Tuesday, August 11, 2015

gods and cats

No, I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up.... It always does in the end.”

-Luna Lovegood

And why shouldn’t I feel sorry for a great city like Nineveh with its 120,000 people in utter spiritual darkness and all its cattle?”-Jonah 4:11

At the end of Jonah 4 we find this interesting snippet that concludes the book in a rather strange way. Jonah is angry that God saved Nineveh, Jonah never liked the Ninevites, he considered them a bunch of jerks who were better off dead.

Then while he's pouting and considering early retirement as a prophet (which is a tough gig), he finds a shade tree, small slender little thing out here in a hot, dry region and it lends him some relief from the heat.

But his shade is soon decimated by a hungry leaf eating worm and the shade plant dies. He is scorched by the sun and angry even more than he was in the first place.

He's angry, the text tells us, because he desperately wants something to happen to the city. He is secretly hoping that God will relent from his mercy and kill the city or rain down some sort of punishment. So he goes to get front row seats.

At the end of the story we don't really hear if anything happens to the city, we assume that it doesn't. But we hear God argue his case to Jonah, which seems odd but that's exactly what He does. He talks about how important it was to save the city of so many people and then he mentions one more thing.

He mentions the animals. Hence the odd phrase, “and many cattle as well”. Some translations simply say, “animals” instead of “cattle” So God is not only set on saving the city of people, he is also invested in saving the animals! Why does he mention the animals last of all? Why does this mention of animals close out this short book?

I am sure that there are many answers and no answers. That is to say, there are probably many good guesses and no solid answers, maybe there doesn't need to be. But in my thinking if you look earlier in the story we find something interesting, God punished Jonah with animal, “a big fish”-1:17 which swallowed him, and it also provided him transportation-2:10. There was an animal involved in changing Jonah's mind, and why shouldn't the animals in the city God was aiming to save also be redeemed along with the people?

It's a small connection but it is there if you look. Sometimes when you feel small, when you feel nobody knows how discouraged, lonely and frustrated you are, remember the animals at the end of Jonah and how God saved them too.

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