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Jonah 1:4-16

Context
1:4 But 1  the Lord hurled 2  a powerful 3  wind on the sea. Such a violent 4  tempest arose on the sea that 5  the ship threatened to break up! 6  1:5 The sailors were so afraid that each cried out 7  to his own god 8  and they flung 9  the ship’s cargo 10  overboard 11  to make the ship lighter. 12  Jonah, meanwhile, 13  had gone down 14  into the hold 15  below deck, 16  had lain down, and was sound asleep. 17  1:6 The ship’s captain approached him and said, “What are you doing asleep? 18  Get up! Cry out 19  to your god! Perhaps your god 20  might take notice of us 21  so that we might not die!” 1:7 The sailors said to one another, 22  “Come on, let’s cast lots 23  to find out 24  whose fault it is that this disaster has overtaken us. 25 ” So they cast lots, and Jonah was singled out. 26  1:8 They said to him, “Tell us, whose fault is it that this disaster has overtaken us? 27  What’s your occupation? Where do you come from? What’s your country? And who are your people?” 28  1:9 He said to them, “I am a Hebrew! And I worship 29  the Lord, 30  the God of heaven, 31  who made the sea and the dry land.” 1:10 Hearing this, 32  the men became even more afraid 33  and said to him, “What have you done?” (The men said this because they knew that he was trying to escape 34  from the Lord, 35  because he had previously told them. 36 ) 1:11 Because the storm was growing worse and worse, 37  they said to him, “What should we do to you to make 38  the sea calm down 39  for us?” 1:12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea to make the sea quiet down, 40  because I know it’s my fault you are in this severe storm.” 1:13 Instead, they tried to row 41  back to land, 42  but they were not able to do so 43  because the storm kept growing worse and worse. 44  1:14 So they cried out to the Lord, “Oh, please, Lord, don’t let us die on account of this man! Don’t hold us guilty of shedding innocent blood. 45  After all, you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.” 46  1:15 So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped raging. 1:16 The men feared the Lord 47  greatly, 48  and earnestly vowed 49  to offer lavish sacrifices 50  to the Lord. 51 

1 tn The disjunctive construction of vav + nonverb followed by a nonpreterite marks a strong contrast in the narrative action (וַיהוָה הֵטִיל, vayhvah hetil; “But the Lord hurled…”).

2 tn The Hiphil of טוּל (tul, “to hurl”) is used here and several times in this episode for rhetorical emphasis (see vv. 5 and 15).

3 tn Heb “great.” Typically English versions vary the adjective here and before “tempest” to avoid redundancy: e.g., KJV, ASV, NRSV “great...mighty”; NAB “violent…furious”; NIV “great…violent”; NLT “powerful…violent.”

4 tn Heb “great.”

5 tn The nonconsecutive construction of vav + nonverb followed by nonpreterite is used to emphasize this result clause (וְהָאֳנִיָּה חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָׁבֵר, vÿhaoniyyah khishvah lÿhishaver; “that the ship threatened to break up”).

6 tn Heb “the ship seriously considered breaking apart.” The use of חָשַׁב (khashav, “think”) in the Piel (“to think about; to seriously consider”) personifies the ship to emphasize the ferocity of the storm. The lexicons render the clause idiomatically: “the ship was about to be broken up” (BDB 363 s.v. חָשַׁב 2; HALOT 360 s.v. חשׁב).

7 tn Heb “they cried out, each one.” The shift from the plural verb וַיִּזְעֲקוּ (vayyizaqu, “they cried out to”) to the singular subject אִישׁ (’ish, “each one”) is a rhetorical device used to emphasize that each one of the sailors individually cried out. In contrast, Jonah slept.

8 tn Or “gods” (CEV, NLT). The plural noun אֱלֹהִים (’elohim) might be functioning either as a plural of number (“gods”) or a plural of majesty (“god”) – the form would allow for either. As members of a polytheistic culture, each sailor might appeal to several gods. However, individuals could also look to a particular god for help in trouble. Tg. Jonah 1:5 interpretively renders the line, “Each man prayed to his idols, but they saw that they were useless.”

9 tn Heb “hurled.” The Hiphil of טוּל (tul, “to hurl”) is again used, repeated from v. 4.

10 tn The plural word rendered “cargo” (כֵּלִים, kelim) is variously translated “articles, vessels, objects, baggage, instruments” (see 1 Sam 17:22; 1 Kgs 10:21; 1 Chr 15:16; Isa 18:2; Jer 22:7). As a general term, it fits here to describe the sailors throwing overboard whatever they could. The English word “cargo” should be taken generally to include the ship’s payload and whatever else could be dispensed with.

