The prayer of Jonah. (1-9) He is delivered from the fish. (10)
Verses 1-9 Observe when Jonah prayed. When he was in trouble, under the tokens of God's displeasure against him for sin: when we are in affliction we must pray. Being kept alive by miracle, he prayed. A sense of God's good-will to us, notwithstanding our offences, opens the lips in prayer, which were closed with the dread of wrath. Also, where he prayed; in the belly of the fish. No place is amiss for prayer. Men may shut us from communion with one another, but not from communion with God. To whom he prayed; to the Lord his God. This encourages even backsliders to return. What his prayer was. This seems to relate his experience and reflections, then and afterwards, rather than to be the form or substance of his prayer. Jonah reflects on the earnestness of his prayer, and God's readiness to hear and answer. If we would get good by our troubles, we must notice the hand of God in them. He had wickedly fled from the presence of the Lord, who might justly take his Holy Spirit from him, never to visit him more. Those only are miserable, whom God will no longer own and favour. But though he was perplexed, yet not in despair. Jonah reflects on the favour of God to him, when he sought to God, and trusted in him in his distress. He warns others, and tells them to keep close to God. Those who forsake their own duty, forsake their own mercy; those who run away from the work of their place and day, run away from the comfort of it. As far as a believer copies those who observe lying vanities, he forsakes his own mercy, and lives below his privileges. But Jonah's experience encourages others, in all ages, to trust in God, as the God of salvation.
Verse 10 Jonah's deliverance may be considered as an instance of God's power over all the creatures. As an instance of God's mercy to a poor penitent, who in distress prays to him: and as a type and figure of Christ's resurrection. Amidst all our varying experiences, and the changing scenes of life; we should look by faith, fixedly, upon our once suffering and dying, but now risen and ascended Redeemer. Let us confess our sins, consider Christ's resurrection as an earnest of our own, and thankfully receive every temporal and spiritual deliverance, as the pledge of our eternal redemption.
Jonah 2:1-10 . JONAH'S PRAYER OF FAITH AND DELIVERANCE.
1. his God--"his" still, though Jonah had fled from Him. Faith enables Jonah now to feel this; just as the returning prodigal says of the Father, from whom he had wandered, "I will arise and go to my Father" ( Luke 15:18 ).
out of the fish's belly--Every place may serve as an oratory. No place is amiss for prayer. Others translate, "when (delivered) out of the fish's belly." English Version is better.
2. His prayer is partly descriptive and precatory, partly eucharistical. Jonah incorporates with his own language inspired utterances familiar to the Church long before in Jonah 2:2 , Psalms 120:1 ; in Jonah 2:3 , Psalms 42:7 ; in Jon 2:4 , Psalms 31:22 ; in Jonah 2:5 , Psalms 69:1 ; in Jon 2:7 , Psalms 142:3 , 18:6 ; in Jonah 2:8 , Psalms 31:6 ; in Jonah 2:9 , Psalms 116:17 Psalms 116:18 , 3:8 . Jonah, an inspired man, thus attests both the antiquity and inspiration of the Psalms. It marks the spirit of faith, that Jonah identifies himself with the saints of old, appropriating their experiences as recorded in the Word of God ( Psalms 119:50 ). Affliction opens up the mine of Scripture, before seen only on the surface.
out of the belly of hell--Sheol, the unseen world, which the belly of the fish resembled.
3. thou hadst cast . . . thy billows . . . thy waves--Jonah recognizes the source whence his sufferings came. It was no mere chance, but the hand of God which sent them. Compare Job's similar recognition of God's hand in calamities, Job 1:21 , 2:10 ; and David's, 2 Samuel 16:5-11 .
4. cast out from thy sight--that is, from Thy favorable regard. A just retribution on one who had fled "from the presence of the Lord" ( Jonah 1:3 ). Now that he has got his desire, he feels it to be his bitterest sorrow to be deprived of God's presence, which once he regarded as a burden, and from which he desired to escape. He had turned his back on God; so God turned His back on him, making his sin his punishment.
toward thy holy temple--In the confidence of faith he anticipates yet to see the temple at Jerusalem, the appointed place of worship ( 1 Kings 8:38 ), and there to render thanksgiving [HENDERSON]. Rather, I think, "Though cast out of Thy sight, I will still with the eye of faith once more look in prayer towards Thy temple at Jerusalem, whither, as Thy earthly throne, Thou hast desired Thy worshippers to direct their prayers."
5. even to the soul--that is, threatening to extinguish the animal life.
weeds--He felt as if the seaweeds through which he was dragged were wrapped about his head.
6. bottoms of . . . mountains--their extremities where they terminate in the hidden depths of the sea. Compare Psalms 18:7 , "the foundations of the hills" ( Psalms 18:15 ).
earth with her bars was about me--Earth, the land of the living, is (not "was") shut against me.
for ever--so far as any effort of mine can deliver me.
yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption--rather, "Thou bringest . . . from the pit" [MAURER]. As in the previous clauses he expresses the hopelessness of his state, so in this, his sure hope of deliverance through Jehovah's infinite resources. "Against hope he believes in hope," and speaks as if the deliverance were actually being accomplished. Hezekiah seems to have incorporated Jonah's very words in his prayer ( Isaiah 38:17 ), just as Jonah appropriated the language of the Psalms.
7. soul fainted . . . I remembered the Lord--beautifully exemplifying the triumph of spirit over flesh, of faith over sense ( Psalms 73:26 , 42:6 ). For a time troubles shut out hope; but faith revived when Jonah "remembered the Lord," what a gracious God He is, and how now He still preserves his life and consciousness in his dark prison-house.
into thine holy temple--the temple at Jerusalem ( Jonah 2:4 ). As there he looks in believing prayer towards it, so here he regards his prayer as already heard.
8. observe lying vanities--regard or reverence idols, powerless to save ( Psalms 31:6 ).
mercy--Jehovah, the very idea of whom is identified now in Jonah's mind with mercy and loving-kindness. As the Psalmist ( Psalms 144:2 ) styles Him, "my goodness"; God who is to me all beneficence. Compare Psalms 59:17 , "the God of my mercy," literally, "my kindness-God." Jonah had "forsaken His own mercy," God, to flee to heathen lands where "lying vanities" (idols) were worshipped. But now, taught by his own preservation in conscious life in the fish's belly, and by the inability of the mariners idols to lull the storm ( Jonah 1:5 ), estrangement from God seems estrangement from his own happiness ( Jeremiah 2:13 , 17:13 ). Prayer has been restrained in Jonah's case, so that he was "fast asleep" in the midst of danger, heretofore; but now prayer is the sure sign of his return to God.
9. I will sacrifice . . . thanksgiving--In the believing anticipation of sure deliverance, he offers thanksgivings already. So Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 20:21 ) appointed singers to praise the Lord in front of the army before the battle with Moab and Ammon, as if the victory was already gained. God honors such confidence in Him. There is also herein a mark of sanctified affliction, that he vows amendment and thankful obedience ( Psalms 119:67 ).
10. upon the dry land--probably on the coast of Palestine.