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Jonah 1:2

Context
1:2 “Go immediately 1  to Nineveh, 2  that 3  large capital 4  city, 5  and announce judgment against 6  its people 7  because their wickedness 8  has come to my attention.” 9 

Jonah 3:2

Context
3:2 “Go immediately 10  to Nineveh, that large city, 11  and proclaim to 12  it the message that I tell you.”

1 tn Heb “Arise, go.” The two imperatives without an intervening vav (קוּם לֵךְ, qum lekh; “Arise, go!”), form a verbal hendiadys in which the first verb functions adverbially and the second retains its full verbal force: “Go immediately.” This construction emphasizes the urgency of the command. The translations “Go at once” (NRSV, NJPS) or simply “Go!” (NIV) are better than the traditional “Arise, go” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, NASB) or “Get up and go” (NLT). For similar constructions with קוּם, see Gen 19:14-15; Judg 4:14; 8:20-21; 1 Sam 9:3.

2 sn Nineveh was the last capital city of ancient Assyria. Occupying about 1800 acres, it was located on the east bank of the Tigris River across from the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. The site includes two tels, Nebi Yunus and Kouyunjik, which have been excavated on several occasions. See A. H. Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains; R. C. Thompson and R. W. Hutchinson, A Century of Exploration at Nineveh; G. Waterfield, Layard of Nineveh. Preliminary reports of limited excavations in 1987 and 1989 appear in Mar Sóipri 1:2 (1988): 1-2; 2:2 (1989): 1-2; 4:1 (1991): 1-3. Also see D. J. Wiseman, “Jonah’s Nineveh,” TynBul 30 (1979): 29-51.

3 tn Heb “the.” The article draws attention to a well-known fact and may function as a demonstrative pronoun: “that great city” (see IBHS 242 §13.5.1e).

4 tn Heb “great city.” The adjective גָּדוֹל (gadol, “great”) can refer to a wide variety of qualities: (1) size: “large,” (2) height: “tall,” (3) magnitude: “great,” (4) number: “populous,” (5) power: “mighty,” (6) influence: “powerful,” (8) significance: “important,” (7) finance: “wealthy,” (8) intensity: “fierce,” (9) sound: “loud,” (10) age: “oldest,” (11) importance: “distinguished,” (12) position: “chief, leading, head” (HALOT 177-78 s.v. גָּדוֹל; BDB 152-53 s.v. גָּדוֹל). The phrase עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה (’ir-gÿdolah, “city”) may designate a city that is (1) large in size (Josh 10:2; Neh 4:7) or (2) great in power: (a) important city-state (Gen 10:12) or (b) prominent capital city (Jer 22:8). The phrase עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה (both with and without the article) is used four times in Jonah (1:2; 3:2, 3; 4:11). This phrase is twice qualified by a statement about its immense dimensions (3:3) or large population (4:11), so גָּדוֹל might denote size. However, size is not the issue in 1:2. At this time in history, Nineveh was the most powerful city in the ancient Near East as the capital of the mighty Neo-Assyrian Empire. It is likely that עִיר־גְּדוֹלָה here is the Hebrew equivalent of the Assyrian a„lu rabu (“the important city” = capital city of the empire), just as מַלְכִּי רַב (malki rav, “great king”; Hos 5:13; 10:6) is the equivalent of the Assyrian malku rabu (“great king” = ruler of the empire; D. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah [WBC], 448). Perhaps the closest West Semitic parallel to הָעִיר הָגְּדוֹלָה (hair haggÿdolah) is in an Amarna letter from King Abimilki of Tyre to Amenhotep IV: “Behold, I protect Tyre, the capital city (uruSurri uru rabitu) for the king my lord” (EA 147:61-63). Hebrew constructions in which a determined noun is modified by the determined adjective הָגְּדוֹלָה (“the great…”) often denote singular, unique greatness, e.g., הַנָּהָר הָגָּדֹל (hannahar haggadol, “the great river”) = the Euphrates (Deut 1:7); הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל (hayyam haggadol, “the great sea”) = the Mediterranean (Josh 1:4); הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל (hakkohen haggadol, “the great priest”) = the chief priest (Lev 21:10); and לָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת (lair haggÿdolah hazzot, “[to] this great city”) = this capital city (Jer 22:8). So הָעִיר הָגְּדוֹלָה may well connote “the capital city” here.

5 tn Heb “Nineveh, the great city.” The description “the great city” stands in apposition to “Nineveh.”

6 tn Heb “cry out against it.” The basic meaning of קָרָא (qara’) is “to call out; to cry out; to shout out,” but here it is a technical term referring to what a prophet has to say: “to announce” (e.g., 1 Kgs 13:32; Isa 40:2, 6; Jer 3:12; see HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 8). When used with the preposition עַל (’al, “against” [in a hostile sense]; 826 s.v. עַל 5.a), it refers to an oracle announcing or threatening judgment (e.g., 1 Kgs 13:2, 4, 32; BDB 895 s.v. עַל 3.a). This nuance is reflected in several English versions: “Announce my judgment against it” (NLT) and “proclaim judgment upon it” (JPS, NJPS). Other translations are less precise: “cry out against it” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV), “denounce it” (NEB, REB). Some are even misleading: “preach against it” (NAB, NIV) and “preach in it” (Douay). Tg. Jonah 1:2 nuances this interpretively as “prophesy against.”

7 tn Heb “it.” The pronoun functions as a synecdoche of container for contents, referring to the people of Nineveh.

8 sn The term wickedness is personified here; it is pictured as ascending heavenward into the very presence of God. This figuratively depicts how God became aware of their evil – it had ascended into heaven right into his presence.

9 tn Heb “has come up before me.” The term לְפָנָי (lÿfanay, “before me”) often connotes “in the full cognitive knowledge of” or “in the full mental view” of someone (BDB 817 s.v. פָּנֶה II.4.a.(c); e.g., Gen 6:13; Isa 65:6; Jer 2:22; Lam 1:22). The use of the verb עָלָה (’alah, “to ascend”) complements this idea; it is sometimes used to describe actions or situations on earth that have “come up” into heaven to God’s attention, so to speak (e.g., Exod 2:23; 1 Sam 5:12; 2 Kgs 19:28; Ps 74:23; Isa 37:29; Jer 14:2; see BDB 749 s.v. עָלָה 8). The point is that God was fully aware of the evil of the Ninevites.

10 sn The commands of 1:2 are repeated here. See the note there on the combination of “arise” and “go.”

11 tn Heb “Nineveh, the great city.”

12 tn The verb קָרָא (qara’, “proclaim”) is repeated from 1:2 but with a significant variation. The phrase in 1:2 was the adversative קְרָא עָל (qÿra’ ’al, “proclaim against”), which often designates an announcement of threatened judgment (1 Kgs 13:4, 32; Jer 49:29; Lam 1:15). However, here the phrase is the more positive קְרָא אֶל (qÿra’ ’el, “proclaim to”) which often designates an oracle of deliverance or a call to repentance, with an accompanying offer of deliverance that is either explicit or implied (Deut 20:10; Isa 40:2; Zech 1:4; HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 8; BDB 895 s.v. קָרָא 3.a). This shift from the adversative preposition עַל (“against”) to the more positive preposition אֶל (“to”) might signal a shift in God’s intentions or perhaps it simply makes his original intention more clear. While God threatened to judge Nineveh, he was very willing to relent and forgive when the people repented from their sins (3:8-10). Jonah later complains that he knew that God was likely to relent from the threatened judgment all along (4:2).



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