Summary: The beginning of the story of Jonah
The day turned out bright and clear. The captain turned an admiring eye to the trim of his ship following the single main mast up toward the azure sky. His eyes turned downward and he surveyed the dock and saw his crew scurrying to load on cargo, bales of grain from Egypt, spices from Arabia and wood timbers from Lebanon. It was good to have a full ship with the promise of high profits when they hit the coast of Spain. He shouted out to the first mate telling him to give him a copy of the manifest. As he received the list from the sailor he was surprised to see that along with the cargo, there was the name of a passenger. His vessel was a cargo ship and they rarely got people. He squinted at the name As close as he could translate it, the man was called Dove. What kind of name was that for a man? And who would want to travel for a week across the Mediterranean on a cargo vessel? This guy must really be desperate to leave the country.
With that thought still in his mind, a stranger climbing up the gangplank caught his eye. He was dressed in a rough robe, cinched with a simple cord. His worn sandals testified that he had travelled quite a ways to get to the port city. He was carrying a walking stick which he leaned on heavily to navigate the swaying gangplank. He looked quite uncomfortable as he finally set his foot on the ship. The captain thought this stranger had probably never been on a ship in his life. Well he would get a crash course in sea travel soon enough.
The captain called over a crew member and assigned him the task of showing this man called “Dove” to his berth. He had more pressing matters to attend to than worry about this curious stranger. With that thought the captain called for the first mate to give the command to stow the gangplank and untie the ropes and get ready for launch. The daylight was burning and Spain wasn’t getting any closer with the ship in dock.
How many days had they been out to sea? The stranger had lost count. The first few days had been the worst. He had been sea sick ever since they had left the calm waters of the harbour. Dove was barely able to keep any food down and had spent a good amount of his day hunkered over a bucket or heaving over the side of the ship. But the worst had passed and he was finally starting to get his sea legs. He had kept mostly to himself during his time on board in his cabin, but he knew he needed to stretch his legs and get some air. Dove climbed on deck and immediately was struck by the cool air, tinged with salt. He carefully navigated his way across the swaying deck and found an open spot against the railing. The single sail billowed out, taut, filled with the stiff eastern wind. Looking down at the white flecked waves, Dove thought they must have been making good time.
The stranger looked out back toward the direction they had come. He wondered how far his home country, Israel was. Even though it had only been weeks since he left his home, his old life felt so far away. Dove had a twinge of regret thinking of all that he had left behind. He knew that he would never see his family and friends again. He realized he was turning his back on his culture, his people, his home and his God. Dove had to stifle back a sob, thinking of all that he had lost, all that he had given up. Maybe it wasn’t too late to turn back. Maybe he could ask to be let out at their next port and hop on a boat travelling back to Joppa. But Dove shook his head. There was no turning back. This was a one way trip. It was for his own good and the good of his home country. All of this brooding wasn’t going to do him any good. Dove decided that it was time to get back to his berth and get some rest. Besides, the sky looked to be clouding over. As he descended the stairs, he hoped it wasn’t going to rain. He had never been out in a storm on the sea before. Chasing that thought from his mind, he lowered himself in his hammock and drifted off to a fitful sleep.
He was rudely awakened by rough hands shaking him. Dove cracked his eyes open and saw through the slits, the captain with a desperate look on his face. He said in Phoenician, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”