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Scripture Interpreting Scripture: A Case from Jonah 4:2

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In what would appear to be a singularly strange reaction God’s successful prophet Jonah complained bitterly to the Lord: “Oh, LORD, “This is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish!--because I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment” (Jonah 4:2).1 Jonah’s declaration would also appear to be at variance with a sometimes- popular conception that the presentation of the God of the Old Testament, unlike the One of the New Testament, is that of a stern figure who unwaveringly demanded total submission to His will on penalty of severe judgment. Jonah obviously held a different view.

If one should inquire as to how Jonah came to believe this, the answer is readily at hand. For Jonah was the recipient of a long chain of revealed scriptural truth, which demonstrated that Yahweh is not only a God who equitably administers the world in holiness and justice, but is also One whose grace and tender compassion are accompanied by a patient and forgiving nature. Accordingly, He reaches out to a needy mankind with a desire for man’s best. Thus Jonah could understand and react to that which had been revealed earlier.

Jonah’s case underscores the fact that biblical writers utilized earlier biblical authors and texts. Such is, of course, an established fact. For example, this has been abundantly exhibited in the New Testament writer’s use of Old Testament passages, as illustrated recently in a voluminous commentary detailing New Testament texts, which contain, allude to, or are related to Old Testament texts.2

Before returning to Jonah, however, we shall note some instances in which later Old Testament writers drew upon earlier sources or as Beale and Carson term it, “The use of the OT within the OT.”3 Thus Mason, while calling it “Inner-biblical exegesis,” remarks, “As its name implies, the method concerns itself with indications of the re-use, re-interpretation, re-application of earlier scriptural material within the OT itself.”4

Examples of Old Testament Inner-Biblical Exegesis

Many examples of the use of earlier written material can be seen in the Old Testament prophets. Among these may be noted Zephaniah’s drawing upon Joel, as illustrated in the following chart:

Subject Matter


Zeph. 1:14-18

Joel 2:1-11

The Day of the Lord is near


14

1

It is a great day


14

11

A day of darkness and gloom


15

2

A day of clouds and blackness


15

2

A day of sounding trumpet


16

1

All the inhabitants of the earth


18

1

To be noted as well is Zephaniah’s use of vocabulary items found in Joel:

v. 14 “almost here” (cf. Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14[HB 4:14]—”near”); “great day” (cf. Joel 2:11; 2:31[HB 3:4]).

v. 15 “darkness” (cf. Joel 2:2, 31[HB 3:4]); “gloom” (cf. Joel 2:2, “dreadful darkness”); “clouds” (cf. Joel 2:2); “dark skies” (cf. Joel 2:2, “blackness”).

v. 16 “trumpet” (cf. Joel 2:1, 15).

v. 18 “all who live on the earth” (cf. Joel 2:1, “all the inhabitants of the land”).5

Zephaniah’s use of the subject matter, themes, and vocabulary are too striking to be other than a clear dependency on Joel’s prophecy. To be noted also is the fact that like some other later writers, Zephaniah enlarges upon an expands the prediction of Joel’s earlier prophecy.6

Likewise, Hosea 6:6 appears to be indebted to Samuel’s earlier declaration (1 Sam. 15:22-23) that, “Israel’s syncretistic religion and its dead orthodoxy were not pleasing to God.”7 Set side by side, the relationship is obvious:

1 Samuel 15:22-23

Hosea 6:6

Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt

For I delight in faithfulness,

offerings and sacrifices

not simply in sacrifice;

as much as he does in obedience?

