This chapter draws from 2 Kings 14:23-29, a group of often overlooked verses that establish the foundation for just about everything in The Prophet and the Dove. These verses demand readers consider Jonah’s historical role outside of his namesake Old Testament book. These verses also provide the baseline for this novel’s next five chapters.
Chapter 2 opens with Benjamin near the end of his days, serving as an instructor to several Nineveh students. Though speaking of his long, troubled life, with hints of several exciting memories, little Benjamin says grabs the attention of his young pupils until he describes battlefield experiences under Jonah, commander of the Israeli troops that defeated the Assyrian forefathers of these scholars.
Most of us have encountered such disinterest, for we live in a society that values entertainment as highly as food or water, even breath. Such motivations also rang true in many ancient cultures – including the Hebrews, as reflected in Old Testament tales and warnings about decadence, sexual immorality, gluttony, drunkenness, youthful arrogance, and other diversions that sustain or enhance personal pleasure.
Do you think such desires held bigger sway in ancient times, considering how they lacked the technological, economic, and cultural advances that make our daily living so much easier, and our entertainment options so prevalent? How would you have responded to the daily challenges commoners then faced – such as being forced to take up arms in the military, or to live in servitude?
Perhaps this chapter's’ biggest irony comes from Benjamin’s encounter with Jonah, the visionary prophet to a god our narrator rejected. While Benjamin does not share reasons for his lack of faith, he admits appreciation for the ability to believe – in anything. Does this surprise you? Have you ever felt this way?
In praising the faith of these soldiers, Jonah seems to echo Benjamin’s thoughts – until the prophet highlights their focus on the Lord. Benjamin doubts any such conviction will help amateur soldiers defeat professional killers. Jonah disagrees. “Have faith… and believe,” he says. “That’s impossible,” Benjamin snaps, to which Jonah responds, “Nothing is impossible.”
Many today would brush off such advice as platitudes or hyperbole. Would you? If not, how would you defend that stand against such dismissive logic?
Benjamin’s opinions here underscore one of the main themes coursing throughout this novel: how we discern reality from preconception or prejudice. Without divine insight, it often takes us time, study, and experience to figure such things out – and even then, this discernment often requires not just a decision or choice, but the willingness, even courage, to accept what is learned.
Have you ever struggled with such issues? Did this impact your ability to trust others, to maintain friendships or loyalties?