The near-death experience of Jonah (Jon 2:4-2:6)

“Then I said.

‘I am driven away

From your sight.

How shall I look again

Upon your holy Temple?

The waters closed in

Over me.

The deep surrounded me.

Weeds were wrapped

Around my head.

At the roots

Of the mountains,

I went down

To the land.

The bars closed

Upon me forever.

Yet you brought up

My life

From the Pit.

O Yahweh!

My God!’”

The experience of drowning or nearly drowning is like a near-death experience. Jonah had been driven away from the sight of Yahweh because he had decided to run away from the task that Yahweh had asked him to do. He would never again look at the holy Temple in Jerusalem. As the sea waters closed in on him on every side, sea weeds were wrapped around his head. He actually felt like he was buried at the bottom of a mountain with the bars closed in on forever. He had gone down to the sea. like in Davy Jones locker. However, Yahweh, his God, brought him to life. He saved him from the Pit, the shadow like afterlife.

Edom in the pit (Ezek 32:29-32:29)

“Edom is there.

Its kings,

All its princes,

With all their might,

Are laid

With those

Who were killed

By the sword.

They lie

With the uncircumcised.

They lie

With those

Who go down

To the pit.”

The people of Edom, the southern neighbor of Judah, with its kings and princes are also in the pit. Despite all their might, they were laying there with the uncircumcised and those killed by the sword.

All the others go into the pit (Ezek 31:16-31:17)

“‘I made

The nations quake

At the sound

Of its fall.

I cast it down

To Sheol

With those

Who go down

To the pit.

All the trees of Eden,

The choice,

The best,

Of Lebanon,

All that were

Well-watered,

Were consoled

In the world below.

They also shall go down

To Sheol

With it,

Those killed

By the sword,

Along with its allies,

Those who lived

In its shadow

Among the nations.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he had made the other nations shake at the sound of this falling great cedar tree. Yahweh had cast it down to Sheol where others had gone into the pit also. This included the choice and best cedar trees from Lebanon and the Garden of Eden. All these well-watered trees were consoled in the world below. They all went down to Sheol with those who had been killed by the sword, as well as the allies who had lived in the shadow of this great tree.

The death of the prince of Tyre (Ezek 28:6-28:8)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘You compare

Your mind

With the mind

Of a god.

Therefore,

I will bring strangers

Against you.

I will bring

The most terrible

Of the nations.

They shall draw

Their swords

Against the beauty

Of your wisdom.

They will defile

Your splendor.

They shall thrust you

Down to the pit.

You shall die

A violent death

In the heart

Of the seas.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was upset because the prince of Tyre had compared his mind to that of a god. Thus Yahweh was going to bring strangers, the most terrible of all the nations, against him. They would draw their swords against his beautiful wisdom. They would defile his splendor. They would throw him into the pit with a violent death, right in the middle of the high seas. He would sink and drown.

Ebed-melech rescues Jeremiah from the cistern (Jer 38:10-38:13)

“Then the king commanded

The Ethiopian Ebed-melech.

‘Take three men with you

From here!

Pull the prophet Jeremiah

Up from the cistern

Before he dies.’

So Ebed-melech took the men

With him.

They went

To the house of the king,

To a wardrobe

Of the storehouse.

They took from there

Old rags

With worn-out clothes.

Then he let them down

To Jeremiah

In the cistern

By ropes.

Then the Ethiopian Ebed-melech

Said to Jeremiah.

‘Just put the rags

With the clothes

Between your armpits

And the ropes.’

Jeremiah did so.

Then they drew Jeremiah up

By the ropes.

They pulled him

Out of the cistern.

Jeremiah remained

In the court of the guard.”

The vacillating King Zedekiah responded to the Ethiopian Ebed-melech by telling him to take 3 men with him in order to pull Jeremiah from the cistern well. The king had told the men who put Jeremiah in the well that they could do with him whatever they wanted to do. So then Ebed-melech took the 3 men. They went to the royal wardrobe in the palace. He then took some old rags and worn out clothes. When he arrived at the pit, he told Jeremiah to put these old rags or clothes between the rope and his arm pits. Thus he would not hurt himself coming out of this well. Then the 4 of them pulled him up out of the well. However, Jeremiah was then sent back to the house arrest jail in the royal court of the guard. King Zedekiah had let his officials try to kill Jeremiah, yet he sent his eunuch to save him. The result was that Jeremiah was back in jail again, as if nothing had happened.

Yahweh is the all powerful consoler (Isa 51:12-51:14)

“I!

I am he that comforts you!

Why then are you afraid

Of a mere mortal who must die?

Why are you afraid

Of a human being who fades like grass?

You have forgotten Yahweh!

Your Maker!

He stretched out the heavens!

He laid the foundations of the earth!

You fear continually all day long

Because of the fury of the oppressor.

Who is bent on destruction?

Where is the fury of the oppressor?

The oppressed shall speedily be released.

They shall not die.

They shall not go down to the Pit.

They shall not lack bread.”

Second Isaiah uses the first person singular so that there is no doubt that it is Yahweh who is speaking in comforting tones. He wanted to know why they were afraid of a mere mortal human being who was going to die also, like faded grass. They must have forgotten their maker that had, as usual, stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. Why were they afraid of the fury of their oppressors? Don’t worry! They will soon be released. They will not die and go into the Pit of the underground. Instead, they will have enough bread to eat.

The taunt (Isa 14:12-14:15)

“How you are fallen from heaven!

O Day Star!

Son of Dawn!

How you are cut down to the ground!

You who laid the nations low!

You said in your heart.

‘I will ascend to heaven.

I will raise my throne

Above the stars of God.

I will sit

On the mount of assembly,

On the heights of Zaphon.

I will ascend to the tops of the clouds,

I will make myself like the Most High.’

But you are brought down to Sheol,

To the depths of the Pit.”

There are hints at Canaanite mythology is this taunt of the king, with the Canaanite idol terms like Day Star, son of Dawn, and Mount of Assembly. This might suggest Baal worship that could be found at Jebel, near the Turkish Syrian border or in the archeology of Ugarit, a Syrian costal town. Zaphon was on the east side of the Jordan River. Although the king aspired to go to the high heavens, he has ended up in Sheol, at the depths of the Pit. Thus this king who wanted to go to the high heavens ends up in the lower pits of Sheol, tough luck.