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Jonah 4:5-6


4:5 Jonah left the city and sat down east 1  of it. 2  He made a shelter for himself there and sat down under it in the shade to see what would happen to the city. 3  4:6 The Lord God appointed 4  a little plant 5  and caused it to grow up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to rescue 6  him from his misery. 7  Now Jonah was very delighted 8  about the little plant.

1 tn Heb “from the east” or “from the front.” When used to designate a location, the noun קֶדֶם (qedem) may mean “front” (BDB 869 s.v. קֶדֶם 1.a) or “east” (BDB 869 s.v. 1.b). The construction קֶדֶם + preposition מִן (min, “from”) means “from the front” = “in front of” (Job 23:8; Ps 139:5; Isa 9:11) or “from the east” = “eastward, on the east side” (Gen 3:21; 12:8; Num 34:11; Josh 7:2; Ezek 11:23). Because the morning sunrise beat down upon Jonah (v. 8) and because the main city gate of Nineveh opened to the east, the term probably means “on the east side” of the city. But “in front of” the city would mean the same in this case.

2 tn Heb “of the city.” For stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy, the noun “city” has been replaced here by the pronoun (“it”) in the translation.

3 sn Apparently Jonah hoped that he might have persuaded the Lord to “change his mind” again (see 3:8-10) and to judge Nineveh after all.

4 tn The verb מָנָה (manah) in the Piel stem is used elsewhere in Jonah meaning “to send, to appoint” (Jonah 2:1; 4:6-8; HALOT 599 s.v. מנה 2; BDB 584 s.v. מָנָה).

5 tn The noun קִיקָיוֹן (qiqayon, “plant”) has the suffixed ending וֹן- which denotes a diminutive (see IBHS 92 §5.7b), so it can be nuanced “little plant.” For the probable reason that the narrator used the diminutive form here, see the note on “little” in v. 10.

6 tc The consonantal form להציל is vocalized by the MT as לִהַצִּיל (lÿhatsil), a Hiphil infinitive construct from נָצַל (natsal, “to deliver, rescue”; BDB 664-65 s.v. נָצַל). However, the LXX’s τοῦ σκιάζειν (tou skiazein, “to shade”) reflects an alternate vocalization tradition of לְהָצֵיל (lÿhatsel), a Niphal infinitive construct from צָלַל (tsalal, “to shade”; see BDB 853 s.v. צָלַל). The MT vocalization is preferred for several reasons. First, it is the more difficult form with the assimilated nun. Second, the presence of the noun צֵל (tsel, “shadow”) just two words before helps to explain the origin of the LXX vocalization which was influenced by this noun in the immediate context. Third, God’s primary motivation in giving the plant to Jonah was not simply to provide shade for him because the next day the Lord killed the plant (v. 7). God’s primary motivation was to create a situation to “rescue” Jonah from his bad attitude. Nevertheless, the narrator’s choice of the somewhat ambiguous consonantal form להציל might have been done to create a wordplay on נָצַל (“to rescue, deliver”) and צָלַל (“to shade”). Jonah thought that God was providing him shade, but God was really working to deliver him from his evil attitude, as the ensuing dialogue indicates.

7 tn Or “evil attitude.” The meaning of the noun רָעָה (raah) is intentionally ambiguous; the author puns on its broad range of meanings to create a polysemantic wordplay. It has a broad range of meanings: (1) “distress, misery, discomfort” (2) “misfortune, injury,” (3) “calamity, disaster,” (4) “moral evil,” and (5) “ill-disposed, evil attitude” (see BDB 949 s.v. רָעָה; HALOT 1262-63 s.v. רָעָה). The narrator has used several meanings of רָעָה in 3:8-4:2, namely, “moral evil” (3:8, 10) and “calamity, disaster” (3:9, 10; 4:2), as well as the related verb רָעַע (raa’, “to be displeasing”; see 4:1). Here the narrator puns on the meaning “discomfort” created by the scorching desert heat, but God’s primary motivation is to “deliver” Jonah – not from something as trivial as physical discomfort from heat – but from his sinful attitude about God's willingness to spare Nineveh. This gives the term an especially ironic twist: Jonah is only concerned about being delivered from his physical “discomfort,” while God wants to deliver him from his “evil attitude.”

8 tn Heb “he rejoiced with great joy.” The cognate accusative construction repeats the verb and noun of the consonantal root שׂמח (smkh, “rejoice”) for emphasis; it means “he rejoiced with great joy” or “he was greatly delighted” (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g). This cognate accusative construction ironically mirrors the identical syntax of v. 1, “he was angry with great anger.” The narrator repeated this construction to emphasize the contrast between Jonah’s anger that Nineveh was spared and his joy that his discomfort was relieved.

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