Bible Commentaries
Jonah 2

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-10

[Jonah’s Hymn of Thanksgiving and Praise for his Deliverance from the Bowels of Fish.—C.E.]

1     Now [And] the Lord [Jehovah] had prepared1 [appointed] a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

2     And Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God from the bowels of the fish and said,

3     I cried to Jehovah out of my distress:

And He answered me:
Out of the womb of Sheol2 I cried:

Thou heardest my voice.

4     Thou castedst me into the deep,3

Into the heart of the seas;
And the stream4 surrounded me;

All thy breakers and thy billows passed over me.

5     And I said: I am cast out from before thine eyes;

Yet I will look again towards thy holy temple.

6     Waters encompassed me even to the soul:5

The abyss surrounded me;
Sea-weed6 was bound to my head.

7     I went down to the foundations7 of the mountains;

The earth—her bars were behind me forever:
And thou didst raise my life from the pit, Jehovah, my God.

8     When my soul fainted8 within me,

I remembered Jehovah:
And my prayer came to Thee,
Into thy holy temple.
Those observing lying vanities
Forsake their own mercy.9

10     But as for me, I will sacrifice to thee

With the voice of thanksgiving.
What I have vowed I will perform.
Salvation10 belongs to Jehovah.

11     And Jehovah spake to the fish, and it vomited Jonah upon the dry land.


Jonah 2:1-2. The Crisis. [In the English Version Jonah 2:1 forms the conclusion of the preceding chapter. In the original Hebrew it is the opening verse of chap. 2.—C. E.]

The narrative says nothing of the kind of fish that swallowed Jonah; it attaches no importance to the question. Inutilis inquisitio. (Marck.) The Septuagint and the New Testament (Matthew 12:40), translate it by the indefinite word Κῆτος, a sea monster; compare Bocharti Hierozoicon, 1.1, 7; 2:5,12. [Suidas following Ælian: Κῆτος θαλάσσιον θηρίον πολυειδές ἐστὶ δὲ λέων, ζύγαινα, πάρδαλις, φύσαλος, πρῆστις, ῆ λεγομένη μάλλη ὴ̓ μάλθη.] Still more general [than κῆτος] is the feminine form דָּגָה, which occurs in Jonah 2:2, instead of דָּג, and which is used everywhere else (also in Deuteronomy 4:18) as a collective noun.

(The opinion of Izchakis that Jonah was first swallowed by a male fish, and that because he did not pray in it, he was vomited up and swallowed by a female one, in which his situation was more confined, and that from this circumstance he was driven to prayer, deserves mention at best as a curious and warning example of the absurdity to which adherence to the letter may lead in exegesis).
One may suppose the fish to have been the shark or sea-dog, Canis carcharias, or Squalus carcharias, L., which is very common in the Mediterranean, and has so large a throat, that it can swallow a living man whole. (Keil). It could hardly be the whale, as Luther thinks, for these two conditions [being common in the Mediterranean, and having a large throat—C. E.]. do not meet in it. The cachalot also, mentioned by Quandt, is not found in the Mediterranean.

[Dr. Pusey, in his introduction to Jonah, quotes largely from modern works on zoölogy and natural history, to prove that the Canis carcharias can easily swallow a man whole. He states on the authority of Blumenbach, that it has been “found of the size of 10,000 pounds and that “horses have been found whole in its stomach.” “In all modern works on zoölogy,” says Dr. Pusey, quoting from Lacepède, Hist, des Poissons, “we find thirty feet given as a common length for a shark’s body. Now a shark’s body is usually only about eleven times the length of the half of its lower jaw. Consequently, a shark of thirty feet would have a lower jaw of nearly six feet in its semicircular extent. Even if such a jaw as this was of hard bony consistence, instead of a yielding carti laginous nature, it would qualify its possessor for engulfing one of our species most easily. This power, which it has by virtue of its cartilaginous skeleton, of stretching, bending, and yielding, enables us to understand how the shark can swallow entire animals as large or larger than ourselves.”—C. E.]

