I have been posting about the literary aspects of Jonah over at the Encounter blog and thought they would be good to reproduce here. Comments, critiques, and questions are helpful.
Jonah’s “going down”
The very first word in the Hebrew after the introductory verse is the word “Arise” (Qum) followed by “Go” (Lekh). It is God speaking to Jonah and they are not requests but commands (or imperatives)
“Arise and Go.” That is how the book of Jonah begins.
How does Jonah react? He “arises” alright, but he arises to flee. So when you are reading it you would expect it to say “So Jonah arose and went,” obeying God. But instead you have “But Jonah arose to flee.”
But that’s just the beginning. Jonah’s disobedience leads him down the wrong path, literally. Instead of “arising” Jonah begins to “go down” to escape from God.
Verse 3: Jonah went down (yared) to Joppa
Verse 3: Jonah went down (yared) into the ship
Verse 5: Jonah went down (yared) to the hold of the ship
Verse 5: Jonah was asleep in the hold of the ship
As we’ll see later, Jonah “went down” to escape from God, but could not. Instead God takes Jonah even further down than even he wanted to go.
1:15 – Jonah was thrown into the sea, even further down than the hold of the ship
1:17 – Jonah went into the belly of the fish
2:2 – In this poem Jonah tells God that the fish has metaphorically taken him all the way down to the “depths of Sheol (hell).”
2:3 – It was God who cast Jonah into “the primeval deep,” into the “heart of the seas”
2:5-6 – Jonah “goes down” all the way to the bottom of the earth until he is “shut out” of creation, the ultimate “going down”
Then comes the climax. After Jonah, by his own disobedience goes down to Joppa, down to the ship, down to the hold of the ship, down to the ocean, down to the belly of the fish, down to the bottom of the ocean and the “great deep,” down until he is shut out of creation, then we have the climactic statement in verse 6:
“But You have brought my life up from the pit, O YHWH, my God.”
Talk about a powerful few chapters. No wonder Jesus alludes to it when he talks about his own suffering.
It seems as though the writer of Jonah knew what s/he was doing…