Jonah 1:17
Now the LORD had appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.
A Restrained FishGeorge Hutcheson.Jonah 1:17
Jonah a Prophetic Sign of ChristG.T. Coster Jonah 1:17
Jonah in the SeaJohn Broad.Jonah 1:17
Jonah's PreservationOutlines by a London MinisterJonah 1:17
The Crux of the MiracleH. J. Foster.Jonah 1:17
The Miracle of the Great FishOtto Funcke.Jonah 1:17
The Miracle of the WhaleJames Simpson.Jonah 1:17
The Sign of the Prophet JonasJ.E. Henry Jonah 1:17
The Offender SacrificedW.G. Blaikie Jonah 1:11-17
Jonah's De ProfundisG.T. Coster Jonah 1:17-2:10

God sees the end from the beginning. He means it from the beginning. He is moving towards it from the beginning. There are no isolated events. Each is connected with a series leading up to it. The series is so long that we cannot see its earlier steps, much less observe their direction. But nothing is surer than that from the first they have a trend toward that one which is their ultimate effect. In proof of this we have only to select a series on which we have the light of Scripture, such as that leading up to the work of Christ. There are many such series. One leads up to his birth, another to his education, another to his sufferings, another to his death; and so on. And these series lead up to it in various ways. There is a prophetic series, and a typical series, and a contributory series, and a causal series. And there are events which lead up to it in two or three of these capacities at once. Such an event is the one recorded here, as the New Testament Scriptures repeatedly affirm. Consider this event -

I. AS A MIRACLE. It was clearly outside the natural order. The shark or other sea monster was "prepared" by God. It swallowed Jonah, contrary to its habit, without crushing him between its teeth. He remained alive in its stomach for days, contrary to all known physical laws. He was cast out safely on land, contrary to all natural probabilities. Seeing, as he could not but see, God's hand in the whole thing, Jonah would learn from it:

1. The Divine resistless purpose. Throwing off allegiance, he fled from duty like a man resolved on any terms to get away. But God went after him in a way that showed he meant to have his work done. The fugitive was stopped by wind and wave and conspiring circumstances as by an adamantine wall, impossible to break through. He knew now that God was a God who cannot be baulked, and who will have his way. The same lesson we all need to learn. Much rebellion arises out of a half conscious expectation that God at last will give way, and our disobedience be all condoned. And half the afflictions we suffer are to cure us of our wilfulness and conceit of irresponsibility. They teach us that God's arm, not ours, is strongest - that his will, not ours, must rule. When we have appropriated and endorsed the sentiment, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt," our life sky will clear, and the thunderclouds that. threatened a deluge will discharge themselves in fertilizing showers.

2. The Divine consistent character. Severity was conspicuous up to the point of the prophet's immersion. After that everything spoke of goodness. There are qualities in God fitted each in its own way to move men to his service (2 Corinthians 5:11; Romans 12:1). They moved Jonah. His humble, believing, thankful prayer in the monster's maw is a revelation, of their effect on his moral nature. And godly lives the world over and all history through are effects due to the same cause (Psalm 7:17; Romans 2:4). Severity and goodness are just Divine moral excellence facing two different ways (Romans 11:22). Both have the same infinitely glorious perfection behind them, and are forceful with its inherent essential energy.

3. The Divine effective way. God had not interfered in the matter of Jonah's disobedient flight until things had gone a certain length. He allowed him to reach Joppa, and get on board a ship, and start for Tarshish. The sinful act was completed before the punishment began. But the moment it was morally complete the stern "Thus far and no further" was spoken. And how masterly the strategy, and resourceful the strength of God appeared! The elements, the lower animals, and man alike become his ministers, and stop the runaway before and on either side. And then the measures as a whole are so exactly yet variously apposite to the purpose of checking insubordination, and compelling execution of the original command! Jonah would know more about the God with whom he had to do, and the considerations moving to implicit obedience, than he ever knew before. It is not in the Divine dealings as an exhibition of mere force, but of force directed unalterably to ends of justice and mercy, that their chief disciplinary value lies (Romans 2:2; Romans 3:3-6; Romans 11:22). Men are moved by them in proportion as God's perfections come out in them and shine.

