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.
8. observe lying vanities—regard or reverence idols, powerless to save (Ps 31:6).
mercy—Jehovah, the very idea of whom is identified now in Jonah's mind with mercy and loving-kindness. As the Psalmist (Ps 144:2) styles Him, "my goodness"; God who is to me all beneficence. Compare Ps 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 (Jon 1:5), estrangement from God seems estrangement from his own happiness (Jer 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.