Jonah 2:2
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.
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(2) By reason of mine affliction.—See margin. There is a close correspondence between this opening and that of Psalms 120 Comp. also Psalm 18:6.

Out of the belly of hell.—This remarkable expression—a forcible figure for imminent death—has its nearest parallel in Isaiah 5:14, where sheôl (see Psalm 6:5) is represented as opening a huge mouth to swallow the princes of the world and their pomp. The under-world represents the Hebrew word sheôl more nearly than hell or the grave (margin). (Comp. Psalm 18:5; Psalm 30:3.)

And thou heardest . . .—The conjunction is unnecessarily introduced. The sudden change of person, a frequent figure in Hebrew poetry, is more striking without the connecting word.

2:1-9 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.I cried by reason of mine affliction - , or, "out of affliction" which came "to me." So the Psalmist thanked God in the same words, though in a different order ; "To the Lord in trouble to me I called, and He heard me." He "called," and God heard and answered , "He does not say, I "call," but I "called"; he does not pray for the future, but gives thanks for the past." Strange cause of thankfulness this would seem to most faith, to be alive in such a grave; to abide there hour after hour, and day after day, in one unchanging darkness, carried to and fro helplessly, with no known escape from his fetid prison, except to death! Yet spiritual light shone on that depth of darkness. The voracious creature, which never opened his mouth save to destroy life, had swallowed him, to save it . "What looked like death, became safe-keeping," and so the prophet who had fled to avoid doing the will of God and to do his own, now willed to be carried about, he knew not where, at the will; as it seemed, of the huge animal in which he lay, but in truth, where God directed it, and he gave thanks. God had heard him. The first token of God's mercy was the earnest of the whole. God was dealing with him, was looking on him. It was enough.

Out of the belly of hell cried I.-- The deep waters were as a grave, and he was counted "among the dead" Psalm 88:4. Death seemed so certain that it was all one as if he were in the womb of hell, not to be reborn to life until the last Day. So David said Psalm 18:5, "The bands of death compassed me round about;" and Psalm 30:3, "Thou hast drawn my life out of hell." The waters choked his speech; but he cried with a loud cry to God Who knew the heart. "I cried; Thou heardest." The words vary only by a kindred letter . The real heart's cry to God according to the mind of God and His hearing are one, whether, for man's good, He seem at the time to hear or no.

"Not of the voice but of the heart is God the Hearer, as He is the Seer. Do the ears of God wait for sound? How then could the prayer of Jonah from the inmost belly of the whale, through the bowels of so great a creature, out of the very bottomless depths, through so great a mass of waters, make its way to heaven?" "Loud crying to God is not with the voice but with the heart. Many, silent with their lips, have cried aloud with their heart; many, noisy with their lips, could, with heart turned away, obtain nothing. If then thou criest, cry within, where God heareth." "Jonah cried aloud to God out of the fish's belly, out of the deep of the sea, out of the depths of disobedience; and his prayer reached to God, Who rescued him from the waves, brought him forth out of the vast creature, absolved him from the guilt. Let the sinner too cry aloud, whom, departing from God, the storm of desires overwhelmed, the malignant Enemy devoured, the waves of this present world sucked under! Let him own that he is in the depth, that so his prayer may reach to God."

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 Jon 2:2, Ps 120:1; in Jon 2:3, Ps 42:7; in Jon 2:4, Ps 31:22; in Jon 2:5, Ps 69:1; in Jon 2:7, Ps 142:3; 18:6; in Jon 2:8, Ps 31:6; in Jon 2:9, Ps 116:17, 18, and 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 (Ps 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.

And said: the former verse was a general account that he prayed, this word in the front of this verse is a transition to a more full account of his prayer, what for substance, and somewhat of the words also.

I cried; not with a loud voice of the tongue, as it was not ordinarily feasible in so close a prison, so nor was it necessary he should, where none were to hear but his God, who heareth the strongest desires, and accounts them the strongest cries; so Jonah cried with his whole heart.

By reason of mine affliction; distress, or straits with which he was encompasseth and close besieged; nor was there ever closer siege laid to any one, his body and mind both shut up, the one by the monstrous dungeon of the fish’s belly, and the other by the terrors of the Almighty.

Unto the Lord: it was in many respects fit Jonah should petition God, for he was committed by his special warrant, and none either had power or authority to deliver him but God.

He heard me: though Jonah say not how God did hear, in what particular, yet he knew both how and in what; the support of his person, the exercise of his reason, the workings of his heart toward God, and a hope or assurance that lie should be delivered, were part of the mercy God gave, and he prayed for.

Out of the belly of hell cried I; the grave, so Sheol; so it was as dark to Jonah, and had been as destructive too, if mercy had not prevented. This is doubled, to intimate both the prisoner’s earnestness, and the greatness of the mercy given to one that was as shut up in the grave.

Thou heardest my yoke; of his soul, whilst he was in that dismal dungeon; as above.

And said,.... Not unto the Lord in prayer, but to others, to whom he communicated what passed between God and him in this time of distress; how he prayed to him, and was heard by him; what a condition he had been in, and how he was delivered out of it; what was his frame of mind while in it, sometimes despairing, and sometimes hoping; and how thankful he was for this salvation, and was determined to praise the Lord for it:

I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; or, "out of my strait" (a); being straitened in his body, and as it were in a prison in the fish's belly; and straitened in his soul, being between hope and despair, and under the apprehensions of the divine displeasure. A time of affliction is a time for prayer; it brings those to it that have disused it; it made Jonah cry to his God, if not with a loud voice, yet inwardly; and his cry was powerful and piercing, it reached the heavens, and entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts, though out of the depths, and out of the belly of a fish, in the midst of the sea:

out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice; or, "out of the belly of the grave" (b); out of the midst of it; that is, out of the belly of the fish, which was as a grave to him, as Jarchi observes; where he lay as out of the land of the living, as one dead, and being given up for dead: and it may also respect the frame of his mind, the horror and terror lie was in, arising from a sense of his sins, and the apprehensions he had of the wrath of God, which were as a hell in his conscience; and amidst all this he cried to God, and he heard him; and not only delivered him from he fish's belly, but from those dreadful apprehensions he had of his state and condition; and spoke peace and pardon to him. This is a proof that this prayer or thanksgiving be it called which it will, was composed, as to the form and order of it, after his deliverance; and these words are an appeal to God for the truth of what he had said in the preceding clause, and not a repetition of it in prayer; or expressing the same thing in different words.

