The words, as here recorded, are not a prayer for deliverance, but a thanksgiving to the Lord for the deliverance already effected. From this we see, as Luther also remarks, that the thoughts which Jonah had during his confinement in the belly of the sea-monster were afterwards edited by him to form the powerful hymn of worship which we here have before us.
v. 1. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord, his God, out of the fish's belly, these thoughts occurring to him again and again during his awful experience,
v. 2. and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction, out of the midst of the distress which he was suffering, unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell, literally, "out of the womb of sheol,". the realm of death, cried I, and Thou heardest my voice, delivering him from what seemed to be certain destruction, Cf Psa_18:6; Psa_30:4.
v. 3. For Thou hadst cast me into the deep, the sailors on the ship being but the executors of the punishment placed upon him by the Lord, in the midst of the seas, literally, "into the heart of the oceans"; and the floods compassed me about, namely, as he sank to the bottom; all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me. Cf Psa_42:8.
v. 4. Then I said, I am cast out of Thy sight, cut off from the gracious experience of God's favor; yet I will look again toward Thy holy Temple, certain that he would again be permitted to worship with the Lord's people.
v. 5. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul, so that he was ready to despair of his life, Cf Psa_18:5; Psa_69:2; the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head, apparently, enclosing him so that he could not escape.
v. 6. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains, the very depths of the ocean abyss, where the mountains have their foundations; the earth with her bars, the walls of the sea-basin, was about me forever; yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, from the pit which threatened to be his grave, O Lord, my God.
v. 7. When my soul fainted within me, when he was at the point of yielding to the night of death, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came in unto Thee, like a petitioner presenting his appeal in person, into Thine holy Temple, where the Lord had promised to hear those who put their trust in Him.
v. 8. They that observe lying vanities, placing their trust in idols and in false worship, forsake their own mercy, deliberately abandon their one hope of deliverance, namely, through the loving-kindness and tender mercies of Jehovah.
v. 9. But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving, loudly proclaiming his gratitude for mercies received, Psa_42:5; I will pay that that I have vowed. Cf Psa_50:14-23. Salvation is of the Lord, it belongs to Jehovah, it is in His power. He alone can grant deliverance from all evil.
v. 10. And the Lord, who heard the repentant prayer of His servant, spake unto the fish, giving it a definite command, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land, very likely on the coast of Palestine. As far as the subject-matter of the story is concerned, it will be well to remember that one of the ancient teachers of the Church rightly calls all subtle inquiries concerning these things a foolish officiousness.