“There is nothing in the original word, מָנה, which at all suggests the idea of creation or production. … All that can be legitimately inferred from its use in this place, is, that in the providence of God, the animal was brought to the spot at the precise time when Jonah was thrown into the sea, and its instrumentality was wanted for his deliverance.” (Henderson, On Jonah.) “The fact here stated is the great stone of stumbling and rock of offense to that class of critics who deny the existence of miracles. We need have no special sympathy with their perplexities or their stumbling; for there can be no good reason for rejecting miracles. Besides in this case, our divine Lord distinctly recognizes the presence of miracles by saying that Jonah was “a sign,” i. e., a man in whom miracles were manifested “It is not necessarily a miracle that a great fish should swallow a man. There are several varieties that are capable of swallowing a man whole, for they have done it. But that a man should live three days and three nights, or indeed one hour, in the belly of a fish, must be a miracle.” (Cowles, On Jonah.) C. E.]

Jonah lives three days and three nights in the inside, literally in the bowels of the fish. Three days and three nights is a current Hebrew expression, which does not describe, with chronological exactness, the space of seventy-two hours, but corresponds to our mode of designating time by such phrases as “the day after to-morrow,” “the day before yesterday.” (1 Samuel 30:1; comp. 1 Samuel 2:12, Esther 4:16; comp. Esther 5:1; Matthew 12:40.)

[The three days and three nights are not to be regarded as three times twenty [four] hours, but are to be interpreted according to Hebrew usage, as signifying that Jonah was vomited up again on the third day after he had been swallowed. (Comp. Esther 4:16 with Esther 5:1, and Tob 3:12-13 according to the Lutheran text.) (Keil and Delitzsch, On Jonah.—C. E.]

[Jonah 2:2. The prayer which follows (Jonah 2:2-9) is not a petition for deliverance, but thanksgiving and praise for deliverance already received. It by no means follows from this however, that Jonah did not utter this prayer till after he had been vomited upon the land, and that Jonah 2:10 ought to be inserted before Jonah 2:2; but as the earlier commentators have shown, the fact is rather this: that when Jonah had been swallowed by the fish, and found that he was preserved alive in the fish’s belly, he regarded this as a pledge of his deliverance, for which he praised the Lord.

Luther also observes that he did not actually utter these very words with his mouth, and arrange them in this orderly manner, in the belly of the fish; but that he here shows what the state of his mind was, and what thoughts he had when he was engaged in this conflict with death. The expression “his God” [אֱלֹהָיו] must not be overlooked. He prayed not only to Jehovah, as the heathen sailors also did (Jonah 1:14), but to Jehovah as his God, from whom he had tried to escape, and whom he now addresses again as his God, when in peril of death. “He shows his faith by adoring Him as his God.” (Burk:) The prayer consists for the most part of reminiscences of passages in the Psalms, which were so exactly suited to Jonah’s circumstances, that he could not have expressed his thoughts and feelings any better in words of his own. It is by no means so “atomically compounded from passages in the Psalms” that there is any ground for pronouncing it “a later production which has been attributed to Jonah,” as Knobel and De Wette do; but it is the simple and natural utterance of a man versed in Holy Scripture and living in the word of God, and is in perfect accordance with the prophet’s circumstances and the state of his mind.” (Keil and Delitzsch, On Jonah.)—C. E.]

[“Some of the Rabbins, Hezel and others, would argue from the use of מִן , from, out of, and not בּ, in, before מְעֵי that the prayer of Jonah was not presented while he was in the belly of the fish, but after his deliverance; but this interpretation is justly rejected, both by Aben Ezra and Kimchi. The preposition marks the place from which he directed his thoughts to the Most High.” (Henderson, On Jonah.)—C. E.]

Jonah 2:3-10. The prayer of Jonah, which is not a supplicatory, but a thanksgiving prayer, is in this place to be understood only from the design of the book (compare the Introduction, 3, pp. 6, 7). Also what Keil, following the early interpreters, observes, has its truth only from the point of view, that when Jonah had been swallowed by the fish and had found that he was preserved in its belly, he regarded this as a pledge of his future complete deliverance, and for this thanked the Lord. Considered in a purely historical light [Bei rein historischem Verständniss], it might be said that the prolongation of life in this manner [in the fish’s belly] would rather awaken the idea of a much more loathsome death than drowning, and hence the accompanying feeling must have been, not that of thanksgiving, but of painful uncertainty. Moreover, something at least would have been said in the prayer, of that intermediate idea of a pledge; but no trace of it is to be found.

