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									                                   The Book of Jonah
                                                 Chapter 2

Jonah’s Petition – Jonah 2:1-10
Jonah 2:1 – Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish,
When Jonah prayed is uncertain. Did he pray upon entering the mouth of the fish? Did he pray
after the three days? The text is ambiguous. Regardless, Jonah puts into prayer his feelings as he
was thrown into and sank into the sea. Verse 7 seems to speak of a deliverance already
experienced rather than of one expected.1 There is some debate as to whether Jonah was truly
penitent in his prayer. Some believe that it was only after three days of fear that Jonah conceded.
He was not truly sorry, but he had no other alternative. We believe that there was some form of
true repentance in Jonah’s heart. How else could Jonah pray the words that he does? Why else
would God allow him back on shore? Three days in the belly of the fish allowed Jonah ample
time to reflect on his actions and be moved to a godly sorrow. While it is a prayer that stems
from a heart of repentance, it is primarily a prayer of thanksgiving. Jonah is thanking God for
saving him from the sea, not the fish. There is no mention of the fish in his prayer. Perhaps,
having almost drowned, Jonah fainted to find himself in the belly of the fish. In being rescued,
Jonah found hope of further salvation and prayed for such (2:9). That Jonah pray to “his God”
shows a change of heart. Before Jonah was fleeing the presence of God, he now seeks the Lord.2
Chastening is God’s method of bringing us to repentance.3

Jonah 2:2 – and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried
for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.
We are told here that when Jonah was thrown overboard that he immediately called upon God. It
appears that Jonah is paraphrasing Psalm 18:6.4 Throughout his prayer of thanksgiving, Jonah
1
 As this “prayer” does not suit an allegory, and as no one but Jonah could have known its substance, we have here
an argument for his authorship. Deane, p.43
2
  Some critics claim that Jonah 2:2-9 was added to Jonah and has no place. They claim that the prayer of 2:1 is not
the psalm of thanksgiving in 2:2-9. One critic says of verse 5 that “weeds do not grow in a fish’s belly.” Critics also
say that if put together, verse 1 and 10 reads smoothly. We answer such critics with the following. 1) If we remove
2:2-9 from the book it destroys the symmetry to the book. 2) There is no conflict between a prayer and psalm of
thanksgiving. Prayer contains thanksgiving as a natural part. 3) Of course weeds don not grow in a fish’s belly.
Jonah is not thanking God for delivering him from the fish, but from the depths of the sea. 4) That some say there is
nothing in his psalm of thanksgiving that connects to Jonah’s experience is utterly absurd.
3
    Compare Hebrews 10:32-39; 12:3-11; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; 12:7-10; James 1:2-4.
4
 After three days in the belly of the fish, Jonah has had ample time to gather his thoughts and in a sense “compose”
his prayer to God. Compare also Psalm 70:1; 28:1-2; 130:1-2.



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                                               The Book of Jonah
                                                   Chapter 2
will make frequent mention of the Psalms. This does not mean that one copied the other, but that
Jonah was a Hebrew and a Prophet and familiar with the Scriptures. Sheol or the Septuagint
“Hades” is the place of the dead. It is an intermediate place where both the wicked and righteous
went before the time of Christ.5 It was made up of two parts, the place of torment and Abraham’s
Bosom (or Paradise). After Christ, the wicked continue to go to Hades to await judgment and
eventually Hell, where as the righteous and all who were in Paradise were brought with Christ
toward Heaven.6 Likely Jonah’s prayer is for himself and also prophetic of Christ. We previously
noted the correlation between Jonah and Jesus at 1:17. Just as David wrote prophetically
“…because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo
decay”7 as a description, not of himself, but of Christ, Jonah also say “I cried for help from the
depth of Sheol…” Perhaps Jonah had fainted while drowning only to wake up in the belly of the
fish. It would have taken him some time to realize that he had not died and been in Sheol. To be
cast into the sea was to be sent to your death. Jonah had not died, though he would have
understood his situation to be no different. But truly it was Christ who would cry from the depth
of Sheol and God would raise Him. As God answered Jonah and raised him from “death” by the
belly of the fish, He also raised Jesus.

Jonah 2:3 – For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current
engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
Though the ship’s crew had physically thrown Jonah overboard, Jonah knew they were only the
instruments God used. God was responsible for his predicament, not the sailors. Jonah quotes
Psalm 42:7, “All Your breakers and billows passed over me.” He transfers what is said there
metaphorically to himself literally. He had been swallowed by the sea. Jonah acknowledges that
the punishment endured was from God and that God’s point had been made.

