Swimming with the Fishes

In this week’s class we saw the metaphors of entrapment from chapter 1 realized in Jonah’s predicament in chapter 2. Sinking head first and entangled (Jonah 2:5) Jonah found himself cut off and bottomed out in the sea (קצב/qetseb, 2:6) with no chance of escape–a bit like sending a child to stand in the corner. Has Jonah changed his ways or is his prayer simply the quiet after a child’s tantrum? Even the most resistant child will stop fighting for a time once they realize the parent is willing to wait it out.

It is good that Jonah has recognized his dependence on God but it is no credit to him. Had God not sent him “to the corner” of the sea, he would still be running away from Dad as fast and as far as his money would take him. (1:3) Like a teenager with a broken car or a new parent unable to change a diaper, Jonah called on his father for help and he answered him. To whom, then, is the credit due?

To further complicate the integrity of Jonah’s prayer, we find the prophet shunning “those who cling to worthless idols,” and who “turn away from God’s love for them.” (2:8) To whom is Jonah referring? After all, it was the pagan sailors, not Jonah, who sought the Lord, and it was Jonah who turned away from God in chapter 1. (1:3)

To borrow an American idiom, Jonah was “swimming with the fishes,” and his only way out was to accept a loan from his father with all the strings attached. He may be willing to yield to Dad in his time of need, but the real test will come when he is faced with his original assignment. Should God save Jonah? Conversely, should he destroy Nineveh, that wicked city?

More next week.

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