11 tn Heb “into the sea.”

12 tn Heb “to lighten it from them.”

13 tn Heb “but Jonah.” The disjunctive construction of vav + nonverb followed by nonpreterite (וְיוֹנָה יָרַד, vÿyonah yarad; “but Jonah had gone down…”) introduces a parenthetical description of Jonah’s earlier actions before the onset of the storm.

14 tn Following a vav-disjunctive introducing parenthetical material, the suffixed-conjugation verb יָרַד (yarad) functions as a past perfect here: “he had gone down” (see IBHS 490-91 §30.5.2). This describes Jonah’s previous actions before the onset of the storm.

15 tn Or “stern.” There is some question whether the term יַרְכָה (yarkhah) refers to the ship’s hold below deck (R. S. Hess, NIDOTTE 3:282) or to the stern in the back of the ship (HALOT 439 s.v. *יְרֵכָה 2.b). This is the only use of this term in reference to a ship in biblical Hebrew. When used elsewhere, this term has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “rear,” such as rear of a building (Exod 26:22, 27; 36:27, 32; Ezek 46:19), back room of a house (1 Kgs 6:16; Ps 128:3; Amos 6:10), flank of a person’s body (figurative for rear border; Gen 49:13); and (2) “far part” that is remote, such as the back of a cave (1 Sam 24:4), the bottom of a cistern (Isa 14:15), the lower recesses of Sheol (Ezek 32:23), the remotest part of a mountain range (Judg 19:1, 18; 2 Kgs 19:23; Isa 37:24), the highest summit of a mountain (Ps 48:3), and the north – viewed as the remotest part of the earth (Isa 14:13; Ezek 38:6, 15; 39:2). So the term could refer to the “back” (stern) or “remote part” (lower cargo hold) of the ship. The related Akkadian expression arkat eleppi, “stern of a ship” (HALOT 439 s.v. 2.b) seems to suggest that יַרְכָה means “stern” (HALOT 439 s.v. 2.b). However, the preceding יָרַד אֶל (yaradel, “he went down into”) suggests a location below deck. Also the genitive noun סְפִינָה (sÿfinah) refers to a “ship” with a deck (BDB 706 s.v. סְפִינָה; HALOT 764 s.v. סְפִינָה; R. S. Hess, NIDOTTE 3:282).

16 tn Or “of the ship.” The noun סְפִינָה (sÿfinah) refers to a “ship” with a deck (HALOT 764 s.v. סְפִינָה). The term is a hapax legomenon in Hebrew and is probably an Aramaic loanword. The term is used frequently in the related Semitic languages to refer to ships with multiple decks. Here the term probably functions as a synecdoche of whole for the part, referring to the “lower deck” rather than to the ship as a whole (R. S. Hess, NIDOTTE 3:282). An outdated approach related the noun to the verb סָפַן (safan, “to cover”) and suggested that סְפִינָה describes a ship covered with sheathing (BDB 706 s.v. סְפִינָה).

17 tn The a-class theme vowel of וַיֵּרָדַם (vayyeradam) indicates that this is a stative verb, describing the resultant condition of falling asleep: “was sound asleep.”

18 tn Heb “What to you sleeping!” The Niphal participle נִרְדָּם (nirdam) from רָדַם (radam, “to sleep”) functions here not as a vocative use of the noun (so KJV, NKJV, ASV: “O sleeper,” RSV: “you sleeper”) but as a verbal use to depict uninterrupted sleep up to this point. The expression מַה־לְּךָ (mah-lÿkha, “what to you?”) can express surprise (BDB 552 s.v. מָה 1.a; e.g., Job 9:12; 22:12; Eccl 8:4; Isa 45:9,10) or indignation and contempt (BDB 552 s.v. מָה 1.c; e.g., 1 Kgs 19:9, 13). Accordingly, the captain is either surprised that Jonah is able to sleep so soundly through the storm (NIV “How can you sleep?”; JPS, NJPS “How can you be sleeping so soundly?”; NEB, REB “What, sound asleep?”) or indignant that Jonah would sleep in a life-threatening situation when he should be praying (CEV “How can you sleep at a time like this?”; NAB “What are you doing [+ sound NRSV] asleep?”; NJB: “What do you mean by sleeping?”).

