Lesson 5 of 5
In Progress

Theological Themes in Jonah

God’s mercy

The major theme of the book is God’s mercy. Jonah is sent to preach to the wicked city Nineveh, but flees in the opposite direction because he knows that the Lord is “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent in punishing” (4:2). Jonah needs to learn that God’s mercy and love are not just for the chosen people but for all sinners, even those whom Jonah has reason to hate.

Following God

There is a gap between what Jonah “knows” and what Jonah “lives”–a gap between his head and his heart. Jonah knows that God created both the sea and the dry land, as he tells the sailors during the storm (1:9). Yet, Jonah tries to flee from God by going to sea. Jonah knows that God is merciful and gracious, and yet Jonah does not see that this is a good thing. Jonah loves the plant that God causes to grow, yet does not understand that God loves all God’s creatures, even Nineveh.

God’s creation

In Jonah, God is active and present in creation. God appoints a storm, a big fish, a plant, a worm, and the wind to do God’s will. And God expresses concern even for the animals of Nineveh, who join the human residents of Nineveh in repenting! God is not merely the lord of human life, but of all life.

God’s justice

Another theme in Jonah has to do with God’s justice. The book was likely written after the exile, which many in Israel believed was caused because Israel sinned against God. If that was so, then the question might have been asked, “What about other nations such as Nineveh, whose sins are worse than our own?” The story answers this question by pointing to the fact that God desires to be merciful and calls us to repent of evil.