Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
Jon 2:1-10. Jonah's Prayer of Faith and Deliverance.
1. his God—"his" still, though Jonah had fled from Him. Faith enables Jonah now to feel this; just as the returning prodigal says of the Father, from whom he had wandered, "I will arise and go to my Father" (Lu 15:18).
out of the fish's belly—Every place may serve as an oratory. No place is amiss for prayer. Others translate, "when (delivered) out of the fish's belly." English Version is better.
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
2. His prayer is partly descriptive and precatory, partly eucharistical. Jonah incorporates with his own language inspired utterances familiar to the Church long before in Jon 2:2, Ps 120:1; in Jon 2:3, Ps 42:7; in Jon 2:4, Ps 31:22; in Jon 2:5, Ps 69:1; in Jon 2:7, Ps 142:3; 18:6; in Jon 2:8, Ps 31:6; in Jon 2:9, Ps 116:17, 18, and 3:8. Jonah, an inspired man, thus attests both the antiquity and inspiration of the Psalms. It marks the spirit of faith, that Jonah identifies himself with the saints of old, appropriating their experiences as recorded in the Word of God (Ps 119:50). Affliction opens up the mine of Scripture, before seen only on the surface.
out of the belly of hell—Sheol, the unseen world, which the belly of the fish resembled.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
3. thou hadst cast … thy billows … thy waves—Jonah recognizes the source whence his sufferings came. It was no mere chance, but the hand of God which sent them. Compare Job's similar recognition of God's hand in calamities, Job 1:21; 2:10; and David's, 2Sa 16:5-11.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
4. cast out from thy sight—that is, from Thy favorable regard. A just retribution on one who had fled "from the presence of the Lord" (Jon 1:3). Now that he has got his desire, he feels it to be his bitterest sorrow to be deprived of God's presence, which once he regarded as a burden, and from which he desired to escape. He had turned his back on God; so God turned His back on him, making his sin his punishment.
toward thy holy temple—In the confidence of faith he anticipates yet to see the temple at Jerusalem, the appointed place of worship (1Ki 8:38), and there to render thanksgiving [Henderson]. Rather, I think, "Though cast out of Thy sight, I will still with the eye of faith once more look in prayer towards Thy temple at Jerusalem, whither, as Thy earthly throne, Thou hast desired Thy worshippers to direct their prayers."
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
5. even to the soul—that is, threatening to extinguish the animal life.
weeds—He felt as if the seaweeds through which he was dragged were wrapped about his head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
6. bottoms of … mountains—their extremities where they terminate in the hidden depths of the sea. Compare Ps 18:7, "the foundations of the hills" (Ps 18:15).
earth with her bars was about me—Earth, the land of the living, is (not "was") shut against me.
for ever—so far as any effort of mine can deliver me.
yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption—rather, "Thou bringest … from the pit" [Maurer]. As in the previous clauses he expresses the hopelessness of his state, so in this, his sure hope of deliverance through Jehovah's infinite resources. "Against hope he believes in hope," and speaks as if the deliverance were actually being accomplished. Hezekiah seems to have incorporated Jonah's very words in his prayer (Isa 38:17), just as Jonah appropriated the language of the Psalms.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
7. soul fainted … I remembered the Lord—beautifully exemplifying the triumph of spirit over flesh, of faith over sense (Ps 73:26; 42:6). For a time troubles shut out hope; but faith revived when Jonah "remembered the Lord," what a gracious God He is, and how now He still preserves his life and consciousness in his dark prison-house.
into thine holy temple—the temple at Jerusalem (Jon 2:4). As there he looks in believing prayer towards it, so here he regards his prayer as already heard.
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
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.
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
9. I will sacrifice … thanksgiving—In the believing anticipation of sure deliverance, he offers thanksgivings already. So Jehoshaphat (2Ch 20:21) appointed singers to praise the Lord in front of the army before the battle with Moab and Ammon, as if the victory was already gained. God honors such confidence in Him. There is also herein a mark of sanctified affliction, that he vows amendment and thankful obedience (Ps 119:67).
And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
10. upon the dry land—probably on the coast of Palestine.