Jonah Table of  Contents

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Minor Prophets: Major Messages

Chapter Two of Jonah

Jonah 1:17

(Note: P&P reminds us that the English Bible has verse 17 of chapter 1 as verse 1 of chapter 2. Consequently, the quote from P&P will apply to both Jonah 1:17 and Jonah 2:1-10 as given in the New King James Version. )

"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."

Jonah 2:1-10

"Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: ‘I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me.’ Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.

When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.’

So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."

Passages From the Writings


    • "[This is a] Prophecy concerning the Lord’s combats with the hells, and concerning His most grievous temptations at the time, and concerning His state at the time; the ‘three days and nights during which Jonah was in the bowels of the fish,’ signify the entire duration of the combat with the hells."

AC 901 [4]

    • "That Jonah was three days and three nights in the bowels of the fish, manifestly represented the burial and resurrection of the Lord on the third day." (This refers to Jonah 1:17.)

AC 2788 [2]

    • "…the ‘third day’ denotes the Lord’s coming, and His resurrection. And from Jonah, that he ‘was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights’…" (Jonah 1:17)

AC 4495 [3]

    • "…it may be seen that there was some mystery in the number ‘three,’ and that therefore this number…signifies an entire period of the church and of the things in the church, whether great or small…that it consequently signifies what is complete and also continuous to the end…" (Jonah 1:17)

Doctrine of Sacred Scripture (DSS) 29

    • "…by ‘three,’ in the Word, in the spiritual sense, is meant what is complete and perfect; and also the whole simultaneously. And as this is the signification of the number three, it is employed in the Word whenever any such thing is marked out for notice." (Jonah 1:17)

AR 505

    • "That ‘three’ signifies what is complete, thus to the end, may be seen from these passages in the Word…" Jonah 1:17 is cited.

TCR 211

    • "[There are] many other passages where the number three is mentioned; and it is mentioned where a finished and perfect work is treated of, because this is what that number signifies." Jonah 1:17 is cited.

AE 532 [5]

    • "As the number three signified what is complete even to the end, that number was adopted and employed in the representative church, whenever something complete was to be represented, as can be seen from these things in the Word …" Jonah 1:17 is cited.

AE 622 [9]

    • In Jonah 1:17, "…‘the bowels of the whale’…signifies the hells where there are most direful falsities, with which he was encompassed, consequently grievous temptations…"

AC 247

    • "…when man averts himself from the face of Jehovah, he ‘cleaves by his belly to the dust and to the earth.’ In Jonah likewise, by the ‘belly’ of the great fish, into which he was cast, are signified the lower parts of the earth…" Jonah 2:2 is cited.

AE 538 [11]

    • "The Lord teaches in Matthew 12:39, 40; 16:4; Luke 11:29,30, that Jonah’s being in the whale three days and three nights represented that the Lord would thus be in the heart of the earth; and these words of Jonah describe the Lord’s direful temptations. And because it is by the overflow of evils and falsities that come up out of hell, and as it were overwhelm, that temptations exist, it is said that ‘out of the belly of hell he cried,’ and that ‘he was cast into the depth, even into the heart of the seas,’ which signifies hell; ‘the river and waters that enclosed him,’ and ‘the billows and waves that passed over,’ signify the evils and falsities from hell; ‘the abyss that encompassed round about,’ signifies the hells where and from which are the falsities; ‘the cuttings off of the mountains to which he went down,’ signify the hells where and from which are evils; that the Lord was as it were bound by these is signified by ‘the sedge wrapped about the head,’ and ‘the bars of the earth that were upon him,’ ‘wrapped by sedge’ signifying to be bound as it were by falsities, and ‘the bars of the earth’ signifying to be bound as it were by evils; victory over these from His own power is signified by ‘yet hast Thou made my life to come up out of the pit.’ It is said, ‘Thou hast made to come up,’ but in reference to the Lord this means that He made Himself to come up by His Divine, that is, by His own power." Jonah 2:2-3, 5-6 are cited.

