SansBlogue  
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
 
Saved by the Whale: on idiot redactors and reading the psalm in Jonah ::

Tyler has the pleasure of teaching Jonah, in Hebrew! (Though, unless I've missed something he is only at chapter one still, "good things take time" as the cheese advert down here says ;-) Meanwhile John Hobbins at ancient hebrew poetry and I have got ahead of the class and have been discussing chapter two.

I took exception to John's statement that:
Since the psalm is not a prayer but a praiseful narration of a deed of deliverance in answer to prayer, it suits the context only approximately.
This is not a new thought, dozens of commentators have said the same thing, but in this case I'm sure the crowd is not displaying its true wisdom ;-)

So I wrote:
Jonah has asked to be thrown into a raging sea, he seems to expect to die (and the sailors, surely the more expert witnesses do too 1:14). However, far from drowning Jonah, his God sends a fish to swallow him - hardly a chance outcome - and he survives. He prays a pious thanksgiving for his deliverance from drowning... His piety may seem misplaced, his castigation of "those who forsake their true loyalty" may seem hypocritical, but surely the form of the prayer is appropriate?
John's riposte begins:
From the point of view of the narrator of the book of Jonah, that is true. From Jonah's implied point of view, it is not - at least not while Jonah found himself within the fish. Note the parallel expressions "from the viscera of the fish" (2:2 in the Hebrew) and "from the belly of Sheol" (2:3). That's not how Jonah would have talked if, in the moment of distress which the psalm looks back on, he understood the fish to be a vehicle of salvation.
(It is good stuff, so go and read the full version of our conversation!)

I'm still not convinced... The two phrases, (מִ‍מְּעֵי הַדָּגָה and מִ‍בֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל) are as you say parallel, but they are NOT in lines that are in a direct relationship. The mention of fish guts occurs on the narrator's lips introducing the psalm. While "from Sheol's belly" comes from the lips of Jonah, in the psalm. The parallel does create an undertone of "this is salvation!?" but does not diminish Jonah's so human arrogance in supposing that the fish is intended to save HIM. And saved from Sheol he has been, from “the heart of the seas, and the flood [that] surrounded” him! And, though not the most salubrious of habitations, I'd rather be alive in the fish guts, than dead at the bottom of the stormy sea – which is the fate the sailors expected for their landlubber passenger. I find it difficult in such a well-told, ironic tale to accept that the delightfully ironic psalm is a mere accident or clumsy mistake. The hypothesis of the idiot redactor won't float!



SEARCH Tim's sites
Posts listed by topic
My academic CV



Write to Tim

archives:
January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 /

biblical studies blogs:

other theology/church blogs:

x


Powered by Blogger


Technorati Profile

Yellow Pages for Auckland, New Zealand