Shades of Green — or Grey? Towards an Ecological Interpretation of Jonah 4:6-11

  • Schalk Van Heerden University of South Africa
Keywords: ecological interpretation, Book of Jonah, Green Bible, Ben Zvi, animal sacrifice.


Most scholars who have attempted ecological interpretations of the Jonah narrative regard Jonah 4:6-11, especially the reference to the animals of Nineveh in 4:11, as an obvious starting point for a retrieval of ecological wisdom in the narrative. A notable exception is the Green Bible team, who selected, and printed in green, more than a thousand biblical passages which, in their view, support the aims and principles of creation care, including five passages from the Jonah narrative. However, not a single verse in Jonah chapter 4 is printed in green. A number of scholars indeed argue that no ecological wisdom can be retrieved from the passage under discussion, particularly 4:11, because the reference to animals is made in the context of forthcoming sacrifices from the newly pardoned, grateful Ninevites. Ehud Ben Zvi contends that a double reading of 4:11 is possible. This study argues that the work of Ben Zvi provides an angle from which more nuanced ecological readings of the Jonah narrative can be done.


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