You have probably heard about the story Jonah. You may even have seen a cartoonish version of it. Jonah is called by God. Jonah runs from God. Jonah gets on a boat and God sends a storm. Realizing the storm is Jonah’s fault, the sailors eventually throw him overboard and Jonah is swallowed by a whale like Captain Ahab. In the animated stories, there’s poor old Noah inside the whale, warming himself by a campfire.
Which is crazy. Animators and Sponge Bob writers have contributed to generations Americans not understanding the limitations that being underwater can place on people. But I digress.
Of course, the whole story is crazy to many scholars or skeptical scientific types. Surviving in a fish for three days? It doesn’t seem possible and even websites like Answers in Genesis , and to a lesser extent, the Institute for Creation Research are cautious of stories about sailors who were supposedly swallowed and then rescued alive. A story of a Spanish sailor is untrue, and the most famous story of sailor James Bartley is also questionable.
The story of Jonah doesn’t end in the whale, by the way. It ends with Jonah getting spit up on the beach, and this time deciding to follow God’s orders. He marches into Nineveh, proclaims that they will be overthrown in forty days, and the entire city repents. Judgment is avoided. Finally, in another twist to the story, Jonah is upset with God for saving Nineveh. More on that in a second. Before I give away any more, here are 20 observations about the actual story that’s in the Bible that you might not know, which hopefully will help you decide what you think about it. And hey, with this list you don’t have to keep clicking, reloading the page, and suffering through popups! So enjoy!
1. Jesus talked about Jonah like it really happened. He specifically did not treat it like a fictional story. (Matthew 12:40-41)
2.Most scholars view Jonah as fictional, however, perhaps a parable.
3.Interestingly, Jonah is a narrative story, not a prophecy like other books around it.
4. The Bible never says it was a whale. That’s an assumption. It could have been any large fish that was capable of swallowing a guy, even a fish that is now extinct. The Bible also doesn’t mention campfires.
5.Most reject Jonah as true because of the problem with surviving being eaten by a fish. For one thing, there’s generally no air in a stomach to breathe. Without some sort of miracle, weird circumstance, or a specially made fish, Jonah wouldn’t have lasted long.
6.Critics also reject idea that Nineveh would take 3 days to cross (Jonah 3:3)
7. In regards to being eaten… Jonah says he came back from the “pit.” That’s an Old Testament term for the place of death. He said he prayed as his life was ebbing away (Jonah 2).
8. According to the Bible then, Jonah may have actually died. It might not be possible to survive.
9. That’s no biggie. God raises the dead. It’s kinda His thing.
10. Nineveh might indeed have taken 3 days to go through. That’s different than just walking across from point A to point B. Try going through Walt Disney World and hitting every stop. Takes awhile.
11. Nineveh’s area was larger than the walled city anyway. Probably what Jonah referred to.
12. Even if Jonah is a parable and not literally true, it still demonstrates that Richard Dawkins is wrong… That’s always fun.
13. A main point of the book of Jonah is that the God of Israel cares about other nations besides Israel. Dawkins claimed in “The God Delusion” that the God of the Old Testament cared only for Israelites. Well, that doesn’t fit Jonah. Not even close. It also doesn’t fit Daniel, or Genesis, or Revelation, or Isaiah, or Jesus, or etc…
14. Ironically, Jonah himself didn’t care about Ninevites.
He hoped they’d all die.
15. A main point of Jonah wasn’t that he was trying to hide from God. It was that he was running from God’s mission for him.
16. Interestingly, when Jonah showed up at Nineveh he would’ve looked and smelled like the Walking Dead… even IF he had survived the fish. Stomach juices are gross and corrosive. Just saying.
17. Imagine if Death himself walked through your town saying in a fairly hateful voice that you’re all going to die in forty days… You might freak out a little. I bet someone peed their pants. You know, if they had been wearing pants back then.
18. The people of Nineveh repented almost immediately, which would seem unrealistic until you consider the creepy factor of Mr. Corroded Skin walking through town. The people even threw sackcloth on their animals. Critics think this is silly, but the same critics probably put Christmas sweaters on their dogs.
19. It would seem that getting eaten by a fish actually enhanced Jonah’s ministry. Wouldn’t have enhanced his skin though… Well… maybe it was like a really strong chemical peel and after a few months of healing… Where was I?
20. Oh, yes. The big ironic thing is that all of the craziness might have been God’s plan from the beginning. It may very well be that in order to get the people of Nineveh to change so radically and quickly, God needed a guy who would run, get eaten by a fish, and then walk through town. God still takes our failures and turns them into victories.
But goodness, that was off the hook…