The structure of this hymn, composed after the manner of the Psalms and filled with reminiscences of passages from them, falls into three strophes, namely Jonah 2:4 f. Jonah 2:6 f. Jonah 2:8; which are set in the frame of a brief exordium and of a conclusion summing up the whole in an aphorism and a vow, Jonah 2:9 f. Each of these strophes represents a degree in the ascent from distress to deliverance; so that strophe 1 advances to hope; strophe 2 to deliverance; and strophe 3 stops on this eminence Compare, concerning the form and kind of prayer, the Introduction, p. 8.

Jonah 2:3. The brief preamble: I cried out of the distress which was upon me, to Jehovah, and He answered me. Comp. Psalms 116:1 f. With trifling variations, “which very naturally occur in quotations from memory” (Goldhorn), it resembles Psalms 120:1, which has בַּצָּרָתָה לִי, whereas this verse with the same periphrastic suffix reads, מִצָּרַה לִי. The parallel: Out of the womb of Sheol I cried: Thou heardest my voice. That the expression womb of Sheol is figurative, is proved by its parallelism to צָּתָה. Sheol in the language of the Psalms, is often used for the inevitable peril of death: compare the way to perdition, Proverbs 7:27. To ascribe to it a belly or a womb, as at other times a mouth (Psalms 61:7), or jaws (Isaiah 5:14), was certainly hot indicated by the situation as the act of Jonah, who describes something past and not present, but was done by the narrator, who produces the prayer. (Compare Luther’s observation, in the Introd., p. 8).

The alleged mechanical compilation of this prayer from passages in the Psalms reduces itself also here to involuntary reminiscences of isolated expressions found in them. (Comp. Psalms 130:2; Psalms 28:1 ff.) [Comp. Psalms 120:1 with Jonah 2:3; Psalms 42:8 with Jonah 2:4; Psalms 31:23 with Jonah 2:5; Psalms 142:4 with Jonah 2:8; Psalms 31:7 with Jonah 2:9; Ps. 3:9 with Jon 2:10.11 Henderson On Jonah.—C. E.]

Strophe I., Jonah 2:4-5.

Jonah 2:4 is an enlarged picture of the painful situation that he experienced. The connection indicated by ו conjunctive, is not so close as to prevent the verb from being rendered in the pluperfect. Yea, thou hadst cast me into the abyss, into the midst of the seas (comp. Psalms 46:3): and thy streams surrounded me; all thy billows and waves went over me (Psalms 88:7 f.; Psalms 69:2 ff). These are frequent images of the deepest misery, which, in this instance, receive, from the situation, a particularly impressive character, and give the key to the understanding of the symbolism of the whole narrative. In Jonah overwhelmed by the waves, Israel, whose frame of mind is exhibited in Psalms 88:0, is again represented. The state of heart required by God for deliverance, a state produced by faith, which, in the deepest distress, rests upon the word and promise of God, and which, contrary to all external experience, does not relinquish its confidence in invisible things, which are the objects of hope in our present condition, is exquisitely described by the brief antithetic contrast in Jonah 2:5 : And I said (comp. Psalms 30:7) I am cast out from before thine eyes—the gracious experience of thy favor—(Isaiah 34:16; Psalms 31:23), yet surely [אךְ, a particle of strong opposition, of decided contrast (Isaiah 14:15)] I will look again toward Thy holy temple, for which Israel, in his forlorn condition, ardently longs (Psalms 42:5). Compare a similar flash of hope in the night of suffering, in Job 19:22 ff. [“Green would supply the negative לֹא before אוֹסִיף, and Hitzig would point אֵךְ ,אַךְ for אַיךְ, how; but both without any authority. Such sudden transitions from fear to hope are frequently expressed in Scripture.” (Henderson On Jonah.)—C. E.]

[“The thought that it is all over with him is met by the confidence of faith that he will still look to the holy temple of the Lord, that is to say, will once more approach the presence of the Lord, to worship before Him in his temple,—an assurance which recalls Psalms 5:8 (7).”

