Jan Paron, PhD | June 27, 2021
The book of Jonah opens with the messenger formula “The word of the Lord came to Jonah” to cry out against Nineveh (Jon 1:1). Though the passage does not name Jonah as a prophet, the formula verifies God’s appointment for him to prophesy to Nineveh (1:2). Second Kings also affirms his status referring to Jonah as a prophet to King Jeroboam II (14:25). Despite the word of the Lord, Jonah fled to Tarshish (Jon 1:3) seeking to escape his call. Later, Jonah submitted to God’s call, and He returned him to Nineveh to carry out the mission (3:3). Jonah prophesied to them, “forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4 New American Standard Version). The Ninevites repented, and thus God spared the city (vv. 6-10). However, God’s extension of mercy to Nineveh angered Jonah, and the prophet asked to die (4:1, 3). Jonah could not accept His action with the pagans; nonetheless, God justified His decision because of His concern for the more than 120,000 Ninevites (v. 11).
Perhaps, Jonah reacted negatively towards Nineveh repenting because he did not want to see its pagan inhabitants turn from their sin, a city that would eventually destroy the Northern Kingdom. Since the author structured the book as a biographical sketch of Jonah, it allows for a cultural analysis of the prophet’s artifacts, values, and assumptions to provide insight into the whys behind his external behaviors. In particular, his actions gave rise to several queries to answer. How did Jonah’s contextually embedded factors affect his attitude towards Nineveh and readiness to accept their repentance? Further, how did Jonah’s roots grounded in a Hebraic social identity play a role in his outlook? This essay seeks to prove how Jonah’s worldview assumptions set within Israel’s broader cultural nationalism influence his attitude toward Nineveh and drive his resistance to change. In doing so, it uncovers Jonah’s internal values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions behind three of his external artifacts: disobedience, selfishness, and self-exile.
Accordingly, this writing examines Jonah through Schein’s organizational culture theory to explain how Jonah’s cultural context affected his worldview about Nineveh and attitude toward change. The Schein model analyzes three categorical levels of culture: artifacts, espoused beliefs and values, and basic underlying assumptions. While the Schein three-tier model uncovers culture insofar as group dynamics to support strategies for organizational change, even called the onion model for that purpose, the framework adapts well to exposing layers of an individual’s culture within a larger people group’s context. Thus, it blueprints Jonah’s surface and hidden cultures that undergird his architectural framework. In turn, the blueprint provides an anthropological lens through which to view his macro and micro cultural layers allowing for a peeled-back glimpse into the inner workings of Jonah’s conflict and change that drove his responses to the prophecy for Nineveh (Jon 1:3). Thus, its macro culture represents Jonah’s intrinsically formed, nationalist views inherent to and embedded in pre-exilic Israel during the eighth century BC—Yahweh’s disobedient and impetuous wife breaking the covenant marriage vow to her desires and will. At the same time, the micro reflects his beliefs, values, norms, thought patterns, and myths that interact with yet remain separate from the macro.
In considering Jonah’s culture in the context of Israel, the date of which the Nineveh setting takes place holds significance as culture changes over time. Since Israel’s pre-exilic period has a wide date range, its social location and identity contribute to its worldview formation. The tensions and conflict surrounding Israel, including foreign interactions, even may create multiple worldviews. To understand Jonah’s motives, one must peel away the outer layers to expose the inner assumptions. It requires analyzing Jonah in the context of Israel with the proper social location. Thus, dating the narrative takes on significance. Having said this, the book of Second Kings gives a clue as to the time frame that provides at least a window within which to date Jonah insofar as his prophecy to Jeroboam II during the eighth century BC, before the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian Empire. Stuart lists other factors that support eighth century BC dating, such as Aramaisms in language, motifs from Jeremiah, verbs from Joel, and Nineveh as a possible alternate capital of the Assyrian Empire during the first half of the century. Matthews believes it occurred from 850–605 BC with the book’s composition during the post-exilic period, after 500. Richter projects the first half of the eighth century (800-745BC) when the Jeroboam-Uzziah alliance gave rise to wealth and influence, and Tiglath-pileser III ruled Assyria. For the sake of this essay, it will focus on pre-exilic Israel within approximately the 850-605 BC period, even though it encompasses a broad period.
