The Hebrew term that is translated as “found” in many English versions is translated in Mandarin Chinese as yù​jiàn (遇見) — “meet” — which correctly does not indicate the conclusion of a search for something lost, but simply coming across something by chance.

sound asleep

The Hebrew that is translated as “sleep” or “sound asleep” is not the usual Hebrew word for sleep but signifies deep sleep. The Ancient Greek Septuagint translates the verb as “snored” (έρεγχε).

See also Mark 4:38.

Translation commentary on Jonah 1:9

At first, Jonah, who here speaks for the first time in the story, appears to ignore the first question and merely answers the last one. He replies “I am a Hebrew.” This is a term that is seldom used in the Old Testament, which prefers the expression “Israelite.” It is frequently used by foreigners, especially Egyptians and Philistines, or by Israelites in speaking to foreigners such as these sailors. This is the only place in the Old Testament where someone says “I am a Hebrew,” though Joseph implies it in Gen 40.15. In the New Testament Paul describes himself as a Hebrew in Phil 3.5. There is a tendency among translators to render I am a Hebrew as simply “I am a Jew” (for example, Living Bible). Such a rendering is of course technically incorrect, because the term “Jew” refers essentially to persons from the southern part of Israel, not from the northern kingdom. It is important, therefore, to reproduce some kind of transliteration of Hebrew, even though this may not appear to be the more common designation of present-day Jews.

The statement I am a Hebrew may, however, require some expansion in certain languages; for example, “My race is Hebrew,” or “I belong to a family of Hebrews,” or “My nation is called Hebrew.”

Jonah had not been asked about his religion, but he volunteers the information that he is a worshiper of (or “one who fears” Revised Standard Version) Yahweh, the maker of sea and land. An American Translation has “I stand in awe of the LORD.” The combination of the two parts of his answer may be taken in either of two ways: (1) since he is a Hebrew, he must therefore be a worshiper of Yahweh, or (2) he is a Hebrew, and in the restrictive sense, one of those who worships Yahweh. The first of these two is more likely. Yahweh is the personal name of the God of Israel and is generally represented in English translations by “the LORD.” (Jerusalem Bible is an exception in this respect.) “The LORD” is a title, whereas Yahweh is a name, which might seem to favor using a name approximating in sound to Yahweh in a modern translation. But against this it may be argued that in the reading of the Scriptures, the Jews have substituted the title ʾadonay, “the Lord.” This procedure was followed in early translations of the Old Testament, beginning with the Septuagint. Some, for example, Living Bible, would prefer the name “Jehovah” (see Exo 3.15; 6.3; and the footnotes on those passages in New English Bible). This is the traditional English method of representing the sacred name, going back to medieval practice, and has been followed in other languages, for example, Chinese. But it is an artificial form that combines the Hebrew consonants of Yahweh with the vowels of ʾadonay, meaning “Lord,” and though printed in that form in Hebrew Bibles, it is not meant to be pronounced in that way.

Though there would be certain distinct advantages in reproducing “Yahweh” as a proper name, translational practice is generally opposed to this, especially since the term “Yahweh” has been associated with a somewhat more liberal theological tradition. Therefore in a number of so-called missionary areas of the world the introduction of such a proper name would seem to be theologically tainted. If, however, one is to employ the expression “Lord,” it is important to combine features of importance and control, that is to say, a term should suggest that the person involved is a very important individual, and that in some senses he governs or controls individuals who address him as “Lord.” An equivalent in some languages is simply “ruler”; in other cases, “master”; and there are some situations in which the closest equivalent indigenous term is “leader.” More frequently, however, the equivalent expression is “chief.”

Though traditional translations have usually rendered the Hebrew expression literally “I fear the LORD,” a literal rendering of such an expression may be quite misleading, since it would suggest, even as it does in English, that people were “scared of the Lord.” In this type of context the Hebrew term that is often translated “fear” identifies an individual as the worshiper of a particular god.

In apposition to the name “Yahweh,” which is placed in an emphatic position, is the descriptive title God of heaven. This title occurs mainly in late books of the Old Testament, but also in Gen 24.3, 7. Heaven is the dwelling place of God, but this expression God of heaven also suggests the supremacy of Israel’s God over all rivals. As God of heaven he is also concerned with the earth, since he made the sea and the dry land (the Hebrew order here, as against Good News Translation), which makes up its surface (Gen 1.9, 10), and hence controls the storms. The writer leaves us to infer the lack of logic in Jonah’s position; how could he hope to escape such a God by traveling westward?

