Several translations have "yet"... that Jonah, though banished from GOd's presence (in his mind) was expecting to see His temple (live? be restored?)

Jonah 2:5 (NIV) I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'

Other translations have "shall I, or how will I return to the temple.

(Brenton) (2:5) And I said, I am cast out of thy presence: shall I indeed look again toward thy holy temple?

(CEV) I thought I was swept away from your sight, never again to see your holy temple.

(GNB) I thought I had been banished from your presence and would never see your holy Temple again.

I would be interested in this being clarified. thanks Michael

  • And I — I said: I have been cast out from before Thine eyes, (Yet I add to look unto Thy holy temple!) Young's Literal.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 19:29

3 Answers 3


The Hebrew seems to have multiple possible readings. The word is אַ֚ךְ akh. In context:

וַאֲנִ֣י אָמַ֔רְתִּי נִגְרַ֖שְׁתִּי מִנֶּ֣גֶד עֵינֶ֑יךָ אַ֚ךְ אוֹסִ֣יף לְהַבִּ֔יט אֶל־הֵיכַ֖ל קָדְשֶֽׁךָ׃

I said, "I have been driven from before your eyes; akh I will look to the temple of your holiness."

I don't see any particular clues to read it as a question like "Shall I look?"

As far as I understand it, akh can mean "only", or can reinforce what is said, or contrast with it. (This might sound strange, but compare German doch.)

If it means "only", we might read "look to" as a concession ("I can only look; I'm not actually there"). But I don't think this is likely, since looking has powerful connotations in Hebrew that suggest real interaction with, not distance from. In fact, the use of "before your eyes" is just such an example.

If it means "surely" or "indeed", apparently looking on His temple is a reinforcement of being driven out from His presence. This doesn't make much sense, which is apparently why some translations render "I will never again look." But the verse doesn't include any negative particle!

If it means a contrast between the two halves, like "yet", it makes intuitive sense. However, in context, it seems like a sudden turnaround for Jonah to make at that moment. But the core of alb's answer, that this is more a reference to the hymn tradition rather than spontaneous expression, may resolve that issue. I believe Jonah's prayer is actually understood as a likely insertion.

Yet another reading is that Jonah "surely" looks to God's temple right now, figuratively, for salvation — much like the psalmist's "I lift my eyes to the mountains: whence comes my help?" (121:1). As far as I know, נָבַט nabat, the word used for "look", allows this reading among its figurative senses.

This is the reading I would personally opt for, in which case we can actually choose to translate akh as a contrastive ("I'm driven out, but I will look to my only hope") or as a confirmation ("I'm driven out; surely I will look for hope because of my dire situation") and it would make sense either way.

More than one commentary supports this reading, which I see as psalmlike and appropriate to the context. But others see a sudden expression of hope that he'll physically witness the temple again.

  • In English, "yet" is a synonym for "still" rather than an opposite, I think.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 15:23
  • @Ruminator It can be synonymous with either "but" or "still" or other words depending on the context, but whichever word we translate it as, one meaning of akh is contrastive. (Incidentally, even "still" can suggest a contrast: "It looks like it'll be cooler today than they forecasted... still, I think a walk would be nice.") Commented May 19, 2018 at 15:37
  • Reading it as a question resolves your issue with "surely, indeed": "I have been driven from before your eyes, indeed (yeah, if this is the case), shall I see your temple again (ever)?" The rhetoric intention probably triggers negative particles in some translations.
    – user2672
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 16:56
  • @Keelan ahk standing on its own separated from the next clause I'm not sure about. And even if it were a question (again, there are no specific clues), it wouldn't necessarily be rhetorical. The negative does seem unwarranted to me. Commented May 19, 2018 at 17:14
  • It wouldn't stand alone, it would introduce the question. I agree that the negative is unnecessary; the question yields understandable English. The clue for the question is akh.
    – user2672
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 17:16

As you have seen in other answers, the term here is אך, 'ak, and it has multiple different meanings. The Akkadian 'akkē means "surely, hence" and this is also the most common meaning in Hebrew. From this, the restrictive meaning "only" develops. A good example of this development is Ps 62:2, אַךְ־הוּא צוּרִי "yes, he is my rock" → "he alone is my rock".

