Our First Reading today is the second part of the three part story of the prophet Jonah.
Part One had God telling Jonah to go save the people of Nineveh from being punished for their sins. But Jonah, hating the people of Nineveh, thought he could get away from God by sailing west across the Mediterranean. A great storm arose, and the owners, seeing Jonah' disobedience of God as bringing on the storm, threw him into the Sea, where he was swallowed by a whale. After three days, the whale threw Jonah up on his own shore.
Part Two, today's reading has Jonah obeying God. It has him walking the streets of Nineveh, telling people they will b destroyed in forty days unless they repent,
Part Three has the people repenting, and being saved. It shows Jonah as being angry over Nineveh not being destroyed. Jonah then went off on a hill where he sulked over his enemies being saved.
Did this really happen? I had thought it did. I grew up thinking you had to believe everything in the Bible. Then, in 1930, Ira and George Gershwin wrote a Play making fun of this story. They sang:
"Old Jonah he lived in a whale. He made his home in that fish's abdomen. It aint necessarily so. The things that your liable to read in the Bible, they aint necessarily so."
The story of Jonah is a humorous story that couldn't be true. At the same time, it was inspired by God. In 430 B.C when the Jewish people avoided all contacts with foreigners, God, who loves foreigners too, inspired the writing of this story to correct Jews who had gone too far in avoiding non-Jews.