Book Review - Jonah: God's Scandalous Mercy

Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy is the latest in the Hearing the Message of Scripture series put out by Zondervan and takes to heart the purpose and intent of the series. The series seeks to “help serious students of Scripture, as well as those charged with preaching and teaching the Word of God, to hear the messages of Scripture as biblical authors intended them to be heard” (p. 9-10). Youngblood, associate professor of Biblical Studies at Harding University, gives readers an extremely well done and accessible commentary on Jonah.


The commentary begins with an author’s translation of the book of Jonah. This is followed by an introductory section that includes the author’s purpose in writing the commentary (p. 25), the canonical context of the book, historical context, and literary context. The historical context section is very helpful for the person seeking background info on Jonah. Because the biblical book has so little setting given within the text, many assumptions have arisen over time. Youngblood does a nice job of cutting through the assumptions and placing Jonah squarely in a solid historical setting. The discussion of literary context is helpful as well, as the author makes some really nice observations about the structure and message of the book. Youngblood observes two problems that intersect in the book: “The first is Jonah’s inability to reconcile YHWH’s concern for nations hostile to Israel with YHWH’s election of Israel. The second is Jonah’s inability to reconcile YHWH’s justice with YHWH’s mercy” (p. 37). Immediately, the reader is given a purpose statement to keep in mind as he begins to work through the text.

The rest of the book is an explanation of the actual text of Jonah. Each section contains a main idea, literary context, translation and outline, structure and literary form, and explanation of the text. The translation and outline is done in block diagram format and is very helpful for understanding the flow of the text in each part of the book. The meat of the text is in the explanatory section, and this is where pastors and students will find great benefit.


Youngblood writes with advanced students and pastors in mind, and as such he walks a hard line in dealing with the original language. He does a nice job, transliterating most Hebrew words, making them much less intimidating for non-Hebrew readers, while keeping them as a point of reference for those familiar with the language. Youngblood’s work with the text is thorough, with background info included and working expository outlines along with the notes. He also closes each section with practical conclusions and real life application.

Youngblood’s work is great for pastors and advanced students. It is not a super-technical work, but he interacts easily with the Hebrew, and makes great observations along the way. For those who are planning on preaching through Jonah or for those simply want to understand the book better, this is a solid work to have on your shelf.

About the Hearing the Message of Scripture series

Through a set of distinctive features, the Hearing the Message of Scripture series serves pastors and teachers in their study of the Old Testament, aiding them in understanding and communicating the meaning behind each biblical text. Key features include:

  • A Graphical Display of the Text of Each Passage, enabling readers to grasp quickly and accurately the main idea of the text, its development, and supporting ideas; and allowing them to understand how the commentator arrived at this depiction and interpretation of the passage.
  • Identification and Discussion of the Main Idea of Each Passage, with a special emphasis on identifying and discussing the main thrust of each passage and showing how it contributes to the development of the whole composition.
  • Help in Drawing Out the Meaning of the Hebrew for Interpretation, employing Hebrew grammar in the service of meaning.
  • Theological and Canonical Significance, providing a theological and applicational discussion of the main thrust of the passage, synthesizing the theology of the passage and elaborating on it.

About the authors

Author: Kevin Youngblood (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate Professor of Bible & Religion at Harding University.

Series editor: Daniel I. Block (DPhil, University of Liverpool) is Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College.


Brian Dempsey bio

Brian Dempsey is the Lead Pastor of Washington Baptist Church in Dillsboro, IN. Brian has degrees from Northland Baptist Bible College (BA), Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv) and is currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).

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There are 2 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture


Much appreciate the review. I have very little on Jonah, and love this unique portion of the minor prophets.

Brian Dempsey's picture

I love accessible commentaries that are designed for real pastors doing real ministry. I have a shelf full of commentaries ranging from technical to pastoral, and love using all of them to mine the depths of a text of scripture, but there is something about a good exegetical commentary who has pastors in mind when he writes. Very helpful on a cool little book of the Bible that has too often been relegated to Sunday School lessons.

Brian Dempsey
Pastor, WBC
I Cor. 10:31


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