Updated: Jan 28
When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.
The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the LORD said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
It is impossible to read this reading about Jonah and not be reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel: “The men of the city of Nineveh will stand up with the people of this day on the day men stand before God. Those men will say these people are guilty because the men of Nineveh were sorry for their sins and turned from them when Jonah preached. And see, Someone greater than Jonah is here!” (Matthew 12:41)
Anyone who reads the Holy Bible and does not see every reading as God speaking directly to him or her, the reading will always make one be left with the impression that something happened a long time ago, with no bearing on my life. Anyone who reads the Holy Bible as if God has a message for her or her, personally, to read and make his or her life become a reflection of a lesson learned AND to teach that lesson learned (vocally and as an example) to others, then the reason God speaks through the Holy Bible is realized.
Jonah is then you. Not part of this reading above, but the wholeness of his story makes Jonah be the equivalent of a Christian today who spends a lot of time studying the Holy Bible and listens for God to explain the meaning to him or her. In a world filled with sin that makes it very difficult for a true Christian to walk a road of righteousness day after day, people like Jonah want to “run away to Tarshish.”
Christians flee their responsibility as servants of God all the time, bringing upon them the need for them to be swallowed up by a whale. Jesus spoke to Pharisees who asked for a sign, as if that would help them [the non-believers!]. The Pharisees had transformed into the Ninevites and Jesus had become a ‘land whale,’ complete with Jonah within his being, ready to swallow that wicked and adulterous generation like a swarm of krill. Christians often run away and try to hide, as Jonah did.
The Hebrew place named Tarshish is an unknown location, but scholars with big brains think it might be in Spain, near Gibraltar. The point is Jonah had to go by boat to get there, thus the whale became part of his story. That is not the point of the name Tarshish.
The name Tarshish is not clearly from Hebrew, as it probably has root in a local language. Some say it can mean “His Excellency” or “Refinery,” as a statement of wealth. Others draw in the Hebrew that makes the word sound like saying “Shatter” or “Breaking,” or “Subjection.” Finally, some say the Hebrew makes the word come across more as an indication of a “White Dove” or “A Search For Alabaster.” All can be true in Jonah’s story.
As a true prophet of Yahweh, who spoke to Him regularly, Jonah felt as if he was a prince of the true King. When the “White Dove” is added to that, Jonah becomes symbolic of the “Prince of Peace,” which is Jesus. Thus, Jesus said, “Someone greater than Jonah is here!” (with Jesus actually saying, “greater Jonah here!” [from “pleion Iōna hōde .“] That says Jonah is both a reflection of one who was reborn as Christ then and a projection of one who will become reborn as Christ today [forevermore].
As to the meaning of Tarshish meaning “Breaking” or “Subjection,” this is the way the devoted are tested by seeing disgusting sin all around and no lightning bolts, strong winds, heavy rains, or other acts of God coming to selectively take sinners and destroy them for their sins. Thus, Jonah admitted, “That is why I fled to “Breaking” at the beginning,” as he was fed up with living among sinners who never stopped sinning and never were punished for sins, while he was kept from judging others as a Son of God.
When that is seen and one realizes “Tarshish” can also mean “A Search For Alabaster,” my mind jumps to the unnamed woman [a known sinner, not Mary Magdalene] who anointed the feet of Jesus with fragrant perfume from a jar of alabaster. (Luke 7:37) Alabaster is metaphor for purity, transparency and protection. Thus, Jonah was like all men and women of true faith that seek to join with God and walk in His presence, which is the anxious desire brought on by the misery of life on earth – to ‘just die and get it over with.’
In this story above, Jonah became angry with God. God told him to go prophesy to the Ninevites and tell those sinners that if they did not change the way they lived, then they would be destroyed. Lo! and Behold! the Ninevites listened, believed and changed – they heard a prophecy, they believed the prophet, and they acted because of the prophecy. None of the Ninevites ever heard the voice of God talk to them. They all just heard some guy named Jonah passing on a message, but that worked. Thus, Jesus was “greater Jonah here” in Jerusalem AND Jesus is “greater Jonah here” in true Christians today [those reborn as Jesus Christ]. However, Jonah was angry because the Ninevites listened and changed, so God did not destroy them as promised.
