New English Translation
Jonah Tries to Run from the Lord
1 The Lord’s message came[a] to Jonah son of Amittai,[b] 2 “Go immediately[c] to Nineveh,[d] that[e] large capital[f] city,[g] and announce judgment against[h] its people[i] because their wickedness[j] has come to my attention.”[k] 3 Instead, Jonah immediately[l] headed off to Tarshish[m] to escape[n] from the commission of the Lord.[o] He traveled[p] to Joppa[q] and found a merchant ship heading[r] to Tarshish.[s] So he paid the fare[t] and went aboard[u] it to go with them[v] to Tarshish,[w] far away from the Lord.[x] 4 But[y] the Lord hurled[z] a powerful[aa] wind on the sea. Such a violent[ab] tempest arose on the sea that[ac] the ship threatened to break up![ad] 5 The sailors were so afraid that each cried out[ae] to his own god[af] and they flung[ag] the ship’s cargo[ah] overboard[ai] to make the ship lighter.[aj] Jonah, meanwhile,[ak] had gone down into the hold[al] below deck,[am] had lain down, and was sound asleep.[an] 6 The ship’s captain approached him and said, “What are you doing asleep?[ao] Get up! Cry out[ap] to your god! Perhaps your god[aq] might take notice of us[ar] so that we might not die!” 7 The sailors said to one another,[as] “Come on, let’s cast lots[at] to find out[au] whose fault it is that this disaster has overtaken us.”[av] So they cast lots, and Jonah was singled out.[aw] 8 They said to him, “Tell us, whose fault[ax] is it that this disaster has overtaken us?[ay] What’s your occupation? Where do you come from? What’s your country? And who are your people?”[az] 9 He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship[ba] the Lord,[bb] the God of heaven,[bc] who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Hearing this,[bd] the men became even more afraid[be] and said to him, “What have you done?” (The men said this because they knew that he was trying to escape[bf] from the Lord,[bg] because he had previously told them.[bh]) 11 Because the storm was growing worse and worse,[bi] they said to him, “What should we do to you so that the sea will calm down[bj] for us?” 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea so that the sea will calm down for you,[bk] because I know it’s my fault[bl] you are in this severe storm.” 13 Instead, they tried to row[bm] back to land,[bn] but they were not able to do so[bo] because the storm kept growing worse and worse.[bp] 14 So they cried out to the Lord, “Oh, please, Lord, don’t let us die on account of this man! Don’t hold us guilty of shedding innocent blood.[bq] After all, you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.”[br] 15 So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped raging. 16 The men feared the Lord[bs] greatly[bt] and earnestly vowed[bu] to offer lavish sacrifices[bv] to the Lord.[bw]
17 (2:1)[bx] The Lord sent[by] a huge[bz] fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
2 Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish 2 and said,
“I[ca] called out to the Lord from my distress,
and he answered me;[cb]
from the belly of Sheol[cc] I cried out for help,
and you heard my prayer.[cd]
3 You threw me[ce] into the deep waters,[cf]
into the middle[cg] of the sea;[ch]
the ocean current[ci] engulfed[cj] me;
all the mighty waves[ck] you sent[cl] swept[cm] over me.[cn]
4 I thought[co] I had been banished from your sight[cp]
and that I would never again[cq] see your holy temple.[cr]
5 Water engulfed me up to my neck;[cs]
the deep ocean[ct] surrounded me;
seaweed[cu] was wrapped around my head.
6 I went down[cv] to the very bottoms[cw] of the mountains;[cx]
the gates[cy] of the netherworld[cz] barred me in[da] forever,[db]
but you brought me[dc] up from the Pit,[dd] O Lord, my God.
7 When my life[de] was ebbing away,[df] I called out to[dg] the Lord.
And my prayer came to you, to your holy temple.[dh]
8 Those who worship[di] worthless idols[dj] forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.[dk]
9 But as for me, I promise to offer a sacrifice to you with a public declaration[dl] of praise;[dm]
I will surely do[dn] what I have promised.[do]
Salvation[dp] belongs to the Lord!”[dq]
10 Then the Lord commanded[dr] the fish and it vomited Jonah out onto dry land.
The People of Nineveh Respond to Jonah’s Warning
3 The Lord’s message came to Jonah a second time, 2 “Go immediately[ds] to Nineveh, that large city,[dt] and proclaim to[du] it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, in keeping with the Lord’s message. Now Nineveh was an enormous city[dv]—it required three days to walk through it![dw] 4 Jonah began to enter the city by going one day’s walk, announcing, “At the end of forty days,[dx] Nineveh will be overthrown!”[dy]
5 The people[dz] of Nineveh believed in God,[ea] and they declared a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.[eb] 6 When the news[ec] reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat on ashes. 7 He issued a proclamation and said,[ed] “In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles: No human or animal, cattle or sheep, is to taste anything; they must not eat and they must not drink water. 8 Every person and animal must put on sackcloth and must cry earnestly[ee] to God, and everyone[ef] must turn from their[eg] evil way of living[eh] and from the violence that they do.[ei] 9 Who knows?[ej] Perhaps God might be willing to change his mind and relent[ek] and turn from his fierce anger[el] so that we might not die.”[em] 10 When God saw their actions—that they turned from their evil way of living.[en]—God relented concerning the judgment[eo] he had threatened them with[ep] and did not destroy them.[eq]
- Jonah 1:1 tn The Targum (Aramaic translation) of Jonah 1:1 interprets the Hebrew as, “There was a word of prophecy from the Lord” (cf. Tg. Hos 1:1).
- Jonah 1:1 tn The infinitive לֵאמֹר (leʾmor, “saying”) introduces direct discourse and is untranslated in English.
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “Arise, go.” The two imperatives without an intervening vav (קוּם לֵךְ, qum lekh; “Arise, go!”), form a verbal hendiadys in which the first verb functions adverbially and the second retains its full verbal force: “Go immediately.” This construction emphasizes the urgency of the command. The translations “Go at once” (NRSV, NJPS) or simply “Go!” (NIV) are better than the traditional “Arise, go” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, NASB) or “Get up and go” (NLT). For similar constructions with קוּם, see Gen 19:14-15; Judg 4:14; 8:20-21; 1 Sam 9:3.
- Jonah 1:2 sn Nineveh was the last capital city of ancient Assyria. Occupying about 1800 acres, it was located on the east bank of the Tigris River across from the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. The site includes two tels, Nebi Yunus and Kouyunjik, which have been excavated on several occasions. See A. H. Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains; R. C. Thompson and R. W. Hutchinson, A Century of Exploration at Nineveh; G. Waterfield, Layard of Nineveh. Preliminary reports of limited excavations in 1987 and 1989 appear in Mar Šipri 1:2 (1988): 1-2; 2:2 (1989): 1-2; 4:1 (1991): 1-3. Also see D. J. Wiseman, “Jonah’s Nineveh,” TynBul 30 (1979): 29-51.
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “the.” The article draws attention to a well-known fact and may function as a demonstrative pronoun: “that great city” (see IBHS 242 §13.5.1e).
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “great city.” The adjective גָּדוֹל (gadol, “great”) can refer to a wide variety of qualities: (1) size: “large,” (2) height: “tall,” (3) magnitude: “great,” (4) number: “populous,” (5) power: “mighty,” (6) influence: “powerful,” (8) significance: “important,” (7) finance: “wealthy,” (8) intensity: “fierce,” (9) sound: “loud,” (10) age: “oldest,” (11) importance: “distinguished,” and (12) position: “chief, leading, head” (HALOT 177-78 s.v. גָּדוֹל; BDB 152-53 s.v. גָּדוֹל). The phrase עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה (’ir gedolah, “city”) may designate a city that is (1) large in size (Josh 10:2; Neh 4:7) or (2) great in power: (a) important city-state (Gen 10:12) or (b) prominent capital city (Jer 22:8). The phrase עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה (both with and without the article) is used four times in Jonah (1:2; 3:2, 3; 4:11). This phrase is twice qualified by a statement about its immense dimensions (3:3) or large population (4:11), so גָּדוֹל might denote size. However, size is not the issue in 1:2. At this time in history, Nineveh was the most powerful city in the ancient Near East as the capital of the mighty Neo-Assyrian Empire. It is likely that עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה here is the Hebrew equivalent of the Assyrian ālu rabu (“the important city” = capital city of the empire), just as מַלְכִּי רַב (malki rav, “great king”; Hos 5:13; 10:6) is the equivalent of the Assyrian malku rabu (“great king” = ruler of the empire; D. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah [WBC], 448). Perhaps the closest West Semitic parallel to הָעִיר הָגְּדוֹלָה (haʿir haggedolah) is in an Amarna letter from King Abimilki of Tyre to Amenhotep IV: “Behold, I protect Tyre, the capital city (uruSurri uru rabitu) for the king my lord” (EA 147:61-63). Hebrew constructions in which a determined noun is modified by the determined adjective הָגְּדוֹלָה (“the great…”) often denote singular, unique greatness, e.g., הַנָּהָר הָגָּדֹל (hannahar haggadol, “the great river”) = the Euphrates (Deut 1:7); הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל (hayyam haggadol, “the great sea”) = the Mediterranean (Josh 1:4); הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל (hakkohen haggadol, “the great priest”) = the chief priest (Lev 21:10); and לָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת (laʿir haggedolah hazzo’t, “[to] this great city”) = this capital city (Jer 22:8). So הָעִיר הָגְּדוֹלָה may well connote “the capital city” here.
