Jonah, the Myth, the Story, the Sign.
Get real.

Get real.

The stories of the Bible are a gift from God to mankind.  The inspired prophets penned tales that illustrate the condition of man, his relationship to God, and God’s great Love for us all.  It is annoying and horribly upsetting when well meaning people take these wonderful tales and present them in a way that renders belief in them almost impossible, and actually misrepresents what I would consider the main points and message.  The story that most offends me today is the story of Will,  pardon me, Jonah.  I relate to this story as it seems to be the story of my life.  To have it reduced to the story of Pinocchio is really upsetting.

The case in point that chafes my chaps today is the tale of Jonah.  I love this story!  I relate to this story! I think every word in this story is true.  I do not believe that the picture above is indicative in any way of what occurred.  The flannelgram pictures I was shown as a child that threw me into rebellion [ ok, I was already in rebellion, but this stuff helped],  are still out there.  The testimony of Christ himself should confirm my point.

I was in a study group one time and the leader told me,  “It is OK if you do not have the faith to believe that Jonah lived in the whale three days.”  I do not think it is ok to believe that Jonah lived in the whale, as I do not believe that to be an example of faith, I believe it to be an example of poor hermeneutics. Look at what happened in the tale as Jonah was pitched overboard.

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights

Fish.  Not whale. The Willohroots concordance defines the word used there, Keetos, as ‘giant swimming thing you would be scared of if it swam by you.

Here is a picture of Keetos from the willohroots concordance.

large-Whale-shark-feedingIt looks very capable of swallowing Jonah, or anybody it wants to, or is ordered to by God.

So this is probably a better representation,

August Jonah and the whale sm

Than is this,

GeppettoWhaleThe verbiage involved in the story seems to agree with me.  The King James’ says:

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

Now I am not really sure about what that  means,  but I doubt I will be doing very much blogging after my soul faints.  The ESV makes it a bit clearer:

When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.

Seems like Jonah died.   I am not making a point to be argumentative, I feel this is very important.  When we teach the New Testament , the Old Testament stories are often critical to a complete understanding.  When Jesus, Yeshua, the Son of God and Messiah said,  “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one[i] greater than Solomon is here. 32The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.”

So when we teach the sign of Jonah, does this make sense?

Sunday school illustration used when I was  a kid.

Sunday school illustration used when I was a kid.

Or should we be teaching this?

sidebar_tomb_sealedHow could the Savior have said to people,” I will live inside a fish, or more believable[ or no more believable than that] a giant whale, for three days, this is the sign I give to you.”  Is that what He said?  Or did He say, ” As Jonah was dead for  three days in a fish, so I will be dead three days in the tomb.  That is the sign. ”   What do you think was the lesson our Lord brought there?  Is there any way to use Jonah living in a whale to illustrate Jesus?

The bible , my Savior, my God, taught that,

jonahwas a foreshadowing of


So tell me, am I being one of those weird preachers that goes through the nursery and gets rid of the stuff that reminds me of Pinocchio and fails to teach a Gospel message?  I fear that putting falsehoods into the minds of children, even small ones give the Devil a foothold.   I am not saying i am right all the time, or smarter than the average bear, I am saying I care and will do all I can to rightly interpret the word from the nursery onward.

What say you?

The Sign of Jonah

29As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. 32The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

May God richly bless the reading of His Word, and may the Holy Spirit who inspired it lead us to a useful and correct understanding of it.

18 Comments so far
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I did a series on Jonah back in July.

When I came to the passage about Jonah’s life fainting away I’m not sure that you could actually say that Jonah did die in the belly of the fish. The reading of that particular passage doesn’t necessarily indicate that he died and God resurrected him. Of course, yes, Jonah is completely prophetic of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection because He Himself likened Jonah to Himself.

However, Abraham and Isaac are also foreshadowings of God the Father sacrificing His only son (whom He loves) upon Mount Moriah/Calvary. But, God stopped Abraham from completing the sacrifice of His son. So I think Jonah, too, while being a sign didn’t necessarily perish and rose again.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Jonah actually surviving his experience in the belly of the fish diminishes anything.

Or, am I missing your point on this?

Comment by Joe Chavez

Joe, as brothers we should be able to discuss such things, like this. Telling someone they have little faith, because they see something in a different way should not be an option.
I really never thought about the Abraham Issac foreshadowing in this light before. Hmmmmm…
Dead or alive, it was no Disney trip.
Being kept alive for 3 days with no air, no food or water, in such horrible conditions, does not seem like the action of a loving God. This would be a three day waterboarding.

Comment by willohroots

I really believe that Jonah died and was raised from the dead. As far as “Abraham/Isaac:

In one of the most epic stories in the Old Testament, the patriarch Abraham is commanded to carry his son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and there, to offer him as a sacrifice to God.

“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

What a burden was laid upon Abraham! We cannot even begin to imagine the sadness that filled the old man’s heart and tortured him every step of his journey. The Scriptures are careful to tell us that he was commanded to offer “his son, his only son, whom he loved.” The specificity seems designed to catch our attention and make us think that there is more meaning hidden in these words than we can yet tell.

