Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
"Ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men?" (Jonah 4:11)
The conscience can be shaped by the general culture or environment in which one lives, just as one's environment may lead someone to speak with an accent or a dialect. (Matthew 26:73) That must have happened with the ancient Assyrians. They were known for militarism, and their carved reliefs depict them torturing captives. (Nahum 2:11, 12; 3:1) The Ninevites of Jonah's day are described as not knowing "the difference between their right hand and their left." That is, they did not have a correct standard for judging what was proper or improper from God's standpoint. Imagine how that environment could have affected the conscience of someone growing up in Nineveh! (Jonah 3:4, 5; 4:11) In like manner today, a person's conscience can be affected by the attitude of those around him.
(Watchtower issue: 10/15/07, 1:13)
*Even though Jonah is one of the shortest books in the Bible, its jam-packed with important lessons. It demonstrates how even a good person who God obviously feels is qualified enough to handle a prophetic assignment of this magnitude can succumb to strong negative emotions and an unforgiving attitude towards others. I always used to think 'fear' was the main reason Jonah ran away from accepting his assignment (since the Assyrians were such fierce people -who wouldn't be scared of them?), but what I didn't pick up on for a long time was the other reason he didn't want to go to Nineveh. Jonah himself pretty much reveals the fact that he already harbored some feelings of prejudice & resentment towards the Ninevites...which is why he obviously wasn't happy about Jehovah forgiving them. (Not to speculate, but I almost wonder if thats the reason Jehovah specifically chose him for that particular assignment)
Jonah 4:1-3 "To Jo´nah, though, it was highly displeasing, and he got to be hot with anger. Hence he prayed to Jehovah and said: “Ah, now, O Jehovah, was not this an affair of mine, while I happened to be on my own ground? That is why I went ahead and ran away to Tar´shish; for I knew that you are a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and feeling regret over the calamity. And now, O Jehovah, take away, please, my soul from me, for my dying is better than my being alive."
The difference between Jonah's attitude and Jehovah's, really demonstrates the contrast between imperfect human thinking, and God's mercy & forgiveness towards repentant wrong-doers. Here's a good article that mentions Jonah and others in the Bible, who had to learn to cope with their emotions when it came to injustice