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
R. Reed Lessing writes:
Jonah’s psalm reflects the language and motifs of the Psalms. While it, like 1:9 and 4:2, expresses the truth about Yahweh, this truth conflicts with Jonah’s inappropriate, hypocritical, and self-righteous behavior in the larger context of the book. The negative character portrayal of Jonah in chapter 1 is therefore sharpened in chapter 2. The prophet becomes farther separated from those around him by his appalling disregard for the salvation of others. This time it is the fish that separates him. He will go to Nineveh in chapter 3, but then the separation reappears at the narratives end, where Jonah is physically separated from everyone and talking only to himself.
But if Jonah is separated from sailors and the fish, he is not cut off from Yahweh, who says in another context, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” In the Hebrew of Jonah, two similarly constructed lines highlight this promise of Yahweh and bracket the versification of the chapter. Yahweh provides a great fish to swallow Jonah. Yahweh speaks to the fish, and it vomits up Jonah. Indeed, it is Yahweh who provides the answer to Jonah (2:2), who casts Jonah into the sea, whose breakers and waves crash over the prophet, who delivers Jonah from death by drowning. Jonah’s prayer is directed to Him, as are his sacrifice and vows. The evidence is overwhelming: Yahweh still binds Himself to Jonah, and God continues to deal with him not according to strict justice, but rather in ways that are full of grace.
Jonah’s determination to flee from the presence of Yahweh was a fight to death. By God’s mercy, the great fish swallows him and saves the prophet from Sheol. While sinking down toward “the belly of Sheol,” and when rescued in the fish’s belly, Jonah is met by the God who not only “killed” him but raises him up and gives him new life.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 73
Q. 73. Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.