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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

So what's the deal with Jonah's worm?


I've been thinking about the story of Jonah lately. If you've ever attended Sunday School or seen the Veggie Tales movie, then you know the basic outline of the story (minus the fish slapping of course).

The basic outline goes like this:

Jonah is a prophet to the people of Israel. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and prophesy against the city. Instead of obeying God, Jonah decides to go the other way and take a ship to Tarshish. While on the ship, God sends a life threatening storm and the pagan sailors assume it must be because of some grave sin committed by one of the passengers, so they inquire to their gods by casting lots, and lo and behold, the lot falls on Jonah. Jonah realizes that he has sinned, so he recommends that the sailors throw him overboard, which they do and the next thing you know Jonah gets swallowed by a giant fish and spends three days in the fish's belly.

After Jonah gets spit out on dry land, God speaks to Jonah again to go to Nineveh and this time he obeys. Jonah goes to Nineveh, warns them that God will destroy the city in 40 days, and the entire city repents with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

Here is what happens next as quoted directly from the Bible:



1. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.

2 He prayed to the LORD, O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.

4 But the LORD replied, Have you any right to be angry?

5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.

6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.

7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.

8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, It would be better for me to die than to live.

9 But God said to Jonah, Do you have a right to be angry about the vine? I do, he said. I am angry enough to die.

10 But the LORD said, You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.

11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?


That's the end of the story.

Here are a few questions I'd love to get some feedback from my readers on.

A. From the story, what do you think God was trying to teach Jonah by sending a worm to eat up the plant?

B. What other choices did Jonah have in responding to God?

C. Can you relate to Jonah and his attitude towards God and towards the people of Ninevah?

Keep in mind that the people of Nineveh had brutally oppressed Jonah's people in the past.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

2 comments:

Bruce said...

Hey Aaron, good question!

I think worms have been used in Scripture to show the 'decaying' of the world... as in worms feasting on dead bodies or "moth (caterpillars) and rust" destroying worldy treasure.

Was Jonah trying to take comfort in the World by resting under a bush?

I don't know, that's the best I can come up with...

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Good point Bruce. I hadn't thought of that before. Perhaps God was trying to teach Jonah that worldly comforts are temporary.