Lecture on the Book of Jonah


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  • Just Sayin’


  • Jeff Carter

    speaking of characters…. even the ship is a sort of character as “she…expected to break up” 1:4

  • Gary

    Alternate interpretation, “save the cattle for beef”…God may support Saint Thomas Christians in India. God may have Hindu leanings. On the circumcised fish, even I don’t have a comment on that. However, I didn’t hear any students laughing. They are either too far from the microphone, or they are asleep. You need to say “ba… ba.. ba…Boom”. Otherwise the students may not think it is a joke.

    • I recorded it in my office, since when I cover this in class, I leave time for discussion etc. And so I didn’t have an audience. Perhaps I need a laugh track? 🙂

      • Mark Erickson

        So you recorded this for the Internet?

        • Basically, and at least in part because I am experimenting with moving lecture materials outside the classroom even for students on campus, to dedicate the time in the classroom to other things.

  • Porlock Junior

    Here’s hoping you continue the experiment. Some of the material was familiar to me from a different presentation — I may have mentioned Ann Herbert’s version before — but the treatment of the ironies was eye-opening. Not least, the only Israelite being the only one who is not obedient to God.

    Dorothy L. Sayers, a person who had some problems about Jewish faith and Jewish people, remarked that Jonah was a particularly Jewish sort of story. This was clearly meant as a favorable comment, or at least not unfavorable at all; but I never really understood what she meant. Now I think I get it, in terms of the dead-serious monotheism in which people nonetheless talk back to God and (later) can even outvote him 3-2.

    And so much better than Job, in that God really wins the argument, and there’s no happy ending clumsily tacked on. Jonah is surely one of the newest stories in Bible Volume I; if Job is the oldest, which I once heard, it’s almost as if someone had decided to do a prophetic story and get it right.

  • Straw Man

    Excellent lecture.

    One nit: “more than 120,000 people who don’t
    know their right hand from their left” need not be a reference to
    children; that inference is based on literal reading of what could as
    easily be a figure of speech akin to “let not the right hand know what
    the left hand doeth.” Also note that while I’m having trouble finding a
    reliable estimate of the population of Nineveh at the time, the
    consensus appears to be that 120,000 is about right for the total
    population of the city itself–people who insist on interpreting this
    passage to be a reference to children, also attempt to bump the
    population up to around 600,000, by incorporating the entire
    “metropolitan area” including neighboring towns and villages.

    seems more in keeping with the overall irony of the book that God is
    saying that the people of Nineveh deserve a little mercy because,
    lacking any relationship with God, they don’t know any better–in
    contrast with Jonah, who speaks to God directly, knew EXACTLY what he
    was doing, and willfully disobeyed anyway, yet received mercy. If a
    willfully disobedient Jonah receives mercy, then so much more would a city full of people who, while wicked, were acting in ignorance of Yahweh, and readily showed repentance at even a cryptic warning like Jonah’s.

    • Great points! There’s certainly debate about the reference of those 120,000, and it would have been useful for me to mention alternative possibilities.