Jon 2:1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.
‘God and his servant Jonah had parted in anger, and the quarrel began on Jonah’s side; he fled from his country that he might outrun his work; but we hope to see them both together again, and the reconciliation begins on God’s side.’ (MHC)
William Jenkyn (1613-1685)
Jonah prayed to the Lord his God – ‘Though we bring our afflictions upon ourselves by our sins, yet, if we pray in humility and godly sincerity, we shall be welcome to the throne of grace, as Jonah was.’ (MHC)
‘Many that prayed not at all, or did but whisper prayer, when they were in prosperity, are brought to pray, nay, are brought to cry, by reason of their affliction; and it is for this end that afflictions are sent, and they are in vain if this end be not answered.’ (MHC)
‘Whether or not he remained conscious at all times, Jonah was sufficiently alert some time during his days in the fish or whale to realize that he had not drowned but was being kept alive, and to utter the thanksgiving psalm that follows in vs 2-9. The form and structure of the psalm indicate that Jonah well understood that he had been given life instead of the death he deserved.’ (NBC)
‘A thanksgiving psalm was a musical poem prayed in gratitude after deliverance from some sort of threat or misery. Twelve psalms in the Psalter are exclusively or partially individual thanksgiving psalms. (Ps 18,21,30,32,34,40,66,92,103,108,116,118) Six are exclusively or partly corporate (community) thanksgiving psalms. (Ps 65,67,75,107,124,126) Such psalms are also found outside the Psalter. (e.g. 1 Sam 2:1-10 Isa 38:9-20) Thanksgiving psalms have usually five elements: (i) an introductory statement of appreciation for rescue; (ii) a description of the misery rescued from; (iii) a description of the appeal for rescue; (iv) an indication of the rescue itself; and (v) a testimonial or vow to continue to show gratitude via future worship. The psalm of Jonah includes all five elements, in the order listed above. There is no way to tell whether Jonah composed this psalm himself (as a prophet he was a musical poet by training) or whether he simply used a psalm he already knew to express his gratitude. At any rate, the psalm is an eloquent statement and may well have been polished before the event.’ (NBC)
‘The psalm is a moving testimony to the heart of Israel’s faith and to the heart of the prophet, but he still had much to learn. His vision of God’s mercy was still narrow.’ (New Geneva)
Jon 2:2 he said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”
There is nothing in this psalm which requires us to suppose that was composed either at this time, or with this very occasion in mind. It could apply equally well to deliverance (actual or anticipated) from any maritime disaster.
In my distress I called to the Lord – There is, however, no reference to any wrongdoing or repentance on Jonah’s part. This seems significant, given the book’s emphasis on repentance.
‘Many of us, when caught in very difficult circumstances, may find we have little thought to give to God’ instead, our overriding concern is to find help and a way our of all that causes us distress. Ultimately, we may be driven to prayer as a last resort, and, like Jonah, we may promise to praise God when he rescues us. Whether for Jonah or ourselves, the great wonder of this kind of prayer is that our Lord, in his great love towards us, condescends to deliver us out of our frequently self-inflicted mess. Here is a God more willing to hear than we are to pray, a God who knows the words on our lips before we speak them, but who longs for us to speak them so that we may know he has heard our prayer.’ (Nixon)
From the depths of the grave – lit. ‘from the belly of sheol’.
You listened to my cry – even though Jonah had refused to listen to God’s call, 1:2!
Jon 2:3 you hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
vv3-6a ‘These verses recount the misery Jonah was in. Several psalms use the metaphor of drowning as a kind of all-purpose statement of misery, so Jonah’s psalm should not be viewed as unique to his personal situation.’ (NBC)
You hurled me – ‘The mariners cast him there; but he looked above them, and saw the hand of God casting him there.’ (MHC)
The deep – the ‘fearful reality’ (Nixon) referred to in Gen 7:11 Ex 15:5 Isa 51:10.
Jon 2:4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
I said “I have been banished from your sight” – Quoting Ps 31:22. In fact, of course, it was Jonah who had fled form the presence of the Lord, 1:1!
Jon 2:5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
This second stanza ‘begins by dwelling on the greatness of the past peril in oder to enhance the magnitude of his present salvation and of his saving God.’ (Allen)
Jon 2:6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, oh LORD my God.
To the roots of the moutains I sank down – It has been claimed that this verse anticipates modern scientific discovery by demonstrating awareness of submarine mountains. It does nothing of the kind, of course. What it does do is demonstrate a common-sense awareness that the mountains that can be seen above sea-level have their ‘roots’ in the sea bed.
While most of this psalm quotes from different parts of the Psalter, the climax of vv5b and 6 are unique to Jonah, as though he needed new language to express his experience. ‘At the moment of greatest darkness and despair, when no human action…can release him, God breaks through all these suffocating layers, and draws his life out to safety.’ (Magonet)
‘The journey to Sheol, also known as “the Pit,” its location and its “bars,” point irrevocably to the finality of death…Jonah’s determination to run from the presence of the Lord was a flight to death’ (Nixon)
‘In telling of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, the writer is interested in much more than a humorous story. He is playing with the daring possbility of a person, or nation, descending into Sheol, into the very place of the dead, there to be met by God and restored to life.’ (Nixon)
But you brought my life up from the pit – This anticipates Paul’s gratitude, 2 Cor 1:8-10.
Jonah 2:7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
Jon 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
The translation of this verse (esp. the 2nd half) is problemmatic:-
‘forfeit the grace that could be theirs’ (NIV)
‘forfeit the grace that was theirs’ (JB)
‘abandoned their loyalty to you’ (GNB)
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs – True: and yet it was to such pagans that Jonah had refused to bring God’s message of grace! How often do we view unbelievers with blame, rather than compassion?
‘It is as though he saw himself as an innocent victim offering his life for the sailors, rather than as a renegade prophet whose disobedience had caused the storm in the first place.’ (Nixon)
Jon 2:9 “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you – There is no little hypocrisy here, for the pagan sailors had been ahead of Jonah in both obedience and worship.
What I have vowed I will make good – There is no indication that he vowed to obey by going willingly to Nineveh.
“Salvation comes from the Lord” – ‘God’s own standard of justice is perfect and has been revealed in his law, his ordinances. Given God’s perfect standard and his perfect justice in applying it, what hope can there be for mankind? “How can man be just before God?”…If (Job 9:2) no man living can be justified in God’s sight, (Ps 143:2) how can there be any escape from the universal verdict: the soul that sins must die? (Eze 18:20) Just as God is the judge whose verdict is final and just, so God is the Savior, the only one who can provide deliverance from the penalty of his own judgment. The great theme of the Old Testament is that “salvation is of the Lord”.’ (Jon 2:9) (Edmund Clowney)
‘The last words of the psalm, Salvation comes from the LORD (lit. ‘Salvation is the Lord’s’) can also have the sense that he saves whom he will – he is in charge of the whole business of salvation. This, from Jonah’s own mouth, foreshadowed the possibility that the Lord would choose to rescue the Ninevites from their troubles.’ (NBC)
There is more irony in the fact the Jonah’s confession that the Lord saves becomes the focus for his anger in ch 4. ‘It is sobering to note that this orthodoxy produces some remarkable preaching, but it doesn’t apparently moderate Jonah’s later xenophobic anger or pathetic self-pity.’
‘This type of psalm at this point in the book sends a clear message. Ancient Israelites who heard or read the story of Jonah could not miss the implication. A thanksgiving psalm is a song of gratitude. It is not an all-purpose prayer suitable for any occasion. People prayed thanksgiving psalms because they had been rescued from danger or hardship, as a way of thanking God for showing mercy to them. Jonah was stating, in the common manner of worshipping Israelites of his day (i.e. via a psalm), that he was grateful for the mercy God had shown him. He was alive even though he did not deserve to be. He had not drowned, even though death was the punishment he had merited (1:12). Jonah had experienced the grace of God, and he knew it and said so eloquently and at length. God had not treated him as his sins deserved. That is the message of the psalm prayed from the inside of the great fish.’ (NBC)
‘Both chs. 1 and 2 end with the theme o sacrifice and vows. The narrator by his inclusion of the psalm immediately after ch. 1 slyly intends his audience to draw a parallel between Jonah’s experience and that of the seamen. Both faced a similar crisis, peril from the sea; both cried to Yahweh, acknowledging his sovereignty. Both were physically saved; both offered worship. Ironically Jonah is at last brought to the point the Gentile seamen have already reached. In his supreme devotion he is still only following in the wake of the heathen crew.’ (Allen)
‘One of the most important things the author would have us see is that when faced with similar perils there is no significant difference between pagans and Jonah concerning prayer, deliverance received and the type of response to the source of salvation. A sincere cry to Yahweh is efficacious whether from a pagan…or from one of his own rebellious prophets.’ (Lands, Q by Allen)
Jon 2:10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Note the humorous touch ‘as the Lord calls the obedient fish and not the rebellious prophet.’ Cf Lk 3:8.