Was Jonah truly swallowed by a whale?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
The story of Jonah is the amazing tale of a disobedient prophet who, upon being swallowed by a whale (or a "great fish" - see below) and vomited upon the shore, reluctantly led the reprobate city o...

July 01 2013 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Billy P Eldred
I actually already answered this question in a comment to another post but because of the specifity I want to answer it again here. 

Some years back after I was first Saved, I had a hunger to read the Bible. I accepted that the Bible was the Word of God and was Truth and that I needed to know as much as possible from it. 

Being a new Christian, I was vulnerable though, and a non-Christian friend planted doubt in my mind about the accurateness of the Bible and specifically about the book of Jonah. He said, come on now, do you really believe that a man could be swallowed by a big ole fish and live for three days in it's belly. He would have been crushed. 

Because of this doubt and my Hungar for the knowledge I could only get (I thought) only from the Bible, it bothered me that there might be errors in it, so I started praying to God: "God, why did you let these errors into the Bible? You know, God," I prayed, "a man who was swallowed by a big fish could not survive for three days. There would be stomach acid and he would be desolved." (I know, kind of stupid for me to be lecturing God. Hadn't even occurred to me yet that if He could speak something into existence, this would be a minor miracle). But I was serious and sincere in my prayers. I did not want to let doubt steal my newfound Faith. 

I prayed that way for several days. I am still humbled by the way that God heard and answered my prayers. 

My wife and I were at the old Blockbuster video store to rent a VCR movie to watch. Again, being a new Christian, I was trying to be careful of what I watched. I came across a movie by the name of "Commandments" that I picked up and read on it "dark comedy". I put it back on the shelf because I didn't want to watch anything "dark". (even though it looked good to the old me) A few minutes later, my wife brought the same movie over and said here is one I want to watch. Needless to say, we rented it. 

As I watched the movie, I would see something and say to myself I think I will turn this off (it really was kind of dark), but then an inner voice would say "keep watching, something profound is going to happen". To which I would think, okay, but I am going to watch with one eye closed, meaning if I saw something I didn't think I should be watching, I would close the other eye. :) This happened several times during the movie but each time I would hear that voice "something profound was going to happen." 

The movie was about a man who had just gotten married and while at the beach on his honeymoon, while he fell asleep his wife drowned. This made him so mad at God that he vowed to break every one of the ten Commandments. He had broken every one except "though shall not kill". In the climax of the movie he was in a lighthouse during a storm and the only thing left to be decided was would he kill his brother n law or kill himself to break the final commandment. He threw himself out the lighthouse window into the storming sea to kill himself breaking the final commandment. 

After this happened the female lead in the movie was driving up the coast in her grief and noticed a crowd out on the beach. She walked up to the scene and saw a beached whale with a scientist and lots of onlookers. The scientist had slit open the belly of the whale and was reaching into the belly of the whale and raking out arm loads of WHOLE UNDIGESTED fish through the slit. At this time that inner voice said "this is the profound part". Ding, ding, ding! I realized then "how many times had I myself actually caught fish and when cleaning them, I cut open their belly and found WHOLE UNDIGESTED fish, insects, etc. Inside the belly of these little fish I caught. How much more possible was it that something or SOMEONE could remain undigested inside the belly of a whale.! I said "Okay God I get it, Jonah could have survived inside the belly of that fish." Just about that time the scientist reached inside the belly of the whale and pulled the live man from the lighthouse scene out of the belly of the whale. The entire movie had been a parody of the book of Jonah! 

To many people, they would say "interesting coincidence". But God knew me and would not take a chance that I would be one of those. Over the next 3 days he showed me in numerous ways that the book of Jonah was true and belonged in the Bible. As an example, I was watching a well known preacher on TV who out of nowhere said "Do you think the book of Jonah does not belong in the Bible, go look in the New Testament" wow, I said, I just read the New Testament. I don't remember Jonah in it, so I looked. Was not in there once but 4 times. And God knew I already accepted the New Testament as Truth. To this day I don't know if the tv preacher really said that or if I just heard it from that inner voice. 

Many other things happen like these over that week end. I was 100 percent convinced and I believe that if you have doubt, if you pray with the same sincerity that I did, God will remove your doubt as well. The things that convinced me might mean nothing to you, but God knows what will convince you too. 

"Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. " John 21:25 If it made it in the Bible, it is there for a reason, True and for a purpose. Do not doubt it. 


October 31 2014 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Image Greg Kelly
No, probably not, but it may have been a "Whale Shark". Short simple answer, but a whale shark is a great fish; it has the anatomical ability to swallow a human being and hold him/he in its belly, and the digestive system of sharks is very slow. 