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “Nineveh, the great city.” The description “the great city” stands in apposition to “Nineveh.”
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “cry out against it.” The basic meaning of קָרָא (qaraʾ) is “to call out; to cry out; to shout out,” but here it is a technical term referring to what a prophet has to say: “to announce” (e.g., 1 Kgs 13:32; Isa 40:2, 6; Jer 3:12; see HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 8). When used with the preposition עַל (ʿal, “against” [in a hostile sense]; 826 s.v. עַל 5.a), it refers to an oracle announcing or threatening judgment (e.g., 1 Kgs 13:2, 4, 32; BDB 895 s.v. עַל 3.a). This nuance is reflected in several English versions: “Announce my judgment against it” (NLT) and “proclaim judgment upon it” (JPS, NJPS). Other translations are less precise: “cry out against it” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV) and “denounce it” (NEB, REB). Some are even misleading: “preach against it” (NAB, NIV) and “preach in it” (Douay). Tg. Jonah 1:2 nuances this interpretively as “prophesy against.”
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “it.” The pronoun functions as a synecdoche of container for contents, referring to the people of Nineveh.
- Jonah 1:2 sn The term wickedness is personified here; it is pictured as ascending heavenward into the very presence of God. This figuratively depicts how God became aware of their evil—it had ascended into heaven right into his presence.
- Jonah 1:2 tn Heb “has come up before me.” The term לְפָנָי (lefanay, “before me”) often connotes “in the full cognitive knowledge of” or “in the full mental view” of someone (BDB 817 s.v. פָּנֶה II.4.a.[c]; e.g., Gen 6:13; Isa 65:6; Jer 2:22; Lam 1:22). The use of the verb עָלָה (ʿalah, “to ascend”) complements this idea; it is sometimes used to describe actions or situations on earth that have “come up” into heaven to God’s attention, so to speak (e.g., Exod 2:23; 1 Sam 5:12; 2 Kgs 19:28; Ps 74:23; Isa 37:29; Jer 14:2; see BDB 749 s.v. עָלָה 8). The point is that God was fully aware of the evil of the Ninevites.
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “he arose to flee.” The phrase וַיָּקָם לִבְרֹחַ (vayyaqam livroakh, “he arose to flee”) is a wordplay on the Lord’s command (קוּם לֵךְ, qum lekh; “Arise! Go!”) in v. 2. By repeating the first verb קוּם the narrator sets up the reader to expect that Jonah was intending to obey God. But Jonah did not “arise to go” to Nineveh; he “arose to flee” to Tarshish. Jonah looks as though he was about to obey, but he does not. This unexpected turn of events creates strong irony. The narrator does not reveal Jonah’s motivation to the reader at this point. He delays this revelation for rhetorical effect until 4:2-3.
- Jonah 1:3 tn The place name תַּרְשִׁישׁ (tarshish, “Tarshish”) refers to a distant port city or region (Isa 23:6; Jer 10:9; Ezek 27:12; 38:13; 2 Chr 9:21; 20:36, 37) located on the coastlands in the Mediterranean west of Palestine (Ps 72:10; Isa 23:6, 10; 66:19; Jonah 1:3; see BDB 1076 s.v. תַּרְשִׁישׁ; HALOT 1798 s.v. תַּרְשִׁישׁ E.a). Scholars have not established its actual location (HALOT 1797 s.v. B). It has been variously identified with Tartessos in southwest Spain (Herodotus, Histories 1.163; 4.152; cf. Gen 10:4), Carthage (LXX of Isa 23:1, 14 and Ezek 27:25), and Sardinia (F. M. Cross, “An Interpretation of the Nora Stone,” BASOR 208 : 13-19). The ancient versions handle it variously. The LXX identifies תַּרְשִׁישׁ with Carthage/Καρχηδών (karchēdōn; Isa 23:1, 6, 10, 14; Ezek 27:12; 38:13). The place name תַּרְשִׁישׁ is rendered “Africa” in the Targums in some passages (Tg. 1 Kgs 10:22; 22:49; Tg. Jer 10:9) and elsewhere as “sea” (Isa 2:16; 23:1, 14; 50:9; 66:19; Ezek 27:12, 25; 38:13; Jonah 4:2). The Jewish Midrash Canticles Rabbah 5:14.2 cites Jonah 1:3 as support for the view that Tarshish = “the Great Sea” (the Mediterranean). It is possible that תַּרְשִׁישׁ does not refer to one specific port but is a general term for the distant Mediterranean coastlands (Ps 72:10; Isa 23:6, 10; 66:19). In some cases it seems to mean simply “the open sea”: (1) the Tg. Jonah 1:3 translates תַּרְשִׁישׁ as “[he arose to flee] to the sea”; (2) Jerome’s commentary on Isa 2:16 states that Hebrew scholars in his age defined תַּרְשִׁישׁ as “sea”; and (3) the gem called II תַּרְשִׁישׁ, “topaz” (BDB 1076 s.v.; HALOT 1798 s.v.), in Exod 28:20 and 39:13 is rendered “the color of the sea” in Tg. Onq. (see D. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah [WBC], 451). The designation אֳנִיּוֹת תַּרְשִׁישׁ (ʾoniyyot tarshish, “Tarshish-ships”) referred to large oceangoing vessels equipped for the high seas (2 Chr 9:21; Ps 48:8; Isa 2:16; 23:1, 14; 60:9; Ezek 27:25) or large merchant ships designed for international trade (1 Kgs 10:22; 22:49; 2 Chr 9:21; 20:36; Isa 23:10; HALOT 1798 s.v. E.b). The term תַּרְשִׁישׁ is derived from the Iberian tart[uli] with the Anatolian suffix —issos/essos, resulting in Tartessos (BRL2 332a); however, the etymological meaning of תַּרְשִׁישׁ is uncertain (see W. F. Albright, “New Light on the Early History of Phoenician Colonization,” BASOR 83 : 21-22 and note 29; HALOT 1797 s.v. I תַּרְשִׁישׁ A). The name תַּרְשִׁישׁ appears in sources outside the Hebrew Bible in Neo-Assyrian kurTar-si-si (R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons [AfO], 86, §57 line 10) and Greek Ταρτησσος (tartēssos; HALOT 1797 s.v. C). Most English versions render תַּרְשִׁישׁ as “Tarshish” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NEB, NJB, JPS, NJPS), but TEV and CEV render it more generally as “to Spain.” NLT emphasizes the rhetorical point: “in the opposite direction,” though “Tarshish” is mentioned later in the verse.
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish away from the Lord.”
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “away from the presence of the Lord.” The term מִלִּפְנֵי (millifne, “away from the presence of”) is composed of the preposition לְפָנָי (lefanay, “in front of, before the presence of”) and מִן (min, “away from”). The term מִלִּפְנֵי is used with בָּרַח (barakh, “to flee”) only here in biblical Hebrew, so it is difficult to determine its exact meaning (HALOT 942 s.v. פָּנֶה 4.h.ii; see E. Jenni, “‘Fliehen’ im akkadischen und im hebräischen Sprachgebrauch,” Or 47 : 357). There are four most likely options. First, Jonah simply fled from the Lord’s presence manifested in the temple (for mention of the temple elsewhere in Jonah, see 2:5, 8). This is reflected in Jerome’s rendering fugeret in Tharsis a facie Domini (“he fled to Tarshish away from the face/presence of the Lord”). The term מִלִּפְנֵי is used in this sense with יָצָא (yatsaʾ, “to go out”) to depict someone or something physically leaving the manifested presence of the Lord (Lev 9:24; Num 17:11 HT [16:46 ET]; 17:24 [17:9 ET]; cf. Gen 4:16). This is reflected in several English versions: “from the presence of the Lord” (KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ASV, NASB) and “out of the reach of the Lord” (REB). Second, Jonah was fleeing to a distant place outside the land of Israel (D. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah [WBC], 450). The term לְפָנָי is used in various constructions with מִן to describe locations outside the land of Israel where Yahweh was not worshiped (1 Sam 26:19-20; 2 Kgs 13:23; 17:20, 23; Jer 23:39). This would be the equivalent of a self-imposed exile. Third, the term מִלִּפְנֵי can mean “out of sight” (Gen 23:4, 8), so perhaps Jonah was trying to escape from the Lord’s active awareness—out of the Lord’s sight. The idea would either be an anthropomorphism (standing for a distance out of the sight of God), or it would reflect an inadequate theology of the limited omniscience and presence of God. This is reflected in some English versions: “ran away from the Lord” (NIV), “running away from Yahweh” (NJB), “to get away from the Lord” (NLT), “to escape from the Lord” (NEB) and “to escape” (CEV). Fourth, the term לְפָנָי can mean “in front of someone in power” (Gen 43:33; HALOT 942 s.v. c.i) and “at the disposal of” a king (Gen 13:9; 24:51; 34:10; 2 Chr 14:6; Jer 40:4; HALOT 942 s.v. 4.f). The expression would be a metonymy: Jonah was trying to escape from his commission (effect) ordered by God (cause). This is reflected in several English versions: “to flee from the Lord’s service” (JPS, NJPS). Jonah confesses in 4:2-3 that he fled to avoid carrying out his commission—lest God relent from judging Nineveh if its populace might repent. But it is also clear in chs. 1-2 that Jonah could not escape from the Lord himself.sn Three times in chap. 1 (in vv. 3 and 10) Jonah’s voyage is described as an attempt to escape away from the Lord—from the Lord’s presence (and therefore his active awareness; compare v. 2). On one level, Jonah was attempting to avoid a disagreeable task, but the narrator’s description personalizes Jonah’s rejection of the task. Jonah’s issue is with the Lord himself, not just his commission. The narrator’s description is also highly ironic, as the rest of the book shows. Jonah tries to sail to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh, as if by doing that he could escape from the Lord, when the Lord is the one who knows all about Nineveh’s wickedness and is involved in all that happens to Jonah throughout the book. Compare Jonah’s explanation when talking with the Lord (see 4:2).
