The Bible in Its Traditions

Jonah 1:1–3

M
G V
S

Now, the word of YHWH was to Yona son of Amittai, saying,

And the word of the Lord, was

Vhappened to Ionas Vson of of Amathi, saying,

Now, the word of the Lord, was upon Yaunon son of Matthai, saying,

M G V S

Get up, Gand go to Nineveh, the great city, and call out against

G Vpreach in

Spreach against it for their evil

Gthe outcry of its wickedness has come up before my face.

Gto me.

V Sbefore me. 

2 call out against 1Kgs 13:2; Ps 105:16 Get up, go Jon 3:2; 1Kgs 17:9; 21:18 their evil has come up Lam 1:22; Gn 6:5; 18:21

And Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the face

Spresence of YHWH.

G V Sthe Lord. 

G VAnd he descended to Yapho

G V SJoppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.

G VAnd he paid its fare and descended into

Gboarded it

to go

Gsail with them to Tarshish from the face

Spresence of YHWH.

G V Sthe Lord.  

Reception

Jewish Tradition

2 call out against it Specification of a Generic Term

Context

Historical and Geographical Notes

Biblical Text

1ff God Surprises the Prophet; Jonah Surprises the Reader →Introduction to the Book of Jonah

An a/typical prophetic commission comes to a typical prophet characterizing Nineveh as a new Sodom. Will the prophet respond in the manner of Abraham and engage God? Will his response fit the readers' expectations for a prophet? In a book of surprises, the first is that a prophet is sent to Nineveh. The second is that he flees.  

An Unusual Prophetic Beginning

It is never announced that Jonah is a prophet, but the structure of the opening leaves no doubt. The story opens the way many stories about prophets open (Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1 Now), with the commissioning of a task (Literary Genre Jon 1:1). The surprise, though, is the response of the prophet who, told to get up and go, gets up and flees.

Nineveh as a New Sodom

Nineveh, steeped in biblical intertexuality, is presented in overtly negative ways (esp. Nahum)  Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:2,3:2-7,4:5,11. The subtle allusion to Sodom in M is emphasized in versions Comparison of Versions Jon1:2Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:2 and noted in the reception history. Christian Tradition Jon1:2

Focus on the Character of Jonah

The opening indicates that we are dealing with prophetic material, but unlike other prophetic texts, readers are given little information about the prophet himself (other than his patronym), his time, and his location. (Literary Devices Jon 1:1) This allows for: rêverie on his very name (Vocabulary Jon 1:1), biblical intertextuality (Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1 Yona son of Amittai), historicization (Historical and Geographical Notes Jon 1:1; Jewish Tradition Jon 1:1,3a,5,7,15,17,2:1,10,3:1,3,4:1,5,8). 

Jonah Flees

The motivation for Jonah to flee is not given at this point, and the reader must wait several chapters for more information on this. The curiosity of the reader is piqued, and many interpreters have reflected on the prophet's surprising behavior. Christian Tradition Jon1:3Jewish Tradition Jon1:3

Text

Literary Genre

1:1–4:11 Genre of the Whole Book See the section on "literary genre" in our →Introduction to the Book of Jonah

Reception

Islam

3 Jonah got up to flee Reordering the Story

  • Kisāʼī Qiṣaṣ presents a different narrative sequence. After being commissioned, Jonah preaches to the Ninevites but is rejected. It is then that he boards a ship.

The difference with the Bible can be explained by the fact that commentators were very disturbed by the idea of a prophet who refuses Allah’s mission, or even who gets angry with Allah. They have therefore multiplied the stories to explain the prophet’s decision that goes against the impeccability of prophets.

Text

Literary Devices

2,6c Get up NARRATION Repetition, Meaning The captain’s command to Jonah echoes the prophet’s call from God (Jon 1:2) verbatim. Jonah’s prior refusal of the divine command by “rising and fleeing,” rather than “rising and going” now results in repetition of the same command to rise expressed in the mouth of a human character.

Echo of God’s Words in the Captain’s?

Such repetition may have startled Jonah, as though God was speaking through the captain, reminding Jonah of his earlier call.

Ellipsis

Yet, this time Jonah’s response to the captain’s command is never narrated. He simply appears in the company of the sailors. If Jonah rises at the command of the captain, it is a gap in the text for readers to fill. This increases the contrast between the captain’s (and sailors’) prayerful response to the storm and Jonah’s total rejection of his personalized divine mandates.

3f from the face of YHWH.  RHETORICS Dispositio: Anadiplosis (Repetition)

  • The author both concludes Jon 1:3 and begins Jon 1:4 with the divine name. In order to do this, the typical Hebrew word order is ignored and the subject is moved to the head of the sentence.

Thus is emphasized Jonah's failure to escape from the presence of the Lord.

Context

Ancient Texts

1 Yona Another Witness to a Prophet Jonah? 2Kgs 14:25 mentions a prophet Jonah in the time of Jeroboam. According to Josephus’ retelling, despite Jeroboam’s wickedness—which had brought his people to misfortune—Jonah advised him to march against the Syrians in order to enlarge his territory.

  • Josephus A.J. 9.205–207 “[Jeroboam] was guilty of contumely against God, and became very wicked in worshipping of idols, and in many undertakings that were absurd and foreign. He was also the cause of ten thousand misfortunes to the people of Israel. Now one Jonah, a prophet, foretold to him that he should make war with the Syrians, and conquer their army, and enlarge the bounds of his kingdom on the northern parts to the city Hamath, and on the southern to the lake Asphaltitis; for the bounds of the Canaanites originally were these, as Joshua their general had determined them. So Jeroboam made an expedition against the Syrians, and overran all their country, as Jonah had foretold.”

Reception

Islam

2 Nineveh The city’s haughty king

  • Kisāʼī Qiṣaṣ describes the King of Nineveh, Thaalab ibn Sharid, as a haughty tyrant, who would raid Israelite towns and take captives.

Text

Literary Devices

2 against it for their evil + Their Wickedness: Number Variation

  • Rendered most simply, ‘ālêhā is “to/against her,”
  • while rā‘ātām is plural, “their evil.”

The author could have written that Jonah was to call out against the city because "her wickendness" has come up. By switching to plural, the author is drawing attention more concretely to the citizens of the city for the first time. 

Grammar

2 for Causal Clause The ("for") clause is most probably causal, given the general theme of the book; moreover the message's content is not specified. Less likely the clause is objective.

Literary Devices

1ff Narrative Trigger The introduction consists of two roughly equal parts:

The common denominator of both parts is the divine presence, God's "face." His message to Jonah is the result of the wickedness of the Ninevites entering before God’s face, and Jonah then tries to flee from that same face (cf. Jon 1:10).

Context

Historical and Geographical Notes

1:1–4:11  Dating Jonah See our →Introduction to the Book of Jonah.

Reception

Christian Tradition

1 The word of Yhwh Jonah Already an Active Prophet

  • Calvin Prael. proph. min."The word of God then was not for the first time communicated to Jonah, when he was sent to Nineveh; but it pleased God, when he was already a Prophet, to employ him among other nations…He had been previously not only a worshipper of the true God, but also a Prophet, and had no doubt faithfully discharged his office; for God would not have resolved to send him to Nineveh, had he not conferred on him suitable gifts; and he knew him to be qualified for undertaking a burden so great and so important."

Mysticism

2f A Mystic Sympathizes with Jonah's Flight In 1897, the Carmelite nun, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, wrote a letter to her Prioress wherein she describes the difficulty of training novices. In particular, she notes how she has become aware of the extent to which conversion is a divine act, something achieved by God’s grace, not by human action. Given this difficulty—as well as the need to remain humble while administering reproofs and instruction—she sympathizes with Jonah, who would rather flee than reproach Nineveh.

  • Thérèse of Lisieux Autob. “In the abstract, it seems easy to do good to souls, to make them love God more, and to mould them to one’s own ideas. But, when we put our hands to the work, we quickly learn that without God’s help it is as impossible to do good to them, as to bring back the sun when once it has set. Our own tastes, our own ideas must be put aside, and in absolute forgetfulness of self we must guide souls, not by our way, but along that particular path which Our Lord Himself indicates. The chief difficulty, however, does not lie even here—what costs more than all else is to be compelled to note their faults, their slightest imperfections, and to wage a deadly war against them...ever since I placed myself in the arms of Jesus I have been like a watchman on the look-out for the enemy from the highest turret of a fortified castle. Nothing escapes me; indeed my clear-sightedness often gives me matter for surprise, and makes me think it quite excusable in the prophet Jonas to have fled before the face of the Lord rather than announce the ruin of Ninive. I would prefer to receive a thousand reproofs rather than inflict one, yet I feel it necessary that the task should cause me pain, for if I spoke through natural impulse only, the soul in fault would not understand she was in the wrong and would simply think: ‘The Sister in charge of me is annoyed about something and vents her displeasure upon me, although I am full of the best intentions.’ But in this, as in all else, I must practise sacrifice and self-denial” (176–177).

Comparison of Versions

1:1–4:11 Jonah in the Traditional Versions  See →Jonah: Comparison of Versions.

Literature

1:1–4:11 Adaptations of or Allusions to the Book of Jonah See →Jonah: Literary Influence.

Text

Vocabulary

1 Yona son of Amittai A Multivalent Name

Jonah

Jonah's name means "dove," which is used throughout Scripture and conveys multiple nuances (Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1).

Amittai

Derived from the verb he’ĕmîn, “to believe,” although its form is closer to the noun ’ĕmet, “truth,” the name includes a theophoric ending and could be translated as “Yhwh is true.”

3b ship And Not: Fleet

  • ŏniyyâ (feminine) refers to a single ship.
  • The masculine form, ’ŏnî, is the collective noun "fleet."

Grammar

2 call out against Or: to (Meaning of the Preposition)

Our translation emphasizes that the senseconstruction of qr’ + the preposition ‘ālêhā is oppositional: calling out against, rather than calling upon. The oppositional nature is fortified by the content of Jonah’s message when he does, in fact, call out against Nineveh (Jon 3:4). 

3b a ship going to Tarshish Going or Coming? (Ambiguous Construction) The usual sense of the word bô’ is movement toward (coming to) rather than going away. Translated literally, this would mean that Jonah looked in Joppa for a ship “coming to Tarshish.” The author could have conveyed that Jonah found a ship that was "going to Tarshish" with either the locative -he or a proposition using the verb hlk.

Several options are possible for translation: 

  • "returning to Tarshish;"
  • "had just come from Tarshish;"
  • "about to leave;"
  • "going to."

Literary Devices

2,3a,10c face Leitwort

God calls Jonah because the wickedness of the Ninevites has ascended before God’s face; Jonah then tries to flee from before the face of God.

1 Yona the Son of Amittai Relative De-contextualization Although we are given the prophet’s name and patronym, we do not have any other indication of historical context, unlike other prophetic books. See, for example,

  • Hos 1:1: “The word of the Lord that was to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel”;
  • Am 1:1: “The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa…in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

The author seems to be unconcerned, maybe intentionally so, with informing us of the story’s historical circumstances. Similarly, the Books of Joel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Malachi provide little context.

2 Get up NARRATION Characterization of God as the First Speaker  The author’s choice to present God as the first speaker sets the tone for the exchanges that follow. God’s speaking first gives Jonah an opportunity to respond, yet Jonah does not accept the invitation. In this way, Jonah might be seen as a foil to Samuel who hears the divine call and willingly responds. Jonah calls to God from the belly of the fish, but God does not respond. These two only begin to speak to one another in chapter four.

Context

Historical and Geographical Notes

1 Yona son of Amittai The Same as the One From Gath-Hepher? 2Kgs 14:25 contains the Old Testament's only other mention of a prophet named Jonah the son of Amittai. There one learns that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, which was the eastern boundary of the tribe of Zebulun as noted in Jo 19:13 (Jewish Tradition Jon 1:1; Christian Tradition Jon 1:1).

