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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Jonah 2

 

 

Verse 1

Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,

Ver. 1. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God] i.e. Praised God with this Canticum eucharisticum, this gratulatory song, as Tremellius calleth it. That he prayed in the ship, in the sea, in the whale’s belly, we doubt not; but that he chiefly intendeth to show his thankfulness for the return of prayers and the sweet support he felt in the whale’s belly we do as little doubt, see Jonah 2:2; Jonah 2:6-7; yea, that this was the substance (though now better methodized) of what he prayed and praised in the bowels of the fish we have cause to believe from this very verse; and therefore also his deliverance is set down, Jonah 2:10, after his doxology. The word here rendered prayed signifieth also, sometimes, to give thanks, as 1 Samuel 2:2; and who knows not that thanksgiving is a special part of prayer? This therefore is prayer. Jonah having prayed, and perceiving that he was heard, and by the goodness of God preserved safe in body and sound in mind, he grows "strong in faith, giving glory to God," Romans 4:20, and being fully persuaded that he should yet walk before him again in the land of the living.

Out of the fish’s belly] Where, though he might seem buried alive, and free among the dead, yet he enjoyed God’s gracious presence, and those strong consolations that made him live in the very mouth of death, and say in effect, as blessed Bradford did, I thank God more for this prison and for this dark dungeon than for any parlour, yea, than of any pleasure that ever I had; for in it I find God my most sweet God always.


Verse 2

Jonah 2:2 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.

Ver. 2. And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction] His lips did not move in affliction, like a creaking door or a new cart wheel, with murmuring and mutinying against God and men; he set not his mouth against heaven (as the howling wolf when hunger bitten), neither did his tongue walk through the earth, cursing the day of his birth, and cutting deep into the sides of such as were means of his misery, Psalms 73:9. But putting his mouth in the dust, if so be there might be hope, he cried by reason of his affliction, Lamentations 3:29. The time of affliction is the time of supplication; no time like that for granting of suits, Zechariah 13:9. God’s afflicted may have what they will of him then, such are his fatherly compassions to his sick children; he reserveth his best comforts for the worst times, and then speaketh to the hearts of his people when he hath brought them into the wilderness, Hosea 2:13. This Jonah experimented, and therefore said, "I cried out of mine affliction unto the Lord."

Ad Dominum afflicto de pectore suspirando.

And he heard me] How else am I alive amidst so many deaths? Here is a visible answer, a real return: O, "blessed be God, who hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me," Psalms 66:20. Surely as the cloud, which riseth out of the earth many times in thin and insensible vapours, falleth down in great and abundant showers; so our prayers, which ascend weak and narrow, return with a full and enlarged answer. This was but a pitiful poor prayer that Jonah here made, as appears Jonah 2:4; and so was that of David, Psalms 31:22, "For I said in mine haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee." It would be wide with us if God should answer the best of us according to our prayers, yea, though well watered with tears; since, Ipsae lacrymae sint lacrymabiles, we had need to weep over our tears, sigh over our sobs, mourn over our griefs. Jonah was so taken with this kindness from the Lord his God that he repeats it and celebrates it a second time.

Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice] The whale’s belly he calleth hell’s belly, because horrid and hideous, deep and dismal. Thence he cried, as David did, De profundis, from the depths, and was heard and delivered. Yea, had hell itself closed her mouth upon a praying Jonah, it could not long have held him, but must have vomited him up. A mandamus commission from God will do it at any time, Psalms 44:4, and what cannot faithful prayer have of God? there is a certain omnipotence in it, said Luther.


Verse 3

Jonah 2:3 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.

Ver. 3. For thou hadst cast me into the deep] A graphic description of his woeful condition, which yet he remembereth now as waters that are past, and is thankful to his Almighty deliverer: see the like in David, Psalms 116:3, and learn of these and other saints to acknowledge the uttermost extremity of a calamity after we are delivered out of it. For hereby thy judgment will be the better instructed and the more convinced; thine heart also will be the more enlarged to admire, and thy mouth the wider opened to celebrate the power, wisdom, and mercy of God in thy deliverance. As if this be not done, God will be provoked either to inflict heavier judgments, or else to cease to smite thee any more with the stripes of a father, and to give thee up for a lost child.

For thou hadst cast me into the deep] Not the mariners, but thou didst it, and therefore there was no averting or avoiding it. Thou hadst cast me with a force, as a stone out of a sling, or as that mighty angel, Revelation 18:21, that took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence," &c.

