As we enter the final chapter of the book of Jonah in our HE102 course, we encounter this verse:

Jonah 4:1
וַיֵּ֥רַע אֶל־יוֹנָ֖ה רָעָ֣ה גְדוֹלָ֑ה וַיִּ֖חַר לֽוֹ׃

It should remind us of something that we read in Ruth:

Ruth 1:21
לָ֣מָּה תִקְרֶ֤אנָה לִי֙ נָעֳמִ֔י וְיהוה֙ עָ֣נָה בִ֔י וְשַׁדַּ֖י {הֵ֥רַֽע לִֽי}
Why would you call me Naomi (“pleasant”) when Yhvh has testified against me and Shaddai has {done evil to me} / {afflicted me} / {caused me distress}?

Even though these verbs look so similar, the one in Jonah is in the qal and the one in Ruth is in the hiphil. If you’re uncertain of a parsing, you can look it up in Davidson’s Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon by removing the vav prefix and searching alphabetically (see here). They both come from the root רע״ע. Let’s compare the parsing of four relevant forms that all come from this root.

רַע qal perfect 3ms
Found in: Isaiah 3:11 (in pause as רָע)
הֵרַע hiphil perfect 3ms
Found in: Exodus 5:23; Ruth 1:21; 2 Kings 21:11; Psalms 74:3
וַיֵ֫רַע qal vav-consecutive imperfect 3ms
Found in: Genesis 21:11; 38:10; 48:17; 1 Samuel 8:6; 18:8; 2 Samuel 11:27; 1 Chronicles 21:7; Nehemiah 2:10; 13:8; Psalms 106:32; Isaiah 59:15; Jonah 4:1
וַיָ֫רַע hiphil vav-consecutive imperfect 3ms
Found in: 1 Kings 16:25

We see that the difference between וַיֵּ֫רַעwas bad” and וַיָּ֫רַעcaused bad” is the tsere in the one and the kamats in the other. These correspond to the imperfects יֵרַע (qal: yēraʿ) and יָרֵעַ (hiphil: yārēaʿ).

The form in Jonah is in the qal, and Holladay’s Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (CHALOT) has the following for this root in the qal (the red is added):

I רעע‎: qal: pf. רַע‎, רָֽע‎, וְרָעָֽה‎, רָעוּ‎; impf. יֵרַע‎, וַיֵּֽרַע‎, יַֽרְעוּ‎; impv. רֹ֫עוּ‎ Is 89 (but rd דְּעוּ‎ ?); inf. רֹעַ‎: — 1. be bad, of no more use (of boughs) Je 1116 (if txt. good); — 2. raʿ bᵉʿênê be displeasing to Gn 2111f; wayyēraʿ lᵉ Ne 210, ʾel Jon 41; — 3. rāʿâ ʿênô bᵉ look coldly on ( Dt 159; — 4. yēraʿ lᵉbābô is discontented 1S 18; — 5. wayyēraʿ lô things went wrong for Ps 10632; — 6. yērᵉʿû pānay I look sad Ne 23; — 7. raʿ lᵉ … min … it is worse for … than … 2S 198.

Taking this definition, which specifically mentions Jonah 4:1, we would translate the phrase וַיֵּ֫רַע אֶל־יוֹנָה as ‘and it was displeasing to Jonah.’ The KJV, NKJV, and RSV all render it identically as “it displeased Jonah exceedingly,” while the NIV says “to Jonah this seemed very wrong.” The addition of רָעָה גְדוֹלָה is like the expression וַיִּירְאוּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה ‘the men feared a great fear’ (Jonah 1:10), meaning “were very afraid.” The repetition of the root concept essentially intensifies the verb. If it means ‘it was displeasing to Jonah,’ then the addition of this phrase takes on the sense of ‘very displeasing.’ The Septuagint (LXX) translates the verb in the passive (ἐλυπήθη) with Jonah as the subject (ἐλυπήθη Ἰωνᾶς λύπην μεγάλην – “Jonah was vexed a great vexing”), while the Vulgate uses a perfect passive (afflictus est Ionas afflictione magna — “Jonah was afflicted with great affliction”). The various translations evidence the difficulty of the word but all point us in the same general direction.

In Spanish, one says me gusta (“it pleases me”) when in English we say “I like.” For example, “I like this book” would be translated into Spanish as “Me gusta este libro” in a more indirect way. This is what we see happening with this verse. Instead of saying directly that Jonah was unhappy, it takes an indirect route and says “It was displeasing to Jonah.”

Jonah 4:1
וַיֵּ֥רַע אֶל־יוֹנָ֖ה רָעָ֣ה גְדוֹלָ֑ה וַיִּ֖חַר לֽוֹ׃
And Jonah was very displeased, and he became angry.

Of course, the thing that “got hot” (וַיִּ֫חַר) to Jonah was his nose, which is missing from phrase. 🙂

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