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Jonah 1:9

Context
1:9 He said to them, “I am a Hebrew! And I worship 1  the Lord, 2  the God of heaven, 3  who made the sea and the dry land.”

1 tn Or “fear.” The verb יָרֵא (yare’) has a broad range of meanings, including “to fear, to worship, to revere, to respect” (BDB 431 s.v.). When God is the object, it normally means “to fear” (leading to obedience; BDB 431 s.v. 1) or “to worship” (= to stand in awe of; BDB 431 s.v. 2). Because the fear of God leads to wisdom and obedience, that is probably not the sense here. Instead Jonah professes to be a loyal Yahwist – in contrast to the pagan Phoenician sailors who worshiped false gods, he worshiped the one true God. Unfortunately his worship of the Lord lacked the necessary moral prerequisite.

2 tn Heb “The Lord, the God of heaven, I fear.” The Hebrew word order is unusual. Normally the verb appears first, but here the direct object “the Lord, the God of heaven” precedes the verb. Jonah emphasizes the object of his worship. In contrast to the Phoenician sailors who worship pagan polytheistic gods, Jonah took pride in his theological orthodoxy. Ironically, his “fear” of the Lord in this case was limited to this profession of theological orthodoxy because his actions betrayed his refusal to truly “fear” God by obeying him.

sn The word fear appears in v. 5, here in v. 9, and later in vv. 10 and 16. Except for this use in v. 9, every other use describes the sailors’ response (emotional fear prompting physical actions) to the storm or to the Lord. By contrast, Jonah claims to fear God but his attitude and actions do not reflect this. It is clear that Jonah does not “fear” in the same way that they do.

3 tn Heb “the God of the heavens.” The noun שָׁמַיִם (shamayim, “heavens”) always appears in the dual form. Although the dual form sometimes refers to things that exist in pairs, the dual is often used to refer to geographical locations, e.g., יְרוּשָׁלַיִם (yÿrushalayim, “Jerusalem”), אֶפְרַיִם (’efrayim, “Ephraim”), and מִצְרַיִם (mitsrayim, “Egypt,” but see IBHS 118 §7.3d). The dual form of שָׁמַיִם does not refer to two different kinds of heavens or to two levels of heaven; it simply refers to “heaven” as a location – the dwelling place of God. Jonah’s point is that he worships the High God of heaven – the one enthroned over all creation.



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