I delight in acknowledging God,

Certainly obedience is better than

not simply in whole burn offerings paying attention is better than the fat of

sacrifice;

rams

In this instance it is the theological principle that underlies the religious practices, which Hosea reveals as an oracle of God. The words “sacrifice” and “burnt offerings,” common to both passages, while referring in one case to Samuel’s chiding of Saul’s disobedience, and in the other to the later Israelites syncretism in feigning worship to God and at the same time carrying out pagan practices, nevertheless do point to an underlying principle with regard to the believer’s worship of God. With regard to the Samuel passage, Bergen remarks, “Saul’s partial obedience might have been acceptable to his contemporaries, but when weighed in the divine balances, it was found wanting. Nothing short of strict obedience to the Lord’s instructions was acceptable.”8 As for the Hosea text, God” never considered their sacrifices as ends in themselves but as expressions of genuine contrition, concern, and commitment to the Lord and His holy ways. The offering of sacrifice without sincere faithfulness to the Lord and true acknowledgement to Him as the only true God was meaningless ritual. What the Lord desired was His people’s heart and devotion, not outward ritual (Isa 1:11).9

It is evident, therefore, that underlying both the Samuel and Hosea texts is the truth that faithfulness to God, born of a genuine heart’s relation with Him, is more important to God than formal religious practices. The prescribed sacrifices were to be expressions of the worshiper’s true relationship with the Lord, not mere religious duty and certainly not sheer ritual. In the case of Hosea, the prophet restates in succinct words the essence of the theological principles inherent in the Samuel passage.

Another familiar case is the updating of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 29:10-14; cf. 25:11) concerning the seventy years of captivity by Daniel (Dan. 9:1-2, 24-27). Although the Daniel passage has received a plethora of interpretation and application, often being commented on and serving as a point of great controversy, for our purposes the simple focus is that Daniel plainly is providing supplementary information as to the ultimate application of Jeremiah’s seventy-year prophecy. Jeremiah (25:11) had warned his people that, “This whole area will become a desolate wasteland. These nations will be subject to the king of Babylon for seventy years,” after which, however, “I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation for their sins” (Jer. 25:12). Subsequently, “When the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over” (Jer. 25:10) God promises that for a repentant people He would give “a future filled with hope … I will reverse your plight and regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you” (Jer. 29:11, 14).10

When one turns to Daniel’s use of Jeremiah’s prophecy (however one interprets Daniel’s prophecy), the seventy weeks are reapplied as to their purpose (Dan. 9:24), and furnished with details as to the troubled circumstances of God’s people in the greater period of the era (v. 25) and of drastic events that God will employ to bring this period to its culmination (vv. 26-27). For our purposes it is important to note that once again the later writer has under divine revelation provided modifying information as well as clarification as to the purposes, significance, and understanding of the earlier text.11

Another classic case of modification of an earlier text is found in Jeremiah’s use of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The earlier law specifically forbids a previously divorced woman who has remarried and subsequently divorced again from being remarried to her original husband. Such would constitute adultery. Jeremiah reminds his hearers of that law while applying it to Israel’s spiritual adultery: “‘If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and becomes another man’s wife, he may not take her back again. Doing that would utterly defile the land. But you, Israel, have given yourself as a prostitute to many gods. So what makes you think that you can return to me?’ says the LORD” (Jer. 3:1). Subsequently, however, Jeremiah delivers God’s message of mercy and acceptance for a repentant people:

“Come back to me, wayward Israel,” says the LORD. “I will not continue to look on you with displeasure. For I am merciful,” says the LORD. “I will not be angry with you forever. However, you must confess that you have done wrong, and that you have rebelled against the LORD your God. You must confess that you have given yourself to foreign gods under every green tree, and have not obeyed my commands,” says the LORD (Jer. 3:12-13).

The imperative “Come back” is repeated three times in the Lord’s extended oracle expressing the need for genuine repentance (vv. 14, 22, 4:1). Thus turning away from idolatry and turning back to the Lord will occasion God’s mercy, forgiveness, and healing restoration.

In a sense, Israel’s early love for her “husband” Yahweh (Jer. 2:1-3) had become estranged as she prostituted herself with many false gods (Jer. 2:20-28; 3:2-4). The Lord had every legal right to “divorce” His “wife” Israel for the spiritual prostitute she had become. She had no right to expect His forgiveness and acceptance of her.