  • Since the name Gath-Hepher combines gat ("winepress") and ḥēper ("well" or "pit"), viticulture may have been the town's chief industry.
  • The modern Arab village of Meshed, east of Sepphoris, is often identified as Gath-Hepher, and there is a grave of Jonah there.

Reception

Biblical Intertextuality

1 the word of YHWH was to Prophetic Word Formula (Wortereignisformel)

Prophetic Commission

The phrase occurs more than 40 times in the Book of Ezekiel alone. It can be found regularly embedded within large narrative sections, such as with Elijah (1Kgs 17:2,8; 18:1).

Divine Information

The phrase does not necessarily bring about a prophetic commission; God may simply be communicating with a human being, as with Abram (Gn 15:1) or Solomon (1Kgs 6:11).

In the Book of the Twelve

The phrase is lacking only in Obadiah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. If one were to approach this phrase from a form-critical perspective, Jonah can easily be related to other prophetic literature. However, as Trible 1994 points out, the formula as an opener with no content can lead readers to the conclusion that this story is about Jonah himself, rather than the words he is commissioned to speak (124–125).

1 Yona son of Amittai Inspirational Incipit of a Prophetic Book

Opening Lines in Minor Prophets

The opening of the book provides us with the name and patronym of the prophet. While none of the minor prophets are left nameless, the introductions vary. With the exception of Obadiah and Habakkuk, the introductions give the name of the prophet’s father, the name of his home, and a chronological marker.

  • Patronym: Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Zephaniah, Zechariah.
  • Toponym: Amos, Micah, Nahum.
  • Chronological reference: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah.
  • Prophetic status: Jonah is not here called a prophet, although this should not be too disconcerting since Joel, Obadiah, Micah, and Zephaniah are also not called prophets. Yet 2Kgs 14:25 does explicitly refer to Jonah as a prophet, as do numerous peritestamental texts: Peritestamental Literature Jon 1:1.

A Name Loaded with Allusions

Jonah, or "Dove"
  •  Hos 7:11 refers to Ephraim as a silly dove who calls upon Egypt and goes to Assyria.
  • Doves symbolize affection (Sg 2:14) and good tidings (Gn 8:11).
  • The psalmist (Ps 55:6–8) wishes that he had the wings of a dove so that he could fly to safety.
  • Doves are passive (Na 2:7).
  • Doves are an option for sacrifices (Lv 5:7).
Amittai, Son of the Widow of Zarephath?
  • According to some interpreters, the relation between ĕmet and “Amittai” (Vocabulary Jon 1:1) bespeaks a connection with the widow of Zarephath, for she proclaims the word of the Lord in Elijah’s mouth to be truth (ĕmet), when he raises her son to life (1Kgs 17:17–24). Thus, some late traditions such as Vit. proph. seem to identify Jonah as the widow’s son.
  • According to 2Kgs 14:25, Jonah foretold Jeroboam II's successful enlargement of Israel (Ancient Texts Jon1:1). There we also learn that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, which was the eastern boundary of the tribe of Zebulun as noted in Jo 19:13 (Historical and Geographical Notes Jon1:1).

2 MOTIF An Israelite Sent to the Gentiles: Typological Motif in the Life of Paul?  The motif of a member of Israel being redirected to Gentile ministry is also found in Acts’ account of Paul’s life.

  • Paul, who is deeply invested in Israel’s eschatological well-being, is diverted from his own journey and reoriented to the larger purposes of God among the Gentile world (Acts 9:1–9).
  • The sailing motif once again appears in reverse fashion as Paul’s obedience leads to his own voyages to deliver the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13).

Liturgies

1–17 CALENDAR Feast of Jonah in the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy

Calendar

Texts

Jonah is mentioned in the following places of the liturgy for the day:

  • Hôrologion to mega:Troparion antiphon for Jonah,  "The memory of your Prophet Jonah, we celebrate today, O Lord. By his prayers we entreat you: O Christ God, save our souls!"—sung after the Our Father at Vespers or after the minor entrance at the Divine Liturgy (175–76).
  • Hôrologion to mega: Kontakion hymn for Jonah: "In the glorious entrails three days and nights, you show forth Christ's descent into Hades; for when He had freely suffered His saving Passion, He arose out of the sepulchre on the third day. Therefore, we honour you, O Prophet Jonah, as a type of Christ"—sung during Matins and after the Troparia of the Divine Liturgy (175–76).
  • For the usage and placement of these texts, see the Typikon.

Jewish Tradition

1 the word of Yhwh was to Yona Targumic Amplification

  • Tg. Jon. "There was a word of prophecy from before the Lord with Jonah."

The Aramaic preposition qŏdām “before” used with the reference to God expresses respect. It keeps the courtly tone in which various acts are performed “from before” the kings or nobles.

3a from the face of Yhwh Targumic Expansion

  • Tg. Jon. "to flee by sea before he would prophesy in the name of the Lord."  

Christian Tradition

3a flee to Tarshish Luther's Jonah: A Warning to Us All

  • Luther Lect. Jon. sees Jonah's flight as a warning against disobeying God's will. "All of this is recorded as a warning for us. From it we glean the lesson first of all that he who will not obey God's will willingly must, in the end, bow to His will unwillingly" (LW 19:46).

Suggestions for Reading

1ff God Surprises the Prophet; Jonah Surprises the Reader An (a)typical prophetic commission comes to a typical prophet, characterizing Nineveh as a new Sodom. Will the prophet respond in the manner of Abraham and heed God? Will his response fit the reader’s expectations of a prophet? In a book of surprises, the first is that a prophet is sent to Nineveh. The second is that he flees.

An Unusual Prophetic Beginning

It is never announced that Jonah is a prophet, but the structure of the opening leaves no doubt. The story opens the way many stories about prophets open (Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1 the word), with the commissioning of a task (Literary Genre Jon 1:1). The surprise, though, is the response of the prophet who, when commanded to get up and go, gets up and flees.

Nineveh as a New Sodom

Ninevh, steeped in biblical intertextuality, is presented in overtly negative ways (esp. Nahum) (Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:2 Nineveh). The subtle allusion to Sodom in M is emphasized in later textual traditions (Comparison of Versions Jon1:2; Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:2) and noted in the reception history (Christian Tradition Jon1:1-11; Christian Tradition Jon1:2b).

Focus on the Character of Jonah

The opening indicates that we are dealing with prophetic material, but unlike other prophetic texts, readers are given little information about the prophet himself (other than his patronym), his time, and his location (Literary Devices Jon 1:1). This allows for reflection on his

Jonah Flees

The motivation for Jonah’s flight is not given at this point, and the reader must wait several chapters for more information on this. The curiosity of the reader is piqued, and many interpreters have reflected on the prophet’s surprising behavior (Christian Tradition Jon 1:3; Jewish Tradition Jon 1:3a).

Text

Textual Criticism

3d To Tarshish Hebrew Variant: With Them of Tarshish

  • 4QXIIg (4Q82 f76-78i+79-81:7) omits the directional marker (-h) in the third occurrence of the word "Tarshish" (→DJD XV, 309).
  • It is possible that 4QXIIa (4Q76 5:6) also omits the directional marker, but its fragmentary state leaves this uncertain since only one letter of the word (the second shin) is visible (→DJD XV, 229). 
  • One possible reading of this variant is  "to go with them of Tarshish," thus identifying the sailors as citizens of the city. 

Vocabulary

3b going to Tarshish Or: Coming to Tarshish? The author could have conveyed that Jonah found a ship that was “going to” Tarshish with either the locative -he (Grammar Jon 1:3d) or the verb hālak

  • The usual sense of the verb retained, bô’, is movement toward, rather than away, and the translations “returning to Tarshish” (Trible 1994) and "had just come from Tarshish" (Sasson 1990) convey this. As the ship’s destination is clear, while its origin is less so, it is simply rendered “going to.”

Grammar

1 Now Narrative Marker The first word of the book, wayhî can carry at least six nuances, including a temporal one:

  • “When Yhwh's command”;
  • “And it came to pass”;
  • “And so it was”; etc.  

As a narrative marker, it may be simply rendered as “Now.” See Literary Genre Jon1:1.

1,3:1 the word of Yhwh was to Semantics The phrase wayhî + dᵉbar-Yhwh + ’el is usually rendered by the verb of movement "the word of Yhwh came to…" E.g.,

  • “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah” (KJV);
  • “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonas” (DRV);
  • “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonas” (Brenton).

Nevertheless, all ancient versions keep in their translations some form of the verb “to be,” or “to become.” This grammatical construction led to our interpreting "the word of Yhwh" as an active subject (hypostatization). Others argue that this formula simply means that communication has occurred. Therefore, this expression is as minimally descriptive as possible. See Literary Genre Jon 1:1.

2 Get up, go Or: Set Out for! (Asyndetic Verbal Hendiadys: Auxiliary Use of the Verb?) The two opening verbs are imperatives: qûm and lēk.

  • On its own, each verb is easily translated as "Get up!" and "Go!" 

However, the imperative qûm is often used as an auxiliary verb (having an adverbial function) when preceding another verb with no conjunction.

  • If this is the case, qûm can remain untranslated and the two verbs work together to mean something like “Set out for,” “Go immediately,” or, as in the NRSV and JPS, “Go at once.”

Nevertheless, in this particular case, it is better to render the verb, for, while it does not make a significant change in meaning, it does preserve the (somewhat ironic) structure of the book’s opening (Literary Devices Jon 1:2–3).

3d to Tarshish Use of the Locative -he Taršîšâ (cf. Textual Criticism Jon 1:3d).

Literary Devices

1:2–3:8 call out Leitwort: Jonah as a Story About "Calling" The verb qr’, “to call, to cry out,” occurs eight times within the story.

Main Theme?

"Calling," with all its polysemous qualities (speaking in the name of God —proclamation — and speaking to God —prayer), is a significant theme of the story.

Structural Repetition

 Its occurrences reveal the basic structure of the narrative.

  • The first divine mandate (Jon 1:2) is that Jonah “calls out against Nineveh.” Since he himself is disobedient to this divine call, the order is echoed by the sailors (Jon 1:6): “Get up! Call out!” When Jonah still does not follow this order of calling, it is the sailors who “called out” to Yhwh (Jon 1:14).
  • It is only in the innards of the Great Fish that Jonah follows their example and calls out to Yhwh (Jon 2:2 [V-2:3]).
  • After that turning point, God repeats his first order (Jon 3:2), and Jonah accomplishes his mission (Jon 3:4). As a result, the people of Nineveh “called for a fast” (Jon 3:5) and their own king orders them to “call out” to Yhwh (Jon 3:8).

2f Irony of Jonah's Flight: Inversion of the "We will do and we will listen" Motif? After the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Israelites famously pledged na‘ăśê wᵉnišmā‘ (“We will do and we will listen [to all that God has declared],” Ex 24:7), making two promises: to do/obey and to listen/learn.

2 evil Leitwort in the Service of Irony (cf. also Jon 1:7–8,3:10,4:1-2,6).

The noun rā‘â has a very generic meaning and expresses

  • either evil that one produces (wickedness),
  • or evil that one suffers (calamity).

Human

Within the story, evil functions as an unwanted and dangerous object that is passed around.

  • It is produced by the Ninevites and ascends (seemingly of its own volition) to the Divine presence in Jon 1:2.
  • From there, Jonah’s disobedience brings it upon the sailors (Jon 1:7–8).

Divine?

The enactment of “evil” is not only the domain of human beings.

  • Via the prophet, God threatens to do “evil” to the Ninevites (Jon 3:10).
  • When they repent, Jonah determines that God’s refraining from retributive calamity is unjust, believing it was a “great evil” (Jon 4:1).
  • In response, Jonah recognizes (and laments) that one of God’s core attributes is that in his mercifulness, he relents from bringing calamity on those who might deserve it (Jon 4:2).
  • The story ends in a rather ironic way, when a God-sent plant “protected him from his evil” (Jon 4:6)—here, hopefully not from the presumed calamities Jonah suffered, but from the evil he himself was cultivating in his own unmerciful heart.

