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Jonah & The Big Fish - The Biblical Message's You May Not Know!

Updated on April 24, 2014
Ronald Bachner profile image

Ronald Bachner has 30 years experience in building inspection, safety, and real estate experience. He enjoys local theater for relaxation.

Depiction of ship Jonah was on.
Depiction of ship Jonah was on.
One of the Gates to the City of Nineveh rebuilt. At least five gates have been excavated.
One of the Gates to the City of Nineveh rebuilt. At least five gates have been excavated.
Jonah's Travel Map
Jonah's Travel Map
Nineveh - Depicted
Nineveh - Depicted
Another view of a gate in to Nineveh
Another view of a gate in to Nineveh
Excavation of reported defenders of Nineveh.
Excavation of reported defenders of Nineveh.
Joppa Today (now Yafa)
Joppa Today (now Yafa)

Do you know the story of Jonah?

Hub first published February 8, 2013

Do you know that there are three important message’s in the Bible’s Book of Jonah? The Old Testament Book of Jonah is only four chapters long. The average person only knows about Jonah in a general sense meaning the story about Jonah being eaten or swallowed by a big fish or whale. Most do not know how he landed up being in the belly of the fish or whale. Do you know why Jonah was eaten or swallowed by the big fish or whale? This is a very important point or story for you to know. You will learn that all three messages are what I believe are vital lessons and instructions to all Christians. The bible translation states the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1: 17). There is debate whether it was an actual whale or shark, but this is not important. The story of Jonah takes place between 780 B.C. and 760 B.C.

The story of Jonah starts with the word of the Lord coming to Jonah, who is the son of Amittal (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah is from Galilee and considered privileged. He was a native of Gathhepher. Jonah is instructed by the word of the Lord to go to the great city of Nineveh to speak against the wickedness going on with the Ninevites. There was much sinning of all kinds going on in Nineveh. God asked Jonah to warn them of their wickedness and sinning.

Jonah was to preach repentance and salvation to the Ninevites. He was instructed to bring the word of God to the Ninevites. This was God’s assignment or commission to Jonah. What do you think happened or was Jonah’s response?

Jonah response was his attempt to flee the presence of the Lord and avoid the Lord’s instructions. Jonah, a Jew, knows that if he preaches repentance to the Gentile town of Nineveh God’s mercy may follow. The city of Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were a hated enemy of Israel and Jonah himself.

Jonah and Israel was the enemy of the Assyrians. It is most likely he would rather have had God destroy or punish the Assyrians for their wickedness, sinning, and atrocities. JONAH KNEW HOWEVER THAT GOD WAS A LOVING AND FORGIVING GOD, AND THAT IF HE WOULD PREACH REPENTANCE, GOD WOULD SPARE THEM.

The city of Nineveh was northeast. It was on the Tigris River. It is reported to have 100 foot high walls, and 1500 towers measuring 200 feet high. The city of Tarshish was west. Jonah decides not to obey the Lord and decides to go to Tarshish by ship. He goes to the port of Joppa on the Mediterranean and boards a ship destined to Tarshish. Tarshish is in the south of Spain and northwest of the Straits of Gilbraltar. How does God deal with the rebellion of the prophet Jonah who turned down God’s instruction’s to go to Nineveh?

In short, God starts to toss the ship Jonah was on into the rough seas. God’s stirs up a storm which continues to get worse. The other mariner’s on board felt that they were cursed. They cried out to their God. They went to Jonah and asked him from where he came. Jonah answered “I am a Hebrew.” I, (Jonah) fear the God of Heaven who made the seas and the land. Jonah told the mariners that he had fled the presence of the Lord. The captain of the ship urged Jonah to pray to his God, hoping the mariner’s lives will be spared.

The sea kept getting worse, tossing the ship. The mariners tried to row to the nearest land but it was of no help as the sea grew more tempestuous against them. They cried out to the Lord asking Him to spare them and don’t let them perish. The mariners asked do not charge us with innocent blood because of what we may do. They were referring to throwing Jonah overboard because he had brought this on to them for his disobedience to the Lord.

The mariner’s picked up Jonah and threw him in to the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging waters and became calm. The mariners feared the Lord and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows (Jonah 1:16). Jonah was in the sea when a big fish or whale swallowed him. He was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. As a Christian you should remember this point of Jonah being in the belly of the fish or whale for three days and three nights.

Jonah prays while in the belly of the fish looking for a way out of the fish or whale. God hears his prayers even in this most difficult situation of Jonah. Jonah eventually repents for disobeying God (Jonah 2:1-9). He thanks God for saving him. Jonah is sincere in his prayer and God spoke to the fish and it vomited him out on to dry land (Jonah 3:1). Jonah in a way was in a death state while in the belly of the fish and he would have died if not delivered by God.

