Bible Commentary Bible History General Theology

Jonah the prophet swallowed by a fish

It seems people could have issues with the fact that apparently he was swallowed by a fish as it reads in the OT, but in the NT (Matthew 12:40), it reads a whale. People wonder if there was a mistranslation, and how this could be so. The purpose of the book is to illustrate that God delayed the destruction of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire for almost a century – so we see the powerful mercy of our God. His Salvation is not only for the Jew, Jonah’s nation, but also for all humanity and even the enemy. If the wicked shall repent and turn to God, God would be merciful to them.

Sources verifying Jonah’s calling and work

  • 2 Kings 14:25-27 – This refers to the fact that the Lord spoke through Jonah the Prophet.
  • Matthew 12:38-42 – This refers to the fact that there was a sign of the Prophet Jonah, for Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days – and therefore, the Son of man would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth. The old Jonah had been declared before, but the new Jonah is now here.
  • Matthew 16:4 – This is a reference to Christ comparing Himself to Jonah. Jonah was in many ways an important sign and type of Christ. This generation was seeking a sign and couldn’t find it, so the Lord points the Pharisees to the sign of the Prophet Jonah – which, comparing to Jonah, there are many different ways that Jesus had compared to him:
    • Jonah was thrown overboard by his shipmates – Christ was delivered to His death by the Jews.
    • Jonah was willingly thrown overboard – Christ laid down His Life, and Man couldn’t take it.
    • Jonah was thrown into the sea to save the others on the ship – Christ in His death had saved people.
    • Jonah, after three days in the belly of the whale, was cast up onto dry land – Christ rose again on the Third Day!
  • Luke 11:29-32 – Here, Christ promised one more sign be given, as the sign of Jonah – to which, He warns them not to avoid the sign. People had repented at the preaching of Jonah – and the same shall be done here, so God’s People can be saved. Christ is telling them that the same sign is apparent here, is that Man has sinned, and atonement is necessary (He plans on atoning).

Jonah’s background

Tradition says: Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath and therefore was the lad whom Elijah had raised from the dead; they are one and the same. Jonah was a native of Gath-hepher, near Nazareth, this would make him most likely a Galilean. His mission was to the city of Nineveh – which he would deliver a message to the Ninevites.

Jonah’s Prophetic Office is confirmed and vouched for by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:38-42. He was unlike Jesus in Commitment: Jonah, overlooking repentant Nineveh, pouted; Jesus, overlooking unrepentant Jerusalem, wept. Jonah has been called “The Elder Prodigal son” of the Old Testament. The people of Nineveh believed God, as we see in 3:5, and proclaimed a fast and wore sackcloth. They lastly repented at the word that came through Jonah. God saw their works, as we see in 3:10, and that they repented – so God repented of the evil (which means He withdrew what He was going to do).

Lessons of value for all people

  • Self-will always brings destruction, for it is futile to resist the will of God.
  • Do not rush to meet the storms of life without God.
  • God loves and seeks Salvation for all people, Jew and Gentile.
  • You cannot escape from God.
  • Your sin always affects others.
  • A right Spirit quick to obey, and one full of thanksgiving, pleases God.
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