The Prophet Jonah A Reluctant Prophet With A Great Mission
We find in the Quran mentioning the prophet Jonah in these verses:
21:87 And [mention] the man of the fish, when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him. And he called out within the darknesses, “There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.”
21:88 So We responded to him and saved him from the distress. And thus do We save the believers.
37: 139 And indeed, Jonah was among the messengers.
140 [Mention] when he ran away to the laden ship.
141 And he drew lots and was among the losers.
142 Then the fish swallowed him, while he was blameworthy.
143 And had he not been of those who exalt Allah,
144 He would have remained inside its belly until the Day they are resurrected.
145 But We threw him onto the open shore while he was ill.
146 And We caused to grow over him a gourd vine.
147 And We sent him to [people of] a hundred thousand or more.
148 And they believed, so We gave them enjoyment [of life] for a time.
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These are the verses of the story from the Quran, but if you like to hear the complete story in detail go to the book “the Holy Bible” that Allah “sent down before” – Surah An-Nisa 4:136
But at times, God sends down to his prophets of today, books with stories in even greater detail so we can better understand His ways and the purposes of His doings.
The Story of Jonah-Part One
As told by the Prophet Jonah
Chapter 1 – Out of the Depths
It seemed like the moments lasted for an eternity as I tumbled in slow motion, screaming in terror, falling and twisting towards the icy blackness of the churning ocean beneath me. The impact of my body breaking the waves shocked me back into the realization that this was surely to be the end of my life. Blinded by the stinging saltwater as I began to sink down under the waves, my mind screamed out: I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!
Fighting my way back up to the surface, which now seemed to be painted black with a huge ominous shadow, I cried out, “God help me, please help me! Forgive me, I…” Then another wave taller than a house broke over me, silencing me, pulling me relentlessly into a watery tomb. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I would die. There, in the swirling rush of darkness, as I was being dragged under and twisted in violent circles by the furious waves, my life passed before my eyes.
Scenes of my infancy and boyhood flashed quickly through my mind. Once again I was with my dear mother, Meribah, and my stern, but loving father, Amittai, my brothers and sisters, and our friends in Gath-Hepher.
I was a lonely boy, always different from the others. I could see things others couldn’t see, and know things without being told. I didn’t know why then, but it made me feel superior to others in a secret sort of way.
When a visiting prophet from Elisha’s school came to our town, descending from the slopes of Mount Tabor in the south, he saw me on the road with our goats. He looked at me, or rather, into me, and then approached me with a kind smile. I learned later that God had spoken to him, and told him that I was called to become a prophet. This man of God took me aside, anointed me, and instructed me in many things. He also instructed my parents that I should receive special instruction in the Holy Scriptures at the house of the priest, and he gave them a list of things that I shouldn’t be allowed to do. This seemed unfair, and not much fun, but still, I did like the idea of being a prophet, speaking God’s Words, and having people listen to me and take notice of me.
I remembered the first time God communicated a message to my heart. It was concerning a sheep that had gone missing from our neighbor’s flock. Suddenly I saw a picture of a man’s face who I knew lived in a village half a day’s walk eastward. God showed me that this man had stolen the sheep. I told several people what God had revealed to me and they laughed, but my mother and father listened. They encouraged our elder to go to this man, and there in his small barn the missing lamb was found, hidden in a makeshift pen behind some sacks of grain. Many people asked me, “How did you know?” Some thought I had been spying on my neighbor, and others wondered how I could have known, doubting that I was called to be a prophet. But my mother believed in my gift from that moment on, and that belief never wavered.
As I grew into manhood, my ability to know things by God’s Spirit gradually increased as I took long walks and listened for His leading. I found a small measure of acceptance of my role by those in our village. I learned to help people in various ways, helping to make some needed repairs on the synagogue, and taking on various odd jobs. But I was always restless, with an unspoken longing for adventure. My mother noticed this agitation of spirit and hurried the matchmaker to find me a wife, thinking that this would be the answer to my unsettled state.
So a marriage was hastily arranged, and I soon found myself in a small house of my own, living with a wife who didn’t understand my moods and whom I didn’t understand either. Several children were soon born to us, but I wasn’t much of a husband or father. I was still young, and thirsting for adventure. Sometimes I felt restless and dissatisfied, wondering what I was supposed to do, tired of solving small matters, finding stray animals, fixing broken harnesses, providing for a family every day by plowing and planting in other men’s fields, and doing menial repairs in the synagogue.
