Chapter 71, “The Jereboam’s Story”
The Pequod has another gam with a Nantucket whaler, the Jereboam. Captain Mayhew says his ship is under quarantine, and he cannot come aboard because of an epidemic among his men, but in conversation with Ahab, along side in his boat, he tells Ahab he has seen Moby Dick, and that one of his sailors, Macey, was killed by him. A seaman from the Jereboam, who calls himself the angel, Gabriel, accompanies Captain Mayhew. Rumor has it, he actually rules the ship through his fearful prophesies, for he is a crazed Shaker from Nantucket, another mad prophet, like Elijah. He had warned against hunting Moby Dick, calling him an incarnation of a Shaker God. Macey ignored him, attacked the whale and was killed. When Ahab tries to give Mayhew a letter he had been holding for the now dead Macey, Gabriel flings it back at Ahab, saying in prophetic tones that he will be able to deliver it himself.
The name “Jereboam” is a significant biblical name. It was the name of another wicked Hebrew king, like Ahab, who misled his people into sin. Jereboam was noted for his pride. He refused to repent and go to heaven because he would not be given first place in paradise. Ahab has the same demonic pride, and like the sailor Macey, is doomed because he will not heed warnings.
Gabriel is the name of the messenger of God, often thought an angel of death. Though this Gabriel is mad, he seems to foresee Ahab’s death. The Shaker religion featured speaking in tongues and extreme disciplines, but Ishmael says this man was a humbug, able to coerce others through his fanaticism. Again, we think of Ahab ruling his ship in the same manner. The Jereboam is under a curse, like the Pequod, and its fate is a foreshadowing of what is coming. In contrast to the mad Ahab, however, who thinks Moby Dick is the devil, Gabriel thinks he is God.