The Story of Jonah

Chapter 2

The prayer of Jonah, 1-9. He is delivered out of the belly of the fish, 10.

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 about my head.

6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains. The earth with her bars was about 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.

Commentary

Matthew Henry Commentary - Jonah, Chapter 2

Notes

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.1a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Jonah, when he was at liberty, became, as we have seen, wanton; but now, finding himself restrained by the mighty hand of God, he receives a new mind, and prays from the bowels of the fish... But in this state of despair Jonah even gathered courage, and was able to betake himself directly to God. It was a wonderful and almost incredible example of faith. Let us then learn to weigh well what is here said; for when the Lord heavily afflicts us, it is then a legitimate and seasonal time for prayer."

[v.1b] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "No place is amiss for prayer. 'I wish therefore that men pray everywhere' (1st Timothy 2:8). Wherever God casts us we may find a way open to heaven-ward, if it be not our own fault... The heavens are equally accessible from every part of the earth. He who has Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, wherever he goes carries the altar along with him, that sanctifies the gift, and is himself a living temple."

[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."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-7:

Grant, Almighty God, that as you have once given us such an evidence of your infinite power in your servant Jonah, whose mind, when he was almost sunk down into hell, you had yet raised up to yourself, and had so supported with firm constancy, that he ceased not to pray and to call on you,— O grant, that in the trials by which we must be daily exercised, we may raise upward our minds to you, and never cease to think that you are near us; and that when the signs of your wrath appear, and when our sins thrust themselves before our eyes, to drive us to despair, may we still constantly struggle, and never surrender the hope of your mercy, until, having finished all our contests, we may at length freely and fully give thanks to you, and praise your infinite goodness, such as we daily experience, that being conducted through continual trials, we may at last come into that blessed rest which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[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.9a] - "But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "It must be noticed there, that the worship of God especially consists in praises, as it is said in Psalm 1: for there God shows that he regards as nothing all sacrifices, except they answer to this end—to set forth the praise of his name." We are to testify that our life belongs to God, that it comes from him and is guided by him, and that we owe everything to him, for he is the source and author of salvation, wisdom, and righteousness.

[v.9b] - "I will pay that which I have vowed" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "A vow was the mere act of thanksgiving, or a testimony of gratitude: and so Jonah joins his vows here with the sacrifice of praise. We hence learn that they were not two different things; but he repeats the same thing twice."

[v.9c] - "Salvation is of the LORD" - "The work of saving appertains to no other but to the Supreme God." (John Calvin). Reference, Psalm 3:8.

[v.10] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "But as this deliverance of Jonah is an image of the resurrection, this is an extraordinary passage, and worthy of being especially noticed; for the Holy Spirit carries our minds to that power by which the world was formed and is still wonderfully preserved. That we may then, without hesitation and doubt, be convinced of the restoration which God promises to us, let us remember that the world was by him created out of nothing by his word and bidding, and is still thus sustained. But if this general truth is not sufficient, let this history of Jonah come to our minds,— that God commanded a fish to cast forth Jonah: for how was it that Jonah escaped safe and was delivered? Even because it so pleased God, because the Lord commanded; and this word at this day retains the same efficacy. By that power then, by which he works all things, we also shall one day be raised up from the dead."

[v.8-10] - Calvin's prayer for these verses is included with the first five verses of the next chapter. Therefore, the prayer is in the next chapter. The part of that prayer that relates to these verses is, "until we reach that celestial kingdom, where we shall enjoy you and Christ your only begotten Son, who is our strength and our salvation."

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