The imagery of God and Israel as husband and wife is further portrayed in Hosea’s relationship with his wife Gomer. Here again, the provisions in the law of Deuteronomy 21:1-4 are felt. Indeed, “Just as Hosea was married to Gomer, who became the mother of their three children, so Yahweh is presented metaphorically as husband to Israel, who is the mother of the present day Israelites (i.e., the children—corporate Israel as typified especially in its leadership).”12 Although Gomer had become unfaithful and prostituted herself, Hosea was nevertheless to love her, seek her out, and bring her back. Just so the Lord loves and longs for unfaithful Israel who has loved many false gods. “God’s love thus triumphs over the initial demands of punishment.”13

In both cases the basic tenets of the Deuteronomic law have been brought to bear on a later situation. In Jeremiah the regulations relative to physical adultery have been applied to Israel’s spiritual adultery. In prostituting herself to false deities wife Israel has abandoned husband Yahweh, who therefore has every right to divorce her—never to take her back again. Similarly, Gomer has left Hosea and gone off into prostitution. Gomer’s desertion of Hosea is utilized to depict Israel’s relation to the Lord. Just as God’s prophet has been deserted by his wife, so the Lord has suffered abandonment by His people.

Both cases touch upon issues raised by the law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 Thompson, however, points out that these later texts disclose a loophole in the law: “Israel had not, in fact, married a particular lover but was a prostitute to several lovers, in much the same way as Gomer. But there were abundant grounds for divorce in either case, although the husband had not issued a document (cf. Isa. 50:1).”14 Thus although wife Israel has been unfaithful, technically her husband has not divorced her. Moreover, in His great love for His people whom He redeemed and took into covenant union with Himself (Exod. 19:2-6), the Lord awaits Israel’s genuine repentance and return to Him.

Additionally, as Gomer was to experience a time of cleansing and renewal in being received by her husband and then be restored to the full blessings of the marriage relationship (Hos. 3:1-5), so a purified Israel will one day experience its full potential in a new covenant relationship with the Lord.15 In both cases, then, the later text furnishes new light on and application of an earlier existing text. The earlier text is not only a point of reference but is given a distinct application to a specific case. In so doing further clarification and understanding are brought to bear upon provisions in the earlier text.

Several other texts could be adduced to illustrate the use of earlier passages by a later writer. Some of these are quite thought provoking.16 In some instances, however, an earlier text is simply utilized by a later writer and given a new setting. A good example is the use to which Moses’ song in Exodus 15:1-18 is drawn upon by later writers. Thus the author of Psalm 33 in composing his “new song” (Ps. 33:3) relies heavily upon Moses’ victory song.

For example the psalmist’s singing of God’s gathering “the waters of the sea” (Ps. 33:7) recalls Moses’ singing of Yahweh’s providing a way through the Red Sea for Israel (Exod. 15:8). Earth’s inhabitants are challenged to fear and “stand in awe” of the Lord (Ps. 33:8; cf. Exod. 15:14-16). The mention of God’s powerful breath (Ps. 33:6) recalls Exodus 15:8-10, which states that a mere puff of Yahweh’s breath sank the Egyptians with the waters that returned to cover the sea. The plans of earth’s powerful people (Ps. 33:15-17), which are thwarted by the Lord (vv. 10-11), evoke memories of the faulty actions of the ancient Egyptian army (Exod. 15:9). The emphasis on human armies and horses (Ps. 33:16-17) brings to mind the impotence of that earlier Egyptian force (Exod. 15:13).17

David also utilized Exodus 15:1-18 for praising the Lord in Psalm 18 (cf. Exod. 15:2 with Ps. 18:1, 2, 46; Exod. 15:8 with Ps. 18:15).18

Background Texts for Jonah 4:2

The utilization of earlier texts in a new setting is integral for the study of Jonah 4:2. The basic foundational text is found in Exodus 34:6-7:

The LORD passed by before him and proclaimed: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation.”

