Old Testament thoughts is a weekly post where we’ll be looking at some interesting aspects of some Scripture from the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). Right now, we are looking at the literary aspects of the book of Jonah.
The Psalms in ancient Israel are everywhere. They seem to be what the Israelites continue to go back to in order to explain where they are in life. David prays for deliverance in 2 Samuel 22 quoting extensively from Psalm 18, Jesus uses Psalm 22 to describe his current pain and abandonment.
In Jonah 2, the Psalms are used the same way Beatles songs are used in the movie Across the Universe
. There is a pastiche of quotes from the psalms all stitched together to make a coherent prayer for Jonah in the belly of the fish. Here is a list* of verbatim uses of the Psalms in Jonah 2:
Jonah 2:3a=Psalm 18:7; 30:3; 118:5; 120:1
Jonah 2:3b=Psalm 130:2
Jonah 2:4b=Psalm 42:8b
Jonah 2:5a=Psalm 31:23a
Jonah 2:6a=Psalm 18:5; 69:2
Jonah 2:8a=Psalm 142:4; 143:4
Jonah 2:8b=Psalm 5:8b; 18:7
Jonah 2:9a=Psalm 31:7a
Jonah 2:10a=Psalm 42:5b; 50:14; 66:13
Jonah 2:10b=Psalm 3:9
The rhetorical effect of this is in providing a structure that lends itself to introspection, as many of the Psalms are, but also of identifying with Israel as a whole. Why else might the writer of Jonah use all these Psalms in the prayer of Jonah?
*List taken from A Poetics of Jonah: Art in the Service of Ideology by Kenneth M. Craig