Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lord, Lord, Wasn't That A Fish?

My earlier musings about whether a whale fart could contain a horse led me, at one point, to imagine that this was being proposed as a humane marine transportation device for land-dwelling mammals, and although these sorts of things are generally tried with mice or guinea pigs first, perhaps somebody was going for glory. And the prospect is worth investigating, after that Jonah debacle.

Which led me to study Jonah. Jonah is a great Bible book: it's only two pages long. I'm not a hundred percent certain what it's about. Jonah is suicidal from start to finish. First God tells him to pop over to Nineveh and preach to the citizens that they must mend their ways and repent or the city would be destroyed. Jonah says he'd rather die. Instead he tries to go somewhere God can't find him--he's a little unclear on the concept, there--and tries to take a ship to Tarshish.

To this day no one knows where Tarshish was and it is possible "going to Tarshish" is one of those phrases like "buying the farm," and refers merely to a place that is very very far away, possibly just outside Bumfuck, Egypt.

Anyway he never gets there. There's a terrible storm and Jonah admits to the ship's crew that it was probably his fault and offers to be cast into the sea, that evidently being a better fate than having to preach in Nineveh. The sailors don't want to do it but things were taking a turn and eventually they beseech the Lord to let them throw Jonah overboard but not get into trouble for it, and so it was done. The seas calmed instantly and the grateful sailors made a sacrifice unto the Lord. Sacrificing Jonah didn't count because they hardly knew him.

God locates a nearby biddable whale and offers him Jonah, because God loves whales. Everybody loves whales! Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and nights. This is probably using the omniscient point of view, because it would be hard, one thinks, for Jonah himself to know just how long he was in there, unless one imagines, as I do, that in the daytime the belly is sort of semi-dark yet pinkish, with a floor and throw pillows. Anyway Jonah had a chance to think about things and decided he had been unfaithful to the Lord and that's what got him into this situation.

God noted Jonah's remorse and directed the whale to ralph him up onto dry land despite the dangers to the whale of the shallows, because maybe God, being mysterious, doesn't love whales after all. Giveth, taketh away, it's the old story.

Unfortunately for Jonah, this reprieve meant he couldn't skate on the Nineveh deal, so he hied off to Nineveh, and told everyone to repent or die, and somehow they not only didn't kill him, but everyone from the King on down put on sackcloth and ashes. Sackcloth is itchy and made of goat hair and it's worse than Carhartts.

So the Lord spared Nineveh. Which ticked off Jonah. Not sure why. Maybe he felt cheated out of a good urban cleansing that he'd predicted, after all, and if it didn't happen, who's to say it ever would have happened? And here all these people are sitting around in hair shirts and ashes and they've got to be wondering the same thing. Jonah wanted to die.

Anyway Jonah went off to pout and see if the city blew up after all, and then God put a gourd out there that grew up in a day and shaded him, which was nice, and then he sent a worm to kill the vine the very next day, and I'm not sure why it matters because Jonah had already built himself a booth for shade, but that all pissed him off too.

The End.
And God said you didn't have anything to do with that vine, and why shouldn't I care about Nineveh, that has 120,000 people that don't know their right hand from their left, and also has cows? That is what God said, and I believe it, because you can't make this stuff up.

Still, it doesn't make much sense, and the whale clearly got the bad end of the bargain. How much nicer it would have been all around if Jonah had been permitted to make it all the way through the whale and shoot out on a fart! He could bob around in the ocean all warm and eventually make it to the surface, and the poor whale can go about his business.

35 comments:

  1. these sorts of things are generally tried with mice or guinea pigs first

    Word has it that Richard Gere already carried out such a preliminary test using a gerbil. So we're good to go with bigger animals.

    So the Lord spared Nineveh. Which ticked off Jonah. Not sure why.

    Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, noted for inflicting death by torture on its enemies in large numbers. Which accounts for why Jonah (a) wasn't too keen on going there and annoying them by preaching at them, and (b) hated their guts and didn't want God to spare them.

    if Jonah had been permitted to make it all the way through the whale and shoot out on a fart!