“The figure of bolts of the earth that were shut behind Jonah, which we only meet with here (בְּעַד, from the phrase סָגַר הַדֶּלֶת בְעַד, to shut the door behind a person: Genesis 7:16; 2 Kings 4:4-5; 2 Kings 4:33; Isaiah 26:20), has an analogy in the idea which occurs in Job 38:10, of bolts and doors of the ocean. The bolts of the sea are the walls of the sea-basin, which set bounds to the sea, that it cannot pass over. Consequently the bolts of the earth can only be such barriers as restrain the land from spreading over the sea. These barriers are the weight and force of the waves, which prevent the land from encroaching on the sea. This weight of the waves, or of the great masses of water, which pressed upon Jonah when he had sunk to the bottom of the sea, shut or bolted against him the way back to the earth (the land) just as the bolts that are drawn before the door of a house, fasten up the entrance into it; so that the reference is neither to “the rocks jutting out above the water, which prevented any one from ascending from the sea to the land, nor “densissima terrœ compages, qua abyssus tecta Jonam in hoc constitutum occludebat.” (Marck), Keil and Delitzsch.—C. E.]

Strophe II., Jonah 2:6-7.

The picture receives again a deeper shade, in view of the misery which he experienced.

Jonah 2:6. Waters encompassed me (Psalms 18:5) even to the soul (Psalms 69:2): the abyss surrounded me; seaweed was wound around my breast,—all individual and independent statements descriptive of his situation.

[“עַד־נֶפֶש, even to, or to the very soul, i. e. the animal life; meaning to the extinction of life. סוּף is the alga, or weed, which abounds at the bottom of the sea, and from which the Arabian gulf takes the name of יַם־סוּף, the sea of weeds. Kimchi explains it by גוֹמֶא, the papyrus, or bulrush. Gesenius refines too much when he attaches to חָבוּש in this place the idea of binding round the head like a turban. Assuredly Jonah had no such idea in his mind. He rather describes how he felt, as if entangled by the sedge or weeds through which he was dragged.” (Henderson, On Jonah.)—C. E.]

Jonah 2:7. To the extremities, i. e., to the foundations of the mountains, which lie deep under the sea (Psalms 104:4 (3); Psalms 18:16 (15)), I dived down; the earth —her bars—the beams with which her foundation structure is fastened (Psalms 104:5)—were around me [Hitzig: behind me; then I seemed, thrust out from the land of the living, (Jeremiah 11:19)] for ever; so thought the sinking prophet; for present sufferings and the perils of death made, upon his mind the impression of the everlasting and the inevitable (Psalms 13:2 (1)). Thou didst raise my life from the pit (שַׁחַת, as in Job 17:14), Jehovah my God (Psalms 30:4 (3)).

Strophe III.

Jonah 2:8. Casts once more a glance upon his affliction: When my soul (Psalms 142:4) fainted to dying (Psalms 42:5) within me; in order to include with it directly the deliverance: Jehovah (a beautiful inversion) I remembered (Psalms 42:7 (6)), and my prayer came to Thee into Thy holy temple, from which prayers are heard (Psalms 18:7 (6)).

The conclusion (Jonah 2:9-10) places in an antithetic manner, which is of frequent occurrence in the Psalms, the vow of the pious man, who, through divine grace, has resolved to lead a new life, in contrast with the destruction of the ungodly, whom God does not deliver.

Jonah 2:9. Those who observe lying vanities—the Piel of שׁמר like the Hithpael (Micah 6:16), for the intensive degree of the Kal signification—forsake their own mercy. The reference to the heathen sailors, which the earlier interpreters, almost without exception, give to this verse, is, according to the description of them in the first chapter, certainly altogether unauthorized. The thought is entirely general, but (from the scope of the whole) with parenetical, secondary application to the Israelites, who in calamity did not seek their help in God, but in idols (הבלים, comp. Deuteronomy 32:21). These apostates come by the short and energetic expression, in harmony with Genesis 24:27, into direct opposition to God, who never abandons his mercy. חסד is the gracious condition of the חסידים, the pious (Isaiah 57:1).

[“חַסְדָּם, lit. their mercy, or goodness; by metonymy for their Benefactor, i. e. God, the author and source of all goodness; the supreme good. Comp. Psalms 144:2, where David calls God חֶסֶד. The word properly signifies kindness or benignity, and most appropriately designates Him who is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works.” (Henderson, On Jonah.) So also Keil and Delitzsch and Pusey.—C. E.]

Jonah 2:10. But I, says Israel, conformably to Psalms 50:14, will sacrifice to thee with the voice of thanksgiving. What I have vowed I will pay. With the joyful ascription, salvation belongs to Jehovah, the whole prayer closes, like Psalms 3:0. That is the salvation, which He will give to his people, after their affliction, at the time of the consummation, looking to which the true Israel, even in the belly of the fish, in the sorrows of banishment and exile, praises Him (Isaiah 26:2; Isaiah 25:10; Genesis 49:18).

