1. Once again the LORD spoke to Jonah.
2. He said, "Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to the people the message I have given you."
3. So Jonah obeyed the LORD and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to walk through it.
4. Jonah started through the city, and after walking a whole day, he proclaimed, "In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!"
5. The people of Nineveh believed God's message. So they decided that everyone should fast, and all the people, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth to show that they had repented.
6. When the king of Nineveh heard about it, he got up from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat down in ashes.
7. He sent out a proclamation to the people of Nineveh: "This is an order from the king and his officials: No one is to eat anything; all persons, cattle, and sheep are forbidden to eat or drink.
8. All persons and animals must wear sackcloth. Everyone must pray earnestly to God and must give up their wicked behavior and their evil actions.
9. Perhaps God will change his mind; perhaps he will stop being angry, and we will not die!"
10. God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would.
Today we get to the part of Jonah’s story you’ve probably heard about – the part where he’s swallowed by a huge fish!
The sailors tossed Jonah overboard. They might have thought he’d seen his last days, but God wasn’t finished with him. God caused a giant fish to approach Jonah and actually swallow the prophet alive.
Now this is where many people grow sceptical. ‘How are we supposed to believe a fish swallowed a man, and he lived through it?’ they chide.
Check out the following account by M de Parvelle, a French scientist and editor of the journal Des Debats:
In February 1891, the whaling ship Star of the East was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands when the lookout sighted a large sperm whale three miles away. Two boats were lowered and in short time, one of the harpooners was able to spear the creature. The second boat also attacked the whale but was upset by a lash of its tail, causing the crew to fall into the sea. One of them drowned. But the other, James Bartley, simply disappeared without a trace.
After the whale was killed, the crew set to work with axes and spades to remove the blubber. They worked all day and into the night. The next day, they attached to the stomach in order to hoist it to the deck. In doing so, the sailors were startled by something in the stomach which gave spasmodic signs of life. Inside was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid on the deck and treated to a bath of sea water which soon revived him.
At the end third week, he had entirely recovered from the shock and resumed his duties on the ship. Although his face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and he took on the appearance of parchment, Bartley affirms that he probably would have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not through lack of air.
That’s only one of several records of men surviving inside whales. Also, some types of whales have been known to swallow other unusually large objects whole, including a 15-foot shark and a 400 pound squid! Again, Jonah’s story is not a fairy tale. It’s a historical event that actually happened!