Jonah 1 Part 6: God Prepares a Big Fish
Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:38-41 - God has sovereignty over His creation and His prophets.
“And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.”
Jonah 1:17 NASB1995
The seas are now calm, the sailors are converts, and Jonah is swallowed up by a great fish that was appointed by the Lord; he is in this creature’s stomach for three days and nights. Ok, stop right there - are you telling me that this guy Jonah was a real person and he survived three days after being swallowed by some large sea creature? I can hear the mocking and derisive laughs of the “scientific” skeptics right now; they forget or don’t want to know that the God of the Universe can do wonders and miracles with His creation. After all, Jesus was resurrected from the dead, never to die again!
Jesus Himself, by the way, referred to Jonah in a solemn way in Matthew 12 and He would know first-hand the facts about this minor prophet:
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just 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 with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”
Matthew 12:38-41 NASB1995
We all want answers in this Information Age - what kind of creature could swallow Jonah without ripping him to shreds or suffocating him? I could go and do tedious searches on this topic and try to answer the question. Some scholars have discussed it being a sperm whale or a great white shark (which swallows prey whole) or perhaps a giant grouper or rock cod. But the real point of the matter is that the creature, whatever it was (it could have been a special creation), provided a “lifeboat” of sorts for Jonah under the direction of its creator, so Jonah could think long and hard about his disobedience while knowing that he was still alive. Enduring Word has some good commentary about this:
Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights: Though Jonah was a rebellious, resistant, believer, God was not finished with him yet – so the LORD preserved his life.
God could have rescued Jonah in any number of ways. He chose this specific way because of the effect it would have on Jonah’s heart.
The book of Jonah shows us important principles about the sovereignty of God. What happens when God wants a person to do something, but the person doesn’t want to do it? Jonah shows us that God has a way of bringing us to the place where we want what God wants.
Three days and three nights: Apparently, Jonah did nothing for three days and three nights in the belly of the fish; it was only after that period was over that he prayed the prayer following [in Jonah Chapter 2]
Some have wondered if Jonah spent the time sulking, and finally decided he had to repent fully and seek God – perhaps this was the case. However, the starting point of the prayer in Jonah 2 seems to show that Jonah had cried out to God all the time. The prayer of Jonah 2 came after Jonah received assurance from God that he would be delivered.
Getting pedantic about the “hows” of Biblical miracles neglects the “why” - God’s ways are infinitely higher than ours and His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. We cannot always understand His mysteries, but we can see that He cares for us so much. He deals with Jonah’s reluctance in a very novel way demonstrating His sovereignty and love and I believe this remarkable event really happened, just as surely as I believe the sun rose today and will again tomorrow and that I am redeemed.
My next devotional dives into (no pun intended) the beginning of Jonah’s prayer of repentance, starting with Jonah 2:1-2.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - When I doubt your supernatural abilities to rescue us in the most remarkable ways that don’t please “science”, may I look to the words of Jesus, who compared Jonah and his time in the creature’s stomach to His time in the earth after the crucifixion. Your power over creation is infinite. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.