Jonah 2 - Outline of Jonah (Book Notes menu page)
Read through this short chapter (Jonah 2), before considering the study below.
1. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
Notice that, despite Jonah's rebellion and disobedience, the LORD was still "his God."
Sin had broken his fellowship with God. Yet, his relationship, as a servant of God, one of God's own people, remained unchanged.
Then Jonah prayed... -
The LORD went to great lengths to turn his servant back from his destructive ways. During the great storm, the ship's captain had awoken Jonah and asked him to pray, but there is no mention that he did. He confessed that his rebellion was the cause for their distress, but he could not bring himself to speak to the LORD... at least while the sailors were still working to save themselves and him. But in the belly of the great fish, with all hope of personal escape gone... then... he prayed...
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.
...out of the belly of hell cried I... - My situation is reason to turn to You, LORD.
'Hell' is the Hebrew word 'sheol,' which refers either to the grave or to the holding place for the spirits of dead men awaiting the final judgment. (This word is equivalent to the NT Greek word 'hades,' which also is often translated as 'hell' in the KJV. The word does not refer to the 'Lake of Fire' which is the place of eternal punishment for the unsaved. Rev 20:14)
     Some scholars believe that Jonah died and made his prayer from the place of departed spirits. The fish's belly had already become his grave. This thought is reinforced by v.6, in which Jonah says he was imprisoned in the earth 'for ever,' until the LORD 'brought up my life from corruption.'
     Jesus said that Jonah's three days in the belly of a fish was an illustration of His own death and resurrection (Mat 12:39-41). Jonah's actual death and resurrection would certainly complete the picture. But it is not necessary, because in his predicament, Jonah was as good as dead, in a place from which there was no escape, and where his body could not survive long, and would soon begin to corrupt. Only the LORD could bring him up from that situation. Also, remember that David, the psalmist, wrote figuratively 'out of the depths' of his own troubles (while he was still alive), and prophetically of the deeper sufferings of Christ (eg., Acts 2:25-31 quoting Psa 16:8-11).
Does Jonah's prayer sound too polished for the terrible situation in which he found himself?
  • This may be the edited version, compiled after his deliverance, while reviewing his experience on land.
  • Jonah, in and out of consciousness, for three days and nights, had nothing else to occupy his mind. He certainly could have composed a very concise analysis of his situation, in the light of what God's Word said about it.
  • Jonah quoted excerpts from several Psalms in his prayer. He may have quoted entire Psalms from memory during his ordeal. This also foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ, who quoted Psalms while on the cross (eg., Psa 22:1-3). Most of the Psalms, which Jonah quoted, are messianic, and find their fulfillment in Christ.
...I cried by reason of my affliction...
Jonah did not pray when things were going his way. But the LORD got his attention through his distress.
...unto the LORD, and he heard me...
Why should the wayward prophet think that God would hear him? Because passages of God's Word, which he had previously memorized, gave him that assurance. Jonah opens his prayer with words borrowed from the first verse of each of these psalms: Psa 120:1; 130:1-8; 142:1-7 (Note how Psalms 130 and 140, in their entirety, might speak comfort to his troubled heart, in his situation.)
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.
For thou hadst cast me... thy billows... thy waves... I am cast out of thy sight...-
Jonah prays: My situation is from You, LORD.
Because of Jonah's sin, God was pouring out his anger upon him.
...all thy billows and thy waves...-
He quotes Psa 42:7. This psalm is a prophetic prayer of the Messiah, in His distress. God the Father and God the Son yearned for one another from the depths of their being. The Son, always doing the Father's will, would bear God's wrath for the sins of others.
...I am cast out of thy sight...-
He quotes Psa 31:22, which is prophetic of the Messiah's distress in being separated from the Father for the sins of others. As Jesus gave up His life, He was praying Psa 31:5.
...yet I will look again toward thy holy temple...
Though the LORD had rightfully cast him down and out, by reason of his sinful rebellion, Jonah turns his heart, toward the Temple in Jerusalem, to appeal for mercy from the One who knew that his heart had turned back in repentance. (Here, Jonah lays claim to Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple. 1Kin 8:38,39)
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.
Jonah prays: My situation is hopeless apart from You, LORD.
  • He describes the suffocating entrapment, within the fish, beneath the ocean... where from all appearances, he is permanently buried.
    He borrows words from Psa 69:1-3, where we hear the voice of Christ, under the weight of our sins (as confirmed by later portions of the psalm. See Psa 69:7-9, 20-22).
  • He places his hope in the LORD. -
    "...Thou hast brought up my life from corruption."