II. AS A TYPE. On this point we have for an interpreter Christ himself (Matthew 12:40). "Jonah was in the fish's belly, so was Christ in the grave; Jonah came forth from thence, so did Christ rise again; his (Christ's) rising doth bring our rising, his resurrection ours, because he was the firstfruits of all those that do sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20)" (Abbot). The analogy between Jonah's sojourn in the deep and Christ's in the grave is such as to fit one to be a type of the other. The analogy holds:

1. In the time of the sojourn. It was three days in each ease. In the case of Christ we know that two of these days were incomplete. He was buried in the evening of the first day, and rose on the morning of the third day. Rhetorical speech is necessarily in round numbers, and our Lord states the truth broadly without attempting to elaborate details. Why three days was the period fixed on either in type or antitype we cannot tell. It is pertinent to notice, however, that three and four are mystic numbers, and together make up seven, the number of perfection. Then three days were sufficient, and no more, to establish the fact of death in the case of Christ, and the reality of the miracle of preservation in the case of Jonah. Details of Scripture are important because they record details of a Divine procedure which are purposeful through and through.

2. In the capacity in which each sojourned. Jonah was in the fish's belly as Christ was in the grave, in payment of the penalty of sin. Moreover, each by accomplishing this eared men from death. "Each of the processes is an atonement, an expiation, a sacrifice, pacifying the Divine Judge, satisfying Divine justice, abolishing guilt, restoring peace, effecting reconciliation" (Martin). But here the analogy ends. The type suffered for sins of his own, the blessed Antitype for sins of others. The type saved men from death of the body, the Antitype saved them from death eternal. Well might he say, on a memorable occasion, "a greater than Jonah is here"!

3. In the analogous experience of the two. The experiences were not identical. Christ literally "died and rose again according to the Scriptures." Jonah did not actually die and rise. But he did virtually. His natural life was forfeit, and was only saved by a miracle equal to that of resurrection. His life in the deep was a supernatural life, and, therefore, practically a new one. Indeed, he applies the words "hell" (Sheol) and "corruption" (shachath) to his condition, the same words which Scripture applies to Christ's sojourn in a state of death (Jonah 2:2-6; Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31). He uses them doubtless in a figurative sense, but by using them at all he treats himself as virtually a dead man. Like those of Hezekiah and Lazarus and the widow's son (Isaiah 38:5; John 11:44; Luke 7:15), the life of Jonah from that hour was God given and new. So may be your life or mine. If God has saved you alive when men despaired of your recovery, or when but for some interposition which we call an accident it was forfeit by natural laws, then you are even as Jonah, and your remaining life, like his, is in a special sense and measure consecrate (Romans 12:1).

4. That with each it was the gate to a new life. The life of Jonah after his virtual resurrection was a new one, and greatly higher than the old. He emerges from the sea a new man, in a new relation to God, with a new purpose of heart, and a new life career opening out. "His old life is cancelled; all its guilt obliterated; all its evils interruptive of Divine fellowship and blessing abolished - left behind in the depths of the sea. He is dead to the past; and it has no more hold on him, no more evidence against him, no more wrath in store for him" (Martin). A prominent element in this new life was the preaching to Gentile Nineveh. But for it that heathen city would have perished for lack of knowledge, So also the resurrection-life of Christ is new (Romans 6:10). Living always to God, he lives to him now in a new sense. "He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father." And as he rose no bond of law kept hold on him any more; no condemnation laid its taint upon him any more; the glory of his Father's unmingled and eternal favour shone upon him now forevermore; and in his Father's favour he had life, his risen and eternal life" (Martin). In short, the risen Saviour's life is life in a new sphere, and a new relation and to new purpose. By that life, moreover, he enters the door which by his death he opened (Ephesians 2:11-17) - the door of access to the Gentile world (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:5-8). The risen Saviour gives the Scriptures to be preached to the ends of the earth, and the apostles and teachers to preach them, and the Spirit to apply them, and the Church to embody them in her Christ-like life. And thus is negotiated a wider repentance than of Nineveh, and with greater results. "God hath also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."