The phrase God of heaven is most frequently rendered by an expression that means “God in heaven,” for a literal rendering of God of heaven might only refer to a god who controls the heavens and nothing else, that is to say, the sky god in contrast with the god of the earth. Fortunately the context makes it quite clear that though this is “the God of heaven,” he also made both the land and the sea.

In choosing a term to translate made, it is important to use an expression that would be appropriate to both land and sea, that is to say, “formed” or “caused to exist.” In some cases a term such as “made” refers only to artifacts, and such an expression would normally be inappropriate in speaking of the land and sea.

In some languages there is no generic term for land, and therefore it may be necessary to use a phrase such as “fields and mountains.” In the case of sea, there may be additional problems in distinguishing between (1) bodies of water that are surrounded by land (that is to say, lakes) and (2) bodies of water that are not surrounded, therefore equivalent more or less to “oceans.” It would be this latter term that is appropriate in this context.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. et al. A Handbook on the Book of Jonah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1982, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jonah 4:5

As noted in connection with 3.5, some (for example, Moffatt) would transpose this verse to follow 3.4. But in spite of the grammatical form, which suggests that the events in this verse follow directly on 3.4, the author may here be using once again the technique of the flashback noticed in earlier chapters (for example, 1.10). The reason for introducing this statement here rather than earlier in the narrative, which would be its logical position, may have been the link between the shelter that Jonah makes for his own protection and the similar action on God’s part described in the next verse. In any case, this verse would be needed as an introduction to verse 6.

If verse 5 involves a flashback, the verbs need to be understood as pluperfects, “Jonah had gone out … He had made….” Grammatically the Hebrew is of the same form as in 1.17, where the meaning of the first verb is also pluperfect.

In a high percentage of languages east is expressed simply as “in the direction of the rising sun,” or even “toward the sun,” or “toward the morning sun.”

The significance of Jonah’s sitting down on the east side of the city may lie in the fact that he had approached it from the west, delivered his message, and then continued through to the far side. Perhaps, however, there is an allusion here to the east wind mentioned in verse 8. The author presumably expects Jonah to be far enough to the east of the city to avoid being involved in any disaster that might overtake it while he waited to see what would happen to Nineveh.

There is a serious contradiction in some languages in translating verse 5 literally, for it would suggest that Jonah sat down and then made a shelter for himself. It would be better, therefore, in a number of languages to translate “Jonah went out east of the city; there he made a shelter for himself and sat down in its shade, waiting to see….”

The nature of the shelter that Jonah constructed is not described, but presumably it was something quite fragile and easily constructed. The word is the same as that which occurs in Isa 1.8 and in the regulations for the Festival of Shelters in Lev 23.42, 43. In a number of languages the closest equivalent of shelter is the type of temporary shelter often built in fields as protection against the noonday sun or as a place where persons may remain while guarding a harvest, equivalent to what is called in English a “lean-to.”

Sat in its shade may simply be rendered as “sat beneath it” or “sat protected by it.”

The addition of “sulking” in Living Bible is not justified in terms of the text.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. et al. A Handbook on the Book of Jonah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1982, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jonah 2:3

The connection between this verse and the preceding one is so obscure that T. H. Robinson supposes that some words, such as a confession of sin, have dropped out between the two verses. The form of the Hebrew verb with which the verse begins is such as to suggest that the action it describes follows upon that mentioned at the end of verse 2. But in fact it fills out the description of the distress mentioned at the beginning of the prayer. Mowinckel, An American Translation, Moffatt, King James Version, and A. R. Johnson (1946) all have the pluperfect here, though such a usage is exceptional. Clearly there is a contrast between the favorable treatment received at the end of verse 2, and the unfavorable treatment mentioned here.

The imagery changes here, and the reference to the sea and the waters would make it seem a suitable prayer for Jonah to use. But although the form of the image is changed, the poet is still thinking of the world of the dead, as can be seen from verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 88, a poem that expresses most intensely the despair of someone in danger of death. In Psalm 69 also, the references to the deep waters in verses 1, 2, 14, and 15 express the imagery of impending death.

The word translated “depths” may be a later addition to the poem, as it makes the line unduly long and upsets the regular 3/2 pattern in the poetic meter. Apart from A. R. Johnson, Mowinckel, and Moffatt, modern translations retain the word. It may well be an explanatory interpretation of the word waters or “flood” (New English Bible), since that word normally means “river,” but is used here in a specialized sense to refer to the ocean currents that are mentioned, for example, in Psa 24.2 and 93.3 (where Good News Translation has “ocean depths”).