    By faith, Jonah claims, for himself, a prophecy concerning the resurrection of the Messiah (Psa 16:10). Is he wrong to do so? No. This is actually a NT concept. Christian believers have entered into 'newness of life,' because they are identified with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom 6:3-5). Through faith in Him, we have passed out of spiritual death into life (Joh 5:24,25; 11:23-26). Having already received spiritual life in Christ, believers will be bodily changed and raised incorruptible, at Christ's return, regardless of whether they are physically dead or alive at that moment (1Cor 15:52-57). As Jonah prayed through these psalms concerning the person and work of the Messiah, he placed his faith in God's Word, believing that he would enter into eternal life, by God's merciful provision.
         But why does Jonah put the words of Psalm 16:10 into the past tense (in v.6)? Undoubtedly: Because he knew that God's Word is sure, he was absolutely certain of his eventual resurrection.
         Other explanations for his use of the past tense have been suggested: As a prophet, perhaps he already knew that the fish would cast him onto the shore alive. Or, perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, he wrote out his prayer after his deliverance.
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.
...I remembered the LORD...
Jonah had been trying to forget the LORD. But he was moved to turn to Him, when in distress with nowhere else to turn. prayer came in unto Thee, into thine holy temple...
Here is the assurance that God had heard his prayer, and would deliver him out of his troubles. This hope (confident expectation) is based on Psa 18:4-6. His prayer was not only directed to the Temple, but actually entered into the ears of the LORD Himself, who immediately went into action in behalf of the one praying.
     This also is a Messianic psalm. In His cry unto the LORD, we hear the agonies of the Savior who "hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows..." and upon whom "the LORD hath laid the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:4-6). In powerful response to the Messiah's prayer, the LORD gives Him victory over all enemies (including death and the grave, Psa 18:16-20), and exalts Him as His anointed King (eg., Psa 18:46-50).
     The believer has access to God's throne of grace, where we find grace to help in time of need, only because we are identified with the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 4:14-16).
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy...
Jonah prays: My situation is due to my sinful foolishness, LORD.
'Lying vanities' is one word {HB=shav', emptiness, nothingness, worthlessness, falsehood}.
  • Several different words, with similar meanings, are used of the idols and false gods of the heathen nations. The mariners forsook the emptiness of their false gods, when they received mercy from the LORD, who they came to embrace as the one true and living God (Jonah 1:16).
  • But Jonah, who knew the LORD, had fled from His presence, in vain pursuit of his own way (Jon 1:3). Refusing to submit to God, he had followed the deceitful 'sweet nothings' of his own invention. In turning away from Him, Jonah had forsaken the One who alone could provide the mercy that he needed (Psa 59:17).
    Having turned again to the LORD, he confesses his sinful foolishness in following his own self-will (a vanity).
    His words echo Psalm 144.
    • The LORD alone is the believer's strength and refuge (Psa 144:1,2).
    • Man is nothing, and helpless without the LORD (Psa 144:3,4, where 'vanity' is HB=hebel, a vapor).
    • The one who would walk with God, must continually be delivered from the emptiness of human thought and actions (Psa 144:7-11, where 'vanities' is HB=shav').
    • This psalm also has messianic overtones, as it looks forward to the One who will occupy David's throne (Psa 144:10), whose kingdom, being free of lying vanities, will be full of blessings from the LORD (Psa 144:12-15).
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.
Jonah prays: My situation is in Your hands, LORD.
No man can deliver himself. Nothing, that I can do, can even contribute to my salvation.
For like Jonah, I am as good as dead, in my sins.
The work of salvation is His alone... and He has done what He alone could do (Eph 2:1-7).
This verse (v.9) is a concise condensation of Psalm 116.
  • Salvation is of the LORD. - See the description of His gracious deliverance in Psa 116:1-9.
  • This salvation is reason for sacrifices of thanksgiving - Psa 116:17
  • This salvation is reason to pay my vows {to fulfill the commitments that I have promised} - Psa 116:12-14,18-19
    Jonah, the Jewish prophet, though responsible to lead, follows behind the gentile mariners, as he re-commits himself to wholly serve the LORD.
This psalm is also messianic.
  • The Savior who bore our sins and our sorrows, was raised out of death, into life (Psa 116:8,9).
  • He who drank the cup, by which He purchased our salvation, will drink the cup of rejoicing, in His kingdom, with His blood bought children (Psa 116:13,19; Mat 26:27-29).
  • The rejected One will be vindicated, as the One who truly is God's anointed Servant, born of a virgin, and raised from the bonds of death (Psa 116:16).
    The Salvation, which is of the LORD, is in this One (Isa 49:5,6).
10. And the LORD spake unto the fish,
and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry [land].
The chapter begins with Jonah praying to the LORD. It ends with the LORD speaking to the fish.
The LORD prepared the fish to get Jonah's attention. Jonah repented, was reconciled to the LORD, and surrendered to His will. The LORD had taught his servant a difficult lesson. The fish 'classroom' was no longer needed. The LORD was about to mercifully restore his servant, and put him to a test.

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