III. AS A SIGN. A sign is a miracle viewed from the evidential standpoint, a Divine work regarded as authenticating a Divine truth. Jonah's entombment served this purpose (Matthew 12:39).

1. It was a sign to the Ninevites. (Luke 11:30.) Jonah in Nineveh would be full of his unparalleled adventure. He would tell the people of his virtual death and rising again by the hand of God. And would not the amazing story credential the prophet as beyond dispute the messenger of God? He would declare to them how the miracle of judgment which had consigned him to the deep had been, if possible, outdone by the miracle of mercy which had saved him "from the belly of hell." And would he not be thus a sign at once of God's resistless vengeance on sin, and his unspeakable mercy to the penitent? From such a God the Ninevites would know what they had to expect in the one character and in the other.

2. It was the archetype of the sign of the resurrection. (Matthew 12:40.) The miracles of Christ were all signs The effect of them was to certify his Divine mission, and bring men to faith in his Name (Matthew 27:54; John 11:45). On many, however, they were practically thrown away. The Jews clamoured for a sign, while signs were being wrought before their very eyes. To this blind demand of insuperable unbelief there would be one further concession. The sign of the Prophet Jonah would be repeated in the Person of Christ by the resurrection on the third day. This was an unchallengable sign of the Divine mission of our Lord (Romans 1:4). If the dead One rose, then undoubtedly that dead One must have been the Son of God (1 Corinthians 15:14). The resurrection of Christ was the Father's sign manual to the Son's claim to a Divine character and an accepted work. It was a sign, too, of the Divine attitude toward sin. Taken in connection, as it must be, with the death and burial, the whole was, like Jonah's miraculous experience, a graphic 'attestation' of wrath against sin, removed as soon as satisfied, but inappeasable till then. If God "spared not his own Son, whom will he spare? If the sin laid on Christ is punished to the full, how much more the sin that remains on the sinner! And then, if Christ rises into a new life the moment his assumed connection with sin ends by death, shall not we, dead to our sin by the body of Christ, be raised together with him to "walk in newness of life"? The sign of the Prophet Jonah is everything to us. It means Christ credentialled, salvation finished and attested, and a sure hope springing of the resurrection unto life.

1. See how far God's judgments may follow deserters. Generally they include misfortune, often sickness, and sometimes death. The principle is that they must be efficacious, and so they go on till they reach their object, The distance you have gone away from God is the measure of the length to which his judgments will follow you (Colossians 3:25).

2. See how easily God can turn the destroyer into a preserver. Instead of killing Jonah, the fish saves his life. The Divine afflictive agencies operate in like manner. They wound only to heal; destroy the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ." Your judgments are your mercies. Let the Divine mercy they reveal be your call to the duty you owe, your recall to the service you forsake (Psalm 89:30-33; Revelation 3:19).

3. Realize the high things to which this sign of the Prophet Jonas calls you. The death of Christ was for the death of your sin, his life from the dead for the life of your soul (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 5:14). - J.E.H.

