Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A New Twist on the Sign of Jonah

Peter Leithart on the First Things blog posted this bit of brilliance:
A student, David Henry, points out that the word “fish” is used three times in Jonah 1-2, and notes that twice it is masculine (dag; 1:17; 2:10) but once in a feminine form (dagah; 2:1). 
A gender-bending fish? Uncertainty on the part of the writer? Or a thematically significant variation? I choose door #3. 
Before Jonah enters the fish, it is masculine (1:17); when he is within the fish, it is feminine (2:1); when it expels him onto dry land, it is masculine again (2:10). Jonah’s presence turns the fish (grammatically, literarily) feminine. She turns mother, and he turns fetus; his return to dry land is his new birth. That possibility is supported by the use of me’eh for the “belly” of the fish, a word that frequently means “womb” (Genesis 25:23; Ruth 1:11; Psalm 71:6) and when used of men refers to their generative power (Genesis 15:4; 2 Samuel 7:12; 16:11). 
Then we allegorize: The fish is a ruler of the Gentile sea, Jonah a representative Israelite. Jonah in the feminine fish promises that the Gentile world will turn fruitful when the seed of Abraham is planted in her belly. 
Then we allegorize again: Jesus is Jonah, the grave the belly of the fish. And Jesus the greater Jonah turns the devouring masculine grave into a fruitful womb, a mother of children.
The Sign of Jonah that will be given is more than a reference to our Lord's death and resurrection. It is a sign that the watery grave of baptism is now a fruitful womb to give birth to the children of God.

HT: Rev. Scott Adle


  1. And the fish turning masculine again, could that not be because at the fullness of time, the resurrection of the just is in Christ the new Man?

  2. The baptism symbolism cinches it for me. Buried with Christ by baptism. Well done.

  3. Also: there is neither male nor female in Christ.


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