Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,…
It is evident from the chapter that, whether a longer or a shorter period elapsed, what befell him, and how he was exercised during his confinement, were things which he distinctly recollected. In verse 1 Jonah gives a summary statement of what was his situation and exercise. The belly of a fish. Clearly his preservation and escape were things altogether miraculous. That was his situation; his exercise was prayer. Let none then neglect secret prayer to God, or think themselves excused because they have not a proper or convenient place to which they may retire. The description given of the object of his prayer is worthy of notice. "The Lord his God." The God of Israel, the only living and true God, God in covenant. It was plainly the prayer of an appropriating faith. Verse 2 requires but little explanation. Here we have the success with which this exercise of prayer was crowned. His situation had been one of deep distress. He cried unto the Lord out of his affliction. He was in great straits, and very closely besieged. His body and mind were both shut up. The word "cried," as used in relation with the exercise of prayer, is very significant. It is not here merely a loud voice; it implies close engagements of heart, great fervour, earnestness, and importunity. This is the more strongly indicated as the word is repeated. Our prophet did not direct his cry to one whose ear was shut or averted. Our God is the hearer of prayer. Verse 3 contains an amplified account of the dismal situation of the prophet, and of the utter hopelessness of life being preserved, or deliverance obtained, except by miraculous influence. Without attempting to describe the peculiarly distressing feelings of the prophet when in the fish's belly, a case which baffles all description, let us direct attention to the piety of the man. He traces the storm to God Himself. In verse 4 we have a short but lively description of that conflict which often takes place, in the case of God's people, between grace and remaining corruption, particularly between faith and unbelief. This conflict, though incident to the people of God at all times, is specially felt in seasons of distress. The language is not to be understood as referring to God's natural presence, or as intimating that the prophet was beyond the sphere of God's omniscience; for he was better taught than to give any countenance to such an idea. But he then felt strongly tempted to say that he was cast out of the Lord's gracious presence. But he had in him the principle of a true saving faith. He says, "I will look again toward Thy holy temple." This language intimates that the faith of the prophet embraced God in His gracious and new-covenant character. The following truths may be inferred. That God is jealous of His glory, and frequently manifests this most signally in His dealings with His own people. That it is God who adjusts the kind, measure, and duration of the afflictions with which His righteous people are afflicted. That while God displays much of His sovereignty in the afflictions He sends upon His people, yet some sin is often the immediate precursor. That right exercise under affliction consists in a clear and impressive discernment of this connection. That when afflictions are sanctified to persons they seek unto God by prayer for pardon and restoration. That although the genuine people of God, under this or the other affliction, may be reduced to a very low state as respects their soul-exercise, yet they are always upheld, and in the mercy of God are prevented from plunging into the fatal abyss of despair!
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,