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Hebrew 31
Jonah 1:11

We continue with Jonah, and this verse, though straightforward in construction, gives us a couple of words that lead to wonderful journeys.  Jonah 1:11 may be translated, “And they (the sailors) said to him, ‘What shall we do to you so that the sea will be calmed down from upon us?’ For the sea was getting to be tempestuous.”


One interesting grammatical feature is the literal meaning of the phrase, describing the sea, that it “may be calm from upon us.”  The preposition al (“upon”) is used, and so we can easily translate it “be calm for us,” but we have to work though the process of “from upon” to “for.”  Then, the last phrase captures the notion of a gradual increase in storm intensity through use of the verb halak (“to walk”).  We literally have, “The sea was walking and raging” (with the “raging” in a present participle form). But the meaning is that the sea was gradually becoming more tempestuous.  This sensitivity to the actual shaping of the words contributes to a deep appreciation of the language and the message.


Now to the text itself.  The two words to examine are שָׁתַק (shathaq, “to be calm/quiet/silent”) and סָעַר (saar, “to rage/become tempestuous”).  The verb shathaq occurs twice in Jonah and twice in the rest of the Bible.  Therefore, you will learn it in NO course in Biblical Hebrew.  But it is a beautiful word; even the mere pronunciation of it brings a spirit of quiet. And the two other places it appears are noteworthy. One is Ps. 107:30, where the roaring sea is calmed (perhaps there is dependence of one passage on the other?):  “Then they were glad when there was quiet, and He guided them to a desired haven.”   This verse is incredibly rich in words:


First, we have “gladness.”  The verb is שָׂמַח, samach, “to rejoice/exult/be glad.”  We have seen the noun simchah, “gladness.”  We will return to this word, but let’s massage 107:30. “Quiet,” of course is shathaq. God’s “guiding” them is captured through the common verb נָחָה, nachah.  Then, a “haven” is a מָחוֹז, machoz, a Biblical hapax that Google Translate also renders as “district” or “county.” Jonah has several unique words, despite its being the most clear and accessible of the prophetic books. Finally, from Ps. 107:30 we have the notion of “desire,” captured here by the noun חֵפֶץ, chephets. The verb behind chephets is חָפֵץ, chaphats, the very common word for “delight/take pleasure in.” 


This verse is like going to Sunday Brunch at an illustrious restaurant. There is far too much to eat and the variety is almost overwhelming.  Let’s pick wisely. Oh no!  The first verse using the verb samach is from Lev. 23:40, which talks about festivals that the Hebrews should celebrate.  This verse tells them which branches they should bring to “rejoice” (samach) before the Lord. We have: “You shall take (laqach) in that day (yom) the first (רִאשׁוֹן, rishon; we have seen rosh both for “head" and “venom/poison”) fruit (פְרִי, peri) of trees (ets), beautiful (הָדָר, hadar) branches (kaph, “hands” or “soles”, which we have seen) of palm trees (תָּמָר, tamar), and bows/branches (עָנָף, anaph) of trees (ets) with leaves (עָבֹת, aboth; literally means to be “interwoven” and therefore “leafy”) and willows (עָרָב, arab, though the actual kind of tree is uncertain) of the brook (nachal, which we have seen) and you shall rejoice (samach) before the Lord. . .”  Fourteen words. . . .  And we really don’t have the time here to go down the road on many of these words, but only one word:  “beautiful” (hadar). 


Hadar can be rendered many ways: “majesty/glory/honor/splendor/beauty/beautiful” depending on the context and sentence. The verb behind it is also הָדַר (hadar), meaning “to honor/adorn.” But a great hendiadys for the noun is “honor and glory” (the “honor” is הוֹד, hod, which can be rendered “glory/splendor”; the “glory” is hadar).  We can see a translation problem that begins to emerge, as the concept in English of splendor/glory/majesty/honor is really the same concept just expressed in  many different ways. Thus, the selection of the precise English word to capture it is difficult, but is an engaging task.  In Job’s inimitably eloquent poetry, he says, “Adorn (עָדָה, adah) yourself with majesty (גָּאוֹן, gaown) and splendor (גֹּבַהּ, gobah) and with glory (hod) and beauty (hadar) dress yourself (לָבַשׁ, labash).”  


It dawns on me, as we have 20 new words in a short space, that I need to do justice to some of this fantastic collection of words, by taking a break from Jonah for a day.  The language of splendor, as it might be denominated, will certainly be worthy of our attention.  So, learn the words now, to the best of ability but know that soon we will take the words apart with care, and hope to go even deeper.

Hebrew 32
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