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 m (41.50 ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 metric tons (47,000 lb), and unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks exist. Claims of individuals over 14 m (46 ft) long and weighing at least 30 mt (66,000 lb) are not uncommon. The whale shark holds many records for sheer size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living nonmammalian vertebrate, rivalling many of the largest dinosaurs in weight. It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon.

October 31 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Internet image Ben Jones Retired Professional Photographer
I have a VERY good friend of mine that years ago was "swallowed by a "great fish" and two days later he was "vomited up" on the beach about 1000 miles away and he was not injured in the slightest. This actually happened to him several times and he never batted an eye. 

I assume people of today doubt the account of a "great fish" swallowing up a man because it is in the bible and they think the bible is not trustworthy but it is a VERY commonplace occurrence today all over the world. 

So I ask where in the account does the scripture say that the "great fish" found in the book of Jonah was a living breathing creature? It doesn't, it just says that "The LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah." Everyone assumes that this was a living breathing creature, a "whale" perhaps.

The US Navy has hundreds of "great fish" "swallowing men by the thousands every day, they are called submarines. In fact hundreds of US submarines were named after sea creatures, mostly fish large and small.

January 19 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
Jonah 1:17 records the fact that God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. In Hebrew the word is ‘dag gadol’ which is literally ‘sea creature large.’ In the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), the words are ‘ketei megalo’ which is literally ‘sea serpent mega-sized.’ 

Many ancient authors and historians described ‘ketos’ as a dog-headed sea-dragon. In his book, “The Authenticity of the Book of Jonah,” Bill Cooper, wrote, “The ‘ketos’ — the dog-headed sea-dragon — appears in accounts from ca. 700 BC and all the way up to ca. AD 500.”

He listed many reliable and historic sources:

Homer (9th–8th century BC)
Euripides (ca. 480-406 BC)
Aristophanes (448-380 BC)
Lychophron (285-247 BC)
Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC)
Diodorus Siculus (ca. 60 BC–AD 30)
Manilius (1st century AD)
Pausanias (2nd century AD)
Claudius Aelianus in “De Natura Animalium” (ca. AD 175-235)
Oppian of Apamea (ca. AD 200)
Eustathius (ca. AD 300-377)
Hesychius (5th century AD)
Johannes Moschus (6th century AD)

In Matthew 12:40, Jesus used the word ‘ketos.’ Cooper wrote, “History and archaeology indicate that the Lord Jesus’ audience might have understood exactly the kind of creature to which He referred – the ‘ketos,’ the sea serpent that swallowed Jonah.” 

Many sightings of the sea serpent have also been noted in modern times. On January 13, 1851, in the Pacific Ocean, a sea serpent was captured by a whaler Captain Jason Seabury, master of the 497-ton New Bedford whaleship, the ‘Monongahela.’ This was chronicled and sent to “The New York Daily Tribune.” 

Seabury’s men on the lookout spotted something that was unusual. It did not have the characteristics of any known type of whale or shark. It spouted with two spouts from the front of the head. The creature swam through the water with great speed, faster than a whale. Its undulating motion while swimming was up and down, typical of a mammal. 

They pursued it and harpooned it. Eventually after struggling, the monster died. They found it was much greater in length than the ship, which measured 100 feet from stem to stern. It had a thick body that was about 50 feet in diameter. Its color was dark brown on the head and back, with a brownish white underside with a light stripe about three feet wide running its full length. Its neck was 10 feet around, and it supported a grotesque head that was 10 feet long and shaped like that of a gigantic alligator. The crewmen counted 94 teeth in both of its ghastly jaws. Each of the three-inch, saber-like teeth were hooked backward like a snake. 

They noticed that the joints of the back were loose, and it seemed as if, when it was swimming that it moved two ribs and a joint at a time, almost like feet. The muscular movement of the serpent after it was dead made the body look as if it were encircled by longitudinal ridges.

The sea serpent may well be what swallowed Jonah and spewed him out again!

January 24 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
No, I say, in answer to the question, “Was Jonah truly swallowed by a whale?”

“It was a “prepared” fish (Jonah 1:17), designed by God for the occasion, and therefore it was adequate for the task. Sharks (great white and whale sharks) can swallow a man whole.--Don Landis

Greg Kelly thinks it may have been a whale shark.

Jesus didn’t question the historicity of the miracle, so why should we? [PDF] The Wiersbe Bible Commentary

I quote Matthew who quotes Jesus saying, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea creature, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, Someone greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:40-41 Modern Literal Version [MLV]; cf. Luke 11:29-30, 32).

January 24 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Robert Hibbard Retired Christian High School Teacher
Without disagreeing with any of the previous comments, I would suggest that God could/would have created a specific fish for the time, that has never before existed, nor was ever seen again.

October 13 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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