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Jonah 1:3

Context
1:3 Instead, Jonah immediately 1  headed off to Tarshish 2  to escape 3  from the commission of the Lord. 4  He traveled 5  to Joppa 6  and found a merchant ship heading 7  to Tarshish. 8  So he paid the fare 9  and went aboard 10  it to go with them 11  to Tarshish 12  far away from the Lord. 13 

Jonah 1:10

Context
1:10 Hearing this, 14  the men became even more afraid 15  and said to him, “What have you done?” (The men said this because they knew that he was trying to escape 16  from the Lord, 17  because he had previously told them. 18 )

1 tn Heb “he arose to flee.” The phrase וַיָּקָם לִבְרֹחַ (vayyaqam livroakh, “he arose to flee”) is a wordplay on the Lord’s command (קוּם לֵךְ, qum lekh; “Arise! Go!”) in v. 2. By repeating the first verb קוּם the narrator sets up the reader to expect that Jonah was intending to obey God. But Jonah did not “arise to go” to Nineveh; he “arose to flee” to Tarshish. Jonah looks as though he was about to obey, but he does not. This unexpected turn of events creates strong irony. The narrator does not reveal Jonah’s motivation to the reader at this point. He delays this revelation for rhetorical effect until 4:2-3.

2 tn The place-name תַּרְשִׁישׁ (tarshish, “Tarshish”) refers to a distant port city or region (Isa 23:6; Jer 10:9; Ezek 27:12; 38:13; 2 Chr 9:21; 20:36, 37) located on the coastlands in the Mediterranean west of Palestine (Ps 72:10; Isa 23:6, 10; 66:19; Jonah 1:3; see BDB 1076 s.v. תַּרְשִׁישׁ; HALOT 1798 s.v. תַּרְשִׁישׁ E.a). Scholars have not established its actual location (HALOT 1797 s.v. B). It has been variously identified with Tartessos in southwest Spain (Herodotus, Histories 1.163; 4.152; cf. Gen 10:4), Carthage (LXX of Isa 23:1, 14 and Ezek 27:25), and Sardinia (F. M. Cross, “An Interpretation of the Nora Stone,” BASOR 208 [1972]: 13-19). The ancient versions handle it variously. The LXX identifies תַּרְשִׁישׁ with Carthage/Καρχηδών (karchdwn; Isa 23:1, 6, 10, 14; Ezek 27:12; 38:13). The place name תַּרְשִׁישׁ is rendered “Africa” in the Targums in some passages (Tg. 1 Kgs 10:22; 22:49; Tg. Jer 10:9) and elsewhere as “sea” (Isa 2:16; 23:1, 14; 50:9; 66:19; Ezek 27:12, 25; 38:13; Jonah 4:2). The Jewish Midrash Canticles Rabbah 5:14.2 cites Jonah 1:3 as support for the view that Tarshish = “the Great Sea” (the Mediterranean). It is possible that תַּרְשִׁישׁ does not refer to one specific port but is a general term for the distant Mediterranean coastlands (Ps 72:10; Isa 23:6, 10; 66:19). In some cases it seems to mean simply “the open sea”: (1) the Tg. Jonah 1:3 translates תַּרְשִׁישׁ as “[he arose to flee] to the sea”; (2) Jerome’s commentary on Isa 2:16 states that Hebrew scholars in his age defined תַּרְשִׁישׁ as “sea”; and (3) the gem called II תַּרְשִׁישׁ, “topaz” (BDB 1076 s.v.; HALOT 1798 s.v.) in Exod 28:20 and 39:13 is rendered “the color of the sea” in Tg. Onq. (see D. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah [WBC], 451). The designation אֳנִיּוֹת תַּרְשִׁישׁ (’oniyyot tarshish, “Tarshish-ships”) referred to large oceangoing vessels equipped for the high seas (2 Chr 9:21; Ps 48:8; Isa 2:16; 23:1, 14; 60:9; Ezek 27:25) or large merchant ships designed for international trade (1 Kgs 10:22; 22:49; 2 Chr 9:21; 20:36; Isa 23:10; HALOT 1798 s.v. E.b). The term תַּרְשִׁישׁ is derived from the Iberian tart[uli] with the Anatolian suffix –issos/essos, resulting in Tartessos (BRL2 332a); however, the etymological meaning of תַּרְשִׁישׁ is uncertain (see W. F. Albright, “New Light on the Early History of Phoenician Colonization,” BASOR 83 [1941]: 21-22 and note 29; HALOT 1797 s.v. I תַּרְשִׁישׁ A). The name תַּרְשִׁישׁ appears in sources outside the Hebrew Bible in Neo-Assyrian KURTar-si-si (R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons [AfO], 86, §57 line 10) and Greek Ταρτησσος (tarthssos; HALOT 1797 s.v. C). Most English versions render תַּרְשִׁישׁ as “Tarshish” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NEB, NJB, JPS, NJPS), but TEV, CEV render it more generally as “to Spain.” NLT emphasizes the rhetorical point: “in the opposite direction,” though “Tarshish” is mentioned later in the verse.

