There Is Hope for Everyone!
This story was written late in Israel's history. Opinions vary from the 4th to the 8th Century B.C, but we know that in the 8th Century the Assyrian Empire had conquered most of the Fertile Crescent. Nineveh was the capital city, with its environs stretching at least 30 miles out from the capital itself. The Assyrians were cruel to their subjects and thus were hated by all. The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and they were subsequently deported to Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Samaritans replaced them in the northern area of Israel, thus leading to the bitter hatred that would continue between Jews and Samaritans. Jonah hated the Assyrians and rebelled at God's call for him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to them. In fact, he ran in the opposite direction. On board a ship sailing west across the Mediterranean, the storm arose and Jonah knew he was caught. Reluctantly the sailors threw him overboard and the seas calmed. This LARGE FISH then swallowed Jonah, who remained inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights! THEN, Jonah repented and the LARGE FISH spit Jonah up.
BUT, Jonah was still the reluctant prophet! Jonah didn't want them to repent! He wanted them to perish. Begrudgingly Jonah went to Nineveh, knowing all along what God was going to do. He knew God was a merciful God and would forgive the hated Ninevites! It wasn't fair! It makes no sense! Where's the justice in it? I'd rather just die, than go do this thing you want, Jonah protested. Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches the shortest sermon on record. In eight words, actually only four in Hebrew, Jonah states: "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown." By implication, Jonah was telling the people of Nineveh: "Repent or perish!" and to Jonah's amazement and aggravation, they repented. Even the king joined in; who included the cattle in the ritual of repentance. They listened ...
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