    There would be a couple of problems with this. First, nobody in Nineveh would have taken Jonah seriously if he had come there smelling of fish fart. Second, if the Bible had had to say, "And behold, the great fish did flatulate forth Jonah onto the land from its bowels, and the stench of him did rise even unto the highest Heaven," etc., then Monty Python would never have made Life of Brian because they couldn't come up with a parody that could sound any sillier.

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    1. "My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet..." Jeremiah 4:19. Good point about Richard Gere. He was always one to consider the probing questions.

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  2. I've always thought that the Bible was just a less awesome version of The Lord of the Rings. When I said something similar to an acquaintance who was into god at the time, he replied "But The Lord of the Rings is fiction." *Big sigh* See, this sort of mentality is what comes from telling children that there is a Santa Claus: eventually they find out that there isn't, but they so want for one to exist. God is merely Santa Claus for grown-ups.

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  3. Can whales actually ralph? Horses can't, so it set me to wondering. Not like it would be the first implausible/incorrect thing to be found in the Bible or anything. Sorry; I'm just feeling crosser than usual about religion after hearing about how "Biblical" it is to enforce borders.

    But a Bible - Queen Murr Version? I'd pay to read that.

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    1. Careful what you wish for. I really am thinking about doing a Revised Murr edition some day. That book is so much fun.

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    2. *cheering* No, it's not, but YOU can make it so!

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    3. Excellent idea - put me on the pre-order list, as well!

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  4. Tell us more tall tales from the Holy Babble! Like the one about turning people into salt. Or maybe the one about Samson (he was a Nazirite and you know how THEY are!)and his hair.

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    1. Why, sugar, I just did mention the salt incident, back in February!

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    2. My memory ain't what it used to be. I remember now.
      What if Samson went bald?
      If water was turned into beer instead of wine it would have been a better party.

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  5. I have a fine idea you should follow-up.....there was, once upon a time, the Church of the SubGenius. J.R' "Bob" Dobbs disappeared some years ago and his followers, the ones needing Slack, have been wandering the metaphorical desert, much like that East of Burns.
    Your unique take on biblical text will appeal to this vulnerable group, they will gather unto you. Dress them in saffron robes, give them cymbals and send them into downtown Portland, bringing the offerings to you every evening.
    Let me know how it goes.
    Ta,
    Mike

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    1. I'm not sure people in downtown Portland would notice.

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    2. Saffron robes and cymbals are SO last decade. Shocking pink robes and kazoos might grab people's attention.

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    3. We already have a guy who dresses up in a kilt and a Darth Vader helmet and plays a set of flaming bagpipes while riding on a unicycle (yes, really). It's not easy to make a splash here.

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    4. Myself, I try to be provocative by going untattooed.

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    5. Hey, that’s my gig. So far.

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    6. Clearly, some of your responders were not here in '77, eh? Anyway, look up "Bob" aka 'bob dobbs'....you can do it, Murr.

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  6. There I was, all reclining in the "semi-dark yet pinkish, with a floor and throw pillows" belly of the whale, and then you put me naked into a wool lined Carhartt jacket! Talk about a wake up call!

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    1. Aw man, now all I can think of is you naked.

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  7. I love your take on the bible. It makes just as much (or more) sense than the original!!

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    1. I figure my interpretation is as sound as anybody's. I am not a biblical scholar, but I hear tell expertise is not such a big deal anymore.

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  8. Josh Ritter, oh blessed be his name and body, wrote a song about being in the whale. It's rather upbeat, and as good as drinking a coffee.
    https://youtu.be/3rcUsFatXw4

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    1. I played it on my new mandolin today. It's certainly less easy to listen to, but no less "peppy."

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  9. I like the part where "god prepared a worm" to make Jonah mad by killing his gourd vine. I would like to know more about preparing a worm. Did it involve infusing the worm with purpose and intent? Just the one worm, then, or a whole species? And why dodge the responsibility by engaging a worm to do the deed? He could have just smote the gourd his own dang self, then stood there grinning.

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    1. What's the point of having minions if you don't use them?

      That's what the creationists believe. All Shazaam and smiting, and no nuance or creativity.

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  10. I don;t think you got the story right. You didn't mention Gepetto once.

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  11. That last paragraph made it all worthwhile! Thank you!

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