AE 518 [38]

    • "As all spiritual temptations come through falsities that break into the thoughts and infest the interior mind, thus through reasonings from falsities, so temptations are signified by the inundations of waters and by the irruptions of rivers and torrents." Jonah 2:3 is cited.

AR 191

    • "‘The temple of holiness of Jehovah,’ or the Lord, is His Divine Human, for that is bowed down to, looked to, and prayed to, and not to the temple only, for the temple in itself is not holy. It is called ‘the temple of holiness,’ because holiness is predicated of the Divine truth." Jonah 2:4, 7 are cited.

AE 220 [6]

    • "In the passages that follow ‘temple’ signifies the Lord’s Divine Human, and at the same time heaven and the church." Jonah 2:4, 7 are cited.

AC 756

    • "In Jonah 2:5…the ‘waters’ and the ‘deep’ denote the extreme of temptation."

AC 6726

    • "…‘sedge’ denotes memory-knowledge; the sedge that is at the bank of a river signifies memory-knowledge of low value…‘sedge’ denotes false memory-knowledges in Jonah 2:5…in this prophetic utterance is described a state of temptations; ‘the waters which compassed even the soul’ denotes falsities…‘inundations of waters’ denotes temptations and desolations…‘the deep round about’ is the evil of falsity; ‘the seaweed bound about the head’ denotes false memory-knowledges besetting truth and good, as is the case in a state of desolation."

AC 8278 [3]

    • "…temptations are effected by means of falsities and evils that are injected by the hells. In this sense ‘abyss’ is used in these passages…" Jonah 2:5 is cited.


AC 9050 [10]

    • "In these passages [Jonah 2:5 is cited among others] ‘waters’ denote falsities, and also temptations which are caused by injected falsities…"

AE 750 [5]

    • "That ‘soul’ signifies the life of man’s spirit, which is called his spiritual life, is evident from the following passages." Jonah 2:5 is listed in a long series of examples.

AC 1691 [5]

    • "In Jonah 2:5, 6…the Lord’s temptations against the hells are thus prophetically described by Jonah, when in the belly of the great fish. So likewise in other passages of the Word, especially in David. He who is in temptations is in the hells; place has nothing to do with being in the hells, but state."

AC 4728 [5]

    • "In Jonah 2:6…where the subject treated of is the Lord’s temptations, and deliverance from them. The ‘cuttings off of the mountains’ are where the most damned are, the dark clouds which appear about them being the ‘mountains.’"

AE 750 [14]

    • "In Jonah 2:7…This treats of temptations; and that ‘his soul fainted upon him’ signifies that the truth fainted (or ceased) in the faith and understanding."

AC 3880 [10]

    • "…in Jonah 2:9…confession…in the supreme sense signifies the Lord and the Divine of love; in the internal sense, the Word and also the Lord’s celestial kingdom; and in the exterior sense, the doctrine from the Word which is of the celestial church."

Derived Doctrine

Our derived doctrine section will focus on the three verses not covered in our doctrinal exposition. We will seek help with derived doctrine for Jonah 2:1, 8, and 10.

"Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly."

