John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO JONAH 2
This chapter contains the prayer of Jonah, when in the fish's belly; the time when he prayed, the person he prayed unto, and the place where, are suggested in Jonah 2:1; and the latter described as a place of great straitness and distress, and even as hell itself, Jonah 2:2; 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, Jonah 2:3. 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, Jonah 2:4. The gracious regards of God to him, in receiving, hearing, and answering his prayer, and bringing up his life from corruption, Jonah 2:2. His resolution, let others do what they would, to praise the Lord, and give him the glory of his salvation, Jonah 2:8; and the chapter is concluded with the order for his deliverance, and the manner of it, Jonah 2:10.
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly. Though Jonah had been a praying man, being a good man, and a prophet of the Lord, yet it seems he had not prayed for some time; being disobedient to the will of God, he restrained prayer before him; all the while he was going to Joppa he prayed not; and how indeed could he have the face to pray to him, from whose face he was fleeing? and as soon as he was in the ship he fell asleep, and there lay till he was waked by the shipmaster, who called upon him to arise, and pray to his God; but whether he did or no is not said; and though it is very probable he might, when convicted of his sin, and before he was cast into the sea, and as he was casting into it; his not recorded; but when he was in the fish's belly, "then he prayed"; where it is marvellous he should, or could; it was strange he should be able to breathe, and more strange to breathe spiritually; it was very wonderful he should have the exercise of his reason, and more that he should have the exercise of grace, as faith and hope, as it appears by the following prayer he had. Prayer may be performed any where, on a mountain, in a desert, in the caves and dens of the earth, and in a prison, as it has been; but this is the only time it ever was performed in such a place. Jonah is the only man that ever prayed in a fish's belly: and he prayed unto the Lord as "his God", not merely by creation, and as the God of nature and providence, the God of his life, and of his mercies; but as his covenant God and Father; for though he had sinned against the Lord, and had been sorely chastised by him, yet he did not take his lovingkindness from him, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail, or break his covenant with him; covenant interest and relation still continued; and Jonah had knowledge of it, and faith in it; and as this is an argument the Lord makes use of to engage backsliders to return unto him, it is a great encouragement to them so to do, Jeremiah 3:14. In this Jonah was a type of Christ, who, amidst his agonies, sorrows, and sufferings, prayed to his Father, and claimed his interest in him as his God, Hebrews 5:7. What follows contains the sam and substance of the prophet's thoughts, and the ejaculations of his mind, when in the fish's belly; but were not put up in this form, but were reduced by him into it after he was delivered; as many of David's psalms were put into the form and order they are after his deliverance from troubles, suitable to his thoughts of things when he was in them; and indeed the following account is an historical narration of facts, which were before and after his prayer, as well as of that itself.
And said,.... Not unto the Lord in prayer, but to others, to whom he communicated what passed between God and him in this time of distress; how he prayed to him, and was heard by him; what a condition he had been in, and how he was delivered out of it; what was his frame of mind while in it, sometimes despairing, and sometimes hoping; and how thankful he was for this salvation, and was determined to praise the Lord for it:
I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; or, "out of my strait"
out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice; or, "out of the belly of the grave"
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas,.... Though the mariners did this, yet Jonah ascribes it to the Lord; he knew it was he, whom he had sinned against and offended; that he was he that sent the storm after him into the sea; that determined the lot to fall upon him; that it was not only by his permission, but according to his will, that he should be east into it, and overcame the reluctance of the men to it, and so worked upon them that they did it; and therefore Jonah imputes it to him, and not to them; nor does he complain of it, or murmur at it; or censure it as an unrighteous action, or as hard, cruel, and severe; but rather mentions it to set off the greatness of his deliverance: and by this it appears, that it was far from shore when Jonah was cast into the sea, it was the great deep; and which also is confirmed by the large fish which swallowed him, which could, not swim but in deep waters; and because of the multitude of the waters, called "seas", and "in the heart"
and the floods compassed me about; all thy billows and thy waves passed over me; which was his case as soon as cast into the sea, before the fish had swallowed him, as well as after: this was literally true of Jonah, what David says figuratively concerning his afflictions, and from whom the prophet seems to borrow the expressions, Psalm 42:7; and indeed he might use them also in a metaphorical sense, with a view to the afflictions of body, and sorrows of death, that compassed him; and to the billows and waves of divine wrath, which in his apprehension lay upon him, and rolled over him.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight,.... Or, "from before thine eyes"
yet I will look again toward thy holy temple; not the temple at Jerusalem, towards which men used to look when they prayed, being at a distance from it, 1 Kings 8:29; though there may be an allusion to such a practice; for it can hardly be thought that Jonah, in the fish's belly, could tell which way the temple stood; and look towards that; but he looked upwards and heavenwards; he looked up to God in his holy temple in heaven; and though he was afraid he would not look down upon him in a way of grace and mercy, he was resolved to look up to God in the way of prayer and supplication; and particularly, for the further encouragement of his faith and hope, he looked to the Messiah, the antitype of the temple, ark, and mercy seat, and for whose sake he might hope his prayers would be heard and answered.
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul,.... Either when he was first cast into the sea, which almost suffocated him, and just ready to take away his life, could not breathe for them, as is the case of a man drowning; or these were the waters the fish drew into its belly, in such large quantities, that they compassed him about, even to the endangering of his life there. So the Targum,
"the waters surrounded me unto death.'
In this Jonah was a type of Christ in his afflictions and sorrows, which were so many and heavy, that he is said to be "exceeding sorrowful", or surrounded with sorrow, "even unto death", Matthew 26:38; see also Psalm 69:1;
the depth closed me round about; the great deep, the waters of the sea, both when he fell into it, and while in the belly of the fish: thus also Christ his antitype came into deep waters, where there was no standing, and where floods of sin, and of ungodly men, and of divine wrath, overflowed him; see Psalm 18:4;
the weeds were wrapped about my head; the sea weeds, of which there are great quantities in it, which grow at the bottom of it, to which Jonah came, and from whence he rose up again, before swallowed by the fish; or these weeds were drawn into the belly of the fish, along with the water which it took in, and were wrapped about the head of the prophet as he lay there; or the fish went down with him into the bottom of the sea, and lay among those weeds; and so they may be said to be wrapped about him, he being there, as follows. The Targum is,
"the sea of Suph being over my head;'
the same with the Red sea, which is so called, Psalm 106:9; and elsewhere, and that from the weeds that were in it; and R. Japhet, as Aben Ezra observes, says the sea of Suph is mixed with the sea of Joppa; that is, as a learned man
I went down to the bottom of the mountains,.... Which are in the midst of the sea, whither the fish carried him, and where the waters are deep; or the bottom of rocks and promontories on the shore of the sea; and such vast rocks hanging over the sea, whose bottoms were in it, it seems are on the shore of Joppa, near to which Jonah was cast into the sea, as Egesippus
the earth with her bars was about me for ever; that is, the earth with its cliffs and rocks on the seashore, which are as bars to the sea, that it cannot overflow it; these were such bars to Jonah, that could he have got clear of the fish's belly, and attempted to swim to shore, he could never get to it, or over these bars, the rocks and cliffs, which were so steep and high:
yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God; notwithstanding these difficulties, which were insuperable by human power, and these seeming impossibilities of, deliverance; yet the Lord brought him out of the fish's belly, as out of a grave, the pit of corruption, and where he must otherwise have lain and rotted, and freed his soul from those terrors which would have destroyed him; and by this also we learn, that this form of words was composed after he came to dry land: herein likewise he was a type of Christ, who, though laid in the grave, was not left there so long as to see corruption, Psalm 16:10.
When my soul fainted within me,.... Covered with grief; overwhelmed with sorrow; ready to faint and sink at the sight of his sins; and under a sense of the wrath and displeasure of God, and being forsaken by him:
I remembered the Lord; his covenant and promises, his former mercies and lovingkindness, the gracious experiences he had had of these in times past; he remembered he was a God gracious and merciful, and ready to forgive, healed the backslidings of his people, and still loved them freely, and tenderly received and embraced them, when they returned to him:
and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple; into heaven itself, the habitation of God's holiness, the temple where he dwells, and is worshipped by holy angels and glorified saints; the prayer the prophet put up in the fish's belly, encouraged to it by remembering the mercy and goodness of God, ascended from thence, and reached the ears of the Lord of hosts in the highest heavens, and met with a kind reception, and had a gracious answer; see Psalm 3:4.
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. They that worship idols, who are nothing, mere vanity and lies, and deceive those that serve them, these forsake the God of their lives, and of their mercies; and so do all such who serve divers lusts and pleasures, and pursue the vanities of this life; and also those who follow the dictates of carnal sense and reason, to the neglect of the will of God, and obedience to his commands; which was Jonah's case, and is, I think, chiefly intended. The Targum, Syriac version, and so Jarchi, and most interpreters, understand it of worshippers of idols in general; and Kimchi of the mariners of the ship Jonah had been in; who promised to relinquish their idols, but did not; and vowed to serve the Lord, and sacrifice to him, but did not perform what they promised. But I rather think Jonah reflects upon himself in particular, as well as leaves this as a general instruction to others; that should they do as he had done, give way to an evil heart of unbelief, and attend to the suggestions of a vain mind, and consult with flesh and blood, and be directed thereby, to the disregard of God and his will; they will find, as he had done to his cost, that they forsake that God that has been gracious and merciful to them, and who is all goodness and mercy, Psalm 144:3; which to do is very ungrateful to him, and injurious to themselves; and now he being sensible of his folly, and influenced by the grace and goodness of God to him, resolves to do as follows:
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving,.... Not only offer up a legal sacrifice in a ceremonial way, when he came to Jerusalem; but along with it the spiritual sacrifice of praise, which he knew was more acceptable unto God; and thus Christ, his antitype, upon his deliverance from his enemies, Psalm 22:22;
I will pay that I vowed; when he was in distress; as that he would sacrifice after the above manner, or behave in a better manner for the future than he had done; and particularly would go to Nineveh, if the Lord thought fit to send him again:
salvation is of the Lord; this was the ground of the faith and hope of Jonah when at the worst, and the matter of his present praise find thanksgiving. There is one letter more in the word rendered "salvation"
And the Lord spake unto the fish,.... Or gave orders to it; he that made it could command it; all creatures are the servants of God, and do his will; what he says is done; he so ordered it by his providence, that this fish should come near the shore, and be so wrought upon by his power, that it could not retain Jonah any longer in its belly. It may be rendered
and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land; not upon the shore of the Red sea, as some; much less upon the shore of Nineveh, which was not built upon the seashore, but upon the river Tigris; and the fish must have carried him all round Africa, and part of Asia, to have brought him to the banks of the Tigris; which could not have been done in three days' time, nor in much greater. Josephus
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