Why Did Jonah Flee to Tarshish? (Learner-Centered)

A while back I wrote a post answering the question of why Jonah fled to Tarshish (if you’re a more advanced reader you probably would not have learned anything).  Yesterday, however, I started to think about what it would mean to take a more learner-centered approach to my blogging.  And, I thought a re-write of that post might be a good opportunity to give that a shot.  So, here goes …

Where is Tarshish?

It would likely be very difficult to know why Jonah fled to Tarshish if you did not know where it was.  So, first check out this map to locate the places mentioned in Jonah 1, namely Nineveh, Joppa and Tarshish (exact locations are not that important).

If Jonah is near enough to Joppa to find a boat going to Tarshish, is he going in the direction of Nineveh?

Now, check out the Google map of Tarhsish.  Zoom way out using the “-” sign.

What is to the west of Tarshish?  Or more leading, what might an Ancient Israelite have believed was to the west of Tarshish?

Reflection on Tarshish

At this point, you know where Tarshish is.  And, from the questions I have asked you probably know why Jonah fled there; however, now would be an appropriate time to consider why it was significant that he was unable to flee there.  In the Ancient Near East, many cultures thought of gods as being tied to a specific locality (if anyone knows of any primary sources I could link to here for reading let me know; for some reason I drew a blank on places to look online).  In light of this,

Why is it important that YHWH is able to impede Jonah on his way to Tarshish?  At what period in the history of Israel do you think this would have been important to the people, i.e. united monarchy? divided monarchy? when they are in exile? when they have returned from exile?


Okay so this a first attempt at a more learner-centered blog post.  That actually took far more effort than just writing down the answer to the question.  Of course, this is a fairly simple topic and I’m not sure how much room there would be for discussion and interaction.  But, that could take place in comments and on other blogs.  Bloggers could leave links to where they have worked through the post.  Again, we’ll see …

Related Posts:

Learner-Centered Blogging?

Why Did Jonah Flee to Tarshish?

“Old Salts” in Jonah 1.5


  • God would have to impede Jonah? I can give no answer except for the theological, which is God is in control, etc…

    When would it have been important? I would say exile, to show that God had plans which could not be turned. Just a simpleton’s guess.

    • Joel,
      You are no simpleton … always seeking to learn. That is not the mark of a simpleton.

      I think Exile is right. I guess I can present a more pointed scenario. Imagine you are an Israelite in Exile. Someone says to you, “We are now in Babylon, the realm of Marduk. YHWH has been defeated … or is back in Israel and is not present to us here. We must worship Marduk.” Do you think the story of Jonah presents you with a response to that?

  • Perhaps. If we see that Nineveh is well outside the realm of Israel – way outside – as is Tarshish then it presents a case in which the God of Israel is not bound to Jerusalem but oversees and orders His people everywhere.

    • And, I think that is a major point of importance. The thing is that seems self-evident to modern Christians taught consistently that God is omnipresent, but I’m not sure that would have been self-evident to an Ancient Israelite.

  • I would agree. I think that if we examine the monotheistic statements in the OT, in the context of the OT, then its not really not that monotheistic – which adds to the importance of Genesis 1 as something theological rather than scientific.

    • Definitely not “monotheistic” in the way that we use the term.

  • Yep. I agree.