    • "‘Fishes’ in the Word signify memory-knowledges, which spring from things of the sense. For memory-knowledges (scientifica) are of three kinds: intellectual, rational, and sensuous. All of these are planted in the memory, or rather memories, and in the regenerate man are called forth thence by the Lord, through the internal man…and that a ‘whale’ or ‘sea monster’ signifies the generals of these knowledges." (AC 991)
  • Recall the first mention of the fish. "…the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah." Our best source for deriving an understanding of this passage comes when we study AC 42 (emphasis added): "…‘fish’ means facts, here facts quickened and brought to life through faith from the Lord. ‘Sea monsters’ means those facts’ general sources, below which and from which details derive… In the Prophets sea monsters or whales are mentioned several times, and in those places they mean those general sources of facts. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, who represents human wisdom or intelligence—that is, knowledge in general—is called ‘a great sea monster’…This stands for the fact that mankind did swallow cognitions of faith…just as the sea monster swallowed up Jonah. In that story the sea monster stands for people who treat general cognitions of faith as mere facts, and behave accordingly."(This is the Elliot translation of AC 42)
  • "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly." Please note the two direct teachings cited above (AC 247 and AE 622 [9]) about the meaning of Jonah being in the "belly" of the whale. We must add some derived doctrinal thinking, or application, to this passage. The Word is exposing the inner world of the Lord’s spiritual state. The hells tempted His sensuous mind to lead Him away from spiritual uses, hoping to distract His sensual mind from any heavenly inspiration and guidance. These temptations were far more grievous than we can imagine. Each love within Him was assaulted and subjected to ridicule and constant attack. Therefore, the Word illustrates this "downward" pull and His need to be lifted up with Jonah’s prayer to the Lord from the "belly" of the whale.
  • Prayer is nothing else but communication with the Lord. (AC 3285)
  • Praying is talking with God. (AC 3535)
  • In the universal sense, a person prays with all the truth he or she thinks and speaks. (AE 695)
  • Praying effects a kind of opening of the interiors toward the Lord. This opening is according to the state of the person praying. Praying signifies to be in worship of the Lord. (AE 325 [8])
  • A person is continually praying when he or she is in the life of charity, although not with the mouth, nevertheless with the heart. For that which is of love is always in the thought, whether a person knows it or not. (AE 325)
  • See AC 247 regarding the meaning of the "belly of the great fish." From this passage, we can see that fish correspond to the affection for thinking from the senses, and the knowledge thus acquired. Some water animals are not fish. For example, a whale breathes through lungs and not gills. The whale is a warm-blooded animal. Fish are cold-blooded creatures of the sea. The whale roams great distances in the ocean and consumes large quantities of fish, krill, and plankton. A whale corresponds to a warm affection (desire) for general knowledge of truths and facts. The amount of sea creatures whales consume illustrates the magnitude of their "fact-finding" search.
  • But when whales are used in the negative sense, they represent the corruption or abuse of fact finding. Is the whale the one who corrupts the facts? In this case, it was Jonah’s state being illustrated. He took facts from the "belly of the whale" and corrupted and made useless the general knowledges and truths of the Lord’s Word.

  • "Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy."

    • To comprehend the negative context of "worthless idols," we need to understand the positive correspondence of "worthy." The word "worthy" means a person who is in truths from the Lord or people who will live from the Lord through knowledges of truth and good from the Word. (AR 167) It also signifies acknowledgment from the heart that everything divine is from the Divine Human. (AE 337)
    • Idols signify the falsities of religion, and their doctrinals. (AE 827[3]) Idols signify falsities of religion and worship that come to be called truths and goods. (AE 585[9]) Idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood signify worship from falsities of every kind. (AR 457)
    • To "forsake" signifies the withdrawal of the Lord on account of the iniquities and sins of false worship. (AE 412[19])
    • Forsaking their mercy signifies a rejection of the inflowing of love. (AC 3063) In the positive sense, mercy signifies a cleansing process from evils with a forgiveness of sins and an attention to all the elements of worship from the good of love. (AC 9505)

    "So the Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."

    • The Lord speaking to the fish seems to best understood with this thought in mind: speaking signifies influx and compliance from faith and love; or living as the Lord has taught us in the Word. (AC 9312)
    • Vomiting signifies a casting out of falsified things. (AE 235[5])
    • Dry land signifies a state where there is no longer anything spiritual, much less celestial. (AC 806) Dry signifies the external person lacking in truths. (AC 27) Land signifies the church and its perception of truth. Dry land therefore indicates a kind of barrenness that existed with the church represented by Jonah.
    • It seems that when vomiting is mentioned in the Word, it is pointing us to something akin to vastations. It is an emptying out of falsity so that a new beginning may occur, a beginning directed by the Lord.