Is this all there is to be for me? I wondered glumly. I thought God was going to use me as a great prophet, like Elijah or Elisha. Maybe He’s forgotten about me, or perhaps my time will come later, when I’m an old man. But how can I endure this monotony another day? I felt like I was going to explode if something didn’t change soon.
Then came the day I had prayed for: God saw fit to use me to deliver His message to King Jehoahaz of Israel. There had been intense fighting up north on the border where the tribe of Manasseh dwelt dangerously close to King Hazael’s Syrian armies. Everyone knew that King Jehoahaz was an idol worshipper like his father and his grandfather, and because of the wickedness of these men, the Lord had instructed Elijah, our greatest prophet, to anoint King Hazael to be a scourge to our people. King Hazael had already taken control of the coastline of Israel, disrupting our trade and preventing our friends and allies from reaching us with supplies or reinforcements. King Jehoahaz had become quite desperate and began to seek the Lord instead of his idols.
I was a day’s journey from their encampment up in the hills at the waters of Merom, helping to bring a neighbor’s flocks down the mountain, when I heard news of the king’s dilemma from a group of scouts looking for safe places to move their families and herds. I felt an intense pressure on me to go and meet our warriors where they had fallen back and were camping. I later understood this pressing feeling to be the Lord’s presence. Not able to explain myself adequately to my companions, I started off descending the hills on the northern side and walked the day’s journey, finding the king’s camp as the sun was setting.
The king had gathered his generals and aides to stand by him as he knelt before an altar of stones he had erected two days before. He had been fasting and praying and beseeching God to come to their rescue and save Israel from the Syrians who were too numerous and powerful for them to drive off. As I approached this proud and disobedient king who was now humbled by defeat, I felt the power and anointing rise up in my innermost parts, like a flood swelling and pushing against a river embankment of earth and stone. I started to shake as my stomach wrenched and my hands grew cold with an icy sweat that drenched my skin. My head became light and suddenly I was unaware of my surroundings, except for the huddled figure of the king, whom I was fast approaching. I sensed that soldiers were leaping towards me with spears raised, but they hesitated and then fell back. I stopped a few steps from the king. Silence covered us like a thick cloak. The king slowly turned, and when he saw me standing over him with my shepherd’s staff planted firmly in the dust, he fell back and asked, “Who are you, and from whence have you come?”
Almost against my own will, I raised my voice, and answered in trembling tones, “I am Jonah, son of Amittai, of the tribe of Zebulon, the town of Gath-Hepher.” I could no longer control the words that were forcing their way out of my mouth, so I continued. “The anger of the Lord God of Israel is kindled against thee, O king, for you have followed the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who led Israel into sin. Therefore He hath delivered you into the hand of Hazael, king of Syria, who shall plague you all the days of his life.” My voice steadied as I continued, and the trembling ceased as I relaxed and yielded my tongue to the mouth of God.
“Yet thus saith the Lord, ‘As you have humbled yourself to build Me an altar, and to fast and pray and call upon Me, and you have not gone to Dan to pray at the altar of the golden calf, which thing is an abomination unto Me, therefore I will hearken unto the cry of your voice. For I see the oppression of My people Israel by the hand of the king of Syria, that it is very bitter. There is not any shut up, nor any strength of arms remaining, nor any helper for my people. Therefore shall I send a savior to Israel who shall restore the coasts from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain. I will send My deliverer who shall break the bondage of the Syrians that the name of Israel shall not be blotted out from under Heaven.
“’Therefore be strong and know that the Lord your God will hold you up and go forth with you into battle. Only heed My ways and seek My face. Turn not back again unto your idols and your iniquities. I am the Lord, the God of Israel, and I will hear from Heaven and deliver My flock from the sword of the Syrian.’“
Like a mist parting and dissipating, the Spirit of God lifted from me, and I felt all the weariness of the day’s long journey return to me. As well, another sort of deep weakness ran through my body, leaving it limp. Leaning heavily upon my staff, I opened my eyes to see the astonished face of the king staring at me. Some soldiers came to take me to a tent for rest and brought me food and wine. I ate and drank alone, and sank into a welcome and deep sleep.
[Note: This prophecy was later fulfilled by Jehoahaz’s own grandson, king Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:25-27).]
The next day, the soldiers surrounded me and talked of the prophecy. They looked at me with awe and respect, which I rather enjoyed. The king did not seek me out again, and finding nothing else to do there, I began to feel out of place, sort of like a large rabbit among friendly and curious hunting dogs. So I decided to return to Gath-Hepher and there think about this amazing experience.