19 tn Heb “cry out” or “call upon.” The verb קָרָא (qara’, “to call out, to cry out”) + the preposition אֶל (’el, “to”) often depicts a loud, audible cry of prayer to God for help in the midst of trouble: “to call on, to shout to” (HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 9.b; BDB 895 s.v. קָרָא 2.a; e.g., Judg 15:18; 1 Sam 12:17, 18; 2 Sam 22:7; Hos 7:7; Pss 3:4 [5 HT]; 4:3 [4 HT]). Jonker notes: “The basic meaning of qr’ is to draw attention to oneself by the audible use of one’s voice in order to establish contact with someone else. The reaction of the called person is normally expressed by the verbs…‘answer’ and…‘hear’” (L. Jonker, NIDOTTE 3:971).

sn The imperatives “arise!” and “cry out!” are repeated from v. 2 for ironic effect. The captain’s words would have rung in Jonah’s ears as a stinging reminder that the Lord had uttered them once before. Jonah was hearing them again because he had disobeyed them before.

20 tn Heb “the god.” The article on הָאֱלֹהִים (haelohim) denotes previous reference to אֱלֹהֶיךָ (’elohekha, “your god”; see IBHS 242-43 §13.5.1d). The captain refers here to the “god” just mentioned, that is, whatever god Jonah might pray to (“your god”).

21 tn Or “give thought to us.” The verb is found only here in the OT. Related nouns are in Job 12:5 and Ps 146:5. The captain hopes for some favorable attention from a god who might act on behalf of his endangered crewmen.

22 tn Heb “And they said, a man to his companion.” The plural verb is individualized by “a man.”

23 sn The English word lots is a generic term. In some cultures the procedure for “casting lots” is to “draw straws” so that the person who receives the short straw is chosen. In other situations a colored stone or a designated playing card might be picked at random. In Jonah’s case, small stones were probably used.

24 sn In the ancient Near East, casting lots was a custom used to try to receive a revelation from the gods about a particular situation. The Phoenician sailors here cried out to their gods and cast lots in the hope that one of their gods might reveal the identity of the person with whom he was angry. CEV has well captured the sentiment of v.7b: “‘Let’s ask our gods to show us who caused all this trouble.’ It turned out to be Jonah.”

25 tn Heb “On whose account this calamity is upon us.”

26 tn Heb “the lot fell on Jonah.” From their questions posed to Jonah, it does not appear that the sailors immediately realize that Jonah was the one responsible for the storm. Instead, they seem to think that he is the one chosen by their gods to reveal to them the one responsible for their plight. It is only after he admits in vv. 9-10 that he was fleeing from the God whom he served that they realize that Jonah was in fact the cause of their trouble.

27 tn Heb “On whose account is this calamity upon us?”

28 tn Heb “And from what people are you?”

sn Whose fault…What’s…Where…What’s… The questions delivered in rapid succession in this verse indicate the sailors’ urgency to learn quickly the reason for the unusual storm.

29 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.

30 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.

31 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.

32 tn Heb “Then the men feared…” The vav-consecutive describes the consequence of Jonah’s statement. The phrase “Hearing this” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

33 tn Heb “The men feared a great fear.” The cognate accusative construction using the verb יָרֵא (yare’, “to fear”) and the noun יִרְאָה (yirah, “fear”) from the same root (ירא, yr’) emphasizes the sailors’ escalating fright: “they became very afraid” (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g).

34 tn Heb “fleeing.”

35 sn The first two times that Jonah is said to be running away from the Lord (1:3), Hebrew word order puts this phrase last. Now in the third occurrence (1:10), it comes emphatically before the verb that describes Jonah’s action. The sailors were even more afraid once they had heard who it was that Jonah had offended.

36 tn Heb “because he had told them.” The verb הִגִּיד (higgid, “he had told”) functions as a past perfect, referring to a previous event.

37 tn Heb “the sea was walking and storming.” The two participles הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר (holekh vÿsoer, “walking and storming”) form an idiom that means “the storm was growing worse and worse.” When the participle הוֹלֵךְ precedes another participle with vav, it often denotes the idea of “growing, increasing” (BDB 233 s.v. הָלַךְ 4.d; e.g., Exod 19:19; 1 Sam 2:26; 2 Sam 3:1; 15:12; 2 Chr 17:12; Esth 9:4; Prov 4:18; Eccl 1:6). For example, “the power of David grew stronger and stronger (הֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק, holek vÿkhazeq; “was walking and becoming strong”), while the dynasty of Saul grew weaker and weaker (הֹלְכִים וְדַלִּים, holÿkhim vÿdallim; “was walking and becoming weak”)” (2 Sam 3:1; see IBHS 625-26 §37.6d).

