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Was Jonah swallowed by a whale?

Updated on September 11, 2012

What swallowed Jonah?

Was it a fish or a whale?

So many people seem to have asked this question, just like did Eve eat an apple. It seems that in the past, kids grew up knowing about Jonah and the whale. Not some big fish. This page is not going to answer the question to satisfy 100% of the people, but it will be food for thought for everyone.

No need to get into arguments about fish or whale. The story of Jonah and _____________ (just fill in the blank with fish or whale) is a terrific story from The Bible. Enjoy the story and perhaps the meaning of it.

And doesn't "Jonah and the Whale" sound so much better than Jonah and a big fish? I think so.

Does The Bible say big fish or whale?

Here is where things get dicey. Every time I hear the story in church from a grown up, I cringe. They over-emphasize "big fish" because that's what the book of Jonah uses. They seem to want to make some political point about correcting people who say whale. In my opinion, they do nobody any good, and actually look a little foolish. We don't need a lesson on whales or fish to get the meaning of Jonah.

Because here's the truth. The Bible does indeed say whale. Where?

Matthew 12:40 King James Version

"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."

So, if one is using the King James version, and that version is considered sacred by many and widely used, the word whale is there, isn't it?

Many newer versions have changed that to "big fish." But nobody can dispute the fact that The Bible does say whale. Don't let anyone tell you different.

But the word whale is wrong!

It was a big fish!

Not so fast. Who says the word whale is wrong? Doesn't the Hebrew say big fish?

Let's take that statement to be true. Does it matter? Many people say yes because they know a whale is not a fish. And since it means big fish, it can't be a whale, right?

Not so fast. In the history of science, we have just recently started classifying animals. Whales, fish, amphibians, reptiles, etc. are now classified as different types of animals.

But the ancient Hebrews did no such thing. They did not have our modern scientific ways of classifying animals, nor did they care. Clean and unclean animals were a concern.

Big fish could mean anything swimming in the ocean, whale or fish. So just because the Hebrew meaning may be fish, it in no way excludes whales.

Reasons to think it may have been a whale

Fish, what we call fish, do not breathe air. They do not come to the surface for a breath. Anything inside of a fish that needs air, will not get it.

A whale, however, needs to breathe air. Just like man.

Which makes more logical sense for a man to survive, belly of a fish or whale? (Yes we know it was a miracle, so God did not need air to keep Jonah alive.)

After 3 days and nights, the fish literally vomited Jonah up on the shore. What large swimming ocean animals make it to the beach? Whales. If a creature in the ocean was going to spit out anything on the beach, it would be a whale. People see beached whales all the time.

The blue whale is the largest animal in the world. And yes we do classify that as a whale.

Ninevah was located near the Mediterranean Sea. Do they have whales? Yes indeed. They have sperm whales which can grow over 75 feet long.

Did you know that the largest fish is the whale shark? Sharks are fish, even if the common name for the biggest one has "whale" in it.

These sharks are warm water, but have been spotted near Israel and Pakistan. Could they have made it around to the Mediterranean Sea?

If this "big fish" swallowed Jonah, well, it still has "whale" in the name, right? At least today.

Whale or big fish?

Does it matter?

The conclusion of this website has no conclusion. We leave it up to the reader to decide.

Remember, the whole purpose of this site was to give those who believe it was a whale a little ammunition against those who insist on saying, "big fish."

Don't let anyone tell you that "whale" is not in The Bible.

What do you think?

What swallowed Jonah?

Was Jonah swallowed by a whale or a big fish?

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no reason to post comments that are rude. This lens was made for fun, not for any religious or scientific work.

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