4 The Lord said, “Are you really so very[a] angry?”[b]
Jonah 4:4tnHeb “Rightly/thoroughly does it burn to you?” This same question occurs again in v. 9 concerning the withered plant. The Hiphil of יָטַב (yatav, “to do good”) here may have one of two meanings. First, it may mean “to do [something] rightly” in terms of ethical right and wrong (BDB 406 s.v. יָטַב 5.b; HALOT 408 s.v. יטב 3.c; e.g., Gen 4:7; Lev 5:4; Pss 36:4; 119:68; Isa 1:17; Jer 4:22; 13:23). This approach is adopted by many English versions: “Do you have any right to be angry?” (NIV); “Are you right to be angry?” (REB, NJB); “Is it right for you to be angry?” (NRSV, NLT); “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (NASB); “Do you do well to be angry?” (cf. KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV); “What right do you have to be angry?” (cf. TEV, CEV). Second, it may mean “well, utterly, thoroughly,” as an adverb (BDB 405 s.v. 3; HALOT 408 s.v. 5; e.g., Deut 9:21; 13:15; 17:4; 19:18; 27:8; 1 Sam 16:17; 2 Kgs 11:18; Prov 15:2; Isa 23:16; Jer 1:12; Ezek 33:32; Mic 7:3). This view is adopted by other English versions: “Are you that deeply grieved?” (JPS, NJPS); “Are you so angry?” (NEB). This is also the approach of the Tg. Jonah 4:4: “Are you that greatly angered?” The first interpretation can say such anger reflected the lack of submission to God’s sovereignty that caused Jonah to disobey initially. If God wanted to show mercy or wanted the plant to die, who was Jonah to get angry? But the rightness or wrongness of anger over plant death can seem a trivial question, and the later dialogue may focus on the depth of Jonah’s anger: He would rather be dead than alive (vv. 3, 8), and he concludes by saying that he was as angry as he could possibly be (v. 9; see note on עַד־מָוֶת [ʿad mavet, “to death”] in v. 9). The Lord then uses an a fortiori argument (from lesser to greater): Jonah was very upset that the plant had died (v. 10); likewise, God was very concerned about averting the destruction of Nineveh (v. 11).sn The use of the term יָטַב (yatab, “rightly, good”) creates a wordplay with its antonym רָעָה (raʿah, “evil, wrong”), which is used in 4:1 of Jonah’s bad attitude.
Jonah 4:4tnHeb “Does it burn to you?” The verb חָרָה (kharah, “to burn”) functions figuratively here (hypocatastasis) to refer to strong anger (BDB 354 s.v. חָרָה). The verb is repeated from v. 1 and will be used again in v. 9.
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