In addition to His covenant love and justice, mentioned in the second commandment (Exod. 20:4-6), God emphasizes such personal qualities and characteristics of His divine nature as compassion, graciousness, patience, and faithfulness (or truth—`emet). These items are drawn upon again and again by later writers. In some cases the extolling of God’s justice and compassion is extended to His posterity. Thus Moses interceded with the Lord on behalf of the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness saying,

Let the power of my LORD be great, just as you have said. “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in loyal love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children until the third and fourth generations.” Please forgive the iniquity of this people according to your great love, just as you have forgiven this people from Egypt even until now (Num. 14:17-19).

Elsewhere Moses challenges the people to be sure to keep the Lord’s commands, decrees, and laws by reminding the people of God’s redemption and the fact that “the LORD your God is the true God, the faithful God who keeps covenant faithfully with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9).

More commonly, it is simply the combination of justice and mercy that are especially underscored. For example, the psalmist emphasizes God’s justice for all, while also praising His compassion, grace, and abundant love because of which He withheld at times the offenders deserved punishment (Ps. 103:6-10). Thus VanGemeren observes, “Though the Lord may be justly angry because of sin, he does not keep on criticizing (‘accuse,’ v. 9; cf. Isa 57:16) or maintain his anger for long (cf. Isa 3:13; Jer 2:9; Mic 6:8) great as his wrath may be, his mercy is greater (v. 8; cf. Isa 54:7-8; James 5:11).”19 Buttenwieser likewise calls attention to the psalmist’s dependence on Exodus 34:6-7 here as well as noting a relation between Psalm 103:9 and Isaiah 57:17, while remarking also that God’s qualities of love and compassion are “not by any means ‘rare’ utterances, as they are commonly considered to be, but express a familiar thought of Old Testament literature.”20 Indeed, God’s justice can be tempered by His goodness or compassion (Pss. 116:5; 145:17), or His infinite patience (Ps. 86:15).

The prophet Nahum, however, stresses the fact that God’s gracious nature ought not to be presumed upon. Although He may on occasion in His great patience with mankind He may withhold the deserved punishment (e.g., Neh. 9:17-21), He will ultimately deal justly with the guilty: “The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will certainly not allow the wicked to go unpunished” (Nah. 1:3). For the righteous it remains true that “the LORD is good—indeed, he is a fortress in time of distress, and he protects those who seek refuge in him” (Nah. 1:7).

Nevertheless, it remains true that the biblical writers often claim the positive characteristics of God’s nature such as His goodness, grace, and compassion (e.g., Pss. 111:4; 112:4). God’s prophets could also point to the Lord’s great compassion even in the midst of warning their people concerning their impending judgment for sins should they not repent. Thus after a series of devastating locust attacks, which Joel saw as pointing to an even greater impending invasion, he cites God’s own revelation with regard to His grace and compassion (Exod. 34:6-7), he pled with the people, “Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love—often relenting from calamitous punishment. Who knows? Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve” (Joel 2:13-14). “Joel in effect reminded his people that Yahweh was the God of second chances.”21 Should they genuinely repent and surrender to the Lord, there was a lively hope that once again the Lord might yet relent from sending the deserved punishment.

Similarly, the prophet Micah (7:18-20) presents a prophetic oracle of hope for Israel based on God’s revealed character in Exodus 34:6-7: “There is no other God like you! You forgive sin and pardon the rebellion of those who remain among your people. You do not remain angry forever, but delight in showing loyal love. You will once again have mercy on us; you will conquer our evil deeds; you will hurl our sins into the depths of the sea. You will be loyal to Jacob and extend your loyal love to Abraham, which you promised on oath to our ancestors.” Accordingly, Fishbane observes with regard to this passage, “There can be little doubt that in vv. 18-19 the prophet Micah has readapted the language of Exodus 34:6-7 into a catena of hope and thanksgiving. The aggadic reapplication of an old guarantee that YHWH would be compassionate and forgiving thus provides a new warrant of hope in a later time.”22 Micah’s reference to God’s loyalty (HB “faithfulness”) and loyal love (v.20) also find their origin in the Exodus text (v.20).

