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JONAH AND THE WHALE

Narrator: Now the Lord spoke to Jonah, the son of Amittai saying:

Voice of God: Get up! Go to Nineveh and make a proclamation against it!

Jonah: [STANDING UP]. . . . . Nineveh?! . . . Why?

Voice of God: Because . . . they lie, they cheat, they steal. They’re cruel to everyone and everything. Go and tell them to stop right now! If you don’t . . . the whole city will be destroyed.

Narrator: Now Jonah knew in his heart of hearts that God expected him to go. But he began to argue with himself.

Jonah: Me? Why me? Why do I have to go to Nineveh? It was all fine and well the first time that God sent me. That time my prophecy came true. Then there was the second time. God sent me to Jerusalem to destroy it. But the people repented. . . . You know what they called me then. Liar! Imposter! . . . . .[NEXT PHRASE IN MOCKING TONE]. . . . . The lying prophet! So now I ask you: What if the people of Nineveh actually listen to me? How will it look if they listen and the Jewish people don’t? And who do you think will get the blame for that? Isn’t it enough that all of Israel will call me a liar? And now the rest of the world too? No! I’m telling you. I’ve had enough. I’m not going. Let God send someone else to Nineveh. I’m going down to Joppa.

Narrator: So, that was it. Jonah decided he was not going. And no one, not even God, could make him go. On the other hand, who could blame him? In all fairness to Jonah, we have to understand that sending Jonah to Nineveh would be kind of like sending one of us to Atlantic City to preach against organized crime. That’s how bad it was. And so it was that Jonah ran in the opposite direction. He went down to Joppa. However, he couldn’t find a ship that he could board. I guess they were all booked up. Then, God sent a windstorm against a ship that was two days journey away and blew it back to Joppa.

All Sailors: [ALL SAILORS AND CAPTAIN STAND UP] . . . . . We’re back in Joppa How did this happen?

Narrator: When Jonah saw the ship, he was pretty happy. . . . .[JONAH GETS UP AND GOES TO SHIP]. . . . . And he said:

Jonah: You see! It was meant to be. . . .

Sailor #1: What?

Jonah: Never mind. Can I go with you?

Narrator:.And the sailors said:

Sailor #2: [SAILORS LOOK AT EACH OTHER AS IF CONFUSED]. . . . . We’re going to the islands of the sea, to Tarshish. Is that where you want to go?

Sailor #3: It may take us a year to get there!

Narrator: And Jonah said:

Jonah: Anywhere!

All Sailors: Anywhere?!

Jonah: Anywhere but Nineveh! Here’s the fare. . . .[JONAH GIVES COIN TO CAPTAIN, THEN TRIES TO GO BEHIND SHIP AT END NEAREST HIM, BUT SAILORS BLOCK HIS WAY]

Narrator: The sailors saw that Jonah was eager to travel, and so they said:

Captain: Hold on there! It will cost you a little more than that!

Jonah: How much more?

Captain: That depends on how badly you want it. . . .[JONAH GIVES MORE COINS TO CAPTAIN, GOES BEHIND SHIP AT END NEAREST HIM AND SITS DOWN ON FLOOR BETWEEN FIRST TWO SAILORS]

Narrator: So Jonah went aboard the ship to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord. But they had only traveled one day’s journey on the sea, when God hurled a furious wind at them. . . . [EVERYONE MAKES WIND NOISES]

Sailor #4: I’m telling you, there’s something weird about this wind!

Sailor #5: What do you mean?

Sailor #6: Look for yourself! The other ships are passing back and forth safely, It is only our ship that is in danger.

Narrator:The storm rose up against them on all sides. . . . .[ALL PLAYERS MAKE WIND NOISE]. . . . . And the sailors cried out:

All Sailors: We’re going under!

Narrator: And the ship was about to break up. And while all this was going on, where was Jonah? . . . . .[NARRATOR PAUSES FOR JONAH TO MAKE NOISE OF SNORING]. . . . . Jonah had gone down below deck and, despite how upset he was, he had fallen fast asleep. And the sailors decided:

Sailor #7: Listen! Each of us should cry out to his own god, and whichever god answers first and delivers us from this danger, then we’ll proclaim that that is the true god.

Narrator: So each man cried out to his own god. But it didn’t make any difference at all. So the captain went down below to find Jonah. . . . .[CAPTAIN SITS DOWN BEHIND SHIP]. . . . . and he said to him:

Captain: Here we are about to die And what are you doing? Sleeping! What is going on? Who are you, anyway?

Jonah: I am a Hebrew.

Captain: A Hebrew! Well . . . we have heard that the God of the Hebrews is great. We shall see.

Jonah: What?

Captain: Get up! Call on your God to perform a miracle for us, just as God did for you at the Reed Sea. Maybe we don’t have to die, after all.

Narrator: But Jonah closed his ears. He did not pray, nor did he say why he could not do so. Meanwhile, up on the deck, the sailors were saying:

Sailor #1: We have to do something! The waves are getting higher and higher! . . . . .[ALL PLAYERS MAKES NOISE OF WIND BLOWING]

Sailor #2: What should we do?

