“Jonah’s prayer is a great affirmation of God’s faithfulness and availability. Jonah realized that nothing could separate one of God’s own from Him, and no situation could ever prevent a sincere prayer from being heard by God (cf. Rom . 8:33-35; James 5:16).” – Key Word Study Bible
1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
The Hebrew word for “fish” definitely means fish, but remember that they had no formal classifications for species as we do today.
2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
I’m sure it was very warm in the belly and the gastric acids must have burned Jonah’s skin. The muscles of the fishes belly much have felt like that of a boa constrictor.
See: Psalm 120:1; 130:1; 139:7-10; 142:1; Lam. 3:56
3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
See: Lam. 3:55; Psalm 88:6; 42:7
Jonah obviously knew the reason that he had been cast into the sea and the reason that he wasn’t dead yet.
4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
To me this shows Jonah’s faith that God didn’t save him from drowning just to be digested by a great fish! Or, like Abraham believing God would raise Isaac from ash, maybe Jonah believed if he died God would resurrect him.
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
See: Psalm 69:1; Lam. 3:54
“The miracle of the fish convinced Jonah that God wanted to save his life.”—Rashi
Jonah most likely fasted those three days, but if not he had seaweed available to him, which hints to me that this fish was not carnivorous.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
See: Psalm 16:10
Here again is hint of Jonah’s believe of rescue.
7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
The Stones Tanak says, “While plunging deep into the water Jonah thought that he was “barred” from ever seeing dry land again.”
This must have been an initial thought, but as he prayed he say that he was saved from drowning for a purpose, and in the back of his mind I am sure he know what that was.
To remember the LORD is an idiom to remember His covenant and repent. Here Jonah repents.
8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
A Midrash seems to indicate that Jonah is not only thanking G-d for his rescue, but for the souls that came to him on the boat that he was tossed from. “During the storm, the sailors had observed the futility of praying to their gods, so they vowed to turn to HaShem, and no longer bestow their kindness on idols.”
9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
Jonah thanks God in a voice of faith that believes he will be saved from this fleshy aquatic coffin. He admits and recognized that he is helpless and whatever happens would be the LORD’S doing.
Jonah seems to be waxing very Poetically David like in these first nine verses of chapter two.
10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Three days later, like after a hangover from a bad party the giant fish barfs and hurls Jonah on the shores that lead to Nineveh.
Now we rarely look at the scientific side of this because we are so wrapped up in the story. Some say that, “The belly of a whale is too small to hold a man therefore the Bible cannot be trusted.” The Sperm Whale has a large enough mouth and esophagus to swallow a man whole. They are also known to vomit up large pieces of food when dying and so Johan being vomited up on dry land is not a stretch. Also, some whales will beach themselves when they are dying. Also Sperm Whales inhabit the Mediterranean Sea where Jonah was. Marshall Jenkins, was swallowed by a Sperm Whale in the South Seas. The Boston Post Boy, October 14, 1771, reported that an Edgartown (U.S.A.) whaling vessel struck a whale, and that after the whale had bitten one of the boats in two, it took Jenkins in its mouth and went under the water with him. After returning to the surface, the whale vomited him on to the wreckage of the broken boat, "much bruised but not seriously injured.... (http://www.grmi.org/renewal/Richard_Riss/evidences/8jonah.html)" There is a story about a Japanese whaler that was swallowed by a whale. When his co-workers landed the whale and were cutting it up, they found the man in the stomach but was totally white in color. Amazingly he was barely alive but did survive.
“The biblica1 story of Jonah and the whale was repeated in Australian waters in 1820 when a crewman from the American whaler Essex was lost overboard from a harpoon boat.
Two hours later, as the whale was being stripped of its blubber, the crew noticed movement and slit open the mammal’s stomach.
