Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jonah chapter 2, a psalm

Chapter 2 is a psalm.
וַיְמַ֤ן יְהוָה֙ דָּ֣ג גָּד֔וֹל לִבְלֹ֖עַ אֶת־יוֹנָ֑ה
וַיְהִ֤י יוֹנָה֙ בִּמְעֵ֣י הַדָּ֔ג שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה יָמִ֖ים וּשְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה לֵילֽוֹת
1
And Yahweh appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.
And it happened: Jonah in the innards of the fish three days and three nights.
וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֣ל יוֹנָ֔ה אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהָ֑יו
מִמְּעֵ֖י הַדָּגָֽה
2
And Jonah prayed to Yahweh his God,
from the innards of the fish.
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר קָ֠רָאתִי מִצָּ֥רָה לִ֛י אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה וַֽיַּעֲנֵ֑נִי
מִבֶּ֧טֶן שְׁא֛וֹל שִׁוַּ֖עְתִּי שָׁמַ֥עְתָּ קוֹלִֽי
3
And he said, I called out from my trouble to Yahweh and he answered me.
From the belly of the grave I cried. You heard my voice.
וַתַּשְׁלִיכֵ֤נִי מְצוּלָה֙ בִּלְבַ֣ב יַמִּ֔ים וְנָהָ֖ר יְסֹבְבֵ֑נִי
כָּל־מִשְׁבָּרֶ֥יךָ וְגַלֶּ֖יךָ עָלַ֥י עָבָֽרוּ
4
And you cast me from the depth into the heart of the seas and a river surrounded me.
All your breakers and your waves have passed over me.
וַאֲנִ֣י אָמַ֔רְתִּי נִגְרַ֖שְׁתִּי מִנֶּ֣גֶד עֵינֶ֑יךָ
אַ֚ךְ אוֹסִ֣יף לְהַבִּ֔יט אֶל־הֵיכַ֖ל קָדְשֶֽׁךָ
5
And I, I said, I am expelled from before your eyes.
Surely I will again take note in your holy temple.
אֲפָפ֤וּנִי מַ֙יִם֙ עַד־נֶ֔פֶשׁ תְּה֖וֹם יְסֹבְבֵ֑נִי
ס֖וּף חָב֥וּשׁ לְרֹאשִֽׁי
6
Waters enveloped me to the throat, abyss surrounding me,
reed a boundary round my head.
לְקִצְבֵ֤י הָרִים֙ יָרַ֔דְתִּי הָאָ֛רֶץ בְּרִחֶ֥יהָ בַעֲדִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם
וַתַּ֧עַל מִשַּׁ֛חַת חַיַּ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהָֽי
7
To the bottom of the hills I descended, the earth with her bars about me forever.
But you brought up my life from destruction, Yahweh my God.
בְּהִתְעַטֵּ֤ף עָלַי֙ נַפְשִׁ֔י אֶת־יְהוָ֖ה זָכָ֑רְתִּי
וַתָּב֤וֹא אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּפִלָּתִ֔י אֶל־הֵיכַ֖ל קָדְשֶֽׁךָ
8
When I in myself was disabled, I remembered Yahweh,
and my prayer came to you in your holy temple.
מְשַׁמְּרִ֖ים הַבְלֵי־שָׁ֑וְא
חַסְדָּ֖ם יַעֲזֹֽבוּ
9
Those who keep vain futility
forsake their kindness.
וַאֲנִ֗י בְּק֤וֹל תּוֹדָה֙ אֶזְבְּחָה־לָּ֔ךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָדַ֖רְתִּי אֲשַׁלֵּ֑מָה
יְשׁוּעָ֖תָה לַיהוָֽה ס
10
So I in a voice of thanksgiving will offer you what I have vowed to repay.
Salvation to Yahweh belongs. S
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה לַדָּ֑ג
וַיָּקֵ֥א אֶת־יוֹנָ֖ה אֶל־הַיַּבָּשָֽׁה פ
11
And Yahweh talked to the fish,
and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land. P
The word which I have glossed as 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. Jonah has completed his descent, begun in chapter 1, and is now ascended. This word is also used for whole burnt offerings and it has the same letters as leaf. (Think of the never withering leaf of Psalm 1.) The ascension is the visible manifestation of the completion of the offering. In this case Yahweh 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).

Verses 1 and 11: Fish is used in both masculine and feminine forms, same fish. Verse 3, Jonah has died. Verse 4, Psalm 42:8b (7b Hebrew numbering). Verse 7, the keyword structure surrounds the middle of this verse. Verse 8, As with many 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. Verse 9 has no participation in the recurrence pattern of this psalm. 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, another meditation on Exodus 34:8.
Word / Gloss
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
1
2
Vs
Stem
דג a fish
1
דג
יונה Jonah
1
יונה
יונה Jonah
1
יונה
במעי was in the innards of
1
מעה
הדג the fish
1
דג
שׁלשׁה three
1
שׁלשׁ
ושׁלשׁה and three
1
שׁלשׁ
ויתפלל and prayed
2
פלל
יונה Jonah
2
יונה
ממעי from the innards of
2
מעה
הדגה the fish
2
דג
ויאמר and he said
3
אמר
קולי my voice
3
קול
יסבבני surrounded me
4
סבב
ואני and I
5
אני
אמרתי I said
5
אמר
היכל temple
5
היכל
קדשׁך your holy
5
קדשׁ
נפשׁ the throat
6
נפשׁ
יסבבני surrounding me
6
סבב
נפשׁי I
8
נפשׁ
תפלתי my prayer
8
פלל
היכל temple
8
היכל
קדשׁך your holy
8
קדשׁ
ואני so I
10
אני
בקול in a voice of
10
קול
ויאמר and talked
11
אמר
לדג to the fish
11
דג
יונה Jonah
11
יונה

The focus of the chapter is on Jonah's whole self, his nephesh, traditionally translated as soul. Soul is a word I never use since it implies a duality in us that belies present responsibilities. The frame for the section is threefold as can be seen in the table.

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