Jonah 2:5 Bible Commentary

John Calvin’s Bible Commentary

Chapter 2, Verse(s) 1-234 | 5-6 | 78-910 |

Here in many words Jonah relates how many things had happened to him, which were calculated to overwhelm his mind with terror and to drive him far from God, and to take away every desire for prayer. But we must ever bear in mind what we have already stated, -- that he had to do with God: and this ought to be well considered by us. The case was the same with David, when he says in Psalm 39:9, 'Thou hast yet done it;' for, after having complained of his enemies, he turned his mind to God: "What then do I? what do I gain by these complaints? for men alone do not vex me; thou, God, he says, hast done this." So it was with Jonah; he ever set before him the wrath of God, for he knew that such a calamity had not happened to him but on account of his sins.

He therefore says that he was by waters beset, and then, that he was surrounded by the deep; but at length he adds, that God made his life to ascend, etc. All these circumstances tend to show that Jonah could not have raised up his mind to God except through an extraordinary miracle, as his life was in so many ways oppressed. When he says that he was beset with waters even to the soul, I understand it to have been to the peril of his life; for other explanations seem frigid and strained. And the Hebrews says that to be pressed to the soul, is to be in danger of one's life; as the Latins, meaning the same thing, say that the heart, or the inside, or the bowels, are wounded. So also in this place the same thing is meant, 'The waters beset me even to the soul,' and then, 'the abyss surrounds me.' Some render Pwo, suph, sedge; others sea-weed; others bulrush: but the sense amounts to the same thing. No doubt Pwo, suph, is a species of sedge; and some think that the Red Sea was thus called, because it is full of sedges or bulrushes. They think also that bulrushes are thus called, because they soon putrefy. But what Jonah means is certain and that is, that weed enveloped his head, or that weed grew around his head: but to refer this to the head of the fish, as some do, is improper: Jonah speaks metaphorically when he says that he was entangled in the sedge, inasmuch as there is no hope when any one is rolled in the sedge at the bottom of the sea. How, indeed, can he escape from drowning who is thus held, as it were, tied up? It is then to be understood metaphorically; for Jonah meant that he was so sunk that he could not swim, except through the ineffable power of God.

According to the same sense he says, I descended to the roots of the mountains. But he speaks of promontories, which were nigh the sea; as though he had said, that he was not cast into the midst of the sea, but that he had so sunk as to be fixed in the deep under the roots of mountains. All these things have the same designs which was to show that no deliverance could be hoped for, except God stretched forth his hand from heaven, and indeed in a manner new and incredible.

He says that the earth with its bars was around him. He means by this kind of speaking, that he was so shut up, as if the whole earth had been like a door. We know what sort of bars are those of the earth, when we ascribe bars to it: for when any door is fastened with bolts, we know how small a portion it is. But when we suppose the earth itself to be like a door, what kind of things must the bolts be? It is the same thing then as though Jonah had said, that he was so hindered from the vital light, as if the earth had been set against him to prevent his coming forth to behold the sun: the earth, then, was set against me, and that for ever.

He afterwards comes to thanksgiving, And thou Jehovah, my God, hast made my life to ascend from the grave. Jonah, after having given a long description, for the purpose of showing that he was not once put to death, but that he had been overwhelmed with many and various deaths, now adds his gratitude to the Lord for having delivered him, Thou, he says, hast made my life to ascend from the grave, O Jehovah. He again confirms what I have once said, -- that he did not pour forth empty prayers, but that he prayed with an earnest feeling, and in faith: for he would not have called him his God, except he was persuaded of his paternal love, so as to be able to expect from him a certain salvation. Thou, then, Jehovah, my God, he says; he does not say, Thou hast delivered me, but, Thou hast brought forth my life from the grave. Then Jonah, brought to life again, testifies here that he was not only delivered by God's aid from the greatest danger, but that he had, by a certain kind of resurrection, been raised from the dead. This is the meaning of this mode of speaking, when he says that his life had been brought forth from the grave, or from corruption itself. It follows --

Chapter 2, Verse(s) 1-234 | 5-6 | 78-910 |
  • John Calvin’s Bible Commentary