Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Jonah chapter 2

Jonah dies.

As with all psalms, there is a space where the poet realizes that things have changed. In this psalm there are two such gaps that move from death to life.

וַיְמַן יְהוָה דָּג גָּדוֹל
לִבְלֹעַ אֶת יוֹנָה
יוֹנָה בִּמְעֵי הַדָּג
שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה לֵילוֹת
2.1And יְהוָה appointed a great fish
to swallow up Jonah
and it happened
Jonah was in the innards of the fish
three days and three nights
וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל יוֹנָה אֶל יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו
מִמְּעֵי הַדָּגָה
2.2and Jonah prayed to יְהוָה his God
from the innards of the fish

קָרָאתִי מִצָּרָה לִי אֶל יְהוָה
מִבֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל שִׁוַּעְתִּי
שָׁמַעְתָּ קוֹלִי
2.3and he said
I called out from my trouble to יְהוָה
and he answered me
from the belly of the grave I cried
you heard my voice

וַתַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מְצוּלָה
בִּלְבַב יַמִּים
וְנָהָר יְסֹבְבֵנִי
כָּל מִשְׁבָּרֶיךָ וְגַלֶּיךָ
 עָלַי עָבָרוּ
2.4and you cast me from the depth
into the heart of the seas
and torrent surrounded me
All your breakers and your waves
have passed over me
וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי
נִגְרַשְׁתִּי מִנֶּגֶד עֵינֶיךָ
אַךְ אוֹסִיף לְהַבִּיט
אֶל הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ
2.5and I, I said
I am driven out from before your eyes
surely I will again be attentive
in your holy temple

מַיִם עַד נֶפֶשׁ
תְּהוֹם יְסֹבְבֵנִי
סוּף חָבוּשׁ לְרֹאשִׁי
2.6they enveloped me
waters - ever - self
abyss surrounding me
reed wrapped round my head
לְקִצְבֵי הָרִים
הָאָרֶץ בְּרִחֶיהָ בַעֲדִי לְעוֹלָם
וַתַּעַל מִשַּׁחַת חַיַּי
יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי
2.7of the roots of the hills
I descended
the earth with her bars about me forever
but you brought up my life from destruction
יְהוָה my God
בְּהִתְעַטֵּף עָלַי נַפְשִׁי
אֶת יְהוָה זָכָרְתִּי
וַתָּבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ תְּפִלָּתִי
אֶל הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ
2.8when I in myself was disabled
I remembered יְהוָה
and my prayer came to you
in your holy temple

מְשַׁמְּרִים הַבְלֵי שָׁוְא חַסְדָּם יַעֲזֹבוּ2.9those who keep futile emptiness abandon their kindness

וַאֲנִי בְּקוֹל תּוֹדָה אֶזְבְּחָה לָּךְ
אֲשֶׁר נָדַרְתִּי אֲשַׁלֵּמָה
לַיהוָה ס
2.10so I in a voice of thanksgiving will offer you
what I have vowed to recompense
salvation ה
to יְהוָה belongs ס
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה
וַיָּקֵא אֶת יוֹנָה אֶל הַיַּבָּשָׁה פ
2.11and יְהוָה spoke
to the fish
and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land פ

Other notes: Verse 2:4b is exactly psalm 42:8b. Verse 2:9 does not appear to participate in the recurrence pattern. It seems on my meagre inspection that there is a more dense recurrence pattern in prose than in poetry. The middle of verse 6 is what the keyword structure surrounds: abyss surrounding me, reed wrapped round my head. I used reed because it reminded me of the Exodus. Maybe that's too great a stretch.

[kindness - I had originally: covenant-merciful-kindness - too long]

Keywords for chapter 2 in relative order

דג a fish
דג 1
יונה Jonah
יונה 1
יונה Jonah
יונה 1
במעי was in the innards of
מעה 1
הדג the fish
דג 1
שׁלשׁה three
שׁלושׁ 1
ושׁלשׁה and three
שׁלושׁ 1
ויתפלל and prayed
פלל 2
יונה Jonah
יונה 2
ממעי from the innards of
מעה 2
הדגה the fish
דג 2
ויאמר and he said
אמר 3
קולי my voice
קול 3
יסבבני surrounded me
סבב 4
ואני and I
אני 5
אמרתי I said
אמר 5
היכל temple
היכל 5
קדשׁך your holy
קדשׁ 5
נפשׁ self
נפשׁ 6
יסבבני surrounding me
סבב 6
נפשׁי I
נפשׁ 8
תפלתי my prayer
פלל 8
היכל temple
היכל 8
קדשׁך your holy
קדשׁ 8
ואני so I
אני 10
בקול in a voice of
קול 10
ויאמר and spoke
אמר 11
לדג to the fish
דג 11
יונה Jonah
יונה 11


  1. Bob,

    Would you see Jonah's prayer as the prayer of a dead man and then God brings him back to life?

  2. I am reminded of much New Testament teaching when I read Hebrew poetry - particularly Romans 8:12 on putting to death the deeds of the body and John 3 on being born of the Spirit. The death to life pattern is evident in the psalms e.g. 3:6 and 139:18 - when I awake I am still with you. The sign of Jonah is a sign of the harrowing of Hell from one whose prayer is heard even from the grave (which is in this chapter the word, Sheol). This is the pattern that Jesus said Nicodemus as a teacher in Israel should have known - it is all over the teaching of the OT - e.g. again Job's children. This is the pattern that believers in Jesus need to exercise in the Spirit in order to enable their growth in life now as Paul teaches in Romans 8. Jonah gets his invitation into this pattern in chapter 4.

    The results of such engagement in faith are astounding. They go far beyond the practice of credulity such as reading Jonah (or Job) as if they have to be 'historical'. Verse 9 above would fit this lesson.