In the midst of the seas] Heb. in the heart of the seas; so Matthew 12:40, "So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." And Deuteronomy 4:11, we read of the heart of heaven, that is, the middle of it, as the heart sitteth in the midst of the body as king of that Isle of Man. Now, if it were so grievous to be cast into the main sea, what shall it be to be hurled into hell by such a hand, and with such a force into that bottomless gulf, whence nothing was ever yet buoyed up again?

And the floods compassed me about] Aquarum confluges, the sea, whence all floods or rivers issue, and whereto they return (Homer calleth the ocean ποταμον, a river, by the figure meiosis, (a) Pοταμοιο ρεεθρα ωκεανου. Iliad. xiv.). Danaeus here noteth that out of that gulf of the sea, which of Plato is called Tartarus, that is, hell, the waters do flow into the veins of the earth (as it is, Ecclesiastes 1:7), losing their saltness in the passage. Here Jonah cried out, as Psalms 69:1-2, "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into the deep waters, where the floods overflow me." It was only his faith that held him up by the chin; and, like blown feathers, bore him aloft all waters.

All thy billows and thy waves passed over me] All; so it seemed to Jonah, that God had poured out all his displeasure upon him; but he suffereth not his whole wrath to arise against his people; neither remembereth iniquity for ever. Thy billows or surges; not the sea’s, but thine. God seemed to fight against Jonah with his own hand. David likewise in a desertion complains that all God’s waves and floods were gone over him, Psalms 42:7. In this case (for it may be any one’s case) let us do as Paul and his company did (in that dismal tempest, Acts 27:20, when they saw neither sun nor star for many days and nights together), cast anchor of hope, even beyond hope; and then wait and wish for day. God will appear at length, and all shall clear up; he will deliver our souls from the nethermost hell.


Verse 4

Jonah 2:4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

Ver. 4. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight] Thus those straits brought him to these disputes of despair, as they did likewise David, Psalms 31:22, the Church in the Lamentations, Lamentations 4:22, and others, apt enough in affliction to have hard conceits of God and heavy conceits of themselves. While men look at things present, while they live by sense only, it must need be with them as with a house without pillars, tottering with every blast; or as a ship without anchor, tossed with every wave. They must therefore thrust Hagar out of doors, and set up Sarah; silence their reason, and exalt faith, as did Jonah here; "Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight." Here you may take him up for a dead man; here he inclineth somewhat to that of Cain, Genesis 4:13-14, and surely they that go down to this pit of despair, as Hezekiah speaketh of the grave, Isaiah 38:17, cannot hope for God’s truth as long as there they stay.

Yet I will look again toward thine holy temple] Here he recollects and recovers himself; as the same soul may successively doubt and believe, not simultaneously; and faith, where it is right, will at length out wrestle diffidence, and make a man more than a conqueror, even a triumpher. When sense saith such a thing will not be, reason saith, It cannot be, faith gets above and saith, Yea, but it shall be; what talk you to me of impossibilities, I shall yet (as low as I am, and as forlorn) look again towards God’s holy temple of heaven; yea, that here on earth, where God is sincerely served, and whereto the promises are annexed. Faith is by one fitly compared to the cork upon the net; though the lead on the one sinks it down, yet the cork on the other keeps it up in the water. The faithful soon check themselves for their doubtings and despondency, as Jonah here; as David chides David, Psalms 43:5; and as Paul saith of himself and his fellows, that they were staggering, but not wholly sticking, 2 Corinthians 4:8.


Verse 5

Jonah 2:5 The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

Ver. 5. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul] That is, usque ad animae deliquium, till I laboured for life, and was as good as gone.

The depth closed me round about] {See Trapp on "Jonah 2:3"} and further observe, that God’s dear children may fall into desperate and deadly dangers, see Psalms 18:3; Psalms 88:3; Psalms 116:3. And this for, 1. Prevention, 2. Purgation, 3. Probation, 4. Preparations to further both mercies and duties. Let us not therefore censure ourselves or others as hated of God, because greatly distressed; but encourage ourselves in them, as did David at Ziklag, 1 Samuel 30:6. The right hand of the Lord shall change all this.

Flebile principium melior fortuna sequetur.

The weeds were wrapped about mine head] Alga as Alligando. The weeds which the fish had devoured, or whereunto the fish, wherein I was, had dived and lain down among them. Or this might befall Jonah in the bottom of the sea, before the fish had swallowed him; for weeds easily wrap about those that swim, or are drowned.


