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does not oblige us to assume that every narrative that can be taken literally must be so interpreted.
It is certain, as we have already seen, that much of Hebrew prophecy is given in the forms of allegory, symbols and dramatic acts, either done or described. The teachings of Jesus, also, are full of parables and other figures. It is certainly not incongruous, not surprising, if this book be found to be an example of this familiar method of revelation.
It may be taken as a safe rule that any writer should be taken literally, unless there are in his writings some adequate grounds for believing that he did not intend to be so understood.
The question whether this book is to be taken literally or allegorically is therefore a question of literary judgment.
We cannot here discuss the evidence, but appeal to each reader of the book to judge for himself whether the impression he receives is not distintcly that of allegory rather than the narration of actual events.
To me, the story has all the appearance of a parable, and I am no more concerned with the problem of the great fish than I am with the question whether the parable of the prodigal son related an actual or a supposed case.
However, I have no quarrel with those who judge the book to be a literal account of actual experience. The great lesson of the book is unaffected, and it is the lesson-the revelation— that is important.
What, then, is the lesson of the book of Jonah? To answer this, we must consider somewhat carefully the place of this book in the scheme of prophecy-not especially its date, for that is uncertain and not important; but its contribution to the system of truth revealed in holy writ.
One of the most fundamental doctrines of the whole Old Testament, the doctrine that most distinguished the religion of Abraham and his seed from the other religions of the world, was the unity and sovereignity of God.
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."
The covenant with Abraham was most explicitly made for the blessing of all nations. The special office of the seed of Abraham was to mediate redemption for the whole world; for this they received their peculiar privileges and discipline. This was their mission, their trust from God.
Whenever they lost sight of this truth, when they became narrow in their views and selfish, they were fleeing from the task imposed upon them, and God's hand was turned against them, as against Jonah when he shirked his mission and fled to Tarshish.
The afflictions that came upon the children of Israel were, in the view of all the prophets, God's rod of correction to bring them back to loyalty and fidelity to their trust.
The prayer of Jonah-Chapter II, is a most fit expression of the proper attitude of mind of a chastised and repentant people, and can hardly be other than a poet's expression of the nation's experience, and the pious reflection of the prophet on their state.
Now the historic fact was that God did not destroy Israel nor disannul his covenant. He "corrected them in judgment" and restored them to their office and renewed their commission. Even as the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go unto Ninevah, that great city and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee;" so God renews the order to the nation, "Be a blessing to the world."
Then, as Jonah's preaching aroused Nineveh to repentance and reform, and thus God's judgment was averted, Jonah, instead of rejoicing in God's mercy, is angry because such compassion is shown for a heathen people, and God very patiently corrected this vindictive spirit by appealing to his sympathy for the innocent and ignorant, and even the cattle whose destruction would be involved in the destruction of the city.
As an allegory, it is a wonderful picture of the history of Israel, their attitude of mind toward other nations, and the very
essence of their office in the redemptive purpose of God. It is a beautiful lesson on the tender mercy of God and his longsuffering patience.
HE Prophet Micah was contemporary with the great Isaiah, and not unworthy of such association.
He prophesied in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and therefore, before the dark shadows of the great captivity had fallen across the nation's path. The word of the Lord that came to him concerned Samaria as well as Jerusalem-Israel and Judah. The book may be divided conveniently into three parts:
I. Chapters I-V consists of a series of seven sermons on the same general theme, the destruction that would surely come upon both Samaria and Jerusalem, unless they turned from their iniquity. The doom of the northern kingdom seems most imminent; sometimes it is spoken of as already being executed.
The indictment brought against Judah is chiefly the charge of greed and avarice, which led to cruelty and oppression of the poor and the helpless. There is no gentleness of touch in the hand which wields the rod in these rebukes.
"Hear this, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment and prevent all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, 'Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us.' Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest." III:9-12.
Such was his manner toward his contemporary rulers; definite and specific in his charges, unsparing in his denunciations.
But he was no mere pessimistic critic of his people, but the most hopeful of seers, and most fervent of orators pleading for reform. He does not conceal his contempt for the prophets who preach smooth things, and belittle the fear of judgment to
"If a man walking in wind and falsehood do lie saying, 'I will prophesy unto thee of wine and strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people,'"-the kind of prophet they desire.
Micah's sympathy is with the poor and the oppressed, and he has been well called the prophet of the poor; a most sane and wholesome prophet for the poor in every age, for there is no trace of sickly sentiment, nor the class prejudice, which so often mars the well meant preachments to the poor.
But Micah is at his best when he turns to the visions of the future. The unfaithfulness of his contemporaries, though it might involve the nation in very great disasters, as indeed it did, could not break God's covenant, nor destroy the hope of glory to come in the fullness of the time.
Isaiah himself has nothing brighter than this vision of the latter days: "But in the latter days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow into it; and many nations shall go and say, 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge between many peoples, and shall reprove strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anyBut they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of