Jonah and the Whale

David Bast

READ : Jonah 1:17
Matthew 12:38-42

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. (v. 17)

I was once talking about the story of Jonah to a group of children. “When Jonah was told to go to Nineveh, why did he run the other way?” one of them asked. Small children find it hard to believe that someone would dare to disobey God in such a spectacular fashion. “If Jonah was a prophet,” another one wanted to know, “why didn’t he trust God?” That’s a good question. I don’t know why I don’t always trust God either. But the question on every child’s mind was the one about the whale. How in the world could that ever have happened?

Actually, the answer is fairly simple. The Bible says that the Lord provided a great fish (not necessarily a whale) to swallow Jonah. This was obviously not a natural occurrence. It was a miracle from start to finish. Either God created a unique creature to swallow Jonah, or he must have modified an existing one in some fairly significant ways.

Of course, many people read this story today and conclude that it has to be a fairy tale. But Jesus didn’t seem to think that. He referred to Jonah’s story as something that actually happened; in fact, as a preview of his own burial and resurrection.

A 19th-century Scottish preacher called Patrick Fairbairn said of Jonah’s whale, “The devourer is transformed into a house of safety.” And ever since Easter the grave—the ultimate devourer—has been transformed into a house of safety for all who are in Christ.


Thank you, Lord, for a greater One than Jonah.