An Evidence of Repentance or Hypocrisy: Why Does Jonah 2 Cite So Many Psalms?

aaron-burden-534684-unsplashIt is striking the way Jonah 2 employs language from the Psalms. For those familiar with the Hebrew Psalter, it would be difficult to hear Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving without reflecting on other inspired Psalms. Just as songs which recycle older lyrics or melodies remind us of previous songs, so Jonah’s prayer should bring to our memory many lines in the Psalter.

Here is a verse by verse comparison. Clearly, the use of the Psalter is intentional, but I wonder why. Is the use of the Psalms an evidence of Jonah’s return to righteousness? Or is it something else? Could it be an instance where the Jonah’s lips draw near to God, but his heart remains far away? Should we automatically assume his use of Scripture is a sign of repentance? Or could it be that his prayer of thanksgiving without any stated repentance, as in Psalms 32 and 51, is actually an indicator of Jonah’s unrepentance.

Tomorrow, I’ll circle back to answer that question. But today, let me know what you think. Why does Jonah’s prayer recycle so many Psalms? Check on the comparison below and let me know what you think.

Jonah The Psalms
Jonah 2:1–2


“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying . . .”


Cf. Psalms 4:2; 17:1; 39:13; 54:4; 55:2; 61:2; 69:14; 86:6; 88:3, 14; 102:2; 141:2; 143:1


Jonah prays like a righteous sufferer. But is he?


Jonah 2:2


“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.

Psalm 18:6


In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.


Psalm 120:1


In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.


Jonah 2:3


3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.

Psalm 88:6


You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.



Psalm 42:7


Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.



Jonah 2:4


4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’


Psalm 31:2


Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!


Cf. Psalm 42–43


Jonah 2:5–6


5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.


Psalm 69:1–2


Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.


Jonah 2:7a


7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord,

Psalm 77:11–12


I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.




Jonah 2:7b


and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.

Psalm 11:4


The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.


Psalm 18:6


In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.


Jonah 2:8–9a


8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.

Psalm 50:14, 23


Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, . . .
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”


Cf. Pss 22:25–26; 56:12; 69:29–33; 71:14–16, 22–24; 86:12–13; 116:12–19

Jonah 2:9b


Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

Psalm 3:8


Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah


Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “An Evidence of Repentance or Hypocrisy: Why Does Jonah 2 Cite So Many Psalms?

  1. Pingback: A Repentant Prayer or a Faithless Fake? What Jonah 2 Teaches Us About Our Hearts | Via Emmaus

  2. Pingback: All Around the Web – April 6, 2018 – sola evangelii

  3. Pingback: Let Us Behold (Not Begrudge) Our Gracious God (Jonah 4:1–11) | Via Emmaus

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