Should I 1 not be even more 2 concerned 3 about Nineveh, this enormous city? 4 There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, 5 as well as many animals!” 6
|NET © Notes||
1 tn The emphatic use of the independent pronouns “you” and “I” (אַתָּה, ’attah, and אֲנִי, ’ani) in vv. 10 and 11 creates an ironic comparison and emphasizes the strong contrast between the attitudes of Jonah and the
2 tn Heb “You…Should I not spare…?” This is an a fortiori argument from lesser to greater. Since Jonah was “upset” (חוּס, khus) about such a trivial matter as the death of a little plant (the lesser), God had every right to “spare” (חוּס) the enormously populated city of Nineveh (the greater). The phrase “even more” does not appear in Hebrew but is implied by this a fortiori argument.
3 tn Heb “Should I not spare?”; or “Should I not show compassion?” The verb חוּס (khus) has a basic three-fold range of meanings: (1) “to be troubled about,” (2) “to look with compassion upon,” and (3) “to show pity, to spare (someone from death/judgment)” (HALOT 298 s.v. חוס; BDB 299 s.v. חוּס). In v. 10 it refers to Jonah’s lament over the death of his plant, meaning “to be upset about” or “to be troubled about” (HALOT 298 s.v. 1.c). However, here in v. 11 it means “to show pity, spare” from judgment (BDB 298 s.v. b; HALOT 298 s.v. 1.a; e.g., 1 Sam 24:11; Jer 21:7; Ezek 24:14). It is often used in contexts which contemplate whether God will or will not spare a sinful people from judgment (Ezek 5:11; 7:4, 9; 8:19; 9:5, 10; 20:17). So this repetition of the same verb but in a different sense creates a polysemantic wordplay in vv. 10-11. However, the wordplay is obscured by the appropriate translation for each usage – “be upset about” in v. 10 and “to spare” in v. 11 – therefore, the translation above attempts to bring out the wordplay in English: “to be [even more] concerned about.”
4 tn Heb “the great city.”
5 tn Heb “their right from their left.” Interpreters wonder exactly what deficiency is meant by the phrase “do not know their right from their left.” The expression does not appear elsewhere in biblical Hebrew. It probably does not mean, as sometimes suggested, that Nineveh had 120,000 small children (the term אָדָם, ’adam, “people,” does not seem to be used of children alone). In any case, it refers to a deficiency in discernment that Jonah and the initial readers of Jonah would no doubt have considered themselves free of. For partial parallels see 2 Sam 19:35; Eccl 10:2; Ezek 22:26; 44:23.
6 tn Heb “and many animals.”