Jonah. You know the story,
Jonah is called by YHWH
Jonah flees from that call
Jonah is in the depths
Jonah calls for mercy
Jonah is spit onto dry land
Now, the parallel
All people are called by YHWH
Nineveh abandons YHWH
Nineveh is ripe for destruction
Nineveh calls for mercy
Nineveh is spared
Jonah doesn’t get this parallel; he cannot see that the mercy he celebrated for himself is available to all. In fact, he doesn’t want it to be. YHWH explains the parallel using a vine, a worm, and Jonah’s anger. It is another parallel.
YHWH creates a vine
The vine is destroyed by the worm
Jonah is angry and ready to die.
YHWH creates a people
The people are destroyed by the Destroyer
YHWH is angry and ready to give life.
The difference in the story that Jonah again does not understand is that while Jonah will remain angry, YHWH has shown mercy to him and the Ninevites based on their coming to their senses – or repenting and returning to YHWH.
We find then that Jonah, having sought the mercy of God and having received it, is confounded when his God extends the same sort of mercy to others.
It is curious that Jonah was retained in the Jewish canon seeing as it is, a somewhat embarrassing story. Being classified as a prophecy and appearing in the midst of the Book of the Twelve, it tells the story of a people who are not the people of God and yet who both listen to YHWH and are spared by his mercy from the destruction he had purposed on them.
The book of Jonah and the Ninevites then stand as witnesses against Israel in her impending destruction. YHWH has already heard from both Moses and Ezekiel that YHWH would relent if his people would repent and return to him. This, Israel has steadfastly refused to do even though as Paul says, she has been favored with the oracles of God. Israel refuses but this Pagan town listens and is spared. Will not Israel, if she were to repent and return to her God, be more readily shown mercy?
The answer must be a resounding yes!
And yet she will not.
Jonah then is the epitome of Israel’s stiff-necked and recalcitrant existence before YHWH. Having gotten herself in trouble, having cried for mercy and received it, she continues in her rebellion toward her God and her contempt toward others. While called to be like her God, she runs from him and cannot find either mercy or repentance in herself.