In cases like this, where there is a clear predominant and more original meaning, it is always best to work with that meaning first, and only move on to other meanings if it really doesn't work out. This is a common cognitive linguistic method: if there are truly distinct meanings, a (native) listener/reader will automatically first attempt the most basic meaning. Hence to use another meaning there must be some concrete element in the sentence that would trigger the native recipient to use the non-basic meaning.

Long story short, אך as "indeed, surely", which is the common meaning in Hebrew (which has already developed slightly compared to the Akkadian cognate), gives a fine translation here and must be preferred.

And I, I said, "I have been driven away from before your eyes,
[Indeed →] Yea, will I again look to your holy temple [ever]?"

Perhaps most importantly, this reading is supported by an old Greek translation by Theodotion, who translated πῶς "how, how possibly". This leads some to suggest an amendation on the Hebrew to איך, a similar interrogative. While it is tempting, there are no manuscripts supporting it and the text as it stands does not give major problems.

Especially in poetry, the imperfect that אֹוסִיף "will I again" is can carry certain modal nuances which facilitate interrogative readings. If you are interested, see Gianto, 1998, 'Mood and Modality in Classical Hebrew', Israel Oriental Studies 18, 183–198. Other examples of this use that come to mind are in Job, for instance 39:2, תִּסְפֹּר יְרָחִים תְּמַלֶּאנָה "can you count the months they [some kind of young animal] will fulfill" (i.e., "can you know how old they will become"). The "will fulfill" and "can you" are both imperfects, but they must be read differently. "Will you count .." does not make sense in context, and for "they can fulfill" you would expect the modal verb יכל "to be able". Thus, the absence of an interrogative particle like ה־ is not a problem, especially considering that this is poetry.

This reading, in my opinion, also fits best in the context. Jonah, both before and after this verse, is deeply desperate; a sudden expression of hope is unlikely. A reference to Chronicles is even more unlikely, because Chronicles was composed centuries after Jonah. At best, the two share a common source.


4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

The KJV lists the word as “yet”; which would be the correct translation.

In Jonah Chapter 2, Jonah is referencing the prayer that Solomon prayed in 2 Chronicles 6. In that prayer, Solomon is asking for mercy. He asks the Lord to be merciful when Israel sins in the future. Note verses 36-39:

36 If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near; 37 Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; 38 If they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name: 39 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee.

In these verses, Solomon requests that when Israel sins to such a degree that God will carry them away from Israel to a foreign land, that if the people would then turn toward the land and toward the temple and asks once again for mercy, then God forgive their sin.

In the next chapter (2 Chronicles 7): God tells Solomon that He has heard his prayer of mercy and now has selected the temple as a house of sacrifice; not animal sacrifice but a sacrifice of prayer. Here is 2 Chronicles 7:

12 And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place.

Jonah is applying Solomon’s prayer to himself. He is acknowledging his sin of disobedience of refusing to go to Ninevah and that he has now been carried off to a foreign place far from Israel. He acknowledges that God has made the temple a house of sacrifice, a sacrifice of prayer. Note Johan’s words in Jonah Chapter 2:

1 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, 2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. 10 And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

When God heard Jonah's prayer of mercy which he prayed symbolically “looking toward” (as Solomon requested) the temple, God responds by having the fish release Jonah from his bondage.

  • thank you for clear and thoughtful response. it is very helpful as I missed the connection with Solomon's prayer completely. old age is setting in:)
    – revjarrett
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 16:00
  • Jonah was written relatively early, while Chronicles is late. Jonah thus cannot refer to Chronicles. Is there a parallel in Samuel-Kings? If not, the two have a common source at best. Also, "yet" for אך is unusual, so you have something to explain there as well.
    – user2672
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 16:10
  • @Keelan I understand the dating issue but I am not discounting the role of the Holy Spirit who moved in the prophets enabling them to act and write. Also, re: the word "yet"; I am speaking contextually not grammatically, as the context (understanding Solomon's prayer) fully supports "yet".
    – alb
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 18:23
  • @Keelan Oh and BTW, Matthew chapter 12, Christ makes reference to three things that He is greater than: the temple, Jonah and Solomon. In verse 7 Jesus specifically mentions the importance of mercy.
    – alb
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 19:57

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