5) Jonah’s fate (1:17-2:10)
1: 17-2: 10 Now the Lord had prepared a great
fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of
the fish’s belly.
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction
unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou
heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the
midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy
waves passed over me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I
will look again toward thy holy temple.
The waters compassed me about, even to the
soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my
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.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered
the Lord; and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy
They that observe Iying vanities forsake their
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice
of thanksgiving; I will pay that I have vowed. Salvation is of the
And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it
vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Meantime, what happened to
The pictures in the children’s story books
of a whale swimming alongside the ship with its great mouth open, ready to
swallow up the drowning prophet, are almost certainly
The details, as preserved in Jonah’s own
prayer are fairly explicit:
“The waters compassed me about, even to
the soul” (that last phrase means — he lost his
“The weeds were wrapped about my
I went down to the bottoms of the
The earth with her bars was about me for
Yet hast thou brought up my life from
All these phrases point to one definite
conclusion: in the sea he drowned, and sank to the bottom.
When he revived, he found himself inside the
stomach of a great fish. That this great monster was a whale (strictly an
animal, and not a fish) is al most certainly correct, un less one is going to
postulate (needlessly) that this monster was a unique creation, brought into
being specially for Jonah’s benefit.
It may be taken as fairly definite that Jonah, a
lifeless corpse, was in the whale’s belly until the time came when he was
to emerge to a normal life again. The reason for this conclusion will appear in
It was at the end of “three days and three
nights” that Jonah revived and offered his prayer of thanksgiving when as
yet he did not know what his fate would be — though indeed he may have
inferred a strong reason for hope, from the fact that he had come to life again,
and in such a highly unusual environment.
No sooner was his psalm completed than the whale,
as much under divine control as those fishes were in the two miraculous catches
made by Peter, now swimming in the shallow waters off the Holy Land, became
stranded. There, in its desperate struggles, it vomited up the contents of its
stomach, Jonah included, and the prophet found himself on a sandbank with easy
access to the shore.
The narrative tells nothing of how he was
re-equipped with suitable raiment, provided most likely by someone who was
satisfied that he told a true story.
One would like to think that at the temple in
Jerusalem he encountered again those seafaring men whom he had last seen as they
consigned him to the raging waters of the Great Sea. They had vowed a sacrifice
to Jehovah, and — one may be sure — that vow was
The unusual sight of these Gentiles seeking to
offer sacrifice in the temple would be in itself a strong witness to the truth
of Jonah’s extraordinary experience.