Jonah 4

1This was evil to Jonah,[1] greatly evil, and he became furious. 2He prayed to Yahweh and said, “Now Yahweh, is this not what I said while I was in my own land? So that is why I fled to Tarshish. I know that You are a God who is gracious and compassionate, taking long to get angry,[2] having much kindness,[3] and is sorry about doing evil.[4] 3Now Yahweh, please take my life from me, for death is better to me[5] than life.”

4Then Yahweh said, “Is it good for you to be furious?”

5But Jonah went out from the city and sat down to the east of the city and made there for himself a shelter, and sat in its shade while he waited to see what would happen to the city. 6And Yahweh God prepared a plant to grow up over Jonah, to provide shade for his head, to rescue him from evil. And Jonah rejoiced over the plant; he greatly rejoiced.[6] 7But God prepared a worm at the rising of the dawn the next day to kill the plant so that it withered.

8When the sun rose, God sent a harsh, east wind and the sun beat down upon Jonah’s head and he became faint and begged with all his life to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

9Then God said to Jonah, “Is it good for you to be furious about the plant?”

And he said, “It is good to be furious, even unto death.”

10So Yahweh said, “You had pity upon the plant, for which you did not work, nor did you cause it to grow. It came into being in a night and in a night it was destroyed. 11Should I not have pity upon Nineveh, that great city, in which there exists more than 120,000 people who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left,[7] and also many cattle?”


Other chapters from Jonah

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

The Grace Commentary on Jonah


Notes:

  1. One of the themes in Jonah appears to be a theological debate about the nature of evil. What is evil? What is bad? From whose perspective? In the span of a few verses here, we have the king of Nineveh, God, and Jonah all declare something “evil.” In this case, God appears to side with the king of Nineveh.
  2. Lit., “long of nose.”
  3. Up to this point, the statement of Jonah about the character of God is almost a direct quotation from Exodus 34:6.
  4. The description about God being sorry for doing evil (cf. 1:2, 7-8; 3:7-8, 10) is a reference to the ongoing debate in Jonah about “What is evil?” and is also an allusion to how God frequently relented from “doing evil” to the Israelites in the wilderness (cf. Exod 32:14).
  5. Jonah continues to think only of what is better for himself.
  6. I know that this is an awkward translation, but I wanted to show the parallel between the response of Jonah to the plant, and the response of Jonah in 4:1 to God’s gift to Nineveh.
  7. This means “children.” They haven’t learned the difference between “right” and “left.”

Jonah 3

1Then the word of Yahweh came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out to it[1] the message that I give you. 3So Jonah got up and walked to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was a great city to God,[2] a three-days’ walk.[3]

4Jonah began to go into the city, walking for one day, crying out and saying, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!” 5The people of Nineveh believed God and they called for fasting and to wear sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

6The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he got up from his throne, laid his robe down, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7He proclaimed a decree in Nineveh from the king and his great men, saying, “Let neither man nor cattle, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water. 8Let man and beast cover themselves in sackcloth and cry out to God with might, every man repenting from his evil ways and from the violence which is in his hands. 9Who knows? Perhaps God will repent and be sorry, repenting of His burning anger, and we will not be destroyed.”[4]

10And God saw what they had done, that they repented from their evil ways, and God was sorry about the evil[5] which He had declared to do to them, and He did not do.


Other chapters from Jonah

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

The Grace Commentary on Jonah


Notes:

  1. Up until this point, the instructions of Yahweh for Jonah are identical to what God said in 1:2. But there is a slight change here—a change of only one letter, from an ayin to an aleph. Phonetically, the word in 1:2 is pronounced halia while the word in 3:2 is pronounced alia. But the difference in meaning is substantial. In 1:2, God instructed Jonah to go cry out against Nineveh, whereas in 3:2, God instructs Jonah to cry out to Nineveh. The implication of God as an adversary to Nineveh is no longer present. Note that in 3:2 there is no longer any reference to the wickedness of Nineveh, nor any reference to God’s honor.
  2. Though most modern versions translate this word as “exceedingly,” the Hebrew is le-elohim: “to God” (cf. YLT).
  3. The text is unclear how this should be understood. Since the word “walk” is repeated, maybe it means that it took Jonah three days to walk to Nineveh. However, the phrase seems to be describing the size of Nineveh. If so, does the phrase mean that it would take a person three days to walk across the city, around the city, or through every street in the city? If the phrase is referring to Nineveh, the latter option is most likely. Archeological digs have uncovered Nineveh, and it could be walk across in an hour or so, and walked around in an afternoon. But it might take three days to walk through every street, proclaiming the message to every citizen.
  4. Note the similarity in wording and terminology between the prayer of the king here, and the prayer of the ship captain in 1:6, 14.
  5. Nobody wants to attribute evil to God, but the word used here is the same word used in 1:7-8, 3:8, and 4:2. The word can be understood as “calamity” or “disaster” but for consistency sake, and to show the development of the theme in Jonah, I have kept it as “evil” throughout. This does not mean that God is evil, or does evil. The Hebrew word does not mean exactly the same as the English word “evil.”