3 RHETORICS Chiseled Dispositio This verse offers a concentric structure: 

  • the presence of the Lord (A-A’),
  • going down (to Joppa B, inside the ship B’),
  • finding (C) and paying for (C’) the ship,
  • going to Tarshish (D), the toponym which is also found in A and A’.

This structure is enriched with a pair of triads, with the verse focusing on the intent, activity, and goal.

  • Jonah seeks to escape, goes down to Joppa, finds a ship.  
  • He then pays, boards, and sails.

Moreover, there is a reflection effect between Jon 1:3 and Jon 1:2 (Literary Devices Jon 1:2–3; Literary Devices Jon 1:3f).

3b,5d,2:6a descended Repetition, Meaning: Inverted Symbolism of Directions

Ever Higher

Elsewhere in the Bible, departure from Jerusalem is always descent while movement toward the Holy City is always ascent. Movement to and from Egypt is similarly rendered.

Ever Lower

In Jonah the verb yārad appears four times. Whereas Jon 1:2 suggests that to get to the Lord’s face, one needs to “ascend,” Jonah decisively takes the opposite direction. He descends first to Joppa, then to the ship (Jon 1:3) (2x), then to the bottom of it (Jon 1:5), to finish with a descent to the “roots of the mountains” in his prayer (Jon 2:6 [= V-2:7]).

  • In one sense, the terminology bears the weight of prophetic call and response. The cry of Nineveh’s evil has come up to Yhwh and Jonah is commissioned to “go down” to Nineveh.
  • On another level, the theme of descent gathers narrative weight throughout the story. First Jonah goes down to Joppa and finds a ship that he goes down into (Jon 1:3). Later, when the sea is raised to rage by the wind of God, the reader finds that Jonah has already gone down further into the ship’s bowels and is fast asleep (Jon 1:5). In their attempts to calm the storm, the sailors follow Jonah’s command to throw him overboard. Cast from the ship, Jonah begins the unexpected journey further down into the sea inside the belly of the great fish. Therein, his prayer records his descent (I descended) to “rock bottom”—the ’ereṣ at the bottom of the sea which is the gates of the Pit—and declares Yhwh’s ability to redeem from the deepest depths (Jon 2:6).

3b found a ship PROSODY Assonance (Wordplay)

  • The name of the prophet and the word for ship bear a playful similarity, yônâ and ’oniyyâ.

Evidence of this type of wordplay can be found elsewhere (Ancient Cultures Jon 1:3b).

Context

Historical and Geographical Notes

2 Nineveh Assyria's Last Capital (cf. Jon 3:2–7,4:5,11).

Mention in the Scriptures

  • The city is first referred to in the Bible at Gn 10:11–12, where the term "great city" is also used, although it may be a reference to Calah.
  • Jonah contains nine of the OT’s fourteen references to the city.

  • By metonymy, the terms Nineveh, Assyria, or the king of Assyria, often all refer to the empire, as well as its military and political power. See more at Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:2 Nineveh.

Topography

An extremely ancient city (6000 BC), Nineveh (Nînᵉwé) is on the banks of the Tigris, near modern Mosul.

Archaeology

Archaeological excavations of Tell Kuyunjik (not of Tell Nebi Yunus due to its sanctity among Muslims) by the French and British have been conducted since the mid-19th c., generating volumes of scholarly publications ( Thompson and Hutchinson 1929Petit and Bonacossi 2017). The British Museum houses many of the great finds.

  • These include carved wall panels of the palaces of Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal, complete with depictions of lion hunts, gardens, and the construction of great monuments.

  • Similarly grand is the collection of cuneiform textual deposits from Kuyunjik.

Name

  • Based on the cuneiform for Nineveh (Ninua), which is a fish within a house, the city may have derived its name from a fish goddess.

  • Beginning in the Old Assyrian period, the city was dedicated to “Ishtar of Nineveh.”

History: Neo-Assyrian Development

  • Sennacherib (704–681 BC) fortified the city, enclosing an area of 750 ha. He saw to the construction of the Jerwan aqueduct as a means of irrigating the surrounding region and bringing fresh water to the city from the local mountains (see photos in Jacobsen and Lloyd 1935, 17). Evidence of grand public works, especially for irrigation, has led to a scholarly discussion about the possibility of identifying Nineveh (rather than Babylon) as the site of the famous hanging gardens of ancient Mesopotamia (Dalley 2015). Ultimately, Sennacherib made Nineveh the capital of the Neo-Assyrian empire.

  • The city functioned as the capital until the Babylonians and Medes conquered it in 612 BC.

Size

Nineveh looms large in the archaeological record. Its size is mentioned in Jon 3:3 and again in Jon 4:11. Still, evidence from Kuyunjik by no means confirms that its size would have necessitated a three-day walk. The reference to Nineveh’s size in Jonah (Jon 3:3; 4:11) may serve more to accentuate the enormity of the task before Jonah and the enormity of the Ninevites’ response.

3–16 ship Ships and Seafaring in the ANE  Water travel was practiced in the ANE at least as early as 10,000 BC. Given the likely deterioration and decomposition of ships over millennia, little survives that could be excavated, and the best information comes from artistic renderings.  

Attestations

  • The best preserved example of an ancient boat is that of Cheops/Khufu, which was excavated near the Giza pyramids (See Wachsmann 1998, 219).

Solar bark of Khufu (= King Kheops), general view, (Woodcraft in Lebanon cedar planks, cords of Halfah grass, tenons of Paliurus spina-christi, ca 2500 B.C.), L 43.6 m (143 ft) x W 5.9 m (19.5 ft).

The world’s oldest intact ship, Khufu’s “solar bark”, is a masterpiece of woodcraft that could sail today if put into water. Ironically, the vessel may not have been designed for sailing (there is, for example, no rigging) or paddling (there is not enough no room). Is it a “solar barge” (i.e. a ritual vessel intended to carry the resurrected king with the sun god Ra across the heavens)? a “funerary barge” (i.e. one used to carry the king’s embalmed body from Memphis to Giza)? or a “pilgrimage ship” (i.e. one used by the king to visit holy places, then buried for his use in the afterlife)?

Giza Solar Boat Museum, Egypt, © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license→

History

  • The earliest boats were towed or punted; the earliest evidence for sails dates to around 3500 BC.
  • By 2500 BC there is ample evidence of long distance seafaring, which likely gave rise to developments in mathematics and astronomy.
  • Egyptian maritime interests were concerned with imports, whereas the Phoenicians developed colonies throughout the Mediterranean basin.
  • Solomon is said to have partnered with Hyram of Tyre to build a fleet to sail out of Ezion-Geber (near present-day Aqaba) on the Red Sea (1Kgs 9:26–28,10:11,22; 2Chr 8:18,9:21).
  • By the Persian period, sea-going vessels tended to be shallow, being 10–18 m long, having a width of 1/3 the length, and employing rounded hulls and single sails. They were able to transport up to 250 tons. As we see in Jonah, these ships were often fully or partially decked—since Jonah is able to go below deck—and tended to follow the coastline, suggested by the fact that the sailors hoped to be able to row back to shore.

A Boat from Jonah's Era

  • The Ma‘agan Michael Ship, discovered off the coast of Ma‘agan Michael, Israel, in 1985, is a unique example of a Levantine ship built in the same era that Jonah was composed. At 12.5 m long and 4 m wide it bore a single sail and was likely maintained by a crew of 4–6 sailors as it plied the open waters of the Mediterranean. At the time of its demise, it was carrying a cargo of Greek blueschist stone, used primarily for roofing.

Ma'agan Michael Ship, (wood, ca. 400 B.C., Persian period, discovered in 1985 in shallow waters off the coast of Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael), L 12.5 m x W 4 m, capacity 15 tons., merchantman

Hecht Museum, Haifa University (Israel) © Photo : BEST

This is the oldest ship of the Persian period extant. Here, Prof. E. Nantet explains maritime archaeology to the contributors to this edition of Jonah (July 7th, 2019). Part of the retrieved blue stones of the cargo is displayed on the ground.

Phoenician merchant ship after an Assyrian relief, Palace of Sargon at Khorsabad, (Model after an Assyrian relief: ca. 700 B.C.) 

Model: Hecht Museum, University of Haifa, Israel

Ohoto BEST © D.R.

Ancient Cultures

3b found a ship Archaeological Evidence for the Wordplay? An 8th–7th c. seal shows the earliest representation of a ship with a Hebrew inscription.

Israelite Scaraboid (Left and Center), Commemorative Israeli 1 Sheqel Silver Coin (Right), (Scaraboid: Ingraving on Dark Gray Jasper, ca 8th–7th c. B.C.), 1.7 cm, Said to be found near Samaria

Private Collection, U.S.A.; Last Auctioned in 2013

© D.R. Christie's→ 

  • The underside of the seal is engraved with a sailing ship at the top, having a single mast at the center, a prow terminating with a horse protome, and a stern with a steering oar. The gunwale displays a row of round shields.
  • It bears a Hebrew inscription in two registers, with a double line below each line of text and dots dividing the words l’nyhw bn myrb (“Belonging to Oniyahu son of Merab”).

The Judahite name Oniyahu means "Yhwh is my strength," but could easily be heard as "Yhwh is my ship."

Ancient Texts

3b Yapho In Ancient Written Sources

  • The name "Iapu" appears in the list of cities conquered by the pharaoh Thutmose III (15th c. BC) inscribed in the temple of Karnak (Ahituv 1984, 121).
  • The story of the "Conquest of Joppa" by Djehuty, a commander of Thutmosis III’s army who outwitted the rebellious ruler of the city, became of popular folktale in Egypt, as attested by the Papyrus Harris 500 vc (see Goedicke 1975).
  • Iapu is mentioned several times in the Amarna Letters (14th c. BC), where it appears as an Egyptian stronghold (→EA 138, 248a, 294, 296, 365). Biridia, king of Meggido under Egyptian dominion, reported to the pharaoh that he collected taxes from Iapu (→EA 248a).
  • The transaction of wheat between the governor of Ugarit and the Egyptian governor of Canaan recorded in the Aphek letter took place in Joppa (Owen 1981).
  • Joppa is featured on the Amara-West list of Ramesses II (Kitchen 1996, 2:n°55), among other Egyptian settlements of the Mediterranean coast (13th c. BC). The name also appears in a satirical letter dated to the same reign, the Papyrus Anastasi I, wherein the scribe Amenope visits Joppa to get his chariot repaired (Gardiner 1911, 27*–28*).
  • In the →Annals of Sennacherib (col. 2.69–72), the Assyrian king records that he took Joppa from Sidika, the king of Ashkelon, ca. 701 BC.
  • The inscription on the 5th c. BC sarcophagus of Eshmunazar, “King of the two Sidons,” states that he was granted “Dor and Joppa” by the “king of kings,” that is, the Achaemenid king of Persia (Oppert 1877, 114).