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “he went down.” The verb יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) can refer to a journey that is physically downhill. This suggests that Jonah had started out from Jerusalem, which is at a higher elevation. He probably received his commission in the temple (see 2:4, 7 for mention of the temple). sn The verb יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) is repeated four times in chs. 1-2 for rhetorical effect (1:3a, 3b, 5; 2:7). Jonah’s “downward” journey from Jerusalem down to Joppa (1:3a) down into the ship (1:3b) down into the cargo hold (1:5) and ultimately down into the bottom of the sea, pictured as down to the very gates of the netherworld (2:7), does not end until he turns back to God who brings him “up” from the brink of death (2:6-7).
- Jonah 1:3 sn Joppa was a small harbor town on the Palestinian coast known as Yepu in the Amarna Letters (14th century b.c.) and Yapu in Neo-Assyrian inscriptions (9th-8th centuries b.c.). It was a port through which imported goods could flow into the Levant (Josh 19:46; 2 Chr 2:15 ; Ezra 3:7). It was never annexed by Israel until the Maccabean period (ca. 148 b.c.; 1 Macc 10:76). Jonah chose a port where the people he would meet and the ships he could take were not likely to be Israelite. Once in Joppa he was already partly “away from the Lord” as he conceived it.
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “going to” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV); cf. NIV “bound for,” NLT “leaving for.”
- Jonah 1:3 tn See note on the phrase “to Tarshish” at the beginning of the verse.
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “its fare.” The third person feminine singular suffix on the noun probably functions as a genitive of worth or value: “the fare due it.” However, it is translated here simply as “the fare” for the sake of readability. On the other hand, “bought a ticket” (CEV, NLT) is somewhat overtranslated, since the expression “paid the fare” is still understandable to most English readers.
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “he went down into it.” The verb יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) is repeated for rhetorical effect in v. 3a, 3b, 5. See note on the word “traveled” in v. 3a.
- Jonah 1:3 tn “Them” refers to the other passengers and sailors in the ship.
- Jonah 1:3 tn See note on the phrase “to Tarshish” at the beginning of the verse.
- Jonah 1:3 tn Heb “away from the presence of the Lord.” See note on the phrase “from the commission of the Lord” in v. 3a.
- Jonah 1:4 tn The disjunctive construction of vav + a non-verb then a verb (that is not preterite conjugation) marks a contrast in the narrative action.
- Jonah 1:4 tn The Hiphil of טוּל (tul, “to hurl”) is used here and several times in this episode for rhetorical emphasis (see vv. 5 and 15).
- Jonah 1:4 tn Heb “great.” Typically English versions vary the adjective here and before “tempest” to avoid redundancy: e.g., KJV, ASV, and NRSV “great…mighty”; NAB “violent…furious”; NIV “great…violent”; and NLT “powerful…violent.”
- Jonah 1:4 tn Heb “great.”
- Jonah 1:4 tn The nonconsecutive construction of vav + a non-verb then a perfect verb is used to emphasize this result clause.
- Jonah 1:4 tn Heb “the ship considered breaking apart.” The use of חָשַׁב (khashav, “think”) in the Piel (“to think about; to seriously consider”) personifies the ship to emphasize the ferocity of the storm. The lexicons render the clause idiomatically: “the ship was about to be broken up” (BDB 363 s.v. חָשַׁב 2; HALOT 360 s.v. חשׁב).
- Jonah 1:5 tn Heb “they cried out, each one.” The shift from the plural verb וַיִּזְעֲקוּ (vayyizʿaqu, “they cried out to”) to the singular subject אִישׁ (ʾish, “each one”) is a rhetorical device used to emphasize that each one of the sailors individually cried out. In contrast, Jonah slept.
- Jonah 1:5 tn Or “gods” (CEV, NLT). The plural noun אֱלֹהִים (ʾelohim) might be functioning either as a plural of number (“gods”) or a plural of majesty (“god”) – the form would allow for either. As members of a polytheistic culture, each sailor might appeal to several gods. However, individuals could also look to a particular god for help in trouble. Tg. Jonah 1:5 interpretively renders the line, “Each man prayed to his idols, but they saw that they were useless.”
- Jonah 1:5 tn Heb “hurled.” The Hiphil of טוּל (tul, “to hurl”) is again used, repeated from v. 4.
- Jonah 1:5 tn The plural word rendered “cargo” (כֵּלִים, kelim) is variously translated “articles, vessels, objects, baggage, instruments” (see 1 Sam 17:22; 1 Kgs 10:21; 1 Chr 15:16; Isa 18:2; Jer 22:7). As a general term, it fits here to describe the sailors throwing overboard whatever they could. The English word “cargo” should be taken generally to include the ship’s payload and whatever else could be dispensed with.
- Jonah 1:5 tn Heb “into the sea.”
- Jonah 1:5 tn Heb “to lighten it from them.”
- Jonah 1:5 tn Heb “but Jonah.” The disjunctive construction of vav + a non-verb then a perfect verb introduces a parenthetical description of Jonah’s earlier actions before the onset of the storm.
- Jonah 1:5 tn Or “stern.” There is some question whether the term יַרְכָה (yarkhah) refers to the ship’s hold below deck (R. S. Hess, NIDOTTE 3:282) or to the stern in the back of the ship (HALOT 439 s.v. *יְרֵכָה 2.b). This is the only use of this term in reference to a ship in biblical Hebrew. When used elsewhere, this term has a twofold range of meanings: (1) “rear,” such as rear of a building (Exod 26:22, 27; 36:27, 32; Ezek 46:19), back room of a house (1 Kgs 6:16; Ps 128:3; Amos 6:10), flank of a person’s body (figurative for rear border; Gen 49:13); and (2) “far part” that is remote, such as the back of a cave (1 Sam 24:4), the bottom of a cistern (Isa 14:15), the lower recesses of Sheol (Ezek 32:23), the remotest part of a mountain range (Judg 19:1, 18; 2 Kgs 19:23; Isa 37:24), the highest summit of a mountain (Ps 48:3), and the north – viewed as the remotest part of the earth (Isa 14:13; Ezek 38:6, 15; 39:2). So the term could refer to the “back” (stern) or “remote part” (lower cargo hold) of the ship. The related Akkadian expression arkat eleppi, “stern of a ship” (HALOT 439 s.v. 2.b) seems to suggest that יַרְכָה means “stern” (HALOT 439 s.v. 2.b). However, the preceding יָרַד אֶל (yarad ʾel, “he went down into”) suggests a location below deck. Also the genitive noun סְפִינָה (sefinah) refers to a “ship” with a deck (BDB 706 s.v. סְפִינָה; HALOT 764 s.v. סְפִינָה; R. S. Hess, NIDOTTE 3:282).
- Jonah 1:5 tn Or “of the ship.” The noun סְפִינָה (sefinah) refers to a “ship” with a deck (HALOT 764 s.v. סְפִינָה). The term is a hapax legomenon in Hebrew and is probably an Aramaic loanword. The term is used frequently in the related Semitic languages to refer to ships with multiple decks. Here the term probably functions as a synecdoche of whole for the part, referring to the “lower deck” rather than to the ship as a whole (R. S. Hess, NIDOTTE 3:282). An outdated approach related the noun to the verb סָפַן (safan, “to cover”) and suggested that סְפִינָה describes a ship covered with sheathing (BDB 706 s.v. סְפִינָה).
- Jonah 1:5 tn The a-class theme vowel of וַיֵּרָדַם (vayyeradam) indicates that this is a stative verb, describing the resultant condition of falling asleep: “was sound asleep.”
