BACKGROUND INFORMATION: This chapter is called the Psalm of Jonah. It is full of quotations from the Book of Psalms, which at that time was used as the hymn book in temple services. Was this “fish” a whale or some kind of sea animal, which has become extinct since, we don’t know. (Jesus uses the word ”sea-creature” in Matth.12:40). The period of “three days and three nights” is counted according to the Hebrew system: a new day starts while the sun goes down, and one hour before or after the sunset is counted as a whole day.
The Psalm of Jonah
- Imagine Jonah’s situation and try to find as many things as possible which threatened his life and his mental health during those three days.
- How can you see that this psalm is not a mere poem, but a prayer?
- What in this psalm shows that Jonah prayed his prayer already in the belly of the fish and not after he had got out of there (2, 11)?
- Where did Jonah find the courage to pray to the God, from whose presence he had been fleeing up till that time?
- What would one expect someone praying in a situation like that?
- Why do you think Jonah quoted in this situation “the hymnbook”, in other words verses from different psalms he knew?
- What surprising elements are there in verse 3?
- From whose hand did Jonah take his suffering (4)?
- What does verse 5 say about Jonah’s faith?
- Do you think you could have said what is the words of verses 4-5 during the fiercest storm of your life? Why? Why not?
- Why does Jonah mention the temple here (5, 8)?
- How does Jonah know that the Lord will raise him from his “grave” (6-7)?
- Apply verse 8 into your own life.
- Of whom does Jonah speak in verse 9, and what connection does this verse have with the rest of his psalm?
- What does Jonah actually promise in verse 10?
- The sentence: “Salvation is of Lord” contains in Hebrew an allusion to the name of Jesus, “the Saviour”. Why do you think Jonah ended his prayer with these words (10b)?
- What touches your heart most in Jonah’s prayer and why?
- Which verses in this psalm could be applied to the situation of Jesus after he had entered the hell/ Sheol?
- Read Rom.6:4 and think how we could apply this psalm to our own baptism?
- What, according to this text, you should do, if you have messed up your life as Jonah did?
History or legend?
- What is your opinion: is it possible for a human being to stay alive in the belly of a whale (or some kind of sea-monster) for 30 hours? Give your reasons.
- Why do you think most of the theologians of our day deny the possibility of such a miracle?
- As we will see later, Jesus held Jonah as a historical person and even compared himself with him. What will happen to our faith and our concept of God if we consider the book of Jonah only as some kind of a legend?
THE GOSPEL: Jesus was reciting Psalms on the cross as Jonah did in the belly of a fish. He, too, spent three days in Sheol (according to the Hebrew way of counting time). Jesus believed in his resurrection as much as Jonah believed in his. In fact, the psalm of Jonah would fit perfectly well to the mouth of our Saviour while hanging on the cross.