Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chapter One -- Jonah Flees From the LORD

1The word of the LORD came to Jonah
The beginning is a typical formula in Hebrew writing literally ...now it happened -- much like -- once upon a time.
[name means "Dove son of truth," in the Old Testament the dove has two main characteristics: 1 it is easily put to flight and seeks secure refuge in the mountains (Ezekiel 7:16, Psalm 55:6-8) and 2 it moans and laments when is distress (Nahum 2:7, Isaiah 38:14) The Literary Guide to the Bible, pg. 234]
son of Amittai, [2 Kings 14:25 - prophet who proclaims divine mercy and support for Israel]
saying, 2 "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me."

[Nineveh was the last capital of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians were the first state to use terror as a policy for governance. You might say that they were the Nazis of the ancient world. They were universally hated and when they declined sufficiently their subjects gladly turned on them and joyfully smote them asunder. They disappeared so completely that in the nineteenth century scholars believed that the prophets had invented them. But finally the remains of Assur and Nineveh were discovered in what would be northern Iraq and the prophets were proved correct. For God to ask Jonah to go to Nineveh was a little like asking a Jew to go to Berlin in 1938 and prophesy against it’s wickedness. Of course the prophet would hope it would be punished. Who would blame him?]
3 But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish

[place name that occurs twice in the Old Testament 1. I Kings 10: 22 For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. and 2. Isaiah 66:19 – and I will set a sign among them. From them I will sent survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud – which draw the bow – to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not hears of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations.

Tarshish is often thought to be in Spain perhaps beyond the pillars of Hercules – the very limits of the known world. In Isaiah it is cited as a place literally away from the presence of the Lord. It serves Jonah well as a place to escape the call]

from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

[note the pattern of descent first by topography, then geography -- west not east -- positionally -- the hold of the ship -- then physically -- falling asleep -- psychically as far as he can go from the word of the LORD]

4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.
[In the Zohar, it is believed that Jonah's descent into the hold of the ship is an allegory of the soul's descent into the world. from JONAH A Commentary by James Limburg pg. 44f.]
6 The captain

[The captain (literally -- "chief of the ropers") serves a powerful symbol and at several levels. First on the level of the story he is concerned for his ship and rallies every hand to face the crisis. Second on the level of our stories, who have been the captains who have gotten us moving in our lives, the coaches, teachers, godparents, others who said a good word or called us to awaken? Thirdly on the level of our inner life, how does the captain call us to awaken -- through our( sleeping dreams, reading of scripture or just the odd moment when someone says just the "right thing" and there is the oddest intersection of our inner and outer life a synchronicity)? It is a useful spiritual exercise to count the captains who have leaned across our several sleeping forms and yelled reveille. JWS]

came and said to him, "What are you doing fast asleep? [an anesthetized-like sleep (Genesis 2:21) Linberg] Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish."

7 The sailors said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.

[Rabbi Isaac Mosheh Aramah, writing in the fifteenth century ... "the meaning of their statement 'let us cast lots; is to cast lost many times. Therefore the plural --goralot-- is used ...They did so and cast lots many times and every time the lot fell on Jonah and consequently the matter was verified for them." Randomness Deborah J. Bennett pg. 75]

8 Then they said to him, "Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your county? And of what people are you?" 9 "I am a Hebrew," he replied. "I worship the LORD, because he had told them so. 11Then they said to him, "What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?" For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous.

12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.

16 Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 But the LORD provided [or appointed] a large fish [to shallow up -- this is almost never a good thing in the Bible -- this happened to Pharaoh's chariots in the red sea.] Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish
three days and three nights.

[-- here the descent pattern continues. It was traditionally believed that three days and nights was the time needed to reach the underworld. pg. 237 Literary Guide to the Bible It also is a part of life on this planet. "When the moon is in its dark phase it is not visible and seems to disappear for three nights."Forgiveness in a Wounded World: Jonah's Dilemma -- Janet Howe Gaines pg. 56 This must have had a effect on human development.]

*** "In The Stomach of The Fish" Henri Lindegaard