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A Study of The Minor Prophets: Jonah 3 and 4

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
Chapter 3

      .... “senit” (second time) ...

      “qum” (stand up / arise) 'go to Nineveh, say what I tell you'.
      OK, Jonah is laying on the shore in a puddle of fish vomit, and he is told to hit the road. This is where he started. Well, he wasn't covered in the fish stuff earlier, but still.

      For a change Jonah does what he is told..... to a point. Then the author tells us about Nineveh.
      The description in the verse has been verified archaeologically, as the outer wall from this period has been identified as being almost seven and a half miles in circumference, with the population of the city proper being between 100,000 and 150,000, and perhaps nearly equal that in the outlying districts, making it one of the largest on Earth at the time.
      The city was one of the later capitals of the Assyrian empire, from around 700 to about 600 BC. However it was located in the same region the as other capitals on the Tigris river and its tributaries.

      Evidently, Jonah left the coast and caught an express train to Nineveh, which is about 375 miles from the nearest spot on the Mediterranean. But there is no travel time in the story.

      Jonah does the bare minimum, including the shortest revival sermon in history.
      “'owd ’ar·ba·‘im yowm” (yet forty days) “nineweh” “neh·pa·ket” (overthrown / 'turned upside down')

      “way·ya·’a·mi·nu” (and they believed (this exact phrase is used in Exodus 14: 31)) the people of Nineveh 'in God's message' (implied), “way·yiq·re’u sowm” (called / proclaimed a fast) and put on “saq·qim” (sackcloth) from the “gadol” (great) to the “qe·tan·nam” (to the least)

      The contrast between the message and the reaction is extreme, which continues in the next verse.

      word gets to the king, who “way·ya·qam” (arose (same root of the word used for Jonah's actions)) “mik·kis·’ow” (from his throne) took off his royal robes, and sat in sackcloth and ashes.
      You may see an echo of King David's actions in 2 Samuel 12

7 The king's words are in far more detail than Jonah's.
      then the king orders everybody, and every THING to fast and not drink...
      “ha·’a·dam” (man / mankind) “hab·be·hemah” (beasts) “hab·ba·qar” (herds) “we·has·son” (flocks)

      they are to be covered with sackcloth, man and beast, and “we·yiq·re·’u” (call out) to God “be·ha·ze·qah” (with strength / vigor / 'enthusiasm') and told to turn from “ha·ra·‘ah” (evil / badness) and “he hamas” (violence) “be·kap·pe·hem” (in their hands).

9 and 10
      The translations are good with the king's speech and God's reaction.
      There's only disagreement is with the word “ha·ra·‘ah” which is rendered 'evil' in the KJV in verse 10, here is is more in line with 'unpleasantness / calamity' which would be perceived as evil by those it happened to.

Chapter 4

      Jonah's upset.

      so he prayed to YHWH and said: “'an nah” (ah, now) YHWH
      Paraphrase: Isn't this what I said before I left home?
      ... You're a “han nun” (gracious) “we·ra·hum” (compassionate), slow to anger, “we·rab- hesed” (abundant in goodness/kindness/faithfulness), “we·ni·ham” (and one who relents) from doing “ha·ra·‘ah” (a calamity / disaster).

      Jonah prays for YHWH to 'please' take his life.

      “way·yomer” (said) YHWH, “ha·he·teb” ((various meanings) is it right) “ha rah” (furiously angry)

      The translations get Jonah's exit right, and he pitches camp.
      If Jonah entered Nineveh from the coast, he's now walked completely through it as he comes out on the east side. Which, if the statement earlier about how long it took to walk through is accurate, gives us a time scale for this part of the story.

6 and 7
      This is the story of the 'gourd'. The word is “qiqayown / kikayon” which is also translated as “castor-oil plant” (the plant, and its name, are from an Egyptian word, see below), and a hungry worm.

      The sun comes up, Jonah is miserable.
      ... he “way·yis·’al” (asks / begs for) “nap sow” (himself) “lamut” (death) and said “towb” (better) “mowti” (die) “me·hay·yay” (than to live).
      This is beyond simply feeling sorry for oneself, this is some sort of long term deep psychological disturbance. Jonah likely had issues before his boat trip.

      God asks Jonah a question, and Jonah's answer reveals his self-obsession.

      YHWH points out a few things to Jonah.
      This conversation reminds you of when God talked to Job, beginning in chapter 38 of that book, or when He spoke to Moses out of the bush, and on Mount Sinai and then later when He 'passed by' in Exodus 33 and 34.

      And now the moral of the story....
      God asks Jonah a rhetorical question, which is only answered in the mind of the hearer of the oral story, or now, in the mind of the reader.
      It also implies that the majority of the population of Nineveh are ignorant, 'not knowing right hand from left'...
      .... and “u·be·he·mah” (livestock) “rab·bah” (large number).

End Jonah

Selected Sources for this chapter:
The Ancient City of Nineveh

and at

Jonah's 'plant': Ricinus communis

... it's a good thing Jonah didn't eat any of it. “Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans.”

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages: We'll change this link as we change books.

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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