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More, J., (Muggia) (1970). The Prophet Jonah: The Story of an Intrapsychic Process. Am. Imago, 27(1):3-11.

(1970). American Imago, 27(1):3-11

The Prophet Jonah: The Story of an Intrapsychic Process

Joseph More, (Muggia), M.D.

The Book of Jonah, one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament, is quite short—four chapters in all; and it presents some aspects that seem at first sight to be puzzling.

This is the story of a prophet who strongly desires that a city and its people should be destroyed and who rebels against God. Each of these issues raises some striking questions, as the Bible sets them forth, between prophet and people and between prophet and God. Furthermore, two miracles take place during the story, and their purpose is not easy to fathom. Finally, the conclusion seems to provide no resolution of any of the problems presented. The aim of this paper is to suggest that when these aspects of the book are considered in the light of modern psychodynamic theory, they do fall into place.

The story begins with Jonah's receiving a command from God to go to the great city of Nineveh, which is not his own, and there to “cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” Instead, Jonah tries to flee “from the presence of the Lord,” and takes a ship to Tarshish. Thereupon, God sets in motion a tempest that threatens to break the ship. The mariners frantically work to save themselves; Jonah however lies fast asleep. Awakened by the shipmaster, after the crew has determined by lot that it is he who is responsible for the storm, Jonah acknowledges his responsibility; but, instead of praying to his own god, as each of the others has already done, Jonah himself suggests that, if the men want to save themselves, they must “cast [him] forth into the sea.”


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