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Jonah 2:3-5

Context

2:3 You threw me 1  into the deep waters, 2 

into the middle 3  of the sea; 4 

the ocean current 5  engulfed 6  me;

all the mighty waves 7  you sent 8  swept 9  over me. 10 

2:4 I thought 11  I had been banished from your sight, 12 

that I would never again 13  see your holy temple! 14 

2:5 Water engulfed me up to my neck; 15 

the deep ocean 16  surrounded me;

seaweed 17  was wrapped around my head.

1 tn Or “You had thrown me.” Verse 3 begins the detailed description of Jonah’s plight, which resulted from being thrown into the sea.

2 tn Heb “the deep” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “into the ocean depths.”

3 tn Heb “heart” (so many English versions); CEV “to the (+ very TEV) bottom of the sea.”

4 tc The BHS editors suggest deleting either מְצוּלָה (mÿtsulah, “into the deep”) or בִּלְבַב יַמִּים (bilvav yammim, “into the heart of the sea”). They propose that one or the other is a scribal gloss on the remaining term. However, the use of an appositional phrase within a poetic colon is not unprecedented in Hebrew poetry. The MT is therefore best retained.

5 tn Or “the stream”; KJV, ASV, NRSV “the flood.” The Hebrew word נָהָר (nahar) is used in parallel with יַם (yam, “sea”) in Ps 24:2 (both are plural) to describe the oceans of the world and in Ps 66:6 to speak of the sea crossed by Israel in the exodus from Egypt.

6 tn Heb “surrounded” (so NRSV); NAB “enveloped.”

7 tn Heb “your breakers and your waves.” This phrase is a nominal hendiadys; the first noun functions as an attributive adjective modifying the second noun: “your breaking waves.”

8 tn Heb “your… your…” The 2nd person masculine singular suffixes on מִשְׁבָּרֶיךָ וְגַלֶּיךָ (mishbarekha vÿgallekha, “your breakers and your waves”) function as genitives of source. Just as God had hurled a violent wind upon the sea (1:4) and had sovereignly sent the large fish to swallow him (1:17 [2:1 HT]), Jonah viewed God as sovereignly responsible for afflicting him with sea waves that were crashing upon his head, threatening to drown him. Tg. Jonah 2:3 alters the 2nd person masculine singular suffixes to 3rd person masculine singular suffixes to make them refer to the sea and not to God, for the sake of smoothness: “all the gales of the sea and its billows.”

9 tn Heb “crossed”; KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV “passed.”

10 sn Verses 3 and 5 multiply terms describing Jonah’s watery plight. The images used in v. 3 appear also in 2 Sam 22:5-6; Pss 42:7; 51:11; 69:1-2, 14-15; 88:6-7; 102:10.

11 tn Heb “And I said.” The verb אָמַר (’amar, “to say”) is sometimes used to depict inner speech and thoughts of a character (HALOT 66 s.v. אמר 4; BDB 56 s.v. אָמַר 2; e.g., Gen 17:17; Ruth 4:4; 1 Sam 20:26; Esth 6:6). While many English versions render this “I said” (KJV, NKJV, NAB, ASV, NASB, NIV, NLT), several nuance it “I thought” (JPS, NJPS, NEB, REB, NJB, TEV, CEV).

12 tn Or “I have been expelled from your attention”; Heb “from in front of your eyes.” See also Ps 31:22; Lam 3:54-56.