Jonah 2

1And Jonah prayed[1] to Yahweh his God from the belly of the fish. 2He said,

I cried[2] out to Yahweh in my distress,
and He answered me;

From the belly[3] of Sheol[4] I shouted,
and You[5] heard my voice.

3For You hurled me into the deep,
into the heart of the sea;

The undercurrents encircled me,
and the breakers and waves swept over me.

4Then I said, “I am driven away[6] from Your sight,
yet I would return again to[7] Your holy temple.”

5The waters surrounded me to take my life;[8]
The deep encircled me;
Seaweed wrapped around my head.

6I sank to the base of the mountains;
The earth barred me in forever.

But you caused me to ascend alive[9]
from out of the pit, O Yahweh, my God.

7When my life grew weak within me,
I remembered Yahweh.

My prayer came up unto You,
to Your holy temple.

8The ones who pay heed to vain idols[10]
neglect their shame.[11]

9But I, with the voice of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to You;

What I have vowed I will complete,
for deliverance[12] is from Yahweh.

10Then Yahweh spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Continue reading Jonah 2

Notes:

  1. The word usage here is interesting, in that while Jonah is finally praying, the word used is not the same word used for the sailors when they were crying out to their gods (1:6) or when they cried out to Yahweh (1:14).
  2. Jonah claims to have cried out to God. But the text nowhere shows him actually doing so. Instead, it is the sailors who cried out (1:6, 14).
  3. Despite my translation, the word here for “belly” is not the same word used for “belly” in 1:17 and 2:1. Yet I have translated them the same to reveal the parallel imagery that is inherent within the text.
  4. I left this as “Sheol” rather than hell, grave, or underworld so that it better reflects the alliteration in the Hebrew text (sheol sheoti shamata). Furthermore, translating Sheol as “hell” is misleading since the modern concept of hell is not at all the same thing that people thought about in the days of Jonah when they referred to Sheol. For them, Sheol was the grave, the place of the dead, the underworld. It was not necessarily a place of suffering, let alone of burning in flames or cosmic torture. It was the place of the dead, and the living did not know much about Sheol because nobody ever returned from it.
  5. It is interesting how Jonah goes from referring to God in the third person “He” to the second person “You.” However, not too much should be read into it.
  6. Jonah was not driven away; he ran away!
  7. Lit., “look again toward.” This is a Hebrew idiom meaning “return to.” Jonah does not just seek to look in the direction of the temple, or even look upon the temple. He seeks to return to the temple and worship God again within the sanctuary of the temple.
  8. Lit., “even to my soul.” Soul is nephesh, which refers to the life of a person.
  9. I am using “alive” as an adjective, though the word (Heb., hay) may actually be the noun “life.” But the word can be an adjective, and Jonah seems genuinely surprised that he returned alive from the place of the dead, the place from which no person returns. I have also chosen “alive” instead of “life” to differentiate the word from nephesh used in v 5.
  10. Lit., “empty vanities.” Cf. Jer 18:15.
  11. This translation emphasizes the importance of honor and shame in the Mediterranean culture. To neglect their shame means they accept it; they neglect to defend their honor.  Shame must never be neglected, as doing so only leads to more shame.
  12. In Hebrew, this is the word yeshua. Though most modern translations use “salvation,” most readers think salvation refers to gaining eternal life. But this meaning for “salvation” is actually quite rare within Scripture, and so “deliverance” is a better translation, which does not carry the same spiritual connotations, but instead more properly carries the idea of physical rescue from some sort of bodily harm.

Jonah 1

1Now the word of Yahweh[1] came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2“Rise up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it because its evil is an affront to My honor.”[2] 3So[3] Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish, despising Yahweh’s honor.[4] He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish, despising Yahweh’s honor.

4So Yahweh hurled a great wind upon the sea. It became such a great storm upon the sea that the ship threatened[5] to break into pieces. 5The sailors were so afraid, each man[6] cried unto his god, and hurled[7] the cargo which was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the deepest part of the ship, had lain down, and had fallen down in a deep sleep.[8] 6So the captain went to him and said, “How did you fall down into sleep? Rise up! Cry out to your god! Perhaps your god will pay attention to us and we will not be destroyed.”

