Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Jonah 2:5: “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.”
In this verse Jonah gives descriptions of the restrictions, of the confinement that he cannot escape.
The first description is “The waters.” There are many things that these “waters” can picture. The waters can picture many dangers. In his song David writes of how God delivered him from “many waters” which can picture the many dangers from his enemies and from Saul who constantly sought his life. “He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.” (2Sam.22:17). These were waters that David could not escape. Without God’s help David would have despaired and died. Sometimes the deliverance takes place while in the midst of the waters. David did not drown in despair, and he did not die, he trusted in his God and he was kept afloat until he was delivered. The waters can picture a powerful overwhelming force. These waters are described as “the breach of waters” (2Sam.5:20) where the Lord breaks through the defenses of the enemy. There these waters are like a great tidal wave, a Tsunami that crushes everything in its path. The waters can picture the godless nations that overwhelmed God’s people. “The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters” (Isa.17:13). Sometimes the godly can feel as though they are being overwhelmed by the ungodly. The waters can picture great fear. “Terrors take hold on him as waters, as a tempest stealeth him away in the night. I believe for Jonah “The waters” are a picture of despair and death. That was all he could feel and all he could see.
The restriction is that they “compassed me about, even to the soul.” Jonah felt “surrounded” and “engulfed” by these waters, not just outwardly but inwardly. He was utterly and completely overwhelmed and felt that he was at the point of death. This can be translated, “The waters compassed me about, even to [the extinction of] life” (Amplified) or “to the point of death” (New American Standard). Jonah was physically and emotionally overwhelmed and overcome. We can be overwhelmed by the weight of sin and the judgment of sin. David wrote: “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up…” (Psa.40:12) Here we see the weight of sin and the soul being overwhelmed by sin. The sinner must feel the burden of his sins before crying out: “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luk.18:13). David confessed his sin and felt that weight lifted. Jonah must feel the burden of his sin before crying out for deliverance. This is also a picture of the judgment of Jesus at Calvary. He felt the weight of our sins for He was “made sin for us who knew no sin”. (Rom.5:21). That weight made him feel like “a worm (a maggot)” (Psa.22:6).
The second description is: “the depth closed me round-about.” This was a confinement he could not escape. The “depth” can be translated the “abyss.” It can picture the grave because it is an enclosure within another enclosure. The restriction is: “closed me round about.” It “surrounded” him, it “encircled” him”, it “enveloped” him. But it can also mean “to turn about, change, transform.” Jonah was held in place by God’s Will and God’s Word. There was a limitation because he is “surrounded, encircled.” There was protection because he was “enveloped. There was direction because he was “turned abou.” There was transformation because he was “changed, transformed.” It is through his suffering that he is changed. It is from this inescapable place of both restriction and protection that he will learn to submit. It is from this place that he will learn to cry out in faith. Again, Jonah looks back to the scriptures, and we find a similar cry, “I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me.” (Psa.69:2). We are all changed by our suffering and our submission, and by our faith in our Deliverer. In Jonah we see several types. We see Jesus in the grave waiting to be delivered, dependent and submissive and waiting upon God. He will be transformed by resurrection. We see the saint transformed by Calvary. We see the remnant that will one day receive their Deliverer, their Messiah and be transformed by suffering.
Finally, we see the last restriction. “the weeds were wrapped about my head.” The word “weeds” means literally “a reed, a water plant, sea weed.” Figuratively Strong’s says it can mean “to stop, to rule.” It can mean “to bind (up), gird about, govern.” It can mean “to bind on, to bandage (to heal). These were the weeds of the sea, we would say seaweed. These weeds can picture all the things that bind and hold tight. As he was dragged through them, they began to wrap around him, especially his head.
Another interesting point is that “weeds” is plural, showing there were many. They can picture the many prophecies that will be fulfilled, and until they are fulfilled Jesus is held by them. They can also picture the different truths of God’s Word. They have the power “to stop” us, “to rule” and “govern” and “to bandage (heal).” Jonah says that they are wrapped about “my head.” The “head” literally speaks of a “part of the body.” It is where our mind resides. It is where our will resides. The “head” typically speaks of an individual, a “captain,” a “chief,” someone in authority. This is about acknowledging authority and submitting to authority.
The weeds that wrap about his head are a personal, painful, powerful lesson for Jonah. In that moment he recognized God’s Will and God’s Word, which is what he had run from. Those weeds will make him recognize God was his “head,” his “chief.” Those weeds will turn into promises that give him hope. The weeds wrapped around the head is a picture of submission to authority. Jonah submitted to his “head” (God); Jesus submitted to His “head” (God); we submit to our “head” (Christ). Those weeds are part of God’s judgment and God’s lesson to Jonah. He may have struggled and been overwhelmed at first but when he realized he stopped struggling, he no longer feared them or fought them, he submitted to them.