Sunday, May 11, 2008

I don't understand Jonah.

I don't understand the point of the book of Jonah. (Note: this is the first of official blog posts that I should have labeled a long time ago as more than school related, but like "Theological Randomness" so that you don't have to read through if you choose not to. Although, I suppose you would do that anyway....)

Back to the point. I am frustrated because I have spent the past week and today translating from Hebrew into English the book of Jonah, from the Old Testament. And I don't understand the "moral of the story".

Chapter 1: God tells Jonah to go to tell the city of Ninevah that they are doomed, etc. Jonah flees to a ship (I'd like to think of this as a pirate ship), going in the opposite direction. And then God makes a storm. So the sailors/pirates tell God that they are going to throw Jonah over the ship. So they say "Don't blame us because we are throwing this guy who worships you over our ship. Just stop the storm!" And they toss him over the ship, and the storm stops.

Chapter 2:
So the Lord "allots" a big fish (doesn't say whale- I asked how we know for sure that it was a whale, My prof said "what other big fish is there?") to swallow Jonah. Anyway, Jonah prays inside the belly of the fish and says "I'm sorry blah blah. You hear my prayers, blah blah. I will make vows to you if you save me, blah blah, salvation belongs to the Lord." The Lord tells the fish to vomit Jonah out.
Chapter 3.
Jonah takes a long journey to the city of Ninevah. He gets there and tells everyone they are screwed. The king listens and makes everyone repent and put on sackcloth and sit in ashes. The king asks God to be merciful and God is merciful and doesn't destroy the city.
Chapter 4.
Jonah is angry. What? Why? I can't figure it out. He went to the city, the city was saved, and now he's all like "God, that wasn't what I wanted when I tried to flee from you! Please kill me because I'm better alive than dead."
God answers "Why are you angry?" And then Jonah builds a hut outside the city. God gives him a "castor oil tree" (vine?) to give him shade, and it seems like Jonah and God are cool with each other.

And then God sends a worm to eat the plant giving shade and sends the sun to burn Jonah, and Jonah says "Really, God, please kill me, because it is better to be dead than alive!"

And God says "Why the hell are you angry? I gave you shade! You didn't have to do anything to make that tree grow! AND I saved Ninevah! Ninevah! Which is like 50 times worse than Vegas as far as sinning goes!"

The end.

What the hell? Is the point that God is merciful? Then why was Jonah even necessary? I'm so confused!!

Part of my confusion is the whole part about how God keeps making it hard for Jonah. I mean, Jonah acts kind of like a spoiled child. So maybe he deserves it? But then that gets into the whole idea of "deserving punishment" from God. I have trouble figuring out what God wants for me to do already without worrying that he is punishing me for "fleeing" somehow. It just is a hard theological read, especially when your husband is not working and you are economically not where you want to be. (and why am I equating happiness with money? Have I not been paying any attention at all?!")


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