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).
2:5 the soul. The “soul” (Hebrew nephesh) of Jonah was inundated, as well as his body. This suggests that he actually died by drowning, even before the great “fish” swallowed him. Jonah later said: “My soul fainted within me” (Jonah 2:7), indicating that he at least had lost consciousness. Nevertheless, he then “remembered the LORD” and prayed, his prayer ascending even to God.
2:5 weeds. The seaweeds on the ocean floor evidently had also surrounded his body before the fish swallowed him. He actually “went down to the bottoms of the mountains” (Jonah 2:6).
2:6 bottoms of the mountains. In Jonah’s day, so far as we know, men had no means to explore the sea floor, yet Jonah somehow knew that mountains had “roots” extending deep into the earth’s crust. In fact, this may even be another way of referring to his descent into “hell.”
2:6 corruption. The Lord Jesus Christ, speaking prophetically through David, had prophesied His resurrection, saying: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). Jonah used the same word here, indicating still further the remarkable typological correlation of his own experience to the death and resurrection of Christ, as cited by Him (Matthew 12:40).
2:9 I have vowed. This promise seems to reflect Jonah’s repentance of his rebellion, and his commitment to fulfill the calling he had once heeded from God (when he became a prophet) and then later resisted.
2:10 the fish. This statement reminds us again that this experience of Jonah’s was altogether miraculous. It cannot be supported by referring to supposedly similar occurrences in the lore of the whaling trade. God “prepared a great fish” (Jonah 1:17) to swallow Jonah, then later “spake unto the fish” to deposit him on the shore.