(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
"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 
- "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 
- "…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 
- "…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)
- "That ‘three’ signifies what is complete, thus to the end, may be
seen from these passages in the Word…" Jonah 1:17 is cited.
- "[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
AE 532 
- "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 
- 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…"
- "…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 
- "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
AE 518 
- "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.
- "‘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 
- "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
- "In Jonah 2:5…the ‘waters’ and the ‘deep’ denote the extreme of
- "…‘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 
- "…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 
- "In these passages [Jonah 2:5 is cited among others] ‘waters’
denote falsities, and also temptations which are caused by injected
AE 750 
- "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 
- "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 
- "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 
- "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 
- "…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."
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
- "‘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."
- 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 ) 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 )
- 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
- 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) Idols signify falsities of religion and worship that
come to be called truths and goods. (AE 585) 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)
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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 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?
- Think about some severe temptation in your life. What can you learn
about the Lord’s experiences by thinking about your own?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.