Compassion and Mercy | The Jonah Connection

Compassion and Mercy | The Jonah Connection

Discover the connection between The Prophet Jonah with Yom Kippur. Jonah is the son of Amittai and he appears in 2 Kings as a prophet from Gath-Hepher, a few miles north of Nazareth. He is therein described as being active during the reign of the second King Jeroboam (c.786–746 BC), and as predicting that Jeroboam will recover lost territories.

Jonah is the central character in the Book of Jonah. Commanded by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it “for their great wickedness is come up before me,” Jonah instead seeks to flee from “the presence of the Lord” by going to Jaffa, identified as Joppa or Joppe, and sailing to Tarshish, which, geographically, is in the opposite direction. A huge storm comes and the sailors, realizing that it is no ordinary storm, cast lots and discover that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits this and states that if he is thrown overboard, the storm will cease. The sailors try to dump as much cargo as possible before giving up, but feel forced to throw him overboard, at which point the sea calms. The sailors then offer sacrifices to God. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish in whose belly he spends three days and three nights. While in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to spew Jonah out.

God again commands Jonah to visit Nineveh and prophesy to its inhabitants. This time, he goes and enters the city, crying, “In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown.” After Jonah has walked across Nineveh, the people of Nineveh begin to believe his word and proclaim a fast. The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, making a proclamation which decrees fasting, sackcloth, prayer, and repentance. God sees their repentant hearts and spares the city at that time. The entire city is humbled and broken with the people (and even the animals) in sackcloth and ashes. Even the king comes off his throne to repent.

Displeased by this, Jonah refers to his earlier flight to Tarshish while asserting that, since God is merciful, it was inevitable that God would turn from the threatened calamities. He then leaves the city and makes himself a shelter, waiting to see whether or not the city will be destroyed. God causes a plant (in Hebrew a Kikayon) to grow over Jonah’s shelter to give him some shade from the sun. Later, God causes a worm to bite the plant’s root and it withers. Jonah, now being exposed to the full force of the sun, becomes faint and desires that God takes him out of the world.

And God said to Jonah: “Art thou greatly angry for the Kikayon?” And he said: “I am greatly angry, even unto death.” And the LORD said: “You had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night; and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein there were more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?”

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