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thoughts and feels and thoughts and feels
lucypevensie
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September 2009
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thoughts and feels and thoughts and feels [userpic]

A brief and only pseudoscholarly commentary on Jonah, but darn it, I like it. ;D

Jonah is considered a prophet. Though none of the prophets of the Old Testament asked to be prophets, all the others at least seem to accept their call to prophecy and deliver a divine message to the intended recipient. This message is generally outlined in some detail in the text. But Jonah does none of these things. He stubbornly refuses to be a divine vessel, even to the point of getting up and going in the opposite direction from where God told him to go (perhaps Jonah wished to test Psalm 139:7: "Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?"). His message may not have been given in great detail to begin with, but according to the NOAB, Jonah says a sum total of eight words to the people of Nineveh. In the absence of both a prophet in the traditional sense of the word and anything that can really be called a prophecy, one has reason to be a bit suspicious of the motive of this prophetic book. Since the book of Jonah is obviously not a true history but a work of literature, perhaps Jonah is not really about prophecy at all, but is a discussion of the nature of God in relation to a stubborn and wayward people.

A good deal of this metaphor is made possible through the use of a healthy dose of irony. That Jonah would dare to blatantly defy the will of God is unthinkable; yet with hundreds of millions of people today who do just this, it is hard to believe (statistically speaking) that there were not at least a few other people doing exactly that at the time of the writing of this book.

After Jonah has hatched this (absurd) plot, he is found sound asleep in the hold of a ship threatened with destruction. If he had gone to Nineveh, he wouldn't have been on the boat even if a storm had come up. But Jonah is oblivious to the mortal peril into which he has brought himself (and others) - peril brought upon him by his defiance. Before being thrown into the briny, another ironic jab is made to Jonah's merit - the heathen mariners with whom he is sailing fear God (quite literally) far more than the good Hebrew Jonah does, both attributing to God the generation of the storm and asking God's mercy before tossing Jonah overboard (the sea's subsequent calming then only deepens their piety.)

This is followed by the renowned Fish Incident. Jonah is swallowed by a fish, and from within the fish he offers up not pleas for help but a prayer of thanksgiving. While it is possible that Jonah actually does feel thankful for respite from the waves, it also seems plausible that Jonah is actually being rather sarcastic with God. "Oh, yeah, God, thanks a LOT. How shall I look on your Holy Temple? Who cares?" An honest prayer of thanksgiving seems unlikely from a man who, two chapters later, is angry enough to die. Text notes indicate that Jonah's prayer may have originally been a freestanding work; perhaps the seeming incongruity is evidence that Jonah's inability to consider God's grace finds some of its source in the author's same disability. The writer could not imagine anyone being glad to be inside a fish; neither, thus, can Jonah.

Jonah is eventually spit upon the land, which may or may not have had anything to do with his earlier prayers. He concedes to go to Nineveh, where his abbreviated prophecy is taken to heart instantly, and everyone from the King through the goatherds fasts and wears sackcloth. Jonah, of course, is delighted to have been a smashing success as a prophet, right? Well, no. Jonah is upset that a city of thousands has been spared in lieu of his personal dignity. In fact, Jonah is angry that God has manifested those very traits on which Jonah himself has, until now, been depending. To be fair to Jonah, he is no longer expecting God to prolong his existence, asking for his life to be taken away. But this is not a decision Jonah gets to make, and after he is called on it, he makes a booth in which to sit and await the destruction of a city that was quite obviously not going to be destroyed.

God then plants a bush to shade Jonah, which makes Jonah far happier than the salvation of Nineveh did. The bush then dies, and Jonah is again exposed to the sun and is again angry - as in the initial case, Jonah is concerned with trivial matters. But it was God who planted the bush, who gave Jonah his dignity. Jonah believes these things exist for his benefit, but in fact they belong to God and exist to serve God - as does Jonah himself. Jonah is unwilling, but it seems that no amount of kicking or screaming can prevent him from fulfilling God's purpose for the Ninevites; in fact, perhaps it is the kicking and screaming that enables him to fulfill God's purpose even today.

Current Mood: whew
Current Music: For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Comments

Quite encouraging is Jonah really - gives hope to people like me who sulk and get angry with God.

:) And to people like me, who are forever worried that they can't seem to figure out what God wants them to do and are frustrated at not being able to do it. It's sort of the opposite circumstance, but nevertheless, perhaps it will all work out in the end.

(Anonymous)
Pseudoscholarly bitterness

Which all goes to further my belief: God is a self-serving asshole whose plans don't coincide with mine. Look at Job too: "Hey man, you got faith? Awesome. I'm gonna take all your shiznit away. And your kids. And now have some sores, biatch."

I mean, Jonah tried. Gotta admire that. Failed, yes; man doesn't often beat the gods (it's a theme as old as literature itself; in fact, not until Homer does Man ever defeat a god's decree).

I got yer bitterness right here.

Disclaimer: any readers other than the writer of the original comment are encouraged to forgive me for sounding a bit snippy. I have always been square (perhaps painfully so) with this individual in the past, and am not going to stop now.

***
Oh yeah, that's right. Let's admire someone for being all like "God, you suck." It is not an admirable quality in Jonah (though it worked out in the end) and it is not an admirable quality in you. If your plans don't coincide with God's, that is your problem, not his.

Please be encouraged to consult Job 38, 39, 40, and 41

Also, for the record, Homer antedates Jonah by about 600 years.

Ahhh!

How big of a jackass am I for forgetting to wish you happy birthday????!!!!

Happy birthday!!!

::eyebrow::

Erm, I have no idea what brought this up, but thanks :D :D