The Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah on the beach.

God commanded a man named Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach to them. Jonah refused. Instead, he got in a ship and headed in the opposite direction. His rebellion put him within Satan’s reach, who is always seeking someone to destroy. (John 10:10)

A major storm came upon the ship, and because of its ferocity, the sailors sought the person responsible for causing such unnatural conditions. It was revealed that Jonah was the one who had sinned. He told them to toss him overboard. Jonah would rather die in the ocean than preach to Israel’s enemies. Jonah may have given up on life, but God had not given up on him, or the people of Ninevah. He had a giant fish ready to swallow Jonah, keep his body safe, and take him back to where he started. (Jonah 1:1-17)

Jonah prayed and asked forgiveness. Note that he identifies his location as the realm of the dead. His body remained in the fish, but his spirit was in the pit beneath the Earth. Jesus confirms this by saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40) For Jonah* to be a true type of Christ, both died and their spirits traveled to realm of the dead. And both were resurrected after three days and three nights.

Note carefully his prayer, and how he identifies his location both physically and spiritually. Also note the prophetic Truth in verse 9 – “Salvation comes from the Lord.”

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.

When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
(Jonah 2:2-9 <NIV>)

After three days, God commanded the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. Note that animals never question God. (Jonah 2:1-10)

Jonah warned Ninevah, a city with over 100,000 residents, of the coming judgment in 40 days if they did not turn from their evil ways. The message was heard in a big way. The king and all his people believed God’s Word. They called for a fast in sackcloth, and regretted their many sins. Because of their faith in God’s Word, and their repentance, the destruction never came upon them. (Jonah 3:1-10)

Jesus would use the people of Ninevah as a warning against his own people and their lack of faith. After Jonah preached to Ninevah, they repented. Israel had someone greater than Jonah in their midst, and yet they would not listen. (Matthew 12:41, Luke 11:30-32)

 Jonah And A Great Fish

God commanded the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

Rather than rejoice in the success of his preaching, and the love of God, Jonah pouted on a hilltop. He complained to God about the mercy shown to Ninevah. God even gave him an object lesson with a plant and worm to show him that he needed to rethink his priorities in life and show more compassion towards others. (Jonah 4:1-11)

Jonah does not come out looking very good in this story. One of the things I like about the Bible is it shows real people – the good, bad, and ugly of mankind, so we can learn from them all. They were not all perfect. But they serve a Perfect God who is LOVE. Jonah did not want the people of Ninevah to be saved. That was the reason behind his disobedience.

In my opinion, the fish is the hero of the story. In complete obedience, the fish saves Jonah and takes him back to shore. There has been speculation for years about whether this was a fish or a whale, but does it really matter? God could prepare or create whatever He needed to protect Jonah and save Ninevah from the coming calamity. God knows what you need, and has it prepared, before you even ask. (Isaiah 65:24, Matthew 6:5-8) It shows that one person, or even one fish, that is listening to God can make a difference, even saving a whole city.

The other important lesson is that God WANTED to save Ninevah. He knew what was coming, because the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) Out of control sin inevitably leads to judgment. The Bible does not say exactly what would have happened, but there was precedent in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – two especially evil cities. Because of the intercession of Abraham, God would have spared those two cities if He found only 10 righteous people within their walls. And even falling short of that number, the angels still rescued Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and his family. God is good. It is His will that everyone be saved and know the Truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

For those that might doubt the veracity of this story, Jesus himself refers to it when he tells the religious leaders that the only sign they would get from him would be the sign of Jonah. Jonah spent three days and three nights inside the fish/Earth. Jesus would die on the cross and be resurrected after three days and three nights in the tomb/Earth. (Matthew 12:38-41, Matthew 16:4, Luke 11:29-30)

Some Reading Suggestions For Jonah:
Humongous Hollis – A story about the fish that swallowed Jonah. This adaptation of the story includes a lesson on knowing God’s will.

For additional Jonah and the whale resources


*For years the story of Jonah has been taught that he survived inside the belly of the fish. There is precedent and plausibility for both deliverance (Three Hebrew Boys/Furnace – Daniel 3, Daniel/Lions’ Den – Daniel 6), and resurrection (Elijah/Widow’s Son – 1 Kings 17, Elisha/Shunammite’s Son – 2 Kings 4, Dead Man/Elijah’s Bones – 2 Kings 13:20-21, Lazarus – John 11 and others). My thoughts have changed over the years after carefully considering the emphasis Jesus places on the event, mentioning it several times during his ministry as a sign. For Jonah to be a true type of Jesus’ resurrection, he would have to die and be raised after three literal days and nights. In looking closely at Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2, it seems even more plausible that Jonah did in fact die. His body was preserved and returned to the beach by the fish, while his spirit was in Hell/Sheol (Jonah 2:2-3). Which makes his continuing poor attitude towards Ninevah, and God’s mercy, all the more puzzling.

And finally, note that Jonah did sacrifice himself to save the crew of the ship. They had done everything in their power to save Jonah. But in the end, even though they worshiped other gods, they recognized and honored God as THE One True God. Notice the similarity between the sailors’ prayer and the statement of Pilate, “…let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood…” (Jonah 1:14, Matthew 27:24-25)


May God Richly Bless You!
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