Here is my first exegetical paper on Jonah for my Hebrew class:
Geography and Movement In Jonah
Jonah’s actions in Jonah 1:1-6 poetically portray his attempt to flee the Lord. The two poetic movements are introduced by Jonah fleeing “away from the face of the Lord.” Both of these units then depict Jonah’s attempts to progress further and further down. By examining Jonah’s actions, we understand his character and God’s better.
The only exception to Jonah’s movement away and down is at the very beginning, and it cannot be seen as an exception in intent. After receiving the word of the Lord to “get up,” Jonah does get up; this is not act of obedience, however, but an act of rebellion. Jonah proceeds “to flee to Tarshish, away from the face of the Lord.” The description of Tarshish as oriented “away from the face of the Lord” is a significant clue to Jonah’s intent. The fact that this description is repeated should draw our attention.
The two units of movement characterized as “away from the face of the Lord” are further described by Jonah’s downward movement. The first unit of movement continues with Jonah going down to Jaffa, where he finds a ship and pays the fare, and going down into the boat. The second unit of movement continues with Jonah going down even further into the ship, lying down, and falling asleep.
Each movement away and down is a response to the intervention of the Lord in Jonah’s life. The first unit follows the word of the Lord reaching Jonah. The second unit follows the “great wind” of the Lord reaching Jonah. The more Jonah encounters the Lord, the further away and down he flees; clearly he is bent on avoiding the Lord’s instruction.
Jonah’s movement away and down suggests two things about God: first, about God’s attention and second, about God’s location. The face of the Lord is mentioned three times in the first six verses of Jonah; this mention of his face, along with Tarshish’s orientation “away from the face of the Lord,” suggest that the Lord is not abstractly all-present or all-aware, but that he particularly directs his attention. The Lord’s use of word and wind and Jonah’s continued efforts to move down both suggest that the Lord dwells in the air. Ninevah’s wickedness rising “up before [the Lord’s] face” seems to support this.
If you want, here’s an earlier post on Jonah.