Jonah 2:4 – “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again
toward Your holy temple.’
Jonah understood his punishment to be from God. At first Jonah says that he fully expected to
die, as anyone would if cast into the sea. And though he was chastised by God, Jonah knew that
God was still the only One he could turn to. Faith and hope were victorious over his
despondency. It would appear that Psalm 31:22 influenced this part of his prayer. That Jonah was
“expelled from (God’s) sight” means to fall outside of God’s protective care. Jonah had forfeited
such favor with God when he fled the presence of God and abandoned his duties.8 “Your holy
temple” may not be a reference to Jonah worshipping again in the temple of Jerusalem, but of
God’s holy temple in heaven. The Jews often would pray in the direction of the temple in
Jerusalem,9 but the temple in heaven is where God currently resides and is where He works from.



5
    Luke 16:19-31
6
    Compare Psalm 18:5; Ezekiel 32:21; 1 Peter 3:19-20; Ephesians 4:8; Revelation 20:14-15.
7
    Psalm 16:10
8
    Compare 1 Samuel 26:24; 1 Kings 8:29.
9
    See Daniel


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                                              The Book of Jonah
                                                  Chapter 2
This is not Jonah’s hope to be back in Jerusalem, but to find God’s favor once more; to seek His
salvation.10

Jonah 2:5 – “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds
were wrapped around my head.
Jonah continues the description of his plunge in the sea from verse 3. As noted before, the sea
was a picture of chaos and death in the ancient world. There was no hope that could be found for
any who fell into its watery abyss. As Jonah sunk beneath the waves he was sure that he would
perish. That water encompassed him shows that he had sunk considerably before being
swallowed by the fish. “Encompassed me to the point of death” is literally “was poured into my
soul.” Jonah describes his utter destruction. Every part of Jonah’s being was punished by the sea.
That the “weeds were wrapped around” Jonah’s head means that he had reached the bottom of
the sea before being swallowed by the fish. This may be more of an exaggeration to describe his
troubles, or perhaps Jonah was not in a terribly deep part of the sea. Perhaps it was deep enough
to drown anyone in it, but not too deep that he would die before reaching the bottom.

Jonah 2:6 – “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me
forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
While it is possible that Jonah actually sank to the bottom of the sea before being swallowed by a
fish, it is more likely he is using a hyperbole to describe his circumstances. The “roots of the
mountains” were thought to be in the sea. In other words, Jonah could not go any lower into the
sea as he was.11 That the earth’s “bars” were around Jonah means that he, by no power he
owned, could hope to return to land or life. Being at the “roots of the mountains,” Jonah looked
at the dry land and earth as a walled city. This description reflects his dire situation. But, Jonah
says, despite his situation being hopeless, God rescued him. Though Jonah was about to die God
saved him with the belly of a fish. The “pit” is a synonym for Sheol, the place of the dead. Many
writers in Scripture make this same connection.12 This, too, has a Messianic prediction imbedded
in it. God would not allow for Jesus to remain in Sheol, but would raise him from death.

Jonah 2:7 – “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You,
into Your holy temple.
Upon the point of drowning, Jonah remembered the Lord and prayed. Do to the physical,
spiritual and emotional exhaustion Jonah suffered as he sank into the sea, Jonah soon began to
drown. A man can on average hold his breath underwater for around 5 minutes, it he has
prepared to do so. Jonah likely has not swum in the sea before. He would be fortunate to survive



10
  Psalm 11:4; 18:6. In some ways Jonah reminds us of the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32). It may not be that Jonah
was hoping for salvation when he says, “Nevertheless, I will look again” but it may mean Jonah is determined to
pray to God despite his banishment.
11
  Those who believe that Jonah literally went to the bottom of the sea fail to explain how the earth could literally
bar someone to the bottom of the ocean. It is clear that Jonah is by way of hyperbole expressing that his situation
had been hopeless. Certainly Jonah sank for a while before being swallowed by the fish, but not to the bottom of the
sea.
12
     Psalm 30:3


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                                                The Book of Jonah
                                                    Chapter 2
for a minute! But in the moment that he would lose consciousness, Jonah remembered to call
upon the name of the Lord.13 Jonah’s prayer, it says, went “into (God’s) holy temple.”

