Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch: 1 2 3 4
Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley
Jonah is untypical in the number of questions it contains. Thirteen in forty-eight verses. Wolff (1986, 52ff., 72) had remarked in 1965 that Jonah is questioned far more than he acts the prophet, indeed he is never called a "prophet". As Limburg (25-26) suggests these questions are significant, not least in pointing up the didactic character of the book (compare the use of questions in wisdom literature).
Most of the questions are addressed to Jonah:
The two other questions are rhetorical: by the king of Nineveh in 3:9, and by Jonah when addressing God in 4:2.
(In the prayer in ch.2 NRSV renders v.4 as a question following one Greek translation.)
The sailors' questions serve to characterise both Jonah and themselves, as well as drawing attention to the terrible thing he has done by fleeing God.
God's questions to Jonah form not only the conclusion to the story, but evidently point to its meaning. Though since questions can only point indirectly different understandings of this are still possible!
© Tim Bulkeley, 2003