Ugh. I woke up with a cold this morning. Please forgive this somewhat out of context excerpt from an assignment I did regarding the meaning of a Hebrew word found in the Book of Jonah: הָפַךְ
You can look over my further meanderings here: Assignment(7)
Question: What is at issue as regards the meaning of הָפַךְ (Hapek)?
As mentioned in class, whether, in this context, the word Hapak means destruction or change changes the interpretation of the book of Jonah: Did Jonah’s prophecy come true? If Jonah’s prophecy was that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, then he was not a prophet of God. However, given the alternative translation of Hapak, if Jonah’s prophecy was that Nineveh would be changed, then he would not have been shown to be a false prophet.
Furthermore, given that the Ninevites hoped for God’s “compassion” even while believing God had already declared that they would “perish,” could an ambiguity not have been in God’s ultimate plan? Would God purposely hide the meaning of his words so as to accomplish his words?
Though this isn’t really a part of the question of “significant issue(s),” perhaps there is a nesting of meanings: in a sense, to change something is to destroy what that something was. From a point of view, a repentant Nineveh is a destroyed Nineveh: The Nineveh before is not the Nineveh after. If the word is destroy, then it can concurrently be change, but radical change. Perhaps both meanings of the word are true in this context.
If the word means destroyed, and God relented of the destruction, what should we say? In Jonah 3:10, what God relents of is not Hapak. Is it possible that Hapak was meant to be ambiguous? that the prophecy was in fact a crossroads for Nineveh? Was it implicit within the prophecy that Hapak must have one meaning? The analogy of quantum position seems to be in order where, until a later time, the position of say a photon is undetermined until it is observed: Could the meaning of Jonah’s prophecy have only been truly understood once observed? This would seem to fit prophecies like those found in the books of Daniel and Revelation, however, those prophecies seem to be an entirely different form than the one found in the book of Jonah.