Jonah 2:11. The Deliverance. Jehovah spake to the fish and it vomited up Jonah on dry land. Προστάττεται πάλιν τὸ κῆτος θείᾳ τιςὶ καὶ�͂ δοκοῦν κινούμενον. Cyril. Cocceius, in order to bring the miracle nearer to the natural understanding, refers to the statements of Gregory Nazianzen and Oppian, concerning certain fish, which swallow their young when danger threatens, and vomit them out again. He refers also to the accounts in Pliny and Athenæus, that an entire man clad in armor has been found in the belly of a great sea-monster (Pliny, Canicula, Athen. Carcharias). There were found, says Keil, on the authority of Oken (Animal Kingdom, vol. 3 p. 55 ff., 1836), about a dozen of tunny-fish, undigested, in a shark caught in Sardinia; and in another even an entire horse. (This fish can erect and lay its teeth at pleasure, because they are fastened only in the cellular tissue [Hautzellen]). Rondelet says that he has seen one on the west coast of France, through whose throat a fat man could easily pass. In the year 1758, a sailor, during a storm, fell overboard from a frigate into the Mediterranean sea, and was immediately seized by a shark and disappeared. The captain of the vessel caused a cannon, which was standing on the deck, to be discharged at the shark, the ball of which struck it, so that it vomited out the sailor, who was then taken up alive and only a little injured, into a sloop that had come to his assistance, and thus saved. On the other side, Cornelius a Lapide attempts to explain the vomiting, at least, as a natural occurrence produced by the uncomfortableness of the fish. We think that no service is done either to the matter or to the interpretation [Verständniss] of the book by this rationalizing apologetic attempt (see above, p. 2), and especially in reference to the latter question we are of the opinion of Theodoret, who calls subtle inquiries concerning these things an ἀνόητος πολυπραλμοσύνη, a foolish officiousness.


(See above, pp. 5, 6, 9, 10.)


Eternal Redemption in Time. Introduction.—Israel, a prefiguration of Christendom; Jonah, a type of Israel. Comp. Jonah 2:8 with 1 Kings 8:46 ff.

1. We still wander in the place of imprisonment, 2, 4, 5a, 6, 7ab. [Daily sins and the common guilt of the human race encompass us within and without; our body is an earthly house, in which our immortal part lies shut up; around us is the sighing of the creature, which longs for, the glorious manifestation of the sons of God.]

2. But we are redeemed, Jonah 2:3; Jonah 2:5 b, Jonah 2:7-10. [The fact is absolute and eternal: the appropriation is effected in time, and that through faith, which is a certain, confident apprehension of that which is still invisible, 5b, 8. Whoever renounces it [faith] has no part in redemption (Jonah 2:9). In the service of God we bring that which is eternal into time, and think as if we were perfected; because the beginning of redemption, planted in us, includes within it its completion (Jonah 2:3; Jonah 2:10).

Jonah 2:1. In that which for the moment seems most painful and most insupportable, the gracious hand of our God is often very near to us. Everything which God sends has its fixed time and appointed end; a time not longer than we are able to bear it. Thou who complainest of affliction, hast thou ever thought what grace it is on the part of God that thou art alive?

Jonah 2:2. There is no place so desolate and dark that it cannot be turned into a temple of God by the praying saint.

Jonah 2:3. There is no failure in God’s answer, but the failure is in calling upon Him. Can we need human mediators, in order to be heard by Him, who hears the voice of him who cries from the bosom of hell? The invocation of saints is a relapse into a practice, that is far below the teachings of the Old Testament.

Jonah 2:4. We ought never to forget, that wherever we are, we are placed there by God [wir von Gott dahin gethan sind], and that all the waves and billows that go over us are his waves and billows. In the Old Testament God sends the tempest of the waves and billows. In the New Testament He commands them to be still; in both they are obedient to Him.

Jonah 2:5. With the natural man arises first defiance, then despair: with the redeemed man strength is realized out of despair by the power of the spirit. The declarations of faith are all paradoxes and contrasts. Because I suffer, I shall be glorified.

