The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf
eyeteeth

"I only even resurrected you because your mother was nice to me."



Yes, that's Elijah, the hardest-working man in prophecy: according to Jewish tradition he shows up for every seder and every bris, so it's no wonder he doesn't have time to comb his hair. At one point everything he's been through gets to him and he sits under a tree and asks God to take away his life, which might sound familiar because of course it's just what Jonah does in chapter 4 of his book. Elijah's episode happens in 1 Kings 19, and you can't blame him for being fed up, because he's on the run from King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who have sworn to kill him for making their false god look like a chump in front of everyone. So he leaves his servant and goes alone into the wilderness and sits down under a tree and tells God he's had enough. But God refreshes him with food and water and he pulls himself together and manages to keep going.

No one can agree on when the book of Jonah was written, whether in the eighth century BCE when the story takes place or the fourth century BCE or sometime in between, but scholars do mostly agree that the story was transmitted orally for a while beforehand. It seems to me that whoever did finally write it down must have had this episode from First Kings in mind, because otherwise what are the odds that two stories would feature two different prophets demanding death from God under a tree? I've even heard it suggested that Jonah 4 is kind of a Weird Al parody version of 1 Kings 19, because while poor Elijah has been hounded by an evil king and queen until a swift death from God sounds great to him, Jonah makes his under-tree complaint because tens of thousands of people, including an evil king, have just repented and made him the most successful prophet in the Bible. If he chose to go back into Nineveh now, he'd probably be given a hero's welcome. And that's why he's so upset he wants to die!

Jewish tradition gives Jonah and Elijah an even more intimate connection, relating to the episode in 1 Kings 17 where God directs Elijah to stay for a while with a poor widow living with her son in the town of Zarephath. God blesses her with never-ending flour and oil so she has plenty to feed herself and her son and Elijah, and for a while everything is fine, but then the boy gets sick and dies:

And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?

And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.

And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?

And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.

And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

According to Jewish tradition, the widow's son is Jonah, and in resurrecting him, Elijah gave him some of Elijah's own character traits, specifically an obsession with justice to the exclusion of mercy. And, evidently, a penchant for getting suicidal and sitting under trees in the wilderness.

I love this idea, and I love that Judaism encourages this kind of -- well, there's no reason not to call it fanfiction. That's what midrash is, rabbinical fanfiction. So Second Kings tells us Jonah is from a town called Gathhepher, so what? Maybe he and his mother moved after his father died.

Finally, I sneaked a joke into the last panel that I hope some people will get, but that I cannot resist explaining to those who don't. See, Jonah's wish comes true: Elijah never dies. He gets translated, meaning specifically in this case that angels sweep down in a chariot of fire and ride away with him while he's walking along and having a chat with his apprentice Elisha. All that's left of him is the mantle that falls from him as he is swept away, which Elisha keeps. Doubtless this mantle is a precious keepsake for Elisha, because it is presumably the very same mantle Elijah threw over his shoulders just a couple of chapters earlier to designate Elisha as his apprentice. (Which must have been a surprise, because Elisha was just minding his own business at the time.) So anyway, most pictures you see of Elijah will show him wearing a cape, including stix. Isn't it nice, how these narrative elements come together?
Tags: elijah, elisha, stix, the book of jonah
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