New American Bible Revised Edition

* [1:1] Jonah, son of Amittai: a prophet of this name lived at the time of Jeroboam II (786–746 B.C.).

* [1:2] Great city: exaggeration is characteristic of this book; the word “great” (Heb. gadol) occurs fourteen times.

* [1:3] Tarshish: identified by many with Tartessus, an ancient Phoenician colony in southwest Spain; precise identification with any particular Phoenician center in the western Mediterranean is uncertain. To the Israelites it stood for the far west.

* [1:14] Aware that this disaster is a divine punishment on Jonah, the sailors ask that in ridding themselves of him they not be charged with the crime of murder.

* [2:3–10] These verses, which may have originally been an independent composition, are a typical example of a song of thanksgiving, a common psalm genre (e.g., Ps 116; Is 38:9–20). Such a song is relevant here, since Jonah has not drowned, and the imagery of vv. 4, 6 is appropriate.

* [2:3] Sheol: cf. note on Ps 6:6.

* [3:5] Great and small: the contrast can refer to distinctions of social class (prominent citizens and the poor).

* [3:7–8] Fasting and wearing sackcloth are signs of human repentance; here they are legislated even for the animals—a humorous touch, perhaps anticipating 4:11.

* [3:9–10] Scripture frequently presents the Lord as repenting (or, changing his mind) of the evil that he threatens; e.g., Gn 6:6–7; Jer 18:8.

* [4:1] He became angry: because of his narrow vindictiveness, Jonah did not wish the Lord to forgive the Ninevites.

* [4:2] Punishment: lit., “evil”; see 1:2, 7, 8; 3:8, 10; 4:1.

* [4:4] The Lord’s question is as unexpected as it is pithy. It is also a mysterious reply to Jonah’s wish to die; perhaps it serves to invite Jonah to think over his situation. However, it goes unanswered, and the request and reply will be repeated in vv. 8–9.

* [4:5] Waited: Jonah still hopes his threat of doom will be fulfilled.

* [4:6] Gourd plant: the Hebrew word, qiqayon, means here a wide-leafed plant of the cucumber or castor-bean variety.

* [4:10] Concerned: the meaning of the Hebrew verb suggests “pity, care for,” and this appears in the Lord’s attitude to Nineveh in v. 11. Jonah has shown only a selfish concern over the plant in contrast to the Lord’s true “concern” for his creatures.

* [4:11] A selfish Jonah bemoans his personal loss of a gourd plant for shade without any concern over the threat of loss of life to the Ninevites through the destruction of their city. If a solicitous God provided the plant for a prophet without the latter’s effort or merit, how much more is God disposed to show love and mercy toward all people, Jew and Gentile, when they repent of their sins and implore divine pardon. God’s care goes beyond human beings to all creation, as in Job 38.

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Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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