June 23, 2008


Carving of Jonah from the Worms Cathedral in Germany, courtesy of wikipedia.

Herman Melville said it best in Moby-Dick:

“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it.”

The little biblical book of Jonah is a whale of a tale even if it is flea sized. I highly recommend checking it out. It would only take a few minutes and you don't have to be religiously inclined to enjoy it. (For more by way of background, check out earlier posts in this series.)

Here's the Goat Rope condensed version. God tells Jonah son of Amittai to go and prophecy to the people of Nineveh and urge them to repent of their sins. If Jonah was a good prophet or even a nice guy, he would have said, "Here I am, Lord, send me."

But he wasn't.

Instead, he gets the hell out of Dodge and hops on a ship bound for Tarshish, which was in Spain. In biblical times, that was the ends of the earth. It would be like El Cabrero fleeing to Siberia to avoid having to prophecy to the flatlanders of Ohio (some of whom are cousins).

God is not amused and sends a storm that threatens to sink the ship. The sailors assume that some god is offended and cast lots to find the guilty party. Jonah fesses up and says they ought to throw him overboard to save themselves. Reluctantly, they do so. The storm stops.

Everyone knows the next part. The Bible says

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Notice it says fish, not whale. From the line above, this may have been a special model, but let's not ruin a good story with literalism.

In the belly of the whale, Jonah prays and God relents. As the King James Version puts it,

And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

That's what most people remember, but there's a lot more to the tiny story.

About which more tomorrow...

STILL GONE. About another week to go. Y'all hold down the fort, OK?


1 comment:

Wabi-Sabi said...

I love the story of Jonah as evidenced by our choice to name our youngest son Jonah. I like that he wasn't perfect, but found a way to follow God anyway.

Unfortunately, when it's Jonah and me, then I'm pushed into the role of the whale. :-)