A slightly offbeat translation of today’s Old
Testament lectionary reading, Jonah 3: 1-5 & 10
‘Oi, Jonah, this is the second time I’ve called today. Wake up, get up of yer butt and listen before I really get hacked off with you.’
‘Now then, I want you to get yer sandals on and get on the road you indolent laggard. You’re going to Nineveh for me I need you to deliver a message.’
‘When you get there, you’re going to tell that load of lowlifes what I’m going to say to you, so just make sure you pass on the whole thing for me. I’m not messin’ about here kid, listen up so you get it right when you pass it on to them. In fact, just to be on the safe side, you can recite it back to me before you go and practice while you’re on the road.’
So off goes Jonah traipsing across country roads, till he gets to Nineveh. It’s a big city; three days walk across. In such a big place it’ll take poor old footsore Jonah a day or so to get somewhere near the middle, and that’s if he finds his way directly without help.
Two days later, after half a dozen wrong turns, and slightly less sets of unreliable directions, he finds himself at the city centre, where all the better establishments that he can’t afford to stay were located.
At the middle of that lawless city, finding himself in the market place, where crowds gather in the daytime, he starts telling God’s message. Tentatively at first, he gains confidence and he starts to shout ‘Forty days, you lot ‘ave got just forty days before the big boss upstairs gets really ticked off and razes this den of inequity.’
By the time he go to the end of his diatribe, almost everyone in the square is looking Jonah’s way, wondering who the annoying preacher is. It took weeks of chatter and discussion, until it got near the forty days and they thought they’d put off the decision as long as they could. The Ninevites decided to believe Jonah, though a lot of them didn’t think he was quite ‘all there’.
The next day no one ate anything and they all started fasting, and they all turned out in their roughest, scratchiest togs. It turned out that their luck was in that day. They got themselves forgiven and the city was preserved.