Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The Book of Jonah is one of the shortest (and most humorous) books in the Bible, and is included in the 12 Minor Prophets. Though Jonah is never described in the book as a “prophet,” he is a “prophet” who eventually spoke for YHWH by urging the people of Nineveh to repent.
The story was written after the Exile (after 539 BCE), but was set earlier when Assyria was threatening Israel and Judea (850 to 600 BCE). The Northern 10 tribes (Israel) was conquered by Assyria in 722 BCE.
For Judeans, converting Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) was unthinkable, and Jonah tried to avoid doing it. When first told by YHWH to go to Nineveh (northern modern Iraq), Jonah got on a ship to Tarshish (modern Spain) – as far from Assyria as possible in the then-known world.
When the ship foundered because of Jonah’s presence and violation of YHWH’s direction to go to Nineveh, the sailors threw him overboard and Jonah was swallowed by a large fish. Jonah prayed for deliverance, and the fish “spewed him out on dry land” (v. 2.10).
In today’s reading, YHWH again directed Jonah to go to Nineveh, where Jonah told the people the city would be destroyed in 40 days. The people proclaimed a fast, and God spared the city.
The story emphasized two theological understandings that are found in much of the Hebrew Bible: (1) God directs all that happens and (2) God sometimes has a change of mind. It also presented a view that countered the exclusivism of Ezra and Nehemiah (YHWH worship is only for Judeans) and affirmed that God’s mercy is for all people, even one’s enemies.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic; Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on many issues that were controversial in the early Jesus Follower Community.
Today’s reading reflects Paul’s understanding that the current economic system in Corinth (private property, slavery, commerce) and social forms (such as patriarchal marriage) were about to disappear (v. 31) when a new order arrived. Over time, these notions evolved into the idea of the “Second Coming” of the Christ.
The “Second Coming” developed relatively early in the Jesus Follower Movement because Jesus of Nazareth had not fulfilled all the traditional “job descriptions” of the Messiah in his earthly life – the nation was not unified; the Romans were not expelled; Shalom (peace and order) did not reign. It became understood that at the Second Coming, all will be fulfilled.