Jonah A minor prophet of the Old Testament who, in defiance of God's command that he preach to the Assyrians, fled aboard a ship bound for Tarshish. When God sends a storm which overtakes the ship, the sailors blame Jonah for bringing the storm upon them. To calm the waters, Jonah has the sailors toss him overboard; he is immediately swallowed by a "great fish." (Jonah 1:17). After three days in the belly of the whale, Jonah is saved by God.
Joseph The youngest -- and favorite -- son of Jacob, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. They then covered his "coat of many colors" in the blood of a young goat and brought it to their father claiming Joseph had been devoured by wild animals (Genesis 37: 31-). The final section of Genesis tells the story of Joseph's rise to prominence in Egypt and his mercy toward his brothers when they come to him in need (though they do not recognize him). Melville focuses his reference on the deceptiveness of the brothers, who lie to Joseph's elderly father.
judicious Having or exhibiting sound judgment; prudent.
jugglery 1. The skill or performance of a juggler. 2. Trickery; deception.
juxtapose To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
King George III King George III (1738-1820) ruled England from 1760-1820 during the tumultuous years of the Seven Years' Wars, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars.
Lamb of God This phrase is the messianic title used by John (1: 29-30) upon greeting Christ: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Here Melville seems once again to align Billy and Christ.
landsmen As opposed to skilled seaman, the landsmen were those with no naval training who performed basic tasks on ship such as hauling and hoisting.
lanyards The generic term for any short piece of rope used to fasten something, make it secure, or serve as a handle.
Last Assizes Generally, the assizes refers to any session of the courts. In England, it also refers more specifically to periodical sessions of a law court formerly held in each county. Melville here uses the phrase metaphorically to refer to the final judgment at Armageddon.
launch Of the several boats carried aboard a man-of-war, the launch is the largest and heaviest. Usually, it is fitted for both sails and oars and stretches to nearly 30 feet.
lee, leeward The lee side is that side of the ship sheltered from the wind; or, more generally, any object that is away from the wind. The term is also used to indicate that an object that is on that side of the ship.