But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
And he prayed to the Lord, and said, “I pray Thee, Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I know that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, repenting of evil.
“Therefore, oh Lord, take my life from me, I beseech Thee, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
Then Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, til he should see what would become of the city.
And the Lord God appointed a plant, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade ove his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant.
But when dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm which attacked the plant, so that it whithered. When the sun rose, God appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he was faint; and he asked that he die; and he said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”
And he said, “I do well to be angry, angry enough to die!”
And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night.
“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
While they were on their way, Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha made him welcome in her home. She had a sister, Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and stayed there listening to his words.
Now Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to get on with the work by myself? Tell her to come and lend me a hand.”
But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are fretting about so many things, but one thing is necessary. The part that Mary has chosen is best; and it shall not be taken away from her.”
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey.
And he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Then tidings reached the King of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
And he made proclamation and published throughout Nineveh, “By decree of the King and his nobles; let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed, or drink water; but let mand and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God. Yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from His fierce anger, so that we perish not!”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which He had said He would do to them; and he did not do it.
But [the lawyer] wanted to vindicate himself. So he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was on his way from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he fell in with robbers who stripped him, beat him, and went off leaving him half dead.
“It so happened that a priest was going by on the same road; but when he saw him, he went by on the other side. So, too, a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, went past on the other side.
“But a Samaritan who was making the journey came upon him, and when he saw him, was moved to pity. He went up and bandaged his wounds, bathing them with oil and wine. Then he lifted him on his own beast, brought him to an inn, and looked after him there. Next day, he produced two silver pieces and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend any more, I will repay you on my way back.’
“Which of those three do you think was neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
He answered, “The one who showed him kindness.”
Jesus said, “Go and do as he did.”
About that previous passage. Jesus (or his early followers) knew this story and associated it with “the belly of Sheol” and
whose bars closed upon me forever;
[yet Thou didst bring up my life from the Pit,]
that is, with death.
Jesus is quoted as having said ~These people are asking me for a sign, but the only sign they’re going to get is “the sign of Jonah.”
If this “sign” is ‘spending time in death, then coming back,’ it’s an odd sort of evidence for Jesus to claim for his contemporary detractors. Odd, for one thing, because it arrives too late to prevent his execution, and also because it seems to be only his followers, those Jews who already love him, who see him as a resurrected person.
So I’ve felt for a long time that the real “sign of Jonah”, to Jesus, would have been the fact that Nineveh, that most wicked of Wicked Cities, repents in this story.
For Jesus and his contemporaries, that would have symbolized the repentance of the Romans, in particular– and of course, also those of his followers who’d been considered most sinful under the proto-Judaism of the time.
But here we have also a strong association with death, both literally and as a symbol.
Why is Jonah dead ‘for three days and three nights’? Because he’s been evading a divine call to give his message to the wicked foreigners: Change your ways or be destroyed. Jonah prefers to have God follow the second option; it’s just what they deserve; while if they repent he knows God really will forgive them.
Look at how this resonates with the Jews of Jesus’ day. Their nation has come to be politically dominated by pagans, who are systematically looting, oppressing, and corrupting their country. While their leaders are adopting Roman ways (much to the detriment of their own poor classes) there is also a widespread feeling that “God will get them for that, and serves them right.” And that, people hope, will be their “return from exile,” the restoration of Israel to its rightful relation with God.
And while Jesus is serving as a prophet specifically to his own people, he’s been pointing out stories in which prophets found a sympathetic hearing among the wicked foreigners. And this has aroused strong hostility even in his own home village!
His nation (like any other nation!) wants to enjoy a uniquely blessed relation to God– like Jacob before he repented and was renamed ‘Israel’, they want to steal their brothers’ birthright and keep it for themselves. As the followers of a great many religions are tempted to do, to comfortably assume that “We’ve been given the straight truth, the outsiders weren’t; isn’t that nice!?” But there’s this persistent refrain in their tradition about obligations coming with a blessed status; and they don’t (like followers of any other religion) enjoy hearing that nearly as much. Friends (Quakers) come to mind in this connection.
And so this symbol of “death” also symbolizes that state, of being content to be “religious” in isolation. “Those people just wouldn’t be suited to our way of worship” (as I’ve heard several Quakers say, in discussions of “outreach.”)
The result of this kind of attitude, for any religion, is death. The religion becomes an ingrown sect, loses much of the spiritual value it used to offer its own members. (Not to all its members– but to those content with that spiritual condition.)
Then Joan prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying:
I called to the Lord, out of my distress,
and He answered me.
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and Thou didst hear my voice.
For Thou didst cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas;
and the flood was round about me;
all Thy waves and billow passed over me.
Then I said, “I am cast out from Thy presence;
how shall I again look upon Thy holy Temple?”
The waters closed in over me;
the deep was round about me.
Weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet Thou didst bring up my life from the Pit,
oh Lord my God.
When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the Lord
and my prayer came to Thee,
into Thy holy Temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their true loyalty.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to Thee.
What I have vowed I will pay;
deliverance belongs to the Lord!
And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the land.
On one occasion a lawyer came forward to put this test question to him: “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said, “What is written in the Law? What’s your reading of it?”
He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind– and your neighbor as yourself.”
“That is the right answer,” Jesus said. “Do that and you will live.”
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.
Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god; and they threw the wares that were on the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them.
But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.
So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish!”
And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us!” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, on whose account has this evil come upon us? What is your occupation? And whence do you come? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “What is it that you have done?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do with you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.
He said to them, “Take 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 tempest has come upon you.”
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they cried to the Lord, “We beseech you, oh Lord; let us not perish for this man’s life; and lay not on us innocent blood, for Thou, oh Lord, has done as it pleased Thee.” So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and made vows.
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Turning to his disciples in private, he said, “Happy the eyes that see what you are seeing! I tell you, many prophets and kings wished to see what you now see, yet never saw it– to hear what you hear, but never heard it.”
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, and go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it– for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish 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.