Jonah 2:2 reads, "Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice" (KJV). 2:6 reads "I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God." And Psalm 6:5b says, "Who praises you from the grave?" (NIV)  It seems to me Jonah prayed while he was in Sheol. His body was dead in the fish's belly and God resurrected him from Sheol. I thought that when God raised people from the dead, it was only from Paradise! Can you shed some light on this matter? -- Shaun Smith (Syracuse)

In this passage Sheol (incorrectly translated "hell" in the KJV) is being used metaphorically. Jonah was not literally dead, even though apart from faith he was "as good as dead," and anyone would probably have judged him to be dead.

"The bottoms of the mountains" is another metaphor. It cannot be literally true, since he was in the sea.

The resurrection of Jesus, and our own at the last day (John 5) is no metaphor, though the Bible does have a number of symbolic, non-literal resurrections. For example, Isaac came back from the dead--his "sacrifice" also foreshadowed the crucifixion. And yet Isaac was no more dead on the altar than Jonah was in the fish. As you noticed, the Psalms are full of such language.

Failure to distinguish figurative from literal speech has led to many misunderstandings of Scripture. I hope this explanation is helpful.

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