Jonah is again instructed by the Lord, a second time, to go to Nineveh to warn the Ninevites about their wickedness and sins. Jonah journey’s to Nineveh. It was about a three day journey to reach the entire city. He reaches the city and begins to warn them that in forty days the city will be overthrown. Jonah convinces the King of the city of Nineveh. The king order’s all to fast and beg for forgiveness. The people repent. The city of 120,000 (Jonah 4:11) Ninevites is saved by God as they turned from their evil ways (Jonah 3:10). Nineveh is the only empire to ever repent after hearing God's warning message.

Comment: There are many who wonder why the inhabitants of Nineveh should suddently repent of their sins because of the prophet Jonah especially since they did worship the God whom the prophet served. An explanation of this is offered by archaeologist while digging in the ruins of Nineveh. They believed the Ninevites were worshipers of fish God. They think they knew Jonah had arrivved from a great fish who brought him there. They may have believed their god had brought Jonah to warn them which could explain their quick repentence.


After seeing this Jonah becomes angry. He prays to the Lord and repeats the facts of his first disobedience when he went to Tarshish, still knowing that God is a loving and merciful God. Jonah is not happy that God saved the Ninevites after all their wickedness. He pleads to the Lord to take his life as it is better for him to die than to live (Jonah 4:3). The Lord said “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah went out of the city and made himself a shelter. He waited to see what would happen to the city (Jonah 4: 5). The Lord God prepared a plant from the gourd family and it came (grew) up over Jonah to shade him. Jonah was grateful. As morning approached God prepared a worm and it damaged the plant so that it withered. As the sun rose a wind came and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head. Jonah again wished death for himself. God asked him if it was right for him to be angry about the plant. Jonah replied it was right for him (Jonah) to be angry, even to death.

The Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night (Jonah 4:10).” The Lord God further states to Jonah in verse 11, “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city where more than 120,000 persons can not discern between their right and left hand, and much livestock.” Jonah was more afflicted at the lost of the plant or gourd than he was for the people of Nineveh. It is an example of men (all of creation) exalting their own self interests or desires above the life and welfare of their fellow man.

From the above story of Jonah we can learn three lessons that I believe are important for every Christian to understand. They are:

  1. The story of Jonah exposes the selfishness of the general Jewish leaders of that time. Jonah himself, a minor prophet, was instructed by God to go to Nineveh and warn them of their wickedness and to tell them to repent. He did not want to do this. He fled to Tarshish. Jonah would rather have died than to have the message of repentance and salvation delivered to the Gentile Ninevites. Jonah’s rebellion reflected the national feelings of the Jews. The Jewish community did not anticipate or found it unacceptable to accept that God’s plan would include giving everyone the opportunity to come to Him. This includes the Gentiles. It was not just for Israel. When Israel became a nation after the Exodus from Egypt, it was based on God’s choice and not because of the Jews. It was not their goodness, their numbers (Deuteronomy 7:7), or their righteous (Deuteronomy 9:5-6) that they were selected. It was because God loved them. Israel was and is to be a guiding light to the world pointing the nations of the world to God. Israel had benefited greatly from the blessings and protection of God. In spite of the many blessings God tries to warn Israel many times in the bible to repent and change their ways. The bible at Psalm 117 states, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” Jonah’s initial rejection of God’s instructions to him is a lesson for Jonah and all of us. The good news of Jesus Christ sacrifice is for the entire world, and not just for Israel. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then we should do what you are instructed to do and serve God in whatever capacity you are asked. God is calling all his creation and it includes Jews, Gentiles, nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues (Revelation 7:9). God has a plan for your life if you will seek and follow him. The Lord desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). All Christian’s should be obeying God and reaching out to all. By withholding the Word, we are failing in our responsibilities. In short, God always intended to include the Gentiles in his plan. God will correct those who disobey him as he did to Jonah. Jonah is a book about what happens to people who either deliver God's message or fail to do so. It applies to all people who have had God's truth revealed to them.


2. We also learn from the story of Jonah that God will save us if we call upon Him. Jonah after disobeying God and was cast in to the sea was saved by God. God saved him by sending a whale to rescue him. God is capable of preserving his children in all circumstances if that is his plan and will. God had a plan for Jonah and he has a plan for your life. Jonah was in the belly of the big fish or whale for three days and three nights. He prayed while in the belly (Jonah 2:1-9). Jonah was sincere in his pray and God spoke to the fish and the fish (whale) vomited him (Jonah) on to dry land (Jonah 2:10). Jonah rejected or continued to complain about this point even though he was just saved. After Jonah preached to the Ninevites and they were saved by God he was still angry and unhappy even though God just saved him from his rejection of God’s instructions. He pleads to God to take his life. Jonah cared more about the gourd or plant than he did about the Ninevites. The lesson to learn here is that God loves all his creation and he created everyone and every thing in this story. God is in control. God saved Jonah from the sea and certain death. God saved the mariners who threw Jonah in to the sea. God saved the Ninevites after they were warned by Jonah. It is clear God hears those who call on him, prays, and repents. God is a merciful god and salvation is for everyone. We are not to judge God and his plan for our lives. We are to seek and embrace it.