On the third day, the two reached the appointed place, and the father himself bound his beloved son with his own hand. Finally, in submission to what must be done, he laid his hand upon his son’s brow and “took the knife to slay him.” At that very moment, the mercy and grace of God interposed, and the old man’s hand was stayed. God called out to him from heaven and said:

“Abraham, Abraham! …Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing
to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your
only son, from Me.”

At the voice of the Lord, Abraham raised his eyes, and found a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. He took the ram and offered him up in the place of his son. He then named that place YHWH-jireh or “The Lord will provide.” It is a faithful saying that remains until this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” As the curtains draw to a close on this epic moment in history, not only Abraham, but also everyone who has ever read this account breathes a sigh of relief that the boy is spared. We think to ourselves what a beautiful end to the story, but it was not the end, it was a mere intermission!

Two thousand years later, the curtain opens again. The background is dark and ominous.
At center stage is the Son of God on Mount Calvary. He is bound by obedience to the will of His Father. He hangs there bearing the sin of His people. He is accursed – betrayed by His
creation and forsaken of God. Then, the silence is broken with the horrifying thunder of God’s wrath. The Father takes the knife, draws back His arm, and slays “His Son, His only Son, whom He loves.” And the words of Isaiah the prophet are fulfilled:

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed
Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed… But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.”

The curtain is drawn to a close on a slain Son and a crucified Messiah. Unlike Isaac there was no ram to die in His place. He was the Lamb who would die for the sins of the world. He is God’s provision for the redemption of His people. He is the fulfillment of which Isaac and the ram were only shadows. In Him, Mount Calvary is renamed “YHWH-jireh” or “The Lord will provide.” And it is a faithful saying that remains until this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” Calvary was the mount and salvation was provided. Thus, the discerning believer cries out, “God, God, I know you love me since you have not withheld your Son, your only Son, whom You love, from me.”

It is an injustice to Calvary that the true pain of the Cross is often overlooked by a more romantic, but less powerful theme. It is often thought and even preached that the Father looked down from heaven and witnessed the suffering that was heaped upon His Son by the hands of men, and that He counted such affliction as payment for our sins. This is heresy of the worst kind. Christ satisfied divine justice not merely by enduring the affliction of men, but by enduring and dying under the wrath of God. It takes more than crosses, nails, crowns of thorns, and lances, to pay for sin. The believer is saved, not merely because of what men did to Christ on the Cross, but because of what God did to Him – He crushed Him under the full force of His wrath against us. Rarely is this truth made clear enough in the abundance of all our Gospel preaching!

Note: Taken from “The Meaning of the Cross” Paul Washer

Comment by Ike

Which is the bigger miracle? Being raised from the dead or surviving in the belly of the fish for 3 days and nights? Was Jonah more helpless in one case or the other? Was God’s power exhibited more in one over the other?

While I never really thought about it before, I tend to think he was dead, given the lack of oxygen and water to drink, the crushing water pressure, the digestive fluids, etc. etc. etc.

Does it really matter? I doubt it.

Comment by Justin

Not to salvation, or pot luck suppers, but What I am trying to avoid like the plague is setting up a non biblical scenario that science can easily cut through. Putting out a Pinocchio style story invites this great epic tale to be filed away with Disney fantasy. I was taught that ole’ Jonah rode in the whale like you would ride in a taxi.
Anyway, I like using the term “soul fainting” for death. Beyond being a nice euphemism, it is a great word picture.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
© Info

“When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.

If he wasn’t dead, he was praying to die. Maybe it is cause i get a bit clausty, but man, that would be a real hell ride.

Comment by willohroots

I love your stuff Will. I always knew God created a fish to swallow Johah and he came out in three days. I never really thought about Jonah’s condition, but I think I have to go with Will and Justin. But as Justin said “Does it really matter” It can’t be stressed enough about not putting falsehoods into our children’s minds no matter how young they are. The events in the Bible should be taught as truth and not sugar coat it. (We won’t even go into Santa, easter bunny, and halloween being a wonderful exciting holiday)Children are so much smarter than we think. They can handle the truth 🙂

Comment by patty

In my mind, [ a strange and terrible place] When Jonah was yaked up on the beach he was rough looking. It is the only way I can explain the instant success of his ministry.

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

This 100% conversion rate exceeds the crowd response in Acts, and the reaction of Jesus raising Lazarus. Could you imagine a half digested, matted hair, wrinkled skin, fish slime covered guy strolling into town to say Repent?

That gives me an idea, maybe next Sunday I should cover myself in…nevermind. I should cover myself in prayer!