Sailor #3: What can we do? We are in the power of a mighty God. There is no escape!!

Sailor #4: All of our efforts have failed because we don’t know the reason for the storm.

Sailor #5: We can cast lots. That way we can find out whose fault this is.

Narrator: So, they cast the lots. . . . .[SAILOR #1 MAKES A GESTURE TO TOSS WOODEN BLOCKS OUT OF A POUCH]. . . . . and the lot fell on Jonah, who by this time had come up on the deck. . . . . .[JONAH STANDS UP]. . . . . And when they saw where the lot had fallen, they drew back in horror from Jonah. . . .[SAILORS DRAW BACK FROM JONAH POINTING AT HIM]

All Sailors: He’s the one!!

Narrator: And they said to him:

Sailor #6: The lot has fallen to you! You’re the cause of all our troubles.

Narrator: And the sailors crowded around Jonah with their questions.

Sailor #1: Who are you, anyway?

Sailor #2: And where did you come from?

Sailor #3: What business brings you on this ship?

Sailor #4: Who are your people?

Sailor #5: And what is your calling?

Narrator: Jonah ignored all of these questions except the last one.

Jonah: I am a Hebrew.

Sailor #6: What?

Jonah: That is my calling. I honor the One God who has made the sea and the dry land.

Narrator: And the men were terrified, and said to him:

Sailor #1: If your God is the God of the whole universe, the God of the sea as much as of the dry land, then for God’s sake, what have you done?

Narrator: You see, the sailors knew that something strange was going on with Jonah. And they said:

Sailor #2: Your God sent the storm!

Sailor #3: You must have done something evil!

Sailor #4: What are you guilty of?

Sailor #5: Are you trying to escape from God?

Sailor #6: Why are you running away from a God who cannot be escaped?

Narrator: But they did not really expect an answer from Jonah. Then the captain said:

Captain: What are we going to do with you? The sea is getting more and more stormy! . . .[ALL PLAYERS MAKE NOISE OF WIND BLOWING]

Narrator: And Jonah told them:

Jonah: I can’t hide it from you anymore. It’s true. It’s because of me that you’re having all this trouble. Take me up and throw me into the sea. If you do that, the sea will calm down for you.

Narrator: Now,to their credit, the sailors did not want to throw him into the sea. And they said:

Sailor #1: Throw him into the sea? We can’t do that!

Sailor #2: He is a man of God!

Sailor #3: But he is the cause of the storm.

Sailor #4: Yes, but he is also the one most likely to know how to stop it!

Sailor #5: What else can we do?

Sailor #6: We could lighten the load. . . .

Sailor #8: Yes! Throw some of the cargo overboard. Quick!

Narrator:And they did. . . . .[SAILOR #4 THROWS BOX OFF REAR OF SHIP ONTO FLOOR]. . . . . But it made no difference.

Sailor #1: Now what?

Sailor #2: If he has sinned by fleeing from Israel, maybe we could take him back there and put him ashore.

Sailor #3: Row! Maybe we can reach the land.

Narrator:And they rowed as hard as they could. . . . .[ALL SAILORS MAKE MOTION AS IF ROWING]. . . . . but the wind was blowing them back away from the shore. . . . .[EVERYONE MAKES WIND NOISE]. . . . . The sea was running higher than ever, and they could not reach the land.

Sailor #4: This isn’t working. We have to do something else!

Narrator: What did they finally do? They took Jonah, . . . . .[SAILORS 3 AND 4 TAKE JONAH BY THE ARMS, ALL SAILORS FACE READING TABLE]. . . . . and going over to the side of the ship, they said:

Sailor #5: God of the universe! Do we have to be doomed to die because of this man?

Sailor #6: Please don’t blame us for his death. What can we do? He keeps telling us loud and clear that it’s his fault.

Narrator: So, they took him and lowered him into the water up to his knees, . . . .[JONAH CROUCHES BEHIND SHIP] . . . . . and the sea calmed down. . . . But as soon as they hoisted him back onto the ship, the waves rose up again. Then they lowered him into the water up to his neck, . . . .[JONAH CROUCHES DOWN BEHIND SHIP SO THAT ONLY HIS HEAD IS VISIBLE]. . . . . and the sea became calm once again. But when they lifted him up again onto the ship, the sea started raging again. Finally, they put all of him into the sea, and the sea’s wrath stopped. Then, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. . . . .[ JONAH CRAWLS FROM SHIP INTO WHALE’S MOUTH]. . . . . that the Lord had created for exactly that purpose. And Jonah stayed alive in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. . . . .[SAILORS SIT DOWN. SIGN-CARRIER ENTERS FROM LOBBY WITH SIGN THAT SAYS: "3 DAYS AND 3 NIGHTS PASSED," STOPS LONG ENOUGH FOR CONGREGATION TO READ SIGN AND GOES BACK INTO LOBBY]. . . . . And Jonah said:

Jonah: Hey! It’s not as dark in here as I thought it would be! What are those windows?

