Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch:  3  4  

Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley

Jonah: Narrative Speed

In biblical narrative the speed of telling is seldom uniform. In Jonah it varies widely.

In tracts of speech repeated apparently verbatim the narrative moves at a one-to-one ratio with the plot. These range from mere snippets (the king of Nineveh's proclamation (3:7b-9) through extended conversations (1:6b-14) to Jonah's prayer in 2:2-9).

While on the other hand the arrival of the storm, and the mariners frantic attempts to save the vessel are told in 2 verses (1:4-5), and - excepting the prayer - Jonah's three days and nights in the fish pass in a few words.

Not only does the speed of telling vary, Jonah also makes use of temporal dislocation, with flashback (1:5 "Jonah meanwhile..."; 1:10 "because he had told..."; 1:17 one presumes the fish arrived in less time than it takes to offer a good sacrifice; 4:5, Jonah is still unaware of "what would become of the city" despite his conversation with God in 4:2-4) and flash forward (1:17b the end of Jonah's time in the fish is mentioned before the prayer or the spewing up).

© Tim Bulkeley, 2003