3. Jonah plays a very important role in God’s message to us Christians today. In the New Testament, God states, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation (Luke 11:29-30). An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here (Matthew 12:39-41). That greater is Jesus Christ. The Pharisee and Sadducees asked Jesus that he would show a sign from heaven. Jesus responded, “When it is evening you say it will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, it will be foul weather today for the sky is red and threatening.” Jesus further claims, “Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then he left them and departed (Matthew 16:1-4).

The world seeks a sign from God according to their own reasons and terms regardless of the miracles performed by Jesus while on earth. The miracles performed were not enough for those who observed them.

However, there is a sign already given and we do not accept it. God gave one sign to demonstrate his Messiah ship. The sign was that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the big fish, Jesus’ resurrection was the sign all of us must accept to recognize who the true God is that can pay the penalty for their sins. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst and have everlasting life (John 6:32-40).

The story and Book of Jonah is considered symbolic by many. The story of Jonah when he was in the belly of the big fish pictures a similar sacrifice made by Jesus Christ when he was in the grave three days and three nights. There is only one God who has arisen from the grave and only one God who can pay the penalty for your sins. That man is Jesus Christ. The sign is that he was in the grave for three days and three nights.

You must ask yourself if there are three days and three nights between a Good Friday crucifixion and a Sunday morning resurrection. I urge you to pray and study the bible to learn the facts about the crucifixion and resurrection. Do not be deceived. There is debate on this point. I can assure you there is no debate as the Bible is the inspired word of god. I know of no argument questioning whether Jonah was in the belly of the big fish for three days and three nights, but this is the only sign the bible gives for you to know how to recognize your Savior and Redeemer.

The GOSPEL is that Jesus Christ was sent by his Father to redeem you by His (Jesus Christ) shedding of His blood on the cross (tree) for YOUR sins. He was crucified, died, buried, and rose from the dead after three days and three nights. This is the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4) DO YOU ACCEPT THIS GOSPEL?


Note: Nineveh is in present day Iraq.

© Copyrighted 2013 – Ronald C. Bachner – All Rights Reserved.


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    • Ronald Bachner profile image
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      Ronald Bachner 4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Dear JMcFarland

      Your last two comments are at a minimum disrespectful. If you wish to engage in a discussion it should not be in a condescending manner with a hub writer or a commentator.

      You claim you were given a sermon. You were not. You asked me a question regarding the story of Jonah. It was answered. It was not answered as you would want it as to acknowledge my answer requires you to at least acknowledge that my faith is in God and I accept it on faith.

      When you respond to someone you have to consider whether they are sincere and truly seeking answers. I considered that with you. The question was whether you were trying to create intentional discussion or find answers. I reviewed your profile and some of your hubs and your comments. I chose intentional discussion. I question whether the issue of Jonah really confronts your senses or other comments represent the real you or not to create intentional discussion.

      The bible is either accepted as the word of God or it is not. Do you also question how the Red Sea was parted, the story of the Ark, the loaves and the five fish in feeding the multitude, turning wine in to water, Jesus numerous healings, Jesus walking on water, Jesus raising the dead, or many other biblical accounts? I do not know or understand how the Red Sea was parted. I accept the Bible as the Word of God. We were not there and therefore we must choose to believe or not to believe the Bible. This does not mean I accept without proving God’s existence to myself. A walk with God requires faith and includes not understanding all.

      After review of your hubs and comments you have stated you read the bible frequently, are an avowed atheist, do not know if Jesus exists or does not exists, have strong theology and biblical education, denies the story of Adam and Eve, participates in the activities of a local national atheist chapter, and claims God is a figment of the believers imagination as there is no proof for him.

      I do know that one does not have a relationship with God because they grew up in a particular denomination, went to a bible school, obtained a degree in theology, performed good works with a church organization, or volunteered at the local church or charity. The world is full of people who attend church who do not know or have a relationship with God. Have you accepted Jesus Christ sacrifice on the cross for your sins? Have you repented? You may be versed in the Bible but you have rejected what you have read.