Narrator: What Jonah was seeing was the two eyes of the fish, which gave light to Jonah like two windows. And this made it possible for him to see the ocean all around him. And Jonah said to the fish:

Jonah: Show me everything that is in the sea.

Narrator: And the fish did.

Fish: Look! Here is the great river from where the waters of the ocean come. And here are the paths in the Reed Sea through which Israel passed. And here are the pillars of the earth and its foundations. And now you are standing near the Temple of the Lord! Pray! And you will be answered.

Narrator: And Jonah said to the fish:

Jonah: Stop where you are! I do want to pray!

Narrator: The fish stopped in its place, and Jonah began to pray to the Holy One, saying:

Jonah: Master of the universe, You are the One who casts down and the One who brings up. Look at me! I have been cast down. Now please bring me up. You are also called the One who takes life and the One who restores life. Look! I am almost at death’s door. Please give me back my life!

Narrator: But Jonah was not answered until he said:

Jonah: What I promised to do, I will do!

Narrator: And the Holy One immediately signaled to the fish and it cast Jonah up onto dry land. . . . .[JONAH COMES OUT OF WHALE’S MOUTH ON TO CENTER OF BIMAH AND STANDS UP]. . . . . Then Jonah said:

Jonah: I called to the Lord out of the deepest depth of the sea. It was so deep, even the movement of the waves didn’t penetrate there. Mountain deep did I sink. The bottom seemed to hold me. My soul was wrapped in darkness. Seaweed wrapped around my head. I thought I would never again come before your presence, oh God. The earth was closing on me forever. But then, out of the depths of the sea, with all the longing of my heart, I sought You, and You answered me. From inside the grave I cried, and You heard my voice. You heard my prayer, and you restored my life. What I have promised You—I will do.

Narrator: Then the Lord spoke to Jonah again, saying:

Voice of God: Get going! Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim what I tell you.

Narrator: Jonah started for Nineveh, just as the Lord commanded. . Now Nineveh was a great city. It would take three days to walk through all its streets. . . . .[JONAH WALKS SLOWLY TO CENTER AISLE]. . . . . When Jonah had gone about a day’s journey, he began to proclaim:

Jonah: [JONAH WALKS SLOWLY DOWN CENTER AISLE TO END AND BACK AGAIN]. . . . . Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! . . . . .[JONAH SITS DOWN ON LEFT EDGE OF BIMAH]

Narrator: And the words of the prophet made a deep impression on the people of Nineveh. The people repeated what he had said until everyone knew about it. When the news reached the King of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, . . . .[KING RISES FROM THRONE]. . . . . took off his robe, . . . . .[KING TAKES OFF ROBE AND WRAPS HIMSELF IN WHITE CLOTH AND SITS DOWN]. . . . . dressed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. He published this proclamation in Nineveh:

King: Let neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, taste any food or drink any water. They must all fast and pray to God. All must turn from their evil ways and from their acts of violence. What we have stolen, we must return. If we do that, then maybe God will relent and we won’t have to die.

Narrator: When God saw what they were doing and how they turned from their evil ways, God decided not to destroy them. So Jonah’s mission was successful. Now you would think that he would have been happy, but he was not. . . . Instead he was angry. Perhaps he didn’t think that the people were truly sorry. Or perhaps he thought that they would call him a liar again because his prophecy did not come true. . . .[JONAH PUTS HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS AND LOOKS VERY DEPRESSED]. . . . . And God said:

Voice of God: So, to do good upsets You?

Narrator: Jonah did not answer. In silence he left the city. . . . .[JONAH GOES TO EXTREME LEFT SIDE OF SPACE IN FRONT OF BIMAH AND SITS DOWN]. . . . . and stayed on its east side, where he made a booth for himself, and sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would happen to the city. Overnight God made a gourd grow up over Jonah. . . . . [GOURD TREE ENTERS AND STANDS OVER JONAH]. . . . . to shade his head and to make him more comfortable. And Jonah was very happy about that. But the next morning, God made a worm that attacked the gourd and it died. . . . .[GOURD TREE LIES DOWN]. . . . . Jonah was very sad about that.

Jonah: My poor little gourd tree!

Narrator: Then, at sunrise, God prepared a hot east wind. The sun beat on Jonah’s head until he nearly fainted, and he was so upset that he said:

Jonah: [JONAH STANDS UP]. . . . . It is better for me to die than to live.

Narrator: Then God said to Jonah:

Voice of God: What? Just how angry do you think you should be over the death of a gourd tree?

Narrator: And Jonah replied:

Jonah: I am angry enough to die.

Narrator: Then the Lord said:

Voice of God: [IN A BOOMING VOICE]. . . . . So! You have pity on the little gourd tree. And you think it’s only right to spare its life, even though you didn’t do any work to make it grow. But for the great city of Nineveh, with more than 120,000 human beings, and innocent children and animals, you have no pity?


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