Books of the Bible: Jonah
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In the Bible, one of the most famous tales of the Old Testament is that of Jonah and the whale. The story contained in this book details the punishments that will befall a person if they fail to carry out a direction given to them by God, as seen by Jonah’s own experiences. However, the notion of God’s forgiveness is also presented in the story, giving hope for redemption for those who fall out of God’s favor.
Jonah himself is a very passive individual; his name, meaning “dove”, foreshadows his unwillingness to do as God commands. God commands Jonah to go to the town of Nineveh to warn them of their impending doom, should they not accept God’s teachings and behave in the ways He wants. Jonah refuses this order, and tries to flee on a ship. Seeing this, God conjures a terrible storm, and the sailors on Jonah’s ship throw him overboard in the hopes of appeasing God’s anger. There, a whale swallows Jonah whole, and he remains in his belly for three days and three nights. Inside, Jonah prays to God, repents for his sins, and asks forgiveness. Shortly thereafter, the whale vomits Jonah onto dry land, safe and unharmed. He then travels to Nineveh and foretells them of their impending doom for denying the existence of God. The roughly 120,000 people in the city repent, take God as their own, and are saved.
Jonah, however, does not see the point of his trial: he knew God was just and merciful and would spare the people of Nineveh anyway, and so decided to run away. This does not matter, though, for the ordeal demonstrates the varying nature of God. Toward Jonah, He was relentless and unending. He refused to allow Jonah to ignore his request, and demonstrated his power and authority over him in any way he could. Toward Nineveh, however, he was forgiving and merciful, demonstrating the duality of God and his ability to both punish and forgive in a single breath.