The word depths is often used in poetry with the same meaning as the words that follow, that is, “the heart of the seas”; for example, Psa 68.22; 88.6 (New English Bible “depths”); and Micah 7.19. Just as in the previous verse Sheol is said to have a “belly,” so here the sea has a “heart,” as it does in Exo 15.8 and Psa 46.2. New English Bible understands this to refer to somewhere far from land, but usage elsewhere in the Bible suggests rather that the poet is thinking of the very bottom of the sea.

Into the depths, to the very bottom of the sea must be rendered in such a way as to indicate that this involves a kind of apposition; for example, “into the deep parts of the ocean, that is, at the very bottom of the sea.” But such an explanatory type of apposition may be both cumbersome and misleading. Therefore it is sometimes possible to combine the two expressions the depths and the very bottom of the sea into a single phrase; for example, “down to the very deep part of the sea” or “down to the lowest part of the sea.”

As already noted, the “flood” to which Revised Standard Version refers is not the flood associated with Noah, but one more word expressing the overwhelming sensation of helplessness likely to be felt by someone in Jonah’s situation. This same type of imagery is used in the Psalms, particularly in Psa 69.1, 2, 14, 15; 88.6, 7, 17, where it is unnecessary to suppose that the psalmist was actually in danger of drowning. So also here, the imagery of being overwhelmed is felt by the author to fit the situation of someone who was literally in the depths of the sea, as Jonah was in the fish.

At the creation God subdued the watery chaos that was there in the beginning (Gen 1.2), and by dividing the dry land from the sea (Gen 1.6-10), he made life on earth possible. Hence, when the poet feels that these mighty waters were closing round him, he is very conscious of the imminent threat of death. In fact, in the next line this thought is intensified, and the mighty waves roll over him, with the same nightmare effect as in Psalms 69 and 88 and Lam 3.54. The use of the genitive often presents a problem in translation, and here the waves are referred to as “your waves.” Either the poet is thinking of the waves as having been sent by God against the psalmist, or more probably as being under his control, since he conquered the ocean at the creation. In Psa 42.7, which is identical with this line, the two words “waves” and “breakers” (New English Bible) are used, as they are here, hence mighty waves in Good News Translation here, in which the two nouns are combined into a single phrase. This is the only actual quotation from the Psalms and is regarded by many as suggesting a later insertion.

In a number of languages one cannot speak of waters in a plural form. Since water is a mass, it is generally referred to by a singular term, as in English “water.” Accordingly, where the waters were all around me must be expressed as “where there was water all around me.” In some languages, however, it is far better to speak of a person as being in the water rather than the water being around the person. Accordingly one may have to translate “where I was there in the water,” or “… deep in the water,” or “… deep in the ocean.”

The possessive relationship in your mighty waves may be expressed as a causative; for example, “the mighty waves you have caused” or “the large waves that you caused.” If the interpretation of control over the mighty waves is preferred, one may render this expression as “the great waves that you control” or “… command.”

In a number of instances it is difficult to speak of “waves rolling”; they may, however, be described as “flooding over” or “spreading over,” or even “tumbling over,” though in some cases a more general term such as “move” may be required; for example, “your great waves are moving above me.”

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. et al. A Handbook on the Book of Jonah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1982, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jonah 3:5

Following the logical order of events, some, for example, Moffatt, would transpose 4.5 to stand here, since that verse describes how Jonah waited to see the outcome of his message.

But the order of the Hebrew is reasonable enough as it stands, since it immediately goes on to describe the reaction of The people of Nineveh to what they heard, namely, that they believed God’s message. There is nothing in the Hebrew to correspond to message (New English Bible “word”), but the word “believe” normally carries with it the implication that God has said something which is either believed as true or rejected as untrue. So also in Gen 15.6 Abraham believes God’s promise, while in 2 Kgs 17.14 the Israelites refuse to believe God.

The expression believed God’s message must sometimes be restructured as “believed what God had said through Jonah.” However, if in verse 2 one has used “my message,” it would be possible to employ in verse 5 “God’s message.” In some cases a verb such as “believe” refers primarily to people rather than to messages, and therefore it may be better to translate “believed God” in the sense of “believed what God had said.”

