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McMaster University
Religious Studies
Xudong Zhu

Narrative Unlike the other Prophets, the book of Jonah is almost entirely narrative, with the exception of the psalm in chapter 2. The actual prophetic word against Nineveh is given only in passing through the narrative. As with any good narrative, the story of Jonah has a setting, characters, a plot, and themes. It also relies heavily on such literary devices as irony. [editSetting The story of Jonah is set against the backdrop of Ancient Israel in the 8th-7th centuries BCEE, but deals with the religious and social issues of the late 6th-4th centuries BCE, coinciding with the views of latter chapters of the book of Isaiah (Third Isaiah), where Israel is given a prominent place in the expansion of God's kingdom to the Gentiles. [citation needed] The Jonah mentioned in II Kings 14:25 lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BCEE) and was from the city of Gath-hepher. This city, modern el-Meshed, located only several miles from Nazareth in what would have been known as Israel in the post-exilic period (as distinct from the former southern kingdom, known as Judah). [citation needed] Nineveh, where Jonah preached, was the capital of the ancient Assyrian empire, which fell to the Babylonians and the Medes in 612 BCE. The book itself calls Nineveh a “great city,” referring to its size [citation needed] [Jonah 3:3 + 4:11] and perhaps to its affluence as well. (The story of the city’s deliverance from judgment may reflect an older tradition dating back to the 8th-7th century BCE) [citation neAssyria often opposed Israel and eventually took the Israelites captive in 722-721 BCE (see History of ancient Israel and Judah). The Assyrian oppression against the Israelites can be seen in the bitter prophecies of Nahum. [editCharacters The story of Jonah is a drama between a passive man and an active God. Jonah, whose name literally means "dove," is introduced to the reader in the very first verse. The name is decisive. While many other prophets had heroic names (e.g., Isaiah means "God has saved"), Jonah's name carries with it an element of passivity. [citation needed] Jonah's passive character is contrasted with the other main character: Yahweh. God's character is altogether active. While Jonah flees, God pursues. While Jonah falls, God lifts up. The character of God in the story is progressive
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