The book of Jonah tells a familiar story known around the world, how God's prophet turns his back on God's command to preach to Nineveh and runs off in the opposite direction, only to encounter a great fish and end up doing what God wanted after all. The repentance of the Ninevites is legendary, and they are spared, but Jonah is angry at this result and wishes to die rather than live in a world where Ninevites can be spared. Far more than a children's story, the book of Jonah is both a cunning and delightful work of inspired literature, making heavy use of irony, repetition and dramatic effect. Looking beyond the simple lessons of wholehearted repentance and the futility of running away from God, the book carries an important message about human potential for hard-heartedness, and just how difficult it can be to receive (and to watch others receive) the grace and mercy of God.
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