    Putting It All Together

    To pull this section together, we must focus and rely on the help we get from P&P. The internal sense is a story about the Lord and not about a person named Jonah. Jonah’s choices and his resistance to the call of Divine Love represent the type of temptations the hells laid out as a trap to defeat the Lord while He was on earth. Jonah’s experiences give us an overview of the things the hells hoped would overcome the Lord. We can see something of the magnitude of temptations the Lord faced, but we will never fully know how devious the hells were in their attempt to defeat Him. Every love He had was attacked. Every truth He had was challenged. The purity of His love intensified hell’s maniacal fury and hatred of Him. Read again the summary of the internal sense as given in P&P:

    "[This is a] Prophecy concerning the Lord’s combats with the hells, and concerning His most grievous temptations at the time, and concerning His state at the time; the ‘three days and nights during which Jonah was in the bowels of the fish,’ signify the entire duration of the combat with the hells."

    Through the dialogue of Jonah, the hells cited authoritatively the opposing traditional beliefs the Jewish church adopted, venerated, and followed blindly regarding gentiles—all people outside of the Jewish Church. The hells quoted (misquoted) passages from the Word. The hells burned to interrupt His mission. Their plan was to catch Him off guard. If He had relaxed for even the smallest moment, they would have rushed in to destroy His soul. Their maniacal plan, like the man possessed with a legion of demons, seemed strong enough to break any restricting chains put around them. The hells perceived themselves to be invincible. Hell’s name was "legion" and each unclean spirit was nefariously deadly. They wanted the Lord to concentrate on His natural/sensual mind, seeking a smoke screen of minutiae they hoped would keep Him from concentrating on spiritual and celestial issues. The weeds they wrapped around His head (the sedge of memory-knowledges) tried to blind and choke the spiritual reality of His Divine essence. The Lord cast off each layer of sedge and resisted every decayed tactic. Through it all, He remained steadfast and true to the mission of salvation. The Lord emptied out (vomited) the idols of their thoughts. He faced the "belly of the whale" experience. He saved the church. Dry as the land was and empty as the church was, the Lord came to bring new growth and "living water" for all who thirsted. He restored mercy to the church. He quieted the fierce turbulent seas, and when those who had tried to weather the storm with their as-of-self, hard, and frantic rowing, saw little or no progress, they cried out to the Lord for help. He heard their voices. He rescued His beloved and gave them a new song of hope: "I will look again toward Your holy temple." (Jonah 2:4)

    Read and Review

    Read the selection from P&P.

    Read Jonah 2:1-10.

    Questions to Stimulate Reflection

    1. When you read the story of Jonah, remember that it is a lesson about the Lord’s battle against hell. The hells didn’t want Him to reach out and bring the message of repentance to all people. What reasons did the hells use to argue their case? Think of the life of the Lord. At the beginning of His ministry, He was taken up into a mountain and shown the "world." He was told it could all be His if He would do what? Please note the nature and scope of the three temptations that He underwent on the mountain.

    2. The Writings teach us temptation is an assault on some spiritual love given to us by the Lord. The greater the love, the more severe the temptation. Consider the degree and level of temptation the Lord faced. "Most grievous" captures some of the severity but falls far short in our comprehension. He is all Love. He is all Truth. The attacks against His "all" must have been horrific. How do we think about our relationship to the Lord in light of this?

    3. Think about some severe temptation in your life. What can you learn about the Lord’s experiences by thinking about your own?

    4. The hells tried to use all kinds of memory-knowledges, traditional minutiae to confuse the Lord. The Scribes and Pharisees used many traditions against Him. Remember Pilate’s conversation with the Lord; Pilate had the power to release Him, but he failed to do so because the crowd influenced him. He asked the Lord if He was the king of the Jews. The Lord replied that He was and that He had come to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth "hears My voice." Pilate resorted to a word game. "What is truth?" That ended the dialogue. Have you seen a similar behavior in yourself or other people? What causes it?

    5. We all need to have a hero. Can you recall some of your childhood heroes? Is the Lord still one of your Heroes? Looking at the severity of His fight against the Hell’s always reminds me what a loving Hero He is.

    6. If you have access to "Stairs" or "Word Search," look up Isaiah 9:6 and compare the wording of this verse in the Writings with that in other Bible versions. See how consistently "Hero" appears in the Writings translation of that verse. Why isn’t the word "hero" listed in all the other translations? You might not have an answer, but it is amazing that "Hero" is one of the names for the Lord.

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