Jonah 2:8 – “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness,
Jonah contrasts the joy and comfort arising from the thought of God with the miserable fate of
idolaters.14 Since Nineveh was an idolatrous city, maybe Jonah had them in mind? Or perhaps
the sailors on the ship who had each called on their different gods? Is Jonah remembering the
idolatry of his people? In any case, Jonah makes certain that regarding idols is a vanity. There
can be no good that comes from worshipping an invention of man.15 There is some confusion
concerning “forsake their faithfulness.” Is it Jonah is recalling the unfaithfulness of Israel which
resulted in her captivity? Is it Jonah is referring to any who call on idols abandon being faithful
to God? Is it that those who turn to idols find themselves forsaking the faithfulness of God; that
they are no longer under His Divine care or protection? We opt that Israel is Jonah’s primary
subject, though any of the other views are plausible.

Jonah 2:9 – “but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have
vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”
“…but I” contrasts Jonah with the sins of the idolaters. Jonah makes his promise here to fulfill
the charge the Lord gave him and vows be obedient once more and go to Nineveh.16 He does not
promise to sacrifice again in Jerusalem, but offers up a sacrifice of thanksgiving, as was the only
sacrifice one could make from the belly of a fish.17 That “Salvation is from the Lord” indicates
that Jonah understands that his only hope lies with God.18 Not only since he was saved from the
sea by the fish appointed by God, but also because only God could complete his salvation by
returning Jonah to dry land. Furthermore, Jonah understands his role as a prophet to Nineveh. It
is not his to choose whether others should be saved because it is God who saves.19

Jonah 2:10 – Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.
Upon Jonah’s petition and promise to obey the Lord, God then relents and allows Jonah back
upon dry land. It is phenomenal that Jonah survived being in the stomach of the fish. How did he
breathe? With water rushing into the fish constantly, Jonah even in the fish should have died. But
we remember that the same God who appointed the fish was able to sustain Jonah and able to
command the fish to release Jonah. He is in control of all things!20 How strange that the fish


13
     Compare Psalm 119:55; 142:3; 143:4, 7
14
     Psalm 31:6 – Compare also Jeremiah 18:15; Hosea 12:11; Romans 1:18ff; 1 Corinthians 8:4.
15
     Isaiah 40:18-23; 41:21-24; Acts 17:22-29
16
     Psalm 50:14; 66:13
17
     See Leviticus 7:12; Psalm 42:5.
18
     Psalm 3:8; 118:14, 21; Revelation 7:10
19
  The Septuagint and the Vulgate join “salvation is from the Lord” to the preceding, reading “That which I have
vowed I will pay to the Lord for my salvation.” This is tame, and not in strict accordance with the Hebrew.



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                                               The Book of Jonah
                                                   Chapter 2
immediately obeyed God and vomited out a prophet who did not! The fish’s purpose complete,
by some secret influence then ejects Jonah upon dry land on the third day after he was
swallowed. Some, who regard the Book of Jonah as an historical allegory, see in these three days
an adumbration of the period of the Babylonian captivity, during which Israel was buried in
darkness, and from which she raised to a new and happier life. They compare, as referring to the
same transaction, Jeremiah 51:34, 44 and Hosea 6:1-2.21 Jonah likely found himself on the
shores of Palestine from where he started, even possibly near Joppa.22




20
 This is not the first time that God has imposed His will on nature. See Numbers 22:21-30 (Balaam’s donkey);
Matthew 2:2, 9 (the star over Bethlehem).
21
   One major problem with the allegorical view is that it is inconsistent throughout the Book of Jonah. If being in the
fish was Israel in exile, it would mean that Israel was in exile because she did not preach to the nations. Israel was
not in exile for a failure to preach to the heathens, but because of her sins of idolatry. Furthermore, the story of
Jonah could not only be an allegory of Christ. It would have no attainable or beneficial meaning to the Israelites
before the exile. It would also imply that Jonah had to sin in order to create the allegory. If Jonah had not been
disobedient, there would be no fish. Scripture will use sin to illustrate points, but it does not make any suggestion
that sin must occur in order to make a lesson or type possible. See our introductory notes why we opt to take the
historical position over the allegorical.
22
   We have no reason to believe that Jonah was delivered on a shore not far from Nineveh or anywhere else. It is
clear from the account that Jonah was not long at sea before the storm hit and three days would be sufficient for a
fish to travel to Palestine. Furthermore, to have Jonah on the shore next to Nineveh would detract from his
obedience in going to Nineveh.


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