- Jonah 1:6 tn Heb “What to you sleeping?” The Niphal participle נִרְדָּם (nirdam) from רָדַם (radam, “to sleep”) functions here not as a vocative use of the noun (so KJV, NKJV, ASV “O sleeper”; RSV “you sleeper”) but as a verbal use to depict uninterrupted sleep up to this point. The expression מַה־לְּךָ (mah lekha, “what to you?”) can express surprise (BDB 552 s.v. מָה 1.a; e.g., Job 9:12; 22:12; Eccl 8:4; Isa 45:9, 10) or indignation and contempt (BDB 552 s.v. מָה 1.c; e.g., 1 Kgs 19:9, 13). Accordingly, the captain is either surprised that Jonah is able to sleep so soundly through the storm (NIV “How can you sleep?”; JPS, NJPS: “How can you be sleeping so soundly?”; NEB, REB “What, sound asleep?”), or he is indignant that Jonah would sleep in a life-threatening situation when he should be praying (CEV “How can you sleep at a time like this?”; NAB “What are you doing [+ sound NRSV] asleep?”; NJB “What do you mean by sleeping?”).
- Jonah 1:6 tn Heb “cry out” or “call upon.” The verb קָרָא (qaraʾ, “to call out, to cry out”) + the preposition אֶל (ʾel, “to”) often depicts a loud, audible cry of prayer to God for help in the midst of trouble: “to call on, to shout to” (HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 9.b; BDB 895 s.v. קָרָא 2.a; e.g., Judg 15:18; 1 Sam 12:17, 18; 2 Sam 22:7; Hos 7:7; Pss 3:4 [5 HT]; 4:3 [4 HT]). Jonker notes, “The basic meaning of qrʾ is to draw attention to oneself by the audible use of one’s voice in order to establish contact with someone else. The reaction of the called person is normally expressed by the verbs…‘answer’ and…‘hear’” (L. Jonker, NIDOTTE 3:971).sn The imperatives “arise!” and “cry out!” are repeated from v. 2 for ironic effect. The captain’s words would have rung in Jonah’s ears as a stinging reminder that the Lord had uttered them once before. Jonah was hearing them again because he had disobeyed them before.
- Jonah 1:6 tn Heb “the god.” The article on הָאֱלֹהִים (haʾelohim) denotes previous reference to אֱלֹהֶיךָ (ʾelohekha, “your god”; see IBHS 242-43 §13.5.1d). The captain refers here to the “god” just mentioned, that is, whatever god Jonah might pray to (“your god”).
- Jonah 1:6 tn Or “give thought to us.” The verb is found only here in the OT. Related nouns are in Job 12:5 and Ps 146:4. The captain hopes for some favorable attention from a god who might act on behalf of his endangered crewmen.
- Jonah 1:7 tn Heb “And they said, a man to his companion.” The plural verb is individualized by “a man.”
- Jonah 1:7 sn The English word lots is a generic term. In some cultures the procedure for “casting lots” is to “draw straws” so that the person who receives the short straw is chosen. In other situations a colored stone or a designated playing card might be picked at random. In Jonah’s case, small stones were probably used.
- Jonah 1:7 sn In the ancient Near East, casting lots was a custom used to try to receive a revelation from the gods about a particular situation. The Phoenician sailors here cried out to their gods and cast lots in the hope that one of their gods might reveal the identity of the person with whom he was angry. The CEV has well captured the sentiment of v.7b: “‘Let’s ask our gods to show us who caused all this trouble.’ It turned out to be Jonah.”
- Jonah 1:7 tn Heb “On whose account this calamity is upon us.”
- Jonah 1:7 tn Heb “the lot fell on Jonah.” From their questions posed to Jonah, it does not appear that the sailors immediately realize that Jonah was the one responsible for the storm. Instead, they seem to think that he is the one chosen by their gods to reveal to them the one responsible for their plight. It is only after he admits in vv. 9-10 that he was fleeing from the God whom he served that they realize that Jonah was in fact the cause of their trouble.
- Jonah 1:8 sn Heb “on whose account.” Jonah and the sailors appear to show dialectical sensitivity to each other in how they say this. To each other, the Phoenician sailors say בְּשֶׁלְּמִי (beshellemi) in vs 7. To Jonah, they say בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי (baʾasher lemi) in vs 8. But Jonah says בְּשֶׁלִּי (beshelli) to the sailors in vs 12. The two forms, including שֶׁ (she) vs. אֲשֶׁר (ʾasher) mean the same thing, but the form with שֶׁ is expected for the Phoenicians. אֲשֶׁר is far more common in Hebrew, while the more rare שֶׁ is often considered a northern or late feature when it occurs.
- Jonah 1:8 tn Heb “On whose account is this calamity upon us?”
- Jonah 1:8 tn Heb “And from what people are you?”sn Whose fault…What’s…Where…What’s… The questions delivered in rapid succession in this verse indicate the sailors’ urgency to learn quickly the reason for the unusual storm.
- Jonah 1:9 tn Or “fear.” The verb יָרֵא (yareʾ) has a broad range of meanings, including “to fear, to worship, to revere, to respect” (BDB 431 s.v.). When God is the object, it normally means “to fear” (leading to obedience; BDB 431 s.v. 1) or “to worship” (= to stand in awe of; BDB 431 s.v. 2). Because the fear of God leads to wisdom and obedience, that is probably not the sense here. Instead Jonah professes to be a loyal Yahwist—in contrast to the pagan Phoenician sailors who worshiped false gods, he worshiped the one true God. Unfortunately, his worship of the Lord lacked the necessary moral prerequisite.
- Jonah 1:9 tn Heb “The Lord, the God of heaven, I fear.” The Hebrew word order is unusual. Normally the verb appears first, but here the direct object, “the Lord, the God of heaven,” precedes the verb. Jonah emphasizes the object of his worship. In contrast to the Phoenician sailors who worship pagan polytheistic gods, Jonah took pride in his theological orthodoxy. Ironically, his “fear” of the Lord in this case was limited to this profession of theological orthodoxy, because his actions betrayed his refusal to truly “fear” God by obeying him.sn The word fear appears in v. 5, here in v. 9, and later in vv. 10 and 16. Except for this use in v. 9, every other use describes the sailors’ response (emotional fear prompting physical actions) to the storm or to the Lord. By contrast, Jonah claims to fear God, but his attitude and actions do not reflect this. It is clear that Jonah does not “fear” in the same way that they do.
- Jonah 1:9 tn Heb “the God of the heavens.” The noun שָׁמַיִם (shamayim, “heavens”) always appears in the dual form. Although the dual form sometimes refers to things that exist in pairs, the dual is often used to refer to geographical locations, e.g., יְרוּשָׁלַיִם (yerushalayim, “Jerusalem”), אֶפְרַיִם (ʾefrayim, “Ephraim”), and מִצְרַיִם (mitsrayim, “Egypt,” but see IBHS 118 §7.3d). The dual form of שָׁמַיִם does not refer to two different kinds of heavens or to two levels of heaven; it simply refers to “heaven” as a location—the dwelling place of God. Jonah’s point is that he worships the High God of heaven—the one enthroned over all creation.
- Jonah 1:10 tn Heb “Then the men feared…” The vav-consecutive describes the consequence of Jonah’s statement. The phrase “Hearing this” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
- Jonah 1:10 tn Heb “The men feared a great fear.” The cognate accusative construction using the verb יָרֵא (yareʾ, “to fear”) and the noun יִרְאָה (yirʾah, “fear”) from the same root (ירא, yrʾ) emphasizes the sailors’ escalating fright: “they became very afraid” (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g).
- Jonah 1:10 tn Heb “fleeing.”
- Jonah 1:10 sn The first two times that Jonah is said to be running away from the Lord (1:3), Hebrew word order puts this phrase last. Now in the third occurrence (1:10), it comes emphatically before the verb that describes Jonah’s action. The sailors were even more afraid once they had heard who it was that Jonah had offended.
- Jonah 1:10 tn Heb “because he had told them.” The verb הִגִּיד (higgid, “he had told”) functions as a past perfect, referring to a previous event.
- Jonah 1:11 tn Heb “the sea was going and storming.” The two participles הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר (holekh vesoʿer, “going and storming”) form an idiom that means “the storm was growing worse and worse.” When the participle הוֹלֵךְ precedes another participle with vav, it often denotes the idea of “growing, increasing” (BDB 233 s.v. הָלַךְ 4.d; e.g., Exod 19:19; 1 Sam 2:26; 2 Sam 3:1; 15:12; 2 Chr 17:12; Esth 9:4; Prov 4:18; Eccl 1:6). For example, “the power of David grew stronger and stronger (הֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק, holekh vekhazeq; “was going and becoming strong”), while the dynasty of Saul grew weaker and weaker (הֹלְכִים וְדַלִּים, holekhim vedallim; “was going and becoming weak”)” (2 Sam 3:1; see IBHS 625-26 §37.6d).
- Jonah 1:11 tn The vav plus the imperfect conjugation verb וְיִשְׁתֹּק (veyishtoq, “to be quiet”) here denotes purpose/result (see IBHS 638-40 §38.3).
- Jonah 1:12 tn Heb “quiet for you”; cf. NAB “that it may quiet down for you.”
- Jonah 1:12 sn Heb “on my account.” Jonah and the sailors appear to show dialectical sensitivity to each other in how they say this. See the note at v. 8.
