This chapter brings our narrator and readers to Nineveh. In doing so, it suggests why this trip was not mentioned in the Bible.
The Dove reflects on how God delivered their caravan from the bandits: “A year ago, Benjamin, such things would have seemed blasphemous to me. The Hand of our Lord at work, saving the lives of these unbelievers. Saving Assyrians, of all things!”
What does this reveal about the prophet’s mind, or His ministry to Nineveh?
Benjamin points out God saved Jonah as well, but the Dove brushes that aside: “What we do now, what we have done since my death, is nothing before what will happen in Nineveh. Were my tale told, I doubt these events would be remembered.”
What do you think?
Later we learn that rumors of their passage spread ahead of them across Assyria. Have you experienced news that seemed intriguing and vital at the time, only to fade in importance as life and events marched on?
Ministering to those who know little to nothing of God may generate some confounding questions or misunderstandings. Take prayer. Tum’s desire of Jonah proves rather typical. Many newcomers to the faith hope to win favors from God through prayer. So do many believers, for that matter. The Dove offers this advice to such inquiries: “It is good to pray about such works of man, but it is best to act upon them yourself when you can.”
Does this ring true to you? How would you respond?
Ministering in new territories also heaps confusion upon God’s witnesses, as Benjamin is reminded as their caravan crosses the Tigris River. They see the ruins of Assur, signs of a civil war, and watch an impressive chariot force that might smother any army Jeroboam had wielded. Our travelers encounter cities with populations dwarfing the communities Benjamin knew. They learn Assyria suffers from division, dissent, and insurrection, and that its citizens often strap on swords to fight its wars – perhaps to Israel’s benefit.
“You walk the edge of civilization,” Tum tells them. “Your people never understood that north and east of your tiny hills lie the untamed barbarian lands. But for the strength of Ashur, the bite of our blades and the speed of our chariots, your homes would have fallen below the feet of savages long ago.”
This strikes home for Benjamin as they finally reach campsites outside the Nineveh walls. “It was not what I expected,” our narrator explains. “Of course, nothing would have been – in Samaria and Bethel, we always considered Nineveh the home of everything vile, a fortress made of bones with fountains that spewed the blood of countless victims. Something like that, anyway. Instead we gazed upon a sea of tents and flocks, broken only by the Tigris and the broad walls.”
How often do you find your preconceptions – even close-held beliefs – prove different from reality? How did you respond? Did you readily accept this, or resist it?
Benjamin observes still more as Jonah charges forward shouting proclamations of repentance and doom. Though he understands few words spoken in the forming crowd, Benjamin recognizes the distrust and anger Jonah’s ministry sparks, and the shock over his pale skin. Tum scolds Jonah, wondering why the Dove would plunge into a crowded marketplace, turning its people hostile with his “fire and brimstone” warnings. But Jonah has a solid purpose in his disruption – to reach the king’s ear. He hopes this arrest will provide that.
Have you witnessed firsthand such public demonstrations? How did they make you feel? Did you suspect ulterior motives in the actions? How often did this prove true?