Verse 6

Jonah 2:6 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.

Ver. 6. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains] That is, of the promontories or rocks of the sea, where the waters are deepest. Thus Mercer after Kimchi. "The channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered," Psalms 18:15. The mountains are said to be under water, Proverbs 8:25, because their foundations are there placed.

The earth with her bars was about me for ever] As if resolved there to keep me close prisoner; that though the fish had disgorged me, yet I should never have got to land. The shores are set by God as bars to keep the sea within his bounds, Job 38:8; Job 38:10-11, Jeremiah 5:22. Here then all the creatures seemed to set against poor Jonah, and (which was more than all) the Creator too: so that he might sigh and say, as in the poet (Martial).

In me omnis terraeque aviumque marisque rapina est,

Forsitan et coeli ”

Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption] i.e. From the place where I was likely to have lain and rotted. Cum duplicantur lateres, venit Moses: when things are at the worst God appeareth, as it were out of an engine, εκ της μηχανης. In the mount will the Lord be seen, Ezekiel 37:11, 2 Kings 19:3; he stays so long sometimes that he hardly "finds faith on earth," Luke 18:8, and yet comes at last to the relief of his poor people; viz. when they are ripe and ready for it. He is a God of judgment, he knows how and when to deal forth his favours; and even waiteth to be gracious, Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 28:21.

O Lord my God] sc. by the mean and merit of thy Son, in whom alone it is that thou, Lord, art my God, and that I can call thee Abba, Father. It is well observed by an interpreter, that in this short history of Jonah are all things contained which may make to the sound and saving knowledge of God and his will, of ourselves also and our duties.


Verse 7

Jonah 2:7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

Ver. 7. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord] And could say, as the Church in Isaiah 63:16, when at lowest, "Doubtless thou art our father, our redeemer, thy name is from everlasting." As there is in the creatures an instinct of nature to do after their kind; so there. is of grace in the saints to run to God. "Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early," Isaiah 26:8-9. "O Lord," saith Habakkuk, Habakkuk 1:12, "art not thou from everlasting my God, and mine Holy One?" It was a bold question, but God approves and assents to it in a gracious answer ere they went farther: "We shall not die" (say they abruptly), "O Lord, thou hast ordained them" (the Chaldeans) "for judgment"; but us only for chastisement. Here was the triumph of their faith, and this was that which held up Jonah’s hope, though with wonderful difficulty, held head above water. He remembered "the years of the right hand of the Most High," Psalms 77:10; he called to mind his songs in the night season, Jonah 2:6, his former experience, a just ground of his present confidence. He remembered the Lord, his power and goodness, those two pillars, the Jachin and the Boaz, that support faith; and this fetched him again when ready to faint. "I had even fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," Psalms 27:13.

And my prayer came in unto thee] q.d. Though I was so faint I could scarcely utter a prayer, yet thou hearkenedst and heardest, as Malachi 3:16; thou madest hard shift to hear (as I may say); thine ears were in my prayers, as St Peter hath it, 1 Peter 3:12; thou feltest my breathing, when no voice could be heard, Lamentations 3:56; thou heldest not "thy peace at my tears," Psalms 39:12, quando fletu agerem non afflatu; yea, thou heardest the voice of mine affliction, Genesis 16:11.

Into thine holy temple] Whether we take it to be the temple at Jerusalem (a type of Christ), Jonah’s prayer was accepted for Christ’s sake; and proved to no less purpose, though made in the whale’s belly, than if he had been pouring it out in God’s holy temple. Or if we understand it to be heaven, the habitation of God’s holiness, and of his glory, his prayers were come up thither for a memorial before the Almighty, Acts 10:4, and like pillars of incense pierced into his presence, Song of Solomon 3:6, neither would they away without their errand, but lay at God’s feet till he should command deliverance out of Zion.


Verse 8

Jonah 2:8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

Ver. 8. They that observe lying vanities] That listen to sense and reason in matters of God, and make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, as Jonah had done to his cost, till, having paid for his learning, he descried them all to be but "lying vanities," or most vain vanities, empty nothings.

