Friday, January 27, 2012

Revisiting Jonah, The Fish, 2:1-11

Chapter 2 is a psalm. It is good to read the psalms. The word rendered brought up is the same word used in chapter 1 for the ascending of the evil of Nineveh. I am sure this is not an accident. This word is also used for whole burnt offerings. The ascension is the visible manifestation of the completion of the offering. In this case יְהוָה is the agent who effects the completion of the offering. It occurs once in each of chapters 1 and 2 but we will see it again in this story (4:6-7).

וַיְמַן יְהוָה דָּג גָּדוֹל
לִבְלֹעַ אֶת יוֹנָה
וַיְהִי
יוֹנָה בִּמְעֵי הַדָּג
שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה לֵילוֹת
2.1
And 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
2.2
and Jonah prayed to יְהוָה his God
from the innards of the fish1
וַיֹּאמֶר
קָרָאתִי מִצָּרָה לִי אֶל יְהוָה
וַיַּעֲנֵנִי
מִבֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל שִׁוַּעְתִּי
שָׁמַעְתָּ קוֹלִי
2.3
and he said
I called out from my trouble to יְהוָה
and he answered me
from the belly of the grave2 I cried
you heard my voice
וַתַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מְצוּלָה
בִּלְבַב יַמִּים
וְנָהָר יְסֹבְבֵנִי
כָּל מִשְׁבָּרֶיךָ וְגַלֶּיךָ
עָלַי עָבָרוּ
2.4
and 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 me3
וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי
נִגְרַשְׁתִּי מִנֶּגֶד עֵינֶיךָ
אַךְ אוֹסִיף לְהַבִּיט
אֶל הֵיכַל קָדְשֶׁךָ
2.5
and I, I said
I am driven out from before your eyes4
surely I will again be attentive
in your holy temple
אֲפָפוּנִי
מַיִם עַד נֶפֶשׁ
תְּהוֹם יְסֹבְבֵנִי
סוּף חָבוּשׁ לְרֹאשִׁי
2.6
they enveloped me
waters - ever - self
abyss surrounding me
reed wrapped round my head5
לְקִצְבֵי הָרִים
יָרַדְתִּי
הָאָרֶץ בְּרִחֶיהָ בַעֲדִי לְעוֹלָם
וַתַּעַל מִשַּׁחַת חַיַּי
יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי
2.7
to 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
2.8
when I in myself was disabled
I remembered יְהוָה
and my prayer came to you
in your holy temple
מְשַׁמְּרִים הַבְלֵי שָׁוְא חַסְדָּם יַעֲזֹבוּ
2.9
those who keep futile emptiness abandon their kindness6
וַאֲנִי בְּקוֹל תּוֹדָה אֶזְבְּחָה לָּךְ
אֲשֶׁר נָדַרְתִּי אֲשַׁלֵּמָה
יְשׁוּעָתָה לַיהוָה ס
2.10
so I in a voice of thanksgiving will offer you
what I have vowed to recompense
salvation ה to יְהוָה belongs ס
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לַדָּג
וַיָּקֵא אֶת יוֹנָה אֶל הַיַּבָּשָׁה פ
2.11
and יְהוָה spoke to the fish
and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land פ

1Fish is both masculine and here feminine
2Jonah has died
3Psalm 42:8b
4As 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.
5the keyword structure surrounds the middle of this verse
6No participation in the recurrence pattern of this psalm
Selected recurring words in relative order (1 to 11)
Word and gloss * first usage123456789101234 Vs Root
יהוה יהוה
1יהוה
דג a fish
1דג
יונה Jonah
1יונה
יונה Jonah
1יונה
במעי was in the innards of
1מעה
הדג the fish
1דג
שׁלשׁה three
1שׁלושׁ
ושׁלשׁה and three
1שׁלושׁ
ויתפלל and prayed
2פלל
יונה Jonah
2יונה
יהוה יהוה
2יהוה
אלהיו his God
2אלוה
ממעי from the innards of
2מעה
הדגה the fish
2דג
ויאמר and he said
3אמר
יהוה יהוה
3יהוה
קולי my voice
3קול
יסבבני surrounded me
4סבב
ואני and I
5אני
אמרתי I said
5אמר
היכל temple
5היכל
קדשׁך your holy
5קדשׁ
נפשׁ self
6נפשׁ
יסבבני surrounding me
6סבב
יהוה יהוה
7יהוה
אלהי my God
7אלוה
נפשׁי I
8נפשׁ
יהוה יהוה
8יהוה
תפלתי my prayer
8פלל
היכל temple
8היכל
קדשׁך your holy
8קדשׁ
ואני so I
10אני
בקול in a voice of
10קול
ליהוה to יהוה belongs
10יהוה
ויאמר and spoke
11אמר
יהוה יהוה
11יהוה
לדג to the fish
11דג
יונה Jonah
11יונה
The focus of the chapter is on Jonah's whole self, his nephesh. The frame for the section is threefold as can be seen in the table. One verse (see which is missing from the table) has words that do not recur. In fact four of the five words in the verse are unique in the whole book of Jonah. The fifth recurs in chapter 4, showing this story to be like Psalm 86, yet another meditation on Exodus 34:8.