  • The kings Ptolemy I, Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III minted coins in Joppa, thus attesting Lagid dominion over the area during the 3rd c. BC (Ecker 2010).
  • In the mid-3rd c. BC, Joppa appears as a trade center in the Zenon papyri (PCZ 1.59011 recto; 1.59093 and P. Lond. 7.2086).
  • A marble slab bearing a dedicatory inscription related to Ptolemy IV was recovered on the site; it must have belonged to a temple linked with the Ptolemaic king-cult.
  • In Ep. Arist. 115, Joppa is mentioned as a harbor.
  • According to Strabo Geogr. 16.2.28, the population of Joppa was mixed in the beginning of the 1st c. AD.
  • Pliny Nat. 5.14 referred to Joppa as a "Phoenician city."
  • Joppa was destroyed twice during the first Jewish revolt. Cestius Gallus captured it, killed 8,400 of its inhabitants and burned it (JosephusB.J. 2.507–509). Afterwards, Jews who fled the Roman armies gathered in the desolate Joppa and turned into pirates to subsist. Vespasian set out to attack the city, but most of the inhabitants, who sought refuge on their boats, were killed when "the black north wind" smashed their boats against each other. Vespasian then destroyed the city once again and set up a camp there, leaving soldiers to placate the area (JosephusB.J. 3.414–431).
  • The coins minted at Joppa during the 3rd c. AD show that it was renamed Joppa Flavia at the end of the 1st c. AD (Ecker 2010).
  • The number of Jewish epitaphs from the 2nd c. AD and 3rd c. AD found in Joppa (CIJ 2.882–970) indicates that the city still had an important Jewish population at the time.
  • The rabbinic sources mention several sages from Joppa, among whom were Rabbi Adda ( b. Meg.16b), rabbi Nahman (Lev. Rab. 6.5) and rabbi Yudan (Lev. Rab. 20.10).
  • In his Onomasticon, Eusebius does not have an entry for Joppê, but he briefly mentions it, stating that it was a Roman polis with a corresponding chôra in the 4th c. AD (Eusebius of Caesarea Onom. s.v. ‘Sarôn’ 48v). In his translation, Jerome calls Joppa an oppidum (ibid., 163).
  • The city developed as a place of pilgrimage, in relation to Peter’s miracle; it was thus visited by St. Paula (Jerome Ep. 108; Theodosius Situ 139; Piacenza Pilg. v. 190), even though, according to Epiphanius of Salamis Mens. pond.77, the city lay in ruins by the late 4th c. AD.

Reception

Comparison of Versions

2 Get up, go G C: Syntactic Construction G and C (the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate) smooth out the construction of the first two verses (Grammar Jon 1:2) by inserting a conjunction: hence they read, “Get up and go.” 

Biblical Intertextuality

1f TYPOLOGY Elijah and Elisha as Types of Jonah  (cf. Jon 1:17; 2:10; 3:1-2; 4:3,6-8).

If Jonah is placed in the 8th c. BC (as noted in 2Kgs 14:25–28), he follows closely behind the other great Northern prophets Elijah and Elisha. There are many instances in which they are referenced in the account of Jonah.

Plot: Commissions

  • The opening of Jonah recalls several commissions throughout biblical literature, particularly that of Elijah, who is told, in 1Kgs 17:9–10, to “Get up, go (qûm lek) to Zarephath…So he got up and went to Zarephath.”

Agents: Natural World

  • The accounts of Elijah and Elisha frequently involve animals and other aspects of the natural world which are not typical of later prophets, but well at home in Jonah. For example, readers find ravens bringing food (1Kgs 17:1–8), a lion killing a man (1Kgs 20:35–36), a plant bringing shade (1Kgs 19:4), bears attacking youths (2Kgs 2:23-25), the appearance of fire and rain (1Kgs 18), and the parting of the Jordan river (1Kgs 18). 

Motif: Wish for Death

1 “Simon, Son of Jonah” Jesus calls Peter by the name Simon bar ("son of") Jonah (Mt 16:17) in response to Simon's recognition of him as "the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).

Historical Philology

Unlike the names of certain other prophetic characters in the Bible (e.g., Zechariah), Jonah does not appear to have been widely adopted as a personal name. Only three uses beyond Mt 16:17 are attested in the period 330 BC– 200 AD, including:

  • 2 ossuary inscriptions (pre-70 AD);
  • 1 mention in MekRI. 

The argument has sometimes been made that bariôna in Mt 16:17 is not a patronymic meaning “son of Jonah,” but corresponds rather to an expression found in rabbinic literature signifying an “outlaw” and used to designate a member of the Zealot party. Still, the evidence of Jn 1:42 and Jn 21:15 (“Simon son of John”) points in a more conventional direction, suggesting some confusion or perhaps simply variation in the tradition regardingthe name of Peter’s father.

Analogies between Peter and Jonah

Generally, Simon Peter’s identity as a fisherman relates to the imagery of sailing and sea creatures in the Book of Jonah. Beyond this, the meaning of Jesus’ words is ambiguous and several metaphors likely co-occur.

  • The immediate context indicates that Jesus’ expression highlights the prophetic nature of Simon’s proclamation: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Mt 16:17). Moreover, Jesus’ confirmation of Peter as the rock on which he will build his Church meets with the assurance that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18)—a possible reference to Jonah’s expression of thanksgiving for deliverance from the netherworld in the psalm of Jonah (Jon 2:6).
  • The tension between Peter’s identity as a chosen mouthpiece of God and his fallibility as a disciple is reminiscent of Jonah’s election as a prophet in important, but not exact, ways: Jonah is called by God but flees via ship. Peter, on the other hand, is called and leaves his ship and life as a fisherman (Mt 4:18–21).
  • The parallel deepens as one considers later expansions in the demographic and geographic scales of Peter’s ministry. Like Jonah, Peter’s original understanding of his ministerial scope is to bring the Good News to the people of Israel, his staunchly entrenched position requires divine intervention (Acts 11:1–18).
  • Unlike Jonah, Peter’s waterborne experiences in the Gospels are confined to the inland freshwater Sea of Galilee which is a far cry from the open waters of the Mediterranean where sea monsters and great fish dwell. He does have a Jonah-like experience of sinking into the depths of the waters. If the tradition is accurate that Peter eventually made it to Rome, his journey there would have almost certainly included time on an open-water vessel.
  • Notably, Peter’s vision in Joppa includes an othonê, the Greek word for sail (Acts 11:5). It is in this vision that Peter is introduced to God’s expansive vision of restoration—far beyond the Sea of Galilee and the people of Israel.

2 Nineveh A City of Biblical Imagination (cf. Jon 3:2–7; 4:5,11).

Jonah contains nine of the Hebrew Bible’s fourteen direct references to Nineveh. The Book of Tobit also makes reference to Nineveh, while all explicit NT references to Nineveh occur in Matthew and Luke. Still, a keyword search for the city’s name does not suffice. Metonymic uses of the terms Nineveh, Assyria, or the king of Assyria often refer to the Neo-Assyrian Empire and its military and political power. Subsequent use emphasizes the city’s foreignness and ultimately its symbolic value for the journey toward repentance.

All major corpora of the Bible reference Nineveh, indicating the city’s significance in biblical imagination.

Nineveh in the Pentateuch and Historical Books

  • The city of Nineveh first appears in the Bible in Gn 10:11–12 (Historical and Geographical Notes Jon 1:2).
  • In 2Kgs 19:36 (// Is 37:37) Sennacherib returns to Nineveh, sparing Jerusalem. Given the significant impact of the Neo-Assyrian Empire on Israel during the 8th–7th c. BC, it is not surprising to find that the Assyrians loom large throughout the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and Isaiah.

Nineveh in the Book of the Twelve

  • Within the Book of the Twelve, readers see prophets repeatedly announce the impending destruction of Nineveh.
  • Zep 2:13 claims that God “will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert” (NRSV).
  • Nahum explicitly refers to Nineveh three times (Na 1:1; 2:8; 3:7) and focuses on the downfall of Nineveh to the relief of the people of Judah. For Nahum, relief for Nineveh cannot and shall not be imagined. The prophet graphically announces that it is decreed that the city will be exiled (Na 2:3–9).

Nineveh in Tobit

Nineveh in the NT

  • The three NT references to Nineveh (Mt 12:41; Lk 11:30,32) show that the city (and especially its inhabitants) had become a symbol of repentance for the Jewish community of Jesus’ day.

Nineveh, Babylon, and Empire across the Canon

There is a deep-seated connection between the cities of Nineveh and Babylon in the biblical imagination. Assyria plays the role of both foe and ally before being replaced by Babylon. Both cities serve as real and metaphorical instantiations of God’s judgment and redemption. The biblical authors’ emphasis on Babylon is proportionally greater, a reality stemming from the Judahite nature of the texts. Nevertheless, these same authors integrate the memory of Nineveh as an agent of God’s justice and punishment, as an analog in the broader biblical trope of the foreign city and as a means of raising general intertextual critiques of empire.

2 their evil G Typological Allusion to the Episode of Sodom and Gomorrha It is possible that the translator of G chose to render M’s rā‘ātām (“their evil”) with hê kraugê tês kakias autês (“the outcry of its wickedness”) in order to establish a connection between the story of Jonah and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Gn 18–19  (cf. Comparison of Versions Jon1:2).

  • Both stories begin with a note that the outcry (kraugê) of an evil city has reached God (G-Gn 18:20–21; Jon 1:2; cf. G-Gn 19:13), which is a distinctive way of expressing that God has noticed the rampant injustice and violence that characterizes these cities.
  • In Jonah this outcry is connected with Nineveh’s wickedness (kakia), while in the Genesis narrative it is the sins (hamartiai) of the city that cause the outcry to reach God. Such a connection would invite the reader to consider Jonah as an anti-type of Abraham, and Nineveh as an anti-type of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Whereas Abraham was intently concerned for the plight of the innocent inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah desires the complete destruction of Nineveh, regardless of the innocence or guilt of its people.
  • On the other hand, Sodom and Gomorrah are so depraved that they contain no righteous citizens (Gn 18:32; 19:4): no amount of pleading will spare them. Nineveh, though initially filled with iniquity, exhibits a kind of righteousness when the people respond to Jonah’s exceedingly tepid proclamation (Jon 3:4) with complete repentance.

For an early comparison of Nineveh to Sodom, see Tertullian’s poem on Jonah (Christian Tradition Jon 1:1–11).

Peritestamental Literature

1 Yona Jonah Listed among Other Prophets

Ascension of Isaiah

Jonah is mentioned in the list of prophets in (Mart. Ascen. Isa.4.22; OTP  2:163), which is a composite apocryphal text from the 1st c. AD that has been preserved in its entirety in its Ethiopic version (Ergata Īsāyèyās).

  • The sequence of the Twelve Minor Prophets in this list matches neither M nor G.
  • Jonah is named in a section that is likely a Christian interpolation. Here Isaiah gives an apocalyptically charged description of the end of the world. He recounts the destruction of the wicked along with Satan (Sammael), the second coming of Jesus, the redemption of the world (esp. the Church), and the final judgment (OTP  2:160–163).
  • In this context, Isaiah explains that these things were already written (i.e., foretold) “in the Psalms, in the parables of David the son of Jesse, and in the Proverbs of Solomon his son, and in the words of Korah and of Ethan the Israelite, and in the words of Asaph, and in the rest of the psalms which the angel of the spirit has inspired, (namely) in those which have no name written, and in the words of Amos my father and of Hosea the prophet, and of Micah, and of Joel, and of Nahum, and of Jonah, and of Obadiah, and of Habakkuk, and of Haggai, and of Zephaniah, and of Zechariah, and of Malachi, and in the words of the righteous Joseph, and in the words of Daniel” (Mart. Ascen. Isa. 4.21–22; OTP  2:163).

4 Esdras

Jonah is also listed among the prophets in 4 Esd.  1:39 (cf. V; OTP  1:526), the first two chapters of which are conventionally referred to by scholars as 5 Esdras or 5 Ezra. Note that some Protestant scholars call 4 Esdras, 2 Esdras.

  • Here the list of the Twelve Minor Prophets matches the order in which they occur in G.
  • This list of the Twelve occurs at the end of Ezra’s prophecy of judgment directed at the Jewish people; after enumerating the many mercies that God showed to Israel throughout history, Ezra proceeds to accuse the people of having forsaken God; he concludes by pronouncing God’s judgment that the Jewish people will lose their inheritance which will be given instead to a new people.
  • In this context, God addresses Ezra as the father of a new people, directing him “to look with pride and see the people coming from the east” (nunc pater aspice cum gloria et vide populum venientem ab oriente) to whom God “will give the leadership (dabo ducatum) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Hosea and Amos and Micah and Joel and Obadiah and Jonah and Nahum and Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who is also called the messenger of the Lord” (4 Esd.1:38–40).

