8th Grade TaNaKh
Review for Jonah Exam
I. Structure of TaNakh
1. Terms to Know: Torah/Nevi’im/Ketuvim; Nevi’im Rishonim, Nevi’im Ahronim; Trei Asar; Hamesh Megillot (and what they are).
2. Be able to identify to what part of TaNaKh each biblical book belongs, e.g., Daniel belongs in Ketuvim, Jeremiah is part of Nevi’im etc.
II. Jonah’s background in TaNaKh & Midrash
1. Where else is Jonah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible?
a. II Kings 14:25
b. prophesizes restoration of Israel’s territory in the north during reign of King Jeroboam II (late 9th century C.E.)
c. father’s name is Amittai
d. Jonah is from Gath-hepher (ancient town in lower Galilee, Israel’s north)
2. What does midrash teach us about Jonah’s origins?
a. son of the widow Zerephat, having succumbed to a terrible illness, the boy Jonah was believed to be dead – until he was revived by Elijah the prophet (see I Kings 17:17-24). [Source: Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah 55a]
b. Jonah grows up as a disciple of the prophet Elisha.
III. The Story of Jonah
A. Chapter I (P’shat questions)
1. What does God command Jonah to do?
2. What is so unique about this command?
3. How does Jonah respond?
4. Where is Jonah heading?
5. Where is Tarshish?
6. What does Jonah do onboard the ship?
7. What do the sailors do when the storm hits?
8. What does the captain ask and how does Jonah respond?
9. How do the sailors know that Jonah is responsible for the storm?
10. What does Jonah tell the sailors to do?
11. How do the sailors react?
12 When the storm calms down, what do the sailors do? What is the irony of this part of the story?
B. Chapter I (Midrash questions)
1. Why does Jonah disobey God?
a. He’s fearful that if the Ninevites repent and his threat of doom doesn’t come to pass, he’ll be ridiculed as a false prophet (Tanhuma Vayikra 8)
b. Jonah was motivated by a desire to preserve Israel’s honor – he knew that the pagans of Nineveh – unlike Israel – would repent, and didn’t want Israel to look wicked by comparison (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 30b)
2. The sailors are very reluctant to cause Jonah’s death. They submerge him in the water several times without letting go – each time he goes in, the waters become calm . . . until they pull him out of the sea. Reluctantly, they come to the conclusion there’s nothing they can to save Jonah.
C. Chapter II (P’shat Questions)
1. What happens to Jonah in the sea?
2. How many days and nights does he remain in the belly of the fish?
3. What kind of fish swallowed Jonah?
4. What does Jonah do after spending a period of time in the great fish?
5. What is strange about Jonah’s prayer, what seems to be missing?
6. What does the fish eventually do?
D. Chapter III (P’shat Questions)
1. How large is Nineveh?
2. What are the words of Jonah’s prophecy?
3. What is the reaction of the Ninevites?
4. What does the king decree?
5. What does the king hope will happen?
6. What element of parody appears in chapter 3?
7. How does God respond to the actions of the Ninevites?
E. Chapter III (Midrash Questions)
1. Who was the king of Nineveh? How does that help us understand his reaction to Jonah’s prophecy?
F. Chapter IV (P’shat Questions)
1. How does Jonah react to the Ninevites’ behavior?
2. What does Jonah say to God?
3. What are the similarities and differences between Exodus 34:6-7 and Jonah 4:2?
4. What does Jonah ask God to do?
5. How does God respond?
6. What makes Jonah glad and then unhappy?
7. What does God say to Jonah at the end of the book?
IV. Miscellaneous Thought Questions about Jonah
1.Some commentators describe Jonah as a parody of prophecy. Name at least four aspects of the story that run counter to what we might otherwise expect from a book of biblical prophecy.
2. Why do you think God chose Jonah to be a prophet?
3. List three major themes of the book. What makes the story of Jonah so relevant to our day and age?
- 4. When do we read Jonah as a haftorah and why?
- 5. What is so strange about the way in which the book of Jonah ends? What lesson is God trying to teach Jonah? Why do you think the book ends the way it does?
6. Name two other reluctant prophets in TaNaKh – What are the similarities and differences between Jonah and these individuals? Why might a person be reluctant to serve as a prophet – shouldn’t it be seen as a great honor? How does the following insight of scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel help us understand the challenge of being a prophet?
“To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction. The mission he performs is distasteful to him and repugnant to others; no reward is promised him and no reward could temper its bitterness. The prophet bears scorn and reproach. The prophet is a lonely man. He alienates the wicked as well as the pious, the cynics as well as the believers, the priests and the princes, the judges and the false prophets. But to be a prophet means to challenge and to defy and to cast out fear.”