The Hebrew verb translated believe is generally followed by the preposition be, rather less frequently by the preposition le, and sometimes by a noun clause, as in Lam 4.12. Here it occurs with the preposition be, which has a great variety of meanings, mostly related to the English prepositions “in” or “by.” Gesenius-Kautzsch, section 119.1, translates this phrase as “to trust in (to cleave trustingly to) somebody or something.” There are two instances of this verb followed by le in the Old Testament (Deut 9.23; Isa 43.10) in which God is the object, as against nine followed by be (Gen 15.6; Exo 14.31; Num 14.11; 20.12; Deut 1.32; 2 Kgs 17.14; 2 Chr 20.20; Psa 78.22; and Jonah 3.5). The verb does not occur with God as direct object.

Whereas there is a difference in meaning between “believe God” and “believe in God,” there appears to be no corresponding difference in usage between the two Hebrew prepositions used with this verb. The verb “believe” means acceptance as true of what is stated by someone or something, such as a document. But to “believe in” or “put one’s trust in” indicates a deeper measure of reliance on, or faith in, the object of one’s trust. As an indication of the identity in meaning of the verb with these two prepositions, Deut 1.32 may be compared with Deut 9.23. In both passages the verb is translated “trust” in New English Bible and Good News Translation, and the meaning indicated by the context is the same in both passages, though the preposition is not the same. Again, in Psa 106.12, 24, the preposition varies, but the meaning is “believe” in both verses. On the other hand, in 2 Chr 20.20, where the same preposition be occurs twice after this verb, Good News Translation understands a difference in meaning between the first occurrence and the second, “put your trust in the LORD your God … Believe what his prophets tell you.”

The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that, where the usage varies so much from one passage to another, the translator must be guided by the context.

Here in Jonah there is a real difference between believed God’s message or “believed God’s word” (New English Bible) on the one hand, and “believe in God” (Jerusalem Bible and New American Standard Bible) or “showed faith in God” (Knox) on the other. There is nothing in the form of the Hebrew, or parallels elsewhere in the Old Testament, to indicate which is correct. That the writer would say of the people of Nineveh that they believed in God, might seem an overstatement, but such a meaning is at least a possible one in practically all passages where God is the object of this verb phrase. To quote J. D. Smart (page 889): “The Ninevites did not merely believe Jonah’s prediction to be true and repent in fear; they responded in faith to Israel’s God.” Compare A. Jepsen (column 327): “When Jonah proclaimed to them ‘Yet three (so the Septuagint) days, and Nineveh will be destroyed,’ the people of Nineveh did what Israel, and even Moses or Aaron were incapable of doing. They put their trust in God, and did so without the occurrence of signs and wonders such as preceded the statements in Exo 4.31; 14.31, but solely on the word of Jonah. The translation ‘they believed in God’ weakens the effect. It could be paraphrased as ‘they took the message seriously, as a message that really came from God,’ even though Jonah’s proclamation made no mention of God.”

The name of Yahweh is not used at this point, however, and is avoided in the rest of this chapter, which uses the more general term “God.” There is no justification for the translation in Living Bible, “they believed him,” referring to Jonah.

The last part of the verse in Good News Translation, to show that they had repented, does not correspond formally to any words in the Hebrew. These words simply make explicit for the modern reader what would be implicitly understood by the first readers of the books. A good translation often requires additions such as this, and in making such an addition, a translation is not to be judged as lacking in faithfulness to the original, since it is more faithful to the sense than a translation that leaves the reader wondering why the people of Nineveh wore sackcloth. There is, of course, no need to repeat the explanation in verse 6.

The phrase to show that they had repented, which identifies the purpose of both fasting and the wearing of sackcloth, should in some way be related to both of these events. It may be necessary, therefore, to introduce the final phrase by “they did all this to show that they had repented.”

An expression for fast may be simply “they went without food purposely.” It is very important to avoid a translation of fast that would suggest only the lack of food or a famine.

Since the decision made by the people of Nineveh was something that was no doubt communicated, it may be necessary in some languages to put this into the form of direct discourse; for example, “So they decided, ‘We must all fast….’ ”

A common equivalent for the expression from the greatest to the least is “including both the rich and the poor,” or “including those who command and those who obey,” or as in some instances “including those in the center of town as well as those who live in the outskirts,” or “from the shopkeepers to the beggars.”

Repented may be rendered in a number of languages as “turned away from their sins,” or “were extremely sorry for their sins,” or “resolved to sin no more.”

