Jonah Knew His Psalms

Jonah 2 resonates with beauty and aches with honesty. Where the Writings have Psalm 51, the Prophets have Jonah 2. And its absolutely filled to the brim with Psalms.

Psalm 139 had to be on his mind and in his heart:

LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways (Psalm 139:1-3 HCSB).

I wonder if Jonah chuckled in his repentance at Psalm 139:3–“You observe my travels and my rest.” The Psalm continues its parallels:

Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
even there Your hand will lead me;
Your right hand will hold on to me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”–
even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:7-12 HCSB)

Jonah had certainly made his bed in Sheol (139:8). Then verse 9 his close to home as well: Nineveh was to the east, and Tarshish was as far west as you could go. The HCSB Study Bible notes that the most likely location is the “Phoenician colony of Tartessus, located on the Guadalquivir River on the southwestern coast of Spain about 2,000 miles west of Palestine. This is about as far in the opposite direction from Nineveh that Jonah could have gone” (1517).

Jonah went to the “lowest part of the vessel” en route to Tarshish, and may have even thought something along the lines of 139:11-12.

Jonah also draws from Psalm 42:7, “All You breakers and Your billows have swept over me.”

Then Psalms 31:22 and 138:2: “In my alarm I had said, ‘I am cut off from Your sight'” and “I will bow down toward Your holy temple.”

He finishes with Psalm 26:7-type language: “…raising my voice in thanksgiving and telling about your wonderful works.”

In all, the HCSB cites a total of 31 cross-references to the Psalms.

This encourages me to know and love the Psalms more, because the Holy Spirit keeps bringing them up in the rest of Scripture in beautiful and powerful ways.


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