The well-known song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:4 provides further background for Jonah’s understanding of God’s character. Here Moses praises God as the “Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are just. He is a reliable God who is never unjust, he is fair and upright.” He who is the bedrock foundation of Israel’s faith, existence, and strength, and who Himself is “their creator (Deut 32:18), their protection and salvation (Deut 32:15; Ps 62:6-7[7-8]; 94:22), their provider (Ps 81:16[17]; Isa 48:21), and a righteous judge (Hab 1:12).”23 Not only in His person but in His works He is absolutely perfect.24 In particular Moses lists the following characteristics: justice, faithfulness, righteous, and integrity. Although only one of these characteristics is found specifically in Exodus 34:6-7, nevertheless the general tenor of Deuteronomy 32:4 is essentially the same. This is exemplified in Moses choice of the synonym `ĕmûnāh rather than the `emet of Exodus 34:6, both of which may be translated “faithfulness.” In both cases the relevant word is linked with the concepts of righteousness and justice, and integrity. As Moberly points out, “The general significance of this is that Yahweh’s faithfulness towards Israel is combined with a strong sense of moral integrity and is in no sense morally lax or indifferent … a fundamental principle of OT (indeed biblical) ethics is the imitation of God: as Yahweh is, likewise Israel is to be.”25

The character of God praised in Moses’ song, like the self-revelation of God in Exodus 34:6-7, is echoed in many later writers. To be sure, rarely do all four terms in Deuteronomy 32:4 occur together, notable exceptions being Psalms 33:4-5 and 119:137-38 where both God’s character and His Word are praised. More exceptional still is the combination of all four (but with `emet rather than `ĕmûnāh) together with perfection, a fifth quality mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:4—all with reference to God’s law (Ps. 19:7-9[HB 8-10]).26 In some cases one may encounter only three of the qualities brought together: justice, righteousness, and faithfulness (used with either Hebrew term). Psalms 89:14-15 and 119:75 serve as prime examples. The author of Psalm 45 also celebrates God’s faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity in close proximity (vv. 3, 7[HB 4, 8]).

Most commonly only two of the divine character qualities used to depict God’s character, words, or work are found together. Thus the Hebrew words for justice and some form of the Hebrew root for righteousness occurs with great frequency (e.g., Pss. 9:8[HB 9]; 97:2; 103:6; Jer. 9:24; 11:20). These are qualities that are to be reproduced in God’s people and nation (Pss. 37:28; 94:15; Isa. 33:5; Jer. 4:2) and especially in Israel’s leadership (1 Chron. 18:14; Ps. 45:6-12). They will certainly be characteristic marks of the Lord’s Messiah and His kingdom (Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15).

Likewise Hebrew words for faithfulness and righteousness occur together of God’s relation to His redeemed and restored people (Zech. 8:8) and both righteousness and faithfulness (`ĕmûnāh—1 Sam. 26:23; Hab. 2:4; or `emet—Ps. 45:4[HB 5]) appear with regard to proper living by God’s people.27

The wedding of Exodus 34:67 and Deuteronomy 32:4 reinforces their demonstrated availability for use by later writers. For example, the author of Psalm 111 utilizes both texts in his praise of God. Thus he draws upon Exodus 34:6-7 in verse 4 in extolling God’s graciousness and compassion, while looking to Deuteronomy 32:4 in noting God’s integrity, justice, and faithfulness in verses 7-8.28 As well, by including such qualities as integrity, mercy, compassion, and righteousness, the author of Psalm 112 shows his indebtedness to both passages. Similarly, Hosea utilizes both texts in portraying God’s promise to restore His exiled people. It is a promise as certain as the Lord’s own character with its qualities of righteousness, justice, faithfulness, and steadfast love (Hos. 2:19-20[HB 21-22]).