- Jonah 1:13 sn The word translated row is used in Ezekiel to describe digging through a wall (Ezek 8:8; 12:5, 7, 12). Its use in Jonah pictures the sailors digging into the water with their oars as hard as they could.
- Jonah 1:13 sn The word for land here is associated with a Hebrew verb meaning “to be dry” and is the same noun used in v. 9 of dry ground in contrast with the sea, both made by the Lord (see also Gen 1:9-10; Exod 4:9; 14:16, 22, 29; Jonah 2:10).
- Jonah 1:13 tn Heb “but they were not able.” The phrase “to do so” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Jonah 1:13 tn Heb “the sea was going and storming.” See the note on the same idiom in v. 11.
- Jonah 1:14 tn Heb “Do not put against us innocent blood,” that is, “Do not assign innocent blood to our account.” It seems that the sailors were afraid that they would die if they kept Jonah in the ship and also that they might be punished with death if they threw him overboard.
- Jonah 1:14 tn Pss 115:3 and 135:6 likewise use these verbs (חָפֵץ and עָשָׂה, khafets and ʿasah; “to delight” and “to do, make”) in speaking of the Lord as characteristically doing what he wishes to do.
- Jonah 1:16 tc The editors of BHS suggest that the direct object אֶת־יְהוָה (ʾet-yehvah, “the Lord”) might be a scribal addition, and that the original text simply read, “The men became greatly afraid…” However, there is no shred of external evidence to support this conjectural emendation. Admittedly, the apparent “conversion” of these Phoenician sailors to Yahwism is a surprising development. But two literary features support the Hebrew text as it stands. First, it is not altogether clear whether or not the sailors actually converted to faith in the Lord. They might have simply incorporated him into their polytheistic religion. Second, the narrator has taken pains to portray the pagan sailors as a literary foil to Jonah by contrasting Jonah’s hypocritical profession to fear the Lord (v. 9) with the sailors’ actions that reveal an authentic fear of God (v. 10, 14, 16).
- Jonah 1:16 tn Heb “they feared the Lord with a great fear.” The root ירא (yrʾ, “fear”) is repeated in the verb and accusative noun, forming a cognate accusative construction that is used for emphasis (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g). The idea is that they greatly feared the Lord or were terrified of him.
- Jonah 1:16 tn Heb “they vowed vows.” The root נדר (ndr, “vow”) is repeated in the verb and accusative noun, forming an emphatic effected accusative construction in which the verbal action produces the object specified by the accusative (see IBHS 166-67 §10.2.1f). Their act of vowing produced the vows. This construction is used to emphasize their earnestness and zeal in making vows to worship the God who had just spared their lives from certain death.
- Jonah 1:16 tn Heb “they sacrificed sacrifices.” The root זבח (zbkh, “sacrifice”) is repeated in the verb and accusative noun, forming an emphatic effected accusative construction in which the verbal action produces the object (see IBHS 166-67 §10.2.1f). Their act of sacrificing would produce the sacrifices. It is likely that the two sets of effected accusative constructions here (“they vowed vows and sacrificed sacrifices”) form a hendiadys; the two phrases connote one idea: “they earnestly vowed to sacrifice lavishly.” It is unlikely that they offered animal sacrifices at this exact moment on the boat—they had already thrown their cargo overboard, presumably leaving no animals to sacrifice. Instead, they probably vowed that they would sacrifice to the Lord when—and if—they reached dry ground. Tg. Jonah 1:16 also takes this as a vow to sacrifice but for a different reason. According to Jewish tradition, the heathen are not allowed to make sacrifice to the God of Israel outside Jerusalem, so the Targum modified the text by making it a promise to sacrifice: “they promised to offer a sacrifice before the Lord and they made vows” (see B. Levine, The Aramaic Version of Jonah, 70; K. Cathcart and R. Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets [ArBib], 14:106, n. 29).
- Jonah 1:16 tn Heb “The men feared the Lord [with] a great fear, they sacrificed sacrifices, and they vowed vows” (cf. v. 10). By pairing verbs with related nouns as direct objects, the account draws attention to the sailors’ response and its thoroughness.
- Jonah 1:17 sn Beginning with 1:17, the verse numbers through 2:10 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 1:17 ET = 2:1 HT, 2:1 ET = 2:2 HT, etc., through 2:10 ET = 2:11 HT.
- Jonah 1:17 tn Or “appointed” (NASB); cf. NLT “had arranged for.” The Piel verb מִנָּה (minnah) means “to send, to appoint” (Ps 61:8; Jonah 2:1; 4:6-8; Dan 1:5, 10-11; HALOT 599 s.v. מנה 2; BDB 584 s.v. מָנָה). Joyce Baldwin notes, “Here, with YHWH as the subject, the verb stresses God’s sovereign rule over events for the accomplishment of his purpose (as in 4:6-8, where the verb recurs in each verse). The ‘great fish’ is in exactly the right place at the right time by God’s command, in order to swallow Jonah and enclose him safely” (Joyce Baldwin, “Jonah,” The Minor Prophets, 2:566).
- Jonah 1:17 tn Heb “great.”
- Jonah 2:2 sn The eight verses of Jonah’s prayer in Hebrew contain twenty-seven first person pronominal references to himself. There are fifteen second- or third person references to the Lord.
- Jonah 2:2 tn Tg. Jonah 2:2 renders this interpretively: “and he heard my prayer.”sn The first verse of the prayer summarizes the whole—“I was in trouble; I called to the Lord for help; he rescued me; I will give him thanks”—before elaborating on the nature and extent of the trouble (vv. 3-7a), mentioning the cry for help and the subsequent rescue (6b-7), and promising to give thanks (8-9). These elements, as well as much vocabulary and imagery found in Jonah’s prayer, appear also in other Hebrew psalms. With Jonah 2:1 compare, for example, Pss 18:6; 22:24; 81:7; 116:1-4; 120:1; 130:1-2; Lam 3:55-56. These references and others indicate that Jonah was familiar with prayers used in worship at the temple in Jerusalem; he knew “all the right words.” Cf. also Ps 107 with Jonah as a whole.
- Jonah 2:2 sn Sheol was a name for the place of residence of the dead, the underworld (see Job 7:9-10; Isa 38:17-18). Jonah pictures himself in the belly of Sheol, its very center—in other words, he is as good as dead.
- Jonah 2:2 tn Heb “voice” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV); cf. NIV “my cry.” The term קוֹל (qol, “voice”) functions as a metonymy for the content of what is uttered: cry for help in prayer.
- Jonah 2:3 tn Or “You had thrown me.” Verse 3 begins the detailed description of Jonah’s plight, which resulted from being thrown into the sea.
- Jonah 2:3 tn Heb “the deep” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); cf. NLT “into the ocean depths.”
- Jonah 2:3 tn Heb “heart” (so many English versions); cf. CEV “to the (TEV adds “very”) bottom of the sea.”
- Jonah 2:3 tc The BHS editors suggest deleting either מְצוּלָה (metsulah, “into the deep”) or בִּלְבַב יַמִּים (bilvav yammim, “into the heart of the sea”). They propose that one or the other is a scribal gloss on the remaining term. However, the use of an appositional phrase within a poetic colon is not unprecedented in Hebrew poetry. The MT is therefore best retained.
- Jonah 2:3 tn Or “the stream”; cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV “the flood.” The Hebrew word נָהָר (nahar) is used in parallel with יַם (yam, “sea”) in Ps 24:2 (both are plural) to describe the oceans of the world, and in Ps 66:6 to speak of the sea crossed by Israel in the exodus from Egypt.
- Jonah 2:3 tn Heb “surrounded” (so NRSV); cf. NAB “enveloped.”
- Jonah 2:3 tn Heb “your breakers and your waves.” This phrase is a nominal hendiadys; the first noun functions as an attributive adjective modifying the second noun: “your breaking waves.”
- Jonah 2:3 tn Heb “your…your…” The second person masculine singular suffixes on מִשְׁבָּרֶיךָ וְגַלֶּיךָ (mishbarekha vegallekha, “your breakers and your waves”) function as genitives of source. Just as God had hurled a violent wind upon the sea (1:4) and had sovereignly sent the large fish to swallow him (1:17 [2:1 HT]), Jonah viewed God as sovereignly responsible for afflicting him with sea waves that were crashing upon his head, threatening to drown him. Tg. Jonah 2:3 alters the second person masculine singular suffixes to third person masculine singular suffixes to make them refer to the sea and not to God, for the sake of smoothness: “all the gales of the sea and its billows.”
- Jonah 2:3 tn Heb “crossed”; cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV “passed.”
- Jonah 2:3 sn Verses 3 and 5 multiply terms describing Jonah’s watery plight. The images used in v. 3 appear also in 2 Sam 22:5-6; Pss 42:7; 51:11; 69:1-2, 14-15; 88:6-7; 102:10.
- Jonah 2:4 tn Heb “And I said.” The verb אָמַר (ʾamar, “to say”) is sometimes used to depict inner speech and thoughts of a character (HALOT 66 s.v. אמר 4; BDB 56 s.v. אָמַר 2; e.g., Gen 17:17; Ruth 4:4; 1 Sam 20:26; Esth 6:6). While many English versions render this “I said” (KJV, NKJV, NAB, ASV, NASB, NIV, NLT), several nuance it as “I thought” (JPS, NJPS, NEB, REB, NJB, TEV, CEV).
