The Scandal of God’s Mercy: Jonah

Here is the eighteenth in a series of Bible studies that present the Bible as being on the side of pacifism.  This essay, “The Scandal of God’s Mercy,” considers the message of the book of Jonah.

Jonah may be understood as a protest document, telling a story that serves as a parable challenging Israel to understand their God as the merciful God who desires healing for all of humanity. The book protests against an overemphasis on Israel’s over-againstness in relation to surrounding nations—a characteristic especially of the community in the generations following the destruction of the temple, et al, and the “Babylonian exile.”

The character Jonah, representing Israel, is called to take the message of Yahweh to Israel’s worst enemies, the Ninevites. Knowing that God is indeed merciful, Jonah resists this calling because Jonah does not want the Ninevites to know God’s mercy. Through some extreme adventures when Jonah flees far from home the opposite direction of Nineveh, God displays God universal power and mercy—and then does the same in Nineveh when Jonah finally goes there.  And Jonah is ticked.

The story ends with a question—does Jonah want the mercy his people has known to be shared with others or not?

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