Jonah 2


‘From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. ‘When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. ‘Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’ And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.’ Jonah 2:1-10

We often forget that, at this point, Jonah didn’t know what was going to happen next, he must have thought when he was thrown overboard that he was going to die. It appears the only thing that will bring Jonah to his senses is being inside this great fish.

It’s here he confesses his sins and promises that he will be obedient to God. Whilst being entangled in seaweed, He thanks God for saving him from dying in the sea. If there’s ever been a prayer of repentance, this is it, he now knows that his life means nothing unless he obeys the will of God.

Jonah quotes from several Psalms in his prayer, which tells us he knew the Scriptures well.

Jonah 2:3b / Psalm 18:7 / Psalm 120:1

Jonah 2:4b / Psalms 18:6 / Psalm 30:4

Jonah 2:5 / Psalm 42:8

Jonah 2:6 / Psalm 31:23 / Psalm 5:8

Jonah 2:7 / Psalm 18:8 / Psalm 69:2f

Jonah 2:8 / Psalm 18:17 / Psalm 30:4 / Psalm 103:4

Jonah 2:9 / Psalm 142:4 / Psalm 143:4 / Psalm 18:7 / Psalm 5:8

Jonah 2:10 / Psalm 88:3 / Psalm 31:7 / Psalm 26:7 / Psalm 50:14 / Psalm 50:23 / Psalm 42:5 / Psalm 116:7

The word ‘Sheol’, found in the Old Testament, doesn’t mean ‘hell’, it simply means, ‘the realm of the dead’, the grave. Sheol is described as a gloomy place, in which an individual is farther away from God than he was during his lifetime.

We’re told that ‘For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing’. Ecclesiastes 9:5, and, according to Psalm 115:17, ‘It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence’.

Although many believe that Jonah actually died, we see that he was lamenting in prayer, as if he had died, Psalm 88:3-12 / Psalm 120:1 / Psalm 142:1 / Lamentations 3:55-58. At the end of this chapter, we will look at the question, did Jonah actually die?

Jonah now understands that everything He was going through was God’s doing, he now understood that it was God who was bringing him to a state of repentance in order for him to submit to God’s will and go to Nineveh. He understood that he had been banished from God’s sight because of his disobedience towards God’s command.

Notice he says, ‘I will look again’, this is what repentance is all about, it’s about looking again at your situation, he obviously believes if God will deliver him from his current situation, he would go on to obey God’s command to go to Nineveh.

When Jonah ‘remembered the Lord’, he didn’t think God was being unfair, even though he’s inside the belly of a fish. He confessed his own sinfulness because he knew it was his own selfish actions which got him into the mess, he now finds himself in, Hosea 4:6.

He thanked God because he now knows it was God who actually saved him, by providing this great fish. Because he made a vow to ‘make good’, he was determined not to go against God’s word, as he did earlier, and he now believes that God will deliver him from the belly of the fish and get on with the task of preaching repentance to the Ninevites.

Jonah was desperate and in a desperate situation, and he turned to the only person who could help him and that’s God Himself. He had three days to reflect upon his actions, repent of his actions and then trust God to take care of him and so, God ‘commanded the fish’ to vomit Jonah out, and notice where he landed, on ‘dry land’, exactly where is unknown, but close enough for Jonah to walk to that great city of Nineveh.

Did Jonah die or live whilst in the fish?

There are many people who believe that Jonah actually died in the stomach of the fish and many people who believe that he didn’t, the truth is we simply don’t know, despite there being many arguments for and against it. I guess in the grand scheme of things, it may not be all that important.

I personally believe that if God wanted to keep Jonah alive, He could do so very easily, after all, He was the One who provided this fish in the first place, Jonah 1:17.

I’ve personally changed my mind on this question a few times over the years, as I read and hear other people’s arguments for and against and no doubt I may change my mind again.

Notice, however, that nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jonah actually ‘lived’ in the belly of the fish for three days and nights. This leads to the question, where does it actually say that he died in the fish?

The Bible does say that Jonah prayed ‘whilst inside the fish’, Jonah 1:1, but then he cried out ‘from deep in the realm of the dead’, Jonah 2:2, and we know that people are still very much alive and conscious after death, Luke 16:19-31, how else would Jonah be able to pray if he wasn’t alive and conscious in the afterlife?

‘Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’ He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ Matthew 12:38-40.

Here, Jesus said Jonah in the whale’s belly was a picture of His own physical death and so, just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the whale, so Jesus spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

This leads me to conclude that just as Jonah was physically dead in the whale, so Jesus was going to be physically dead in the tomb.

Like I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t stake my mortgage on this, because no one knows if he literally died or not, but if Jonah did die, this would correspond exactly to what Jesus was teaching the Pharisees about His own death and resurrection.

When God resurrected Jonah from the grave, He was showing us that Jesus Christ would be resurrected from the grave.

Go To Jonah 3