The thirty-second book of the Old Testament.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Previous book: Obadiah | Next book: Micah
King James Bible
The story of Jonah is fairly odd in that it actually one of the few stories from the Old Testament that preaches tolerance rather than ardent xenophobia.

To make a short story shorter, there is this bloke named Jonah who is called upon by God to be a prophet. God tells Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and tell them that they will be destroyed because they are wicked. Jonah doesn't really want to be a prophet (prophets tend to meet rather bleak fates), and in this case, his reluctance to go to Nineveh specifically is quite understandable: Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, a country that had long been an enemy of the Israelites (see, there were these bits about invading Israel, capitivities, exiles, and so on). To get out of this, Jonah takes an ocean voyage.

Of course, he can't escape God: great winds and great waves came that threatened to break the ship. Knowing that something supernatural was responsible, the shipmaster asked who was causing this tempest. Jonah admitted that he was responsible, and pleaded with them to cast him off of the ship so that they would be saved. Jonah was then thrown into the water, where he was swallowed by a whale. Inside the whale, Jonah begged for forgiveness and said he would do the Lord's will, and therefore God caused the whale to vomit him up.

So Jonah then went to Nineveh, where he told the Assyrian king that God was going to wreck the place because of their wickedness. To the great surprise of Jonah (and the reader), the Assyrians believe Jonah, and proceed to sincerely repent and mourn. The city is spared (well, at least the destruction is postponed), and Jonah is very dissapointed because of this (being an Israelite, he was kind of looking forward to (one) of his people's blood enemy's destruction). He asked God why He spared the horrible Assyrians, and God's reply went something like, "Even if they are stupid gentiles, they don't really know any better, and if they act nice, they deserve mercy."

The other famous book of the bible that taught tolerance to xenophobia was the Book of Ruth. Your Bible may not have that last, since it is sometimes counted among the Apocrypha.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
Book: Jonah
Chapters: 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 ·

Jonah was a native of Galilee, 2Ki 14:25. His miraculous
deliverance from out of the Fish, rendered him a Type of our
blessed Lord, who mentions it, So as to show the certain Truth
of the narrative. All that was done was easy to the almighty
power of the Author and Sustainer of Life. This Book shows us,
By the Example of the Ninevites, how great are the Divine
forbearance and long-suffering towards sinners. It shows a most
striking contrast between the Goodness and Mercy of God, and the
rebellion, impatience, and peevishness of his servant; and it
will be best understood By those who are most acquainted with
their own hearts.

You are pragmatic:
you understand the nature
of inevitability and don't struggle
against its burdens. And, so,
you let yourself sink
without flailing, out of the daylight
slide down, under, below,
along the glossy gullet
that leads into the roaring
belly of the leviathan.

Others, each responding to the impetus
of their own necessity, are caught
as you are. They shiver,
sweat and wheeze in the noxious air
that fills the rolling cavity.
Their faces, pale, dark, olive, tan,
stretch away from you like strung pearls
dangling into the distance
far beyond
the limits of your vision.

While one or another may curse
aloud as they stumble, unbalanced
by some abrupt lurch or twist,
nobody converses. Eyes slip away,
gliding off importunate glances
like slick weed off scales. They know
as you know, these others:
you are not companions; though
all travelers, you are not fellows,
only pearls on the same string,
smooth and expressionless, sharing
misery but no stories.

Your mind shrinks from this
press of strange bodies;
you cast it out to rise and
roam. Trapped as you
are, your mind strolls
in sunshine, browses
markets, touches a
pennyroyal plant in a
public garden and sheds
its fragrance on the breeze.


It is pulled back, rudely,
into your head, as the
beast screeches and shudders.
A halt, a jerk and you are
disgorged. You float
to the surface, the
greasy miasma still clinging
to your skin, Ambergris
washed up on
familiar shores.

It is not something you wish
to remember. A passage
of time and place you
could not avoid, while
your mind was out
playing. You let it
fade until, at a party,
you turn, scenting a perfume,
firmly fixed in your subconscious,
and ask: “Don't you travel on the
Jubilee Line, between
Southwark and
Finchley Road?”

Jo"nah (?), n.

The Hebrew prophet, who was cast overboard as one who endangered the ship; hence, any person whose presence is unpropitious.

Jonah crab Zool., a large crab (Cancer borealis) of the eastern coast of the United States, sometimes found between tides, but usually in deep water.

 

© Webster 1913.

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