June 25, 2008


Gustave Dore's version of the fish with the eating disorder. How come nobody painted the worm that killed Jonah's gourd vine?

The theme at Goat Rope lately is the biblical story of Jonah, possibly history's first short story and one of its best. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier links.

Everybody remembers Jonah and the whale, but what about Jonah, the gourd vine and the worm? That's like the coolest part.

After the whale episode and successfully preaching repentance to the Ninevites, Jonah gets mad at God and pouts because the latter did not destroy the city. He even wants to die. Specifically, he's mad at God precisely because

thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness...

God, sounding a bit like a psychologist, asks

Dost thou well to be angry?

As Dr. Phil might say, "How's that working for you?"

Jonah eventually made a shelter for himself outside the city and rested beneath the shade of a gourd vine. However, God wasn't quite finished with him. He prepared a worm to kill the vine (kind of the same way he prepared the great fish). That was the last straw for the ever-grumpy prophet. He REALLY wants to die this time.

But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

At which point, God delivers the punch line:

But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

I think the best way to read the story is to see the whole thing as a practical joke played on Jonah in order to teach him a lesson about compassion, although I'd be surprised if he saw the humor in it.

STILL ROAMING. Back with links and such Monday.


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