6 Hebrew idioms in Jonah

If you’re a di- or a polyglot, you’ll know some colourful phrases and expressions that don’t translate well into other languages. For example, ‘It’s raining cats and dogs.’ As I was preparing my blog post on Jonah I read through all the footnotes in the NET Bible (it’s got over 60,000), and was delighted by some  Hebrew expressions that don’t translate well into English.

Jonah 1:4

HEB the ship seriously considered breaking apart
KJV the ship was like to be broken
NIV 1984 the ship threatened to break up
ESV the ship threatened to break up
HCSB the ship threatened to break apart

I think the English does get the idea across, though not quite as earthily.

Jonah 1:11

HEB the sea was walking and storming
KJV the sea wrought, and was tempestuous
NIV 1984 the sea was getting rougher and rougher
ESV the sea grew more and more tempestuous
HCSB the sea was getting worse and worse

This is one of my favourites!

Jonah 1:16

HEB the men feared the Lord with a great fear, they sacrificed sacrifices and they vowed vows
KJV Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
NIV 1984 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
ESV Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.
HCSB The men feared the LORD even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

I heard that emphasis in Hebrew is made by repetition, such as the noun-verb pairing above. Another example is the angels’ cry, “Holy, holy holy.” In English, we more often use adverbs and adjectives for emphasis.

Jonah 2:8

HEB worthlessnesses of nothingness/ vanities of emptiness
KJV lying vanities
NIV 1984 worthless idols
ESV vain idols
HCSB worthless idols

The NET notes on this verse say that this expression was often used by OT writers to refer insultingly to false gods.

Jonah 3:9

HEB the burning of his nose/ face
KJV his fierce anger
NIV 1984 his fierce anger
ESV his fierce anger
HCSB his burning anger

Anger is indeed like a fire: destructive when out of control.

Jonah 4:2

HEB long of nostrils
KJV slow to anger
NIV 1984 slow to anger
ESV slow to anger
HCSB slow to become angry

I like this idiom a lot. Here’s what the NET notes say: “Because the nose often expresses anger through flared nostrils it became the source of this idiom meaning ‘slow to anger’ (e.g., Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Pss 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Jer 15:15; Nah 1:3).”

May you, dear reader, be long of nostrils that this and similar boring blog posts may not burn to you. May you not cling to worthlessnesses of nothingness, but may your faith in Yahweh walk and become strong as you fear Him with a great fear. Amen.

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