Savoring every detail of the previous day’s events, especially the way the king and his soldiers had looked at me, I felt as though I was floating in the clouds all the way home. This quickly faded when the shouts and curses of my neighbor greeted me as I returned home, as he scolded me for running off and leaving his flocks. My wife berated me for my irresponsibility before she even let me explain what I had been doing. No one, except my mother and father, thought it was such a wonderful thing that I had prophesied before the king himself. Instead, it almost seemed as if people resented me for my gift. They thought I was strange, and they didn’t like to be around me; maybe because they were worried about what God could show me about them!
After a few days, when the gossip and stories about my adventure grew old, and other small events again began to command the notice of the local busybodies, my life returned to the same mundane routine that it had been for the last few years. The burden of taking up my endless duties and frustrations again weighed on me, but now with double heaviness. I felt like a young steer whose powerful energy was being sapped away from him by a heavy wooden yoke, which imprisoned him under the hand of the plowman.
Chapter 2 – The Thrill of Adventure
One day in the fields, as I labored under the mid-morning sun, I stopped and lifted my face to its warmth, and my yearning heart to God in prayer. Then God spoke, and gave me a message so monumental that it could change the course of history as we knew it-a message that was about to drastically change my own life as well.
“Jonah, obey Me in all things,” the voice of the Lord declared. “Rise up and leave your family and your country. Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, saying, ‘God hath spoken. Nineveh shall be destroyed!’ The stench of her sins and the cries of her wickedness have ascended unto Heaven. Her rulers and her people, her cattle and her palaces, yea, and all that she owns, shall be utterly destroyed for the iniquity I have seen behind every door, in every grove and in every field. Jonah, lay down your hoe, take up your staff, and follow Me!”
I was stunned! This type of awesome mission was what I’d always wanted! I dropped the hoe in the field and ran to my house. But even as I ran I began to worry a little. I didn’t know exactly what I was worried about, but it grew and became a dark nagging doubt, threatening to overshadow the clear light of the revelation of God. Instead of immediately telling my wife, I decided to think about it a little more in private. After all, I wasn’t even sure she would believe me. I kept my secret for several days, as I became moody, then confused, and finally even a bit fearful.
To reach Nineveh from my home in Zebulon, I would have to pass through Syria, the stronghold of Hazael who had been troubling Israel ever since Elijah had anointed him king. If I made it through Syria, I would then enter the lands of the Assyrians, of which Nineveh was the chief city. Once I got to Nineveh, how would people react? Would they kill me outright, or would they just laugh me to scorn for proclaiming imminent judgment upon them from some foreign God? These nagging worries became fears, and the fears took on forms that attacked me in the night like wild dogs with sharp teeth. I awoke on the fourth night in a cold sweat from a frightful dream where I saw myself being pelted with stones and left, torn and bleeding, to die outside the walls of Nineveh.
As I lay in my bed trembling, I reasoned to myself that God might be warning me of danger. Surely He would be merciful to me if I felt I couldn’t face such a gruesome death at so young an age. Surely God could find someone else to warn Nineveh, I rationalized. Isn’t Elisha still preaching in our land, and doesn’t he have many fine young prophets he is training? One of them would be much more suitable than I am. Besides, I thought, why would God want me to warn them before they are judged? That would just give them a chance to repent. And if they do, perhaps God won’t destroy them after all. They don’t deserve that chance after all the wickedness they’ve inflicted upon so many innocent people.
I lay there for a few hours, debating and struggling with God, Who pressed on me like a farmer forcing all his weight on the rump of an obstinate mule. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I leapt into action and rose up to run away from this heavy presence of the Lord, and the pressure I felt to obey this ominous undertaking. I quickly grabbed some money, a few clothes and some food. I paused to take one last look at the sleeping figures of my wife and children before soundlessly slipping out the door. The night covered me with its murky shadows as I fled through the village. I skirted the town boundaries, and took the road south, away from Gath-Hepher, away from Nineveh, and away from the presence of the Lord.
I breathed easier as the sun rose on the road to the seacoast. I felt a rush of carefree lightness as the burdens and fears seemed to slip from my shoulders. Free! I was free! I had gotten away without anyone noticing, and without having to explain anything.
As I traveled three days south and westward to the coast, my lightness of heart was a sail which buoyed me up over a sea of worries and doubts as I considered a whole world of opportunities open to me now.