- Jonah 2:4 tn Or “I have been expelled from your attention”; Heb “from in front of your eyes.” See also Ps 31:22 and Lam 3:54-56.
- Jonah 2:4 tc Or “Yet I will look again to your holy temple,” or “Surely I will look again to your holy temple.” The MT and the vast majority of ancient textual witnesses vocalize consonantal אך (ʾkh) as the adverb אַךְ (ʾakh), which functions as an emphatic asseverative like “surely” (BDB 36 s.v. אַךְ 1) or an adversative like “yet, nevertheless” (BDB 36 s.v. אַךְ 2; so Tg. Jonah 2:4: “However, I shall look again upon your holy temple”). These options understand the line as expressing hopeful piety in a positive statement about surviving to worship again in Jerusalem. It may be a way of saying, “I will pray for help, even though I have been banished” (see v. 8; cf. Dan 6:10). The sole dissenter is the Greek recension of Theodotion. It reads the interrogative πῶς (pōs, “how?”), which reflects an alternate vocalization tradition of אֵךְ (ʾekh)—a defectively written form of אֵיךְ (ʾekh, “how?”; BDB 32 s.v. אֵיךְ 1). This would be translated, “How shall I again look at your holy temple?” (cf. NRSV). Jonah laments that he will not be able to worship at the temple in Jerusalem again—this is a metonymical statement (effect for cause) that he feels certain he is about to die. It continues the expression of Jonah’s distress and separation from the Lord, begun in v. 2 and continued without relief in vv. 3-7a. The external evidence favors the MT; however, internal evidence seems to favor the alternate vocalization tradition reflected in Theodotion for four reasons. First, the form of the psalm is a declarative praise in which Jonah begins with a summary praise (v. 2), continues by recounting his past plight (vv. 3-6a) and the Lord’s intervention (vv. 6b-7), and concludes with a lesson (v. 8) and vow to praise (v. 9). So the statement with אֵךְ in v. 4 falls within the plight—not within a declaration of confidence. Second, while the poetic parallelism of v. 4 could be antithetical (“I have been banished from your sight, yet I will again look to your holy temple”), synonymous parallelism fits the context of the lament better (“I have been banished from your sight; will I ever again see your holy temple?”). Third, אֵךְ is the more difficult vocalization because it is a defectively written form of אֵיךְ (“how?”) and therefore easily confused with אַךְ (“surely” or “yet, nevertheless”). Fourth, nothing in the first half of the psalm reflects any inkling of confidence on the part of Jonah that he would be delivered from imminent death. In fact, Jonah states in v. 7 that he did not turn to God in prayer until some time later when he was on the very brink of death.sn Both options for the start of the line (“how?” and “yet” or “surely”) fit the ironic portrayal of Jonah in the prayer (see also vv. 8-9). Jonah, who had been trying to escape the Lord’s attention, here appears remarkably fond of worshiping him. Is there perhaps also a hint of motivation for the Lord to rescue this eager worshiper? Confession of disobedience, on the other hand, is absent. Cf. Ps 31:22, where the first half (describing the plight) is very similar to the first half of Jonah 2:3, and the second half starts with “nevertheless” (אָכֵן, ʾakhen) and is a positive contrast, a report that God heard, using four words that appear in Jonah 2:2 (cf. Job 32:7-8; Ps 82:6-7; Isa 49:4; Zeph 3:7).
- Jonah 2:4 tn Heb “Will I ever see your holy temple again?” The rhetorical question expresses denial: Jonah despaired of ever seeing the temple again.
- Jonah 2:5 tn Heb “as far as the throat.” The noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) refers sometimes to the throat or neck (Pss 69:1 ; 105:18; 124:4, 5; Isa 5:14; HALOT 712 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 2). The water was up to Jonah’s neck (and beyond), so that his life was in great danger (cf. Ps 69:1).
- Jonah 2:5 tn Or “the deep; the abyss” (תְּהוֹם, tehom). The simple “ocean” is perhaps too prosaic, since this Hebrew word has primeval connections (Gen 1:2; 7:11; 8:2; Prov 8:27-28) and speaks of the sea at its vastest (Job 38:16-18; Pss 36:6; 104:5-9).
- Jonah 2:5 tc The consonantal form סוף (svf) is vocalized by the MT as סוּף (suf, “reed”), but the LXX’s ἐσχάτη (eschatē, “end”) reflects a vocalization of סוֹף (sof, “end”). The reading in Tg. Jonah 2:5 interpreted this as a reference to the Reed Sea (also known as the Red Sea). In fact, the Jewish Midrash known as Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 10 states that God showed Jonah the way by which the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea. The MT vocalization tradition is preferred.tn The noun סוּף (suf) normally refers to “reeds,” freshwater plants that grow in Egyptian rivers and marshes (Exod 2:3, 5; Isa 10:19), but here it refers to “seaweed” (HALOT 747 s.v. סוּף 1). Though the same freshwater plants do not grow in the Mediterranean, the name may be seen to fit similarly long plants growing in seawater.
- Jonah 2:6 tn Jonah began going “down” (יָרַד, yarad) in chap. 1 (vv. 3, 5; see also 1:15; 2:2-3).
- Jonah 2:6 tc The MT לְקִצְבֵי הָרִים (leqitsve harim, “to the extremities [i.e., very bottoms] of the mountains”) is a bit unusual, appearing only here in the Hebrew Bible. Therefore, the BHS editors suggest a conjectural emendation of the MT’s לְקִצְבֵי (“to the extremities”) to לְקַצְוֵי (leqatswey, “to the ends [of the mountains])” that is based on orthographic confusion between vav (ו) and bet (ב). However, the phrase קצבי הרים does appear in the OT Apocrypha in Sir 16:19; therefore, it is not without precedent. Since Jonah emphasizes that he descended, as it were, to the very gates of the netherworld in the second half of this verse, it would be appropriate for Jonah to say that he went down “to the extremities [i.e., very bottoms] of the mountains” (לְקִצְבֵי הָרִים). Therefore, the MT may be retained with confidence.tn The noun קֶצֶב (qetseb) is used only three times in the Hebrew Bible, and this is the only usage in which it means “extremity; bottom” (BDB 891 s.v. קֶצֶב 2). The exact phrase קצבי הרים (“the extremities [bottoms] of the mountains”) is used in the OT Apocrypha once in Sir 16:19.
- Jonah 2:6 tn Some English versions (e.g., NEB, NRSV) connect the “bottoms of the mountains” with the preceding phrase: “weeds were wrapped around my head at the bottoms of the mountains.” They then connect “I went down” with “the earth.” The latter connection is difficult to accept. It would be more normal in Hebrew to express “I went down to the earth” with a directive ending (אַרְצָה, ʾartsah), with a Hebrew preposition before “earth,” or without the definite article. The Masoretic accents, in addition, connect “ends of the mountains” with the verb “I went down” and call for a break between the verb and “earth.”
- Jonah 2:6 tn Heb “As for the earth, its bars…” This phrase is a rhetorical nominative construction (also known as casus pendens) in which the noun הָאָרֶץ (haʾarets, “the earth”) stands grammatically isolated and in an emphatic position prior to the third feminine singular suffix that picks up on it in בְּרִחֶיהָ (berikheha, “its bars”; see IBHS 128-30 §8.3). This construction is used to emphasize the subject, in this case, the “bars of the netherworld.” The word translated “bars” appears elsewhere to speak of bars used in constructing the sides of the tabernacle and often of crossbars (made of wood or metal) associated with the gates of fortified cities (cf. Exod 36:31-34; Judg 16:3; 1 Kgs 4:13; Neh 3:3; Pss 107:16; 147:13; Isa 45:1-2).
- Jonah 2:6 tn Heb “the earth.” The noun אֶרֶץ (ʾerets) usually refers to the “earth” but here refers to the “netherworld” (e.g., Job 10:21, 22; Ps 139:15; Isa 26:19; 44:23; BDB 76 s.v. אֶרֶץ 2.g). This is parallel to the related Akkadian term irsitu used in the phrase, “the land of no return,” that is, the netherworld. This refers to the place of the dead (along with “belly of Sheol” [v. 2] and “the grave” [v. 6]), which is sometimes described as having “gates” (Job 38:17; Ps 107:18).
- Jonah 2:6 tn Heb “behind me.” The preposition בַּעַד (baʿad) with a pronominal suffix and with the meaning “behind” is found also in Judg 3:23. Jonah pictures himself as closed in and so unable to escape death. Having described how far he had come (totally under water and “to the bases of mountains”), Jonah describes the way back as permanently closed against him. Just as it was impossible for a lone individual to walk through the barred gates of a walled city, so Jonah expected it was impossible for him to escape death.
- Jonah 2:6 tn Heb “As for the earth, its bars [were] against me forever.” This line is a verbless clause. The verb in the translation has been supplied for the sake of clarity and smoothness. The rhetorical nominative construction (see the note on the word “gates” earlier in this verse) has also been smoothed out in the translation.