3 tn Heb “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish away from the Lord.”

4 tn Heb “away from the presence of the Lord.” The term מִלִּפְנֵי (millifne, “away from the presence of”) is composed of the preposition לְפָנָי (lÿfanay, “in front of, before the presence of”) and מִן (min, “away from”). The term מִלִּפְנֵי is used with בָּרַח (barakh, “to flee”) only here in biblical Hebrew so it is difficult to determine its exact meaning (HALOT 942 s.v. פָּנֶה 4.h.ii; see E. Jenni, “‘Fliehen’ im akkadischen und im hebräischen Sprachgebrauch,” Or 47 [1978]: 357). The most likely options are: (1) Jonah simply fled from the Lord’s presence manifested in the temple (for mention of the temple elsewhere in Jonah, see 2:5,8). This is reflected in Jerome’s rendering fugeret in Tharsis a facie Domini (“he fled to Tarshish away from the face/presence of the Lord”). The term מִלִּפְנֵי is used in this sense with יָצָא (yatsa’, “to go out”) to depict someone or something physically leaving the manifested presence of the Lord (Lev 9:24; Num 17:11, 24; cf. Gen 4:16). This is reflected in several English versions: “from the presence of the Lord” (KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ASV, NASB) and “out of the reach of the Lord” (REB). (2) Jonah was fleeing to a distant place outside the land of Israel (D. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah [WBC], 450). The term לְפָנָי is used in various constructions with מִן to describe locations outside the land of Israel where Yahweh was not worshiped (1 Sam 26:19-20; 2 Kgs 13:23; 17:20, 23; Jer 23:39). This would be the equivalent of a self-imposed exile. (3) The term מִלִּפְנֵי can mean “out of sight” (Gen 23:4,8), so perhaps Jonah was trying to escape from the Lord’s active awareness – out of the Lord’s sight. The idea would either be an anthropomorphism (standing for a distance out of the sight of God) or it would reflect an inadequate theology of the limited omniscience and presence of God. This is reflected in some English versions: “ran away from the Lord” (NIV), “running away from Yahweh” (NJB), “to get away from the Lord” (NLT), “to escape from the Lord” (NEB) and “to escape” (CEV). (4) The term לְפָנָי can mean “in front of someone in power” (Gen 43:33; HALOT 942 s.v. c.i) and “at the disposal of” a king (Gen 13:9; 24:51; 34:10; 2 Chr 14:6; Jer 40:4; HALOT 942 s.v. 4.f). The expression would be a metonymy: Jonah was trying to escape from his commission (effect) ordered by God (cause). This is reflected in several English versions: “to flee from the Lord’s service” (JPS, NJPS). Jonah confesses in 4:2-3 that he fled to avoid carrying out his commission – lest God relent from judging Nineveh if its populace might repent. But it is also clear in chs. 1-2 that Jonah could not escape from the Lord himself.

