Commentary on the Book of Jonah
Father Tadros Y. Malaty
To most, Jonah is but a prophet who ran away from the Lord. This is something nobody could ignore, but there is another side to this situation, which should not be ignored. He was the only prophet, at that time, whom the Lord sent to witness to a pagan country, Nineveh, capital of Assyria. Jonah realized through prophecy that the salvation of the Gentiles would come only as a result of Israel’s refusing the faith, and he could not accept such a mission, so he ran away from the service, not out of hatred for the Gentiles but out of fear for his own. He might have realized through prophecy’s shadow what St. Paul proclaimed about Israel: “...through their fall...salvation has come to the Gentiles... their fall is riches for the world” Rom. 11:11-12.
Jonah saw Israel as a gourd which shaded him for a while with the law and prophecies, but it withered with the worm of ungratefulness, lack of faith, and treason to the Savior, the Messiah, and that, “...displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” [4:1]. His love for Israel, which protected him, was the reason for his running away from serving the Gentiles and the secret of his great sorrow. Amazingly, God who examines the hearts, transformed this escape - despite what it holds of disobedience - to a Divine order, into a mission and salvation for a different group of Gentiles, i.e. the sailors and the captain who “feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows” [1: 16]; after Jonah was thrown in the water and was swallowed by the whale. This became a symbolic act for the salvation of the Gentiles after Christ, the new Jonah, was laid in the tomb.
May the Holy Spirit of our God carry us to our true Jonah so that we may see Him give Himself for us, to be thrown in the tempestuous sea of our lives, taking away its troubles, carrying us with Him, not in the whale, but in His holy tomb to be buried with Him every day and also to rise with Him partaking in His Divine glory.