Against Non-Prophets Part 2 of 4 – Resistance is Futile

Sermon Notes for Against Non-Prophets Part 2 of 4

Of all the people and things mentioned in the book—the storm, the lots, the sailors, the fish, the Ninevites, the plant, the worm, and the east wind—only the prophet himself fails to obey God. All these were used to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion and obedience.

The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

1:17 Ordained Fish (Matthew 12:40; Luke 11:30)

  • The text says prepared but ימן is better translated appointed or ordained. Later God will ordain a plant (Jonah 4:6), a crawling creature (Jonah 4:7), and finally a wind (Jonah 4:8).

Conservative scholars throughout the years have spent a great deal of energy and time describing types of large fish that might have been capable of swallowing a human. But all we know for sure is that it was a “large fish.” The word translated “fish,” dag, is the general Hebrew word for any aquatic creature (cf. Gen 9:2; Num 11:22; 1 Kgs 4:33; Ps 8:8). The LXX uses kētos, which means a “huge sea-fish.” The KJV causes some misunderstanding, for in Matt 12:40, which quotes Jonah 1:17 (from the LXX ), it translates the word as “whale.”

Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 240). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

2:1 Finally The Prophet Prays

  • Jonah’s prayer is not immediate. The then that opens Jonah 2:1 translates the conjunction ו – waw. His prayer occurs after the previously mentioned three days and nights (Jonah 1:17). We are to see his request as an expression of contrition arising from being cast out, confined to Sheol, and allowed to contemplate his own criminal conduct in the light of God’s great grace.
  • The chastening hand of God is harming the prophet with the aim of restoring his heart. Whom the Lord loves he chastens (Hebrews 12:5-8).
  • Jonah cried out to God because of His affliction and was answered. What is his affliction? His affliction is the belly of the fish; it is his Sheol (שְׁאוֹל). The text clearly indicates where he is through the repetition of belly (בֶּ֫טֶן – Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 2:2). Jonah was swallowed and ended up in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17). Afterward he prayed from the belly of the fish (Jonah 2:1). Finally, Jonah tells the reader that the crying out was done Out of the belly of Sheol.

2:2 What is Sheol? (1 Samuel 30:6; Psalm 120:1; Lamentations 3:55-57; Psalm 65:2)

  • What is Sheol (שְׁאוֹל)? Its meanings in the Old Testament are various but related. It can mean, simply speaking, the grave. It is, in its broader sense, a designation for a place below the surface of the earth (Amos 9:2; Psalm 86:13; Romans 10:7; Ephesians 4:9) where the dead abide.

2:3 Jonah Blames God

  • Jonah regards his being cast into the sea as the work of God: For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas (See also Psalm 88:6). If anyone observed the scene their eyesight would tell them that the sailors sentenced Jonah to death (Jonah 1:15). However, the mariners that threw the disobedient prophet into the sea were mere agents of the Almighty (2 Samuel 16:10-11). With insight from this book the same observer can see that (i) hand of God hurled the great wind (Jonah 1:4), (ii) through the casting of lots God identified Jonah as the reason for sailors’ trouble (Jonah 1:7), and (iii) the great tempest acts against attempts to return to the seaport of Joppa (Jonah 1:13). And the billows and waves that pass over Jonah belong to God (See also Psalm 42:7). The hand of the Lord is heavy against the non-prophet – and Jonah knows it. He knows the difference between common problems and the punishing that comes with disobedience (Jonah 1:12).

2:4 Merciful

  • Is there a realization in Jonah as he sinks into the deep? Does he have hope? It is obvious that he does. Why else would he say, “Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple”. In the midst of his descent, his distress, and eminent death the problem child prophet declares his intent to repent. In the seemingly hopeless situation Jonah has been forced to face the immense power of God to cast out and to cut off. But he also knows that, for those willing to put their trust in Him, the Lord is also mighty to save (Psalm 31:22).
  • To look again toward the temple has nothing to do with the physical orientation of Jonah’s head and the direction of his gaze. It has everything to do with his heart. To do so was to turn the heart toward God in the realization of its wretchedness, in recognition of the Lord’s right to reign, and in awareness and acceptance of the awesome commission to be His witness (1 Kings 8:35-38; 2 Chronicles 6:36-39; Psalm 5:7).