7The men spoke to each other, “Come! Let us cast lots to determine which of us has brought this evil upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.[9] 8And they said to him, “Tell us, now! What is the reason that this evil has come upon us? What is your business? Where do you come from? What is your nationality? Who are your people?”

9“I am a Hebrew,” he answered. “I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Continue reading Jonah 1

Notes:

  1. I know that some might be uncomfortable with my choice of translating the personal name of God in full. See the Translation Goals and Guidelines on the About Page for an explanation of why I have done this.
  2. Lit., “before My face.” Many translators simply put this as “before Me” which is a fine translation of this Hebrew idiom, except that readers then miss the parallel idea in 1:3 where Jonah tries to flee from the face of Yahweh. So “before My face” is not just a Hebrew idiom for saying “before Me” but is a way of referring to the place of one’s honor. One primary value in Ancient Mediterranean culture revolved around gaining and maintaining honor. The head or face of a person symbolically represented a person’s honor. Slapping a person on the face, spitting on their head, shaving their hair, or plucking their beard were more than just insults; they were actual attacks upon the person’s honor and that of their extended family (Neyrey 2005, 34-35). So the common Hebrew idiom of “before My face” is an allusion to that person’s honor. In the case of God, since the wickedness and evil of Nineveh has come before God’s face, it has also become an affront to the honor of God. God cannot sit idly by and allow this challenge to His honor to go unanswered.
  3. Most translations use the adversative conjunction “But.” I chose the word “So” because I wanted the text to retain the paradoxical surprise of a prophet of God doing the exact opposite of what God said. The word “But” gives away the surprise too soon. The surprise should come when the reader r reads that Jonah went to Tarshish. Up until that point, the reader should be expecting a prophet of God to do what God says and go to Nineveh, but upon reading that Jonah went to Tarshish, the reader should be shocked, thinking “Wait. What? Let me read that again.”
  4. Here and at the end of the verse. Lit., “from before the face of Yahweh.” As indicated in 1:2, Mediterranean culture valued honor, and honor could be represented bodily in the head and face (as well as with the right hand and arm). But honor could also be represented geographically, in one’s home, country, and capital city (Neyrey 2005, 34). By leaving the land of Israel and fleeing to Tarshish, Jonah was trying to leave the place of God’s honor, and hopefully, escape God as well. Jonah’s actions constitute a second significant challenge to God’s honor which rivals even the challenge from the people of Nineveh. Jonah, as part of “God’s family,” is behaving more shamefully toward God than were the people of Nineveh.
  5. It is the ship that threatened to break apart, not the storm that threatened to break the ship. It is as if the ship is groaning in protest. One can almost hear the snapping and shivering of the timbers in the Hebrew: vehaohniyah chisheva lehishaver.
  6. The reference to each man  makes the reader ask the question, “Even Jonah?” This question is answered in the rest of the verse.
  7. Note the parallel between God hurling the wind upon the sea and the sailors hurling their cargo upon the sea.
  8. I have tried to show the repeated idea in this verse (and the verses that follow) of Jonah’s spiral “down” into disobedience. The deepest part of the ship is also where some of the cargo would be stored. By being in the recesses of the ship, Jonah is symbolized in this story as a piece of cargo. While the sailors throw all their cargo into the sea to lighten the load, the cargo they keep on board that is truly weighing the ship down is a piece of cargo named Jonah. This is some foreshadowing about what will soon happen to Jonah. While they were down there pulling all their cargo up and tossing it over, some of the certainly noticed Jonah sleeping there, and reported it to the captain.
  9. The word used to describe Nineveh in 1:2, “evil,” is now used to refer to Jonah. Through the casting of the lots, Jonah is shown to be just as evil as Nineveh.

Translation Goals and Guidelines

bible translationBelow are some of the translation goals and guidelines for the Grace English Bible.

Readability

I will try to translate the text as if the writers were living today and writing it for readers today. I do not want the text to sound archaic, outdated, or scholarly. Of course, what one person thinks is readable text is too advanced for one person and too elementary to another.

Modern Idiom

We don’t say “Behold!” or “Verily!” We say, “Listen to this!” I recognize, of course, that my choices for translation may be outdated in a few decades. English is constantly evolving, so that what is modern idiom today will be outdated idiom in twenty or thirty years. People don’t say “Far out!” “That’s bad!” or “Radical!” today, though these were very popular expressions from the 70s and 80s. So while I will try to use modern idioms and phrases, I will at the same time attempt to avoid popular phrases which may be outdated within a few years.

Consistent Translation of Key Words and Terms

Continue reading Translation Goals and Guidelines