The anger of Jonah has to be seen as the strength [actually a weakness] that self-ego plays in one’s life today. We do as God says to do, but we then say, “Dammit! Why am I the only one!?!?” Everybody wants to rule the world; but when we realize that is well beyond our grasps, we all sit down in a heap and pout, just like little toddlers that can’t have their way.
It is important to see that childish reaction to Jonah, because God treats him as His Son. As the Father of Jonah, God knows what is best, not Jonah. God the Father understands the heart of Jonah is pure, but the head of Jonah (his big brain) is tested by selfishness, as he refuses to let the Christ Mind rule over him. Childish Jonah wants all the sinners to be destroyed like the Father promised they would be [and they would be … later], but Jonah’s brain wants to be in charge and determine when that occurs.
Christians act like Jonah all the time, casting judgments onto the rest of the world and then pouting when no one comes to their door pronouncing [like Publisher’s Clearinghouse], “You’ve just been anointed King of the world for life!” Childish imaginations are because the brain is still trying to lead the flesh.
We read: “Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.” This is childish Jonah telling himself, “I will show God what I expect to happen, by my sitting here to watch all the destruction coming below.” It is like a child thinking running away from home is possible, when they have absolutely no knowledge of what it takes to survive in the world.
Children cannot see just how much their parents watch over them and make life comfortable and safe for them. Servants of God cannot see just how much God keeps their labors manageable and not oppressive. [Note: This reading accompanies Matthew 20:1-16, which is Jesus telling the parable of the landowner hiring laborers for his vineyard.]
When we read that Jonah pitched a tent [or built a shelter or set up a booth-tabernacle], this was done symbolically as a statement of just how religious Jonah was. He was making the place where he sat be his ‘holy ground’ with him then representing the high priest at that new ‘center of the world.’
Take a moment to reflect how every church building in Christianity today is the same thing as Jonah erected. It sits to the east (the Holy Land) and looks to the west (Europe and America). Each priest, pastor, or minister running the show in a Christian church is safely inside a sanctuary that looks out upon the world, from a position of piety. There is no difference in Jonah and every Christian that looks out at the world as separate and due punishment, feeling oneself is safe and secure.
In Jonah’s part of the world [Nineveh was the equivalent of modern Iraq], it can get rather sunny and hot during the day; and it did just that. The heat built up, but God knew Jonah was not about to get out of the heat without a fight. So, God made a “bush” grow [actually, “qiqayon” translates as “a plant”], so it towered over the tent of Jonah and provided him some shade from the heat.
The use of “bush” implies the story of Moses and the burning bush, but the Hebrew word used there is “seneh.” There are scholars that think the burning bush was possibly a blackberry bush and the “plant” of Jonah was possibly a castor oil plant. Neither distinction matters.
The point of “plant” is metaphor, less than the reality of a growth that occurred where Jonah was. The metaphor of something that comes from the earth and grows tall must then be applied to Jonah himself. The “bush” or “plant” that provided shade from the heat is symbolic of a calmness that came over Jonah as he sat waiting for what he wanted to arrive. God was the source of that growing calm state, which cooled down the anger within Jonah and made him return to a state of normalcy as a child of God.
Likewise, what we read next must be seen as the inner peace brought on by God being evaporated by the reality of the situation Jonah had put himself in. We read: “But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
The advent of a worm is not some blight that overcame a plant, but it is the realization of mortality in Jonah. Since worms are the stuff that feed on dead flesh [proverbially], the bliss of peace that came over Jonah soon got slapped in the face with reality and Jonah knew he was just a child way in over his head. He felt just how weak his flesh was. Instead of sitting so he could watch the sinners of Nineveh die, there was Jonah thinking he was the one who was going to be destroyed; and, why? Because he tried to play god.
When we read that God asked Jonah if he was wanting to die because his peaceful state had evaporated, hearing Jonah cry like a baby, saying “Yes!” has to make every parent of a child laugh, having heard that confession before. God then said to Jonah: “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow.” [Note: This also links well to Matthew 20:1-16.]
