This chapter sees Jonah and Benjamin bound as prisoners. Absorbing the punishment, the Dove explains how Ansephanti and his guards could first torture them, then offer forgiveness. Benjamin finds such compassion hard to stomach. Would you agree?
Their long, exhausting march ends at Ansephanti’s throne. Once he adjusts to Jonah’s bleached skin, the governor raises his old pledge to kill Jeroboam’s former general. When the Dove remains defiant, Ansephanti orders a guard to shave Jonah’s scalp and beard – a damning cultural blow in those times, as Benjamin notes. The Dove endures this, spurring Ansephanti to take a sword to Jonah’s face – but after several taunts, the governor pulls back, satisfied.
This surprise brings several revelations. Benjamin realizes their torture was a test to verify Jonah’s mission, for the governor now shares their fear of Assyria. The Dove shares his orders to speak against Nineveh for forty days. This pleases Ansephanti still more. He tells how the Assyrian Empire has crumbled to the weakened state Jonah foretold, and embraces the Dove’s mission to proclaim judgment against the Assyrians. “Have your god destroy Nineveh!” he says. “Slay them all! I believe your god could do this… and the world will be better for it. Do it, Jonah. Burn them!”
Despite his fears, this twist leaves Benjamin siding towards forgiveness, while the Dove is torn. Have you ever wanted God to strike down those you feel do wrong? Remember, Jonah wished this when the Lord first commanded his journey to Nineveh, and the prophet chose death rather than risk seeing his God forgive the Assyrians. Jonah’s repentance thus heightens his quandary.
Have you ever found yourself in such a predicament – tempted to do something you have renounced before God? How did you respond?