(Date 862 B.C.)
A message came from the Lord to Jonah-ben-Amitha to say:--
"Rise! Go to Ninevah, the Great City, and preach to it, for its wickedness has come up before Me."
Jonah, however, arose and fled towards Tharshish from the presence of the Ever-Living, and descended to Jaffa, and found a ship going to Tharshish, and paid his fare, and embarked in her to go with them to Tharshish, from the presence of the Ever-Living.
But the Ever-Living raised a great wind upon the sea, and then came a furious storm, and the ship seemed about to be wrecked, so the sailors became terrified and cried everyone to his god, and threw out the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten her. But Jonah had gone down to the berths, and lay fast asleep.
The captain of the ship however came to him and said, "Why are you asleep? Get up, and call upon your God; perhaps your God will save us,--then we shall not perish!"
But everyone said to his messmate, "Come on! let us throw dice, and find out on account of whom this danger has come on us." So they threw dice, and the dice fell against Jonah.
So they asked, "Tell us now on account of what this danger came to us? Where are you going? and where do you come from? What is your country? And to what People do you belong?"
And he replied to them, "I am a Hebrew. I reverence the Lord God of Heaven Who made the Sea and the Land!"
Then the men were afraid with great terror, and asked him, "What have you done?" For the men understood that he was flying from the presence of the Ever-Living;--for he had told them.
They consequently asked him, "What must be done to you? to lessen the sea around us? for the water and the storm gallop."
And he answered, "Heave me up and fling me into the sea! and the sea will be abated about you, because I know that this great hurricane has come upon you on my account."
The men, however, worked hard to return to the land, but were not able, for the sea galloped, and the storm was against them. So they cried to the Ever-Living, and said, "We beg You, Ever-Living, now, not to let the life of this man perish; and not to lay upon us innocent blood;--for You can do as You decide."
Then they hoisted Jonah, and flung him into the sea. And the fury of the sea ceased!
But the men were terrified, and reverenced the Ever-Living greatly, and offered a sacrifice to the Ever-Living, and vowed vows.
But the Ever-Living had appointed "The Great Fish"1 to pick up Jonah. And Jonah was three days and nights in the hold of the "Fish," and Jonah prayed to his Ever-Living God from the hold of "The Fish," and said:--
In my misery I cried to the Lord,
And He pitied in that hollow den,
I cried,--and He answered my cry,
When I was flung into the deep,
In the heart of the sea,
With your breakers and torrents around,
And you gallopers rolling on me.
Then I said, "I am thrown from Your sight,
Yet of Your Holy Name I will think.
The waters sucked down to the soul of the Deep
And my head was entangled in weeds!
I sank to the clefts of the hills,
The earth closed and barred me for ever,
But You brought my soul up from the pit,
My Lord God!
When my breath fainted, I thought of the Lord!
And my prayer went up to your Holy Abode!
"Those who trust in vain falsehood abandon their Hope;
But I sacrificed praise with my voice!--
What I vowed I will pay to the Lord."
The Ever-Living afterwards directed "The Fish," and it discharged Jonah on the land.
Then the command of the Ever-Living came to Jonah the second time to say:--
"Arise! Go to Ninevah, the Great City, and preach in it the sermon that I command you!"
Jonah consequently arose and went to Ninevah, as the Ever-Living commanded,--and Ninevah was a Great City to God, three days' journey across. When Jonah had begun to enter the City, he traveled a three days' journey, and proclaimed, "Four days hence Ninevah will be overthrown!" And the people of Ninevah trusted God, and proclaimed a fast, and clothed in sacking from the greatest to the least. The matter was also reported to the King of Ninevah, and he arose from his throne, and stripped off his robes and clothed himself in sacking, and sat in dust. And it was proclaimed, and commanded by a decree of the King and his Nobles, saying, "Let Men, and cattle of the fold, and sheep, not taste of anything, either food or water to drink. But let men and cattle be clothed in sacking, and cry earnestly to God; and let everyone turn from his peculiar sin, and from the wrong that is in his hands. Who knows but that God will turn and have pity, and restrain His anger, and not destroy?"
God saw their acts, how they turned from their bad course, so God showed mercy instead of punishment which He had warned would be inflicted upon them, and did it not!
But Jonah was vexed with great vexation, and furious at it. So he prayed to the Ever-Living, and exclaimed,--"Now, Lord! is not this what I said whilst I was still in my own country? Consequently I determined to fly to Tharshish! For I knew that You were kind and merciful, very forbearing, and full of pity toward the sinful. So now, Lord, take my life from me! For it is better for me to die than live."
But the Ever-Living answered him, "What does it benefit you to be enraged?"
Then Jonah went out of the City, and sat opposite the east of the town, and made a hut there for himself, and sat under its shade, so that he might watch to see what the Ever-Living would do to the town.
But the Ever-Living had prepared a Gourd, and it grew over the hut of Jonah, and became a shade over its top to protect him from his passions; and Jonah was glad of the Gourd, with a great gladness. God, however, had provided a worm, against the advance of darkness a few days after, and it pierced the Gourd, so that it withered. And when the sun arose God prepared a rushing east wind;--and the sun struck the head of Jonah, and he fainted, and wished himself to die,--and exclaimed, "It is better for me to die than live."
The Ever-Living, however, said to Jonah, "Is it well for you to be grieved for the Gourd?"
When he replied, "It is well for me to be grieved to death!"
But the Ever-Living answered, "You are sorry for the Gourd that you did not cultivate, nor caused to grow. It was the product of a night, and perished in a night;--
"Therefore, should not I have pity for Ninevah,--that Great City, which has in it more than ten times twelve thousand of mankind who do not know their right hand from their left besides multitudes of animals?"