The Book Of Jonah Part 1


Jonah and the whale! It is the most peculiar thing that this historical fact should have called forth so much unbelief. There is no miracle of the Scripture that has occasioned so much incredulity. Listen first of all to the voice of unbelief.

Regarding the Book of Jonah, one person in Australia wrote in one of the leading papers: "Only a stupid blockhead takes allegory and symbolism as literally true." It is unfortunately necessary to confess that, according to the one I have just quoted, I am a stupid blockhead – rather a sad confession, but apparently necessary, because I wish to affirm my absolute conviction regarding the veracity and historicity both of the person of Jonah and of the events recorded in the Book of Jonah.

I love the Book of Jonah. It's one of the sweetest and most beautiful books in the Bible. Now, actually, why stumble at Jonah and the whale? There are three major miracles in this book. First, the PHYSICAL MIRACLE, that is, the preservation of Jonah. Secondly, the MORAL MIRACLE, the repentance of Nineveh. Thirdly, the SPIRITUAL MIRACLE, the tenderness and the most exquisite revelation of the character of God.

Now, we have heard the voice of unbelief. Let us now hear the voice of Scripture. Scripture speaks regarding the historicity of the person of Jonah. We read in 2 Kings 14:25: " He (Jeroboam) restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath unto the sea of Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by the hand of his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was at Gath-hepher. " There we have Scriptural authenticity regarding the historicity of the person Jonah. That should be enough.

So, with the testimony of Scripture, with the testimony of God, I do indeed prefer to be called a blockhead by incredulity.

After hearing what incredulity speaks, and what Scripture speaks, let us listen for a moment while the whale speaks! It has often been said that the record of Jonah could not be true because we know that a whale's throat is so small that it could hardly swallow a herring, let alone a man.

Firstly, the Scripture nowhere says a whale. The Hebrew word is 'dag gadol', meaning 'great fish'. The scripture expressly declares that God prepared the fish. It was a prepared fish – prepared by God. However, even if it had been a whale, a whale can be found with a throat large enough to swallow a man.

The common sperm whale has been thus described by Thomas Beale in his Observations on the Natural History of the Spermaceti Whale: "The throat is capacious enough to give passage to the body of a man, presenting a strong contrast to the contracted gullet of the Greenland whale."

We have also that authority, Frank Bullen, in The Cruise of the Cachelot: "For the first time it was possible to understand that, contrary to the usual notion of a whale being unable to swallow a herring, here was a kind of whale that could swallow –well, a block four or five feet square, apparently. . ."

Also: "the ejected food was in masses of enormous size, larger than any we had yet seen on the voyage, some of them being estimated to be the size of the hatch-house, viz., eight feet by six feet into six."

I would not like to be faced with a gullet like that, because it would have no difficulty whatever in swallowing me!

But Sir Francis Fox, the scientific engineer, reports of a visit he had to a whaling station where the manager said that the sperm whale can swallow lumps of food eight foot in diameter. Indeed, they had once found inside a sperm whale the skeleton of a shark eighteen feet long.

Furthermore, another historic incident is the record of a dog having lived six days in a whales air cavity, a cavity seven by seven by fourteen, that is, six hundred and eighty-six cubic feet.

I assume you all know the outstanding case of James Bartley who was swallowed by a whale and who was recovered from the body of the captured whale with his features and his body corrugated by the gastric juices of this great sea monster. A whale able to swallow a man?


The PHYSICAL MIRACLE of the preservation of Jonah was a fact because it was God-ordained. It was a sign – it was the Old Testament sign of the death, burial and resurrection of the Sent One. The physical preservation of Jonah was a miracle, but what shall we say of the MORAL MIRACLE – the repentance of Nineveh, that great city?

Into that great city – population from probably six hundred thousand to a million – into that gigantic city goes one foreign messenger of God with a proclamation: " Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown ." And as the result of that one day's mighty preaching, this great city was brought to its knees in repentance from the throne down to the people upon the street.

Why? Because Jonah himself was a sign! What a sign he must have presented! His face bleached white and corrugated, he looked and was, potentially, as one who had risen from the dead. And the people of Nineveh believed God and, clothing themselves in sackcloth and proclaiming a fast said: " Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water; but let them be covered with sackcloth both man and beast, and let them cry mightily unto God. . . "

The Messiah Yeshua said, " The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgement with this generation and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here. "

In the last chapter of the Book of Jonah we see the SPIRITUAL MIRACLE revealing God's great character. Consider His patience with Jonah; consider His condescension with Jonah; consider His compassion for the penitent; consider His regard for the innocent children; consider His tenderness for the beasts; and we find that the Book of Jonah reveals the Lord of the Bible to be the same character as the One who said, " Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "