JONAH’S PRAYER AND DELIVERANCE.
(1) Then Jonah prayed.—This introduction, to what is in reality a psalm of thanksgiving, has its parallel in Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10), which is introduced in the same way. Comp. also the Note appended by the psalm collector at the end of Psalms 72, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.”
Out of the belly of hell.—This remarkable expression—a forcible figure for imminent death—has its nearest parallel in Isaiah 5:14, where sheôl (see Psalm 6:5) is represented as opening a huge mouth to swallow the princes of the world and their pomp. The under-world represents the Hebrew word sheôl more nearly than hell or the grave (margin). (Comp. Psalm 18:5; Psalm 30:3.)
And thou heardest . . .—The conjunction is unnecessarily introduced. The sudden change of person, a frequent figure in Hebrew poetry, is more striking without the connecting word.
Floods.—Literally, river, used here of the ocean currents. (Comp. Psalm 24:2.)
All thy billows and thy waves.—More exactly, all thy breakers and billows. (See Psalm 42:7, where the same expression is used figuratively for great danger and distress.)
Yet I will look again.—The Hebrew is very impressive, and reads like one of those exile hopes so common in the Psalms: “Yet I have one thing left, to turn towards Thy holy Temple and pray.” (For the attitude see Note on Psalm 28:2.)
The weeds were wrapped about my head.—This graphic touch is quite original. The figure of overwhelming waters is a common one in Hebrew song to represent some crushing sorrow, but nowhere is the picture so vivid as here. At the same time the entire absence of any reference to the fish, which would, indeed, be altogether out of place in this picture of a drowning man entangled in seaweed, should be noticed. That on which the prophet lays stress is not on the mode of his escape, but his escape itself.
The earth with her bars . . .—Literally, the earth her bars behind me for ever; i.e., the earth’s gates were closed upon me for ever, there was no possibility of return. The metaphor of a gateway to sheôl is common (Isaiah 38:10, &c.), but the earth is nowhere else said to be so guarded. Ewald therefore proposes to read sheôl here. But it is quite as natural to imagine a guarded passage out of the land of the living as into the land of the dead.
Corruption.—Rather, pit. (See Note, Psalm 16:10.)
Into thine holy temple.—See Jonah 2:4, and comp. Psalm 18:6.
Forsake their own mercy—i.e., forfeit their own share of the covenant grace. In Psalm 37:28 it is said that Jehovah does not forsake his chasîdim; they, however, by forsaking Jehovah (Himself called Israel’s mercy, Psalm 144:2, margin) and His law (Psalm 89:30) can forfeit their chesed or covenant privilege.
Salvation is of the Lord.—Or, Deliverance is Jehovah’s. (Comp. Psalm 3:8.)
Jonah 2:10And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.