Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives A Verse-by-Verse Contemporary Commentary

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  • Rabbi Steven Bob (author)
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About the Book

The Book of Jonah stands unique among the biblical books of the prophets because it is almost entirely narrative. And, in contrast to all the other prophets portrayed as admirable individuals who bravely speak God’s word, Jonah stands out as flawed and fleeing from God. We are drawn to Jonah because God gives him an opportunity to redeem himself. His experience inspires us to find our own second chances—and our own paths to meaningful growth.

Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives draws on commentaries of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and the Malbim, as well as contemporary culture and personal experiences to reveal the hidden meanings of this perplexing biblical story. In so doing, it explores many of the larger questions and topics we face, including human nature, our relationship with God, and how we understand ourselves and lead our lives. Rabbi Steven Bob’s verse-by-verse commentary intimately connects the ancient wisdom of the text with the reality of our own lives, providing us with inspiration and guidance.


There is hardly a better-known biblical story than Jonah. Yet Rabbi Steven Bob shows us in this skillfully written book an even more familiar Jonah, one we can see in the mirror every day. Life’s enigmas and dilemmas are somehow less anxiety-producing in light of the lessons we find in Jonah’s experiences.
—Rabbi Norman M. Cohen, author of Jewish Bible Personages in the New Testament

Starting with classic insights from Rashi, David Kimchi, and Isaac Abarbanel, and then moving on to Moby Dick, Bob Dylan, Kurt Vonnegut, and Major League Baseball, the biblical book of Jonah comes alive with stories and lessons that speak to the heart.

—Mark Dov Shapiro, author of Gates of Shabbat: A Guide for Observing Shabbat

I first met the prophet Jonah in Sunday school. I thought of him as a friend, a friend whom I got to know better in seminary. Now, twenty-five years later, I have met him again in a fresh, conversational, and insightful way through Rabbi Bob.
—Rev. Wendy J. Boden, Southminster Presbyterian Church, Glen Elynn, Illinois

Rabbi Steven Bob

Rabbi Steven Bob has served as senior rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim, in Lombard, Illinois, since 1981. He is the author of Go to Nineveh: Medieval Jewish Commentaries to the Book of Jonah, Translated and Explained.

Book Reviews

  • On Joseph: Portraits through the Ages
    “Alan Levenson’s book, Joseph: Portraits through the Ages is an excellent companion to the Joseph story, substituting admirably for the college class you likely never had…Levenson’s interpretation draws from traditional and modern Jewish commentary, from literature…and, unusually for a Jewish book, occasionally from Christian sources. Levenson also explains passages where grasping the meaning is contingent on understanding what is happening in the original Hebrew text.”

    On Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives
    “Writing in a very approachable manner, [Rabbi Steven Bob] marries the interpretations of…traditional commentators with lessons drawn from his own experiences and observations, along with wisdom gleaned from a wide variety of modern sources ranging from the film “Casablanca” to the blues singer Mississippi John Hurt. In the end, he helps us to experience the Book of Jonah as simultaneously ancient and contemporary — and certainly relevant for 21st-century lives.”

    Read full review in

  • “Jonah is the prophetic Book that is traditionally read during the afternoon service on Yom Kippur…Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives by Rabbi Steven Bob provides a contemporary, personal perspective.”
    Read review in the Chicago Jewish Star.


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