The Sibylline Oracles

In a manner similar to 4 Esdras, Jonah is listed among a few patriarchs and prophets in Sib. Or. (2:248; OTP  1:351), a Jewish document composed ca. 30 BC–30 AD that underwent a significant Christian redaction in the 1st and early 2nd c. AD (Kurfess 1941, 151–165).

  • The Sibylline Oracles contain a stylistic presentation of world history divided into ten generations, the last of which ushers in the end of the world.
  • Much like the aforementioned pseudepigraphic works, Jonah is named among other canonical biblical figures within an eschatological framework that details the end of the world and the last judgment (Sib. Or. 2.238–250; cf. OTP  1:351).
  • The mention of the second coming of Christ in glory on a cloud (Sib. Or. 2.241–242) indicates a Christian redaction. What is striking, however, is that in his second coming Christ will be accompanied by Moses (2.245), Abraham (2.246), Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Daniel, Elijah (2.247), Habbakuk, and Jonah (2.248). These biblical figures will apparently serve as witnesses, since judgment is passed first upon all the Hebrews from the time of Jeremiah (2.249) and then upon all the wicked (2.254). It is difficult to discern any clear principle behind the inclusion of these figures.

Liturgies

1:1–2:1,2:10 Use in Lectionary RML: Monday, Week 27 in Year I.

Jewish Tradition

1 Yona son of Amittai Rabbis on Jonah (cf. Jon 1:3a,5,7,15,17; 2:1,10; 3:1,3; 4:1,5,8).

Origins

  • Pirqe R. El. 33: Rabbinic tradition maintains that Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath whom Elijah raised. After being raised, Jonah became the disciple of Elijah—and then of Elisha after Elijah’s ascension (cf. Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:1).

Noting the Zarephath tradition,

Prophet to the House of Jehu

  • Similarly, the rabbinic tradition identifies a young Jonah as the prophet sent by Elisha to anoint Jehu and to announce God’s desire that he dispatch the remnant of the house of Ahab ( Pirqe R. El. 10; S. ‘Olam Rab. 19).

  • A young Jonah is also regarded by some rabbinic traditions as the prophet responsible for communicating the reward of a four-generation dynasty to Jehu for keeping God's mandate (Zlotowitz and Scherman 1978, xxv refers to Rashi and S. ‘Olam Rab. without specifying further).
  • One learns from the biblical tradition of a Jonah son of Amittai from Gath-Hepher who called for Jeroboam II (Jehu's grandson) to restore the boundaries of Israel (2Kgs 14:25; cf. Ancient Texts Jon1:1).
  • Finally, Jonah's life is said to have ended during the reign of Zechariah (2Kgs 15:8–12) at the Moses-like age of 120 (S. ‘Olam Rab. 18).

As a result, the rabbinic tradition shows that Jonah serves as a prophet (like Moses) to the entire House of Jehu (Zlotowitz and Scherman 1978, xxiv–xxvi, 78–79).

3a to Tarshish Targumic Exegesis

The same rendering of Tharshish is also applied elsewhere (e.g., Is 2:16; 23:1,14).

3a flee Jonah's Recalcitrance What motivates Jonah to flee God's command? Rabbinic tradition explains that Jonah flees with righteous motivations and highly informed knowledge of the revelatory process between God and His prophets.

Motivations

Early rabbinic traditions note that Jonah had several motivations for fleeing his divine call.

Some rabbis said that Jonah fled because he believed that the conversion of the Ninevites would have led to Israel's indictment, because they had rejected the prophets. According to Pirqe R. El. Jonah had been called upon to prophesy twice before the Book of Jonah begins. The Israelites spurned Jonah after God was merciful to them. Moreover, Jonah feared that the success of Nineveh's repentance would actually be taken up by scoffers as proof that God was not going to destroy Nineveh anyway. Therefore, Jonah would be a false prophet

  • Pirqe R. El. "Why did [Jonah] flee? Because on the first occasion when (God) sent him to restore the border of Israel, his words were fulfilled, as it is said, 'And he restored the border of Israel from the entering in of Hamath' (2Kgs 14:25). On the second occasion (God) sent him to Jerusalem to (prophesy that He would) destroy it. But the Holy One, blessed be He, did according to the abundance of His tender mercy and repented of the evil (decree), and He did not destroy it; thereupon they called him a lying prophet. On the third occasion, (God) sent him against Nineveh to destroy it. Jonah argued with himself, saying, 'I know that the nations are nigh to repentance, now they will repent and the Holy One, blessed be he, will direct His anger against Israel. And is it not enough for me that Israel should call me a lying prophet; but shall also the nations of the world (do likewise)?" (Friedlander 1916, 65-66).

Jonah was so devoted to God that he could not abide the prospect of hearing converted Ninevites mock him and by extension God after having been given an opportunity to repent.

  • Radal Comm. PRE "As is the way of wicked scoffers: they would not attribute the annulment of the decree to their repentance. Instead, they would complacently say that Jonah' prophecy was unfounded to begin with, or that God lacked the power to punish them. They would not comprehend that God would change an evil decree once it was issued even after repentance."

Rabbi Bachya ascribed Jonah's reluctance to humility. 

  • Baḥya_Kad. "'If Moses,' Jonah says, 'was reluctant to accept God's call to redeem the righteous Jews from Egypt because he considered himself unequal to the task; then surely I, who am being sent to wicked people, should seek to avoid my mission by fleeing to a place where God will not reveal Himself to me.'" 

Function of Flight

According to the rabbis, Jonah fled the land of Israel because revelation can only take place there. If Jonah remained in Israel, then God could send a second revelation confirming the first. This is what happens later when the fish spits Jonah onto the beach. 

  • Pirqe R. El."Therefore, behold [Jonah says], I will escape from His presence to a place where His glory is not declared. If I ascend above the heavens, it is said (Ps 113:4above the heavens is His glory; if upon the earth, it is said that, too (Is 6:3), the whole earth is full of His glory. Rather, I will escape to the sea, to a place where His Glory is not proclaimed'" (Friedlander 1916, 66).
  • Radal Comm. PRE"Jonah did not err by thinking that God's dominion does not extend over the seas. Rather, he reasoned that God does not reveal Himself to His prophets in the sea since the sea is esoterically not conducive to the revelation of prophecy" (cf. Zlotowitz and Scherman 1978, 82–83).

3c Paid its fare How Much? There is both ancient and contemporary disagreement about how much Jonah paid and for what he paid.

  • b. Ned. 38a: Some (e.g., R. Yohanan) contend that, in order to insure the ship’s immediate departure, Jonah paid for all the available spots on the ship so that the captain did not need to wait for others to come. This would have been an enormous expense, but it shows Jonah’s desperation or eagerness.
  • ibn Ezra Comm. and others disagree, having the more common-sense interpretation that he paid the fare of a single passenger. 

Sasson (1990, 83–84) conveys these opposing views and outlines contemporary differences of opinion. He himself sides with the position that Jonah hired the whole ship.

Christian Tradition

1–11 Latin Poetic Retelling An ancient Latin poetic retelling of Jon 1  begins with a reference to the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah:

  • Ps. Tertullian Iona “After the living, aye-enduring death / Of Sodom and Gomorrah; after fires / Penal, attested by time-frosted plains / Of ashes; after fruitless apple-growths, / Born but to feed the eye; after the death / Of sea and brine, both in like fate involved; / While whatsoe'er is human still retains / In change corporeal its penal badge: / A city-Nineveh-by stepping o'er" (Post Sodomum et Gomorum viventia funera in aevum / Et cinerum senio signata incendia poenae / Et frustra solis oculis nascentia poma / Et pariter facti mortem maris et salis illic / Si quid homo est poenam mutati corpore servans / Paene alios ignes superi decusserat imbris / Urbs aequi iustique viam transgressa NiniveComparison of Versions Jon 1:2;  Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:2).

1 son of Amittai Identity and Symbolism of Jonah

  • Ephrem Hymn. virg. 45.1–2 et passim refers to Jonah simply as the "son of Mattai," but he never makes the connection to the prophet of the same name found in the Kings narrative (2Kgs 14:25).
  • Gloss. ord. "The Hebrews say that Saint Jonah was the son of the widowed woman Sareptana, whom the prophet Elijah raised from the dead. Afterward Jonah's mother said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth' (1Kgs 17:24). For this reason they call this boy Amathi, for Amathi [’ĕmet] means 'truth' in our language [...]. Therefore, a dove is born from truth because Jonah means 'dove'" (cf. Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1; Jewish Tradition Jon 1:1).
  • Gloss. ord. "Argumentum—Jonah the beautiful dove, prefiguring the passion of the Lord by his shipwreck, calls the world back to repentance, and he announces salvation for the Gentiles under the name of 'Nineveh.'"
  • Gloss. ord.: Jonah signifies "Christ, over whom the Spirit in the appearance of a dove [appeared], who also is suffering on our behalf."

Islam

2 go to Nineveh, the great city The Mosque of Nebi Yunus The mosque sat atop a tell in Mosul, to the south of Esarhaddon’s palace, and was believed to be Jonah’s burial place. The structure had been converted from a Nestorian church, and later a Turkish minaret was added. While the tell clearly contained important Ninevite ruins, the sanctity of the location prevented excavation.

Younis Ziyad, Mosque of the Prophet Younis: Historical mosques of Iraq, located on the western foot of the hill of repentance, or "hill of Prophet Younis" in Mosul, (Photograph, 13 January 2011)

CCASA4.0 © Wikicommons→ 

The Islamic State (ISIS), however, called for this mosque to be demolished as part of their campaign to destroy all mosques that include shrines.

Popular Iraki Media, The Criminal Bombing of the Mosque of Prophet Younis Peace be upon Him in the city of Mosul on Thursday 24.7.2014, Private Video, Mosul

© Licence YouTube standard→

On July 24, 2014, corresponding to 26 Ramadan 1435 AH, the mosque was destroyed by ISIS.

Voice of America, The Ruins of the Mosque of Prophet Yunus in Mosul,  (Photograph, 18 January 2017)

Public Domain © Wikicommons→

Since then, ruins and tunnels within the tell have been explored. Cf. Arango, Tim. "Tears, and Anger, as Militants Destroy Iraq City’s Relics." New York Times (31/07/2014).

1 Yona son of Amittai Muslim Jonah

Listed Among the Prophets

While the book of Jonah does not call Jonah a prophet, the Qur'an lists him among the greatest of the tradition:

  • Qur’an 4.163 "We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms" (cf. Qur’an 6.84–86). 
  • Qur’an 10 bears his name.  

Jonah’s Parents

  • Kisāʼī Qiṣaṣ describes Jonah's parents, the prophet Matthew and Sadaqa, as Jerusalemites who were unable to conceive. At the age of 70, Sadaqa gives birth to Jonah but soon finds herself as a poor widow, with only a wooden bowl which Allah fills with meat at night. Local shepherds allow the infant to suckle from their ewes.

History of Translations

2 call out against Other Possibilities

Literature

2 Nineveh, the great city Geography for Children Although the moral aspects of the story of Jonah are clear, especially in children’s adaptations, several books include historical content as well.

  • Spier 1985  has several pages of historical content, including maps, details about the Assyrian empire, the Tomb of Jonah, ancient ships, and archaeological discoveries.
  • Marzollo 2004 begins her book with a map and provides historical context for Jonah’s motivation: “Jonah did not want to teach the Ninevites because they were enemies of Israel.”

