From Sunday’s (1/22/12) Forum handout:
Jonah is a prophet, but he is unlike any other for whom a book is named in the Old Testament. Some (e.g. Jeremiah) heard the word reluctantly but then fully embraced the ministry to which God called them, but Jonah tries his best (and his worst!) to avoid doing God’s will: he is a caricature of a prophet. The book opens with God’s call to Jonah: “Go at once to Nineveh … and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah’s reaction is to try to escape God’s presence. When called a second time, he does travel to the capital of Assyria, and its residents repent of their waywardness. A message of this book is that God does care about other peoples, even those who are Israel’s enemies.
Obviously this is a story, but it is one that teaches; it is a parable. It illuminates an issue of its time, the waywardness of Israel. God is central and powerful. He can favour whomever he chooses, even hated enemies of the past.
Chris Haslam, Revised Common Lectionary Commentary
Note: a link to this Commentary is provided on our Blog (click on “Commentaries” in the right sidebar). Both Stan and I have made and continue to make use of this resource in our Bible studies; thank you Chris Haslam.