And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
The real miracle was that Jonah should survive so long in his strange prison. "That violates the laws of nature." But let us once understand Christ's profound saying about a Father who "worketh hitherto" (John 5:17), that is, who has never taken His hand from off the thing which He has created, but is ceaselessly active and operative in His creation. Once let us understand that all force, in the last reach of our thought, is with force, and that the forces of nature are only the many-sided puttings forth of that force of the will of God, outspoken and expressed in that Word of His power by which He upholdeth all things. Once understand that there are no "laws of nature" to be violated, except the rules which He has laid down for His own ordinary and orderly action in governing His world. Once let it be seen that whilst for our sakes it is generally best and happiest that He should keep to His own rules, and should very seldom indeed do in any way differently, yet He is at perfect liberty to choose whether He will keep to His ordinary and orderly plan, or for some special reason will in any particular instance turn aside. Then, if there is as good evidence for the fact as the case admits of, and, above all, if plainly there is good reason for the fact, we may as reasonably fred no more difficulty in the miracle than in the general providence. What is ordinary is of God, just as much as the extraordinary. The natural is of God, as much as the supernatural. Once more it may be said that if our eyes were not too much the eyes of the children, we should see that the wonder is the orderly, reliable, age-long, ordinary providence, rather than the special thing, done just once, to meet an emergency for which the ordinary rule and method did not sufficiently provide. And the special is not an after-thought. It is provided for in the whole great plan of the Worker. It is one of His rules. It quite as much needed God to keep Jonah alive year after year in the atmosphere and upon the earth, as to keep him alive for three days within the body of the great fish.

(H. J. Foster.)

No miracle has been more frequently quoted, or more severely scrutinised.


1. There are some things of which even the Divine power is incapable. Things inconsistent or contradictory cannot be asserted of God.

2. There are other instances in which the Divine power may be easily supposed to interfere for the suspension or even contradiction of those laws which God hath given to a material world.

3. Besides these parts of creation with which we are in some measure acquainted, there are, doubtless, many others of which we remain totally ignorant. The infinitude of the Divine power is the basis on which this observation is built.


1. The act of deglutition.

2. The difficulty of respiration in the body of a fish.

3. The impossibility of resisting for so long the digestive powers of so huge an animal.


1. It was of important advantage to the prophet.

2. It was of vast importance to the mariners.

3. It was of vast advantage, we may believe, to the people of Nineveh.

4. It was of the utmost importance if you consider it in its relations to the promised Messiah.

5. The sign of Jonas is intended for standing use to the Church, to the end of the world.

(James Simpson.)

Strauss said, "He who will rid the world of priests, must first rid religion from miracles." But the Christian religion stands or falls with the supernatural. A man may believe in a living God who works miracles, and yet hesitate and recoil at the extraordinary one which is narrated in the history of Jonah. No one will say that every man who believes that God can work miracles is bound to accept implicitly every miraculous event described in the Bible as having really happened, and as being the work of God. Let no one think that he is not a Christian because he must hesitate about the literal interpretation of this miracle of the "great fish." Instead of adopting any artificial interpretation of this miracle, it would be better to suspend our judgment, and acknowledge that we cannot come to any conclusion about it. At any rate there is only the choice between saying that the whole history of Jonah is a parable, or an allegory, including the preaching in Nineveh, and saying that every event in it is related as an actual occurrence. To suppose that Jonah fell into a "mysterious hiding-place" is only to set aside the biblical miracle, and put another and more wonderful one in its place. We seek an answer to the general question, whether it is so wonderful a thing to believe that God works miracles: or whether, on the contrary, the belief that He must and does do so, is not founded on the very being of God, and on His relations with men. If we arrive at that decision, the question of the miracle by which Jonah was saved will be settled. A God without miracles would be the greatest miracle of all. If we have not a God who works miracles, we have no living God; and if no living God who communicates with men, then no God at all. Whoever knows anything of the living God, cannot possibly think that God has tied His own hands, once for all, with laws of nature. The rank and privilege of man demands Divine miracles. God must work for us in extraordinary and exceptional ways, or we could neither fear nor love Him, and He would soon be indifferent to us.

(Otto Funcke.)

Outlines by a London Minister.
I. AN ORDINARY EVENT IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. It was not a miracle that a large fish should swallow Jonah. Instances have been known in which sharks have swallowed men.

