Sea and the Dry

Sea and the Dry June 26, 2015

When a storm breaks out at sea on a voyage to Tarshish, the sailors want to know who Jonah is. He tells them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh God of heaven who made the sea and dry land” (Jonah 1:9; Hebrew for “the dry” is yabbashah). The God of Jonah is the God of the three-decker universe, heaven, land, sea.

It’s a meaningful self-description, in part because the sailors know that Jonah’s God is responsible for the storm. The deeper significance is apparently only when we search out the roots of that distinction between wet sea and dry. It’s a creation of the third day, when Yahweh gathered the sea into one place so that the dry emerged (Genesis 1:9-10). The separate of sea and dry also occurs after the flood, when a new creation emerges from the waters (Genesis 8:7, 14), and at the Exodus when Yahweh separated Israel from Egypt by dividing the sea to make a dry path (Exodus 14:16, 22, 29; 15:19; cf. Joshua 4:22; Nehemiah 9:11). 

Drying is as essential to the world as water. Without dry, the world is hospitable only to fish,  not to human beings.

Jonah’s reference to the separation of sea and dry on day 3 points ahead to his own experience. After the sailors fail to get from the sea to the dry (1:13), they throw Jonah into the sea. He virtually dies, and only comes back to life when the great fish spews him out again on the yabbashah. Jonah re-experiences the sea-dry of the creation, of the flood, of the exodus, of the conquest. 

And, of course, it’s significant that this should be a third day event, since Jonah’s replication of the third day sea-to-dry progress is a type of another third day, the sign of Jonah, when another Prophet would go to the depths of the sea and emerge again on dry land.

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