JONAH’S HĀPAK: concluding remarks


August 7, 2012 by jmar198013


True to the spirit of what I have written thus far, I shall make no attempt to slap a pithy moral onto the tale. YHWH’s final words to Jonah make their point: “Am I not supposed to be distressed over Nineveh—that great city!—where there are more than 120,000 humans who don’t know their right hand from their left, and beasts of burden galore?” (Jon. 4.11 JSM). YHWH says this, of course, as the creator (see v. 10), a perspective Jonah (or any human) cannot be expected to understand. This propensity of God’s to fret over scores of clueless humans and thus extend mercy is called his folly and weakness by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 1.25), and though we might rejoice in it insofar as it applies to us, what cannot be forgotten is that ignorant humans, individually or in hordes, are wont to wreak havoc, such as carrying out holocausts, starting wars, persecuting the helpless, or lynching Jesus, for that matter. This is why Jonah’s voice must be heard; otherwise, grace can only be cheap, and there is no cost to be counted before picking up our crosses. Thus, we leave the narrative as open-endedly as does the author. The book’s lack of closure invites a choice to be made between Jonah’s position and YHWH’s (or perhaps a reverent agnosticism betwixt the two), but it is not a choice that one can make for another. “God is right and Jonah is right. But their respective positions are mutually exclusive. Who will tip the balance one way or another?”[1]

[1] LaCocque and Lacocque, Jonah: A Psycho-Religious Approach, 164.


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