Jonah’s disobedient approach to his prophetic commission to cry out against Nineveh surfaced immediately in the narrative’s onset (Jon 1:2-3), demonstrating one of Jonah’s first of the three critical external artifacts (disobedience, selfishness, and self-exile). Further, it previews actions to come fueled by the prophet’s beliefs, values, and assumptions related to the Ninevites. While the text does not describe Jonah as a prophet, Yahweh’s commission to Nineveh suggests it. Second Kings 14:25 confirms Jonah’s call as a prophet concerning his prophecy to King Jeroboam II. Jonah stands among the Twelve in the Old Testament, though not a standard prophet.
To understand the depth of Jonah’s disobedience, one must examine it in light of a prophet’s role. Prophets acted as spokespersons for God’s divine message to the people in Ancient Israel, though not exclusive to Israelites. They received and announced God’s divine will, intentions, purposes, or future from a prophetic utterance.. Disobedience to the call could result in death such as the man of God in Bethel (1 Kgs 13:26). Despite the responsibilities of the office, Jonah chose not to follow the Lord’s three commands: (1) ‘Arise,’ (2) ‘Go at once to Nineveh,’ and (3) ‘cry out against it’ (Jon 1:3). Instead, he acted contrarily with three, self-determined directions: he (1) ‘got up to flee to Tarshish’ (1:2), (2) ‘went down to Joppa,’ and (3 ‘found a ship that was going to Tarshish’ (v. 3). Although the narrative sets the scene for what follows, it does not establish why Jonah did not carry out the Lord’s message. However, the text immediately portrays him as disobedient to the word of the Lord in his prophetic office. To note, as Jonah followed his personal agenda with the initial decision not to confront Nineveh about its wickedness, in essence, he questioned the Lord’s authority over His creation.
Schellenberg fittingly describes Jonah as an anti-prophet pointing out his atypical stance as a prophet and its complexities in that role. Jonah almost shows a combination between open disobedience and subtle disengagement with Yahweh. For instance, the narrative opens with Jonah fleeing to Tarshish by boat (v. 3). Once on the ship, the Lord sent Jonah so great a wind threatened to destroy the boat making the sailors each cry out to their god, instead, Jonah went below and fell sound asleep (vv. 3-5). He did not call on God (v. 6); but asked the shipmen to throw him overboard to calm the seas (v. 12). Immediately, a great fish God had prepared swallowed up Jonah (v. 17). Once encompassed in its belly for three days, Jonah prayed to God without any apparent remorse for his actions seemingly with a victim mentality (2:3). Another occasion of a posture antithesis to a prophet occurred after Jonah prophesied to Nineveh. While its inhabitants covered themselves with sackcloth and cried for God’s mercy in repentance; in contrast, Jonah sat sullenly withdrawn to the east of the city (3:8-10; 4:5). He showed avoidance and an inappropriate approach to his call. His anti-prophet behavior and responses run throughout the story in different variations.
The question remains as to what beliefs and values behind his disobedience caused a reaction so adverse to Nineveh that he would risk separation and subsequent punishment from God? The Lord commanded Jonah to go to city and cry out against it because of its wickedness (1:2). Matthews describes the Lord’s call as so strong that a prophet ultimately must address it, including preaching judgment as the Lord commanded Jonah. The prophet could try to flee from God and his commission but could not escape it. He could hide but not run. Jonah realized he had to fulfill the command to the Assyrian city of Nineveh (vv. 13–17).
