The sailors were so afraid that each cried out 1 to his own god 2 and they flung 3 the ship’s cargo 4 overboard 5 to make the ship lighter. 6 Jonah, meanwhile, 7 had gone down 8 into the hold 9 below deck,
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1 tn Heb “they cried out, each one.” The shift from the plural verb וַיִּזְעֲקוּ (vayyiz’aqu, “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.
2 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.”
3 tn Heb “hurled.” The Hiphil of טוּל (tul, “to hurl”) is again used, repeated from v. 4.
4 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.
5 tn Heb “into the sea.”
6 tn Heb “to lighten it from them.”
7 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.
8 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.
9 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 (yarad ’el, “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).
10 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).
11 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.”