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Go to Bible: Jonah 2
“Then Jonah prayed.” The prayer Jonah prayed would have been very short because he would have quickly run out of oxygen and become unconscious and then died. It is not commonly known that Jonah died in the fish, but he did, and in that way was a “type” of Christ: Jonah was dead in the fish for three days and three nights and then was raised from the dead by God, and Jesus was dead in the “heart of the earth” for three days and three nights and then was raised by God. It is because Jonah 2:1 says Jonah prayed out of the fish’s belly that most Christians believe Jonah was alive inside the fish. But it would have likely taken Jonah at least a minute to pass out inside the fish, and it could have been longer, and during that time Jonah would have prayed. Christians who think that Jonah was alive in the fish for three days know that would have had to have been a miracle, but what would have been the point of that miracle? What would have been its parallel in the Bible or history? In contrast, Jonah being dead for three days and three nights makes him a perfect type of Christ, who died on the cross and arose three days and nights later. Jonah being alive or Jonah being dead then raised from the dead both required God to do a miracle for Jonah, but the miracle that best parallels the life of Christ is that Jonah was dead and then raised from the dead, and that also best fits what Jonah 2:2-9 says.
Jonah 2:2-9 is not the prayer that Jonah prayed from inside the huge fish. For one thing, in reading Jonah 2:2-9 it can be seen that some of what Jonah said could only have been said after Jonah was out of the fish and thus raised from the dead, not before then. For example, Jonah 2:2 says Jonah called and God heard his voice, but Jonah would have only known God heard him after he was out of the fish’s belly and alive on the shore; he would not have known that while still inside the fish. Also, the fact that Jonah had been thrown “into the depths” and “into the heart of the seas” is a record of him being thrown into the ocean, not a record of him being in the fish (Jonah 2:3). He thought he was going to die, a reasonable conclusion for one thrown off a ship into the ocean, yet he was confident of his resurrection (Jonah 2:3). In Jonah 2:5, Jonah is still remembering being in the ocean with the seaweed around him and the water up to his neck. But in Jonah 2:6 he is remembering being in the fish and blacking out, realized he had died, and then gave God praise for raising him from death, from the “pit” (“pit” is commonly used for the grave). In Jonah 2:7, Jonah records that it was as his life was ebbing away that he remember Yahweh and prayed a prayer, and he knew Yahweh heard him because Yahweh raised him from the dead.
[For more on Jonah being dead and the prayer he prayed, see commentary on Matthew 12:40].(top)
“Out of the midst of my distress.” Jonah had fled from Yahweh, but now his trouble brings him back to his roots and his reliance on Yahweh, and he calls out to Him. Often it takes trouble and distress to bring us to our knees and recognize our need for God. Thankfully, at those times Yahweh does not spurn us, saying, “I told you so,” but from His heart of mercy and grace He helps us.
“the belly of Sheol.” Sheol is the state of death. Jonah was saying he was as good as dead, which he was about to be; he died in the fish’s belly.(top)
“you threw me.” Jonah recognized that God caused the storm which resulted in his being in the sea.
“your breakers and your waves passed over me.” Jonah apparently knew how to swim, and stayed afloat in the ocean for a short while before being swallowed by the fish.(top)
“yet I will look again toward your holy temple.” Jonah was a prophet of God, and knew he had not rejected Yahweh or His law, but ran from Yahweh to protect Israel, and so he fully expected to be in the Resurrection of the Righteous and again see the Temple. This is the wonderful hope that sustains knowledgeable believers: there will be a resurrection from the dead and believers will get new and glorious bodies and live forever.
Some commentators believe that Jonah already knew he would be rescued from death, but there is no reason to believe that Jonah thought that or else he would not have said, “I have been banished from your sight,” which would occur when he died.
Some scholars think that the Greek text of Theodocian, which reads “how” (“How will I look again at your Temple”) is the correct reading, but that text disagrees with every other ancient witness and casts an unnecessary negative light on Jonah.(top)
“the point of death.” The Hebrew text reads, “to the nephesh.” But the Hebrew word nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ) has many meanings. It can mean “life” as it may mean here, “to the life,” or, “to the soul,” that is, to the point of death (cp. ASV; CJB, ESV, KJV; NASB; NIV). Or, as many versions reflect, it can have a physiological meaning and thus mean “neck,” such that the water was up to Jonah’s neck (cp. CSB; NAB; NET; NJB). Frankly, it is hard to decide what the text meant here, and the use of nephesh may have been purposely used to picture Jonah’s peril in different ways by using one word, in a sort of amphibologia (double entendre).(top)
“I went down to the bottoms of the mountains.” This is one of the verses that shows that Jonah’s recounting his experience (Jonah 2:2-9) happened sometime after he had been vomited out of the fish and had been raised from the dead. There was no way he could have known this while he was in the fish, it had to be an awareness of what had happened to him after he was out of the fish.(top)
“life.” The Hebrew is nephesh, which is often translated “soul” but here refers to Jonah’s human life. (For more on “life,” see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul’”). As Jonah neared death, he prayed to God, and the reason he knew God heard him is that these words of Jonah were recorded after God raised him from the dead.
“in to you, into your holy temple.” Jonah says this because Yahweh was known to dwell in His temple above the Mercy Seat between the Cherubim.(top)
“Those who pay regard to worthless idols.” This powerful and pointed verse speaks the truth! Only Yahweh God has the power to save and genuinely give mercy. People who rely on other gods or other things that promise life and deliverance will sadly find out too late that they have believed a lie. Salvation and wholeness comes only from the true God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase “worthless idols” is used in Psalm 31:6. Some versions read “worthless” while others read “lying.” The confusion is due to the fact that the Hebrew word has both meanings. The derogatory word translated “idols” is more literally, “nothings,” “vanities,” “empties,” and in this context it refers to idols. The Word Biblical Commentary by Stuart (Vol. 31, Hosea-Jonah) translates the phrase “empty nothings.”(top)
|Jon 2:9||- (top)|
“Yahweh spoke to the fish.” The whole universe and everything in it is the creation of God, and all God’s creation recognizes His voice. God likely did not actually “speak” to the fish using words, but “spoke” in a way that the fish obeyed.
“vomited out Jonah.” Many fish can vomit out that which they have just swallowed, but Jonah had been in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights. Nevertheless it vomited out Jonah whole onto the dry land. That the fish could vomit Jonah onto the dry land shows that at the place where that happened the shore was steep to the point that the fish could mostly be in the water and yet Jonah could land upon the dry land. Jonah, now on the Phoenician coast, was 400 miles from Nineveh.(top)