When jonah was faint and near death 218 in act ii the

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when Jonah was faint and near death (2:18), in Act II the lesson is driven home at a similar juncture. "Are you so deeply grieved about the plant?" God asks Jonah. "You cared about the plant, which you did not work for and which you did not grow, which appeared overnight and perished overnight. Should I not care about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well!" (4:10-11). Thus the second act ends like the first, with a divinely "provided" miracle designed to teach Jonah a lesson. 4 The book's theme is thus the education of a prophet. Did Jonah learn from these
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miracles? That he finally went to Nineveh shows that the first miracle produced the desired effect: God was able to beat Jonah into submission by showing him that he could not escape the divine call. But the book gives no hint as to the effect of the second lesson on Jonah. It seems that at this point, now that God has explained himself, Jonah's response is no longer important to the narrator; it is the reader, as much as Jonah, who is left to ponder God's words. In the Jewish liturgical calendar that pondering is supposed to take place on Yom Kippur. The Book of Jonah has been assigned a climactic role in the liturgy of the Days of Awe by being selected as the haftarah for the afternoon service of Yom Kippur, in other words, the final Biblical reading of the Ten Days of Penitence. Such an honored position would by itself lead us to ask how this choice came to be made, but our curiosity is compounded by the fact that the image which the name of Jonah calls to mind is one of prophetic pettiness and a miraculous fish story which seems too frivolous for such a solemn setting. Jonah's three-day sojourn in the fish's belly is not, in fact, an essential feature of the book's message, but its colorful and fantastic nature leaves us unsurprised at the fact that lovers and haters of the Bible alike have been arrested by it. Who can forget the claim of Sportin' Life, the archskeptic in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, that "It ain't necessarily so...that [Jonah] made his home in / that fish's abdomen?" Since as early as the second century pagan critics of Judaism and Christianity have pointed to the episode in order to mock the Bible. How, they ask, could Jonah have been swallowed whole when a whale's gullet is not large enough to accommodate a human being? Or how did he avoid poisoning by the fish's gastric juices, or suffocation in the fish's belly? 5 Embarrassed champions of the Bible were not unresourceful in its defense. Already in the twelfth century Abraham ibn Ezra hinted that Jonah's flight and stay inside the fish took place only in a vision. Others offered bolder explanations. In the fifteenth century Abarbanel held that the event was no less credible than the fact that fetuses live nine months in their mothers' wombs.
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