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Jonah 3:5-8

Context

3:5 The people 1  of Nineveh believed in God, 2  and they declared a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 3  3:6 When the news 4  reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat on ashes. 3:7 He issued a proclamation and said, 5  “In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles: No human or animal, cattle or sheep, is to taste anything; they must not eat and they must not drink water. 3:8 Every person and animal must put on sackcloth and must cry earnestly 6  to God, and everyone 7  must turn from their 8  evil way of living 9  and from the violence that they do. 10 

1 tn Heb “men.” The term is used generically here for “people” (so KJV, ASV, and many other English versions); cf. NIV “the Ninevites.”

2 sn The people of Nineveh believed in God…. Verse 5 provides a summary of the response in Nineveh; the people of all ranks believed and gave evidence of contrition by fasting and wearing sackcloth (2 Sam 12:16, 19-23; 1 Kgs 21:27-29; Neh 9:1-2). Then vv. 6-9 provide specific details, focusing on the king’s reaction. The Ninevites’ response parallels the response of the pagan sailors in 1:6 and 13-16.

3 tn Heb “from the greatest of them to the least of them.”

4 tn Heb “word” or “matter.”

5 tn Contrary to many modern English versions, the present translation understands the king’s proclamation to begin after the phrase “and he said” (rather than after “in Nineveh”), as do quotations in 1:14; 2:2, 4; 4:2, 8, 9. In Jonah where the quotation does not begin immediately after “said” (אָמַר, ’amar), it is only the speaker or addressee or both that come between “said” and the start of the quotation (1:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 4:4, 9, 10; cf. 1:1; 3:1).

6 tn Heb “with strength”; KJV, NRSV “mightily”; NAB, NCV “loudly”; NIV “urgently.”

7 tn Heb “let them turn, a man from his evil way.” The alternation between the plural verb וְיָשֻׁבוּ (vÿyashuvu, “and let them turn”) and the singular noun אִישׁ (’ish, “a man, each one”) and the singular suffix on מִדַּרְכּוֹ (middarko, “from his way”) emphasizes that each and every person in the collective unity is called to repent.

8 tn Heb “his.” See the preceding note on “one.”

9 tn Heb “evil way.” For other examples of “way” as “way of living,” see Judg 2:17; Ps 107:17-22; Prov 4:25-27; 5:21.

10 tn Heb “that is in their hands.” By speaking of the harm they did as “in their hands,” the king recognized the Ninevites’ personal awareness and immediate responsibility. The term “hands” is either a synecdoche of instrument (e.g., “Is not the hand of Joab in all this?” 2 Sam 14:19) or a synecdoche of part for the whole. The king's descriptive figure of speech reinforces their guilt.



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