Music

2 Get Up Jonah as an Invitation to Take the Next Step In the words of the singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn:

  • "I was in St. Louis, looking out of a hotel room window at the sun coming up on the other side of the Mississippi. I'd been up all night, worrying about the things going on in my life. The song relates to the Jonah story in the Bible. It's addressed to me. I'm Jonah, telling myself to get off my ass and do whatever I was supposed to be doing. Something about the track I was on was wrong. I was satisfied with the status quo. Get Up Jonah is about accepting an invitation, from the cosmos, to take the next step. I really like that song, though I haven't done it for a long time" (Wheeler Brad, "Bruce Cockburn: A Life in Seven Songs," Globe and Mail, interview on September 11, 2017).

 Bruce Cockburn (mus., lyr.), Get Up Jonah,(premiered on 10 Oct. 1995, Halton Hills., with Bruce Cockburn: Resophonic and Electric Guitar and Vocal,  Gary Craig: Drums,  Gary Burton: Vibes Rob Wasserman: Bass, Jonatha Brooke and Ani DiFranco: Vocals),   in The Charity Of Night (CD, High Romance Music Ltd.; Golden Mountain Music Corp: 1996)

Independent Digital Licensing Agency Inc © Licence YouTube standard

Lyrics
  • “I woke up thinking about Turkish drummers / It didn’t take long / I don’t know much about Turkish drummers / But it made me think of Germany and the guy who sold me cigarettes / Who’d been in the Afghan secret police / Who made the observation that it’s hard to live / Then I was reminded of the proprietor of a Vietnamese restaurant in Quebec / Who used to be head of the secret police in Da Nang / And it occurred to me I was thinking about all this stuff / To keep from thinking about something else / Isn’t that just what secret police are all about? / Somebody stands in a window / Watches the river roll / Trains rumble in the foreground / With the weight of approaching dawn / Flames from the refinery / Rise broken, red and riveting / And the high vault of heaven / Looks far away and cold / There’s howling in the factory yard / There’s pounding in my head / I’m swollen up with unshed tears / Bloated like the dead / (Instrumental break) / Blood and ashes—time burning / On the skyline dark against the stars / A solitary horseman, waiting / Lashed to the wheel / Whipping into the storm / Get up, Jonah / It’s your time to be born.”

Literature

3a And Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish The Sermon in Moby-Dick Fatner Mapple's sermon focuses almost solely on Jon 1–2, elaborating often on aspects that the text neglects, such as the negotiation of the fare or the size of Jonah's cabin below deck. The sermon is delivered to men about to embark on long whaling voyages, from a pulpit that has many characteristics of a ship, such as a rope ladder (Cinema Jon 1:5–17).

  • Melville Moby Dick, ch. 9 "With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign, but only the Captains of this earth. He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and seeks a ship that's bound for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto unheeded meaning here. By all accounts Tarshish could have been no other city than the modern Cadiz. That's the opinion of learned men. And where is Cadiz, shipmates? Cadiz is in Spain; as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in those ancient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea. Because Joppa, the modern Jaffa, shipmates, is on the most easterly coast of the Mediterranean, the Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two thousand miles to the westward from that, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. See ye not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee world-wide from God? Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of all scorn; with slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas" (45).

Text

Grammar

3a And Jonah got up to flee Syntax The phrase wāyyāqāmlibrōa echoes the divine order from Jon 1:2 (Grammar Jon 1:2). See also Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:2,3:2b.

Waw-consecutive

The wayyiqtol verb that opens the sentence is a regular narrative form suggesting a smooth continuation of the story. Jonah does “get up” but—to the reader’s surprise—to do the reverse of the second command: “And Jonah got up to flee”! This syntax and Jonah’s half-way obedience, i.e. disobedience, reinforce the staggering effect of Jonah’s unexpected flight.

Auxiliary Use of the Verb qwm

Like the two asyndetic imperatives in Jon 1:2 the phrase can be interpreted as verbal hendiadys, in which the first verb is interpreted as an auxiliary that conveys an ingressive force: “Jonah set out to flee” (see Dobbs-Allsopp 1995, 31–37). 

Adversative Verb Form?

As mentioned above, the wayyiqtol conveys subsequent action. Most of the time, it is simply translated as "and then he…" or "it came to pass that…". Since, however, Jonah gets up to flee from God's mission, a number of translators choose to begin Jon 1:3 with an adversative conjunction such as “but” or “instead,” thereby moving the prophet’s surprising disobedience to the beginning of the clause. E.g.,

  • "But Jonah rose up to flee" (JPS; KJV).

Some translators choose to insert an adversative halfway through the clause instead:

  • "Rise up he did, but his thought was, he would escape to Tharsis" (Knox);
  • "Jonas donc se mit en chemin, mais il résolut d'aller à Tharsis" (de Sacy).

Literary Devices

2 great Leitwort, Meaning (cf. also Jon 1:4,10,12,16; 2:1; 3:2–3,5,7; 4:1,6,11).

Through its repetitive usage, the term “great” contributes to the story’s larger than life character.

In the Context of Jonah: Trace of Orality?

  • The adjective “great” (gādôl) occurs 14 times in Jonah, with four of them referring to Nineveh (Jon 1:2; 3:2–3; 4:11); great wind and storm (Jon 1:4,12); fear of sailors (Jon 1:10,16); fish (Jon 2:1); the “great ones” of Nineveh (Jon 3:5,7); evil and joy in Jonah’s eyes (Jon 4:1,6) .
  • Repetition, rather than utilizing synonyms, suits story and mythology more so than history—a hint to how we should read the Book of Jonah. Literarily, it achieves simplicity and emphasizes the book’s orality.

In the Context of the Twelve: Exaggeration

  • The instances of the adjective gādôl in Jonah comprise 25% of its appearances in the Book of the Twelve, a sign of the story’s tendency toward exaggeration.

A Narrative Characterization of God through His Works?

  • A focus on the superlative trades on the multivalence of the term which can at once intimate the magnitude and power of Nineveh and the natural elements of wind, sea, and fish that are put to work by Yhwh. In doing so, the narrative conveys indirect qualitative assessments of the essential goodness and importance of these entities which God recognizes despite, Jonah’s inability to do so.

  • Though God is not described as gādôl in the text, readers are drawn to the conclusion that greatness of cities and the natural world cannot compare to Yhwh’s own greatness as “God of the heavens…who made the sea and the dry land” (Jon 1:9).

Literary Genre

1 Now, the word of Yhwh was to Yona son of Amittai Prophetic Word Formula

Now:” A Prophetic or Narrative Marker?

The wayyiqtol form of hyh is a common grammatical feature opening narratives (Grammar Jon1:1; Grammar Jon1:1,3:1; Literary Devices Jon1:1-3), but it is uncommon at the opening of a prophetic book. Jonah alone among the Minor Prophets begins this way.

  • Some see this as suggesting that Jonah is one tale among others that previously circulated together.
  • Others view this as an acceptable opening form for beginning a narrative, akin to a drop-capital or a decorated initial (Wolff 1986, 95).

The word of Yhwh was to:” Wortereignisformel

A prophetic commission is regularly conveyed with this phrase. As the most formulaic expression for establishing a prophetic commission, the examples are too numerous to list (Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1  the word of Yhwh was to).

  • This expression follows the pattern “the word of the king is to...” (2Sm 14:17; 24:4).
  • An analogous formula occurs as an epistolary introduction in the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Late Babylonian periods. It is applied to the words of individuals vested with some authority (Meier 1992, 314–316).

Yona son of Amittai”

See Biblical Intertextuality Jon 1:1.

Context

Historical and Geographical Notes

3a Tarshish An Enigmatic Location The location of Tarshish (Taršîš) is unknown, although there are a few clues as to its whereabouts. The most obvious of these is that Jonah aims to travel there by ship: hence it must lie somewhere along the Mediterranean coast.

Throughout the ancient sources, including the Bible, inconsistent spelling and usage further complicates an inquiry into Tarshish’s exact location. Indeed, presumed location of the city seems to depend on which biblical passages one follows.

  • Ez 27:12 suggests that the city traded in silver, iron, tin, lead, which leads some to suggest it could be in southern Spain. This identification is further strengthened by Herodotus Hist. 1.163 and Strabo Geogr. 3.2.11, which both speak of an Iberian city named Tartêssos.
  • If one follows 1Kgs 10:22 and 1Kgs 22:48, then Tarshish would be situated in the direction of the lands of Orphir or Ezion-Geber, south of the land of Israel. On the other hand, the parallel mention of the city with Cyprus in Is 23:1 indicates that the city lies to the west of Israel.
  • G-Is 23 identifies Jonah’s destination as Carthage, although this could also be Spain’s Cartagena (aka New Carthage).
  • Josephus A.J. 9.208 identifies the city as Thrassos in Cilicia.

Regardless of its actual location, it serves as a foil to Nineveh within the narrative.

Reception

Comparison of Versions

2 their evil : M | G: the outcry of its wickedness (Emphasis) G renders M's rā‘ātām ("their evil") with hê kraugê tês kakias autês ("the outcry of its wickedness"). The following are some possible reasons for this translation.

  • There was a different Vorlage, though there is no evidence to suggest this in any of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts (e.g., 4QXIIa, 4QXIIg, Mur88) or in the versions V and S.
  • The motif of the cry of a city ascending to God is found elsewhere in G (e.g., G-Gn 18:20–21; 19:13; 1Sm 5:12; Is 5:7; Jer 14:2; 31:34). In the case of G-Gn 18:20–21 and G-Gn 19:13, it is the cry of evil cities (Sodom and Gomorrah) that rises to God, who then arranges for their destruction. 

Biblical Intertextuality

1f TYPOLOGY Elijah and Elisha as Types of Jonah  (cf. Jon 1:17; 2:10; 3:1-2; 4:3,6-8).

If Jonah is placed in the 8th c. BC (as noted in 2Kgs 14:25–28), he follows closely behind the other great Northern prophets Elijah and Elisha. There are many instances in which they are referenced in the account of Jonah.

Plot: Commissions

  • The opening of Jonah recalls several commissions throughout biblical literature, particularly that of Elijah, who is told, in 1Kgs 17:9–10, to “Get up, go (qûm lek) to Zarephath…So he got up and went to Zarephath.”

Agents: Natural World

  • The accounts of Elijah and Elisha frequently involve animals and other aspects of the natural world which are not typical of later prophets, but well at home in Jonah. For example, readers find ravens bringing food (1Kgs 17:1–8), a lion killing a man (1Kgs 20:35–36), a plant bringing shade (1Kgs 19:4), bears attacking youths (2Kgs 2:23-25), the appearance of fire and rain (1Kgs 18:21–39), and the parting of the Jordan river (2Kgs 2:8). 

Motif: Wish for Death

2,3:2b call out + call to — Common Imperative Directed to the Prophets The verb qr’  is one of the most often repeated keywords (see also Jon 1:6,142:23:2,4–5,8; Literary Devices Jon1:2).

This verb is often used as a technical term that instructs the prophet as to what he is to say or do; e.g., 1Kgs 13:32Is 40:2,658:1Jer 3:127:211:619:2Zec 1:14,17Jl 3:9 (= M-4:9). 

3b Yapho Elsewhere in Scripture

  • Initially, the area around Joppa is ascribed to Dan, but the tribe then re-settled in the east of Canaan (Jo 19:46).
  • After King Solomon enlisted the help of Hiram, the king of Tyre, to erect the Temple in Jerusalem, he received wood from Lebanon through Joppa’s harbor (2Chr 2:16).
  • When the newly returned Jews set out to rebuild the Temple, they asked permission from King Cyrus so that they could trade with the Tyrians and the Sidonians. From them they bought Lebanese cedarwood which is delivered at Joppa’s harbor (Ezra 3:7).
  • During the Maccabean revolt, Jonathan attacked Joppa, where the Seleucid general Apollonius had a garrison; the city surrenders to him (1Mc 10:67–89). Simon then garrisoned Joppa, and his envoy Jonathan, son of Absalom, chased off its inhabitants (1Mc 12:33–34). The capture of Joppa was considered a major achievement by the author of 1 Maccabees, since it gave access to the Mediterranean islands (1Mc 14:5); the fortification of Joppa was also noted in the honorific decree voted after Simon’s death in his honor (1Mc 14:34).  2 Maccabees reports that the inhabitants of Joppa set up a trap to murder their Jewish neighbors; they invited them to sea and then drowned them. In retaliation, Judas Maccabeus set the harbor and boats on fire (2Mc 12:3–6).
  • Peter dwelt in Joppa for some time; there, he raised a Christian woman named Tabitha/Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36–43). While staying there, the Lord sends him a vision indicating that no four-footed animal should be considered unfit to eat. Then the envoys from the centurion Cornelius of Caesarea find him there (Acts 10:9–23; 11:5–13).