“I can start a new life,” I speculated, “and I can do things I’ve always denied myself before. No one will know me. I can learn new trades, anything I want. I’ll do well and support myself better than I could in Gath-Hepher. Why, I could send plenty of money home to my family, and by the time I get back, I’ll have established my own trade.”
I started to think of all the distant places I could travel to. I listened eagerly to the experiences of the merchants and tradesmen I met along the road, who had ventured outside of our small borders in caravans and sailing ships.
One place I heard about fired my imagination-Tarshish! A land of adventure and treasure! Tarshish was at the outer reaches of the world, beyond the Great Sea to the west! What a journey that would be!-Probably full of dangers, and with the possibility of doing daring deeds of bravery, and coming back home with silver, other valuable metals and exotic merchandise. Did I dare? I was so excited at the thought of travel. I was feeling so exhilarated at my newfound freedom. I began to wonder why I’d ever allowed myself to be yoked into such a restricted and burdensome life. I wondered why I hadn’t had the courage to make my own decisions years ago instead of consenting to an early and unwanted marriage. Why did I waste so much time working for other people when I could have been building my own life and enjoying it to the full?
“What a fool I’ve been!” I scolded myself. “But that’s all going to change now!”
On the third day, as the sun was starting its downward circuit in the sky, I arrived at the busy port town of Joppa. Summoning all my courage, I approached the docks, made inquiries, and found a ship in port that was bound for Tarshish! I agreed to pay part of the passage from the money I’d brought with me, and to work in the galley for the remainder of the fare. I could hardly believe my good fortune! Pushing away all nagging thoughts about my family and God’s message, I let my imagination have free rein as I reveled in the pleasurable independence of my new life. I ignored all fears and chose to act confident in the wisdom of striking out to a new destiny of my own making. I was finally able to choose my own way, finally at liberty to do what I wanted to do.
The voyage started off with only a few inconveniences and delays, and when the tide beckoned, we headed out to sea, then turned south to follow the coast. I knew we were sailing away from Nineveh and toward the land of my dreams. However, the excitement I felt could not extinguish a growing and annoying sense of shame and foreboding in the pit of my stomach. I resisted the feeling and busied myself in the galley, working hard to prove myself to the seasoned shipmaster and his brawny crew.
In the evening after eating, though tired from a hard day’s work, I didn’t want to sleep, so I sought out the off-duty sailors to listen to their raucous tales. I knew they were boasting and lying about their debauched (morally corrupt) adventures, because I couldn’t prevent my inner sight from seeing into their hearts. Although their vulgar talk was abhorrent, at the same time, in a strange way, it fascinated me.
I can always learn something from men with so much experience, I reasoned to myself. I have to know how to handle myself amongst all sorts of people, so this will be a good experience for me. At any rate, I’ve done some wrong things myself now. Maybe I’m really not much different from them after all.
I tried to fit in and boasted about how I got fed up with my tedious life in the countryside, weary of all the religious restrictions, and decided to go for some more profitable enterprise in life. But they weren’t too impressed or interested in listening to my tale. They just laughed and told me I would be better off going back to my prayers and my home.
My home. That was something that I didn’t want to think about. Oh, never mind about it. After all, it was God who told me to leave my family and my country in the first place, I thought, in a shameful attempt to convince myself that God shouldn’t be too displeased about that part, at least. I was trying so hard to prove to myself and to others what a daring and stalwart (imposing physical strength) man I was, but in my heart I knew myself to be a cowardly hypocrite. What does the respect of these ungodly men mean to me when I have no respect for myself? I wondered momentarily. But not wanting to contemplate the answer, I tried instead to blot out the pictures of my family, and dull the ominous feeling that I’d done wrong to my God. I longed to silence the call of my mission to a foreign land to preach God’s message to wicked sinners. I began to drink ale and wine with the shipmates until I passed out in welcome blackness.
The following day I woke up where I’d fallen, reeking with the smell of wine and covered in my own vomit. I quickly splashed myself clean from a barrel of sea water, and dragged myself down to the galley to gut fish and grind wheat for the next meal.
On the second night, I drank my thoughts into oblivion once again and lay in a besotted (confused state of mind, usually from drinking) stupor on the side of the ship where I’d fallen, unconscious of the menacing clouds which were gathering quickly into a thick, black stew of churning darkness.
I half-woke to a pain in my backside where the shipmaster’s sturdy leg had delivered a sound kick.
“Wha … What’s going on?” I mumbled indifferently through my clouded senses.
