The book of Jonah provides one of the most effective examples of humour in the Old Testament. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it,” God commands his prophet (Jonah 1:2)—but “Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish” (1:3). In the ancient world, this is just about as far as one can go in the opposite direction. “Get up and go,” God tells Jonah in the Hebrew—but Jonah goes down to Joppa, down into the ship (both in v. 3), and down into the ship’s hold (v.5). His lack of piety contrasts starkly with that of the pagan sailors, who end up fearing the Lord greatly (v. 16). They know better than Jonah, who claims to “worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (v. 9), but is trying to escape from him on both. The sovereignty of God over the sea is soon demonstrated, as a great fish astonishingly shows up to rescue Jonah from his watery grave. He thanks God for saving him (2:7-9), but he takes a very different view when God later saves the people of Nineveh, who repent—hilariously and unexpectedly—upon hearing Jonah’s ridiculously brief sermon (3:4). By the end of the book, Jonah—“displeased and … angry” (4:1)—is the only creature who has not repented, including the Assyrian cows (3:8)! The humour presses home the message that the people of God are characteristically much less interested in the lost than God is—the God who is “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”(4:2). They prefer judgment to redemption, whereas God’s preferences are the other way around.Read it all.