These data strongly suggest that the divine revelation of God’s character in Exodus 34:6-7 and Deuteronomy 32:4 became foundational to future settings where these particular qualities could be applied, elaborated upon, and celebrated. Assumedly, then, they would be well known to Jonah, even though his primary indebtedness is to Exodus 34:6-7. For Jonah, however, God’s known character had proven to be a stumbling block, first to carrying out his commission to warn the Ninevites of their need of changing their ways and then to their positive response to his preaching. “Apparently, Jonah had forgotten how God provided a sea creature to bring him to repentance. Yet Jonah was not willing to grant God the prerogative of accepting the penitence of the Ninevites. Jonah grieved over a plant that God had provided [Jonah 4:6-8] but was unwilling to grant God the privilege of compassion for needy human beings.”29

Did Jonah respond positively to God’s patient correction (vv.9-11) of His prophet?30 Although the text does not plainly say so, it can be hoped that if, as is likely the case, Jonah is the author of the book that bears his name, he penned this full account of his spiritual journey to underscore the need for compassion for the spiritual needs of all people. Jonah’s odyssey would thus be a story against himself with God being shown as a patient, loving Lord who gently restored him to further service. Such an indication may well lie in the historic account that Jeroboam II “restored the border of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the north to the sea of the Arabah in the south, in accordance with the word of the LORD God of Israel announced through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher” (2 Kings 14:25).

Conclusion and Applications

The preceding study demonstrates the high value of comparing later texts with an earlier setting. This is true not only within the individual Old and New Testaments, but in the New Testament writers’ use of the Old Testament. In both cases the interpreter of Scripture is able to gain a fuller understanding of and appreciation for God’s revealed Word and its message and standards.

As well, the lesson of Jonah and the revelation of God’s person stand as reminders of the need for the Lord’s character qualities to be reflected and reproduced in the lives of His believing people. Micah thus captures well the need of God’s standard of justice as well as His compassion for the believer: “He has told you, O man, what is good and what the LORD really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God” (Mic. 6:8). As Kaiser remarks, “This passage is more than just an ethical or cultic substitute for inventions of religion posed by mortals. It is duty indeed, but duty grounded in the character and grace of God… . It was … a call for the natural consequences of truly forgiven men and women to demonstrate the reality of their faith by living it out in the marketplace.”31

No less than the case with Jonah the heed for embodying the divine characteristics inherent in Exodus 34:6-7 and Deuteronomy 32:4 remain true for today’s Christians. Thus Paul reminded the Colossian believers to clothe themselves with compassion (or tenderheartedness—Col.3: 12). In keeping with such an appeal is the quality of mercy, a quality that James (3:13-17) stresses is characteristic of true wisdom and that Jesus repeatedly emphasized (e.g., Matt 5;7; 9:13; 12:7). In keeping with both character qualities is the need for believers to be gracious both in their actions (Lk. 7:42—Grk.) and their speech (Col. 4:6), and to be faithful (Matt. 23:23).

Indeed, faithfulness is often urged upon believers (e.g., 1 Tim. 3:11) and exemplified by God’s servants (e.g., 1 Tim. 1:12). In keeping with this virtue John conveys a challenge to the Christians at Smyrna, “Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself” (Rev. 2:10). Not only for the difficult times, as was the case at Smyrna, but it is also incumbent upon believers at all times to be faithful to the end, to compete well in the race of life, and to finish the course (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27)—all the while keeping the faith. Such carries the anticipated blessing and reward of the Lord Himself (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Two of the more difficult character qualities for many Christians center on forgiveness and patience. Yet each is enjoined upon us in God’s Word. Thus Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians, “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). He also reminds the Colossians to remember just as God has forgiven them, so they are to have a forgiving heart toward others (Col. 3:12).

