Jonah is a prophet who actually has a bi-line under the reign of Jeroboam II. In II Kings 14:25 we encounter his name as possibly an advisor and diplomat in that king’s court. As such, he appears to be concerned with the Assyrian kingdom to the east.
Jonah is structured much as a three act play. Jonah is called and he refuses. Jonah is cast to the bottom of the sea into the belly of a great fish, where he repents and is cast again upon the beach. Jonah travels to the mighty city of Nineveh to pronounce judgement, and is made aware of God’s long suffering mercy.
This book contains some of the most difficult grammar in the Bible, as it has Assyrian forms as well as the Phoenician influences of Jonah’s attempted escape to Tarshish, then known as the end of the world. It is now known as Gibraltar.
The theme of universalism, the possibility that God’s message of redemption is for all men and all nations, is the ironic end of Jonah’s mission that he cannot face. God can forgive those that we would never even countenance.