The Bible Story of Jonah and the Whale

This is a summary of the Biblical account of Jonah and the big fish. You can read more in-depth Bible verses from the Scripture below and use the articles and videos to understand the meaning behind this teachable event in the Bible. God called to Jonah one day and told him to go preach to Nineveh because the people were very wicked. Jonah hated this idea because Nineveh was one of Israel's greatest enemies and Jonah wanted nothing to do with preaching to them!

Jonah tried to run away from God in the opposite direction of Nineveh and headed by boat to Tarshish. God sent a great storm upon the ship and the men decided Jonah was to blame so they threw him overboard. As soon as they tossed Jonah in the water, the storm stopped.

God sent a big fish, some call it a whale, to swallow Jonah and to save him from drowning. While in the belly of the big fish (whale), Jonah prayed to God for help, repented, and praised God. For three days Jonah sat in the belly of the fish. Then, God had the big fish throw up Jonah onto the shores of Nineveh.

Jonah preached to Nineveh and warned them to repent before the city is destroyed in 40 days. The people believed Jonah, turned from their wickedness, and God had mercy on them. Jonah now became angry and bitter because God did not destroy the Ninevites who were Israel's enemy! When Jonah sat to rest God provided a vine to give him shade. The next day, God sent a worm to eat the vine. Jonah now sat in the hot sun complaining and wanting to die. God called out to Jonah and scolded him for being so concerned and worried about just a plant while God was concerned with the heart condition and lives of 120,000 people who lived in the city of Nineveh.

Bible Commentary on Jonah and the Whale (Jonah 1)

In this chapter we have, I. A command given to Jonah to preach at Nineveh (v. 1, v. 2). II. Jonah’s disobedience to that command (v. 3). III. The pursuit and arrest of him for that disobedience by a storm, in which he was asleep (v. 4-6). IV. The discovery of him, and his disobedience, to be the cause of the storm (v. 7-10). V. The casting of him into the sea, for the stilling of the storm (v. 11-16). VI. The miraculous preservation of his life there in the belly of a fish (v. 17), which was his reservation for further services.

Jonah’s life, after all, is saved by a miracle, and we shall hear of him again for all this. In the midst of judgment God remembers mercy. Jonah shall be worse frightened than hurt, not so much punished for his sin as reduced to his duty. Though he flees from the presence of the Lord, and seems to fall into his avenging hands, yet God has more work for him to do, and therefore has prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah (v. 17), a whale our Saviour calls it (Mt. 12:40 ), one of the largest sorts of whales, that have wider throats than others, in the belly of which has sometimes been found the dead body of a man in armor.

Particular notice is taken, in the history of creation, of God’s creating great whales (Gen. 1:21 ) and the leviathan in the waters made to play therein, Ps. 104:26. But God finds work for this leviathan, has prepared him, has numbered him (so the word is), has appointed him to be Jonah’s receiver and deliverer. Note, God has command of all the creatures and can make any of them serve his designs of mercy to his people, even the fishes of the sea, that are most from under man’s cognizance, even the great whales, that are altogether from under man’s government. This fish was prepared, lay ready underwater close by the ship, that he might keep Jonah from sinking to the bottom, and save him alive, though he deserved to die. Let us stand still and see this salvation of the Lord, and admire his power, that he could thus save a drowning man, and his pity, that he would thus save one that was running from him and had offended him. It was of the Lord’s mercies that Jonah was not now consumed. The fish swallowed up Jonah, not to devour him, but to protect him. Out of the eater comes forth meat; for Jonah was alive and well in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, not consumed by the heat of the animal, nor suffocated for want of air. It is granted that to nature this was impossible, but not to the God of nature, with whom all things are possible.

(Excerpt from Matthew Henry's Commentary)