“Wake up, you sleeping dog!” the shipmaster bellowed. “What do you mean sleeping at a time like this? This vessel is in danger of going under, and you’re asleep? Get up and cry out to your God to save us. Perhaps in His mercy He will spare us.” The darkness of the ship’s bowels could not blot out the terror I saw in the whites of his eyes. “Pray, man! Pray!” he yelled as he turned and strode expertly across the swaying boards.
I jumped up and dizzily stumbled forward, grasping at beams and barrels as I staggered through the underbelly of the groaning, gyrating ship. Is this a nightmare? Am I still dreaming? I wondered. In spite of the violent storm breaking over our heads, I moved along feeling detached from the scenes of terror, unseeing and unhearing, making my way past flying objects as if I were a ghost and not flesh and blood. The ladder, I thought dully, I’ll go up to the deck and see what’s happening.
With difficulty I climbed the ladder and was at once soaked through by the angry waves breaking over the rails. The shipmaster was shouting directions to his men to bring up all the cargo and cast it overboard to lighten the ship. He exhorted the passengers to stay below and beseech their gods to have mercy and save the ship and our lives. The wind continued to blow harder, venting its unquenchable anger on our heads. The waves rose higher with each billow, threatening to splinter us with one well-aimed blow to the side.
The seamen, who could no longer work, began to cluster around the masts and cry out to their heathen gods for mercy, like children wailing to their mothers. I saw a man I’d spoken to the night before tossed overboard as easily as a doll, and fear gripped me in its icy hand as I finally awoke to full consciousness of the severity of our plight. Our once sturdy craft was being tossed around like a toy boat as it rose on the crests of the waves and then dropped with a bone-shattering thud, to be wildly rocked from side to side, and driven up again with the next crest. My stomach twisted violently as I retched (to vomit) out its contents and then ran back below deck, grabbing onto anything I could find to keep myself upright.
While brave men screamed in fear and some prayed to unseeing and unhearing gods, I remained strangely unmoved. My heart was hardened through sin and numb through fear. I would not-and indeed, could not-pray. I had no right to entreat God, because I was running away from Him; I was fighting and rebelling and tearing myself loose from His control. I had no one to cry to. I could not beseech my Father in Heaven; I had left Him. Feeling isolated from God, my heart began to yearn once again for Tarshish, and my beautiful dreams that were now so quickly slipping away. The land of escape and forgetfulness that I had clung to so tightly in my mind now seemed lost to me.
“Now I’ll never get there, and we’re all going to perish. No one will ever know what happened to me,” I mourned, burying my face in my arms.
“Why are you not calling upon your God to save us?” the shipmaster loudly demanded. Because I was greatly absorbed in my misery, I had not seen him return below deck. My mind raced as he stood glaring hard at me. “Man, why are you not afraid? Why are you not praying? Should we all go down because of one who is careless of his own life?” He grabbed me by my tunic and roughly jerked me to my feet. I was dragged over to a group of sailors huddled together debating whose fault it was that this calamity had befallen them.
“Remain with us here,” the shipmaster growled, “and pray the gods will hear us and show us the cause of this storm, that we may appease them.”
“Let us cast lots to discover who is responsible for this deathly tempest,” one man yelled above the din.
I watched nervously as they cast their lots one by one. Then it was my turn. Slowly the color drained from my face as my empty stomach twisted itself into a torturous knot. “God is not mocked, neither is anything hid from His sight,” I whispered faintly when I saw the outcome. The Lord, in the face of these unbelieving seamen, had rightfully exposed my sin. The lot had fallen on me!
The aging shipmaster and his men fell silent as their gaze lifted from the floor to my ashen (pale in color, resembling the color of ashes) face. Like the pack of angry dogs in my dream, they bared their yellowed teeth and began barking questions at me all at the same time. “Who are you?” snarled one. “Where are you from?” growled another. “Who are your people?” “Don’t lie to us! Tell us the truth about yourself and what you do!” “What have you done that has brought this evil upon us?” cried others.
Lowering my eyes in shame I replied, “Listen then, and I will tell you all and hide nothing from you. For it is certain that nothing is hid from the Almighty God in Heaven Who has openly revealed my guilt this day. I am Jonah, son of Amittai, a Hebrew of the tribe of Zebulon, and a prophet of the Most High God of Israel Who hath made the sea and the dry land,” I began unsteadily as the battered ship careened wildly in the tempestuous sea. “Captain, I am not calling upon my God, because I have been running away from Him. This storm is from His Almighty hand. I am not calling on Him because I no longer have any right to come before Him. I boarded this ship to escape His presence and flee His call of service. This storm is upon us and will kill us all because of me. I am a worse transgressor than any other man aboard this vessel, for I was not living in ignorance of the truth of God, but have knowingly rebelled against Him, and thereby brought this evil upon us all. For the wrath of the most high God is kindled sore against me.”
