Today starts the book of Jonah, one that I’ve heard read by my father every Yom Kippur for over ten years. So it’s one that I know (for a change), and I’m excited to see the chapter breakdown, not to mention having a narrative arc once again, which really hasn’t happened since the books of Kings.
“And the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying: Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim against it, for their evil has come before Me (Jonah 1:1-2).” With these opening words, Jonah has his charge and his mission, but while we know why Nineveh, we don’t know why Jonah. Abraham was also sent on a mission, and Moses, and many other prophets, but we got some background as to why, whereas we meet Jonah seemingly out of the blue. Jonah doesn’t seem particularly thrilled about the situation either, and instead of listening to the direct command of God, he decides to run away, fleeing to Tarshish, thinking that he can escape God. Spoiler: it doesn’t work like that.
Jonah gets on a boat, but God sends a huge storm to the sea that threatens to capsize the ship. The crew is freaking out and praying, but Jonah seems unconcerned and goes to sleep. The captain wakes him up to get him to help by praying to his own God for salivation. We aren’t told if he obeyed that command, but either way, the prayers don’t work, and the sailors decide to cast lots to test whose fault it is that the storm has hit them so harshly. As we all know, it’s Jonah, running away from God. The solution that everyone agrees to in order to save the ship from the storm is that Jonah will be thrown overboard, something that the sailors do not agree to lightly. But eventually they do agree, and once they throw him, the storm ceases, and the sailors know God’s power.
Jonah is an odd character thus far. He’s given a mission by God, is stupid enough to think he can avoid Him just by changing location, and yet has enough faith to sacrifice himself for the men. We still don’t know why he was chosen to go to Nineveh, but the next chapter will bring us to the most famous part of his story, so we’ll learn more tomorrow!