Saturday, January 30, 2010

The lesson covered two chapters which I'm kinda grateful for because now the lesson number syncs up with the chapter number. But for how long?!

Cavins actually didn't do too well presenting two chapters in the same amount of time he usually allots to one chapter. He left too many verses unexplained. He said things like, "I'll come back to that in a minute," but then didn't. I hate it when Bible teachers structure their talks that way. Building suspense? They all do it.

The part that everyone - except me - liked was Cavins handling of Jonah. So Jesus says,
no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The men of Nin'eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah
... Matt. 13:38-45, RSV.
The trouble starts in taking Jonah1 as a typical prophet. Cavins describes Jonah as not willing to preach a prophetic message in Nineveh because Jonah is aware of Hosea's prophecy about God using Assyria to punish the Northern Kingdom. (Hos. 9:3, 11:5)

Now 2 Kings 14:23-28 says Jonah prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (782-753 BCE). My Precepts timeline places Jonah between 784 and 772. Hosea's ministry is placed, variously, ca. 750 to after 732 (NJBC), 755 to 714 (Precepts) and the text itself reads, in 1:1 -
The word of the LORD that came to Hose'a the son of Be-e'ri, in the days of Uzzi'ah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezeki'ah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jerobo'am the son of Jo'ash, king of Israel. (RSV)
Most people place Hosea towards the end of Uzziah's reign, so the dates don't work out for Jonah to be familiar with Hosea's prophecy.

Cavins reminded us of the totality of God's message to Nineveh through Jonah: "Yet forty days, and Nin'eveh shall be overthrown!" (Jon. 3:4, RSV).

I know there's controversy about how this prophecy was fulfilled. Was the Ninevites' repentance a form of divine "overthrow?" Or did God relent at their earnest conversion? Either way, within a generation, they were back to their old tricks.

Cavins said, "A day is a year and so, in forty years, Nineveh was overthrown by the Babylonians." Not quite. It's more like 150 years between when Jonah preached and Nineveh was destroyed by Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar's dad. But the damage was done: the pat explanation was seared into everyone's brain. They loved the sentiment of it all: The Bible has come alive! But the numbers don't add up! No matter.

One lady whom I tried to set straight with little success has the Jerusalem Bible and I urged her to read the short book of Jonah. And told her that Tolkien did the translation. That thrilled her anew.

1 [Fr. Boadt] called [Jonah] a short story that would have had its original readers rolling on the floor with laughter. She asked about the story's historicity. He said, "Well, let's start from the text and see what can be drawn. There was a city of Nineveh. There was a prophet Jonah ... and, and, we're starting to run out of facts. Do you see?" - previous post on the Book of Jonah.

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