Christian Tradition

1:1–4:11 Veracity of Jonah as a Miraculous Account

  • Luther Tischr. 3705 “The majesty of the prophet Jonah is surpassing. He has but four chapters, and yet he moved therewith the whole kingdom, so that in his weakness, he was justly a figure and a sign of the Lord Christ. Indeed, it is surprising, that Christ should recur to this but in four words. Moses likewise, in few words describes the creation, the history of Abraham, and other great mysteries; but he spends much time in describing the tent, the external sacrifices, the kidneys and so on; the reason is, he saw that the world greatly esteemed outward things, which they beheld with their carnal eyes, but. that which was spiritual, they soon forgot. The history of the prophet Jonah is almost incredible, sounding more strange than any poet's fable; if it were not in the Bible, I should take it for a lie; for consider, how for the space of three days he was in the great belly of the whale, whereas in three hours he might have been digested and changed into the nature, flesh and blood of that monster; may not this be said, to live in the midst of death? In comparison of this miracle, the wonderful passage through the Red Sea was nothing. But what appears more strange is, that after he was delivered, he began to be angry, and to expostulate with the gracious God, touching a small matter not worth a straw. It is a great mystery. I am ashamed of my exposition upon this prophet, in that I so weakly touch the main point of this wonderful miracle” (Hazlitt 1857, 239).

Text

Literary Devices

1:1–4:11 Lord God Significance of the Names for God? Throughout Jonah readers find several names for God: Yhwh (22x); ’el /ĕlôhîm (13x); and Yhwh ĕlôhîm (4x).

  • Magonet 1983 suggests that the generic name is used in the context of punishment, whereas the Tetragrammaton is used in the context of mercy and forgiveness.
  • Sasson (1990, 17–18) charts their usage and concludes that the only sensible solution is to admit to no discernable pattern.

Context

Ancient Texts

3b Yapho In Ancient Written Sources

  • The name "Iapu" appears in the list of cities conquered by the pharaoh Thutmose III (15th c. BC) inscribed in the temple of Karnak (Ahituv 1984, 121).
  • The story of the "Conquest of Joppa" by Djehuty, a commander of Thutmosis III’s army who outwitted the rebellious ruler of the city, became of popular folktale in Egypt, as attested by the Papyrus Harris 500 vc (see Goedicke 1968).
  • Iapu is mentioned several times in the Amarna Letters (14th c. BC), where it appears as an Egyptian stronghold (→EA 138, 248a, 294, 296, 365). Biridia, king of Meggido under Egyptian dominion, reported to the pharaoh that he collected taxes from Iapu (→EA 248a).
  • The transaction of wheat between the governor of Ugarit and the Egyptian governor of Canaan recorded in the Aphek letter took place in Joppa (Owen 1981).
  • Joppa is featured on the Amara-West list of Ramesses II (Kitchen 1996, 2:n°55), among other Egyptian settlements of the Mediterranean coast (13th c. BC). The name also appears in a satirical letter dated to the same reign, the Papyrus Anastasi I, wherein the scribe Amenope visits Joppa to get his chariot repaired (Gardiner 1911, 27*–28*).
  • In the →Annals of Sennacherib (col. 2.69–72), the Assyrian king records that he took Joppa from Sidika, the king of Ashkelon, ca. 701 BC.
  • The inscription on the 5th c. BC sarcophagus of Eshmunazar, “King of the two Sidons,” states that he was granted “Dor and Joppa” by the “king of kings,” that is, the Achaemenid king of Persia (Oppert 1877, 114).

  • The kings Ptolemy I, Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III minted coins in Joppa, thus attesting Lagid dominion over the area during the 3rd c. BC (Ecker 2010).
  • In the mid-3rd c. BC, Joppa appears as a trade center in the Zenon papyri (PCZ 1.59011 recto; 1.59093 and P. Lond. 7.2086).
  • A marble slab bearing a dedicatory inscription related to Ptolemy IV was recovered on the site; it must have belonged to a temple linked with the Ptolemaic king-cult.
  • In Ep. Arist. 115, Joppa is mentioned as a harbor.
  • According to Strabo Geogr. 16.2.28, the population of Joppa was mixed in the beginning of the 1st c. AD.
  • Pliny Nat. 5.14 referred to Joppa as a "Phoenician city."
  • Joppa was destroyed twice during the first Jewish revolt. Cestius Gallus captured it, killed 8,400 of its inhabitants and burned it (JosephusB.J. 2.507–509). Afterwards, Jews who fled the Roman armies gathered in the desolate Joppa and turned into pirates to subsist. Vespasian set out to attack the city, but most of the inhabitants, who sought refuge on their boats, were killed when "the black north wind" smashed their boats against each other. Vespasian then destroyed the city once again and set up a camp there, leaving soldiers to placate the area (JosephusB.J. 3.414–431).
  • The coins minted at Joppa during the 3rd c. AD show that it was renamed Joppa Flavia at the end of the 1st c. AD (Ecker 2010).
  • The number of Jewish epitaphs from the 2nd c. AD and 3rd c. AD found in Joppa (CIJ 2.882–970) indicates that the city still had an important Jewish population at the time.
  • The rabbinic sources mention several sages from Joppa, among whom were Rabbi Adda ( b. Meg.16b), rabbi Nahman (Lev. Rab. 6.5) and rabbi Yudan (Lev. Rab. 20.10).
  • In his Onomasticon, Eusebius does not have an entry for Joppê, but he briefly mentions it, stating that it was a Roman polis with a corresponding chôra in the 4th c. AD (Eusebius of Caesarea Onom. s.v. ‘Sarôn’ 48v). In his translation, Jerome calls Joppa an oppidum (ibid., 163).
  • The city developed as a place of pilgrimage, in relation to Peter’s miracle; it was thus visited by St. Paula (Jerome Ep. 108; Theodosius Situ 139; Piacenza Pilg. v. 190), even though, according to Epiphanius of Salamis Mens. pond.77, the city lay in ruins by the late 4th c. AD.

Historical and Geographical Notes

3b Yapho Brief History of an Ancient Port Joppa (Hebrew Yāpô, Greek Ioppê and Iopê), also Iapu, Yafo, or Yafa, is an ancient major port city located 35 miles NW of Jerusalem and just south of the modern city of Tel Aviv.

Site History According to Ancient Historians

See also Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:3b and Ancient Texts Jon1:3b.

Archaeological Sources

The Site
  • According to the site's excavator between 1956 and 1974, Jacob Kaplan, Joppa was first settled during the Middle Bronze Age; the site was fortified between 1800 and 1700 BC, as attested by the discovery of an earthen rampart topped with a mudbrick wall and the localization of a city gate (Burke 2011, 66–67).
  • Royal scarabs bearing the name of the pharaoh Amenhotep III (14th c. BC) were found during the excavations.
  • A monumental gateway inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Ramesses II implies that an Egyptian garrison was stationed in Joppa in the 13th c. BC. This gate was destroyed by an intense conflagration and rebuilt afterwards.

  • Excavations unearthed a long hall from the late 13th c.–early 12th c. BC with an adjacent citadel; it boasts wooden columns and a plastered floor. Moreover, archaeologists discovered a lion's skull within.
  • A considerable amount of Philistine ceramics dated to the 12th c.–11th c. BC was recovered on the site; two graves where cattle were buried were found, suggesting cultic use.

  • Domestic remains from the Late Iron Age were discovered, including a winery and pottery. An earthen rampart and mudbrick glacis were also located (Burke 2011, 73).

  • Several walls were found from the Persian period,, suggesting that the city was rebuilt according to a Hippodamian plan (see Burke, Peilstöcker and Pierce 2014). A large storage unit was identified, with walls made of spaced ashlar piers and filled with fieldstones; the remnants of a forge were also found. 
  • During the Hellenistic period, the walls were rebuilt following the previous layout; a building made of ashlar from the same time period was also excavated.
  • A house was identified from the early Roman period; inside, typical Judean artefacts were recovered. A stamped roof tile of the Tenth Legion Fretensis was also found.
The Harbor
  • From the early 2nd millennium BC, its navigable harbor and natural breakwater made it a useful and frequently contested port.
The City
  • The city was destroyed sometime around the end of the 13th c. BC,  perhaps from a conflict with the newly arriving Sea Peoples.  
  • Later, it was a source of conflict between the Ptolemies and Seleucids. After the Maccabean revolt, it enjoyed significant autonomy until the end of Jewish War of 66–70 AD.

It appears much later in a famous episode of early Christianity (Acts 9:36 ;  Biblical Intertextuality Jon1:3b).

19th c. AD Jaffa, View From the Sea.

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Famille Bonfils (Beirut), Bonfils. 236. Jaffa, la passe (albumen silver print, sepia, 22 x 28 cm)

Old print stuck on a "Holy Land" album digitized by EBAF. On the back: photo n ° 15007-Bonfils 0237. album

© Digitalization St Stephen's, Dominican Priory, Jerusalem.

The École biblique de Jérusalem holds several photos of Jaffa from the late 19th c. taken by the Bonfils family. The port of Jaffa (depicted in image n° 15007-Bonfils 0237), in use ever since the time of the pharoahs, was the principal port of entry for pilgrims to the Holy Land in the 19th c. In shallow water, cluttered with reefs, the harbor could not allow large vessels to dock. Boats remained anchored offshore, and a system of large rowing boats was in service for passengers and luggage transportation.

  • Center of the image, front: one of the big boats is crossing the pass between the reefs. The small town is built on the flanks of a former fortified position of which few military traces remain.
  • In the foreground, on the wharf, a large new building at the time of the photography: the Ottoman Customs House (this building is not yet built in a second snapshot of the Bonfils collection, which follows immediately in the École's digitized series). Much of the waterfront buildings still exist today, some restored, such as the building in the center, above the customs, with arched windows surrounded by white and a large open bay on its right.

19th c. AD Jaffa, Perspective from the Sea, South-West to North East.

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Famille Bonfils (Beirut), Bonfils. 236 bis. Jaffa, vue générale prise de la mer. Palestine (albumen silver print, sepia, before 1886, 21.5 x 27.8 cm)

 © Digitalization St Stephen's, Dominican Priory, Jerusalem.

Reception

Christian Tradition

3a to flee What Was Jonah Thinking? Many patristic authors focus on the mention of Jonah fleeing to Tarshish, addressing two basic questions (cf. Jewish Tradition Jon 1:3a).

  • Why would a true prophet of God want to flee from him?
  • How could a genuine prophet of God even think that it was possible to do so? 

Why Did Jonah Flee?  