Forsake their own mercy] Are miserable by their own election, because sinners, in a special manner, "against their own souls," as were Korah and his accomplices, Numbers 15:38; as was Pope Silvester, who gave his soul to the devil for seven years’ enjoyment of the popedom; and as are all those wilful wicked persons, that refusing to be reformed, and hating to be healed, choose to spend the span of this life after the ways of their own hearts, though they thereby perish for ever. These are those fools of the people, that prefer an apple before paradise, a mess of pottage before the inheritance of heaven, their swine before their Saviour, turning their backs upon those blessed and bleeding embracements of his, and cruelly cutting the throats of their own poor souls by an impenitent continuance in sin; so losing, for a few bitter sweet pleasures, or paltry profits in this vale of tears, for an inch of time, that fulness of felicity at God’s right hand, through all eternity. It is written of them who tame the tiger, that when they have taken away the young one, knowing that presently they shall be pursued by the old tigress, they set lookingglasses in the way by which they flee; whereunto when she cometh and seeth some representation of herself, she lingereth about them a good space, deceived by the shadow, and detained in a vain hope to recover the young again; meanwhile the hunter most speedily posteth away with his prey. Likewise deals Satan with the men of this world (saith mine author); he casts before them the deceitful lusts of profit, pleasure, and preferment, the worldling’s trinity, those "lying vanities," being none other than shadows and semblances of good; yet are men so delighted with these that they dote about them, having no care to pursue the enemy for recovery of that image of God, the Divine nature, that Satan hath beguiled them from. He setteth them to the tree of knowledge, that they may not taste of the tree of life. He putteth out their eyes with the dust of covetousness, and shutteth their ears against the instructions of life, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and God should heal them, Matthew 13:15. In all which there is not anything more to be lamented than this, that people should "love to have it so," Jeremiah 5:31; be active in their own utter undoing, Hosea 13:9; wittingly and willingly forsake God, the fountain of living waters, their own mercies, as he is here called, and elsewhere, Psalms 144:2, and hew themselves out "cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," Jeremiah 2:13.


Verse 9

Jonah 2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay [that] that I have vowed. Salvation [is] of the LORD.

Ver. 9. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving] q.d. Let others do as they think good; let them make a match with mischief till they have enough of it; let them walk till they have wearied themselves in the ways of their hearts and in the sight of their eyes; but let them know (I speak it by woeful experience) that for all these things God will bring them to judgment, Ecclesiastes 11:9. The best that can come of sin is repentance: and that is not in man’s power but in God’s gift, 2 Timothy 2:25. If he had not melted my hard heart, and brought me back to himself with a strong hand, I had pined away in mine iniquities, and perished for ever. But now having been so miraculously delivered from so great a death, "I will sacrifice unto the Lord with the voice of thanksgiving"; I will set up my note and sing aloud unto God my Saviour, who hath thus beyond all desert delivered such a miserable wretch, rebel, and regegade as myself.

I will sacrifice] Heb. I will slay, sc. those birds and beasts in use for feasts and sacrifices at Jerusalem,

with the voice of thanksgiving] Heb. of confession, that is, I will confess and acknowledge God to be what he is, to do what he doth, and to give what he giveth. Now to offer a sacrifice at such a confession or thanksgiving added much to the solemnity thereof; and made it more honourable in itself, and more acceptable to God. To these gratulatory sacrifices the word slaying is attributed, as hero, to show that even in gratulation expiation must be made; and that by the blood and sacrifice of Christ all our offerings are accepted in heaven.

I will pay that I have vowed] Not my general vow only as a covenanter, to devote myself to his fear and service all my days; but those particular, personal, voluntary vows made in my distress; such as was that of Jacob, Genesis 28:20; Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:11; David, Psalms 132:1-2, &c. In affliction men are wondrously apt to promise great matters, if they may but be delivered. See Psalms 78:36. Pliny, in an epistle to one of his friends, that desired rules from him how to order his life aright; I will, saith he, give you one rule, that shall be instead of a thousand: Ut tales esse perseveremus sani, quales nos futuros esse profitemur infirmi: That you be sure to be the same when well that you vowed to be when you were sick. But this is few men’s care. See Jeremiah 34:10-11. Sons of Belial break these bonds as Samson did the green withes, and cast away those cords from them; if they could, at least; being worse herein than those mariners, Jonah 1:16, than Saul, that made great conscience of violating his vow, 1 Samuel 14:21, than Turks and Papists, who are superstitiously strict this way. Jonah knew it to be as bad, if not worse, than perjury, to vow and not to perform, Numbers 30:3, and that God is the avenger of all such, Deuteronomy 23:21. He therefore, not merely for fear of punishment, but chiefly for hatred of that sin, saith,

I will pay that I have vowed] The Hebrew word Ashallemah seemeth to imply two things. First, that his vow till paid was incomplete, it was an imperfect thing; the better part of it was yet wanting. Next, that till that chare were done he could not be at peace within himself, he could not be quiet; for vows are debts; and debts, till they be paid, are a burden to an honest mind, and do much disease it.