- Jonah 2:6 tn Heb “my life.” The term חַיַּי (khayyay, “my life”) functions metonymically as a first common singular pronoun (“me”).
- Jonah 2:6 sn Jonah pictures himself as being at the very gates of the netherworld (v. 6b) and now within the Pit itself (v. 6c). He is speaking rhetorically, for he had not actually died. His point is that he was as good as dead if God did not intervene immediately. See Pss 7:15; 30:3; 103:4; Ezek 19:3-4, 8.
- Jonah 2:7 tn Heb “my soul.” The term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul”) is often used as a metonymy for the life and the animating vitality in the body: “my life” (BDB 659 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 3.c).
- Jonah 2:7 tn Heb “fainting away from me.” The verb הִתְעַטֵּף (hitʿattef, “to faint away”) is used elsewhere to describe (1) the onset of death when a person’s life begins to slip away (Lam 2:12), (2) the loss of one’s senses due to turmoil (Ps 107:5), and (3) the loss of all hope of surviving calamity (Pss 77:4; 142:4; 143:4; BDB 742 s.v. עַטֵף). All three options are reflected in various English versions: “when my life was ebbing away” (JPS, NJPS), “when my life was slipping away” (CEV), “when I felt my life slipping away” (TEV), “as my senses failed me” (NEB), and “when I had lost all hope” (NLT).
- Jonah 2:7 tn Heb “remembered.” The verb זָכַר (zakhar) usually means “to remember, to call to mind,” but it can also mean “to call out” (e.g., Nah 2:6), as in the related Akkadian verb zikaru, “to name, to mention.” The idiom “to remember the Lord” here encompasses calling to mind his character and past actions and appealing to him for help (Deut 8:18-19; Ps 42:6-8; Isa 64:4-5; Zech 10:9). Tg. Jonah 2:7 glosses the verb as, “I remembered the worship of the Lord,” which somewhat misses the point.
- Jonah 2:7 sn For similar ideas see 2 Chr 30:27; Pss 77:3; 142:3; 143:4-5.
- Jonah 2:8 tn Heb “those who pay regard to.” The verbal root שָׁמַר (shamar, “to keep, to watch”) appears in the Piel stem only here in biblical Hebrew, meaning “to pay regard to” (BDB 1037 s.v. שָׁמַר). This is metonymical for the act of worship (e.g., Qal “to observe” = to worship, Ps 31:7).
- Jonah 2:8 tn Heb “worthlessnesses of nothingness” or “vanities of emptiness.” The genitive construct הַבְלֵי־שָׁוְא (havle-shavʾ) forms an attributive adjective expression: “empty worthlessness” or “worthless vanities.” This ironic reference to false gods is doubly insulting (e.g., Ps 31:7). The noun הֶבֶל (hevel, “vapor, breath”) is often used figuratively to describe what is insubstantial, empty, and futile (31 times in Eccl; see also, e.g., Pss 39:4-6, 11; 144:4; Prov 13:11; 21:6; Isa 30:7; 49:4). It often refers to idols—the epitome of emptiness, nothingness, and worthlessness (Deut 32:21; 1 Kgs 16:13, 26; Ps 31:7; Jer 8:19; 10:8, 15; 14:22; 16:19; 51:18). The noun שָׁוְא (“worthlessness, emptiness, nothingness”) describes what is ineffective and lacking reality (BDB 996 s.v. שָׁוְא; e.g., Exod 20:7; Pss 60:11; 127:1; Ezek 22:28). It is also often used to refer to idols (e.g., Ps 31:7; Jer 18:15; Hos 5:11).
- Jonah 2:8 tn Heb “abandon their mercy/loyalty.” The meaning of חַסְדָּם יַעֲזֹבוּ (khasdam yaʿazovu, “forsake their mercy/loyalty”) is greatly debated. There are two exegetical issues that are mutually related. First, does the noun חֶסֶד (khesed) here mean (1) “mercy, kindness” that man receives from God or (2) “loyalty, faithfulness” that man must give to God (see BDB 338-39 s.v חֶסֶד; HALOT 336-37 s.v. חֶסֶד)? Second, does the third masculine plural suffix on חַסְדָּם (“their loyalty/mercy”) imply subjective or objective genitive? The subjective sense would refer to the loyal allegiance they ought to display to the true God: “they abandon the loyalty they should show.” An example of a subjective genitive is, “This is your kindness (חַסְדֵּךְ, khasdek) that you must do for me: every place to which we come, say of me, ‘He is my brother’” (Gen 20:13; also cf. Gen 40:14; 1 Sam 20:14-15). Several English versions take this approach: “forsake their faithfulness” (NASB), “abandon their faithful love” (NJB), “abandon their loyalty” (NEB, REB), “forsake their true loyalty” (RSV, NRSV), and “have abandoned their loyalty to you” (TEV). In contrast, the phrase has also been taken as an objective genitive, referring to the mercy they might have received from God: “they forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.” The ancient versions interpret חַסְדָּם in this sense: “they do not know the source of their welfare” (Tg. Jonah 2:8), “forsake the source of their welfare” (Vulgate), and “abandon their own mercy” (LXX). Several English versions follow this approach: “forsake their source of mercy” (NAB); “forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (NIV), “forsake their own welfare” (JPS, NJPS), “forsake their own mercy” (KJV, ASV), “forsake their own Mercy” (NKJV), “turn from the God who offers them mercy” (CEV), and “turn their backs on all God’s mercies” (NLT). This is a difficult lexical/syntactical problem. On the one hand, the next line contrasts their failure with Jonah’s boast of loyalty to the true God—demonstrating that he, unlike pagan idolaters, deserves to be delivered. On the other hand, the only other use of חֶסֶד in the book refers to “mercy” God bestows (4:2)—something that Jonah did not believe the (repentant) pagan idolaters had a right to receive. BDB 339 s.v. I חֶסֶד II takes this approach (“He is חַסְדָּם their goodness, favour Jonah 2:9”) and cites other examples of חֶסֶד with suffixes referring to God: חַסְדִּי (khasdi), “my kindness” = he shows kindness to me (Ps 144:2); and אֱלֹהֵי חַסְדִּי (ʾelohe khasdi), “the God of my kindness” = the God who shows kindness to me (Ps 59:18 HT [59:17 ET]).
- Jonah 2:9 tn Heb “voice” or “sound.”
- Jonah 2:9 tc The MT reads בְּקוֹל תּוֹדָה (beqol todah, “with a voice of thanksgiving”). Some mss of Tg. Jonah read here, “with the sound of hymns of thanksgiving”; the longer reading probably reflects an editorial gloss, explaining תּוֹדָה (“thanksgiving”) as “hymns of thanksgiving.”tn Heb “voice/sound of thanksgiving.” The genitive תּוֹדָה (todah, “thanksgiving”) specifies the kind of public statement that will accompany the sacrifice. The construct noun קוֹל (qol, “voice, sound”) functions as a metonymy of cause for effect, referring to the content of what the voice/sound produces: hymns of praise or declarative praise testimony.
- Jonah 2:9 tn The verbs translated “I will sacrifice” and “I will pay” are Hebrew cohortatives, expressing Jonah’s resolve and firm intention.
- Jonah 2:9 tn Heb “what I have vowed I will pay.” Jonah promises to offer a sacrifice and publicly announce why he is thankful. For similar pledges, see Pss 22:25-26; 50:14-15; 56:12; 69:29-33; 71:14-16, 22-24; 86:12-13; 116:12-19.
- Jonah 2:9 tn Or “deliverance” (NAB, NRSV).
- Jonah 2:9 tn Or “comes from the Lord.” For similar uses of the preposition lamed (לְ, le) to convey a sort of ownership in which the owner does, or may by right do, something, see Lev 25:48; Deut 1:17; 1 Sam 17:47; Jer 32:7-8.
- Jonah 2:10 tn Heb “spoke to.” The fish functions as a literary foil to highlight Jonah’s hesitancy to obey God up to this point. In contrast to Jonah, who immediately fled when God commanded him, the fish immediately obeyed.
- Jonah 3:2 sn The commands of 1:2 are repeated here. See the note there on the combination of “arise” and “go.”
- Jonah 3:2 tn Heb “Nineveh, the great city.”
- Jonah 3:2 tn The verb קָרָא (qaraʾ, “proclaim”) is repeated from 1:2 but with a significant variation. The phrase in 1:2 was the adversative קְרָא עָל (qeraʾ ʿal, “proclaim against”), which often designates an announcement of threatened judgment (1 Kgs 13:4, 32; Jer 49:29; Lam 1:15). However, here the phrase is the more positive קְרָא אֶל (qeraʾ ʿel, “proclaim to”), which often indicates an oracle of deliverance or a call to repentance with an accompanying offer of deliverance either stated or implied (Deut 20:10; Isa 40:2; Zech 1:4; HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 8; BDB 895 s.v. קָרָא 3.a). This shift from the adversative preposition עַל (“against”) to the more positive preposition אֶל (“to”) might signal a shift in God’s intentions, or perhaps it simply makes his original intention more clear. While God threatened to judge Nineveh, he was very willing to relent and forgive when the people repented from their sins (3:8-10). Jonah later complains that he knew all along that God was likely to relent from the threatened judgment (4:2).