Given the prophet’s strong call to duty, why did Jonah not fulfill the Lord’s command immediately? It was not until a large fish swallowed him up that he understood his duty would not go away (2:1-9). Further, how did Jonah rationalize running from it? Tarshish (modern-day Spain) In his mind, the city may have represented the farthest point to flee, the ultimate hiding place. Physical distance resulting from his sin of disobedience suggests alienation from the presence of the Lord. The ideology from humanity’s sinful nature historically results in separation from God. Metaphorically speaking, it brought Jonah east of Eden like Adam and Eve (Gn 3:23–24) and Cain (4:16), instead hurled to the sea and then into the belly of a large fish appointed by the Lord (Jon 1:15-17). At this juncture, the text did not indicate why Jonah so aggressively avoided Nineveh but does show the effects of decisions that run contrary to God.
Quite possibly, it may have had to do with the Northern Kingdom’s liminality upon entering a period of prosperity. In other words, Jonah looked out for Israel. In his eyes, he may have wanted to see continued prosperity. Isaiah (Is 7:17—8:28) and Hosea (Hos 9:3; 10:6; 11:5) both prophesied the Assyrian invasion of Israel. God told Jehu his sons would rule Israel for four generations, meaning until Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 10:30). During the era of Israel’s kings, Jeroboam ruled the Northern Kingdom while Uzziah reigned over Judah. King Jeroboam II had restored Israel’s boundaries to those under David by reconquering the Transjordan in 760 BC (14:23-29, Am 6:14). His reign from 786-746 BC reflected peace and expansion for Israel. Further, the annexation of Gilead, Lo-debar, and Karnaim enabled Israel to gain control over the major trade route connecting the Tigris-Euphrates to Egypt through the King’s Highway. Sole control over the trade route gave rise to Israel’s newfound wealth. Israel and Judah regarded Nineveh as its greatest enemy. Estelle added that Israel’s collective conscience could not view Assyria with neutrality because of recent memories associated with it. Did Jonah think he could stop the Assyrian invasion if he allowed God to destroy Nineveh?
In addition to being a prophet, albeit disobedient, 2 Kgs 14:25 describes Jonah as a servant of the Lord, the God of Israel. Servants serve, yet scripture shows another artifact of Jonah as selfish. Named as a servant of the Lord, he stood in the company of Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, kings, and the faithful of Israel. The Old Testament first mentions servant of the Lord in Gn 26:24b, referring to Abraham in the possessive form, “my servant.” They serve God and His desires for the kingdom, not the world nor its influences (Gn 24:2). Paron emphasizes that a servant of the Lord carried out God’s requests “based on faith in God’s covenantal promises for Israel, generation to generation.” Thus, they fulfill God’s heart assignments for His people. Nevertheless, God gave His servants a choice to obey his commands, decrees, and instructions (49:15). While scripture calls Jonah a servant in Second Kings, he elected not to follow the Lord’s instructions in the case of Nineveh. So, why did it refer to him as a servant of the Lord, the God of Israel (2 Kgs 14:25)? Jonah showed himself as selfish rather than selfless, running in opposition to God’s directions. If Jonah had fled from his hometown Gath Hepher (14:25) to Tarshish, he would have traveled 3,000 miles to the westernmost point away from Nineveh to distance himself from God. In addition to a disobedient nature in his office of prophet, the text reveals him as selfish. Jonah did not consider his duty to serve in a prophetically forth-telling capacity to Nineveh as God’s messenger.
Nineveh’s wickedness may lend an understanding of Jonah’s beliefs leading to his disdain for Nineveh and subsequent decisions (Jon 1:2). Even though the book did not elaborate on wickedness, Jonah may have understood it without explanation. Nahum remarked about Nineveh’s endless cruelty after Jonah: “Who has ever escaped your endless cruelty” (Na 3:19 New Revised Standard Version). The passage suggests Israel knew of Nineveh’s oppressive severity. Unconsciously, Jonah may have had an ingrained belief that the Ninevites did not deserve a second chance from God.
