We continue with a straightforward text whose familiar words invite us into deeper exploration.
Jonah 1:10 says, “And the men were absolutely terrified (literally, “the men were afraid with a great fear”) and they said to him, ‘What is this you have done?’ for the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of God for he had told them.”
The words that are interesting to explore, all of which we have seen, are yare (fear/fearful); barach (flee) and nagad (tell). Yare is an ever-present emotion among people. Deut. 20 gives rules for war and preparations for battle. Verse 8 gives an “out” to people who are afraid: “And again (asaph, which we have seen), the officers (שֹׁטֵר, shoter) spoke to the people and said, ‘Who is the man who is afraid (yare) and soft/delicate (רַךְ, rak) of heart? Let him go (halak) and return (shub) to his house and not melt (מָסַס, masas) in heart. . .”
Some beautiful words are revealed by this journey. Let’s talk about “melting/melting away” for a minute. One of the things that was always in danger of melting in the Exodus period was the manna. The people were to collect and eat it daily and thus learn the concept of daily trust in the Lord. So, we have that process described briefly in Ex. 16:21, “Gather (לָקַט, laqat) it (eth) morning by morning (boqer doubled), every man according to his need (literally we have the engaging phrase ‘as his mouth, so is his meal’), and when the sun (shemesh) heated up (חָמַם, chamam), it melted (masas).” We have already seen the noun chom, “heat.” While we are at it we might as well pick up “rage” or “fury” (חֵמָה, chemah). But Biblical Hebrew isn’t easy, and the dictionary tells us that the verb underlying chemah is יָחַם (yacham, “to be hot/to conceive”). The most famous instance of yacham appearing in the Bible is in Ps. 51:5, when David says, “In sin (chet) did my mother (im) conceive (yacham) me.” As we will discover as we read some of the poetic books of the Bible, parallelism is central, and so in Ps 51:5 we have “in iniquity (avon, which we have seen) I was brought forth (חוּל, chul) and in sin. . .” Interestingly, the verb for “bringing forth” (chul) really means to “twist” or “writhe,” and I suppose that is an appropriate way quickly to describe the experience of giving birth. . . Eight good words so far.
So, let’s return to Jonah 1:10 and pick up on the next word: barach (flee). Sometimes barach appears in hendiadys with מָלַט, malat (escape, I Sam. 19:12, 18), but often barach appears with an individual or place to whom or where one is fleeing. But we can’t let malat “escape” from us too quickly. When Sodom and Gomorrah were about to meet their fate, the angels come down and tell people not to stay (amad) in the valley (כִּכָּר, kikkar. A kikkar is really a round object, like a loaf or talent of money, but can be used metaphorically of a valley) but to malat to the mountains (har) lest (פֵן, pen) you be swept/snatched away/destroyed (סָפָה, saphah). saphah is a rich word that must await another time! The active voice of malat, as mentioned, means “to escape,” though in the Niphal (passive) it is “deliver.” A vivid use of malat in the Psalms is in 124:7, where our soul (nephesh) has escaped (malat) like a bird (צִפּוֹר, tsippor) from the snare (pach) of the fowler (יָקשׁ, yaqosh, but this is a verb which means to “ensnare”).. .” One simple verse to conclude this section to show us how far we have come. Is. 8:14 talks about a future judgment scene (not unusual). .and says that they shall “stumble” (kashal); they shall “fall” (naphal); they shall “be broken” (shabar); they shall be ensnared (yaqosh) and be “captured” (laqad). We have seen all five verbs! Celebrate the victory. 14 words so far.
Returning to Jonah 1:10, let’s pick up our final word for the day: nagad. It is a straightforward verb that means “to declare” or “to tell.” God, actually, is the first one to use the verb in the Bible, asking Adam and Eve, “Who told you (nagad) that you were naked (עֵירֹם, erom; Gen. 3:7)?” In Gen. 41:24 we have Pharaoh recounting his dream to Joseph. Seven “thin (daq) ears of corn (שִׁבֹּל, shibbol) devoured (בָּלַע, bala) seven good (tob) ears of corn (shibbol). And I said (amar) to the magicians (חַרְטֹם, chartom) and they couldn’t declare (the meaning) (nagad) to you.” Perhaps the most familiar line using chartom in the Bible is in Ex. 8, where the magicians were able to imitate whatever Moses did through their “secret arts” (לָט, lat). In the instance of Ex. 8:7, the Egyptians are able to bring up “frogs” (צְפַרְדֵּעַ, tsephardea) through these lat.
I should be concluding this essay quickly, but I can’t leave hanging all the delicious words of the previous paragraph. Just a word on nakedness. There is a complex and very full verse in Ezekiel (23:29), which is a bit too involved for us at this point. But a few words in it are inviting. An enemy is going to come and “do to/deal with (asah) them in hatred (שִׂנְאָה, sinah) and shall take (laqach) all (kol) the products of your labor (יָגיּעַ, yegia) and they shall forsake/leave (עָזַב, azab) you naked (erom) and bare (עֶרְיָה, eryah). . . “ The last is a thrice-appearing hendiadys in Ezekiel. And that, at 24 words, is enough for today!
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