1 tn Heb “as far as the throat.” The noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) refers sometimes to the throat or neck (Pss 69:1; 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 Heb “those who pay regard to.” The verbal root שָׁמַר (shamar, “to keep, to watch”) appears in the Piel stem only here in biblical Hebrew, meaning “to pay regard to” (BDB 1037 s.v. שָׁמַר). This is metonymical for the act of worship (e.g., Qal “to observe” = to worship, Ps 31:7).
5 tn Heb “worthlessnesses of nothingness” or “vanities of emptiness.” The genitive construct הַבְלֵי־שָׁוְא (havle-shavÿ’) forms an attributive adjective expression: “empty worthlessness” or “worthless vanities.” This ironic reference to false gods is doubly insulting (e.g., Ps 31:7). The noun הֶבֶל (hevel, “vapor, breath”) is often used figuratively to describe what is insubstantial, empty, and futile (31 times in Eccl; see also, e.g., Pss 39:4-6, 11; 144:4; Prov 13:11; 21:6; Isa 30:7; 49:4). It often refers to idols – the epitome of emptiness, nothingness, and worthlessness (Deut 32:21; 1 Kgs 16:13, 26; Ps 31:7; Jer 8:19; 10:8, 15; 14:22; 16:19; 51:18). The noun שָׁוְא (“worthlessness, emptiness, nothingness”) describes what is ineffective and lacking reality (BDB 996 s.v. שָׁוְא; e.g., Exod 20:7; Pss 60:11; 127:1; Ezek 22:28). It is also often used to refer to idols (e.g., Ps 31:7; Jer 18:15; Hos 5:11).
6 tn Heb “abandon their mercy/loyalty.” The meaning of חַסְדָּם יַעֲזֹבוּ (khasdam ya’azovu, “forsake their mercy/loyalty”) is greatly debated. There are two exegetical issues that are mutually related. First, does the noun חֶסֶד (khesed) here mean (1) “mercy, kindness” that man receives from God, or (2) “loyalty, faithfulness” that man must give to God (see BDB 338-39 s.v חֶסֶד; HALOT 336-37 s.v. חֶסֶד)? Second, the third masculine plural suffix on חַסְדָּם (“their loyalty/mercy”) has been taken as (1) subjective genitive, referring to the loyal allegiance they ought to display to the true God: “they abandon the loyalty they should show.” Examples of subjective genitives are: “This is your kindness (חַסְדֵּךְ, khasdek) which you must do for me: every place to which we come, say of me, ‘He is my brother’” (Gen 20:13; also cf. Gen 40:14; 1 Sam 20:14-15). Several English versions take this approach: “forsake their faithfulness” (NASB), “abandon their faithful love” (NJB), “abandon their loyalty” (NEB, REB), “forsake their true loyalty” (RSV, NRSV), “turn their backs on all God’s mercies” (NLT), “have abandoned their loyalty to you” (TEV). (2) This has also been taken as objective genitive, referring to the mercy they might have received from God: “they forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.” The ancient versions interpret חַסְדָּם in this sense: “they do not know the source of their welfare” (Tg. Jonah 2:8), “forsake the source of their welfare” (Vulgate), and “abandon their own mercy” (LXX). Several English versions follow this approach: “forsake their source of mercy” (NAB); “forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (NIV), “forsake their own welfare” (JPS, NJPS), “forsake their own mercy” (KJV, ASV), “forsake their own Mercy” (NKJV), “turn from the God who offers them mercy” (CEV). This is a difficult lexical/syntactical problem. On the one hand, the next line contrasts their failure with Jonah’s boast of loyalty to the true God – demonstrating that he, unlike pagan idolaters, deserves to be delivered. On the other hand, the only other use of חֶסֶד in the book refers to “mercy” God bestows (4:2) – something that Jonah did not believe that the (repentant) pagan idolaters had a right to receive. BDB 339 s.v. I חֶסֶד II takes this approach – “He is חַסְדָּם their goodness, favour Jonah 2:9” – and cites other examples of חֶסֶד with suffixes referring to God: חַסְדִּי (khasdi) “my kindness” = he shows kindness to me (Ps 144:2); and אֱלֹהֵי חַסְדִּי (’elohe khasdi) “the God of my kindness” = the God who shows kindness to me (Ps 59:18).