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And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

2:2 belly of hell. Jonah was not only physically in the belly of the fish; his soul descended into “the belly of hell.” The word “hell” here is the Hebrew sheol, the great pit in the center of the earth where the souls of the dead are kept awaiting the resurrection and the judgment. If Jonah’s prayer is taken literally, then it appears that he may have actually died, and his prayer of repentance and commitment to do the will of God was made while his soul was away from his body in sheol. It was there that God heard his voice and “brought up my life from corruption” (Jonah 2:6). When his soul returned to his body in the belly of the fish, then he prayed yet again (Jonah 2:1), and the fish “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

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