Jonah 2:6 ff. If I descend to hell, behold Thou art there. Such is the anguish of the hour of death that one no longer perceives aught of love around him, but all around the head and on every side waters, which go even to the soul, so that the spirit faints within us. God’s temple is near in all places. But whoever speaks of it as Jonah does here, it is evident that he also loves the visible place, where God’s honor dwelleth. Whoever despises this place, to him that truth will not come to remembrance in the time of trouble. The want of the means of grace is not damnable to him only, whose soul does not despise them.

Jonah 2:9. Where lying vanities take up their abode in the heart, there is the contempt of God, or there it grows; it is there also where man either makes earthly things God’s, or forms for himself delusive ideas concerning God. Falling from a state of grace, may happen altogether insensibly; but it certainly commences with a divided heart.

Jonah 2:10. The history of Jonah is a shadow of future things; he leaves it to the heathen to bring a sacrifice (Jonah 1:16), he himself offers thanksgiving.

Jonah 2:11. Turn the prison of the world into the temple of God, and it will not be able to detain thee. God does not leave his saints in hell (Psalms 16:10). We are buried with Christ by baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

Luther: Jonah 2:3. Two great and necessary lessons: 1. That we should before all things run speedily to God, and cry to Him in trouble and make our complaints to Him. Canst thou call and cry, then there is no more danger. For even hell would not be hell, nor continue hell, if in it one could call upon and cry to God. Nature of course cannot do otherwise, nor be otherwise, than as it feels. But now while it feels God’s wrath and punishment, if it regards Him as an angry tyrant it cannot rise above such feelings and press through to God. Therefore, since Jonah has gone so far as to cry, he has won. 2. That we also feel in our hearts, that it is such a cry as God will answer. This is nothing else than to call with true faith of heart. For the head does not erect itself, nor do the hands raise themselves, before the heart is raised. What hell is before the last day, I am not positive. That it is a particular place, where lost souls are now constantly kept, as painters portray and as gluttons preach, I do not believe; for the devils are not yet in hell (Ephesians 6:12; John 14:30). Therefore, the Scriptures use the word Sheol with propriety, for the purpose of designating the last agonies of death. But at the last day it will certainly become a different thing.

Jonah 2:5. The idea of his being cast out from God’s countenance, has in the first place a reference to his body; for he felt in his heart that he must die; in the second place, to his soul, as if he were eternally cast out from God.

Jonah 2:8. The powers and energies of his soul yielded to despair. But that he thinks of the Lord and begins to believe, is not the work of his soul; the spirit and no one else can think of the Lord. When the remembrance of the Lord enters the heart, then a new light arises; then life once more sheds forth its rays; then the heart again receives courage to call; and then too he is certainly heard. In the Old Testament all prayers were required to come to the mercy-seat; so now in the New Testament all prayers must come to Jesus Christ.

Jonah 2:9. Jonah reproves in this verse those devoid of understanding, who seek holiness by their own deeds, and hypocrites, who do not trust in God’s grace alone, but in their own works.

Jonah 2:10. Where the saints in the Scriptures speak of paying vows and do not express any one [vow] in particular, we must understand the common vow of all, who are God’s people, namely, that we will have no God but Him alone.

Jonah 2:11. Now everything is reversed: that which before tended to death must now tend to life.

Starke: Jonah 2:1. God can preserve a man miraculously against the course of nature (1 Kings 17:4 ff.).

Jonah 2:2. God is not only the God of all believers in general, but also of each one particularly (Psalms 63:2).

Jonah 2:3. Nothing can better excite a man to gratitude toward God than to consider diligently the trouble and danger from which God has delivered him.

Jonah 2:4. It is great misery to lie in the water; but the greatest is to be cast out from God.

Jonah 2:5. When we have bodily trouble, it ordinarily so arouses the guilty conscience, that our distress is doubled. In the hour of death Satan is most active with his temptations, and would like to cast us into despair.

Jonah 2:6. God, moved by righteous judgment and wise design, often visits with many trials and afflictions of different kinds those who have already exercised true repentance.

Jonah 2:7. It is a special, gracious work of the Holy Spirit, if He gives to believers, in the midst of their troubles, not only a good hope of the divine aid, but also strengthens them in the faith, so that they consider it as already actually attained (Exodus 14:13; 2 Chronicles 20:13 ff. ).

