Jonah. One of the most baffling books of the Bible, it begins with a prophet running away from God and ends with an unanswered question. It wasn’t until Jonathan wrote an exegetical paper, and then preached five sermons on Jonah that I began to appreciate this strange minor prophet. I was pleased to have the opportunity to review a commentary on Jonah having gained a fresher perspective. My enthusiasm was replaced with caution when I read Maoz’s introduction in which he explained that he had done his own translation of the book. I have some negative experience with people’s “personal, private, better” translations.
But I pressed on, because I said I would review the book. Boy am I glad I did. The personal translation of Jonah in Prophet on the Run was so much like the annotated translation that Jonathan included in his exegetical paper that I re-read Baruch Maoz’s biography to see if he, too, had studied Hebrew under Jay Sklar. He didn’t, but it would appear that when men who love the Lord and the Hebrew language come to the text of Jonah they think alike.
Prophet on the Run is first, and foremost, a devotional look at one of the seemingly least devotional books in scripture. Each section begins with the text of Jonah. I found this to be particularly helpful. When reviewing other commentaries and studies I find it difficult to go back and forth between the biblical text and the study. Here, the integrated text was very helpful to keep the reading flow. Following the biblical text is direct commentary on the passage. Words and phrases of note are pointed out. Context is given and the passage is explained. This is followed with application, and the entire chapter is wrapped up with several summary points highlighting the personal application of the passage. After a prayer on the subject matter, Maoz includes several discussion questions which make this very pastoral devotional book into an excellent small group study tool.
Maoz’s style is accessible, and pastoral but not soft. For instance, one of his summary points in chapter one is: “Sin makes us stupid.” This is true, and scriptural, but it isn’t warm and fuzzy. In the summary of chapter three, we find the quote: “. . .the scriptures are not designed to move us with wonderful stories of spiritual adventure. They are designed to teach us to think rightly about God. . .” and Maoz teaches Jonah in exactly that way. The hero in this study is not Jonah, and it is not a big fish; instead every section points solidly to the one true God who is the true hero of all of scripture. The application points are pointed, but worded with grace, and are all rooted in the things the text has taught us about God. The study is not academic in tone or vocabulary, and would be useable by a broad audience in most churches.
If you have found Jonah to be a baffling book, Prophet on the Run would be a great way to discover the hope of redemption and promise of a sovereign God in the story we all think of being about a large fish.
I received no compensation for this post. I was provided an electronic edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.