Patience, too, is often difficult for many to achieve. Yet it is a divine quality that is desperately needed by all of us. Because God is longsuffering, He bore with a world of total spiritual bankruptcy in the days of Noah (1 Pet. 3:20). Similarly, He yet delays the Great Day of Judgment so as to prolong the day of salvation (2 Pet. 3:15). Indeed, God’s patience ought to bring men to repentance (Rom. 2:4; 9:22-24); and surely because God is patient, believers also ought to be patient (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). Every Christian should be marked by godly patience toward all (1 Thess. 5:14). Indeed, patience makes us worthy to walk in our calling (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12) and helps reproduce the same performance of faith in other believers (Heb. 6:11-12). Perhaps Paul has encapsulated all the needed virtues in writing, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another” (Col. 3:12-13a).

There are other lessons to be learned from journeying with Jonah. Thus like Jonah Christians can be “about the Master’s business” but be “too busy” to spend time with Him or in His Word. Therefore, our spiritual quest becomes sidetracked. Even our worship experience can degenerate into a mere routine, as was the case too often in ancient Israel.32 There is therefore the need for each of us not only to be submissive to the standards of God in His Word, but to love Him supremely and to be in daily fellowship with Him.

As well, a missionary imperative springs out of Jonah’s experience. It is all too easy to criticize Jonah for his attitude with regard to the Ninevites, but a similar disregard or disdain for enemy nations, terrorists, or “unlovely” people can too often stand in the way of our extending the Gospel message of God’s saving forgiveness in Christ to them.

“Jonah’s story thus reminds us of the need for sharing the Word of God with an unbelieving world and for praying for all people everywhere (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-6). The desperate condition of the lost and the urgency of the times demand that as unrepentant generation be confronted with the lesson of Nineveh: “Someone greater than Jonah is here” (Matt 12:41).”33


1 Unless otherwise noted, all scriptural citations are taken from the NET.

2 G. K Beale and D. A. Carson, eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007. Many earlier studies have also contributed to the field of OT/NT relationships. See, for example, J. Woods, The Old Testament in the Church (London: S.P.C.K., 1949; E. Earle Ellis, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1957); R.V.G. Tasker, The Old Testament in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963); G.C. Oxtoby, Prediction and Fulfillment in the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966); F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969); R.T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament (London: Tyndale, 1971); John W. Wenham, Christ and the Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1972); Henry M. Shires, Finding the Old Testament in the New (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974); F.F. Bruce, The Time is Fulfilled (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978); Lester J. Kuyper, The Scripture Unbroken (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978); Daniel P. Fuller, Gospel and Law (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980); S. Lewis Johnson, The Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980); Gleason L. Archer and G. C. Chirichigno, Old Testament Citations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey (Chicago: Moody, 1983); Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago: Moody, 1985); Craig A. Evans, ed., From Prophecy to Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004).

3 Beale and Carson, Commentary, xiv.

4 Rex Mason, “Inner-Biblical Exegesis,’ in A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, eds., R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houlden (London: SCM, 1990), 313. See further, Paul E. Koptak, “Intertextuality,” in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 332-34. See also, Craig C. Broyles, “Tradition, Intertextuality, and Canon,” in Interpreting the Old Testament, ed. Craig C. Broyles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 167-71. The classic study is, of course, that of Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985).

5 Where the translation appears to be somewhat different between the two texts, nevertheless the vocabulary is identical in the Hebrew Bible. Several other vocabulary words common to apocalyptic-like themes, which occur in other prophets, are also present such as, “distress” (v. 15), “battle cries” (v. 16), “terrifying destruction” (v. 18), as well as the phrase “his fiery wrath” (v. 18).

6 An interesting sidelight to this practice is the fact that knowledge of this usage often enables textual critics to establish in some cases, that which is the proper reading among attested variants. See further, Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), 198-99, 200-06.

7 Richard D. Patterson and Andrew E. Hill, Minor Prophets: Hosea-Malachi, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip Comfort (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2008), 41-42.

8 Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 172.

9 Richard D. Patterson, Hosea (Richardson, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 2008), 66. Hosea’s phraseology is taken up by Jesus who rebukes the Pharisees for their failure to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures (Matt. 12:17; cf. Matt. 9:13). As Carson (“Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], 8:282) points out, “ The reference of this quotation from the ‘latter prophets’ depends on the Pharisees’ attitude to the law being as worthy of condemnation as the attitude of those who relied superficially and hypocritically on mere ritual in Hosea’s day.” See further, Craig L. Blomberg, “Matthew,” in “Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, 40-42.

