Jonah 1:17-2:9: The sign of Jonah
One of the major stumbling blocks to people accepting the book of Jonah is the issue of ‘the big fish.’ Modern man has spurned the story thinking that is it absolutely impossible that a man could be swallowed by a fish and live for three days. Gleason Archer reports the following account:
“In February 1891, the whaling ship, Star of the East was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, and the lookout sighted a large sperm whale three miles away. Two boats were lowered and in a short time one of the harpooners was enabled to spear the creature. The second boat also attacked the whale, but was then upset by a lash of its tail, so that its crew fell into the sea. One of them was drowned, but the other, James Bartley, simply disappeared without a trace. After the whale was killed, the crew set to work with axes and spades, removing the blubber. ‘They worked all day and part of the night. The next day they attached some tackle to the stomach, which was hoisted on deck. The sailors were startled by something in it which gave spasmodic signs of life, and inside was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid on the deck and treated to a bath of sea water which soon revived him. At the end of the third week he was entirely recovered from the shock and resumed his duties….Has face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and took on the appearance of parchment. Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his sense through fright and not through lack of air.”
When I was in Bible College, my lecturer suggested that one of the reasons for Jonah’s success in his missions was his bleached white skin which agreed with a certain Assyrian prophecy, and also explains why he was so upset with the hot wind and loss of shade, since his skin was so sensitive. The safest way to understand the swallowing by the fish is to see it as a miracle, Jonah was sustained miraculously by God, and that is the end of the matter.
Now the NT tells us that Jonah in the belly of the fish is the sign that Jesus will give the Jews who were asking for a sign, so as we continue with our study in ch2, we will be looking at Jonah’s experience, and then how this experience points us to Christ.