Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
Verses 1-10. - Part I. JONAH'S PRAYER AND DELIVERANCE. Verses 1-9. - 1. Jonah, in the belly of the fish, offers a prayer of thanksgiving for his rescue from death by drowning, in which he sees a pledge of further deliverance. Verse 1. - Then Jonah prayed. These were his feelings when he sank in the waters and while he lay in his mysterious prison; he may have put them into their metrical form after his deliverance. The grammatical arrangement, and especially the language of ver. 7, seem to speak of a deliverance already experienced rather than of one expected. As this "prayer" does not suit an allegory, and as no cue but Jonah could have known its substance, we have here an argument for his authorship. It is rather a thanksgiving than a prayer - like that of Hennas (1 Samuel 2:1). When he realizes that he was saved from drowning, he uttered his gratitude, and saw that he might hope for further rescue. How he passed the three days we cannot tell; some have thought he was unconscious; but thin is, perhaps, hardly consistent with the notice of his praying, and with the action of his great Antitype, who, during his sojourn in the unseen world, "preached to the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:19). His God. He acknowledges Jehovah as his God. He had proved himself his by inspiration, by chastisement, and now by mercy (Pusey). The following prayer contains ample reminiscences of the Psalms, which would be familiar to a devout Israelite. Those quoted are mostly what have been considered to belong to David's time. if their date is really ascertained. But it is a matter of controversy, incapable of settlement, whether Jonah or the psalmist is the original.
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.
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).
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.
Verse 3. - He describes his danger and distress. Thou hadst cast; rather, thou didst cast, the sailors being the agents of the Divine will. Septuagint, ἀπέῥῬιψας. The deep; βάθη, "depths" (Septuagint); Exodus 15:8. In the midst; literally, in the heart; Septuagint, καρδίας θαλάσσης: galore, in corde maris. This defines more closely the previous expression. The floods; literally, the river. This may mean the current (as in Psalm 24:2), which in the Mediterranean Sea sets from west to east, and, impinging on the Syrian coast, turns north; or it may have reference to the notion, familiar to us in Homer. which regarded the ocean as a river. All thy billows and thy waves; πάντες οἱ μετεωρισμοί σου καὶ τὰ κύματά σου "all thy swellings and waves" (Septuagint); omnes gurgites tui, et fluctus tui (Vulgate). The former are "breakers," the latter "rolling billows." The clause is from Psalm 42:7, Jonah transferring what is there said metaphorically to his own literal experience, at the same time acknowledging God's hand in the punishment by speaking of "thy billows" (comp. Psalm 88:6, 7).
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
Verse 4. - Jonah confesses that he at first fully expected death; but faith and hope soon triumphed over despondency. I am cast out of thy sight. This was his thought when what is mentioned in ver. 3 happened unto him. The words are a reminiscence of Psalm 31:22, altered somewhat to suit Jonah's circumstances. The psalmist says, "I said in my haste." Jonah says simply, "I said," without any limitation; and for "I am cut off," Jonah uses, "I am cast out." Septuagint, ἀπῶσμαι - a strong term, implying banishment with violence. Out of thy sight; literally, frown before thine eyes; i.e. from thy protecting care (comp. 1 Samuel 26:24; 1 Kings 8:29). He who had fled from the presence of the Lord in Canaan fears that he has forfeited the favour of God. Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. I will turn in prayer to that holy place where thou dost manifest thy presence. The Jews were wont to turn towards Jerusalem when they prayed (comp. 1 Kings 8:30, etc.; Daniel 6:10; Psalm 18:6; Psalm 28:2). Some think that Jonah expresses a hope of worshipping again in the temple; but the turn of expression in the text hardly warrants this. Others refer the term to the heavenly temple, as they do in ver. 7; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 18:6.
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
Verses 5, 6. - In parallel clauses, Jonah describes still more vividly the horrors that surrounded him. Verse 5. - Compassed me about. Not the same word as in ver. 3. Septuagint, περιεχίθη μοι "was poured around me." Even to the soul; so as to reach his life (comp. Psalm 18:5; Psalm 69:1, 2; Lamentations 3:54). The depth closed me round about. The verb is the lame as in ver. 3, translated there, "compassed me about" Vulgate, abyssus vallavit me. The weeds (suph); seaweed. Jonah sank to the bottom before he was swallowed by the fish. The LXX. omits the word. The Vulgate gives pelagus, which is probably derived from the fact of the Red Sea being called "the Sea of Suph," the term being thence applied to any sea.
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.
Verse 6. - The bottoms of the mountains; literally, the cuttings off, where the mountains seem to be cut off by the ocean floor; the roots of the mountains. Αἰς σχισμὰς ὀρέων, "the clefts of the mountains" (Sop-tuagint); Psalm 18:15. The earth with her bars; as for the earth, her bars were about me; return to it was shut out for me; the gate by which I might return was locked behind me. He adds, forever, as it was to all appearance, because he had no power in himself of returning to earth and life. Yet; in spite of all, I am preserved. From corruption (shachath); as Job 17:14; de corruptione (Vulgate); so the Chaldee and Syriac; Septuagint, Ἀναβήτω ἐκ φθορᾶς ἡ ζωή μου (Alex.), Ἀναβήτω φθορὰ ζωῆς μου (Vatican), "Let my life arise from destruction;" or, "Let the destruction of my life [i.e. my destroyed life] arise." Jerome refers the word to the digestive process in the fish's stomach; it is probably merely a synonym for "death." The marginal rendering, "the pit," i.e. Sheol, is also etymologically correct (comp. Psalm 30:3). My God. He thankfully acknowledges that Jehovah has proved himself a beneficent God to him.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
Verse 7. - His prayer was heard. When my soul fainted within me; literally, was covered - referring, says Pusey, to that physical exhaustion when a film comes over the eyes, and the brain is mantled over. The clause is from Psalm 142:3 or Psalms 143:4. I remembered the Lord. That was his salvation (Psalm 119:55). He turned in thought to thine holy temple (ver. 4), the sanctuary where God's presence was most assured, like the psalmist in the wilderness (Psalm 63:2). or like the exiles by the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion (Psalm 137.).
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
Verse 8. - Jonah contrasts the joy and comfort arising from the thought of God with the miserable fate of idolaters. They that observe (Psalm 31:6); court, pay deference to, reverence. Lying vanities; Septuagint, μάταια καὶ ψευδῆ, "vain things and false." Idom (comp. Jeremiah 18:15; Hosea 12:11; 1 Corinthians 8:4). Their own mercy; i.e. their state of favour with God - the mercy shown to them, as "the mercies of [shown to] David" (Isaiah 55:3); or God himself, the Fountain of mercy and goodness (Psalm 144:2). Henderson translates, "forsake their Benefactor."
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
Verse 9. - But I - who know better than idolaters, and who have learned a new lesson of trust in God - I will sacrifice. Pusey notes that the Hebrew denotes rather, "I fain would sacrifice," as it depended, not on him, but on God, whether he was able to worship again in the Holy Land. His sacrifice of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:12, etc.) should be offered with prayer and praise (Psalm 42:5). That which I have vowed (Psalm 1:14; 66:13). Salvation is of the Lord. This is the conclusion to which his trial has brought him, the moral of the whole canticle (Psalm 3:8; Psalm 118:14, 21; Revelation 7:10). The LXX. and the Vulgate join this clause to the preceding, thus: "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.
And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Verse 10. - § 2. The fish casts up Jonah alive on the shore Verse 10. - Spake unto the fish. The punishment having done its work, the fish is impelled by some secret influence to eject Jonah on the dry land, on the third day after he was swallowed (Jonah 1:17). Some, who regard the Book of Jonah as an historical allegory, see in these three days an adumbration of the period of the Babylonish captivity, during which Israel was buried in darkness, and from which she rose to a new and happier life. They compare, as referring to the same transaction, Jeremiah 51:34, 44 and Hosea 6:1, 2 (see Dr. O.H.H. Wright, 'Exegetical Studies,' pp. 53, etc.). Upon the dry land. Probably on the coast of Palestine, whence he had started.