Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraphs

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I AM DEEPLY grateful to Professor Benjamin Sommer, whose comments helped me improve the book ’s presentation significantly. I also thank the many individuals at Indiana University Press and elsewhere who helped guide the book through the publication process, enhancing it along the way.

As I completed my last substantial revision, I learned of the passing of my mentor and teacher Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, head of...

Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xvi

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A Note to the Reader

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pp. xvii-xx

THIS STUDY OFFERS a new reading of the book of Jonah that draws on cumulative, often interlocking evidence. To keep the presentation clear and simple, I allow the argument to unfold gradually. As a result, many observations do not show their full force immediately. A similar point obtains regarding method: my appeals to certain subtle literary devices– such as allusion by way of phonetic analogy– gain increasing cogency as suggestive examples...

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1. Escape to Eden

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pp. 1-22

This study advances one core thesis. In the book that bears his name, the prophet Jonah, profoundly troubled by God’s response to the sins of humanity, persists in an escapist quest for an idyllic, Eden-like existence. Repeatedly, however, just when Jonah thinks he has attained such an existence, he finds himself banished from it. Eventually, therefore, he must confront the stark realities that provoke his moral indignation....

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2. Wrathful Moralist

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pp. 23-51

Why, then, does Jonah defy the will of God? What motivates him to resist his mandate and instead to seek out a paradisiacal existence? To begin answering these questions, it helps to consider the initial command that the Lord directs to the prophet.

In the book’s opening scene, God tells Jonah, “Arise, go to the great city of Nineveh, ûqrā’‘ālêhā (“and call out on/to it”) (“because/that”) their evil has risen up...

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3. Peaceful Dove

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pp. 52-66

What, then, of the possibility that Jonah yearns for the salvation of Nineveh? Does the text really give rise to another reading, in which the prophet seeks out a paradisiacal world free of punishment and suffering? Whereas some of our book ’s allusions allow exclusively for a moralistic Jonah, the story itself does yield an alternative, pacifist conception of his motives. Indeed, crucially, still other allusions point strongly toward this additional layer...

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4. A Song of Thanks in Waters of Eden

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pp. 67-79

Jonah’s prayer inside the fish, no less than other parts of the story, generates a layer of meaning that bespeaks his passion for Eden. This poetic passage, in fact, features an especially pronounced form of multivalence: the prayer not only carries deeper significance but, almost from start to finish, also demands to be rendered in fundamentally different ways. In addition, its subtle meaning yields solutions to several long-standing problems in the...

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5. Nautical and Hermeneutical Dilemmas

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pp. 80-92

We now turn our attention to several remaining salient formulations, chiefly in the book’s opening chapter. When the sailors first confront Jonah, they begin by saying, “Tell us, please, ba’ăšer lĕmî-hārā‘â hazzō’t lānû” ( Jonah 1:8). Previously, we adopted the common but philologically knotty translation of this phrase: “you, on an account of whom this disaster has befallen us!” Yet more straightforwardly, the line indicates a question: “on account of whom has this disaster...

Notes

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pp. 93-124

Bibliography

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pp. 125-134

Index of Names and Subjects

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pp. 135-144

Index of Biblical Citations

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pp. 145-150

About the Author

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p. 151