Author’s note: You may know the Biblical story “Jonah and the Whale,” but most people do not know the earlier tale about Jonah’s encounter with a different nautical creature. This is that story.
On the outskirts of the biblical village of Nineveh, a scrawny man named Jonah lived in a meager clay and straw abode. Jonah was not a prophet yet. No, he was just a simple sheepherder, just like all biblical era people. Jonah was a decent man. He did not engage in sinful acts, even when encouraged to by his wicked neighbors in Nineveh’s center. Because of this, he was known in the schoolyards as Judicious Jonah, not a particularly flow-off-the-tip-of-the-tongue nickname, but his nickname nonetheless. The denizens of the village always jeered at him from their windows as he walked past, “There goes Judicious Jonah, abstaining from thievery again!” Jonah was always confused as to why this was an insult, but he decided it just spoke further about how wicked the Ninevites were.
One hot day, after a particularly harsh insult, (“Judicious Jonah, you’re so pure, Judicious Jonah, we’ll knock down your door”) Jonah decided something had to be done about these evil people living down the block from his own humble home. He wanted to have children at some point, and he, by Job!, (please excuse the anachronism) was not going to raise offspring in the shadow of these malicious people. Jonah decided to go take a long stroll to his special thinking spot, the beach by the Mediterranean Sea.
When he arrived, Jonah was surprised to see no one there.
“Tourists must be gone for the season,” he huffed to himself. (Jonah was not exempt from negative thoughts, but compared to the Ninevehnians he was still an angel.) Since the beach was empty, he began to brainstorm out loud.
“Well, I could always try teaching them the ways of the pure,” he mused, “but they’ll never listen to me. Or I could use subliminal messages….No, that will take much too long.” Jonah sat down in frustration and shouted, “What can I do to make this world a better place?”
Suddenly, the Mediterranean Sea parted, (it had always had a rivalry with the Red Sea, so it decided now was the perfect time to show off) causing a multitude of sea creatures to flail helplessly on the sand at its bottom. Startled, Jonah began to stumble backwards to safety, but he was intrigued by one thing he saw in the parted waters: a gigantic squid.
“But this isn’t just any large squid found in a landlocked sea,” he thought in wonderment. “This is the Squid, one of the wisest ancient beings that still inhabits the Earth!”
“That’s right,” rumbled the Squid in its low, wise voice. “I suppose while I’m here, trapped by this strange phenomenon of nature, you can ask me a question.”
“Thank you Squid,” said Jonah. “I am just a humble Ninevehner who is fed up with the evil doings of my neighbors—”
“Aren’t we all,” sighed the Squid.
“What? Oh, yes, I suppose so,” said Jonah, taken aback. “My question for you is: how can I teach my fellow Ninevehlanders how to treat one another with respect and not commit sins left and right?”
The Squid replied, “I have not the faintest idea; that’s not my area of expertise. Go ask the Whale.”