Grant-Henderson brings up the point related to Israel’s post-exilic view of outsiders as nations exclusive to God’s mercy. She posits a strong statement relative apropos to Jonah: “If a foreigner can repent so quickly and receive the compassion of God, then surely the Israelite nation that is God’s chosen one will be able to receive the same care no matter how far they strayed.” She tied this assertion to Israel’s self-centered view that the God of Israel only bestows grace to His people, from a collectivist perspective only to insiders, not outsiders. Judah may have viewed God granting mercy to a foreign nation as injustice when Israel itself experienced pain and hardship. An Exodus 32 redux? Though the Northern Kingdom prospered during the reign of Jeroboam II, the political engine distributed kingdom wealth disproportionately to the connected. Most people lived in poverty, not luxury. Judah did not fare as well as its northern neighbor. Therefore, the self-centered Israelite mindset that permeated their values propagated the underlying assumptions of forgetting God as sovereign. Even though Jonah referenced God as “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in mercy” (Jon 4:2b), he may well have directed it only towards Israel, as the “Lord my God” (2:6), literally meaning the Lord God who belongs to Israel.
Nineveh’s willingness to repent presents an ironic contrast to Israel and Judah’s reluctance to do so the same.Upon Jonah’s recommissioning to Nineveh (3:1), he walked to the city from where the fish spit him out. Then, he cried out and said, “Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown” (v. 4). From the least to the greatest, the Ninevites believed the word of the Lord. The king issued an edict that everyone must turn from their evil ways (v. 8). Jeremiah virtually preached this same message to Israel (Jer 25:5).
Their repentance angered Jonah; thus, he placed himself in exile outside the city. Jonah figuratively went east of Eden away from the presence of God in self-imposed isolation out of anger when left to go east of Nineveh. “So now, Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life” (Jon 4:3). Once again, Jonah physically placed himself out of the Lord’s presence, demonstrating the antithesis of a prophet’s expected behavior, and experienced another punishment as God appointed a scorching east wind against him and heat of the sun beat down on him (4:8).
While Nineveh hoped that God would change His mind and not destroy them, Jonah feared a gracious and merciful God (v. 2). He knew God’s character. The same mercy God showed Jonah throughout the story, He also would demonstrate to Nineveh. Just as Israel repeatedly operated in the mindset of covenant breakers with Yahweh, Jonah approached God much the same way when he placed himself in exile and pouted. The allusion to Israel’s exile bookends the story, beginning in his flight west to Tarshish and ending east outside Nineveh. Did Jonah, who rudely argued with God over sparing Nineveh forget God rescued him from the belly of the fish even though he did not repent of his disobedience? (v.9). As a type for Israel, Jonah likewise foreshadows the mercy God gave His chosen upon restoration from exilic Israel and again to eschatological Israel (Rom 9-11).
Conclusion: Change and Conflict in Nineveh
Poole and Van de Ven view organizational change as occurring in cycles driven by four forces of change related to goal implementation in an entity. The forces include life cycle, dialectical, teleological, and evolutionary. Each force, in turn, affects the implementation of the organizational mission. Of the four forces, teleological change comes to mind in the case of Jonah because God implemented part of His predetermined plan for redemption in Nineveh. He needed the city as part of Assyria to later invade the Northern Kingdom
Teleological change involves intentional and purposeful goal implementation to drive change, dependent upon constituents working together for its fruition. However, like any change, it can provoke conflict. Indeed, Jonah having had to prophesy to Nineveh gave rise to conflict for him. The tension stemmed from the collective Hebrew community, which in turn influenced his social identity. Their broader social sphere included the political, economic, cultural, and religious mores of Israel’s society, of which Jonah had a membership. Therefore, he functioned as a prophet guided by espoused beliefs and ethical rules from his ethnic roots that formed boundaries for his behavior. God’s desire for Nineveh to repent triggered Jonah’s resistant behaviors that manifested in disobedience and selfishness to Yahweh and isolation from His presence.
