Thursday, January 30, 2014

Animals In The Bible #5 - Fish (and Fish-Like Creatures)

Fish! Fish, fish, fishes! Fishies are everywhere in the Bible, from the 150 days that they literally ruled the world because there was no land (Genesis 7:24), to metaphors and parables and netloads of fish in the Gospels, fish swim all through the OT and NT, probably because they were a major food group for Biblical times. Some notable fish stories include:


In Job 40:2, God is admonishing Job - "“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” And even though Job essentially says, "I can't, I'm not worthy," God's not letting him get off so easily and says, " “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." (Job 40:7)

Thus God sets off on a longish rant that boils down to, "I did this, I made this, can you do that? No? All right then, shut up." (Nicer than that.)

In his rant, God talks about how His arm is longish, His voice is thunderous, his wrath is wrath-i-ness, and He made a lot of cool stuff including a Behemoth, which could be a hippopotamus, a dinosaur, or a crocodile, but is definitely a land monster because starting in Job 41, God talks about the Leviathan, the sea creature counterpart.

God (or whoever wrote Job) is quite taken with the Leviathan, because He goes on for a FULL 34 VERSES describing the thing. It's got a "graceful form" (v12), a "double coat of armour" (v13) "snorts flashes of light" (v18), "its chest is as hard as a rock" (v24), "its undersides as jagged potsherds,"(v30). God kinda like this sea serpent he made, but no mention of what He thought of the movie 

Great Fish (That Is Not A Whale.) 

Yep, Jonah was not swallowed by a whale, as your Sunday School lessons would have you believe, but he was swallowed by a "great fish" (Jonah 1:17), and stayed inside that fish for three days and three nights.

Though it's tempting to imagine what it was like for the Biblical precursor of Pinocchio, let's consider it from the Great Fish's POV.

Great Fish - Hi, God. It's me, the Great Fish. I did what You wanted me to and I swallowed this guy Jonah. Now what? 

God - You have done well, good and faithful Great Fish. Just hang out for a bit. 

Great Fish - Cool beans. Need me to swallow anyone else?

God - Not right now. 

Great Fish - Kay. Hey, can I eat that school of plankton over there?

God - Uh... sure. Go for it. 

Great Fish - Thanks!

(Second Day)

Great Fish - Hey, God?

God - Hmmmm? 

Great Fish - the dude You wanted me to swallow, he's, um, praying.

God - Yes, I know. He was praying to Me, actually. I was listening to him. 

Great Fish - It's a little uncomfy. 'Cause it's an echo chamber in my belly, and all the "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer ode to you, to your holy temple," (Ch. 2:7), it's just bouncing off the walls over and over and over again. It's the meal that keeps me remembering, you know what I'm saying?

God - Just hang on, Jonah's not quite done learning stuff yet.

Great Fish - Learning, awesome, great, listen. Could he maybe learn somewhere that doesn't involve my gastrointestinal system?

God - Just hang on. 

(Third Day)

God - Hey, Great Fish. 

Great Fish - Hmmm? What? Sorry, I'm really miserable, this tummy ache You're making me carry is not cool at all.

God - I know, I know. Good news, he's coming out. Today. Right now. 

Great Fish - Really? Fantastic, but um, um, um, how?

God - Check it out. 

(God punches Great Fish in the tummy. Great Fish vomits Jonah out.)

Great Fish - That, that, that, was... a really gross way to do that, man.

God - Not as gross as if he went out the other way. 

Great Fish - .... uh, wow. Wow. You really do know everything, don't You. 

God. - Yep. As advertised. 

Multiplying New Testament Fish 

Jesus employs a ton of fish in the Gospels.

In the popular Feeding Of The Multitudes, these are actually two separate miracles.

The first one is Jesus feeding the 5,000. (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15.) Here, Jesus takes five loaves and two fishes, feeds 5,000 people and has twelve basketfuls left over.

The second miracle is Jesus feeding the 4,000 (but really, what's a few more people, give or take a thousand). This one appears in Mark 8:1-9 and Matthew 15:32-39 , and it's seven loaves, "a few small fish", 4,000 people and seven basketfuls left over.

Jesus liked to make his points using fish. He called the first disciples - fishermen Simon Peter and Andrew - to come follow him and be his disciples, saying, "I will make you fishers of men," (Matthew 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17; Luke 5:10) I like to think he did this because Jesus knew having fishermen as your best buds meant you'd be able to catch dinner most places.

And if you read further in Luke 5, you see that Jesus instructs Simon Peter where (deep water) to catch a giant load of fish (Luke 5:4-11)

John 21:1-11 mentions another great catch of fish as directed by Jesus, this time by using the all important trick of throwing your nets on the other side of the boat.  

Jesus used a fish to pay the temple tax in Matthew 17:27, but perhaps my favorite use of a fish in all the bible is the one Jesus eats in Luke 24:42.

This is after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected, and it's the first time he's appeared to the disciples (and in a lovely bit of irony, Jesus has shown himself first to a group of women, and then to two total strangers on the road to Emmaus before he showed himself to the guys who've been following him (and fishing for him) for three years).

Jesus greets the disciples, and they think he's a ghost, because... well, I dunno why. You followed this guy for three years, he told you he was the Son Of God, you saw him do miracles and when he shows up after you saw him crucified you think... MUST BE A GHOST! I'VE COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING HE SAID! OOPSIE!

So to prove to his buddies that he's indeed alive (or alive-ish), Jesus eats... a broiled fish. It's broiled, not grilled, not fried. Most likely seasoned with salt, maybe pepper. Delicious stuff, really. :)

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