II. WHAT MAY BE CALLED A SPECIAL PROVIDENCE OF GOD. A remarkable coincidence of ordinary providences leading to some important result we generally regard as a special providence.

III. WE HAVE A MIRACULOUS PROVIDENCE OF GOD. That the prophet should have lived in the fish was a miracle. And the miracle is the more striking because conscious ness continued. Learn —

1. That there is no way out of a plain duty except through chastisement.

2. That the place of prayer can neither add to nor take from the value of prayer.

3. That the inferior creatures may become instruments of moral instruction to man.

4. That the fish was honoured by being thus brought into the plan of God for Jonah's recovery to the way of duty. Consider —

(1)The object and design of the miracle.

(2)The Disposer and Ruler of the action. "The Lord."

(3)The manner of doing it. "The Lord prepared."

(4)The instrument. "A great fish."

(5)The end of its preparation. To swallow up Jonah.

(6)The time during which Jonah continued in the fish. "Three days and three nights."

(Outlines by a London Minister.)

Mercy and truth, or an innate tendency towards kindness, and an essential love of rectitude form the most prominent features of the revealed character of God. A God all mercy would be a God unjust. The demands of justice were rigorously exacted, and the prophet was hurled into the deep. Why such severity? Jonah had sinned presumptuously against God, and he must bear the penalty. In this phase of Jonah's experience, which we now consider, we find "mercy rejoicing against judgment."


1. The singularity of the mode of imprisonment; the agency of God in preparing the prophet's cell. On the supposition that Jonah retained his consciousness when cast into the mighty deep, it must have been with emotions of indescribable horror that he saw the jaws of this marine monster expanding to receive him.

2. The term of Jonah's captivity. Explain Jewish reckoning "three days and three nights."

II. THE PROPHET'S PRAYER. Jonah retained his consciousness during the term of his imprisonment. Evidently we have only the substance of the prophet's prayer. Note the evidences which his spiritual exercises furnish of sanctified affliction.

1. The spiritual exercises with which the prophet's prayer is identified.

2. The conclusion of unbelief. "I am cast out from Thy sight."

3. The victory of faith. "Yet will I look again towards Thy holy temple."

4. The ardour of Jonah's gratitude.

5. His emphatic ascription. "Salvation is of the Lord." Notice the evidence of spiritual reclamation which the prophet's prayer supplies. See his altered feeling towards God: the rekindling of the spirit of devotion: the vigorous action of faith. In the expression of his faith Jonah embodied the sentiments of former saints. Jonah was evidently cured of his folly in flying from God.

III. THE PROPHET'S DELIVERANCE. This was miraculous in its character. Jonah was conveyed back safely to the Holy Land, and cast upon the dry shore. It was intended to test the sincerity of the prophet's penitence, to secure the fulfilment and success of his errand, and to typify the mission of Christ.

(John Broad.)

The chapter closeth with the narration of Jonah's preservation. Though thus pursued by justice in a fish's belly, where, in a miraculous way, he was kept three days and three nights. Doctrine.

1. When God is pursuing the rebellion of His children in a most severe way, yet doth He not altogether cast off His mercy toward them, but out of the abundance thereof, moderates their affliction: for "the Lord," pursuing Jonah, "had yet prepared a great fish to swallow him up."

2. God's providence over rules and directs the motions of irrational creatures and sea monsters, as pleaseth Him. For " the Lord had prepared a great fish," etc., whereas it knew nothing but to range up and down in the sea, and swallow him as any other prey.

3. God may have a mercy and proof of love waiting upon His people, in a time and place where it would be least expected; for Jonah meets a mercy in the heart of a raging sea, into which he is cast in anger, as to be destroyed.

4. Albeit the mercy of God will not destroy His guilty people in their afflictions; yet His wisdom seeth it not fitting at first totally to deliver them, but will have their faith exercised.

