Friday, 23 September 2011

Was Jonah the Prophet Merely Racist?

In an attempt to achieve some of my goals, I have combined them! So out running this evening I took some mp3s on Jonah. The bad news is: I pulled a muscle - ridiculous. I wasn't even straining and I ended up spraining! Most frustrating I can assure you. I had to hobble home in front of all the kids playing football! :-( Anyway, that's not relevant to this post...

When most of us think of Jonah the OT prophet, we tend to cast him as a Jewish nationalist / racist. It's obvious isn't it? Why else would he want to run away from God's command to go to preach salvation to Gentiles at Ninevah?

The mp3 I listened to whilst attempting to run / hobble home suggests that this is far too superficial a reading of the story. Yes, Jonah is a compromised man who needs grace and a transformed understanding, but as a prophet set apart by God himself, is it really fair to label him a bungling bigot? God gives grace to sinners, but he doesn't give his prophetic office to any old xenophobic baffoon.

Consider the following...

Back in Deuteronomy, the LORD promised that if Israel was unfaithful, he would provoke them to jealousy by leaving them and giving his covenant blessing to another people (Deut.32:21). This is exactly the context of Jonah, who was a prophet in Samaria (Northern Israel) under Jeroboam II (2Ki.14:23-25). Jeroboam was no saint, rather he was an apostate king, and the people followed him into sin.

So when the "Word of the LORD" comes to Jonah and tells him to go to Ninevah. Jonah knows that this is the beginning of the fulfillment of that Deut.32:21 prophecy. A fulfillment that would find its fullest expression in the New Testament (Acts 13:45,17:5, Rom.10:19, 1Thess.2:14-15). It's not a hatred of the Ninevites that drives him in the opposite direction, but a grieving realisation that God is beginning to close the Old Covenant - something he doesn't want to face up to. Israel have ceased being the Head and would soon be the tail of the nations (Deut.28:44).

Interesting thought, I thought.

5 comments:

dave bish said...

I've enjoyed this on Jonah from Chris Oldfield Jonah 3

Richard Walker said...

Thanks Dave. Look forward to having a listen.

:-)

Taras Gryga said...

:)))

andyds55 said...

He probably couldn't see the consistency of what God wanted. In 2 Kings, he was the one who helped the king extend the borders of Judea into Assyrian territory, (presumably incurring Assyrian casualties) and now God wants him to help save Assyrians??? You can't blame a prophet for being confused.

Richard Walker said...

All the more nuanced then... :-)