Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives: A Verse-by-Verse Contemporary Commentary

Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives: A Verse-by-Verse Contemporary Commentary

Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives: A Verse-by-Verse Contemporary Commentary

Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives: A Verse-by-Verse Contemporary Commentary


The Book of Jonah stands unique among the biblical books of the prophets because it is almost entirely narrative. And, in contrast to all the other prophets portrayed as admirable individuals who bravely speak God's word, Jonah stands out as flawed and fleeing from God. We are drawn to Jonah because God gives him an opportunity to redeem himself. His experience inspires us to find our own second chances--and our own paths to meaningful growth.

Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives draws on commentaries of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and the Malbim, as well as contemporary culture and personal experiences to reveal the hidden meanings of this perplexing biblical story. In so doing, it explores many of the larger questions and topics we face, including human nature, our relationship with God, and how we understand ourselves and lead our lives. Rabbi Steven Bob's verse-by-verse commentary intimately connects the ancient wisdom of the text with the reality of our own lives, providing us with inspiration and guidance.


When I was a child, I heard the story of Jonah as a story about God. It was presented to me as an entertaining tale teaching that God’s power extends to all corners of the earth. I now see it as a story about Jonah. As an adult I am drawn to this story because I feel that I know Jonah. He is not a heroic knight of faith like Abraham. Wcause Jonah receives a second chance. After God caused the fish to spew Jonah back onto dry land, God could have said to him, “I forgive you for fleeing. Now go home. I will send another, more dependable prophet to Nineveh. Perhaps Elijah is available for this mission.” But God doesn’t dismiss Jonah; God gives him another opportunity. This is deep forgiveness, forgiveness with renewed trust. God fully accepts Jonah’s repentance. God sees Jonah as fit for the mission of carrying the Divine word to Nineveh.

We always want a second chance. We’d like everybody we have wronged to give us another opportunity, but are we willing to give others a second chance? Not simply forgiving the people who wronged us, but trusting them again in circumstances in which they had previously disappointed us. This is a serious challenge. Will we trust the person who mismanaged the money to handle the finances again? Will we trust the person who was less than loyal to be our friend again? the situations occur in each of our lives, at work, with our friends and our families. God’s full forgiveness of Jonah is a model for us.

Humor plays a key role in my life, and I’m pleased to see exaggeration and humor in the story of Jonah: the size of Nineveh, the extent of the repentance of the Ninevites, the animals of Nineveh putting . . .

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