- Jonah 3:3 tn Heb “was a great city to God/gods.” The greatness of Nineveh has been mentioned already in 1:2 and 3:2. What is being added now? Does the term לֵאלֹהִים (leʾlohim, “to God/gods”) (1) refer to the Lord’s personal estimate of the city, (2) speak of the city as “belonging to” God, (3) refer to Nineveh as a city with many shrines and gods, or (4) or simply reinforce idiomatically the city’s size? Interpreters do not agree on the answer. To introduce ideas either of God’s ownership or of dedication to idolatry, though not impossible, would be unexpected here, having no parallel or further development elsewhere in the book. The alternatives “great/large/important in God’s estimation” and “exceptionally great/large/important” could both be amplified by focus on physical size in the following phrase and are both consistent with emphases elsewhere in the book (Jonah 4:11 again puts attention on size—of population). If “great” is best understood as a reference primarily to size here, in view of the following phrase and v. 4a (Jonah went “one day’s walk”), rather than to importance, this might weigh slightly in favor of an idiomatic “very great/large,” though no example with “God” used idiomatically to indicate superlative (Gen 23:6; 30:8; Exod 9:28; 1 Sam 14:15; Pss 36:6; 80:10) has exactly the same construction as the wording in Jonah 3:3.
- Jonah 3:3 tn Heb “a three-day walk.” The term “required” is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and clarity.sn Required three days to walk through it. Although this phrase is one of the several indications in the book of Jonah of Nineveh’s impressive size, interpreters are not precisely sure what “a three-day walk” means. In light of the existing archaeological remains, the phrase does not describe the length of time it would have taken a person to walk around the walls of the city or to walk from one end of the walled city to the other. Other suggestions are that it may indicate the time required to walk from one edge of Nineveh’s environs to the other (in other words, including outlying regions), or that it indicates the time required to arrive, do business, and leave. More information might also show that the phrase involved an idiomatic description (consider Gen 30:36 and Exod 3:18; a three-day-journey would be different for families than for soldiers, for example), rather than a precise measurement of distance, for which terms were available (Ezek 45:1-6; 48:8-35). With twenty miles as quite a full day’s walk, it seems possible and simplest, however, to take the phrase as including an outlying region associated with Nineveh, about sixty miles in length.
- Jonah 3:4 tn Heb “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” The adverbial use of עוֹד (ʿod, “yet”) denotes limited temporal continuation (BDB 728 s.v. עוֹד 1.a; Gen 29:7; Isa 10:32). Tg. Jonah 3:4 rendered it as, “at the end of [forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown].”
- Jonah 3:4 tn Heb “be overturned.” The Niphal נֶהְפָּכֶת (nehpakhet, “be overturned”) refers to a city being overthrown and destroyed (BDB 246 s.v. הָפַךְ 2.d). The related Qal form refers to the destruction of a city by military conquest (Judg 7:3; 2 Sam 10:3; 2 Kgs 21:13; Amos 4:11) or divine intervention, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:21, 25, 29; Deut 29:22; Jer 20:16; Lam 4:6; BDB 245 s.v. 1.b). The participle form used here depicts an imminent future action (see IBHS 627-28 §37.6f) that is specified as only “forty days” away.
- Jonah 3:5 tn Heb “men.” The term is used generically here for “people” (so KJV, ASV, and many other English versions); cf. NIV “the Ninevites.”
- Jonah 3:5 sn The people of Nineveh believed in God…. Verse 5 provides a summary of the response in Nineveh; the people of all ranks believed and gave evidence of contrition by fasting and wearing sackcloth (2 Sam 12:16, 19-23; 1 Kgs 21:27-29; Neh 9:1-2). Then vv. 6-9 provide specific details, focusing on the king’s reaction. The Ninevites’ response parallels the response of the pagan sailors in 1:6 and 13-16.
- Jonah 3:5 tn Heb “from the greatest of them to the least of them.”
- Jonah 3:6 tn Heb “word” or “matter.”
- Jonah 3:7 tn Contrary to many modern English versions, the present translation understands the king’s proclamation to begin after the phrase “and he said” (rather than after “in Nineveh”), as do quotations in 1:14; 2:2, 4; 4:2, 8, 9. Where a quotation in Jonah does not begin immediately after “said” (אָמַר, ʾamar), it is only the speaker, the addressee, or both that come between “said” and the start of the quotation (1:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 4:4, 9, 10; cf. 1:1; 3:1).
- Jonah 3:8 tn Heb “with strength”; cf. KJV, NRSV “mightily,” NAB, NCV “loudly,” NIV “urgently.”
- Jonah 3:8 tn Heb “let them turn, a man from his evil way.” The shift from the plural verb וְיָשֻׁבוּ (veyashuvu, “and let them turn”) to the singular noun אִישׁ (ʾish, “a man, each one”) and the singular suffix on מִדַּרְכּוֹ (middarko, “from his way”) emphasizes that each and every person in the collective unity is called to repent.
- Jonah 3:8 tn Heb “his.” See the preceding note on “one.”
- Jonah 3:8 tn Heb “evil way.” For other examples of “way” as “way of living,” see Judg 2:17; Ps 107:17-22; Prov 4:25-27; 5:21.
- Jonah 3:8 tn Heb “that is in their hands.” By speaking of the harm they did as “in their hands,” the king recognized the Ninevites’ personal awareness and immediate responsibility. The term “hands” is either a synecdoche of instrument (e.g., “Is not the hand of Joab in all this?” [2 Sam 14:19]) or a synecdoche of part for the whole. The king’s descriptive figure of speech reinforces their guilt.
- Jonah 3:9 sn The king expresses his uncertainty whether Jonah’s message constituted a conditional announcement or an unconditional decree. Jeremiah 18 emphasizes that God sometimes gives people an opportunity to repent when they hear an announcement of judgment. However, as Amos and Isaiah learned, if a people refused to repent over a period of time, the patience of God could be exhausted. The offer of repentance in a conditional announcement of judgment can be withdrawn and in its place an unconditional decree of judgment issued. The initial difficulty, in many cases, of determining whether a prophecy of coming judgment is conditional or unconditional explains the king’s uncertainty.
- Jonah 3:9 tn “he might turn and relent.” The two verbs יָשׁוּב וְנִחַם (yashub venikham) may function independently (“turn and repent”) or form a verbal hendiadys (“be willing to turn”; see IBHS 540 §32.3b). The imperfect יָשׁוּב and the perfect with prefixed vav וְנִחַם form a future-time narrative sequence. Both verbs function in a modal sense, denoting possibility, as the introductory interrogative suggests (“Who knows…?”). When used in reference to past actions, שׁוּב (shub) can mean “to be sorry” or “to regret” doing something in the past. Regarding the future, it can mean “to change one’s mind” about doing something or “to relent” from sending judgment (BDB 997 s.v. שׁוּב 6). The verb נִחַם (nikham) can mean “to be sorry” about past actions (e.g., Gen 6:6, 7; 1 Sam 15:11, 35) or “to change one’s mind” about future actions (BDB 637 s.v. נחם 2). These two verbs are used together elsewhere in passages that consider whether or not God will change his mind and relent from judgment he has threatened (e.g., Jer 4:28). The verbal root שׁוּב is used four times in vv. 8-10, twice of the Ninevites “repenting” from their moral evil, and twice of God “relenting” from his threatened calamity. This repetition creates a wordplay that emphasizes the appropriateness of God’s response: if the people repent, God might relent.
- Jonah 3:9 tn Heb “from the burning of his nose/face.” See Exod 4:14; 22:24; 32:12; Num 25:4; 32:14; Deut 9:19.
- Jonah 3:9 tn The imperfect verb נֹאבֵד (noʾved, “we might die”) functions in a modal sense, denoting possibility. The king’s hope parallels that of the ship’s captain in 1:6. See also Exod 32:7-14; 2 Sam 12:14-22; 1 Kgs 8:33-43; 21:17-29; Jer 18:6-8; Joel 2:11-15.
- Jonah 3:10 tn Heb “from their evil way” (so KJV, ASV, NAB); cf. NASB “wicked way.”
- Jonah 3:10 tn Heb “calamity” or “disaster.” The noun רָעָה (raʿah, “calamity, disaster”) functions as a metonymy of result—the cause being the threatened judgment (e.g., Exod 32:12, 14; 2 Sam 24:16; Jer 18:8; 26:13, 19; 42:10; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; HALOT 1263 s.v. רָעָה 6). The root רָעָה is repeated three times in vv. 8 and 10. Twice it refers to the Ninevites’ moral “evil” (vv. 8 and 10a), and here it refers to the “calamity” or “disaster” that the Lord had threatened (v. 10b). This repetition of the root forms a polysemantic wordplay that exploits this broad range of meanings of the noun. The wordplay emphasizes that God’s response was appropriate: because the Ninevites repented from their moral “evil,” God relented from the “calamity” he had threatened.
- Jonah 3:10 tn Heb “the disaster that he had spoken to do to them.”
- Jonah 3:10 tn Heb “and he did not do it.” See notes on 3:8-9.
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