Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jonah's planned sea trip


The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Jonah 1:1-2

The distance from the harbour city of Joppa to Tarsus is 543 km as crow flies. The trip would be taken by a wooden boat sailing near the coast.

The city of Joppa/Yafo by modern Tel Aviv is among the oldest harbours of the Holy Land. It is mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Canaanite and other historical sources. In general, the coast of Israel is shallow and offered only few good harbours for ancient sail ships: Acre in the North, Joppa in the middle and Ashqelon in the South had natural conditions that allowed the anchoring ships. But for example at Caesarea King Herod went to great lengths in order to build massive structures that protected ships from gusty winter winds and destructive waves.

Phoenician merchant ship

Biblical Israelites were landlubbers. Much of the commercial sea traffic was in the hands of Phoenicians who were excellent seafarers. It was rumoured that they had even sailed pass the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Later on, Hellenic and Roman ships competed with the Phoenician galleys in Eastern Mediterranean.

The nationality of the boat taken by Jonah is not mentioned in the text. The idea that they accepted Jonah's proposal to throw him in the dangerously stormy sea has a definite "Phoenician taste" to it. For these people were sadly famous in ancient world for their habit of sacrificing their own children to their goddess Tanit in Carthage and elsewhere.

Lottery found Jonah and his story about running away from his God frightened the sailors

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven,who made the sea and the dry land.”

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
Jonah 1:7-10


Location of Tarsus
Map Bible

Tarsus (Hittite: Tarsa, Greek: Ταρσός) is a historic city in south-central Turkey, 20 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea. It is part of the Adana-Mersin Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey with a population of 3 million. Tarsus District forms an administrative district in the eastern part of the Mersin Province and lies in the core of Çukurova region.

With a history going back over 2,000 years, Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders, a focal point of many civilisations including the Roman Empire, when Tarsus was capital of the province of Cilicia, the scene of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

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