Jonah was a prophet who ran away from God. He set to sea, and ended up inside a big fish. Some say it was a whale – and for that reason the story is sometimes called Jonah and the Whale.
We’ve added lots of sound effects for the storm.
Adapted by Bertie from the Book of Jonah in the Bible, with some speeches drawn from the King James version.
Read by Natasha
Long ago, there lived a man called Jonah, the son of Amittai – which means Truth. A son of Truth, and a prophet, Jonah often heard the word of the Lord God. This gift was not one that he appreciated at all, far from it – for although the truth will enlighten us, all too often it will alarm us first.
One night, in a dream, God said to him: “Arise. Go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”
When Jonah heard these words, he was afraid.
“Oh Lord, what wrong have I done to deserve this, your command? I cannot win. I could go to the great city of Nineveh and call on the people to cease from worshipping idols and to leave their evil ways. Yes, I could do that, but would it make me popular? No. More likely they would grow angry at my ceaseless preaching, and they would throw stones at me. Then again, what if they did listen to my prophecy of doom? Suppose that they hear the word of God? I know you, my Lord, you are gracious and merciful, and you soon repent of your resolve to punish mankind. You will turn away from your plan to undo the city and to destroy the people. My prophecy of destruction shall not come to pass. I shall be a false prophet. A false prophet has the respect of no one.”
The Lord God did not answer Jonah, because he had told him once what he must do, and he did not mean to repeat himself.
Jonah arose – and he ran. He hurried himself to the port, and paid money to board a ship heading for Spain at the other end of the Mediterranean sea. Perhaps there, far away from the Holy Land, he would no longer hear the voice of truth that disturbed him so.
Jonah lay down in his cabin at the bottom of the ship, where he hoped that God would not spot him. The ship set out to sea, and he remained down below, refusing to come up on deck to sample the fresh sea breeze.
Some days out, the Lord sent a great wind and stirred up a mighty storm. The ship heaved and creaked, and wondered if it should break apart.
The sailors were afraid. They jettisoned their cargo over the side, to lighten the ship. The captain ordered that everyone on board must pray for salvation. Each cried to his own god – but their passenger was nowhere to be seen. The captain went down below to seek him out.
“What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise. Call upon your god and pray that he may save us from perishing.”
Jonah, reluctantly, and on wobbly legs, climbed up onto the deck. There the sailors were casting lots. Each had to pull a wooden stick out of a bucket – he who drew the shortest would be, they believed, the cause of all their tempestuous trouble.
Jonah took his turn and drew the shortest stick. Twice again, they drew lots, and each time the result was the same.
“So it is you, oh passenger!” Cried the captain. “What is it that you have done to anger your god that he sends us this storm?”
“I am a Hebrew,” admitted Jonah, “and I am hiding from the Lord who made both the sea and the dry land.”
Now the sailors were even more afraid, for they saw that a man who runs away from his god must be very wicked indeed. Here was the explanation. The presence of this man was why the storm was raging all around them and threatening to break their ship.
“What shall we do to calm the waters?” They asked.
“Take me and throw me into the sea,” replied Jonah. “Do this, and the Lord God will calm the waters.”
Nevertheless, the sailors cried out: “We beseech thee, O Lord. We beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and do not make us spill innocent blood.”
They returned to their places and rowed hard against the tumultuous storm, but all their efforts were in vain, for the angry sea was far stronger than their puny arms. So in great sorrow, they picked up Jonah and cast him over the side of the ship into the stormy waters. Immediately, the sea ceased from raging. The calm miracle made a great impression on the sailors. They offered up a sacrifice of thanks to the Hebrew Lord and made their vows to him.
Though Jonah was tossed by the sea, he did not perish, for the Lord sent a giant sea creature to swallow him whole. Some say it was a whale, others a shark, and still others say a unique monster from the deep. Jonah himself had no opinion on the matter. All he knew was that he found himself on the inside of the mysterious fish from God, in its belly. There he remained, like a baby in the womb – only far less comfortable, for three days and nights as the sea creature swam the seas. All the while, Jonah prayed unto the Lord, his God, from out of the fish’s stomach.
“In my suffering, oh Lord, I cry to you from the belly of hell. You have cast me into the deep, into the midst of the seas. The waves passed over me, the waters dragged me down, even to my soul, and the weeds wrapped around my head. I pray to you, and I will make sacrifices to you again, for I know that salvation comes from the Lord.”