Jonah 1:17

17 [a] But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17 Meaning and Commentary

Jonah 1:17

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah,
&c.] Not from the creation of the world, as say the Jews F16; for this is to be understood, not of the formation or making of it; but of the ordering and disposition of it by the providence of God to be near the ship, and its mouth open to receive Jonah, as soon as he was cast forth from thence: and a great one it must be, to take him at once into its mouth, and swallow him down its throat, and retain him whole in its belly; and such great fishes there are in the sea, particularly the "carcharias", or dog fish; the same with Triton's dog, said to swallow Hercules, in which he was three days; and which fable perhaps took its rise from hence. In ( Matthew 12:40 ) , it is said to be a "whale"; but then that must be understood, not as the proper name of a fish, but as common to all great fishes; otherwise the whale, properly so called, it is said, has not a swallow large enough to take down a man; though some deny this, and assert they are capable of it. Of the "balaena", which is one kind of whale, it is reported F17, that when it apprehends its young ones in danger, will take them, and hide them within itself; and then afterwards throw them out again; and certain it is that the whale is a very great fish, if not the greatest. Pliny F18 speaks of whales six hundred feet long, and three hundred and sixty broad; and of the bones of a fish, which were brought to Rome from Joppa, and there shown as a miracle, which were forty feet long; and said to be the bones of the monstrous fish to which Andromede at Joppa was exposed F19; which story seems to be hammered out of this history of Jonah; and the same is reported by Solinus F20; however, it is out of doubt that there are fishes capable of swallowing a man. Nierembergius F21 speaks of a fish taken near Valencia in Spain, so large that a man on horseback could stand in its mouth; the cavity of the, brain held seven men; its jaw bones, which were kept in the Escurial, were seventeen feet long; and two carcasses were found in its stomach: he says it was called "piscis mularis"; but some learned men took it to be the dog fish before mentioned; and such a large devouring creature is the shark, of which the present bishop of Bergen F23, and others, interpret this fish here; in which sometimes has been found the body of a man, and even of a man in armour, as many writers F24 have observed. Some F25 think it was a crocodile, which, though a river fish, yet, for the most part, is at the entrance of rivers, and sometimes goes into the sea many miles, and is capable of swallowing a man; some are above thirty feet long; and in the belly of one of them, in the Indies, was found a woman with all her clothes on F26: and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights:
that is, one whole natural day, consisting of twenty four hours, and part of two others; the Jews having no other way of expressing a natural day but by day and night; and to this the antitype answers; namely, our Lord's being so long in the grave; of whose death, burial, and resurrection, this was a type, as appears from ( Matthew 12:40 ) ; for which reason Jonah was so miraculously preserved; and a miracle it was that he should not in this time be digested in the stomach of the creature; that he was not suffocated in it, but breathed and lived; and that he was able to bear the stench of the creature's maw; and that he should have his senses, and be in such a frame of mind as both to pray and praise; but what is it that the power of God cannot do? Here some begin the second chapter, and not amiss.


F16 Pirke Eliezer, c. 10. fol. 10. 2.
F17 Philostrat. Vit. Apollonii, l. 1. c. 7.
F18 Nat. Hist. l. 32, c. 1.
F19 Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 5.
F20 Polyhistor. c. 47.
F21 Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 26. apud Schotti Physics Curiosa, par. 2. l. 10. c. 10. sect. 9.
F23 Pantoppidan's History of Norway, par. 2. p. 114, 116.
F24 Vid, Lipen. Jonae Displus, c. 2. th. 6. in Dissert. Theolog. Philol. tom. 1. p. 987.
F25 Vid. Texelii Phoenix, l. 3. c. 6. p. 242, 243.
F26 Mandelsloe in Harris's Voyages and Travels, vol. 1. B. 1. c. 2. p. 759.

Jonah 1:17 In-Context

15 So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.
16 Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
17 But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Footnotes 1

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.