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Books of the Minor Prophets

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The books of the minor prophets of the Bible are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

Jonah[edit]

Jonah is a short story, completely fictional, which was written by a liberal during a time following the Babylonian Exile when proto-neocons were promoting Jewish exceptionalism. Our author parodied or satirized them.[1] The moral of the story: salvation is available to everyone, not just the people of your own little group. This moral is lost on the fundies, who prefer to focus on the fish part as a theological type[2] of the death and three-day resurrection of Christ, and insist that the fish really performed as described, and was not merely a plot device to keep the story moving along.

Synopsis[edit]

The plot of the Book of Jonah is simple. God tells Jonah to go to the Assyrian city of Nineveh (in present-day Iraq; the name "Nineveh" has an association with "fish"[3] - which may explain something in a punning sort of way) and preach repentance, for the end is nigh. Jonah doesn't mind God wiping out the Ninevites, and he tries to get away from God on a ship headed for Tarshish.[4] But God follows Jonah out into the Med and rocks the ship with a storm. Jonah admits to the ship's captain that he offended his God, so the crew tosses him into Davey Jones' locker and immediately the storm abates. A submarine giant fish comes along, swallows Jonah, and steams all the way around the Cape of Good Hope (or possibly through Captain Nemo's tunnel), up into the Persian Gulf, and spits him out on the banks of the Shaat-al-Arab between Iraq and Iran in only three days.

Now God tells Jonah again, go and preach repentance unto Nineveh, or he's gonna nuke it in forty days. Jonah complies this time, and to his great surprise the people of the city put on sackcloth and pour ashes on their heads and repent of their wickedness just like Jonah told them to do. And that pisses Jonah off exceedingly, because he was really there just to see the fireworks.

So he goes off in a huff and pouts. Then God comes to him and says:

JONAH 4:11 "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

This marks one of the rare instances in the Bible where God is being funny, and it turns out he has a sarcastic wit. He's saying, in essence, "Even if you hold the lives of more than a hundred thousand children as naught, think of all the cattle that would be lost!"

Other portions of the story also have a humorous effect, such as when the King of Nineveh proclaims that not only must all people fast as an act of repentance, but that all animals are required to do so as well.

Another rather humorous incident occurs when Jonah decides to sit down and wait for God to destroy Nineveh, thinking that there is no way God won't do it because they are all so bad! God takes pity, and gives Jonah some shade in the form of a large plant because it's a rather hot day. When the plant breaks and Jonah starts complaining about it, God calls him out for thinking He would be more concerned with giving shade to Jonah (who has not been very cooperative at all) than with the city of people who are repenting of their wicked ways. Yeah, when you are so self-centered that you care more about having some shade then about actual people, then getting called out by the Big Guy himself should be a tip-off to stop.

Obadiah[edit]

Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, with only 21 verses. The prophet may not have actually been named Obadiah. That word means "Servant of God" and in Arabic the same title is Abdullah. A tradition in the Talmud is that Obadiah was a convert to Judaism from the Edomites, so it is poignant that he chose to direct his invective against his native people.

The Edomites were the descendants of Esau who were the Jews' first cousins, sharing Isaac for a forefather, just as Arabs are Jews' second cousins because they share Abraham for a forefather.

The Edomites were a tiny nation that lived along the cliffs and mountaintops of the arid land south of the Dead Sea, all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. There was very little in the way of arable land, so the Edomites made their living supporting (and controlling) the main caravan route between Egypt and Babylon that passed through their whole land.

Throughout most of the history of Judah, Edom was controlled absolutely from Jerusalem as a vassal state, much like how Syria controls Lebanon today.

In 597 BCE Nebuchadnezzar II sacked Jerusalem, carted away the King of Judea and installed a puppet King. The Edomites helped Nebbie loot the city, and that is why Obadiah, writing this prophecy around 590 BCE, is so bitter. Objectively, it is difficult to blame Edom for joining in the fun a little bit after centuries of rule by Judah. Still, Obadiah says they should have remembered that blood is thicker than water.

Never mind that other prophets were saying that the sack of Jerusalem was God punishing Judah for disobedience. Edom should not have helped God punish Judah, and for doing that, Obadiah said God will wipe out the house of Esau forever, and not even a remnant would remain.

Unfortunately he didn't tell Amos, who said in Amos 9:12 that a remnant of Edom would remain to be possessed by the Messiah, along with all the heathens.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Gaines, Janet Howe (2003). "Genre". Forgiveness in a Wounded World: Jonah's Dilemma. Studies in biblical literature. 5. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. p. 22. ISBN 9781589830776. Retrieved 16 August 2020. "Two sub-genres of comedy may be considered part of Jonah's tale: parody and satire. [...] The book of Jonah was perhaps originally intended as a parody [...] but in succeeding eras, the parodic signals were lost on pious readers." 
  2. See the Wikipedia article on typology (theology).
  3. "Nineveh". Jewish Virtual Library. "Since the cuneiform for Nineveh (Ninâ) is a fish within a house, it has been suggested that the name of the city was derived from that of a goddess associated with fish [...]." 
  4. Which is CadizWikipedia on the southern coast of contemporary Spain, at about the boundary of the world known to the ancient Hebrews, and about as far away from Nineveh as anyone knew how to get.