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Introduction and Commentary

HARDCOVER; Published: 5/18/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6831-2
Price: $ 70.00
490 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Series: Illuminations Commentary Series

The dominant reading of the book of Jonah—that the hapless prophet Jonah is a lesson in not trying to run away from God—oversimplifies a profound biblical text, argues Amy Erickson. Likewise, the more recent understanding of Jonah as satire is problematic in its own right, laden as it is with anti-Jewish undertones and the superimposition of a Christian worldview onto a Jewish text. How can we move away from these stale interpretations to recover the richness of meaning that belongs to this short but noteworthy book of the Bible? 

This Illuminations commentary delves into Jonah’s reception history in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic contexts while also exploring its representations in visual arts, music, literature, and pop culture. After this thorough contextualization, Erickson provides a fresh translation and exegesis, paving the way for pastors and scholars to read and utilize the book of Jonah as the provocative, richly allusive, and theologically robust text that it is.

Table of Contents

     1. Texts and Versions
     2. Language
     3. Integrity
     4. Provenance
     5. Setting
     6. Genre
     7. Artistry
     8. Characters
     9. History of Consequences
Part Two: Commentary
    1. Terror on the Stormy Sea (1:1–16)
    2. Swallowed by a Big Fish (2:1–11)
    3. Overturnings (3:1–10)
    4. A Dialogue (4:1–11)

“Amy Erickson has written a Jonah commentary that is breathtaking in its comprehensiveness, erudition, and interpretive courage. It will be the go-to study for all subsequent work on the book of Jonah. Erickson eschews the straitjacket reading of Jonah imposed by historical criticism and focuses her primary energy on what she terms ‘History of Consequences,’ through which she works in compelling detail with the centuries-long interpretive practice of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This book is a tour de force that pays careful and imaginative attention to the thickness, playfulness, and elusiveness of the text, and, as such, it is a durable marker for the work of interpretation to which attention must be paid.”
— Walter Brueggemann
author of The Prophetic Imagination
“This clear and carefully organized volume provides both a detailed commentary and a compilation of an astonishing array of interpretive traditions on Jonah. With invaluable and deeply researched bibliographies in each section, it will prove immensely useful to those interested in the study of prophetic literature, the book of the twelve, or the artistry and afterlives of Jonah.”
— Nyasha Junior
Temple University
“What a gift! With this commentary, Amy Erickson brings to bear her considerable skills as a biblical interpreter. She reads perceptively, writes compellingly, and navigates adeptly between linguistic, literary, historical, and theological matters, all while engaging the story’s complex history of consequences. Erickson troubles settled readings of Jonah and lingers in the book’s playfulness, ambiguity, humor, and irony—features that, as she demonstrates, prompt questions and invite serious reflection. The result is a remarkable commentary that is sure to inform and inspire the future study of Jonah.”
— Christine Roy Yoder
Columbia Theological Seminary
“Erickson’s impressive and wide-ranging Illuminations commentary demonstrates the astounding variety, complexity, and sophistication of interpretations of Jonah, both past and present. Highlighting interpretations from marginalized communities, Erickson skillfully takes the reader on a grand tour of centuries of diverse interpretations in Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other cultural traditions through commentaries, visual art, music, poetry, films, and novels. The author also offers her own scholarly and detailed contemporary reading of the text of Jonah, illuminating the many built-in ambiguities, border crossings, gaps, allusions, wordplays, double meanings, and conflicting character portrayals of God and Jonah. This uniquely generative commentary will become a first-line resource for scholars, students, and religious leaders interested in exploring the inexhaustible richness of the little book of Jonah.”
— Dennis Olson
Princeton Theological Seminary
“Amy Erickson not only offers her own deft analysis of the biblical text but also shows what fascinating impacts Jonah has made across the centuries on readers and hearers. One of the best-known stories in all of the world’s literature sparkles once again in her commentary’s appealing format.”
— J. Andrew Dearman
Fuller Theological Seminary
“Whoever wrote the book of Jonah would love Amy Erickson’s commentary. Like the book itself, the commentary is thought-provoking, elegantly written, and a pleasure to read. If you want to deepen your knowledge of Jonah’s literary artistry, intertextual connections, theological significance, and reception history, this is the commentary for you.”
— Andrew R. Davis
Boston College
Review of Biblical Literature
“One of the great attractions of the volume is the elegant and engaging prose, whose lovely turns of phrase make for joyful reading.”
“Well-researched, thoughtful commentary. . . . Recommended.”
Reviews in Religion & Theology
“The greatest strength of this commentary, and the reason why it will likely appeal to different types of interested readers, is its organic presentation of the narrative. Erickson’s interpretation flows in and out of the historical, literary, canonical, and theological dimensions of the text in a way that most readers will be simultaneously thankful and blissfully unaware.”