Jonah 2:8. When we come into the pains of death, and our mouth can no longer speak, then should our heart sigh to God.

Jonah 2:10. One should keep his vows (Ecclesiastes 5:4).

Jonah 2:11. God gives beyond our asking and our understanding. The almighty, hand of God will one day restore to life those who have perished in the waters (Revelation 20:13).

Pfaff: Jonah 2:4. O, how good it is for the soul to feel the anger of the Lord and to be driven into straits; for thereby it is brought right to God, and its faith is strengthened.

Jonah 2:5. A child of God longs for the temple and public service of God, in order to praise the Lord becomingly in the congregation and to be quickened by the mutual prayer of the pious.

Quandt: Our Lord has interpreted to us, in the New Testament, the history contained in this chapter as a prophecy of Him; as a sign of his death, of his descent to Hades, and of his resurrection. On this account this chapter acquires a glory, which the other three have not.

Jonah 2:1. If a man should be received unhurt into a fish’s body, according to the course of nature he cannot breathe and live a single hour. At all events the Lord wrought a miracle in the case of Jonah; we can in his case altogether dispense with natural history. With many repentance is a mere speculation on the act of bestowing grace,—a speculation that fails, when the Lord leads the soul still deeper into judgment or misery. Not so with Jonah.

Jonah 2:2. Jonah was very well acquainted with the Psalter and had committed to memory many a prayer of the saints. This was of great advantage to him now, as his prayer shows. There is good reason why a man should come before the throne of the Merciful One, with his own words, instead of set forms. But in times of spiritual drought a manual has also its advantages.

Jonah 2:4. With Thou and Thine Jonah clings to the same Divine hand, which punishes him, and therefore this hand must raise him from the deep to a high place.

Jonah 2:8. ff. Jonah trusts that God, who had delivered his soul, would now also do the less and save his body. By faith he sees his deliverance as already accomplished, and for that reason promises to God offerings of thanksgiving.

Augustine: Jonah 2:1. Jonah prophesied of Christ, not so much by his words as by sufferings; and evidently more clearly than if he had announced his sufferings and resurrection by words.

Marck: God often makes an end of temptation contrary to human expectation (1 Corinthians 10:13), and never denies his favor, because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Lavater: That Jonah could draw breath in the belly of the fish, or receive as much air as he had heed of, was just as possible as that a child can live in its mother’s womb.

Burck: Jonah 2:2. Wonderful change (Jonah 1:6)—he made little haste to pray; he suffered himself to be driven to it. Now in the deepest misery he prays not only most earnestly, but most confidently.

Theodoret: Jonah 2:3. I, says he, who heretofore thought that thou dwellest only in Jerusalem, and only there revealest thyself to the prophets, found thee present in the belly of the fish, etc.

Burck: We have in this prayer an example of the right use of the Psalter. Even the holy men of God, who were partakers of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, have not refused to appeal to and to cite formally the books of Scripture, which existed already in their time. A strong argument for the authority of the holy Scriptures.

Rieger: We should in this sign consider Jonah particularly as a type of the deep humiliation of the Son of God in the midst of the earth and of his reviving from the dead, that event, whose light ever afterward falls on all the paths of life, otherwise still so deep and dark.

Rieger: To attain good by means of the wrath which one experiences is no small matter. It is as if one were obliged to pass through nothing but spears and swords. Many expressions in the prayer of Jonah are taken from the Psalms. So in similar circumstances something out of the Scriptures will occur, often only after a long time, to the memory of the sufferer.

Rieger: Jonah 2:5. What an eternal sting do all our humiliations carry with them, when three days and three nights can become as long to a man as if he were forever isolated.

Burck: Jonah 2:7. Here first, in the end of his prayer, Jonah ventures to use the direct and confident address: Jehovah, my God, doubtless with the most heartfelt delight. Before he had humbly and anxiously abstained from it.

Hieronymus: Jonah 2:9. Those who not merely practice vanity (for all is vanity, therefore all practice it), but observe it as if they loved it and found a treasure in it.

Schmieder: Jonah 2:10. All help comes from the Lord, even where He helps through means; therefore we should not trust in the means, whether things or persons, but in the Lord, and thank Him first for all help.

Jonah 2:11. The instinct of beasts can be controlled by the will of God. (Comp. Daniel 6:22.)

