Jottings About the Bible: Jonah and the Whale

Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:1‑10  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
THE miraculous preservation of Jonah is a marvelous account, but in no sense absurd and incredible, as we are often told. It is quite fashionable, of course, to sneer at it, and treat it as a fable, a myth, too gross and monstrous to be for a moment believed. Even some professing Christians smile incredulously when “Jonah and the whale” are mentioned: they cannot well conceal their contempt for the story. The early Christians believed it, for they painted the prophet and the fish in the rough frescoes they made in the catacombs at Rome.
Our Lord Jesus Christ believed it, and has set the seal of His almighty approbation and confirmation on it once and again (Matt. 12:39-41; 16:439But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:39‑41)
4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. (Matthew 16:4)
: Luke 11:29, 30, 3229And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29‑30)
32The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Luke 11:32)
). Christ declares that Jonah was a type of His own death and resurrection. His words are precise and emphatic, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” and that as the prophet was a “sign” to Nineveh, so was He a “sign” to the people of Israel. The Lord prepared or appointed (lxx.), a fish which swallowed down the recreant prophet.
It is not said He created it at the moment: He ordained that it should be in readiness to receive Jonah into its capacious maw. In Matthew the word is translated “whale”: but more properly, it was a sea monster, as the revision has it in the margin, that is meant. In all likelihood, it was a species of shark (pesce-cane, the dog fish, Italian sailors call it), which is common in the Mediterranean, which has an enormous throat, and which sometimes attains a length of twenty-five feet or more, with space in its bulk ample enough to contain the prophet’s body. The miraculous element lies, not in his being swallowed alive, but in his being kept alive in his moving grave for three days. Great, indeed, too great for mere nature, but not too great for Him who is above nature, the Almighty.
“There’s a bright day coming,
A bright day coming,
There’s a bright day coming by and by,
But its brightness shall only come to them that love the Lord,
Are you ready for that day to come?
Are you ready, are you ready
For the Judgment day?”