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

Trial and error

Typically, because it puts Jonah in the best light, Jewish commentators have subscribed to the first interpretation. It's also the one that puts the sailors, which is to say gentiles in general, in the best light, because it's the one that doesn't emphasize that they're suicide assisters at best and outright murderers at worst. But you have to ask yourself this question even if you sympathize with the sailors, as I do: why, when Jonah says "Throw me overboard," don't they say, "Jump overboard yourself"? My answer to this question is that the sailors understand that Jonah's angry god, like any angry god of that time, demanded sacrifice to atone for wrongs. I think most of the sailors would have had gods who accepted human sacrifice, so this wouldn't have seemed strange to them, even if Jonah really was trying to make them look bad.

(Rabbi Simeon may be defending the purity of Jonah's motives by defending the sailors with his midrash about how they threw Jonah overboard: "The sailors did not want to throw Jonah into the sea, but after throwing all their baggage into the sea and trying in vain to row back to the shore, they took Jonah and lowered him up to his ankles into the water. The sea started becoming calmer, but when they hoisted him up again it started to rage again. They lowered him in up to his belly and it became calm; they pulled him up and it raged again. They lowered him down to his neck and it became calm, but when they pulled him up again it continued raging, until they threw him in completely –- and the sea became calm.")

And then, Jonah isn't just committing suicide or being murdered, symbolically or literally: he is also forcing God to save him, or if you prefer giving God a chance to demonstrate His love by saving him. Like dropping your handkerchief so a man can pick it up and hand it to you, only instead of your handkerchief it's yourself. Maybe Jonah imagines a grand rescue, the hand of God lifting him up and carrying him to safety, it's really the least He can do after being so unreasonable -- but God says OK, you got Me, I do love you, stupid, and I won't let you die, but wait till you see how I'm going to save you!
Tags: stix, the book of jonah
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