5. God can, when He seeth fit, preserve His people from ruin in an incredible and miraculous way. Therefore Jonah is not only swallowed whole by the fish, not being hurt by its teeth; but is preserved in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, where he was in hazard of choking for want of breath, or of being digested by the fish into its own substance.

(George Hutcheson.)

Amittai, Jonah, Tarshish
Joppa, Mount Esau, Nineveh, Tarshish
Appointed, Appointeth, Belly, Bowels, Fish, Inside, Jonah, Mouth, Nights, Prepared, Ready, Stomach, Swallow
1. Jonah, sent to Nineveh, flees to Tarshish.
4. He is betrayed by a great storm;
11. thrown into the sea;
17. and swallowed by a fish.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Jonah 1:17

     1055   God, grace and mercy
     1305   God, activity of
     1652   numbers, 3-5
     2366   Christ, prophecies concerning
     4017   life, animal and plant
     4642   fish
     4912   chance
     9311   resurrection, of Christ

Jonah 1:4-17

     5828   danger

Jonah 1:17-2:1

     5185   stomach

Guilty Silence and Its Reward
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great, city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. 3. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. 4. But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Christian Graces.
FAITH. FAITH! Peter saith, faith, in the very trial of it, is much more precious than gold that perisheth. If so, what is the worth or value that is in the grace itself? Faith is so great an artist in arguing and reasoning with the soul, that it will bring over the hardest heart that it hath to deal with. It will bring to my remembrance at once, both my vileness against God, and his goodness towards me; it will show me, that though I deserve not to breathe in the air, yet God will have me an heir
John Bunyan—The Riches of Bunyan

Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful?
Objection 1: It would seem that divination by drawing lots is not unlawful, because a gloss of Augustine on Ps. 30:16, "My lots are in Thy hands," says: "It is not wrong to cast lots, for it is a means of ascertaining the divine will when a man is in doubt." Objection 2: There is, seemingly, nothing unlawful in the observances which the Scriptures relate as being practiced by holy men. Now both in the Old and in the New Testament we find holy men practicing the casting of lots. For it is related
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

The Careless Sinner Awakened.
1, 2. It is too supposable a case that this Treatise may come into such hands.--3, 4. Since many, not grossly vicious, fail under that character.--5, 6. A more particular illustration of this case, with an appeal to the reader, whether it be not his own.--7 to 9. Expostulation with such.--10 to 12. More particularly--From acknowledged principles relating to the Nature of Got, his universal presence, agency, and perfection.--13. From a view of personal obligations to him.--14. From the danger Of this
Philip Doddridge—The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul

Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:12). In our last chapter we considered at some length the much debated and difficult question of the human will. We have shown that the will of the natural man is neither Sovereign nor free but, instead, a servant and slave. We have argued that a right conception of the sinner's will-its servitude-is essential to a just estimate of his depravity and ruin. The utter corruption and degradation of human nature is something which
Arthur W. Pink—The Sovereignty of God

Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
(Galilee on the Same Day as the Last Section.) ^A Matt. XII. 38-45; ^C Luke XI. 24-36. ^c 29 And when the multitudes were gathering together unto him, ^a 38 Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. [Having been severely rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to conviction than Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Nature of Covenanting.
A covenant is a mutual voluntary compact between two parties on given terms or conditions. It may be made between superiors and inferiors, or between equals. The sentiment that a covenant can be made only between parties respectively independent of one another is inconsistent with the testimony of Scripture. Parties to covenants in a great variety of relative circumstances, are there introduced. There, covenant relations among men are represented as obtaining not merely between nation and nation,
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting

The book of Jonah is, in some ways, the greatest in the Old Testament: there is no other which so bravely claims the whole world for the love of God, or presents its noble lessons with so winning or subtle an art. Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, is divinely commanded to preach to Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian empire of his day. To escape the unwelcome task of preaching to a heathen people, he takes ship for the distant west, only to be overtaken by a storm, and thrown into the sea, when, by
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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