The peaceful state that overcame Jonah was because he was God’s child, who protected His Son from great harm. The loss of that peaceful state was a lesson taught to the Son by the Father, which said, “Your comfort in the world comes from Me and only Me.” Jonah learned that turning away from God [being a childish brat] did nothing but bring on the misery the world, which is quite capable of being used to destroy – the natural state of death that always surrounds the flesh.
God explained to His Son, “[Calm] came into being in a night and perished in a night.” Thus are the ever-changing emotions human being live with. That says you [Jonah and all who read this story] are always one step away from finding out just how difficult life in the flesh is, when you act selfish and demanding. Likewise, Jesus said [as the voice of God to John in his Apocalypse] being hot or cold in faith is preferable to being lukewarm.
As such, God continued by saying, “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” That is a statement that must speak to everyone as saying, “God cares for everyone, including animals – everything with the breath of life is God’s to do with as He sees fit.”
Animals do not know their right hand from their left, so the people of Nineveh were like animals in that sense. Jonah was sent to those animals to teach them to be human beings with hearts. That makes Gentiles also be like animals that need to be trained in how to heed God’s Word; but then who hasn’t been there and done that? [Arf!]
The moral of this story, just as is the moral of the parable told by Jesus [“greater Jonah here”] in Matthew 20:1-16, is the only human being that you need need to worry yourself with is you. Leave the rest of the world up to God to manage. Know that God will manage the rest of the world just as fairly as God manages you.
Still, God’s protection of you is based on how well you comply with God’s wishes. For God to be one’s Father, one has to be His Son [God is masculine Spirit, thus not goddess spirit; so, all of God’s children will be masculine Spirit as well – Holy Spirit merged with soul]. To be God’s Son means to obey His Will – learn from His lessons and teach what His message is to the world. Beyond that, never think being the Son of God makes one greater than one drop of water in an ocean.
For Jonah to sit at a vantage point that awaited the mass destruction of Nineveh, God asked Jonah (in essence), “Am I not the protector of the children of sinful parents? Am I not the protector of the innocent animals of sinful people?” The question posed by God was not only to Jonah, but to all Christians scattered across the face of the globe today. It asks the same question, when between the lines it says, “Didn’t I send you as My Apostle to save the world?”
Knowing the answer, one can then intuit God asking, “Then why don’t you get up off you ass and go wait for Me to send you somewhere else to save lives?”
For as long as I have been posting explanations and interpretations here, assuming that not all of the readers of my posts are evil creatures looking for insight to Holy Scripture that can be used to destroy Christianity, my hope is that some actually are seekers of truth, who receive the message of God sent through me. Still, few readers ever say anything to me. That makes it seem to me that I am just some furry animal of God that waits for people to come take advantage of what I offer – freely – with no debt owed to anyone for taking what God freely offers [even the Russians, et al, who try to sell something like this to idiots]. While that makes me a servant of the Lord, willingly writing His message on a blog for all the Ninevites to read and heed, what does that make you, the reader?
Are you planning to go tell someone else what I wrote, pretending it is the Word of God spoken directly to you? Or, are you going to go tell others that R. T. Tippett says this! That is okay, as long as you use my name in the same sense that you use Paul’s name, or any other Apostle, as that means you recognize that I am in the name of Jesus Christ. What I write comes from the Christ Mind, as the voice of God in a servant on earth. Still, shouldn’t you be there too? Shouldn’t you be hearing the voice of God speak to you, saying something other than, “Go read a blog my son.”
Christianity seems to have become a nest of secret squirrels – all the same rodent, with each thinking it is the greatest detective on planet earth.
Everyone seems to have their religious tent pitched, waiting for the rest of the world to be destroyed. Do we need secret squirrels spying, in order to know when the end will come?
A “church” is the assembly of true Christians, meaning true Christians communicate with one another. Paul wrote letters in order to do that. Because none of the return letters were saved and made canon does not mean Paul wrote to ignorant bastards that simply shrugged and whispered to himself or herself, “Tha Paul sure is the writing fool.” Whatever you do, pass it on. Don’t not be a selfish, childish brat. Give thanks to the Lord in all that you do.
R. T. Tippett