13 tc Or “Yet I will look again to your holy temple” or “Surely I will look again to your holy temple.” The MT and the vast majority of ancient textual witnesses vocalize consonantal אך (’kh) as the adverb אַךְ (’akh) which functions as an emphatic asseverative “surely” (BDB 36 s.v. אַךְ 1) or an adversative “yet, nevertheless” (BDB 36 s.v. אַךְ 2; so Tg. Jonah 2:4: “However, I shall look again upon your holy temple”). These options understand the line as an expression of hopeful piety. As a positive statement, Jonah expresses hope that he will live to return to worship in Jerusalem. It may be a way of saying, “I will pray for help, even though I have been banished” (see v. 8; cf. Dan 6:10). The sole dissenter is the Greek recension of Theodotion which reads the interrogative πῶς (pws, “how?”) which reflects an alternate vocalization tradition of אֵךְ (’ekh) – a defectively written form of אֵיךְ (’ekh, “how?”; BDB 32 s.v. אֵיךְ 1). This would be translated, “How shall I again look at your holy temple?” (cf. NRSV). Jonah laments that he will not be able to worship at the temple in Jerusalem again – this is a metonymical statement (effect for cause) that he feels certain that he is about to die. It continues the expression of Jonah’s distress and separation from the Lord, begun in v. 2 and continued without relief in vv. 3-7a. The external evidence favors the MT; however, internal evidence seems to favor the alternate vocalization tradition reflected in Theodotion for four reasons. First, the form of the psalm is a declarative praise in which Jonah begins with a summary praise (v. 2), continues by recounting his past plight
(vv. 3-6a) and the Lord’s intervention (vv. 6b-7), and concludes with a lesson (v. 8) and vow to praise (v. 9). So the statement with אֵךְ in v. 4 falls within the plight – not within a declaration of confidence. Second, while the poetic parallelism of v. 4 could be antithetical (“I have been banished from your sight, yet I will again look to your holy temple”),
synonymous parallelism fits the context of the lament better (“I have been banished from your sight; Will I ever again see your holy temple?”). Third, אֵךְ is the more difficult vocalization because it is a defectively written form of אֵיךְ (“how?”) and therefore easily confused with אַךְ (“surely” or “yet, nevertheless”). Fourth, nothing in the first half of the psalm reflects any inkling of confidence on the part of Jonah that he would be delivered from imminent death. In fact, Jonah states in v. 7 that he did not turn to God in prayer until some time later when he was on the very brink of death.

sn Both options for the start of the line (“how?” and “yet” or “surely”) fit the ironic portrayal of Jonah in the prayer (see also vv.8-9). Jonah, who had been trying to escape the Lord’s attention, here appears remarkably fond of worshiping him. Is there perhaps also a hint of motivation for the Lord to rescue this eager worshiper? Confession of disobedience, on the other hand, is absent. Compare Ps 31:22, where the first half (describing the plight) is very similar to the first half of Jonah 2:3, and the second half starts with “nevertheless” (אָכֵן, ’akhen) and is a positive contrast, a report that God heard, using four words that appear in Jonah 2:2 (cf. Job 32:7-8; Ps 82:6-7; Isa 49:4; Zeph 3:7).

14 tn Heb “Will I ever see your holy temple again?” The rhetorical question expresses denial: Jonah despaired of ever seeing the temple again.

15 tn Heb “as far as the throat.” The noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) refers sometimes to the throat or neck (Pss 69:1[2]; 105:18; 124:4, 5; Isa 5:14; HALOT 712 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 2). The water was up to Jonah’s neck (and beyond), so that his life was in great danger (cf. Ps 69:1).

16 tn Or “the deep; the abyss” (תְּהוֹם, tÿhom). The simple “ocean” is perhaps too prosaic, since this Hebrew word has primeval connections (Gen 1:2; 7:11; 8:2; Prov 8:27-28) and speaks of the sea at its vastest (Job 38:16-18; Ps 36:6; 104:5-9).

17 tc The consonantal form סוף (svf) is vocalized by the MT as סוּף (suf, “reed”) but the LXX’s ἐσχάτη (escath, “end”) reflects a vocalization of סוֹף (sof, “end”). The reading in Tg. Jonah 2:5 interpreted this as a reference to the Reed Sea (also known as the Red Sea). In fact, the Jewish Midrash known as Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 10 states that God showed Jonah the way by which the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea. The MT vocalization tradition is preferred.

tn The noun סוּף (suf) normally refers to “reeds” – freshwater plants that grow in Egyptian rivers and marshes (Exod 2:3,5; Isa 10:19) – but here it refers to “seaweed” (HALOT 747 s.v. סוּף 1). Though the same freshwater plants do not grow in the Mediterranean, the name may be seen to fit similarly long plants growing in seawater.



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