Jonah 1:1-3

I am continuing in Learn Biblical Hebrew, by John Dobson. Next up, Jonah 1:1-3 and 3:1-4 – primarily working narrative still, with the addition of more contact with personal pronoun endings on prepositions, as in “from me”, “before me”, or even “with me”. This post will cover 1:1-3, with a later one to follow with 3:1-4.

I must admit that reading through Jonah 1:1-3 again made me think of this quite recent post.

וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־יוֹנָה בֶן־אַמִתַּי לֵאמֹר׃ 1 This is the word of YHWH to Jonah, son of Amittai:
קוּם לֵךְ אֶל־נִינְוֵה הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ כִּי־עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי׃ 2 “Get up; Go to Nineveh, that great city, and call against it that its wickedness has gone  up before me.”
וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ תַּרְשִׁישָׁה מִלִּפְנִי יְהוָה וַיֵּרֶד יָפוֹ וַיִּמְצָא אָנִיָּה בָּאָה תַרְשִׁישׁ וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ וַיֵּרֶד בָּהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהֶם תַּרְשִׁישָׁה מִלִּפְנִי יְהוָה׃ 3 Then Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish, away from the presence of YHWH, and went down to Jaffa. He found a boat bound for Tarshish, gave its fare, and went down into it to come with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of YHWH.

I still have 2 primary questions after finishing up translating. 1) Why is Tarshish found in two different forms – תַּרְשִׁישָׁה (twice in v.3) and תַרְשִׁישׁ (once in v.3). And 2) Why is the vowel on root character one of  אָנִיָּה “boat”, אָ rather than אֳ, seeing as both the notes in Learn Biblical Hebrew and the lexicon of Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible list the word with אֳ?

In any case, addressing the use of  מִלִּפְנִי “from before me” (twice in verse 3), Dobson says the following:

מִלִּפְנִי ‘from before me’: when a servant or court official ‘stood before’ a king, it was to serve him (See Dan 1:5, and 17.5.4). Jonah was seeking to escape from serving the Lord.

I found this a helpful note, pointing at a usage that might have been otherwise missed. At the same time, it makes one think about how that applies to another usage of a related word, לְפָנָי “into my presence” (v.2). It is truly ironic that Jonah thinks he can flee from YHWH’s presence and service, when even the wickedness of Nineveh seems unable to escape his purview (and possible service?). Jonah’s own wickedness and deceit will surely be uncovered just the same!

Another word that stood out to me was וַיֵּרֶד “then he went down”. It is used twice in v.3, in two slightly different contexts. The first is geographical – to go from where he was on the map “down” to somewhere else on the map – in this case Jaffa.  The second is his climbing down into the belly of the boat. Looking ahead, at 2.7, we find Jonah describing his descent into the belly of the great fish as יָרַדְתִּי “I went down” – same verbal root. It seems natural to read this as an increasingly negative progression, emphasized by the common word used. No matter how far “down” he goes, the presence of YHWH is inescapable.

About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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1 Response to Jonah 1:1-3

  1. Pingback: Jonah 3:1-4 | σφόδρα – exceedingly

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