Nahum and Jonah are best read side-by-side, for they offer the two sides of the same coin of God's justice and mercy, wrath and compassion, found in the passage of scripture they both refer to in Exodus 34:6-7
Anger was eating Jonah up just like the worm had eaten up the vine. You and I might start out being angry at the big things, but unresolved anger just sits there waiting to be triggered until it comes screaming out over every little thing.
Through the dark of night, unseen and unheard, as Jonah slept peacefully, the balance shifted, and the plant began to die. By morning, there was nothing left but the shriveled remains of what once was.
I have been in the desert when the temperature is 115 degrees and climbing, with a fierce hot wind. It takes about half an hour for these convection oven-like conditions to literally bake the skin and lungs so that a person can hardly breathe, eyes ache and a person can get dangerously dizzy and dehydrated.
Without being mindful, it is easy to think about spiritual things through the lens of our culture’s mindset and worldview. In Jonah’s day, it was culturally and societally supported to hate certain people groups, such as the Assyrians, and to assume God hated them too.
When the Hebrew language speaks of God “repenting,” the word most often is “nacham,” referring to inner suffering that needs to be consoled.
During Jonah's time, the people of Nineveh believed in a divinity who sent messages to them by a person who rose out of the sea, as part fish and part man.
The fundamental movement of the Lord was to move God’s people from bondage to freedom, from objectification as enslaved persons to beloved people in relationship with the Almighty Sovereign and God of the Cosmos.
The truth is, it seemed Jonah would rather have died than turn back and sail for Joppa to begin his journey to Nineveh. But, God was not asking Jonah to give his life to the sea in death. God was asking him to give his compassion to the enemies of his people.
Many treat the book of Jonah as allegory, an attempt to process the nature of God, God’s purposes for the whole earth, God’s plan for God’s people, and to grapple with living in the promised land under foreign control.