Comment by willohroots

Well, you have forced me to this! We must separate. Ike, Patty and i will form the 1st Baptist Church of Jonah Died in the Fish, and we will no longer associate with Joe and Justin. As we know the devine truth and Joe and Justin do not, we will pray for the two of you, even though we really doubt it will do much good.
Justin says he does not care about such things, proving he is schmecaly, and I am here to testify that he also eats, brace yourselves, THE DEVIL’S CANDY, that tri-colored favorite of Hell, candi-corn! As for Joe, well, I am sure he did something somewhere that was just not good.
We will miss you, kinda, as we start our new union. I mean, isn’t that the Protestant thing to do? There is no way you can hangout with people unless you agree on every little detail, is there?
The ‘living in the whale Jonahites’ will be forever separated from the ‘Resurrected Jonahites.’ We must be sure to value these small distinctions more than the Unity of believers.

Comment by willohroots


Comment by Dorci

Dead or alive through the three days, Jonah was alive and praying at the end. Jonah 2:1 “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly”

Until tonight I’d not really considered what a horrific trip it had been. Someone who’s been through that hollers, “Repent!” it’s a good idea to listen.

Suddenly I’m able to be grateful for a shattered ankle.

Comment by Shawn W

A quote from Winston Churchill

“We reject with scorn all these learned and laboured myths that Moses was but a legendary figure. We believe that the most scientific view, the most up to date and rationalistic conception, will find its fullest satisfaction in taking the Bible literally. We may be sure that all these things happened as they are set out in Holy Writ. In the words of a forgotten work of Mr. Gladstone, we rest with assurance upon ‘the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture…’ Let the men of science and of learning expand their knowledge and probe with their researches every detail of the records which have been preserved to us from these dim ages. All they do is to fortify the grand simplicity and essential accuracy of the recorded truths which have lighted so far the pilgrimage of man.”

Comment by willohroots

The illustration in the children’s picture Bible seemed so accurate, then. I have to laugh, though, when I think back on it now. There’s Jonah, the prophet, wearing a long robe, with his long hair and serious expression. He’s sitting on a wooden bench, with only a candle for light, intently reading his Bible, surrounded by huge white ribs and shadowy internal organs. The caption beneath the illustration proclaims that he’s in the belly of the whale.

When I read the Book of Jonah today I find we have no absolute assurance for asserting that a whale swallowed Jonah. Whales are mammals, and the Lord tells us that the swallower was a “fish.” Actually, a “prepared fish,” prepared by the Lord. I prefer to think it was a Megalodon shark, but what do I know?

The point is, it is not likely that Jonah sat calmly on a bench reading by candlelight during his three days and three nights in the fish’s belly. “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17). In fact, Jonah was probably squeezed in there, alone in the dark, like a man buried alive in a submarine coffin.

Thankfully, though, this did not keep Jonah from reciting the Word of God. Jonah 2:9 (“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”) shows that Jonah had memorized Psalms 3:8 and 37:39.

There are many good reasons for memorizing Scripture (Showing off is not one of them.), but one of the best reasons for doing it is so that we can call out the promises of God in times of great peril. I pray that you will never find yourself in the belly of a great fish, but if you do find yourself alone and trapped and in the dark, you will be thankful if you have been long in the habit of spending time alone with God, letting Him sear upon your heart the light of His Word.

Comment by Ministry Addict

Amen! The lamp unto our feet may be needed where there is no candle, now that’ll preach!

Comment by willohroots

How may I obtain permission to reprint the picture of the sealed tomb on the cover of our Holy Saturday service? I will be happy to print an acknowledgment with the details you specify. I would appreciate a reply direct to my email if possible.
Thanks and blessings,

Comment by Rachel K

I have no idea, sorry.

Comment by willohroots

Physically, it’s pretty impossible that Jonah was swallowed by a whale shark. I’ve thought to myself many times on this very subject, “how does any of this make sense?” The Bible says he was swallowed by a fish, Sunday-school teachers say it was a whale, then someone shouts “WHALE SHARK. Duh.”
But whale sharks are filter feeders, and they do not effectively filter humans. One source (don’t recall it specifically) informed me that their throats are only about the size of a dime.

Just to give you more credible facts, so it’s not all coming from me:

“The scientists found that the sharks ingest about nine pounds of plankton an hour while swimming through a dense plankton bloom. The tiny sea creatures and massive amounts of water flow into a whale shark’s throat, where 20 filtering pads with tiny holes lie. The pads take up more than 6.5 square feet, but the pads’ pores are tiny, just 0.07 inches across. The water hits the pads at an angle, which ensures that as it flows through the pads and the shark’s gill apparatus, the food particles are swept into the back of the throat, near the opening to the stomach.”

taken from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/02/AR2007090200620.html

I’m a Christian, and this has always been a detail that’s stumped me. I give up on the notion after thinking about it for so long, and inevitably return to it later, having found no logical conclusions – other than it’s physically impossible from what I’ve learned.

Comment by Riko

Love each other, pray for each other. God bless you all.

Comment by Leah

In all probability, Jonah was swallowed by a Megalodon Carchodon, a 75-foot shark with a huge throat, a slow-working digestive system, and a huge stomach filled with air. These monsters were still swimming the oceans a few thousand years ago. Competition from human whalers and orcas cut back on the supply of whales (their primary food source), and they became extinct.

Comment by Randy Smith

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