God saves Nineveh
Jonah gets ticked1This bent Jonah out of shape. He was one ticked prophet. 2He prayed this prayer:
“I knew it. I knew you’d do this. LORD, you did exactly what I said you would do when I was back home in my own country. That’s why I tried to skip out to Tarshish. I know you’re full of compassion and kindness. I know you’re patient and you’ve got a slow fuse to anger. You’re so kind that you back away from your threats of punishment. You don’t carry through with it.
3Well, doggone it, LORD just go ahead and kill me now! I’d rather die than live with this.”
4The LORD said, “Don’t you think you might be overreacting a bit?”
5Jonah walked away. He left town and rested east of the city. He set up a little shade for protection. Then he sat there looking at the city, to see what would happen.
6The LORD God set up his own shade for Jonah. It was a bush that grew to above Jonah’s head. God did this to send a little comfort to Jonah. The bush made Jonah’s day. 7But at dawn, God sent a worm to kill the bush. The bush withered and died.
8As the sun rose higher, God sent a hot wind. Jonah nearly fainted from the heat. Again, he asked God to put him out of his misery. He said, “If you want to help me, kill me. I’ll be better off.”
9God said, “Do you think you have the right to be angry about the bush?” Jonah said, “Absolutely. I’m mad enough to die.”
10The LORD said, “Look at it this way. You cared about a bush even though you didn’t plant it or water it. That bush was here one day and gone the next. 11But it’s not okay for me to care about this huge city of Nineveh? There are more than 120,000 people here who know right from wrong. And there are a lot of animals, too.”
“Living with what?” What could Jonah possibly be angry about. He’s one of the rare Bible prophets who talked a sinful nation into repenting. He saved the people. Jeremiah didn’t. Isaiah didn’t. Amos didn’t. Jonah did. But he seemed to get embarrassed that he preached doom and got salvation. He wanted to see Sodom and Gomorrah burn, but he saw God wish them well. Jonah saved the people but possibly figured he ruined his reputation. Who would believe him now? That may be what he thought. A few decades later, Assyrians wiped Israel off the political map. Kings change for better or worse, and nations with them.
The Tigris River was on Israel’s side of the city, to the west.
THE END. There’s no book in the Bible with an odder, more surprising end than this. It’s one of several reasons why some Bible scholars say this is a fictional story starring a real prophet (2 Kings 14:25) that’s written to preach a message about God. The story illustrates that the LORD isn’t only the God of the Chosen People—the Israelite ancestors of today’s Jewish people. He is the God for everyone. It also seems to illustrate that people control at least part of their own destiny, through choices they make between good and good for nothing.
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