Devotional Commentary on Jonah 2


When I was studying for my Master’s, all the Masters and Doctoral students were asked to attend a special seminar on Jonah 2 by the German speaking professor Hermann-Joseph Stipp. There we were and also professors from the Faculty of Theology came, my own professor and all of us sat around a large table.

He began talking asking us that we need tools to study this Jonah Psalm. We needed, according to him, a scissors, glue and wastebasket. What does not fit, we should cut out and throw it in the wastebasket.

When he came to verse 3, he wanted to grab the scissors [proverbially] because he read the text: “and he said: I called…”. There it is, he said, an example of two layered texts, one by an earlier hand and one later, that is why there is a shift from the third person to the first person. Cut. He went through the whole “Psalm” and when he thought it is time for questions he asked if there are any questions?

I raised my hand and my professors frown. Excuse me, prof. dr. Stipp, if I understand you correctly, then the method of Higher-Criticism and Literary Criticism demands that whenever we see a fluctuation of persons in the grammar, that we should cut with the scissors and throw away that does not fit?

All the professors nod in affirmative.

I wonder how you will cut the Black Obelisk of Shalmanezer III, because in year 30 there is a fluctuation of person from the “I” to the “he” and then two lines later a fluctuation back from the “he” to the “I”.

Stipp was silent. The professors started to discuss among themselves back and forth. Stipp was still silent. At the end of the period, he had to wrap it up and said: “Well, we have to admit that we do not have all the answers”. Dismissed.

All the professors and Stipp lined up to get the reference from me, A. Kirk Grayson, Assyria and Babylonia, Orientalia 49/2 (1980): 140-194.

There was no-one that heard Jonah prayed except God and Jonah composed later the prayer in the form of a well-structured poem. It is possible that in those days they had poetic prayers which they memorized for every occasion and that this one is adapted from one of those examples. Let us say: Genre: Prayer in Agony.

This is not to say, wow you are so great! This is a case in point with many of our own teachers who studied at these “great schools” and who just took in what was fed them without reflection. Snow eventually becomes very thick.

Jonah used “I, I” two times in the prayer (verse 4 and verse 9 but in the Hebrew 5 and 10). It was also typical of Assyrian kings to use the double I to emphasize their own importance. This is not importance. This is disgrace and Jonah emphasize that he did cry out to the Lord. These two markers link each other as a kind of inclusio of similarity. They stand out in the Hebrew and you cannot miss the similarity of the structure.

So verses 4 and 9 are linked.

But also the content of verse 5 and 7 are linked as an inclusio.

The word that forms the center of all this structural setting is the word at the end of the Hebrew sentence, in the middle, reading “to eternity”.

Jonah was suffering eternal death, he felt.

It is mentioned by Stipp and rightly so that the word in verse 3 “You have cast me…” is one that is reserved in the Old Testament only for the enemies of God.

This word was used for the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:11-12; for Lucifer in Ezechiel 28:17 and with the Little Horn gender transformational presentation in Daniel 8:11 reaching past the Vicarius Fili Dei to the very essence, Satan, also cast down.

Jonah is in Sheol (verse 2), in Gehenna, the great deep (verse 5), in the grave, in the pit (verse 6).

His solution was the Sanctuary Message in Heaven with His Advocate Christ in future pleading on His behalf but he could earn mileage before 1844 by focusing on it: verse 4 “toward Thy holy Temple”; verse 7 “into Thy Holy temple”.

It was a washing-machine or Laundromat for Jonah in the belly of the fish. That is what Pastor Brooks pointed out in his sermon on Jonah and he is right. It is all there. It was no pleasure ride.

Finally, said Pastor Brooks, the fish had enough of the hypocrite Jonah in his stomach and was glad when God ordered him to vomit him out on the beach near Byblos as tradition told it and Siegfried Schwantes, the SDA archaeologist pointed it out to Pastor Brooks.


Dear God

How long will we keep our double thoughts and come clean with You? It is not only Jonah who are guilty here but each one of the human race. You invites us to enter the Sanctuary of Grace and become useful for You. In Jesus Name. Amen.