God’s nature does not change, remaining immutable: “For I, the Lord, do not change (Mal 3:6a; e.g., Num 23:19; Isa 46: 9-11; Jas 1:13). Rather, how He deals with people does. He bestowed mercy upon Nineveh and later destroyed them because of their continued wickedness. However, God also demands change from His people. He challenged Jonah’s existing social standards. As the Creator of humankind and a sovereign God, He alone determines mercy. In this case, it pertained to exclusion versus inclusion of grace for a foreign nation.
Believers in Christ can learn from Jonah’s mistakes of disobedience, selfishness, and self-isolation that interfere with spiritual growth and call to mission. Yahweh desires intimacy with His children to shape and form them that only comes from remaining in His presence in covenant and walking in His Spirit. In its absence, the flesh gives sin a place to dwell. Sin cannot reside where restoration should take place as His tabernacle abides within His image-bearers.
Perhaps, the most significant point to remember comes with one’s high calling from God. Jesus commanded His disciples to take the Gospel to the nations (Mt 28:19) without exclusion showing unconditional love (Mk 12:31; Jn 13:34). Like Jonah, God makes His followers messengers of His grace and mercy. In a divided society permeated with judgment fueled by hate, much like Israel and Gentiles cultures, the Body of Christ must reflect on the past and self-evaluate whether it sits east of Nineveh pouting. Does it self-determine who stands worthy of the Gospel? The Church must rise up and actively become coyotes crossing into alien territory, bringing the message of hope of salvation in mission—Become border crossers for the kingdom!
 The book narrates Jonah’s experiences surrounding his call by God to prophecy repentance to Nineveh, an urban center of Assyria. Jonah hailed from Gath Hepher, a border town in ancient Israel, a village near Nazareth in Israel (2 Kgs 14:25) in the northern kingdom, in the area known as the district of the Gentiles (Is 9:1). Dates vary on the event’s time of occurrence and the book’s writing.
 Unless otherwise specified, this writing will quote scripture from the New American Standard Version.
 Daniel J. Hays and Tremper Longman III, The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Zondervan, 2010), Kindle. Though Nineveh repented, it soon returned to its former evil state. Assyria rose in power to dominate the Ancient Near East (ANE). The Lord used the empire to judge the Northern Kingdom. Nahum prophesied Nineveh’s destruction after Jonah.
 Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, ) 537.
 Communication occurs in context, which affects how a person decodes any given verbal or nonverbal message. Existing factors such as cultural (learned values, beliefs, and behaviors), historical (expectations and motivation), psychological (emotions, intentions, mood, power/authority, and judgment), occasion (place, event, situation, and relationship), environmental (locale, space, setting, time, and spiral of silence) and number of people (individual, group, or multitude) all play a role in establishing context. (Noelle-Neumann, 1984; O’Keefe, 1990; Rogers and Steinfatt, 1999; Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, 2010).
 Edgar H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership (San Francisco: Wiley, 2010), 22-23. See also Hall’s theory of culture: Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture (Garden City: Anchor, 1981), 16. Hall devised a similar framework to describe innate cultural characteristics, interrelated cultural factors, and common boundaries in a person or people group.
 Gamze Yilmaz, (2014) “Let’s Peel the Onion Together: An Application of Schein’s Model of Organizational Culture” Communication Teacher, 28:4, 224-228, (July 2014), 224. DOI: 10.1080/17404622.2014.939674.
 Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 55. He states “To fully understand what goes on inside the organization, it is necessary to understand both the organization’s macro context, because much of what you observe inside simply reflects the national, and the interplay of subcultures because they often reflect the primary occupational cultures of the organization members.
 David Naugle, Jr., Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publisher, 2002. Naugle contends a person has more than one worldview, a multiplicity, meaning they evolve dependent upon their impermanent nature due to the intermingling of life experience, sentiments, and ideas against historical periods and context.
 Douglas Stuart, “Jonah,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, eds. Daniel Reid and Allison Rieck (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012), 457, 460-461. Stuart provides other datings to support the eight century BC period. The term king of Nineveh may connote a somewhat generic label in the book’s context suggesting an Assyrian king may be present in nineveh early in the eighth century BC where or not Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
 Victor H. Matthews, The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 26.
