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Jonah 2:5-6

Context

2:5 Water engulfed me up to my neck; 1 

the deep ocean 2  surrounded me;

seaweed 3  was wrapped around my head.

2:6 I went down 4  to the very bottoms 5  of the mountains; 6 

the gates 7  of the netherworld 8  barred me in 9  forever; 10 

but you brought me 11  up from the Pit, 12  O Lord, my God.

1 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).

2 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).

3 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.

4 tn Jonah began going “down” (יָרַד, yarad) in chap. 1 (vv. 3, 5; see also 1:15; 2:2-3).

5 tc The MT לְקִצְבֵי הָרִים (lÿqitsve harim, “to the extremities [i.e., very bottoms] of the mountains”) is a bit unusual, appearing only here in the Hebrew Bible. Therefore, the BHS editors suggest a conjectural emendation of the MT’s לְקִצְבֵי (“to the extremities”) to לְקַצְוֵי (lÿqatswey, “to the ends [of the mountains])” based on orthographic confusion between vav (ו) and bet (ב). However, the phrase קצבי הרים does appear in the OT Apocrypha in Sir 16:19; therefore, it is not without precedent. Since Jonah emphasizes that he descended, as it were, to the very gates of the netherworld in the second half of this verse, it would be appropriate for Jonah to say that he went down “to the extremities [i.e., very bottoms] of the mountains” (לְקִצְבֵי הָרִים). Therefore, the MT may be retained with confidence.

tn The noun קֶצֶב (qetseb) is used only three times in the Hebrew Bible, and this is the only usage in which it means “extremity; bottom” (BDB 891 s.v. קֶצֶב 2). The exact phrase קצבי הרים (“the extremities [bottoms] of the mountains”) is used in the OT Apocrypha once in Sir 16:19.

6 tn Some English versions (e.g., NEB, NRSV) have connected the “bottoms of the mountains” with the preceding – “weeds were wrapped around my head at the bottoms of the mountains” – and connect “I went down” with “the earth.” Such a connection between “I went down” and “the earth” is difficult to accept. It would be more normal in Hebrew to express “I went down to the earth” with a directive ending (אַרְצָה, ’artsah) or with a Hebrew preposition before “earth” or without the definite article. The Masoretic accents, in addition, connect “ends of the mountains” with the verb “I went down” and call for a break between the verb and “earth.”

7 tn Heb “As for the earth, its bars…” This phrase is a rhetorical nominative construction (also known as casus pendens) in which the noun הָאָרֶץ (haarets, “the earth”) stands grammatically isolated and in an emphatic position prior to the third feminine singular suffix that picks up on it in בְּרִחֶיהָ (bÿrikheha, “its bars”; see IBHS 128-30 §8.3). This construction is used to emphasize the subject, in this case, the “bars of the netherworld.” The word translated “bars” appears elsewhere to speak of bars used in constructing the sides of the tabernacle and often of crossbars (made of wood or metal) associated with the gates of fortified cities (cf. Exod 36:31-34; Judg 16:3; 1 Kgs 4:13; Neh 3:3; Pss 107:16; 147:13; Isa 45:1-2).

8 tn Heb “the earth.” The noun אֶרֶץ (’erets) usually refers to the “earth” but here refers to the “netherworld” (e.g., Job 10:21, 22; Ps 139:15; Isa 26:19; 44:23; BDB 76 s.v. אֶרֶץ 2.g). This is parallel to the related Akkadian term irsitu used in the phrase “the land of no return,” that is, the netherworld. This refers to the place of the dead (along with “belly of Sheol,” v. 2, and “the grave,” v. 6), which is sometimes described as having “gates” (Job 38:17; Ps 107:18).

9 tn Heb “behind me.” The preposition בַּעַד (baad) with a pronominal suffix and with the meaning “behind” is found also in Judg 3:23. Jonah pictures himself as closed in and so unable to escape death. Having described how far he had come (totally under water and “to the ends of mountains”), Jonah describes the way back as permanently closed against him. Just as it was impossible for a lone individual to walk through the barred gates of a walled city, so Jonah expected it was impossible for him to escape death.

10 tn Heb “As for the earth, its bars [were] against me forever.” This line is a verbless clause. The verb in the translation has been supplied for the sake of clarity and smoothness. The rhetorical nominative construction (see the note on the word “gates” earlier in this verse) has also been smoothed out in the translation.

11 tn Heb “my life.” The term חַיַּי (khayyay, “my life”) functions metonymically as a first common singular pronoun (“me”).

12 sn Jonah pictures himself as being at the very gates of the netherworld (v. 6b) and now within the Pit itself (v. 6c). He is speaking rhetorically, for he had not actually died. His point is that he was as good as dead if God did not intervene immediately. See Pss 7:15; 30:3; 103:4; Ezek 19:3-4, 8.



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