A New Look at the Biological Sex/Grammatical Gender of Jonah’s Fish

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Abstract

This article proposes a new understanding of the form דגה in Jonah 2:2. As is relatively well-known among biblical scholars, the fish in Jonah seemingly changes biological sex / grammatical gender within the narrative. While Jonah 2:1 and 11 appear to refer to a m.sg. fish, Jonah 2:2 speaks of a f.sg. fish. This intricate textual situation has generated a wide range of more or less fanciful interpretations, ranging from text-historical solutions, via narratological suggestions, to the appearance of multiple fish. The present paper challenges these suggestions and ultimately argues that the form דגה in Jonah 2:2 is a lengthened nominal form. These extremely rare forms often appear in the end of a clause. Other examples of such forms are attested in Job 34:13; 37:12; and Ezek 8:2, as well as in the geographical name Jahaz / Jahza. The current Masoretic accentuation of דגה as a f.sg. form is a result of a misunderstanding of this archaic longer form.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-323
Number of pages17
JournalVetus Testamentum
Volume67
Issue number2
Early online dateNov 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • masoretic accentuation
  • Hebrew syntax
  • Hebrew grammar
  • exegesis
  • history of interpretation
  • Jonah
  • pausal forms

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