The word for “sackcloth” is one of the few that has come over to us in English in much the same form as in Hebrew, retaining its sound in Greek and Latin on the way. It was a coarse material, worn next to the skin, as is seen from 2 Kgs 6.30, where a king wears sackcloth as a sign of distress at his people’s suffering.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. et al. A Handbook on the Book of Jonah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1982, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jonah 1:10

The indirect discourse in 10b must often be changed to direct discourse; for example, “Jonah went on to tell them, ‘I am running away from the Lord.’ ” In many languages, however, one cannot speak of “the Lord,” for the relationship between a person and his Lord is an obligatory relationship that must be expressed as “my Lord” or even “the Lord of all people.” In this context, however, it would seem more appropriate for Jonah to speak of “my Lord,” since he is not assuming that Yahweh is the Lord of these particular sailors.

A literal rendering of running away from could suggest that the Lord was somehow chasing after Jonah. It is important to avoid such an implication, and perhaps this can be done in some instances by saying “I am trying to escape from the Lord,” or perhaps “I am going to a place where the Lord cannot see me.”

The indirect discourse in 10b must often be changed to direct discourse; for example, “Jonah went on to tell them, ‘I am running away from the Lord.’ ” In many languages, however, one cannot speak of “the Lord,” for the relationship between a person and his Lord is an obligatory relationship that must be expressed as “my Lord” or even “the Lord of all people.” In this context, however, it would seem more appropriate for Jonah to speak of “my Lord,” since he is not assuming that Yahweh is the Lord of these particular sailors.

A literal rendering of running away from could suggest that the Lord was somehow chasing after Jonah. It is important to avoid such an implication, and perhaps this can be done in some instances by saying “I am trying to escape from the Lord,” or perhaps “I am going to a place where the Lord cannot see me.”Here again the text causes some problems, which are dealt with differently by different translators.

The first part of the verse, The sailors were terrified, does not relate very closely to what precedes. Why should the sailors be terrified because Jonah tells them that he worships the maker of the sea and the dry land? Were they afraid that, in spite of their innocence, they too would now be involved in the punishment for his crime? The word “fear” or “be terrified” is the same as that which Jonah has just used for worship. In other words, the author is contrasting the genuine awe of the heathen sailors, who were aware that the storm was sent by Jonah’s God, with the merely nominal or conventional confession of faith on the part of the Hebrew Jonah. The sailors are already said to have been afraid in verse 5, but here the description is intensified, which justifies New English Bible here, “were even more afraid.” The form the Hebrew takes is “feared with a great fear.” This linking of a noun similar in form to a verb is known as “cognate accusative” and is often used in Hebrew to add strength to the verb itself; for example, Zech 1.14; Isa 66.10; Psa 14.5.

If the text of Good News Translation is arranged in the order of the Hebrew, the result would be The sailors were terrified, and said to him, “That was an awful thing to do!” (They knew) he was running away from the LORD. Jonah went on to tell them. But Good News Translation has been rearranged in a more logical order, to indicate the sequence of cause and effect. This one verse in Hebrew has three occurrences of the word ki, which, as noted in verse 2, can have the meaning of either “for” or “that.” This is brought out clearly in Revised Standard Version: “For … that … because….” In other words, there is here a double flashback, answering two successive questions:

(a) Why did the sailors exclaim as they did?
Because they knew Jonah was fleeing from the LORD.
(b) How did they know this?
Because Jonah had already told them.

Since this final sentence is required to give the reader the clue to the behavior of the sailors, Good News Translation places it at the beginning of the verse and at the same time supplies an indication of when Jonah’s explanation occurred. In other word, his confession is taken to be a continuation of his speech in verse 9, hence went on to tell them. There is, however, no indication in the Hebrew of the time when Jonah disclosed his “business” (verse 8) or his reason for being on the ship, so the treatment in New English Bible is quite as legitimate, with its insertion of “already” and its use of the pluperfect “had told.” In any event, it was this disclosure on Jonah’s part that led the sailors to exclaim as they did (compare Gen 3.13): “That was an awful thing to do!” with specific reference to Jonah’s attempt to flee from God (so also Revised Standard Version, New American Bible, An American Translation, Moffatt, Zürcher Bibel).

