jonahTypically when someone attempts to discredit or disprove the truthfulness of God’s Word they target the story of Jonah as their evidence. They emphatically state that scientists claim that it would be impossible for a fish to swallow a man whole. They also assert that if a man could be swallowed whole – there is absolutely no way he could live inside the belly of that fish for 3 days. Therefore – the Bible is a fake.

(To which I throw up my hands in surrender, “You got me! Guess it is all made up and you have exposed it!”)

Usually, modern people with that perspective have read very little, studied even less, and have already made up their minds to whether it is true or not. Case closed. No need for further discussion.

But for those of us who want to understand what the Bible REALLY means, these objections to the story of Jonah do bring up some stuff to think about. I’m mean, while it MAY be possible that fish exist out in the deep depths of the ocean that are big enough to swallow a grown man (such as a whale), it definitely seems crazy to picture that guy living inside the whales belly for 3 days and nights!

Uninformed thoughts like that typically will spin until they ‘figure out’ that the Bible must be man-made junk.

But the problem is that the Bible never says that Jonah LIVED inside the whale for 3 days/nights. In fact – it says he died there.

Jonah had been told by God to travel to Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) and share the truth of God’s love to the people before they were destroyed. Assyria was a sworn enemy of Israel – so obviously Jonah did not want those people saved. So he disobeyed God and ran. He boards a ship that begins to experience trouble in a major storm… caused by Jonah’s disobedience.

Jonah volunteers to sacrifice himself – be thrown overboard – to save the entire innocent crew.

Chapter 2 deals with the part that takes place inside the fish’s belly.

First – it says that Jonah prayed “from the fish’s belly” (2:1). (Obviously he was physically inside at this point).

Then notice what Jonah says, “I cried out in my distress to the Lord and He heard me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice” (2:2). The Hebrew word Sheol is a word for the region of the dead – Hades.

Jonah (recounting later) says he was in the belly of Sheol when he cried out to God.

Then he describes being in the ocean – sinking – drowning – out of God’s sight.

“The waters compassed me about, even to the soul…” (2:5). This is a Biblical expression used to imply death (Psalm 69:1, Jer 4:10). The Amplified version of this verse says “even to [the extinction of life]…

Furthermore, in the next verse Jonah says “the earth with its bars closed behind me forever” (2:6). This is another Hebraic expression regarding death used in Job 38:17 and Isaiah 38:10. The gates of life have closed for Jonah… As he was losing consciousness, “When my soul fainted within me…” (2:7)- Jonah remembered the faithfulness of the Lord and cried out for mercy and salvation (rescue) (2:9).

So the actual scriptures draw a picture of Jonah sinking into the deep ocean – drowning – being swallowed by a big fish – and calling out to God for mercy with his final moments from within the belly of the fish. At his repentance, God resurrects Jonah and has the fish vomit him back up on shore after 3 days/nights.

Jonah didn’t live inside the belly of a fish for 3 days – he died – was swallowed by a fish – then repented and God miraculously resurrected him back to life and sent him on the mission He originally gave him.

Now the reason these details are so important is because Jesus later says…

“For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, Someone more and greater than Jonah is here!” – Matthew 12:40-41 AMP

Jesus would liken His own 3 days to that of Jonah. If Jonah didn’t actually die and get resurrected, then neither did Jesus! This was an argument in the 2nd century that was disputed by Christians and it needs to still be disputed today!

So when some acne-faced atheist tries to throw this tiresome argument against Scripture into your face… pull out your Bible and educate them… in love.  🙂


Be Fruitful & Multiply,