Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An astonishing little tidbit...

As readers here know I have both lauded and objected to some of the words of Peter Leithart in his First Things offerings.  This time his little piece is a sheer piece of wonder and profundity.  I will let his own words speak:

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.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

So, um, the big fish is male until he becomes pregnant with Jonah. Then she is a female fish until she vomits up Jonah on the beach, then is no longer pregnant and no longer female, but male again. Yeah, I think several species of fish change sex as needed. This would be just a common biologial happenstance were it not for the human/God involvement.