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Hebrew 27
Jonah 1:5-6

Let’s finish the final clause of 1:5.  We know that Jonah went down into the inner part/hold/belly (yerekah) of the ship (סְפִינָה, sephinah). Sephinah is an OT hapax, but must mean the same thing as an oniyyah or oni. But in the belly of the ship he lay down (shakab) and fell into a deep sleep (רָדַם, radam). Radam only appears 5x outside of Jonah, but it repays some study. In Ps. 76:6 we have, addressing God, “At your rebuke (גְּעָרָה, gearah), O God of Jacob, both rider (we have seen rekeb) and horse (we have seen sus) fell asleep (radam).”  The verb for “rebuke” is גָּעַר (gaar), with the most familiar use of the verb in the brief verse in Zech. 3:2, “The Lord rebuke (gaar)  you, Satan (שָׂטָן, satan).  If we return to the noun for a second we have a memorable poetic thought in II Sam. 22:16, “Then were seen (raah in passive voice) the channels/streams (אָפִיק, aphiq) of the yam; the foundations (מוֹסָדָה, mosadah) of the inhabited world (תֵּבֵל, tebel) were uncovered (galah).  At the rebuke (gearah)  of Yahweh; at the blast (neshamah) of the wind/breath (ruach) of his nostrils (aph). So many of the words are starting to fall into place for us. . .


Let’s return to radam. Perhaps the most famous place this deep sleep came upon someone was in Judg 4:21 when Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite killed Sisera with a hammer and peg.  Several good but technical terms follow. “Jael the wife (ishshah) of Heber the Kenite took (laqach) a peg/stake (יָתֵד, yethed) from the tent (ohel) and placed (sum) a hammer (מַקֶּבֶת, maqqabeth) [Note:  this word only appears 2x in the Bible and the other appearance, in Is 51:1, renders it as a “hole,” but when doing a “Google Translate” search, which normally ends up far from the Biblical meaning, we come up with “mallet” or “hammer”] in her hand (yad) and went (bo) to him softly/secretly (לָט, lat) and gave a blow/thrust (תָּקַע, taqa) the yethed into his temple (רַקָּה, raqqah) and he sunk down (צָנַח, tsanach) into the earth (erets) for he had fallen into a deep sleep (radam) and was exhausted (עוּף, uph); and he died (muth).” 


But one other verse beckons, not because it actually uses the verb radam, but it is a famous verse that uses the noun form, תַּרְדֵּמָה, tardemah, a “deep sleep.”  That verse is Gen. 2:21 and it describes God’s causing a deep sleep to fall on Adam.  The text is:  “Yahweh made to fall (naphal) a deep sleep (tardemah) upon (al) the man (adam), and he slept (יָשֵׁן, yashen).  And God took (laqach) one (echad) of his ribs/side (צֵלָע, tsela) and closed up (sagar; we saw this in Obadiah 14 and elsewhere) the flesh (basar) in its place (tachath, literally “underneath”).  Eighteen new words so far.


We hasten on to Jonah 1:6. “And then the captain (rab—“major figure”) of the חֹבֵל, chobel (a sailor or pilot; derived from chebel,  which can mean anything from a “region” or “band” (of prophets) to “an allotment” or a “rope/cord” or a “portion”) approached (qarab) and said to him, 'What are you doing by sleeping?  Rise, call on your God.  Perhaps God will consider us, and we will not perish.’”  Sometimes we think we are “getting” this language, and then it just starts to unravel.  This is one of those “unravel” verses.  The captain is called, literally, a “great one of the pilot,” though here it is no doubt just the captain of the boat that is meant. The question posed to the sleeper is, literally, “What to you (i.e., why?) to have been asleep?”  The verb rendered “consider” is the 2x-appearing עָשַׁת, ashath, whose other appearance (Jer. 5:28) suggests something like “being sleek” or “shining.” How does one go from “smoothness” to “considering”?  I have no idea. On the one hand the Book of Jonah is the simplest and most accessible of all of the prophetic books but then it can throw us a curve ball and give us a word we simply don’t recognize.  But the student of Biblical Hebrew has to accept that, realize limitations and keep working. 


In verse 6 we can profitably examine “perhaps/maybe” (אוּלַי, ulay), which is a wonderful little word of speculation. In Gen. 16:2, Sarai is perplexed at her inability to have children, and so she encourages her husband to impregnate Hagar, their servant girl.  Big mistake, but my purpose here is to look at language:  “So said (amar) Sarai to (אֵל, el) Abram, ‘See (hinneh), now (נָא, na), Yahweh has restrained/stopped (עָצָר, atsar) me from bearing (yalad) children.  Go in (bo) to my maidservant (שִׁפְחָה, shipchah); perhaps (ulay) I might build (banah) from her. . .”


A few more examples of ulay should suffice us.  In the Sodom narrative, when Abraham and God are debating the fate of that town, the phrase “suppose/perhaps” is used six times from Gen. 18:24 to Gen. 18:32, but each time it is with a declining number of supposed righteous men in the town. We can use each of these numbers to build our vocabulary.  “Perhaps there were fifty” (ulah yesh chamishim) with יֵשׁ (yesh; “there are”) and חֲמִשִּׁים (chamishim) being new (18:24).  Then, a few verses later we are “to take away/lack (חָסֵר, chaser) five (chamesh).”  But then, in 18:29 we have “perhaps (ulay) are found (matsa) there (sham) forty (arbaim, which we have seen previously)”. . . God says he will not “do it” (i.e., destroy Sodom) “for the sake of” (עָבוּר, abur) arbaim (forty).  Well, the countdown continues and in verse 30 we have that number, sheloshim, righteous people. We continue.  How about “twenty” (עֶשְׂרִים, esrim)? The word for ten (eser) has already been studied.  Though we didn’t exhaust the words in all the verses of that questioning countdown, we have seen a few words that help us build our language and vocabulary.  


About 30 new words today, as we continue our quest.

Hebrew 28
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