Then the LORD awoke as from sleep . . .

The Hebrew of Psalm 2:4 that reads “Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a warrior shouting because of wine” or similar in English is translated in the Judeo-Arabic translation by Saʿadia Gaon (882–942) as “Until wakes-up Allah people-his from-what was in-it, as-sleeper, and became as-a-strong-man sobering from drunkenness-his.” (Literal back-translation)

Judeo-Arabic is the language of Jewish communities in the Arab world, consisting of Arabic with Hebrew and other influences written in Hebrew script. The influential translation by Saʿadia Gaon tends to avoid anthropomorphisms (attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions) as they relate in the original Hebrew text to God and rationalize them. In this verse he “similar to what we see in Ps 2, Saʿadia ascribes the action of sleeping, waking, and sobering from drunkenness to Allah’s people and not to Allah himself. In this rendering, Allah is projected as the one who awakens his sleeping, drunk people. This strategy of translating anthropomorphism is consistently used throughout [in Sa’adia’s translations]. All verbs of human action or emotion are transferred to human beings and Allah is projected as the one who caused them.” (Source: Sameh Hanna in The Bible Translator 2024, pp. 331ff.)

See also Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Targumim and their treatment of anthropomorphisms.

big fish

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “big fish,” “large fish,” or “great fish” is translated in North Alaskan Inupiatun as “whale.”

Steve Berneking tells this story (see here ):

“In the whaling community of the Inupiat in northern Alaska, the whale is all but revered and respected as one of God’s creatures which bring life and sustenance. I was recently with our Inupiatun Bible Translation Team, working on the Book of Jonah. In popular culture, as we all know, the ‘big fish’ in this tale is often equated with what we know as the whale; Sunday school curriculum teaches it; art recreates it; collective memory recalls it. Therefore, they wanted an illustration of a white whale in their publication of the Book of Jonah.

“As a biblical scholar, I know this is erroneous and irresponsible. A biblical scholar assumes a ‘big fish’ is simply to be taken as a ‘big fish.’ The identity of this fish is not necessary to understand the tale: that God provided it is the point. As a Bible translator, hopefully a culturally sensitive one, however, I was quickly reminded in that moment that this Inupiatun community ‘needed’ that ‘Jonah’s big fish’ to be nothing other than a whale.

“This made the tale of Jonah even more meaningful because they ‘read’ the source of God’s deliverance of Jonah as the same source of God’s provision of food and sustenance to them.”

In the majority of Arabic translations, hut (حوت) or “whale” is used. This could be due to the influence of the Quran that uses hut (حُوت) in its story of Jonah (Yunus) or to the influence of the Ancient Greek Septuagint which uses kítos (κῆτος). Kítos could either mean “sea-monster” or “whale.” (Source: Sameh Hanna)

The term for “dolphin” in Turkish is yunus baliğı — “Jonah’s fish” or simply yunus (“Jonah”). (The term used in the Turkish translation of Jonah, however, is büyük balık or “big fish.”)

See also Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights and this devotion on YouVersion .

He who sits in the heavens laughs . . .

The Hebrew of Psalm 2:4 that reads “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord (or: Lord) scoffs at them” or similar in English is translated in the Judeo-Arabic translation by Saʿadia Gaon (882–942) as “And inhabiting-he heavens causes-laugh people at-them also Allah causes-mock people at-them.” (Literal back-translation)

Judeo-Arabic is the language of Jewish communities in the Arab world, consisting of Arabic with Hebrew and other influences written in Hebrew script. The influential translation by Saʿadia Gaon tends to avoid anthropomorphisms (attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions) as they relate in the original Hebrew text to God and rationalize them. In this verse he “ascribes the actions of laughing and mocking to other people who deride the wicked for their rebellion against Allah and his anointed one. Allah only causes people to mock and laugh at the wicked.” (Source: Sameh Hanna in The Bible Translator 2024, pp. 331ff.)

See also Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Targumim and their treatment of anthropomorphisms.