36 “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; 37 yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness’; 38 and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: 39 then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.  (2 Chronicles 6:36–39, NKJV)


  • This type of turning is important to God and it never goes unnoticed. The temple is a physical metaphor and mnemonic for the Person and program of the Lord. To turn toward it is to become rightly oriented toward both. Jonah, in his heart, committed again to the call on his life.


The expression also may refer to the gates of Sheol, the underworld, conceived to be a fortified city (cf. Ps 9:13; Isa 38:10). If these bars were closed behind a human being, they remained finally shut. Jonah had a sense of being entombed by the sea. These verses express Jonah’s extreme depth of despair, his utter hopelessness. As in v. 2, Jonah may have been expressing his feeling that he was virtually dead. Even beyond the deepest sea, he felt that he had passed into the underworld from which he would never escape.

Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 249). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

2:5 Descending into the Deep

  • In his heart he has changed direction. However, his head is still descending. The prophet’s predicament has gone from the predicament of being cast into the sea to being surrounded and fully taken into its death grip – The deep closed around me. It is so far down that the vegetation in the sea now have encompassed him – Weeds were wrapped around my head. What is this correlation between distress and drowning (Psalm 69:1; Lamentations 3:54)?

2:6 Mighty to Save

  • Jonah seems to describe his descent into the depths of the sea. He went down to the moorings of the mountains. He was descending without hope of surfacing into the deep; the earth with its bars closed behind him forever. But his end is interrupted. I believe that this is also moments after he had been thrown into the sea. The Hebrew has sunk beneath the waves and billows and he was moving toward the floor of the body of water; this is the mention of the moorings of the mountains. It is at this point that the great fish swallows him (Jonah 1:17). God demonstrated His power to cast him out, cut him off, and then save him – Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.

2:7 The Prodigal Son Returns (2 Chronicles 30:27; Psalm 18:6)

  • He is now in the fish. His fainted soul indicates that he regards his helpless estate as emotionally overwhelming. “I’ve been cast into the sea, sunk beneath the waves, and now have been consumed by a great fish.” He collapses under the enormity of his calamity. But then Jonah remembers the Lord. Out of his recall comes the call toward God from a heart that has become rightly oriented (Proverbs 15:8; 14:9; Psalm 125:4; Psalm 33:1). Even in the depths of the sea the man is heard.
  • God, in His goodness, has shown the prophet His teaching patience (Psalm 25:8), His ability to perceive change (Psalm 11:7), and His power to save (Psalm 7:10).
    • “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  (Exodus 20:8, NKJV)
    • 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.  (Numbers 15:39–40, NKJV)

It was at this desperate moment, he said, when (literally) “Yahweh I remembered.” The verb “remember” (zākar) refers here to the mental act of focusing attention on something. It is almost always the basis for action (Exod 20:8; Num 15:40; Ezek 6:9).

Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 250). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


Jonah earlier turned toward the temple. Now He is confident that God has heard Him. The broken prophet is certain that his prayer made it to presence of God and was considered.

2:8 The Foolishness of Faith in Idols (Jeremiah 10:8; Romans 1:18-23)

  • Jonah is renewed not just in theology but in his appreciation of God’s grace. The Mercy or Lovingkindness is the hesed (חסד) love of God. The worthless idols are the outworking of wicked and worthless doctrines (Jeremiah 10:8) and cannot show this loyal lovingkindness to the ones who worship them. Like so many of us he had taken for granted God’s grace and was helped by his predicament. In peril and deliverance Jonah could see with new eyes the goodness of God and the foolishness of faith in false gods.


  • Jonah will not be like the idolators. In their folly they have forsaken their Mercy (Romans 1:18-23). In contrast the repentant prophet will sacrifice to God with the voice of thanksgiving and pay his vows. Jonah joins the non-Jews that have recently realized the truth about God (Jonah 1:16); he is with them in vowing to the Lord. His heart has turned from his rebellion to recognizing the right of God to reign in his life. His vow was likely obedience to the call to cry out against Nineveh.

2:10 The Blessedness of Brokenness

  • The Lord responds to the change in Jonah; So translates the conjunction ו. The word of the Lord came to Jonah and he rebelled. But when the word of the Lord came to the fish it responds by conveying the contrite prophet to dry land and vomiting him out.

The Blessedness of Brokenness

  • The Sacrifice That Pleases (Psalm 51:17) – ‎The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
  • The Saving Presence (Psalm 34:18) – ‎The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
  • The Position of Revival (Isaiah 57:15) – ‎For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
  • The Person That is Regarded (Isaiah 66:2) – ‎Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.