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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Jonah - Introduction

Unlike the other prophetic books, Jonah takes the form of a story. The reader should begin by enjoying it as a short story, without concern about its historical accuracy. Viewing the story as in a satiric vein may make it all the more enjoyable.

A prophet Jonah is mentioned in 2 Kgs. 14.25 , yet with only the sketchiest information. We cannot be sure whether this story is or is not about that Jonah.

We cannot be certain of the date of composition of this book. The author's exaggerations (the size of Nineveh, 3.3 ; its response to Jonah's threat, 3.5–9 ) suggest that he wrote after Nineveh, destroyed in 612 B.C.E., was only a memory. This would mean a date at least later than 600 B.C.E. Since the book (like Ruth) opposes the exclusiveness found in Ezra and Nehemiah, it may have originated about 450–400 B.C.E.

The story has its own pungency. Traditionally, Jonah is viewed as a hero. Perhaps, however, as some modern scholars hold, the author had something other than a hero in mind, for his Jonah says the right things ( 1.9; 2.2–9; 4.2 ) but does not follow them. Jonah cannot conceive that God could care for anyone, human or animal, except an Israelite; he becomes quite upset when God forgives Nineveh. The book's message of God's universal concern is borne along by the irony of a petulant prophet who is disappointed by the success of his preaching.

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