10 For the difficulties attendant to the number seventy, see F. B. Huey, Jr., Jeremiah Lamentations, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1993), 226.

11 The revelation through Daniel also provides a fresh application of Jeremiah’s seventy years in that the seventy calendar years are now seen to be understood in connection with a period of sabbatical cycles (cf. 2 Chron. 36:21), which in turn ushers in the year of jubilee (cf. Lev. 25:1-55).

12 Patterson, Hosea, 28.

13 Patterson and Hill, Minor Prophets, 27.

14 J. A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 191.

15 See further, Huey, Jeremiah, 71.

16 A classic example of relational applicability is that of Genesis 49:10 to Ezekiel 21:27[HB 32], which is both technically difficult and much debated. Moreover, because the problem has messianic implications, it is deserving of a special study. For a consideration of the relationship of the two passages and a messianic force, see Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 107-08 and Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 895—both of whom find a positive relationship. To the contrary, see Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 683, 692-93 and Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 260-61.

17 For further details, see Richard D. Patterson, “Singing the New Song: An Examination of Psalms 33, 96, 98, and 149,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (2007): 428-29.

18 For the widespread use of Exodus 15 in the Bible see Richard D. Patterson, “The Song of Redemption,” TheWestminster Theological Journal 57 (1995): 453-61; and Richard D. Patterson and Michael Travers, “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,” The Westminster Theological Journal 66 (2004): 25-47. Especially relevant in the Old Testament are Psalms 68:6; 77:17-20; 114:2, 7; and Habakkuk 3:3-15. Isaiah and Jeremiah also contain frequent allusions to Exodus 15:1-18, especially viewing the exodus as a source of hope for the future.

19 Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 5:653.

20 Moses Buttenwieser, The Psalms, The Library of Biblical Studies, ed. Harry M. Orlinsky (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1969), 682. See Buttenwieser’s full discussion on pages 681-86.

21 Duane A. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997), 346. Marvin A. Sweeney (The Twelve Prophets, Berit Olam, ed. David W. Cotter [Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000], 165) observes with regard to Joel’s use of Exodus 34:6-7: “Joel 2:13b is one of eight clear citations of this formula (see also Num 14:18; Pss 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Nah 1:3; Jonah 4:2; and Neh 9:17, 31b). Although this formula was frequently interpreted to emphasize YHWH’s justice (see Deut 5:9-10; 7:9-10; Nah 1:2-3), the present formulation eliminates the references to punishment in Exod 34:6-7 in order to highlight divine mercy.”

22 Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, 349.

23 Andrew E. Hill, “cur,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 3:793.

24 For an interesting and informative discussion of God’s attribute of perfection see Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1907, reprint ed. 1954), 260-75.

25 R. W. L. Moberly, “`mn,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1:429.

26 For a study of the synonyms for God’s law, see VanGemeren, “Psalms,” 5:181, 184-87.

27 The divine qualities detailed in the Torah are at times woven into the fabric of the psalmic literature, though not necessarily brought immediately together. For example, the author of Psalm 92 sings of God’s loyal love and faithfulness in verse 2[HB 3], and his integrity and rock-like character in verse 15[HB 16].

28 Noteworthy also in verses 7-8 is the psalmist’s use of the verbal root `mn (be firm) both as a participle (ne`ĕmānîm) or as a noun `emet to express God’s faithfulness.

29 Patterson and Hill, Minor Prophets, 286.

30 Her the force of God’s integrity, fairness, and justice found in Deuteronomy 32:4 can be distinctly felt both in His tender correction of His prophet and His concern for the Ninevites.

31 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 227-28.

32 Such a problem was particularly evident in early eighth century B.C. Israel as often pointed out by God’s prophets Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, and Amos.

33 Patterson and Hill, Minor Prophets, 287.


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