      In one of your comments on one of your related hubs you claim you hope to plant a seed. What seed is that? Is that a seed of deception, hurt, or even your own self destruction? You claim to be an atheist and yet still read the bible. If there is no God or Supreme Being who created this world and the people in it why do you waste your time and efforts on reading the bible of a God that does not exist or waste your time with a organization fighting a god that to you both is non-existent. Is he non existent or is it that you don’t accept his word on his terms. If it is the later then there is a God who created this world. You do yourself and others a disservice by clearly not being in the Christian camp and not completely in the atheist camp. If you can’t prove God exists and can’t prove he does not exist then don’t discourage others who choose to seek God and his Son Jesus Christ. What seed are you planting? That is their right to make their own choice. Should you not finally take a position on this in your own life and move on in your life and be at peace with your existence in this world. Have you accepted your own mortality on this earth or would you like to find hope for more after your physical death?

      All of us are given the right to choose. God will not interfere with that right. It is our free will. It is the same right and free will that you have also. While I may not know your experiences, it does not qualify you to judge others in their relationship with God. The beliefs of others do not affect you unless they are being imposed upon you.

      In closing, please know this was a sermon. I welcome you to write a hub on Jonah from your perspective and what you have come to know and believe is true.

    • Ronald Bachner profile image
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      Ronald Bachner 4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Thanks for your comment. God can clearly suspend the laws of nature like he had to do to walk on water in John 6.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Ronald, thanks for sharing your views on the story of Jonah. Next time, please do not forget to refer to these events as a miracle, that is, "a phenomenon not fully explained by known laws of nature." Blessings!

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I did not ask my questions to get a sermon. I know all about your god. I graduated from bible college and was at one point a missionary. I may even know your bible better than you do - but I'm not claiming to, since I don't know how long or in what capacity you studied. I myself have studied it in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and continue to read it consistently. I just don't believe in it - but I used to. It was in studying the bible that I could no longer believe it - and if the god of the bible IS true and DOES exist, then he's a moral despot that is not worthy of worship, sacrifice or adoration.

      I'll ask again - since the only thing that could even be perceived as any sort of an answer is "I don't know" in your lengthy response.

      1) How was Jonah swallowed in one piece and not chewed to pieces when the big fish swallowed him?

      3) What did he breathe for 3 days and nights?

      4) What did he eat?

      5) how did the fish's stomach acid not consume him?

    • Ronald Bachner profile image
      Author

      Ronald Bachner 4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Dear JMcFarland:

      Thanks for your comments. I thought about how to answer your question. There were many options as I being a Christian and not an atheist as your self could respond in many ways. I am not sure how you became an atheist. There are atheist’s because they do not know God, were not taught about God growing up, never heard about a Supreme Being, some have been misinformed, or because they may have prayed to their deity and believe he did not answer their prayer.

      The main point of your comment questions how I can believe such a story as Jonah being swallowed by a whale or big fish. When we think of these things in the flesh and our limited knowledge as human beings it is difficult. As a Christian we must live in the spirit. You do not live in the spirit as you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. I am not judging you. I am trying to explain your question. I was not always a Christian. Thirty five plus years ago I prayed to God for the Truth. In that time God has proved His existence for me. If you believe there is no God you are right, it does not make sense. If you know God as I have come to know Him it is easier to understand. In Proverbs 3:19-20, as well as many other scriptures, if God founded the earth, established the heavens, and created this world that you and I live in, then it is within His ability to send a whale to save Jonah and to preserve him within the belly of the whale or big fish. He did just that. The bible is the inspired word of God. If it is not the inspired word of God or not true then Jesus Christ is not your Savior, did not rise from the dead after three days and nights, and the Book of Jonah is just an unbelievable story.

      I however have learned differently after all these years and that is because of my faith and relationship with God which has been growing for the last 35 plus years. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and his blood sacrifice for my sins. It is only through personal experiences when you see God work in life that your faith grows and it becomes a personal experience. You may not have questioned your existence in this world or answered the question what is the world about for me, but I have and have found solid answers with God and Jesus Christ. If you do not know God, then I recommend asking God in pray, I do not know you or if you exist, but if you do exist, please come to me and help me.

      The story of Jonah is important to all Christians, because we all have disobeyed God, asked for forgiveness, and been saved because of our belief and faith in God and his plan for our lives. In closing, God loves each of us including atheists. Whether you believe in a Supreme Being or not does not make the non existence of God valid. The will of God will be done. In my mind I have answered these important questions. I hope this has been helpful to you. I hope you consider praying about this matter for your salvation, the worst that can happen is you will not get any answer, but I can assure that God has never left you. He is waiting for you and anyone else reading this to call upon him. Peace be with you.

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      how do you not find this story to be ludicrous? How do you not view this story with the skepticism that you would apply to any other story in which a human being is swallowed by a huge fish (not a whale) and not bitten in half, not digested, not in the fish's stomach with all of the stomach acids or anything else. What did jonah eat? What did he drink? Have you SEEN the inside of an animal's stomach - or your own? How did he breathe? How do you NOT find this myth to be just that - a myth - not something that is compatible with real life?