Puns In The Tanakh: Jonah – Shadow And Deliver

In our lessons on the Treasures of the Tanakh, we have seen examples of Acrostics, Atbash Codes, Gematria, Poetry and Verses With Deeper Meanings. (Make sure you visit our Hebrew Gematria blog as well!) In addition to these, the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) also has frequent Puns or Plays On Words. These illustrate how rich the original Hebrew of the Tanakh is. Puns are impossible to capture in a translation, and by reading the Tanakh in the original Hebrew, you see the true beauty of the Hebrew Bible which is missing in a translation.

A lovely example of a pun in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is in Jonah, where we read:

Jonah 4:6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. (KJV)

In Hebrew, the verse is as follows:

Hebrew verse from the Tanakh (Jonah 4:6)
In this verse from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), there is a pun on the Hebrew words for shadow (tsel) and to deliver (lehatsil). The pun is shown in red in the English and Hebrew above. If you were reading this in English, even in the "best possible" translation, you would be completely unaware of this play on words. Thus, reading the Tanakh in Hebrew makes you aware of the depth and beauty of the original Hebrew. While you might understand the meaning in an English translation, you will never be aware of how poetic and amazing the original inspired Hebrew actually is. Spending some time and effort in learning Hebrew so that you can read the Tanakh is well worth every moment it takes. You will never look back. Reading a translation is just not the same.

There are dozens of similar puns in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and this web site provides a few examples. Puns like these illustrate the elegance and beauty you miss when you only study a translation of the Tanakh. You miss out on the plays on words, on poetry, on the mind of YHWH as he pleads with His people Israel.

Why not study the Tanakh in Hebrew? Why not see for yourself what you miss in a translation? You will be greatly enriched by what you read, and you will grow in your love for YHWH

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