I really like Jonah. Jonah is the biblical equivalent to "Ring Around the Rosie" or "Alluetta". Everybody knows "Ring Around the Rosie" as a childrens song with a fun little dance. Like the Hokie Pokie except shorter. Fewer people realize that it is about everyone dying from the Black Death. The "ring around the rosie" is a description of the buboes cause by the Plague. Similarly Alluetta sounds like a cute french song, but is actually about plucking a bird's feathers so you can eat him.
Jonah is like that. We teach it to children as a story about a man that was scared and ran away. Then he got eaten by a fish, spit up, and everybody lived happily ever after. This is the cartoon version of Jonah you'll see in Veggie Tales and in Sunday school lessons. But it isn't the real story. The real story of Jonah is about the adventures of a Jewish bigot.
The reason for the mis-interpretation is that Jonah doesn't tell you why he ran away until the last chapter. God initial told Jonah:
Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.But Jonah runs, why? Most people just project their own insecurities on him. But was he actually scared? No. Jonah has this to say in Chapter 4:
That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.In other words, the Assyrians are a horrible people. I wanted them to be destroyed. I didn't want to give them the opportunity for repentance by bringing your word to them. Now kill me.
Then Jonah goes up on a hill overlooking the city and waits for God to destroy it. But that doesn't happen. God attempts to teach him a lesson using the vine and worm, a lesson about the value of the lives of the people of Nineveh, but we have no evidence that Jonah actually learned it and repented from his own sins.