Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Vs 17: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
In this verse we see two additional miracles. First, the preparing of the fish and second, the preservation of Jonah.
The Lord Prepares the Fish: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” When did the Lord do this? He did it “Now,” He did it when the time was right, He did it and there was no delay. The “great fish” was where it needed to be at the right time, in the right place. The moment Jonah was thrown overboard, the fish was waiting. Who did this? It was “the Lord,” the God of Jonah, the One Jonah said was the Creator. Genesis says, “And God created great whales [lit. sea monsters] and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind.” (Gen.1:21). The Psalmist says that God “made the sea and all that therein is [all that is in them].” (Psa.146:6). There were many different kinds of creatures in the sea, this “great fish” was one of those creatures. It had already been created, and now the Creator gave this “great fish” a great Purpose, it was to Preserve Jonah.
The Lord “had prepared” this “great fish.” That is past tense. This was done before Jonah fled because the Lord knew Jonah would flee; knew where he would flee to; knew there would be a great storm; knew how the sailors would react; knew what Jonah would suggest they do; knew they would throw Jonah overboard. The Lord knew all this before it even happened, so He “had prepared” this “great fish.” The word “prepared” does not mean created here, it means “ordered” or “ordained.” The Lord gave His creation a purpose, He gave His creation instructions and His creation obeyed Him. The Septuagint says: “God ordered the fish to swallow Jonah at the appointed time.” In Jonah there are four things God prepared for Jonah. This is the first of those four things that God “prepared” or “appointed.” God prepared a great fish (1:17). God prepared a gourd (4:6). God prepared a worm (4:7). God prepared a vehement east wind (4:8). God is in control, He sees everything and He uses everything.
People try to figure out what type of “fish” this was so they can find a natural explanation as to how Jonah could be swallowed. Though the word “fish” here is translated “whale” in Mat.12:40 another translation is “sea monster.” It was a “great fish,” we are not told what kind of fish and it does not matter. It does not matter if it was a whale, or a whale shark or any other type of fish man tries to name that could swallow a man. What matters is that it is a creature God created and that God controls. “No other miracle of Scripture has called forth so much unbelief. The real miracle is not the swallowing but the fact that Jonah was alive when he was cast out of the great fish on to the dry land.” (Scofield Study Bible Notes)
That great fish “swallowed up Jonah.” The word “swallow” is used 50 times in the Old Testament. It means to “devour, to destroy” (Gen.41:7) or it means “to engulf, to swallow down.” (Jonah 1:17) Jonah was swallowed up in two way. First by the sea after he was cast into the sea, second, by the great fish. He was swallowed up but he was not destroyed. That is a miracle; that was for his protection and his preservation.
The second miracle is Jonah’s preservation: “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah was kept alive! The belly of the fish is like the grave. It is a place of confinement, a place of judgment but also a place of preservation. The “three days and nights” speak of an ordained time. Jonah may not have known this but Jesus knew this. Jesus has prophesied that the “three days and nights” was a sign (Mat.12:39-41). It was a sign for Jonah; a sign for Nineveh; a sign for Israel. It is a sign for us. It is the sign of death and resurrection. It is a sign of our Savior.
The “three days and nights” was a time of testing, the testing of a disobedient prophet (Jonah) and an obedient prophet (Jesus). The “three days and nights” was a time of training and a time of waiting. Both Jonah and Jesus had to wait for deliverance. Both Jonah and Jesus have been swallowed up. Jonah was swallowed up by the sea and Jesus by death. Jonah was swallowed up by the fish and Jesus the grave. Both Jonah and Jesus have their faith put to the test and both cry out in faith. Both Jonah and Jesus trust in the Lord for their deliverance. Jonah did not know if or when he would be delivered but, in the end, he cried out in faith: “Salvation is of the Lord.” Jesus knew that “Salvation is of the Lord” from the very beginning. He knew He would be delivered, and when He would be delivered. He knew even more, He knew that He would deliver us. He knew the full potential of that cry “Salvation is of the Lord.” It is now our cry. When Jesus was raised from the dead, something else was swallowed up. It was death. “death is swallowed up in victory” (1Co.15:54). That is the Apostle Paul’s cry. Praise the Lord!
To be continued