  • Tertullian Pud. 10 asks if it was not the case Jonah "foresaw that the mercy of God would be poured out on the heathen also, and so feared it would prove him a false prophet?" 
  • Gregory of Nazianzus Or. 2.106  “He fled from having to announce the dread of the awful message to the Ninevites and from being subsequently if the city was saved by repentance, convicted of falsehood. It was not that he was displeased at the salvation of the wicked, but he was ashamed of being made an instrument of falsehood and exceedingly zealous for the credit of prophecy, which was in danger of being destroyed in his own person.” 
  • Ephrem Carm. nis. 35.3 deems Satan responsible for Jonah's defiance and concludes “on us [Satan and Death] He has begun retribution for Jonah son of Amittai. On Legion, therefore, He was avenging him when He seized and cast him into the sea.”
  • Jerome Comm. Jon. "By an inspiration of the Holy Spirit within him, the prophet knows that the repentance of the Gentiles spells the downfall of the Jews. Therefore, being a lover of his homeland, it is not so much that he is jealous of the salvation of Nineveh as unwilling that his own people perish...Jonah feared for Israel's continued existence, for he knew by the same Spirit whereby the preaching to the Gentiles was trusted to him that the house of Israel would then perish, and he feared that what was at one time to be would take place in his own time." 
  • Theodore of Mopsuestia Comm. Jon. also assumes that Jonah had a divinely bestowed premonition about what would later come to pass, namely that the Ninevites would repent and that this repentance would later be invoked as a sign by Christ against his fellow Jews. Thus, Theodore explains that Jonah "realized also that this occurred as a sign of what would happen with Christ the Lord, and the same thing would take place to a far greater degree, when the nations were called to divine grace and moved en masse to godliness, whereas Jews remained unresponsive and resistant to Christ the Lord, despite having in their midst from the beginning prophecy and teaching about him. The fact that all people dwelling everywhere would be declared heirs to the kingdom of heaven, whereas Jews would be excluded from this gift on account of their own disobedience and impiety, despite appearing to be at an advantage with such wonderful instruction, necessarily depressed him" (191). According to Theodore, it is for this reason that “the prophet opted for flight, thinking he would thus avoid prophesying to the Ninevites and prevent what would follow from it, of which the Jews’ wickedness clearly gave evidence" (192).
  • Jacob of Sarug Hom. 122 has Justice (as a personified character) refer to Jonah as "the rebellious one" (mērîdyâ), an epithet that is quite close to a rare term used for Satan (mērūdâ; Kitchen 2008b, 374). Through this word play Jacob subtly implies that Satan is the reason for Jonah's rebellion (Bedjan 2010, 4:397.14). 

Did Jonah Think He Could Escape? 

  • Gregory of Nazianzus Or. 2.108 uses Jonah's attempted flight as a teachable moment about God: "For God alone of all things cannot be escaped from or contended with. If he wills to seize and bring them under his hand, he outstrips the swift, he outwits the wise.”
  • Jerome Comm. Jon. asks the incredulous question of Jonah: "But if [God] made the sea and dry land, why do you think that by leaving the dry land, you are able at sea to escape the creator of the sea?"
  • Theodore of Mopsuestia Comm. Jon. surmises that Jonah was laboring under the mistaken belief that God's presence was limited to Judea and Jerusalem so that "if he had been in the former place [i.e., Jerusalem], God would have definitely appeared to him and prompted him to do his will, whereas if he was far away, he would have avoided that problem since God would not have been prepared to show himself in other places" (195).
  • Cyril of Alexandria Comm. Jon. also suggests that Jonah initially held some false beliefs about God: “...some believed that the power of the God of all was confined to the land of the Jews, restricted to it, as it were, and excluding all others...My view, therefore, is that the prophet had some such understanding, left Judea, and made for the Greek cities."
  • Jacob of Sarug Hom. 122, in a manner similar to Jerome, asks "What was he thinking was happening to him on the path that he took? What was the rebellious one thinking when he was being soaked by him? That there he was diminished, hiding from God?" (Bedjan 2010, 4:371.19–21).

Jerome's Typological Reading of Jonah's Flight

Though Jerome appears to change the subject with a Christological meditation, he seeks to answer the question "why did Jonah flee?" from God's perspective.  In this framework of thought, the ultimate purpose of Jonah's flight is to prefigure the Incarnation.  

  • Jerome Comm. Jon. "But we can say of our Lord and Savior that he left his house and homeland, and when he assumed flesh, in a certain way he fled from heaven and came to Tharsis, that is, to the sea of this world." Jerome goes on to explain how Christ's flight results in salvation, and how this loosely parallels Jonah's flight. 

Yet, Jerome also acknowledges the limits of typological reading:

  • Jerome Comm. Jon. "The wise reader must be asked not to look for the same arrangement of the tropology that he finds in the history. For even the apostle applies Hagar and Sarah to the two covenants, and yet not everything that is narrated in the history can be interpreted tropologically."

Cinema

1:1–4:11 Adaptations of the Story

A Full-Length Feature Film for Children:  Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie

 Vischer Phil and Mike Nawrocki (dirs.), Owens Amenko (prod.), Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (Animated Movie, 83', 2002)

text: Vischer Phil and Mike Nawrocki, Score: Heinecke Kurt and Phil Vischer

Big Idea Production – Cartoons For Everyone © Youtube Standard License

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie is a 2002 adaptation of the Book of Jonah as a full-length, feature film for children that received mostly positive critical reviews. VeggieTales is a popular computer-animated production of anthropomorphized vegetables that includes retellings of biblical stories, moral tales, and humorous songs. The creator, Phil Vischer, made VeggieTales in response to MTV. He wanted to create “something healthy and beneficial,” that was also entertaining, with good storytelling and humor (Visher 2006, 30).

Jonah employs a narrative frame in which Bob the Tomato and Dad Asparagus drive children to a concert, experience a conflict, and end up with two flat tires. While they await help at a restaurant, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (a grape, a cucumber, and a gourd) tell one of the children the biblical tale of Jonah. The Pirates act as a thread between the two plots as storytellers of the Book of Jonah within the narrative frame and also minor characters in the Book of Jonah—sailors on the ship with Jonah.

The film’s depiction of Jonah is noteworthy because it depicts the episode with Jonah, the gourd, and the worm (named Khalil). This is usually excised from children’s adaptations of the story. Jonah and the worm part ways without a real resolution. Jonah states that he wishes he were back in the whale, and Khalil declares that he has run out of patience with Jonah and leaves. Jonah calls after him, struggling to remember the worm’s name (a reference to Jonah’s self-importance). The storytellers suddenly shout, “The end!” and close a divider between them and their audience at the restaurant, humorously conveying the tale’s abrupt and unsatisfying ending. When one of the children asks what Jonah learned, one of the Pirates opens the divider and says, “The question, my friends, is not ‘what did Jonah learn.’ The question is—‘what did you learn?’” At that point, the movie concludes with a moral.

The narrative frame allows the biblical character of Jonah to have little in the way of ethical growth as a character while the movie as a whole ties up the secondary story with a moralizing ending. The decision to incorporate a narrative frame was a factor in Jonah becoming a full-length film instead of a 45-minute film as Vischer first envisioned (Visher 2006, 162). As Vischer describes in his memoir, the financial difficulties of making the full-length Jonah precipitated the bankruptcy of his production company, Big Ideas (Visher 2006, 185). The decisions involved in creating an adaptation that is both faithful to the biblical text and culturally acceptable as children’s media entail not only creative possibilities, but also financial and business risks.

Summary

Bob the Tomato is driving the Veggie children and Dad Asparagus to see the popular singer "Twippo" in concert. During the drive, Laura taunts the other children because she won a backstage pass, which particularly annoys Junior. Meanwhile, Bob is frustrated with Dad for singing songs and playing his guitar instead of helping him with the map. After Laura's taunting distracts Dad and causes him to accidentally strike Bob on the head with his guitar, he unwillingly breaks off the steering wheel. This causes Bob to lose control of the van, leading Laura to lose her pass before Bob reattaches the steering wheel. Soon afterwards, a porcupine shoots out two of the van's tires with her quills in order to protect her babies, causing the van to veer off the road and careens down a hill, stopping short of a river. In a nearby seafood restaurant, Bob (with a porcupine quill attached to his behind) blames Dad Asparagus for the crash and Junior tells Laura losing her pass was her own fault. While Bob goes to call a tow truck, Junior is met by The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, who tell Junior he was being rather tough on his friend and encourage him to show some compassion. To emphasize, they tell all the Veggies a story about a man of God named Jonah. Jonah (played by Archibald Asparagus) is a Prophet of ancient Israel who goes from town to town delivering God's messages. But when God asks him to deliver a message to Nineveh, a town notorious for its corrupt citizens, he resents Him and runs away to Tarshish with The Pirates. After leaving port, a guilt-stricken Jonah goes below deck to rest where he meets a salesman caterpillar named Khalil, who agrees to go with Jonah to sell his merchandise. After experiencing a nightmare, Jonah awakens to find the ship beset by a great storm. Captain Pa Grape concludes the storm has been sent because God is angry at someone on the ship. The group decides to play Go Fish to divine who is at fault. Jonah loses the game and is forced to walk the plank. As soon as Jonah is off the ship, the skies clear. The Pirates attempt to reel Jonah back in, but before they can do so, Jonah is swallowed by a giant whale. The pirates attempt to attack the whale using a cannon with cannonballs and a bowling ball as ammo, but the whale merely swallows the ball (which Khalil is hiding in), disgorges Jonah's lifebelt, and swims away. Inside the whale's stomach, Khalil finds a grieving Jonah and the pair are soon visited by a host of God's angels, who explain that if Jonah repents, God will grant him a second chance. Upon repenting, Jonah and Khalil are spit up onto the shore, where they ride Jonah's camel Reginald to Nineveh. As Jonah reaches the entrance, The Pirates appear and help sneak him into the city under the guise of having won the Mr. Twisty's Twisted Cheese Curls sweepstakes. The group is soon arrested after Larry tries to steal the King's Cheese Curls and are sentenced to death. As a last request, they are granted an audience with King Twistomer. Jonah then delivers the message given to him by God that the Ninevites should immediately repent of their ways forever or Nineveh will be destroyed; King Twistomer and the Ninevites quickly agree. Still expecting God to destroy Nineveh for their past sins, Jonah watches and waits from a distance in the hot sun. God provides a plant to shade Jonah, only for Khalil to eat a single leaf off the plant, which kills it. Jonah laments the dead plant, and Khalil is disappointed Jonah shows compassion for a plant, but not the Ninevites. Khalil then tries to explain God is compassionate and merciful and that he wants to give everyone, both Israelites and non-Israelites, a second chance. Jonah refuses to accept this and states it would be better if he was dead. The story ends with Khalil and Reginald leaving Jonah to his sulking. Back in the present day, the Veggies are disappointed in the anti-climactic ending, but come to understand the point of the story: God wants everybody to show compassion and mercy, even to those that do not seem to deserve it. Twippo, who was Jonah's descendant, then appears in the restaurant unexpectedly and offers to give everybody a lift to the concert, while Bob forgives Dad Asparagus and Junior gives his Twippo ticket to Laura. The film ends with a song and the surprise arrival of the tow truck driver, who is none other than Khalil.

An Israeli Comic Show

Israeli pop culture develops in its own way many humorous features found in the story of Jonah.

Beiser Assaf, Yoav Gross, and Natalie Marcus, כאן 11 - תאגיד השידור הישראלי, היהודים באים - אלוהים מחפש את יונה הנביא | [HaYehudim Baim: The Jews are Coming], A reluctant Jonah at Long Last Answers to his Vocation,A compilation of sketches featuring Jonah the prophet, Hebrew, Israel TV Show (2014), with Moni Moshonov, Yael Sharoni, Yaniv Biton etc.

Yoav Gross Productions, Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), © Standard YouTube License

As expected in a popular show, Jonah ends up meeting... Pinocchio

Beiser Assaf, Yoav Gross, and Natalie Marcus, כאן 11 - תאגיד השידור הישראלי, היהודים באים - יונה ופינוקיו בבטן הדג | [HaYehudim Baim: The Jews are Coming], Jonah Meets with Pinocchio, A compilation of sketches featuring Jonah the prophet, Hebrew, Israel TV Show (2014), with Moni Moshonov, Yael Sharoni, Yaniv Biton etc.

Yoav Gross Productions, Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA)

© Standard YouTube License

(cf. Cinema Jon 1:17a).