Schlier: What was likely to be the effect upon Jonah, who experienced such a miraculous interposition on the part of his God ! What was likely to be the effect upon others, who heard of it, for the report of the miracle soon spread abroad. Even the heathen fables know something of it. [In the poem, Cassandra, ascribed to Lycophron, and in a fragment of the logographer Hellenicus, cited by the Scholiasts on Homer’s Iliad, 20:145, it is related, that Hercules delivered Hesione by entering into the belly of a sea-monster, to which she was exposed, whose entrails he tore in pieces and came out again in safety; and the church fathers state that the myth ascribes to his stay in the monster’s belly three days’ continuance.]

[Calvin: 9 (10.) It must be noticed here that the worship of God especially consists in praises, as it is said in Psalms 1:0 : for there God shows that he regards as nothing all sacrifices, except they answer this end—to set forth the praise of his name. It was indeed his will that sacrifices should be offered to Him under the law; but it was for the end just stated; for God cares not for calves and oxen, for goats and lambs; but his will was that He should be acknowledged as the Giver of all blessings. Hence He says there “sacrifice to me the sacrifice of praise.”

Matthew Henry: Jonah 2:2. No place is amiss for prayer. I will that men pray everywhere: wherever God casts us we may find a way open heavenward, if it be not our own fault.

Jonah 2:10. Jonah’s experience shall encourage others, in all ages, to trust in God, as the God of their salvation: all that read this story, shall say it with assurance, say it with admiration, that salvation is of the Lord, and is sure to all that belong to Him.

Pusey: 7 (8). But when it came to the utmost, then he says, I remembered the Lord, as though, in the intense thought of God then, all his former thought of God had been forgetfulness. So it is in every strong act of faith, of love, of prayer; its former state seems unworthy of the name faith, love, prayer. It believes, loves, prays, as though all before had been forgetfulness.

Jonah 2:9 (10) God seems often to wait for the full resignation of the soul, all its powers and will to Him. Then He can show mercy healthfully, when the soul is wholly surrendered to Him. So on this full confession Jonah is restored.—C. E.]


[1][Jonah 2:1.—מִנָּה, Piel of מָנָה, does not mean to create, but to allot, to appoint.

[2][Jonah 2:3.—מִבֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל, out of the womb of the under world. The usual derivation of שְׁאוֹל is from שָׁאַל, to ask, to demand; but Gesenius says the true etymology is שְׁעוֹל, cavity, from שָׁעַל. Compare the German Hölle, hell, originally the same with Höhle, a hollow, cavern.

[3][Jonah 2:4.—מְצוּלָה, the deep is denned by “the heart of the seas”—the deepest part of the ocean.

[4][Jonah 2:4.—נָחָר, stream, current, flood—the current or tide of the sea. Compare Psalms 24:2.

[5][Jonah 2:6.—עַד־נֶפֶשׁ, even to, or to the very soul, i. e., to the extinction of the animal life.

[6][Jonah 2:6.—סוּף, alga, or weed, which abounds at the bottom of the sea, and from which the Arabian Gulf takes the name of יַם־סוּף, the sea of weeds.

[7][Jonah 2:7.—קְצָבִים, sections, cuttings, clefts. Vulgate, extrema montium. Septuagint, εἰς σχισμὰς ὀρέων. The foundations and roots of the mountains, which lie in the depths of the earth, reaching even to the foundation of the sea. (Compare Psalms 18:16).

[8][Jonah 2:8.—הִתְעַטֵּף, to be in a state of faintness, swoon, from עָטַף, to cover, to involve in darkness. LXX. Ἐν τῶ ἐκλείπειν τὴν ψυχὴν μου�̓ ἐμοῦ.

[9][Jonah 2:9.—חַסְדָּם, their mercy or goodness, by metonymy for God, the author and source of mercy and goodness. (Compare Psalms 144:2.)

[10][ Jonah 2:10.—Henderson says the paragogic ה in יְשׁוּעָתָה is intensive; but it is merely a poetical form. Compare Psalms 3:3; Psalms 80:3. It is appended to nouns for the purpose of softening the termination, without affecting the sense.—C. E.]

[11][It must be remembered that Dr. Henderson numbers the last verse of the first chapter as it stands in the English Version, as the first verse of the second chapter. This explanation is necessary in order to understand the references quoted above.—C. E.]

[12][Reichsgedanken. See note, p. 20.—C. E.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.