(a) "ex angustia mea", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "ex arcto mihi", Cocceius. (b) "e ventre sepulchri", Calvin, Piscator, Liveleus; "e ventre sepulchrali", Junius & Tremellius.

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly {b} of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

(b) For he was now in the fishes belly as in a grave or place of darkness.

2. and said] The prayer which follows falls naturally into three parts or divisions. In each of these the two elements of danger and deliverance, of need and help, appear. But they enter into them in very different proportions. Faith grows, and the prospect brightens at each fresh stage of the hymn. The first rises to prayer, the second to confidence, the third to thankfulness and praise.

I. Jonah 2:2-4.

(1)  Introduction, containing the general subject of the hymn: I cried and was heard, I was in trouble and was delivered. Jonah 2:2.

(2)  Description of the danger and distress. Jonah 2:3.

(3)  Faith triumphing over despondency and prompting to prayer. Jonah 2:4.

II. Jonah 2:5-6.

(1)  More vivid description of the danger and distress. Jonah 2:5-6 a.

(2)  Deliverance not only prayed for, but possessed. Jonah 2:6 b.

III. Jonah 2:7-9.

(1)  Prayer, offered in danger and distress, has been heard. Jonah 2:7.

(2)  God, no longer forsaken, but sought and recognised as the fountain of mercy, has granted deliverance which shall be acknowledged with sacrifices of thanksgiving and vows joyfully paid. Jonah 2:8-9 a.

(3)  All salvation, as this typical instance shows, is of God. Jonah 2:9 b.

The prayer is remarkable for its many resemblances in thought and expression to passages in the Book of Psalms. The words of the Psalter, however, are not exactly and literally quoted, but its ideas and phrases are freely wrought into the prayer, as if drawn from the well-stored memory of a pious Israelite, familiar with its contents, and naturally giving vent to his feelings in the cherished forms, which were now instinct for him with new life and meaning. The manner in which our English literature (not only sacred, but secular and even profane and infidel) abounds in Scripture imagery and phraseology may help us to understand how coincidences of this kind may have arisen, without any deliberate intention on the part of a later writer to copy from an earlier, or even any direct consciousness that he was doing so.

by reason of mine affliction] Rather, as in A.V. and R.V. margin, out of mine affliction, i.e. out of the midst of it, while it still compassed me about. The time referred to is when he was in the sea.

The first half of this verse is identical in the Heb. words, though not in their order, with Psalm 120:1, except that in the Psalm we have “in,” instead of “from” or “out of” mine affliction, and a lengthened form of the word for affliction is used. The coincidence cannot, however, be properly said to affect the date of the Book of Jonah. The Psalm, it is true, belongs to a collection which “in its present form must have been made after the return from Babylon,” but it by no means follows that no ode of the collection had been composed before that time. Besides, the whole sentence is, both in language and idea, too commonplace, so to speak, to be safely insisted upon as a quotation at all. Two quite independent writers may easily have lighted on it. And moreover, if quoted at all, it may owe its origin no less probably to Psalms 18, between which and the prayer of Jonah the resemblance, though less exact in this particular verse, is as a whole more close and striking. Comp. Psalm 18:6 (1st clause).

of hell] The unseen world, the place of the dead, amongst whom, when cast into the sea, he seemed already to be numbered. Comp. Psalm 18:5. “the sorrows of hell (or rather “the bonds of the unseen world”) compassed me about.”

Verse 2. - He introduces the prayer with the tact that he cried to God in distress and was heard. By reason of mine affliction; better, out of my affliction. This may be a reminiscence of Psalm 120:1 or Psalm 18:6; but from such coincidences nothing can be established concerning the date of the book. Like circumstances call forth like expressions; and the writers may have composed them quite independently of one another. Hell (Sheol). The unseen world (Ezekiel 32:21). He was as though dead when thus engulfed (comp. Psalm 18:5). Cried I (Psalm 28:1, 2). Thou heardest my voice (Psalm 130:1, 2). Jonah 2:22 I cried to Jehovah out of my distress, and He heard me;

Out of the womb of hell I:cried: Thou heardest my voice!

The first clause recals to mind Psalm 18:7 and Psalm 120:1; but it also shows itself to be an original reproduction of the expression מצּרה לי, which expresses the prophet's situation in a more pointed manner than בּצּר־לי in Psalm 17:1-15 and בּצּרתה לּי in Psalm 120:1-7. The distress is still more minutely defined in the second hemistich by the expression מבּטן שׁאול, "out of the womb of the nether world." As a throat or swallow is ascribed to she'ōl in Isaiah 5:14, so here it is spoken of as having a בטן, or belly. This is not to be taken as referring to the belly of the shark, as Jerome supposes. The expression is a poetical figure used to denote the danger of death, from which there is apparently no escape; like the encompassing with snares of death in Psalm 18:5, and the bringing up of the soul out of sheol in Psalm 30:3. In the last clause the words pass over very appropriately into an address to Jehovah, which is brought out into still greater prominence by the omission of the copula Vav.

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