38 tn The vav-consecutive prefixed to the imperfect/prefixed conjugation verb וְיִשְׁתֹּק (vÿyishtoq, “to quiet”) denotes purpose/result (see IBHS 638-40 §38.3), translated here by the English infinitive.

39 tn Heb “become quiet for us”; NRSV “may quiet down for us.”

40 tn Heb “quiet for you”; NAB “that it may quiet down for you.”

41 sn The word translated row is used in Ezekiel to describe digging through a wall (Ezek 8:8; 12:5, 7, 12). Its use in Jonah pictures the sailors digging into the water with their oars as hard as they could.

42 sn The word for land here is associated with a Hebrew verb meaning “to be dry” and is the same noun used in v. 9 of dry ground in contrast with the sea, both made by the Lord (see also Gen 1:9-10; Exod 4:9; 14:16, 22, 29; Jonah 2:10).

43 tn Heb “but they were not able.” The phrase “to do so” does not appear in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

44 tn Heb “the sea was walking and storming.” See the note on the same idiom in v. 11.

45 tn Heb “Do not put against us innocent blood,” that is, “Do not assign innocent blood to our account.” It seems that the sailors were afraid that they would die if they kept Jonah in the ship and also that they might be punished with death if they threw him overboard.

46 tn Pss 115:3 and 135:6 likewise use these verbs (חָפֵץ and עָשָׂה, khafets and ’asah; “to delight” and “to do, make”) in speaking of the Lord as characteristically doing what he wishes to do.

47 tc The editors of BHS suggest that the direct object אֶת־יְהוָה (’et-yÿhvah, “the Lord”) might be a scribal addition, and that the original text simply read, “The men became greatly afraid…” However, there is no shred of external evidence to support this conjectural emendation. Admittedly, the apparent “conversion” of these Phoenician sailors to Yahwism is a surprising development. But two literary features support the Hebrew text as it stands. First, it is not altogether clear whether or not the sailors actually converted to faith in the Lord. They might have simply incorporated him into their polytheistic religion. Second, the narrator has taken pains to portray the pagan sailors as a literary foil to Jonah by contrasting Jonah’s hypocritical profession to fear the Lord (v. 9) with the sailors’ actions that reveal an authentic fear of God (v. 10, 14, 16).

48 tn Heb “they feared the Lord with a great fear.” The root ירא (yr’, “fear”) is repeated in the verb and accusative noun, forming a cognate accusative construction which is used for emphasis (see IBHS 167 §10.2.1g). The idea is that they greatly feared the Lord or were terrified of him.

49 tn Heb “they vowed vows.” The root נדר (ndr, “vow”) is repeated in the verb and accusative noun, forming an emphatic effected accusative construction in which the verbal action produces the object specified by the accusative (see IBHS 166-67 §10.2.1f). Their act of vowing produced the vows. This construction is used to emphasize their earnestness and zeal in making vows to worship the God who had just spared their lives from certain death.

50 tn Heb “they sacrificed sacrifices.” The root זבח (zbkh, “sacrifice”) is repeated in the verb and accusative noun, forming an emphatic effected accusative construction in which the verbal action produces the object (see IBHS 166-67 §10.2.1f). Their act of sacrificing would produce the sacrifices. It is likely that the two sets of effected accusative constructions here (“they vowed vows and sacrificed sacrifices”) form a hendiadys; the two phrases connote one idea: “they earnestly vowed to sacrifice lavishly.” It is unlikely that they offered animal sacrifices at this exact moment on the boat – they had already thrown their cargo overboard, presumably leaving no animals to sacrifice. Instead, they probably vowed that they would sacrifice to the Lord when – and if – they reached dry ground. Tg. Jonah 1:16 also takes this as a vow to sacrifice but for a different reason. According to Jewish tradition, the heathen are not allowed to make sacrifice to the God of Israel outside Jerusalem, so the Targum modified the text by making it a promise to sacrifice: “they promised to offer a sacrifice before the Lord and they made vows” (see B. Levine, The Aramaic Version of Jonah, 70; K. Cathcart and R. Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets [ArBib], 14:106, n. 29).

51 tn Heb “The men feared the Lord [with] a great fear, they sacrificed sacrifices, and they vowed vows” (cf. v. 10). By pairing verbs with related nouns as direct objects, the account draws attention to the sailors’ response and its thoroughness.



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