The man said he remembered passing down a narrow passage and then he fainted inside a "large, noisome space."” – “Modern Jonah?” Australasian Post, December 3, 1988
“I began to realize just what I had found about four years later. In the meantime I had finished my doctoral work on 17th century science and launched my career in college teaching. One day as I was preparing a lecture on anti-evolutionism in the period between Scopes and Henry Morris I pulled the old Winona volume off the shelf, whereupon the two enclosures again fell out. This time I looked at them more closely. One, when I had succeeded in unfolding it without adding to the several tears it already possessed, revealed itself as an article on "Jonah and the Whale" by Professor Albertus Pieters of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, published in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly in September, 1930. In less than two pages the author considered whether it was in fact possible (it was) for a man to live inside the belly of a whale for three days. In the process he cited not only some accepted scientific authorities but also two other sources that related a very curious story of a modern Jonah that was repeated in the second enclosure, which was clearly a tract. "A SAILOR SWALLOWED BY A WHALE," the tract proclaimed in large letters above a poorly printed picture captioned, "A Sperm whale crushes a boat." The tract bore no date, but pronounced discoloration of the two pages in Winona Echoes between which it had been lodged indicated that it couldn't be much younger than the book. It carried the by-line of one Fred T. Fuge, whoever he was, but in fact quoted (apparently verbatim) at length from what Fuge identified as "the well known book, Can A Young Man Trust His Bible?--;By Arthur Cook, Missionary to Iceland." (I later learned that the correct name was Gook, not Cook.) Fuge began by stating categorically that "[t]he whole account has been sifted carefully by M. de Parville, editor of the famous Journal des Débats, whose name and reputation as a scientist are a sufficient answer to those who call the story of Jonah into question from a scientific standpoint." What follows is a remarkable story, a whale of a tale that is worth reproducing here in full:
The whaling ship Star of the East, was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, searching for whales, which were very scarce. One morning the lookout sighted a whale about three miles away on the starboard quarter. Two boats were manned. In a short time one of the boats was near enough to enable the harpooner to send a spear into the whale, which proved to be an exceedingly large one. With the shaft in his side, the animal sounded and then sped away, dragging the boat after him with terrible speed. He swam straight away about five miles, when he turned and came back almost directly towards the spot where he had been harpooned. The second boat waited for him, and when but a short distance from it he rose to the surface. As soon as his back showed above the surface of the water the harpooner in the second boat drove another spear into him. The pain apparently crazed the whale, for it threshed about fearfully, and it was feared that the boats would be swamped and the crews drowned. Finally the whale swam away, dragging the two boats after him. He went about three miles and sounded or sank, and his whereabouts could not be exactly told. The lines attached to the harpooners were slack, and the harpooners began slowly to draw them in and coil them in the tubes. As soon as they were tauten, the whale arose to the surface and beat about with its tail in the maddest fashion. The boats attempted to get beyond the reach of the animal, which was apparently in its death agonies, and one of them succeeded, but the other was less fortunate. The whale struck it with his nose and upset it. The men were thrown into the water, and before the crew of the other boat could pick them up one man drowned and James Bartley had disappeared. When the whale became quiet from exhaustion the waters were searched for Bartley, but [he] could not be found; and under the impression that he had been struck by the whale's tail and sunk to the bottom, the survivors rowed back to the ship. The whale was dead, and in a few hours the great body was lying by the ship's side, and the men ere busy with axes and spades cutting through the flesh to secure the fat. They worked all day and part of the night. They resumed operations the next forenoon, and were soon down to the stomach, which was to be hoisted to the deck. The workmen were startled while labouring to clear it and to fasten the chain about it to discover something doubled up in it that gave spasmodic signs of life. The vast pouch was hoisted to the deck and cut open, and inside was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid out on the deck and treated to a bath of sea-water, which soon revived him, but his mind was not clear, and he was placed in the captain's quarters, where he remained to [sic] weeks a raving lunatic. He was carefully treated by the captain and officers of the ship, and he finally began to get possession of his senses. At the end of the third week he had finally recovered from the shock, and resumed his duties.
At this point the account shifts from what might have been related by any member of the crew to what could only be told by Bartley himself. What follows is a gruesome description of what Bartley felt, heard, and thought as he slid down into the whale's stomach, where he discovered that he could still breath, but where he was overcome by the intense heat and the dread of his horrible, inevitable death.
During the brief sojourn in the whale's belly, Bartley's skin, where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juices, underwent a striking change. His face and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness, and the skin was wrinkled giving the man the appearance of having been parboiled. Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not from lack of air. He says that he remembers the sensation of being lifted into the air by the nose of the whale and of dropping into the water. Then there was a frightful rushing sound, which he believed to be the beating of the water by the whale's tail, then he was encompassed by a fearful darkness, and he felt himself slipping along a smooth passage of some sort that seemed to move and carry him forward. This sensation lasted but an instant, then he felt that he had more room. He felt about him, and his hands came in contact with a yielding slimy substance that seemed to shrink from his touch. It finally dawned upon him that he had been swallowed by a whale, and he was overcome by horror at the situation. He could breath, but the heat was terrible. It was not of a scorching, stifling nature, but it seemed to draw out his vitality. He became very weak, and grew sick at the stomach. He knew that there was no hope of escape from his strange prison. Death stared him in the face, and he tried to look at it bravely but the awful quiet, the fearful darkness, the horrible knowledge of his environments, and the terrible heat finally overcame him, and he must have fainted, for the next he remembered was being in the captain's cabin. Bartley is not a man of a timid nature, but he says that it was many weeks before he could pass a night without having his sleep disturbed with harrowing dreams of angry whales and the horrors of his fearful prison. The skin on the face and hands of Bartley has never recovered its natural appearance. It is yellow and wrinkled, and looks like old parchment. The health of the man does not seem to have been affected by his terrible experience. He is in splendid spirits, and apparently fully enjoys all the blessings of life that come his way. The whaling captains say that they never remember a parallel case to this before. They say that it frequently happens that men are swallowed by whales who become infuriated by pain of the harpoon and attack the boats, but they have never known a man to go through the ordeal that Bartley did and come out alive.” -- http://www.asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/1991/PSCF12-91Davis.html
Some people claim that there is a contradiction in the Bible because the Tanak calls the creature that swallowed Jonah a "Great fish", while the Brit Chadasha calls it a "whale." This is not a contradiction. Matthew 12:40 says that the creature is a whale, but the original Greek from which it was translated calls it a "sea monster." The supposed contradiction is nothing more than perhaps a poorly chosen word by the English translators.
So which is it, a whale or a fish?
Nothing linguistically in the account in the Book of Jonah demands that the creature be a whale. It could be an extinct marine reptile or any one of the thousands of species of marine life that has gone extinct in the last few thousand years. It may have even been a fish. Some will say, "But fish don't get that big." If you believe that, you should visit more museums. - In the Ann Arbor Museum of Natural History there is a fossil skull of a fish named Dunkleosteus. The largest Dunkleosteus skull is about four feet high. I am not saying that this was for sure the fish that swallowed Jonah. I am merely saying that fish like this did exist.
Nineteenth century scholar E B Pusey (1886) cited examples of people found, dead in the stomachs of White Sharks. In one instance a stomach contained a reindeer without horns. In another was a horse.
A tiger shark was found near India with a man's skeleton and clothes in it. -- http://www.probe.org/docs/jonah.html
The following is a good summary of the facts that comes from “Answers in Genesis”:
“Jonah: A plausibility study
1. Are there "great fish" large enough to swallow a man whole?
o Of course! Keep in mind that modern animal classification systems weren’t exactly in use at the time of Jonah. Any aquatic creature could be referred to as a "fish." And we know that there are whales (blue and sperm) and even sharks (great white and whale sharks) that can swallow a man whole. The sperm whale grows to a length of up to 70 feet. Its esophagus is approximately 50 cm (20") wide and "sperm whales don’t have to chew their food - so Jonah could have been swallowed whole." Two marine scientists from Sea World in San Diego hypothesize that it was a great white shark that probably swallowed Jonah.
2. Could someone survive three days and three nights in a whale’s belly? o This is the difficult part of the question. There are fish species that surface from the sea and gulp down air into their lungs, like the lungfish for example. But there is no explanation for how air might have been transferred to the stomach. 3. What about the digestive juices?
o The Encarta Encyclopedia reports, "When whales swallow food, it travels through the esophagus to a multi-chambered stomach that resembles the stomachs of ruminant hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep and deer. In the first stomach chamber, a saclike extension of the esophagus, food is crushed. In the second chamber, digestive juices further break down food." If Jonah remained in this first chamber, he only needed to be worried about being crushed rather than digested! Sharks, however, have a much slower metabolism and a human body could last three days without deterioration.
3. What about other stories?
o There are a number of stories that have been around for over 100 years about whales swallowing men whole. Perhaps the most famous is the story of James Bartley, a whaler on the vessel Star of the East, who reportedly was swallowed by a whale and survived. However, there are a number of questions as to the authenticity of this story, and it should not be used as a "proof" of any kind (just Google "James Bartley" and you’ll see what we mean).
The bottom line:
1. God needed to discipline a runaway prophet.
2. God did prepare a "great fish" aquatic creature.
3. God brought the runaway prophet and the "great fish" together for His glory and the salvation of a large city.” – http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v1/n1/great-fish
I tend to think, whether whale of fish, that it was a herbavoric type of sea creature, a plant eater. Scientifically, carnivorous fish has digestive enzymes in its stomach that works in the digestion of proteins. Jonah is a man, flesh and blood which is mostly made up of protein. So we can safely assume that the fish that swallowed Jonah was not of the meat eating sort. Recall the details of the Scriptures (2:5) it has weeds in its belly. Its digestive enzymes are different from those of carnivorous fish. So, what happened to Jonah is scientifically possible while at the same time due to the rarity of such an event, miraculously as well!
But think about it, being in the belly of a fish for three days you know that the fish’s digestive juices had to be working on Jonah’s body. You can’t expect Jonah to be hurled on shore, stand up, slick back his hair and brush off the sand and get started working on his sermon for Nineveh. No, most likely his skin was bleached by the gasses in the fish’s stomach and probably burned, he probably lost some hair, his clothes were probably half digested; he looked like he came off the set of “Night of the Living Dead”.
So imagine this splotchy, pasty, smelly stranger waltz into your city and say that God was going to wipe out the city in 40 days. That would get my attention if I was a Ninevites! “Boy if that is what God does to a guy whom he judges, we’d better repent!”
Now I have heard it preached all my life that Jonah preached a message of repentance. Not! There is not one line of repentance preached in the book of Jonah. Rather Jonah gave the people and ultimatum. “God’s getting ready to squash you guys like a bug! You guys are toast, have a nice life, see ya!”
Regardless if Jonah preached repentance or not the Ninevites got the message.
The Spiritual application has been made all too clear in the Brit Chadasha which portrays Jonah, at least what happened to him as a type of Messiah.
Matthew 12:38-41 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Luke 11:29-32 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.