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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Jonah 2



Verse 1

1. Prayed — The verb is used here in the wider sense of any turning of the heart toward God, whether in supplication or praise (1 Samuel 2:1). At what period of his imprisonment Jonah is thought to have offered the prayer is not stated; Jonah 2:10, would seem to imply, however, that it was toward the close.

His God — Before (Jonah 1:3), he tried to escape from Jehovah’s presence; now, in danger of his life, he is driven to appeal to him as his God.

Verses 1-9


Jonah 2:1 is the introduction, indicating the circumstances under which the prayer was offered. The prayer itself opens with an acknowledgment that Jehovah heard the petition offered in distress and wrought the petitioner’s deliverance (2). After repeated figurative descriptions of the danger and distress into which he had been plunged, he glorifies Jehovah for the salvation wrought (3-6). The supplicant closes with the assurance that he will not forget the divine mercy but will forever praise Jehovah, the author of all deliverance (7-9). The prayer consists for the most part of reminiscences from the Psalms (see Introduction, p. 335).

Verse 2-3

2. I cried… he heard — R.V., “I called… he answered.” The tenses indicate that both the petition and the reply are experiences of the past (Jonah 2:6).

By reason of mine affliction — Better, R.V. margin, “out of mine affliction”; which is further described in 3ff.

Belly of hell — R.V., “Sheol.” On the latter see on Hosea 13:14. It is frequently pictured as a ravenous beast, with a greedy appetite (Proverbs 30:16; Habakkuk 2:5), with a wide-open mouth (Isaiah 5:14). Here a belly is given to it, which may have been suggested by the belly of the fish. As in Psalms 18:5; Psalms 30:3, Sheol is a poetic picture for the dangers of death, from which there seems no escape. With 2a compare Psalms 120:1, or Psalms 18:6; with Jonah 2:2 b compare Psalms 18:5.

Jonah 2:3 describes the affliction from which came deliverance.

For thou hadst cast — Literally, And thou didst cast. This can hardly be interpreted as giving the reason for the thanksgiving. Better, Yea, thou didst cast. This is a perfectly possible translation. It certainly is not necessary to suppose that a clause has dropped out. In the case of Jonah, Jehovah was the real author of the calamity (Jonah 1:14; compare also Jonah 1:4, and the references there).

Deep,… midst of the seas;… floods… billows… waves — Taken in connection with the experiences of Jonah these terms might all be interpreted literally. On the other hand, in the psalm literature, these or similar terms are used figuratively of the depths of trouble and distress. The “midst (R.V., “heart”) of the seas” (for plural compare G.-K., 124a), which defines “deep,” is the bottom of the sea (Exodus 15:5; Micah 7:19).

Floods — Literally, river; the currents of the sea (Psalms 24:2).

Thy — Jehovah made them (Jonah 1:9) and controls them (Psalms 18:4-5). For the last clause compare especially Psalms 42:7.

Verse 4-5

4. Two emotions struggled within the supplicant. At first despair seized him.

Cast out — He thought Jehovah had no further interest in him or care for him (Psalms 31:22). But the despondency was only temporary. He determined, even in his apparently hopeless condition, to appeal to Jehovah (Jonah 2:7).

Look again toward thy holy temple — The position of prayer (1 Kings 8:38; Psalms 5:7). On holy see on Joel 2:1; Zechariah 14:20. The temple in Jerusalem is the earthly dwelling place of Jehovah. The words do not necessarily express the expectation that the supplicant will be delivered and that after the deliverance he will “look toward the temple.” Even now, from the midst of the danger, in spite of the apparent hopelessness of the situation, he will again, as in times past, lift up his heart in prayer. There is no reason for changing 4b so as to read, “How can I again look toward thy holy temple?”

Jonah 2:5 continues the description of the deadly peril.

Even to the soul — The most vital part; it seems all over with him (Psalms 18:4-5; Psalms 69:1; for the second line compare Psalms 69:2).

The weeds were wrapped about my head — The sea grass grows at the bottom. Another indication, therefore, of the depth of trouble to which the petitioner has sunk (Jonah 2:3). Wellhausen calls attention to the fact that sea grass does not grow in the belly of a fish.

Verse 6-7

6. The bottoms of the mountains — Literally, the cuttings off; the extreme ends. The mountains are thought of as extending their roots to the bottom of the sea (Psalms 18:5).

The earth with her bars was about me — Literally, as to the earth, her bars were behind me. He thinks himself cast out from the earth; the earth has put down the bars so as to make return to the dry land impossible forever. The comparison is with a city whose gates are barred so that no one can enter. Marti reads 6a, “I went down to the nether parts of the earth, to the people of old time”; that is, the people who died in ancient times (Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 32:18; Ezekiel 32:24); in other words, to Sheol.

The depth of affliction and the deadly character of the peril make the deliverance the more wonderful. To this deliverance the singer now turns.

Yet hast thou brought up my life — Thou hast brought me up alive, in spite of the apparent hopelessness.

From corruption — R.V., “from the pit.” The former is the meaning given to the word by the ancient versions, but R.V. is to be preferred. The word is practically synonymous with Sheol (Jonah 2:2; Psalms 30:3; Psalms 30:9).

Jehovah my God — See on Jonah 2:1.

Jonah 2:7 goes back to Jonah 2:4, calling attention once more to the conflicting emotions while in the midst of danger.

My soul fainted — Literally, was overwhelmed; became exhausted (Psalms 142:3; Psalms 143:4).

I remembered — When about ready to give up the struggle he thought of Jehovah, and decided to appeal to him (4), and his prayer was heard (Psalms 18:6; Psalms 5:7).

Verse 8-9

8, 9. The wonderful deliverance has taught the singer a lesson. Whatever others may do, he will remain loyal to Jehovah, the God of his deliverance. The main thought is expressed in Jonah 2:9; Jonah 2:8 serves to emphasize the determination of the speaker.

They that observe [“regard”] lying vanities — All who pay homage to idols and put their trust in them (Deuteronomy 32:21; Psalms 31:6; compare Hosea 10:10). The idols are called “lying vanities” because they are ever disappointing those putting their trust in them.

Forsake their own mercy — Forsake Him who is their mercy, or who alone can show them mercy. The same word is translated in Psalms 144:2, “loving-kindness” (see on Hosea 2:19). From Jehovah and from manifestations of his mercy they foolishly cut themselves off. Not so the psalmist; he will seek to retain the divine favor by meeting all his obligations to Jehovah. This determination is based upon his past experience of the power and mercy of his God. Marti thinks that before Jonah 2:9 two lines have fallen out, and he supplies, “But I trust in thee, Jehovah, my saviour” (Psalms 31:6).

Sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving — He will offer his sacrifices with expressions of praise and thanksgiving (Psalms 42:4).

Pay that that I have vowed — While in distress (Psalms 50:14; Psalms 50:23). Nothing is said in the rest of the prayer or in the narrative of a vow made by Jonah (compare the vow of the sailors, Jonah 1:16).

Salvation is of Jehovah — “The sum and substance of the whole hymn” (Psalms 3:8). Jehovah alone can deliver; therefore in him he will trust forever. On Jonah 2:10 see after comments on Jonah 1:17.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jonah 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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