Jonah 2

1And Jonah prayed[1] to Yahweh his God from the belly of the fish. 2He said,

I cried[2] out to Yahweh in my distress,
and He answered me;

From the belly[3] of Sheol[4] I shouted,
and You[5] heard my voice.

3For You hurled me into the deep,
into the heart of the sea;

The undercurrents encircled me,
and the breakers and waves swept over me.

4Then I said, “I am driven away[6] from Your sight,
yet I would return again to[7] Your holy temple.”

5The waters surrounded me to take my life;[8]
The deep encircled me;
Seaweed wrapped around my head.

6I sank to the base of the mountains;
The earth barred me in forever.

But you caused me to ascend alive[9]
from out of the pit, O Yahweh, my God.

7When my life grew weak within me,
I remembered Yahweh.

My prayer came up unto You,
to Your holy temple.

8The ones who pay heed to vain idols[10]
neglect their shame.[11]

9But I, with the voice of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to You;

What I have vowed I will complete,
for deliverance[12] is from Yahweh.

10Then Yahweh spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Other chapters from Jonah

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

The Grace Commentary on Jonah


  1. The word usage here is interesting, in that while Jonah is finally praying, the word used is not the same word used for the sailors when they were crying out to their gods (1:6) or when they cried out to Yahweh (1:14).
  2. Jonah claims to have cried out to God. But the text nowhere shows him actually doing so. Instead, it is the sailors who cried out (1:6, 14).
  3. Despite my translation, the word here for “belly” is not the same word used for “belly” in 1:17 and 2:1. Yet I have translated them the same to reveal the parallel imagery that is inherent within the text.
  4. I left this as “Sheol” rather than hell, grave, or underworld so that it better reflects the alliteration in the Hebrew text (sheol sheoti shamata). Furthermore, translating Sheol as “hell” is misleading since the modern concept of hell is not at all the same thing that people thought about in the days of Jonah when they referred to Sheol. For them, Sheol was the grave, the place of the dead, the underworld. It was not necessarily a place of suffering, let alone of burning in flames or cosmic torture. It was the place of the dead, and the living did not know much about Sheol because nobody ever returned from it.
  5. It is interesting how Jonah goes from referring to God in the third person “He” to the second person “You.” However, not too much should be read into it.
  6. Jonah was not driven away; he ran away!
  7. Lit., “look again toward.” This is a Hebrew idiom meaning “return to.” Jonah does not just seek to look in the direction of the temple, or even look upon the temple. He seeks to return to the temple and worship God again within the sanctuary of the temple.
  8. Lit., “even to my soul.” Soul is nephesh, which refers to the life of a person.
  9. I am using “alive” as an adjective, though the word (Heb., hay) may actually be the noun “life.” But the word can be an adjective, and Jonah seems genuinely surprised that he returned alive from the place of the dead, the place from which no person returns. I have also chosen “alive” instead of “life” to differentiate the word from nephesh used in v 5.
  10. Lit., “empty vanities.” Cf. Jer 18:15.
  11. This translation emphasizes the importance of honor and shame in the Mediterranean culture. To neglect their shame means they accept it; they neglect to defend their honor.  Shame must never be neglected, as doing so only leads to more shame.
  12. In Hebrew, this is the word yeshua. Though most modern translations use “salvation,” most readers think salvation refers to gaining eternal life. But this meaning for “salvation” is actually quite rare within Scripture, and so “deliverance” is a better translation, which does not carry the same spiritual connotations, but instead more properly carries the idea of physical rescue from some sort of bodily harm.

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