assyrian military was relentless and practically invincible
and (judging from Assyrian paintings) impaled and skinned those that resisted.
Who—with any lively sense of justice—would wish to give them an opportunity to repent
of their depraved methods?! They have to be wiped off the face of the earth. Why in
heaven’s identify would God present any compassion to our enemies who imply to destroy
us?

So Jonah wished nothing to do with these godless
warmongering bullies for concern they could really hear and repent. To flee
God, Jonah boarded a ship heading the precise other way, however when storms
threatened to sink the vessel, Jonah confessed to the crew that he was
accountable for unleashing God’s wrath on them; in the event that they merely tossed him
overboard, they’d survive, which they eagerly did. And that is the place a
giant fish swallows Jonah, which for some motive is believed to make for an awesome
youngsters’s story, although that isn’t in any respect what we’re curious about right here.

This little incident triggered Jonah to rethink his
choice, so when the fish vomited him up onto the shore, he headed to
Nineveh—however nonetheless copping an perspective. He begrudgingly delivered the shortest
and most adverse gross sales pitch ever, Forty extra days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown
(3:4), after which stomped away. Regardless of his efforts to subvert God’s will,
Jonah’s worst fears have been realized: the folks and the king repented, and so God modified his thoughts
concerning the calamity that he had mentioned he would convey upon them; and he didn’t do
it (3:10). Ugh. Might at the present time get any worse?

The prophet, Nahum, nevertheless, tells one other story about what God thinks of the Ninevites: he hates them. Nahum, in reality, celebrates the demise of Nineveh and interprets it as an act of God. The guide concludes: There is no such thing as a assuaging your harm, your wound is mortal. All who hear the information about you clap their palms over you. For who has ever escaped your countless cruelty? (3:19). Translation: God destroyed Nineveh and everybody cheers as if it have been the golden aim within the World Cup finals.

Jonah and Nahum clearly see the matter of God’s perspective
towards the Ninevites otherwise, and the reason being … Await it … they have been written at
completely different instances and underneath completely different circumstances for various functions.

Nahum lived on the time of the autumn of Nineveh and,
traditionally talking, he was proper. Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612 BCE
and, as all prophets do, Nahum interpreted the occasion as an act of God.

Jonah, nevertheless, as most each biblical scholar thinks, was
written within the postexilic interval, after (maybe generations after) the return
from Babylonian exile in 538 BCE. And this writer doesn’t appear to be within the
least bit curious about recording historical past.

The writer knew in addition to everybody else that Nineveh and
the Assyrian Empire had really fallen and by no means repented. Had the Assyrians
really repented, it will have amounted to a mass shift in spiritual
dedication and political technique, which might have been massive information (“Assyrians
bow the knee to Israel’s God. Hostilities stop. Movie at 11:00”). However nothing
of the kind is thought from any historical document, Assyrian or in any other case. It strains
credulity.

After which there’s the entire “Jonah swallowed by a fish”
a part of the story. Jonah stays there for 3 days because the fish descends
down, down, even getting into the abode of the useless, which the Bible calls Sheol.
These strike me because the sorts of particulars a author, together with an historical one,
would put right into a story to make sure that his readers knew they have been coping with
one thing aside from historical past.

The guide of Jonah isn’t a historical past lesson.

It’s a parable to problem its readers to reimagine a God greater than the one they have been accustomed to.

The author of Jonah, dwelling someday after the exile,
wrote to a neighborhood that will have understood his level. Whereas in Babylonian
captivity, the Judahites little question received to know their hosts fairly properly. They
raised youngsters and buried kinfolk there. Familiarity breeds acceptance, and
when the Persians gave the all-clear for the Judahites to return residence (539 BCE),
many really determined to remain behind. In reality, Babylon would change into a middle of
Jewish life and thought for the following thousand years. (The Babylonian Talmud,
the authoritative guide of Judaism, was produced there.)

And so the author of Jonah instructed a narrative of God’s
expansive mercy for non-Israelites; in different phrases, possibly God cares for different
folks too. And the writer makes use of as his illustration a clearly fictionalized
account of their long-gone historical foe to precise his newfound perception, or at
least hope, that God is extra inclusive than they have been giving him credit score for.

Journey broadens, as they are saying. Coming into contact with
completely different folks and cultures can’t assist however have an effect on our view of ourselves, the
world we stay in—and God. Each Nahum and Jonah are works of knowledge, of
reimaging God to make sense of present expertise within the right here and now.

I’d wish to assume—and actually, I do assume—that the portrait of God in Jonah is nearer to what God is like: that God doesn’t rejoice in wiping folks out, however needs to commune with folks of each tribe and nation.

However that’s simply me. With out a second’s hesitation, I’ll
say that I favor one story over the opposite, as a result of it makes extra sense to me,
as that sense is knowledgeable by different experiences that I and people I do know have had
of God and particularly given what I perceive of God in my time and place as a
Christian.

However the extra necessary level to lift is that the very
presence of each Nahum and Jonah in our Bible forces us all to ponder what God is like in our right here and now simply as these authors did.

I could also be fallacious in how I course of what God is like, in fact, however I’m not fallacious as a result of I course of what God is like. Our numerous Bible calls for that we make use of knowledge once we learn it. It retains reminding us that we too want to simply accept our sacred accountability to sense how God is current in our right here and now.

In search of extra? Proceed the dialog and seize a duplicate of How the Bible Truly Works.

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