One of the best-known stories in the Bible is also one of the strangest. Nearly everyone, it seems, knows about Jonah and the whale. It’s a Sunday school favorite. But it’s also one of those perplexing tales that makes one wonder, Why, God, why?
The first mention of Jonah in the Bible1 establishes that Jonah was alive circa 800–750 B.C. and was from the town of Gath-hepher in Israel, a few miles from Nazareth. He apparently already had a reputation as a prophet when God called him to prophesy against Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
I had a basic knowledge of who Hagar was through the various illustrated Bibles I had read as a child. But this year, after deciding to read through the Bible cover to cover, I came away from her story with new perspectives on God’s individual love for each of us.
Two dreams were the start of Joseph’s troubles.
“Listen to this dream,” Joseph told his 11 brothers. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and their pal, Daniel, were four young men who might have passed into obscurity if not for some remarkable things that happened in their lives.
The story begins around 500 years before Christ with these young men being taken far away from their homeland as captive slaves by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire.
“Disciple Making:Training Leaders to Make Disciples,”1 cites an imaginary report to Jesus from the Jordan Management Consultant firm in Jerusalem, detailing its findings on the twelve men He had submitted for evaluation.
Again [Jesus] began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables.––Mark 4:1–2
One thing that seems to be unique to the Bible is how the “heroes of faith”—with the exception of Jesus, of course—were far from perfect men and women. As the saying goes, they were portrayed “warts and all.” I love history, and if you read a lot of ancient histories or literature, you get used to heroes being lionized. Their faults, if they had any, seem to have been redacted. But not so with the heroes of the Bible. Personally, I think the warts-and-all approach gives so much more credibility to the Bible.
An imaginative retelling of events culminating in Acts 2
“Commotion” comes to mind when I think of him. I can’t forget the first time I met him. I was in synagogue for the regular Sabbath service. Judit is an elderly widow who had a terribly deformed back. She went up to this visiting rabbi, pleading for help. Next thing, she was standing up straight for the first time in years! How was that possible?1