I can still remember the first time that I worked through the background of a book of the Bible. I was nineteen and had just started Bible school (Moody Bible Institute). When the assignment was posted for our Bible Introduction class I was a bit dismissive (to say the least – my 19-year-old self was quite the sass). I didn’t see the point, quite honestly. Why wouldn’t we just start studying at chapter one, verse one? What else could there be to study?
Well, a lot, as it turns out. The Bible was written over decades and decades of God’s activity in the world and by generations and generations of those who followed and worshiped Him. Any time we step into a book of the Bible we’re entering the story at a unique point, written by a unique person. And God wants to teach us through all of it! That is the joy and challenge of exegetical Bible study!
If you found yesterday’s first page of the Book Overview difficult, do not be discouraged! Jonah is a pretty difficult book when it comes to background information, so if this is your first time doing this, do not lose heart! It was a challenge for me, even after four years of Bible School and three years of Seminary training. (Honest moment: it was so difficult at some points that I thought about not including it in the digital study. But the hard work of Bible study isn’t to be avoided, but cherished! So … here we go!)
Pull out your answers from yesterday’s study and compare them to mine. Mine are not the “correct” answers, but my best work to get to know the book we’re about to study. Have questions? Join the discussion on Facebook! I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about this process and background info!
Book of the Bible:
Who is the author:
Largely unknown. The book does not state the author or give an indication as to who the author is. However …
There is a chance that the author is Jonah. Some scholars believe that he wrote this book autobiographically, even though the book doesn’t mention the author (or the date of the writing) which makes it difficult to be certain. (I’m going to answer the following questions in this line of thought. It does not mean I am confident Jonah is the author, but for the sake of the exercise I’ll move forward in this line of thinking.)
Who is the audience?
Most likely the nation of Israel as a whole. Jonah wants them to know about God’s faithfulness through his personal story.
What do we know about the situation of the writing?
Jonah is a prophet of Yahweh. He is an Israelite and the son of Amittai.
Author’s relationship to the audience:
Jonah is writing to fellow Israelites. He has probably walked with them through years of faithfulness and unfaithfulness to Yahweh, and he wants to tell them his story of God’s faithfulness.
Historical circumstances surrounding the writing of the book:
The book isn’t dated, so this is information we don’t know.
What do we know about the situation of the audience?
Audience’s cultural background:
Most likely Jewish.
Is the audience mentioned anywhere else in the Bible:
If it was written for the nation of Israel we know a lot about the audience throughout the Old Testament.
Where does this book fall within the meta-narrative of Scripture:
It is in the era of the prophets (after Israel has started appointing kings and before the Messiah has come).
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that His Word is for you (even when it is hard work and sometimes confusing). Thank Him for weaving the Bible together by using people from multiple generations, cultures, and time periods.
Head over to Facebook and look for this icon – and let me know what you thought about the Book Overview study!