The men began to tremble in fear at the power of this mighty God whose judgments were so terrible and swift. The shipmaster’s strong hands gripped my arms as he took hold of me. “You are a fool!” he screamed in my face. “Why have you done this evil?” He loosened his iron hold and I fell heavily to the boards as the ship twisted sharply.
“Yet even now,” he continued beseechingly, “if you plead for mercy, your God may turn and have pity upon us all. I beg you, sir, please, if you are a prophet as you say, you must have some power yet with your God, even if you have displeased Him. Please, sir, pray to your God to spare us. Do not rob our wives and children from their food and livelihood. Plead mercy on us for their sakes, sir.”
The terrified sailors implored me, crying, “Please sir, do something! Please tell us what to do! What should we do that the sea may become calm again? Tell us, that we perish not!”
These rough pagans’ pleas, their simple belief in my calling, and especially the shipmaster’s words of faith regarding my connection with God strangely rekindled a tiny ember of faith in my spirit. With that spark came illumination, and a picture of what God required.
“Captain, you and your men must take me up and throw me overboard as a sacrifice to my God, to ransom the lives of all on board this ship,” I urged with a shaking voice. “He has revealed to me that only in this way will the sea be calm for you. He does not wish to harm you; it is only my life He requires, because it is for my disobedience that this storm is upon us. You must throw me overboard now! I haven’t the courage to jump, so do it now if you hope to save yourselves.”
“Far be it from us, sir! You are a prophet, and your God will surely judge us if we do you any harm,” the old mariner protested vehemently. “Let us beseech your God. We will all turn to Him with our whole hearts. He will hear us. We cannot throw a prophet to his death. Nay, we shall try all the harder to bring this vessel to shore.”
He and his seamen then struggled down another ladder to the lower deck, where the terrorized slaves who manned the ships oars were begging to be released from their bands as the water was rising up to their knees. With desperate words the captain and crew urged every man to pick up their oars again. Filling in empty seats, the men grabbed the oars as the captain called out the rhythm to unify the effort. They prayed as they strained over the long oars, but it was to no avail. The unrestrained sea fought them savagely until the shipmaster realized that they would not prevail. He set about unlocking the slaves from their chains, urging every row of men, “Cry to the God of Jonah, make vows to the most high God of Israel. Beg for His mercy upon our souls!”
Grasping their last shred of hope, all the men on board in that blinding fury did what I refused to do, and called upon our mighty Judge in Heaven, repenting of their sins, being converted at the moment of their impending deaths. Only I remained unmoved and alienated in my heart. I resumed watching all that was before me as if it was a dream in the night, almost as if from outside my own body.
With a fearful heave the ship began to slowly turn over, throwing everyone into a panic. Only at the last moment the vessel righted itself again. With great difficulty I pulled myself back up the ladders following the captain and his terrified crewmen to the top deck. I pulled myself along the rail until I found them, eyes wide with fear, clinging for their lives to the mast, and anything on the deck that proved substantial sturdy.
“Captain,” I shrieked through the howling gale, “do it now! You have no other choice!” In one long silent moment, he searched my eyes deeply, and I commanded him with all the authority I could gather, “In the name of God, Captain, you know what you must do!”
“Oh Lord in Heaven,” the old man prayed, “we beseech You, we beg You, don’t lay upon us innocent blood! Please don’t let us perish for taking this man’s life, for we believe, O Lord, that You have done as it hath pleased You. What we are about to do, we do not willingly, but at the command of Your prophet, and for fear of Your manifest power.”
Steadying himself with a strong hand on the railing, the shipmaster gruffly motioned several men to make their way forward over the brine-soaked boards. He gestured for them to lay hold on me, and I felt myself being lifted up. The distressed men followed their master’s moves as I stiffened my frame to allow them to hoist me up high. My body balanced over their heads for one interminable second. I shut my eyes, then felt the release of their hands as they heaved me far out over the surging waters.
“No!” I screamed, “Stop! Don’t let go! Don’t let me go!” But it was too late. Those rough hands were my last contact with the world of living men, and that slender thread which tenuously binds us to life was now broken, separating me forever from my hopes, my dreams, my past, and my future.
To Be Continued in part 2.