Salvation is of the Lord] Salus omnimoda, as the Hebrew word Jeshugnathah (having one letter more than ordinary in it) importeth; {Hebrew Text Note} all manner of salvation, full and plentiful deliverance, "is of the Lord"; who is therefore called, the "God of salvation," unto whom belong the issues from death, Psalms 68:20. A quo vera salus non aliunde venit. This Jonah speaketh, as he doth all else in this holy canticle, not by reading, or by rote, but out of his own feeling and good experience; his whole discourse was dug out of his own breast, as it is said of that most excellent 119th Psalm, that it is made up altogether of experiments; and it therefore hath verba non legenda sed vivenda, words not so much to be read as lived, as one said once of it. Dives thought that if one went from the dead to warn his wicked brethren they would never be able to resist such powerful rhetoric. Behold, here is Jonah raised from the dead, as it were, and warning people to arise, and stand up from dead courses and companies, that Christ may give them light; why do they not then get up and be doing at it, that the Lord may be with them? Shall not the men of Nineveh rise up in judgment with this evil generation, and condemn them, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, Matthew 12:41, but these do not, though they have may Jonahs, that both preach and practise, non verbis solum praedicantes sed et exemplis, as Eusebius saith Origen did, that live sermons, and not teach them only?


Verse 10

Jonah 2:10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry [land].

Ver. 10. And the Lord spake unto the fish] He spake the word and it was done: he is the great centurion of the world, that saith to his creature, Do this, and he doth it. Dei dicere est facere (Aug.). Yea, he is the great, great Induperator, {Imperator} to whom everything saith, Iussa sequi tam velle mihi quam posse necesse esse (Lucan.): I am wholly at thy beck and check. Jonah spake to God, and God to the fish. It may be said of faithful prayer, that it can do whatsoever God himself can do; since he is pleased to yield himself, overcome by the prayers of his people, and to say unto them cordially, as Zedekiah did to his courtiers colloquingly, The king is not he that can deny you anything. Prayer is of that power that it can open the doors of leviathan, as we see here (which yet is reckoned as a thing not feasible, Job 41:14), yea of the all devouring grave, Hebrews 11:35. If the Lord, pricked on by the prayer of his people, set in hand to save them, and shall "say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth," Isaiah 43:6, they shall come amain, and none shall be able to hinder them; "Come, therefore" (with those good souls in Hosea, who had smarted for their folly, as well as Jonah), "and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight," Hosea 6:1-2. A time we must have to be in the fire, in the fish’s belly, as in God’s nurturing house; but he will take care that we be not there overly long; what is two or three days to eternity? Hold out, faith and patience: "Yet a very little, little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry," Hebrews 10:37.

And it vomited up Jonah upon the dry land] And here death was defeated and wiped; it was much more so when it had swallowed up Christ; and little dreamt that itself should have been thereby "swallowed up in victory." Quantum in devoratione mors laetata est, tantum luxit in vomitu (Jerome). But then was fulfilled that of the prophet, O death, I will be thy death. And as there, so here, in a proportion, and as a type, omnia iam inversa, saith Mercer, all things are turned the other way. Before the fish was an instrument of death; now of life, and serves Jonah for a ship to bring him to dry land. This fish useth not to come near the shore, but to sport in the great waters; howbeit now he must, by special command, "vomit up Jonah upon the dry land." "Why then should it be thought a thing incredible with any that God should raise the dead?" Acts 26:8. The sea shall surely give up the dead that were in it; and death and hell deliver up the dead that were in them; and they shall be judged every man according to his works, Revelation 20:13. This some of the heathens believed; as Zoroaster, Theopompus, and Plato. And the Stoics’ opinion was, that the world should one day be dissolved by fire or water; and all things brought to a better state, or to the first golden age again (Sen. Nat. Quaest. 1. 3, c. 26-30). But we have a more sure word of prophecy; and this that is here recorded may serve as an image and type of our preservation in the grave, and our resurrection from the dead, by one and the same almighty power of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jonah 2:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/jonah-2.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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