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The prayer of Jonah: he is delivered from the fish.
Before Christ 862.
Jonah 2:1. Then Jonah prayed, &c.— The following prayer was conceived and formed, as to substance, in the belly of the fish, and probably afterwards digested and written in its present mode; a thanksgiving for his deliverance being added at the end of it. Houbigant very properly reads the verbs in the following verse in the present tense, because, says he, Jonah is said to pray when in the belly of the fish. By the belly of hell, is meant the lowest parts of the deep, or place which was to Jonah as the grave.
Jonah 2:4. Then I said, I am cast out, &c.— "My first apprehensions were, that as I had justly forfeited thy favour for my disobedience, so thou wouldst cast me out of thy protection. But, upon recollecting myself, I thought it my duty not to despair of thy mercy, but to direct my prayer toward thy heavenly habitation: for I have the strongest confidence, since thou hast thus far saved me, that I shall look again towards thy holy temple." There is a great similarity between this prayer of Jonah and many expressions in the Psalms.
Jonah 2:5. The waters compassed me, &c.— Jonah, as we have before observed, speaks this in the bowels of the fish; therefore they seem to mistake the matter, who say that Jonah speaks this in the midst of the sea, before he was swallowed by the fish. The fish swallowed up Jonah, when first he fell to the bottom of the sea, involved with sea-weed, into which he fell. Houbigant. But why may not this (as well as the following verse, which must necessarily be so) be understood figuratively and poetically, describing his situation in the deep, when in the belly of the fish?
Jonah 2:6. The earth with her bars was about me, &c.— Houbigant connects the word rendered for ever, with bars, and reads, The earth, with her everlasting bars, was about me, &c. But others give the passage another turn, and render it thus, The earth with her bars would have been about me for ever; but thou broughtest up, &c.
Jonah 2:8. Forsake their own mercy, &c.— "They who worship idols abandon the mercy of God, render it useless, and reject it, even though offered to them and always ready to save them." Houbigant reads the last clause, Have forsaken their benefactor: and he supposes that Jonah applies this to the mariners who prayed to their gods, before they knew that the true God of heaven and earth, who had raised the storm, was the same who appeased it.
Jonah 2:9. But I will sacrifice unto thee— Not to other gods, as the mariners did to their deities. Salvation is of the Lord, and not of those false gods to whom these idolatrous sailors (except in the instance here recorded) offered their vows and prayers. See Psalms 50:14.Hosea 14:2; Hosea 14:2.
Jonah 2:10. And the Lord spake unto the fish— The power of the Almighty is frequently represented in Scripture, as bringing things to pass by his bare word and command; he speaks, and it is done. Various are the traditions of the Orientals, respecting the place where Jonah was disembogued; but, as Calmet well observes, amidst such doubt and obscurity, the best part is absolute silence, and the sincere declaration that the matter is entirely unknown. Bishop Huet supposes, that Jonah's deliverance from the fish's belly gave occasion to the famous Greek fable of Arion, who, after he was cast into the sea, was conveyed, as the story goes, by a dolphin into the port of Corinth; and it is certain that a great part of the heathen mythology was borrowed from the Scripture history.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Never, to appearance, was situation more desperate than when Jonah was cast into the stormy ocean, unless it were when he descended into the fish's belly: yet even in the lowest state of misery God can save; and Jonah now is as safe in the monster's stomach, as if he were on dry land; and finds both power to pray, and fervent desires after the Lord his God, who thus plainly shewed him that he had not abandoned him to destruction, and thereby engaged him to exercise faith in his pardoning grace and preserving providence. Note; (1.) No place can shut out the soul from communion with God; wherever we are, the way to a throne of grace is open. (2.) Our encouragement to draw near to God is, the humble persuasion that he is our God, reconciled to us, and willing to hear and help us in every time of need.
1. He cried and was heard: I cried by reason of mine affliction. This was the blessed means of driving him to God. Out of the belly of hell cried I, out of the belly of the fish, where he seemed buried as in his grave; and thou heardest my voice, for no prayer of faith returns without an answer of peace.
2. He describes his distressed situation, sunk in the deep, buried in the midst of the seas, compassed with the floods, and all the waves and billows running over him. And this was God's doing. His life appeared in the most imminent danger: he was inclosed with waters, and his head wrapped with sea-weeds; he went down to the bottoms of the mountains, when the fish descended; and the bars of the earth, so deep he sunk, appeared to be about him for ever: his state helpless and hopeless. To such distress are God's dearest children sometimes reduced, to shew them more eminently the power and grace of God engaged for their deliverance.
3. His heart began to fail him. God's displeasure, seen in his wretched case, discouraged him, and he feared that he was abandoned, and cast out of God's sight, as he knew that he had justly deserved to be. Thus when outward trials oppress us, we too often give way to unbelief, and are sore beset with inward fears, as if God had utterly forsaken us, and hid his face in displeasure: but it is our privilege to be always happy: the faithful soul is not thus cast down.
4. His heart is encouraged, notwithstanding, to trust still in God; and, in the exercise of faith he directs his prayer to heaven, whence alone his help could come. When his soul fainted, he remembered the Lord, thought upon his power to save, reflected on the riches of his grace, and his own past experience; and thus his hopes revived, his fears were silenced. And in the same way must every child of God overcome his unbelieving fears; remembering his power and love, who has engaged to save to the uttermost all that trust in him.
5. His prayer was answered; it entered into the holy temple above, and God in mercy regarded his suffering servant, as he gratefully acknowledges to the glory of the Lord his God. Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption; either this he said in the fish's belly, and it speaks the language of his faith, assured that God would interpose to save him; or when he afterwards was cast on the land, and wrote down this prayer and complaint, he added this to the praise of the glory of God, and for the confirmation and encouragement of others in the like case; that they might see that none ever trusted God, and were confounded.
6. He gives a warning to others of the vanity of idols, and declares the blessedness of dependence upon God. They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy: no idols can save after this sort. Perhaps he intended also herein to reflect upon his own folly in flying from God, whose work would have been its own reward, while misery is the sure attendant on every departure from him.
7. He solemnly engages to offer the grateful sacrifice of praise, and to discharge the vow that he had made in trouble; which might be, some sacrifice that he would offer at the temple of Jerusalem, or his resolution to go without delay to Nineveh in obedience to God's command. Note; (1.) Thanksgiving and praise are a tribute that we owe, and should without ceasing pay to the God of our mercies. (2.) Every truly penitent backslider who rises from his falls, should set himself with redoubled earnestness to the work and service of God.
8. He concludes with ascribing glory to God, Salvation is of the Lord, and from him alone the temporal, spiritual, and eternal salvation of the faithful is to be expected, even from his power and love, and to be acknowledged to his glory. And they who depend on him for all, shall find, by blessed experience, that he has never failed them who trust him.
2nd, In answer to his prayer, he is discharged from his prison. He who commanded the fish to receive him, now obliges him to disgorge his prey; and once more the prophet is safe on shore, as one raised from the dead. Thus God restores the poor broken-hearted sinner, when he is often ready to despair of himself; and raises him from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. Jonah's deliverance was also a type of the resurrection of Jesus, and is a pledge of ours. When we see what God has done for him, we need not think it incredible that he should raise our bodies from the dust: and this miracle, astonishing as it is, appears the less wonderful, when we recollect that it was intended as a very peculiar type of Christ's resurrection, the ground of all our hopes. The greater exertion of Omnipotence may be expected, where the mission of the Saviour of the world, who is the great Creator and Supporter of the universe, was to be in any measure established thereby.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jonah 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany