Jonah's Lesson in Divine Mercy

Scholars have long disagreed on the central message of the Book of Jonah; a strong contender is that Jonah plays out the ancient drama of Divine Mercy vs. Strict Justice.

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The reservations offered against the first three views do not apply to this last. The chief reason is that it is the only one that does not focus on a particular segment of the story; rather, it is compatible with the entire narrative from beginning to end and encompasses most of its elements.

The vast majority of commentators and students of the Book of Jonah still adhere to one of the first three readings or some combination thereof (see David Kimhi on 1:1). Our interpretation, however, explains the plot, the characters, and the dialogue as embodying the primordial struggle between justice and mercy.

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Uriel Simon

Uriel Simon is Professor of Biblical Studies at Bar Ilan University. He is a founder of Oz v'Shalom, the Israeli religious peace movement, and the author of books on the topics of Biblical Prophecy and Psalms.