sn Three times in chap. 1 (in vv. 3 and 10) Jonah’s voyage is described as an attempt to escape away from the Lord – from the Lord’s presence (and therefore his active awareness; compare v. 2). On one level, Jonah was attempting to avoid a disagreeable task, but the narrator’s description personalizes Jonah’s rejection of the task. Jonah’s issue is with the Lord himself, not just his commission. The narrator’s description is also highly ironic, as the rest of the book shows. Jonah tries to sail to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh, as if by doing that he could escape from the Lord, when the Lord is the one who knows all about Nineveh’s wickedness and is involved in all that happens to Jonah throughout the book. Compare Jonah’s explanation when talking with the Lord (see 4:2).

5 tn Heb “he went down.” The verb יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) can refer to a journey that is physically downhill. This suggests that Jonah had started out from Jerusalem, which is at a higher elevation. He probably received his commission in the temple (see 2:4, 7 for mention of the temple).

sn The verb יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) is repeated four times in chs. 1-2 for rhetorical effect (1:3a, 3b, 5; 2:7). Jonah’s “downward” journey from Jerusalem down to Joppa (1:3a) down into the ship (1:3b) down into the cargo hold (1:5) and ultimately down into the bottom of the sea, pictured as down to the very gates of the netherworld (2:7), does not end until he turns back to God who brings him “up” from the brink of death (2:6-7).

6 sn Joppa was a small harbor town on the Palestinian coast known as Yepu in the Amarna Letters (14th century b.c.) and Yapu in Neo-Assyrian inscriptions (9th-8th centuries b.c.). It was a port through which imported goods could flow into the Levant (Josh 19:46; 2 Chr 2:15 [16]; Ezra 3:7). It was never annexed by Israel until the Maccabean period (ca. 148 b.c.; 1 Macc 10:76). Jonah chose a port where the people he would meet and the ships he could take were not likely to be Israelite. Once in Joppa he was already partly “away from the Lord” as he conceived it.

7 tn Heb “going to” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV); NIV “bound for”; NLT “leaving for.”

8 tn See note on the phrase “to Tarshish” at the beginning of the verse.

9 tn Heb “its fare.” The 3rd person feminine singular suffix on the noun probably functions as a genitive of worth or value: “the fare due it.” However, it is translated here simply as “the fare” for the sake of readability. On the other hand “bought a ticket” (CEV, NLT) is somewhat overtranslated, since the expression “paid the fare” is still understandable to most English readers.

10 tn Heb “he went down into it.” The verb יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”) is repeated for rhetorical effect in v. 3a, 3b, 5. See note on the word “traveled” in v. 3a.

11 tn “Them” refers to the other passengers and sailors in the ship.

12 tn See note on the phrase “to Tarshish” at the beginning of the verse.

13 tn Heb “away from the presence of the Lord.” See note on the phrase “from the commission of the Lord” in v. 3a.

14 tn Heb “Then the men feared…” The vav-consecutive describes the consequence of Jonah’s statement. The phrase “Hearing this” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

15 tn Heb “The men feared a great fear.” The cognate accusative construction using the verb יָרֵא (yare’, “to fear”) and the noun יִרְאָה (yirah, “fear”) from the same root (ירא, yr’) emphasizes the sailors’ escalating fright: “they became very afraid” (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g).

16 tn Heb “fleeing.”

17 sn The first two times that Jonah is said to be running away from the Lord (1:3), Hebrew word order puts this phrase last. Now in the third occurrence (1:10), it comes emphatically before the verb that describes Jonah’s action. The sailors were even more afraid once they had heard who it was that Jonah had offended.

18 tn Heb “because he had told them.” The verb הִגִּיד (higgid, “he had told”) functions as a past perfect, referring to a previous event.



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