Jonah 2:3-10 narrates a deed of deliverance in answer to prayer. The narrator describes his distress and supplication, and the divine answer received. In fulfillment of a vow most likely made in the moment of distress, he praises the one who answered the prayer by recounting the deed of deliverance. The full resources of ancient Hebrew poetry are employed to depict the dramatic turn of events. Jonah 2:3-10 is a splendid example of ancient Hebrew verse.
As often, the long forms of the prefixed conjugation in v. 10 are performative. The repeated reference to the deity’s “holy temple” along with the mention of a sacrificial offering about to be made suggest the psalm was designed for use in a cultic act in the context of a temple dedicated to the deity.
Since the psalm is not prayer but praise in answer to prayer with an account of the prayer and the reason for it included, it suits the context only approximately. Nevertheless, the highly figurative description of distress contained in the psalm fits the circumstances Jonah faced on both the literal and metaphorical levels. The experience of Jonah is a literalization of the metaphors of the psalm.
The piety which the psalm embodies and to which it alludes in vv. 3, 8 and 10 runs like a red thread through the book of Jonah (1:6, 10, 14, 16; 2:2-10; 3:5-9; 4:2-3, 8). The embedding of this psalm in its present context was an inspired choice.
Jonah 2:3-10 is written in qinah or lament meter. It is not, of course, a lament. It is thus clear that the lament meter was used for the sharing of thoughts in a wider set of contexts than the lament alone, but in view of its use in Lamentations 1-4, the term is fitting.
A distinctive meter in Greek poetry, referred to as “elegiac” from the 4th cent. BCE on, is remarkable, like qinah meter, for the end shortening or catalexis of the second stich in the two-stich couplets which make up a poem. In Greek literature too, elegiac meter was used in a variety of contexts, not just for mourning a loss. At the same time, in some times and places, it was judged particularly suited to the latter. Hence the appropriateness of the term associated with it.
Go to: Jonah_2:3-10_Scansion.pdf