Monday, 9 May 2011

Jonah chapter 1

One is never quite sure how many words will survive in the first chapter by the time one gets to the end of the book. But here's a beginning. You know I never like being right the first time or even having a final answer.

My foray into Jonah was stimulated by this post from Brian Leport and its good questions.

This book is chock full of signs.  Every word, even every preposition, and every recurrence is overloaded with meaning. And we haven't even got to the fish yet.  לֵךְ אֶל הַיָּם

וַיְהִי דְּבַר יְהוָה
אֶל יוֹנָה בֶן אֲמִתַּי
1.1and the word of יְהוָה happened
to Jonah (Dove) child of Amittai
קוּם לֵךְ אֶל נִינְוֵה
הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה
וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ
כִּי עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי
1.2Rise - walk to Nineveh
the great city
and call out against her
for their evil has come up in my face
וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ תַּרְשִׁישָׁה
מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה
וַיֵּרֶד יָפוֹ
 וַיִּמְצָא אֳנִיָּה בָּאָה תַרְשִׁישׁ
וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ
 וַיֵּרֶד בָּהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהֶם תַּרְשִׁישָׁה
 מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה
1.3but Jonah rose and ran away to Tarshish
away from the face of יְהוָה
and he descended to Joppa
and found a ship going to Tarshish
and he paid the fare
and descended into her to go with them to Tarshish
away from the face of יְהוָה

וַיהוָה הֵטִיל רוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה אֶל הַיָּם
וַיְהִי סַעַר גָּדוֹל בַּיָּם
וְהָאֳנִיָּה חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר
1.4but יְהוָה hurled a great wind onto the sea
and a great tempest happened on the sea
and the ship, she was reckoning she was a wreck
וַיִּירְאוּ הַמַּלָּחִים
וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אִישׁ אֶל אֱלֹהָיו
וַיָּטִלוּ אֶת הַכֵּלִים
אֲשֶׁר בָּאֳנִיָּה אֶל הַיָּם
לְהָקֵל מֵעֲלֵיהֶם
וְיוֹנָה יָרַד אֶל יַרְכְּתֵי הַסְּפִינָה
וַיִּשְׁכַּב וַיֵּרָדַם
1.5And the salt-sea-farers feared
and they cried each to his God
and they hurled their cargo
that was in the ship onto the sea
lightening themselves of trifles
but Jonah had descended into the recesses below decks
and he was laid out unconscious
וַיִּקְרַב אֵלָיו רַב הַחֹבֵל
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ
מַה לְּךָ נִרְדָּם
קוּם קְרָא אֶל אֱלֹהֶיךָ
אוּלַי יִתְעַשֵּׁת הָאֱלֹהִים לָנוּ
 וְלֹא נֹאבֵד
1.6so the pilot approached him
and said to him
what's with you - unconscious!
Rise! Call out to your God
maybe this God will do something for us
and we will not perish

וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ
לְכוּ וְנַפִּילָה גוֹרָלוֹת
וְנֵדְעָה בְּשֶׁלְּמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ
וַיַּפִּלוּ גּוֹרָלוֹת
וַיִּפֹּל הַגּוֹרָל עַל יוֹנָה
1.7and they said, each to his companion
look here, let's throw the dice
to know from whom this evil is ours
and they threw the dice
and the dice pointed to Jonah
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הַגִּידָה נָּא לָנוּ
בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ
מַה מְּלַאכְתְּךָ
וּמֵאַיִן תָּבוֹא
מָה אַרְצֶךָ
וְאֵי מִזֶּה עַם אָתָּה
1.8and they said to him, make it clear to us, please
why is it that this evil is ours?
what is your business?
and where have you come from?
what part of earth?
and from this people - who are you?
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם
עִבְרִי אָנֹכִי
וְאֶת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲנִי יָרֵא
אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֶת הַיָּם וְאֶת הַיַּבָּשָׁה
1.9and he said to them
Hebrew I am
and I, I fear יְהוָה the God of the heavens
who made the sea and the dry land

וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו
מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ
כִּי יָדְעוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים כִּי מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה הוּא בֹרֵחַ
כִּי הִגִּיד לָהֶם
1.10and the mortals feared, a great fear, and they said to him
what is this you have done?
for the mortals knew that from the face of יְהוָה he had run away
for he had made it clear to them
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו
מַה נַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ וְיִשְׁתֹּק הַיָּם מֵעָלֵינוּ
כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר
1.11and they said to him
what will we do to you that the sea may be quieted for us
for the sea worked up a tempest
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם
שָׂאוּנִי וַהֲטִילֻנִי אֶל הַיָּם
וְיִשְׁתֹּק הַיָּם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם
כִּי יוֹדֵעַ אָנִי
כִּי בְשֶׁלִּי הַסַּעַר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה עֲלֵיכֶם
1.12and he said to them
lift me up and hurl me onto the sea
and the sea will be quieted for you
for I, I know
that it is from me that this great tempest is upon you

וַיַּחְתְּרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים לְהָשִׁיב אֶל הַיַּבָּשָׁה
וְלֹא יָכֹלוּ
כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר עֲלֵיהֶם
1.13But the mortals dug hard to turn to the dry land
but they could not
for the sea worked up a tempest against them
וַיִּקְרְאוּ אֶל יְהוָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ
אָנָּה יְהוָה
אַל נָא נֹאבְדָה
 בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאִישׁ הַזֶּה
 וְאַל תִּתֵּן עָלֵינוּ דָּם נָקִיא
כִּי אַתָּה יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר חָפַצְתָּ עָשִׂיתָ
1.14so they called out to יְהוָה and said
we beseech you יְהוָה
please, let us not perish
in the life of this man
and do not make us pay for innocent blood
for you יְהוָה have done according to what you wanted
וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת יוֹנָה
וַיְטִלֻהוּ אֶל הַיָּם
וַיַּעֲמֹד הַיָּם מִזַּעְפּוֹ
1.15and they lifted up Jonah (the Dove)
and they hurled him onto the sea
and the sea stood back from his rage
וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה אֶת יְהוָה
וַיִּזְבְּחוּ זֶבַח לַיהוָה
וַיִּדְּרוּ נְדָרִים
1.16and the mortals feared יְהוָה, a great fear
and they offered an offering to יְהוָה
and they vowed vows


  1. Bob,

    Thanks for this. Thus far I see Jonah (the Dove) in the paradox of being called to go "up" yet he continues to go "down". He is to go northeastward to Nineveh yet goes westward toward Tarshish. The sea is personified as angrily beating against the boat and YHWH is in the midst of it all. Have I missed anything thus far?

  2. Wow - that was a quick response !! Yes Brian, in every verse there are clues and signs of the story and what it is and why Jesus held it up as his 'sign'. The dove is of love, the child will end up as an idiom at the end of chapter 4. You get the ascend vs descend - tov! walking vs running, (though walk is a weak translation). Face - compare psalm 139 - and I am sure the writer knew it. The hurling, the helpful mortals, the lifting up - all point to the sign as Jesus might have read it. The impact on others of failure - still positive! As I think about 'beseech' - perhaps - 'please, please' would be better - hence why I could not use 'pleased' at the end of that verse. Does God 'want' anything? The dry land - a reference to creation of course. The heaven and the dry land - reflecting heaven and earth in the refrain in the psalms of ascent ++. Blood and innocence - don't hold it against us - also reflected in the NT. The image of the storm will be expanded in chapter 2. Just a few random notes for the moment.

  3. Bob, a quick question, before my test starts:

    In v.3 why did you choose not to have Jonah pay "her fare" (= slightly oddly in both cases the ship's fare in Hebrew as in English)?

    On "face" for לְפָנָי I'll need to look at what you said and why in the Psalm... but without good reason it seems to me the construction most often has clearly the sense of "into my presence" with overtones of authority often intended...

  4. Tim - I think it should be her fare, but I drew away for fear of fair play with the traditional attribution of pronouns. Then I noted that KJV has her for sea where it is clearly his! So right on - thanks - I think it should change.

    Also I agree on face - I like presence better and had it at first... still pondering..

  5. @ Tim - I should have listened to all your podcasts before starting - I just noticed this one and I wanted to make a point similar about the definite articles combined with the repetition of 'this' in its various forms. Definiteness seems exaggerated as you would expect in a children's story.
    @ Brian - on the serious side is the series of questions including what line of work are you in? It reminds me of Who to men say that I am? That word for work or occupation is 'creator' (Genesis 2:2)

  6. @ Tim - after hitting several more possible uses of her, I think it is dislocating for an English reader. The personification is not really there in the Hebrew, just part of its gendered grammar. So I changed my mind again. Chapter 4 is very difficult - I've been struggling with fury and depression as I read it. :) And 'happen' for 'become' only works sometimes. O rigidity thou art a cruel taskmaster.

  7. Would "her fare" indicate he paid for the entire cost of the ships journey? "Her" = ship?

  8. Re her fare - I don't see that it means more than that he paid what we would call 'his own' fare. I have been wondering about analogy here - whether the ship is 'the elect', 'the church', going off in the wrong direction, like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle. But I don't think I need to press the image too far. I also wondered if the fish might also be an image of the judgment of the assembly, but again, I think it is the pattern of death and rebirth that is the low hanging fruit. Also that Jonah is like Jesus in that he prays even from within death. So also even if he should die, he will live (John 11:25).

  9. I think that it is one example of the personification (or even anthropification) of non-human characters in Jonah. Among the others a few verses later the ship "threatens" to break up. Whatever else this adds to the "children's story" quality of the book.

  10. Are there other examples of ships "having" fares, or indeed payments made to or for anything otherr than people. This strikes me as unusual language, that becomes usual in Jonah where ships and fish and even the animals of Nineveh have personality!

  11. @Tim - the ship does seem personified and I think one could get away with some play with the language. The treatment of Jonah I found from Christensen is really a good teaching tool.