11 April 2012

Studying Jonah

As one of the spiritual disciplines is study, we practiced it a few weeks ago on the book of Jonah. One of the most important aspects of study is actually seeing things. Especially with a text like Jonah really seeing things is hard: it's a story most people hear way too often growing up in the church, and we have a tendency not actually to look at what's in the text. After all, we already know the story, right?

The part that's so fun about studying in a group is realizing together that we don't really know the story – that there's tons of things we've never seen or thought about. So here are some things you might not have noticed or seen (a copy of Jonah would be helpful to find now, especially the last half of the book - the part after the fish):
- there's no actual number of days that the people of Ninevah are supposed to fast;
- what kind of person is Jonah, really? is he super selfish? unselfish? a real prophet?
- Jonah complains about being angry enough to die twice - the first time there's actually no reaction to his complaint. the second time, God questions him about it and Jonah's response - yes, I do have the right to be angry (what other answer could he have given?!?).
- the shade tree that God raises actually comes above a hut that Jonah built - so it's almost redundant (and would it have made that much difference if the plant/tree was or wasn't there?)
- and lastly, my favourite thing that no one ever seems to notice: the animals also have to fast in Ninevah - no food and no water. And they are also dressed in sackcloth. Can you imagine how much noise and "crying out" there would have been from the animals?!?

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