We read the Book of Jonah during afternoon prayers on our holyday/fast of Yom Kippur.
Jonah 1:15 says:
Yet in 2:4, Jonah says:
There is no contradiction. Both verses are entirely correct. While the sailors did the actual, physical work of chucking Jonah overboard, they were merely God’s tools. Thus, when Jonah says it was God who cast him into the sea, he is correct. Jonah’s is the same as Joseph’s remark to his dumbfounded brothers in Genesis 45:8 Joseph & Jonah both know that while God may not be the proximate cause of any given thing, He is the Ultimate Cause of all things.
The rabbi at our old synagogue in our old neighborhood in Jerusalem once gave a brilliant (I think) talk about Jonah. God has something He wants Jonah to do (go to Nineveh, but that’s beside the point). The first time God wanted to get Jonah’s attention (1:2), He asked him nicely. But Jonah wasn’t keen; he tried to run away from God, and boarded the boat for Tarshish. God tried to get Jonah’s attention a second time, this time not so nicely (i.e. He hurled a storm at the boat). Jonah still wasn’t keen; he went down in the hold of the ship & went to sleep. God tried a third time to get Jonah’s attention, this time very un-nicely; i.e. He cast him into the belly of the whale. Now Jonah had no choice but to pour his heart out to God & turn to Him with all his soul (because otherwise he was doomed). Our rabbi said that how often in our lives do we try to evade what we know to be what God wants us to do by trying to run away from Him (so to speak) or by going to spiritual sleep & pretending not to hear Him? When God wants to get our attention, the first time, He’ll ask nicely. If we don’t listen, the next time may be not so nicely. And if we still don’t listen, then He may put us into a position where we have no choice but to turn to Him and pour out our hearts to Him.
Our rabbi made one more fascinating comment. He noted where Jonah fled to. He fled to the west (Tarshish is in Spain, far to the west of the Holy Land), not to the desert to the east, or to Egypt & Syria in the south & north, respectively, but to Tarshish, in the west. When we want to run away from God and the way He wants us to lead our lives, our rabbi said, we’re still running to the west, to the empty materialism & permissive hedonism of modern Western culture. Like Jonah, we’re still fleeing to the west.
On Yom Kippur 1999, I was walking to afternoon prayers with Yohanan (who was then almost 3) on my shoulders & he was telling me all about Jonah (i.e. as he heard it from his 1/2-day daycare). DW & I try not to hit Da Boyz, as a means of disciplining them, except as a last resort in exceptional circumstances. We’re into giving time-outs, i.e. if Da Boyz do something naughty, they’re sent to their room, to stay there for a while, alone, with the door closed. So, as Yohanan & I were discussing Jonah, he told me that, “Jonah tried to run away from God.” I asked him if that made God happy or angry. Yohanan said, “God got very angry,” and then told me how God put Jonah, “in the fish’s tummy,” as a, “big punishment.” Yohanan was quiet for a few seconds and then he told me, “Daddy, God gave Jonah a time-out.”
Last year on Yom Kippur, Naor (who was 5 last week) told DW & I that, “Jonah tasted yucky and that is why the fish spit him out.”
This past spring, we met my uncle (from the US) in Tel Aviv & went to Old Jaffa (tel-aviv.gov.il/English/Tourism/Sites/Jaffa.htm). As we walked along the port (passing Simon the Tanner’s house), looking at the boats, I told Da Boyz that we were at the very spot where Jonah boarded a boat & tried to “run away from God.” They were very impressed!
Yup! We read the same book – and we read it in pretty much the same way.
Gives me chills to learn that you read this on Yom Kippur, as for Christians, Jonah is a “type” of Jesus: talk about Atonement! But, for us, unlike Jonah, Jesus does not taste “yucky!” :rotfl: