Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Revisiting Jonah, The Fury Part Two, aka The Tender Plant, 4:6-10

Here is the story of the tender plant, the worm, and the sultry east wind. Each one was appointed by יְהוָה God, the first to deliver Jonah from his evil, so that he might be glad for himself, the next two to strike so that he might lose his fury over the comfort of others more ignorant than him.

The unique aspect of this section is clearly

The Tender Plant

It is tied by fury to the prior section.

The child of the night, stressing transience, closes the child frame opened in the first chapter. Jonah's patronym makes him a child of truth. The great city, Nineveh, is also a frame for the story.

So at the end of this revisitation of a delightfully serious and comical tale, I have revised my mnemonics for the whole poem slightly. The first two chapters, encompassing the city with the sea and windy (spirit) tempest and the havoc of hurling actions, are comprised of: The Descent, The Dice, The Mortals and The Fish. The Mortals anticipate Nineveh, its turning, and its belonging to God. The second two chapters are comprised of The Day, The Turn, The Fury (not God's but Jonah's), parts 1 and 2. Unlike Jonah, the king leads his people in the turning and God turns in comfort (sighing) to them. Such turning is evil for Jonah. Evil, used as a frame when the seafarers turn and again in this chapter, ties together chapters 1 and 4. Jonah succeeds in bringing evil upon others and in knowing it in himself.

וַיְמַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים קִיקָיוֹן
וַיַּעַל מֵעַל לְיוֹנָה
לִהְיוֹת צֵל עַל רֹאשׁוֹ
לְהַצִּיל לוֹ מֵרָעָתוֹ
וַיִּשְׂמַח יוֹנָה עַל הַקִּיקָיוֹן
שִׂמְחָה גְדוֹלָה
4.6
and יְהוָה God appointed a tender plant
and made it come up over Jonah
to become shade over his head
to deliver him from his evil
and Jonah was glad for the tender plant
he was very glad
וַיְמַן הָאֱלֹהִים תּוֹלַעַת
בַּעֲלוֹת הַשַּׁחַר לַמָּחֳרָת
וַתַּךְ אֶת הַקִּיקָיוֹן וַיִּיבָשׁ
4.7
and God appointed a worm
as the dawn came up in the morning
and it struck the tender plant and it dried up
וַיְהִי כִּזְרֹחַ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ
וַיְמַן אֱלֹהִים רוּחַ קָדִים חֲרִישִׁית
וַתַּךְ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עַל רֹאשׁ יוֹנָה
וַיִּתְעַלָּף
וַיִּשְׁאַל אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ לָמוּת
וַיֹּאמֶר
טוֹב מוֹתִי מֵחַיָּי
4.8
and it happened when the sun shone
and God appointed a sultry east wind
and the sun struck Jonah's head
and he fainted
and he wished his being to die
and he said
death is good compared with my life
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל יוֹנָה
הַהֵיטֵב חָרָה לְךָ עַל הַקִּיקָיוֹן
וַיֹּאמֶר
הֵיטֵב חָרָה לִי
עַד מָוֶת
4.9
and God said to Jonah
is it good for you to be furious over the tender plant?
and he said
it is good for me to be furious
even to death
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה
אַתָּה חַסְתָּ עַל הַקִּיקָיוֹן
אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָמַלְתָּ בּוֹ
וְלֹא גִדַּלְתּוֹ
שֶׁבִּן לַיְלָה הָיָה
וּבִן לַיְלָה אָבָד
4.10
and יְהוָה said
you yourself showed pity for the tender plant
that you did not toil for
and did not make grow1
that happened as a child of the night
and as a child of the night perished
וַאֲנִי לֹא אָחוּס עַל נִינְוֵה
הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה
אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ בָּהּ הַרְבֵּה מִשְׁתֵּים-שְׂרֵה רִבּוֹ אָדָם
אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַע בֵּין יְמִינוֹ לִשְׂמֹאלוֹ
וּבְהֵמָה רַבָּה ש
4.11
and I, will I not show pity to Nineveh
the great city?
for there are in her more than 12 ten-thousands of humans
who cannot tell their right hand from their left
and also many cattle ש

1or make great

Jonah 4:6-11
Selected recurring words in relative order (6 to 11)
Word and gloss * first usage123456789101234567892012 Vs Root
וימן and appointed
6מנה
יהוה יהוה
6יהוה
אלהים God
6אלוה
קיקיון a tender plant
6קיקיון
ויעל and made it come up
6עלה
ליונה Jonah
6יונה
להיות to become
6היה
ראשׁו his head
6ראשׁ
וישׂמח and was glad
6שׂמח
יונה Jonah
6יונה
הקיקיון the tender plant
6קיקיון
שׂמחה he was glad
6שׂמח
גדולה very
6גדל
וימן and appointed
7מנה
האלהים God
7אלוה
בעלות as came up
7בעל
ותך and it struck
7נכה
הקיקיון the tender plant
7קיקיון
ויהי and it happened
8היה
השׁמשׁ the sun
8שׁמשׁ
וימן and appointed
8מנה
אלהים God
8אלוה
ותך and struck
8נכה
השׁמשׁ the sun
8שׁמשׁ
ראשׁ head
8ראשׁ
יונה Jonah's
8יונה
למות to die
8מות
ויאמר and he said
8אמר
מותי death is
8מות
ויאמר and said
9אמר
אלהים God
9אלוה
יונה Jonah
9יונה
ההיטב is it good
9יטב
חרה to be furious
9חרה
הקיקיון the tender plant
9קיקיון
ויאמר and he said
9אמר
היטב it is good
9יטב
חרה to be furious
9חרה
מות death
9מות
ויאמר and said
10אמר
יהוה יהוה
10יהוה
חסת showed pity
10חוס
הקיקיון the tender plant
10קיקיון
אשׁר that
10אשׁר
לא not
10לא
ולא and not
10לא
גדלתו you did make grow
10גדל
שׁבן as a child of
10בן
לילה the night
10לילה
היה happened
10היה
ובן and as a child of
10בן
לילה the night
10לילה
לא not
11לא
אחוס will I show pity
11חוס
הגדולה great
11גדל
אשׁר for
11אשׁר
הרבה more than
11רב
אשׁר who
11אשׁר
לא cannot
11לא
רבה many
11רב
This petulant prophet appears to be devoid of tenderness. But at least he is forthright. He knows his fury. God's mercy lies outside the human idea of fair or due reward. Jonah does not really like the good of creation, though he is glad enough for himself. His reaction is quite different from Job's. Job is ultimately seen to be both tender and right. Job changes. We don't know about Jonah. We are left with a question probably directed at ourselves. The inconsequential child of the night, the tender plant, is given to deliver Jonah from his evil.

Does the technique of observing the sequences and circles of repeating words help in memorizing this story? It has certainly made me read it with greater care than I did 40 odd years ago when I was asked to present this book at a conference (O how unprepared I was for that experience).

There are still many questions for me when I consider Jonah as 'the only sign to be given to this generation' (Matthew 16:4, Luke 11:29). What, for example, about the 'pilot', the chief of the encumbered band of seafarers? Why that phrase רַב הַחֹבֵל, surely an odd word for the quartermaster, or what is the significance of the one who descends paying the fare for the ship - her fare? Perhaps there are mortals who could comment. Is the foot-washing modeled after the actions of the king of Nineveh?

Halleluyah from the heart of God (Christopher Smart Jubilate Agno)
And from the hand of the artist inimitable,
And from the echo of the heavenly harp.
In sweetness magnifical and mighty.