 Sandra Richer, “Eighth-Century Issues: The World of Jeroboam II, the Fall of Samaria, and the Reign of Hezekiah,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, eds. Bill T. Arnold and Richard Hess (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), 320.
 Dennis Tucker, Jr., Jonah: Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible (Waco: Baylor University, 2006. The discourse marker ‘and’ translated in the interlinear (wayyiqtol form) from Hebrew provides the reader with a signal. It precedes in the first of sequential events to describe how “the word of the Lord came to Jonah” (v.1). References to a word of the Lord coming to a prophet include 1 Kgs 13:20, 16:7: Jehu; 1 Kgs 19:19: Elijah; Jer 33:1, 39:15: Jeremiah; Hos 1:1: Hosea; Mic 1:1: Micah; and Zeph 1:1, 7:12: Zephaniah. Second Chronicle 11:3 in the case of Samuel says “according to the word of the Lord by Samuel”
 Matthews, The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World. Standard prophets include Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. During the destruction and exile of Judah. Their prophetic themes included (1) Israel must repent, (2) without repentance judgment will follow, and (3) hope lies beyond judgment for a restored future for both Israel/Judah and the nations.
 Daniel G. Reid and Allison Rieck, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012), 587.
 Schellenberg, “An Anti-Prophet among the Prophets? On the Relationship of Jonah to Prophecy,” 355.
 Matthews, The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World, 201.
 Constantin Oancea, “Imagery and Religious Conversion: The Symbolic Function of Jonah 1:13.” Religions 9 (3): 1–9. doi:10.3390/rel9030073.
 Bruce E. Willougby, Amos, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol A-C (New York: Doubleday), 205. King Jeroboam II ruled from 786-746 BC, while Uzziah from 783-742 BC. Both held lengthy reigns resulting in peace and expansion for both the northern and southern kingdoms.
 Willougby, Amos, 205-206.
 Bryan Estelle, Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishers, 2005), Kindle.
 According to Paron in “Uncovering the Servant of the Lord” in some of the Old Testament servants of the Lord included “Abraham (Gn 26:24), Moses (Ex 14:31; Dt 34:5; Josh 1:2, 13), Joshua (Jo 24:29; Jgs 2:8), Hezekiah (2 Chr 32:16), Isaiah (Is 20:3), Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon (Jer 25:9), Zerubbabel (Hg 2:23), prophets as a group (2 Kgs 17:13; Am 3:7; Jer 7:25; 26:5), and the faithful ones of Israel (Is 49:1-6).”
 Jan Paron, “Uncovering the Meaning of Servant of the Lord,” Perspectives 12 (blog), August 19, 2014. https://specs12.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/uncovering-the-meaning-of-servant-of-the-lord/.
 Removing oneself from the presence of the Lord in disobedience can bring judgment. Adam and Eve hid themselves from God’s presence among the trees of the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge (Gn 2:17; 3:8). For breaking His command not to eat of the tree, He removed them from the garden.
 Anna Grant-Henderson, Inclusive Voices in Post Exilic Judah (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2002), 103.
 Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1988), 516.
 Jan L. Paron, Study of Selected Cultural Value Dimensions from Edward T. Hall and Geert Hofstede for Bridging Communication in an Urban, Multiethnic Church (Marrion: Wesley Seminary, 2014).Paron points out that “Culture reflects the elements of worldview (beliefs or thinking), values (feeling), and external practices (behaviors) each people group teaches and reinforces to its members.
 Bryan D. Estelle, Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah, Kindle.
 Marshall Poole and Andrew Van de Ven, eds., Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation, 1st ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, Kindle.
 Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 26-27.
 Jan Paron, “Doctrine of Immutability,” Perspectives 12 (blog), November 13, 2017. https://specs12.wordpress.com//?s=doctrine+of+immutability&search=Go.
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