1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
2 And said, "I cried by reason of my affliction to the LORD, and he heard me. Out of the belly of hell I cried, and you heard my voice.
3 For you had cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas, and the floods encompassed me. All your billows and your waves passed over me.
4 Then I said, 'I am cast out of your sight, yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'
5 The waters encompassed me, even to the soul. The depth enclosed me on every side. The weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains. The earth with her bars was around me forever. Yet you have brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD. And my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
8 Those who observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD."
10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains the prayer of Jonah, when in the fish's belly; the time when he prayed, the person he prayed to, and the place where [he prayed] (verse 1); and the latter described as a place of great straitness and distress, and even as hell itself (verse 2); the condition he was in, when cast into the sea, and when in the belly of the fish, which is observed, the more to heighten the greatness of the deliverance (verses 3-6); the different frame of mind he was in, sometimes almost in despair, and ready to faint; and presently exercising faith and hope, remembering the goodness of the Lord, and resolving to look again to him (verses 4, 7); the gracious regards of God to him, in receiving, hearing, and answering his prayer, and bringing up his life from corruption (verses 2, 6, 7); his resolution, let others do what they would, to praise the Lord, and give him the glory of his salvation (verses 8-9); and the chapter is concluded with the order for his deliverance, and the manner of it (verse 10).
[v.2] - "hell" - From the Hebrew word, שאול, sheol (sheh-ole'), which means underworld, grave, hell, or pit. It most frequently refers to the grave, but has been translated from Latin into English as hell, that is, the state of the reprobate. In this verse in Jonah, it can be taken as either grave or hell. Grave probably best suits this passage, but hell works as well in the sense that Jonah was cut off and had no means of escape, and that the belly of the fish was to him a place of torment.
[v.3] - "midst" - Literally, "heart."
[v.6] - "The earth with her bars was around me forever" - ASV: "The earth with its bars closed upon me for ever." LXX: "I went down into the earth, whose bars are the everlasting barriers."
[v.8] - This verse can be understood in two equal ways. The first has to do with the word, mercy, used in this verse. The Hebrew word is chesed (kheh'-sed), which can also mean goodness, where in this case, it refers to their chief good, which is God, as in Psalm 144:2 (source: John Owen). So, those who observe lying vanities (i.e., idols) forsake their goodness (i.e., God, their chief good, the source of their happiness). The alternate understanding of this verse comes from Matthew Henry, who says, "Those who follow their own inventions, as Jonah himself had done when he fled from the presence of the Lord to go to Tarshish, forsake their own mercy, that mercy which they might find in God, and might have such a covenant-right and title to it as to be able to call it their own, if they would but keep close to God and their duty."
[v.9] - "Salvation is of the LORD" - "The work of saving appertains to no other but to the Supreme God." (John Calvin). Reference, Psalm 3:8.