Jonah, lowdown and spit out
Prayer in a fish’s gut1Jonah, inside the dark belly of the fish,prayed this prayer to his God, the LORD.
I called on the LORD when I was in trouble.
From the belly of a burial at sea I called for help.
You heard me.
I sank and was headed to the bottom of sea.
Waves swallowed me.
Churning currents pushed me.
4I thought I was a goner.
Beyond your help.
I thought it was hopeless,
And I’d never see your Temple again.
5Water choked me.
The ocean swallowed.
Seaweed shrouded my head.
Jonah rises from brink of death6
I sank to the undersea valley
Where mountains start to grow.
Earth’s deep prison locked its barred doors.
I thought it would be forever.
But you lifted me.
You pulled me out of the pit of the earth.
It was you, my LORD and my God.
I thought of you.
I prayed and you heard what I said.
In your holy Temple, you heard me.
8People who pray to handmade idols
Do it with their backs turned on you.
Jonah’s promise to God9
But I, in deep gratitude,
Offer my worship to no one but you.
What I promise now is a promise I’ll keep.
My rescue is in the LORD’s hands.”
The fish is never called a whale. Israelites weren’t famous seafarers who knew their fish. They were land lubber sea-fearers—farmers, herders, and shopkeepers. There have been stories of whalers rescued from inside whales, but none reliable. One story appeared in 1896 in Joseph Pulitzer’s prestigious New York World newspaper. The captain of the ship the man said he sailed on had died before the story was published. But the captain’s wife later said the man who claimed to have survived, James Bartley, never sailed with her husband.
“LORD,” usually printed in all capital letters, is a name of God that appears around 7,000 times in many English editions of the Christian Bible. That makes it the most common way of referring to God. The lower-case “Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew word Adonai. It refers to God as our master, our life coach, or the boss. He’s in charge of us, and we try to obey him. “LORD” is the spelling most Bibles use when the writer refers to the name of God. Moses asked God what his name was, and God said Moses should tell the Israelite ancestors of the Jews that his name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In the original Hebrew language, the name is spelled with only consonants—no vowels. It’s an ancient shorthand, to save hides used to make scrolls. The name is YHWH. Without knowing which vowels, most scholars have settled on YAHWEH, pronounced YAH-way. For those freaky enough to wonder if it’s possible that God might have the name of YAHWHO, no. Hebrew linguist Dr. Joseph Coleson, Old Testament professor emeritus at Nazarene Theological Seminary, said, “No Semitic language ever would allow all three root letters [HWH] to occur in succession together, in any form of any root, without vowels to break them up.” God’s name is so sacred to many Jews that they refuse to speak it. Instead, they’ll use names that describe the character of God, such as Adonai, which means “my Lord.” They won’t even write the name. In English, they’ll spell the name G-d.
Jonah could sound presumptuous if he prayed this before his rescue and not afterward. Inside a fish, it might be more logical for Jonah to think he’s one bowel movement from “All is lost.” Some scholars say this prayer is mainly a patchwork quilt of psalms. Some lines come from Psalm 30:3, “LORD, you lifted me out of the grave. I was on my way to the pit.” Scholars site dozens of other Psalms. Wherever Jonah wrote this, inside the fish or later, he knew his Hebrew songs.
Literally, “from the belly of Sheol.” Sheol is a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
Yes, fish vomit. We can see it sometimes in a living room aquarium with pet fish. Like humans, fish can vomit because of stress, overeating, or eating the wrong thing. The fish that swallowed Jonah, if real and not a part of a parable, likely suffered from all three.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.