Why were animals granted the access to God in Jonah? I find this very interesting because it is not something that is commonly seen.

I wish I knew the answer to your question. In this story, I think the idea is that unlike Jonah the prophet, the whole of creation obeys God. I love the idea that God would spare the animals since they are guiltless because they’ve never heard God’s word or read the Torah.

The bible really has very few other mentions of animals, and in another post I detailed some of them:

  • Tobit’s dog, who followed Tobit back and forth in the Apocrypha
  • A bird that poops in Tobit’s eyes, making him blind, and a magic fish that cures him
  • The shepherd’s lamb, which was told to David as an allegory of his stealing Bathsheba from Uriah. In it, the Shepherd was described as having a pet lamb that he slept with and fed at the table. One day a neighbor slaughtered the lamb. David condemned the thief, and then his prophet Nathan pronounced, “You are the man!”
  • Lazarus the Leper’s dog, who licked his sores (dog saliva was actually curative for sores). Lazarus goes to heaven, while the rich man does not. Nobody mentions the dog, but I like to think he went along with Lazarus.
  • Lilith in Isaiah is some kind of a screech owl, or maybe an owl goddess. She becomes Adam’s first wife in the Midrash.
  • The talking donkey in Numbers who is beaten by Balaam because the donkey sees the angel of God (“the satan”) barring the way, and Balaam does not. The satan tells Balaam that if the donkey had allowed Balaam to  disobey God’s orders, the satan would have killed Balaam and spared the donkey.
  • The serpent in the garden (who is NOT Satan in the Hebrew text, though Enoch later connected the two) tricked Eve.
  • Plus there are generic animals–the two (or seven) of each species in the ark, the sheep that Jacob persuades to have spotted babies, the raven (or dove, depending on which strand of Genesis you read).
  • Joseph dreamt of animals, as did Daniel.
  • Also, and this is kind of cool, Jacob’s two wives had animal names: Rachel (ewe) and Leah (cow). The Jews preferred goats and sheep to cows because of the rugged terrain they lived in, so Rachel is the favorite wife. Many early folktales–I consider the story of Rachel and Leah one such tale–have gods and goddesses that have animal qualities. For example, Irish myth has a horse goddess named Macha, who could outrun any man. Her husband forced her to race while she was in labor, so she cursed every man present so that he would have labor pains once a year. A Welsh goddess owl goddess was named Blodeuwedd (“flower face”). Bronwen was a  Welsh Raven goddess.

Right off I can’t think of other animals, though I know there are some. The early Jews were herders more than growers, though that varied over the years. But the bible doesn’t have a lot of animal characters compared to, say, native American folklore.

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