On the other hand, the words of the sailors can be taken as a question, as in New English Bible, “What can you have done wrong?” implying their concern to know what induced Jonah to attempt to flee. This is also the force of the footnote in Good News Translation, “Why did you have to run away like that?Living Bible, Luther 1984, Jerusalem Bible, Chinese Union Version also suppose that the sailors are asking a question. The Hebrew text, however, does not offer an answer to such a question, and it is better to treat the words as an exclamation. Mwkl considers the last sentence to be an addition to the text, arising out of a misunderstanding of the verb “knew,” which it interprets as “perceived.” There is no textual evidence in favor of the supposition that the last part of the verse is a later addition, brought in to account for the preceding sentence.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. et al. A Handbook on the Book of Jonah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1982, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jonah 4:6

Just as the Lord arranged for a fish in 1.17, so he arranges for a plant to grow up and give added shelter to Jonah. The same verb is used in 1.17, here, and in the next two verses. The exact nature of the plant has been the object of much discussion, and various translations have been suggested, some based on etymology and some on ancient translations. Fauna and Flora of the Bible favors “castor oil plant,” pointing out the similarity between the Hebrew qiqayon and the Egyptian name for this plant. This is the translation found in Chinese Union Version, Mowinckel. Jerusalem Bible, as well as in the margin of Revised Standard Version and New English Bible. In New Jerusalem Bible the word “ricinus” is used to denote this same plant. An alternative suggestion, based on the Septuagint, is “gourd,” as in King James Version, Moffatt, An American Translation, Modern Language Bible, Revised Standard Version (New English Bible “climbing gourd”). New American Bible has “a gourd plant,” accompanied by a note stating that the Hebrew word “means here a wide-leafed plant of the cucumber or castor-bean variety,” and Modern Language Bible has a similar note. Knox, following the Vulgate, translates as “ivy plant,” while Bible in Basic English and Living Bible prefer “vine.” By using the general expression, a plant, Good News Translation recognizes that the exact nature of the plant is immaterial. There is not even any evidence that the author depicts it as climbing up the shelter; it could just as well have been standing independently. Revised Standard Version and New American Standard Bible are also content to have “plant” in the text, though in each case the marginal note supports “castor oil plant.” The plant is not mentioned anywhere else, so there is really no clear evidence by which to identify it.

The expression LORD God used here is an unusual combination, occurring mainly in the story of creation in Genesis 2 and 3 and in Chronicles, but otherwise not more than half a dozen times. It is not the same Hebrew expression as is translated “Sovereign LORD” in Good News Translation. The expression the LORD God may be expressed as “God who is the Lord” or “the Lord who is God.” It would be wrong to use an expression in which “the Lord” is simply an honorific title of God, equivalent to “sir God.”

The verb in the expression “should grow up” (New English Bible) may either be understood as the simple form, with the plant as subject, or the causative, with God as subject; the form is the same.

As a causative the verb made a plant grow up may be expressed as “the Lord God caused a plant to grow up.” Over Jonah may be “above Jonah.” It is important to avoid an expression that would mean that the plant covered Jonah; in fact, it is better in some instances to translate the first part of verse 6 as “the Lord God made a plant grow up so as to shade Jonah.”

According to Revised Standard Version the plant grew up “to save him from his discomfort.” This last word translates the same Hebrew word as is found in 3.8, 10 and 4.1. There the word refers to the evil behavior of the people of Nineveh, the disaster that God decided not to inflict on them, and the displeasure felt by Jonah in view of God’s mercy. So here the word may refer to Jonah’s discomfort or his “distress” (New English Bible), in other words, his evil situation. This is expressed in a positive way in Good News Translation, so that he would be more comfortable. But in view of the use of the same word in verse 1 with reference to Jonah, it may mean “to release him from his bad mood” (compare Jerusalem Bible “and soothe his ill-humor”), especially in view of the third person suffix.

So that he would be more comfortable may be expressed in this context as “so that he would not be so hot.” Such an expression may, however, have a double meaning, referring not only to the heat of the sun upon him but to his own heated anger, thus suggesting a reference to 4.1.

There is no justification for the additional clause at the beginning of the verse in Living Bible “and when the leaves of the shelter withered in the heat,” since the Hebrew neither states nor implies this.

The result was as might be expected. Jonah was extremely pleased with the plant. This is more forceful than New English Bible, “Jonah was grateful for the gourd.” The construction here is similar to that of 1.16, “feared with a great fear.” So here, “rejoiced with a great joy” (compare Matt 2.10 Revised Standard Version). The expression Jonah was extremely pleased with the plant must be inverted in some languages to read “The plant caused Jonah to be very happy indeed” or “The plant made Jonah extremely happy.”

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. et al. A Handbook on the Book of Jonah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1982, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .