Jonah and the Whale
Jonah 1:1 to 4:1
1:1 Once upon a time there was a Jewish guy named Jonah. The Lord talked Jonah. He said "Jonah, go over there to that extremely distant city of Nineveh. Let the Ninnies know that I have noticed their wickedness, even from way over here. I’m not blind. And I'm not just watching and judging over only the people living here in Judea. Oh no. My provincial days are over. I’m keeping a critical eye on people all the way to the very edge of the civilized world, which is Nineveh, the continents on the other half of the planet notwithstanding."
Jonah didn't want to go on a trip all the way to Nineveh. He doubted that the extent of God's range of influence really reached that far. He tried to escape God's jurisdiction by hopping on a ship headed to Tarshish, which was pretty far. He thought that would put him out from under God’s obsessively constant surveillance. But God was tracking Jonah closely. God sent a violent storm which threatened to break and sink the ship that Jonah was on. The sailors started throwing their cargo overboard to lighten the ship, and each of them prayed to their own god while Jonah slept below deck. Jonah was a sound sleeper.
The captain of the ship woke Jonah up and called everyone on the ship together to discuss the crisis. Then he held a lottery and naturally he just assumed that whichever person won the lottery was the cause of the weather. Jonah won the lottery thus proving he was the sole cause of the problem and that it was not global warming or anything silly like that. Jonah confessed to having tried to flee from the demands made by his own god and then he said that the only solution to saving the ship would be for the sailors to throw him overboard. The sailors first tried hard to bring the ship to port but the storm was just too rough. They quickly asked Jonah’s god not to kill them for murdering Jonah and then they pitched him over the brink, and into the drink.
The sea suddenly got extremely calm. The sailors were grateful and made vows of allegiance to Jonah’s vengeful angry storm god. The ship was saved, although leaving a little bit of wind blowing would have been nice, you know, for sailing.
Meanwhile the Lord, always one to think ahead, had already prepared for this. He encouraged an extra-large fish to come and swallow Jonah whole. So then Jonah hung out inside of the gastrointestinal tract of the big fish for three whole days without suffocating, or drowning, or being crushed, or having the digestive acid blind him or dissolve the flesh from his bones. While in the fish's stomach cavity Jonah prayed a prayer of mighty praise to God, in spite of the harsh pH environment. God finally talked directly to the fish who, as it turned out, was very understanding about it all. Based on God’s recommendation the fish agreed to swim over to the beach and politely vomit Jonah up onto dry land where he landed just fine, if perhaps a bit smelly.
3:1 Again the Lord made demands of poor Jonah. "Go to the great city of Nineveh right now Jonah." This time Jonah complied and went over to that great big, far away, non-Jewish city. Upon arrival he walked around town warning all of the people living in Nineveh that "The god of the Jews is coming to overthrow your city in only forty days."
The citizens of Nineveh believed Jonah and they went without dinner in a show of respect for the Jewish god, and in spite of them not being the least bit Jewish. From the king of the city, on down to the lowest hobo, they all wore sacks instead of clothes and sat around smearing ashes on their heads. The king decreed that everyone, even the animals, should avoid eating or drinking until the issue was resolved. The people were instructed to only wear sacks and to dress their animals in sacks also. The king said "Who knows, maybe the god of the Jews will cool off and decide not to kill us when he sees the donkeys and cows wearing sacks." God saw all the trouble that the Ninevehnians were going to, dressing up the animals and all, and putting all of the restaurants out of business. So God changed his mind. He decided not to do the evil things he had been planning for the people and animals of Nineveh.
4:1 God’s change of plan made Jonah very angry. He said "Excuse me Lord sir, but isn't this attitude of forgiveness basically what I suggested to you before I went through all that trouble getting swallowed by a big ass fish and all? I mean, I was in that stinking fish for three stinking days! Why don't you just kill me now please, I want to die now please and thank you." Jonah went outside the city and sat down as mad as hell at the Lord. He sat and waited to see what would happen next.
It was a hot day so God made a plant grow up quickly and shade Jonah from the sun. Jonah was real glad about the plant because he was getting pretty sweaty. But then the next morning God made a worm come and kill the plant and it withered. As the sun grew hot on Jonah’s head again, God made the wind blow and Jonah felt faint. Now he really wanted to die because not only was he frustrated with God making him run around like an idiot saying things that turned out not to be true, the weather sucked. Again.
God said "You have taken pity on the stupid plant which grew in only one night, without any help from you I might add. So why shouldn't I pity Nineveh, that great city, where there are 120,000 children too young to know their right hand from their left hand and also much innocent cattle? As you know, cows also have trouble distinguishing such things as right and left hands, and actually have no hands anyway. So I've decided beginning right now I am going to start letting folks off easy as long as they generally mind their manners, and eat all their vegetables, and report any suspicious unattended packages to the authorities. Besides, look at all the donkeys in sack pants, hilarious."
Jonah didn't have an answer. And anyway why risk getting swallowed, or burned alive, or crushed, or having a new disease named after you. So Jonah decided to go home. Maybe he walked, because boats probably made him queasy.
Next: Howl and Go Naked
The Bible According to Brad