Jonah 1:12-17

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3.

“Then they said to him [Phoenician seamen to Jonah], ‘What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?’ – for the sea was growing more tempestuous. And he said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.’” Jonah 1:11-12.

Verses 1-3 and verse 11 in the above passages have been added for context.

These Phoenician sea traders are at their wits end, first having struggled against the mighty tempest on the sea, and having seen the futility, they turned to their gods which proved useless, and finally they found it was Jonah for whom the tempest came. The question is what now?

Jonah’s shocking answer reminds us of another One who was willing to give His life for others (all mankind). Jonah’s disobedience is just the opposite of Jesus’ obedience in everything God the Father told Him to do, yet we do have a type of Christ in Jonah.

One cringes at the thought of being cast into cold dark swirling waters that were by now swamping the ship in powerful crashing waves. “NO! I admit to nothing, God needs my talents! Give me an oar we will show Him we are men!”

But God does not need any of us, let us not forget that. He loves us, cares for us, answers our prayers, and gives us life, but He does not need us.

So as Clint Eastwood said in one of the “Dirty Harry” movies, “A man has got to know his limitations.” Jonah found his, and was courageously willing to give his life for the men aboard ship, and perhaps for his nation of Israel. Now that takes guts.

“Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them.” Jonah 1:13.

Now, this is an important thing to notice, “Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land…” These are pagans, idol worshippers; we tend to think of this sort of people as having no respect for life, especially since many idol worshippers sacrificed human beings.

These sailors had such respect for life that they risked their own lives to save everyone. Modern men are so contemptuous of the ancients, thinking themselves above being barbarians. Yet in Rome abortions were illegal.

Centuries earlier in 1754 B.C. Hammurabi posted 282 laws where everyone could see them, codifying them so everyone would know what they could and could not do.

The consequences of breaking some of these laws were truly scary like cutting off an ear, gouging out an eye, hacking off a hand or hands. A great many of them resulted in the death penalty. Four are shown below.

3. If someone accused another of a capital offense, and the accusation turned out to be false, the accuser himself was to be put to death.

14. If anyone steal the minor son of another he shall be put to death.

22. If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

157. If anyone be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.

Hammurabi’s Laws dealt with many things, physicians, contractors, shipbuilders, contracts, slave ownership, even adopted children, and cult prostitutes to name some.

Nearly all of these laws were reasonable; even some we should have today. They also had many that sound like Moses’ Law (though actually given by God) including the eye for an eye one.

“…eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Exodus 21:24-25.

The ungodly like to say that this is nothing more than vengeance, but that is not true. The eye for an eye is administered judicially, not by the one wounded.

When someone’s eye is put out by another, the perpetrator is arrested, the prosecutor says, “This person put out another person’s eye.” Witnesses and evidence are gathered, if the defendant is found guilty, the judge orders his eye to be put out.

The victim may have little or nothing to do with the judicial process other than to file a complaint. The judge’s sentence, though harsh, is no different from five years in prison, or a fine, but the criminal will think twice with his one eye, before putting out someone else’s eye again.

There can be no better deterrent than this, and as a bonus, the prisons do not become even more overcrowded. And, by the way, prison is showing itself to be of little or no deterrent value.

There are also some who claim that Moses’ Law, given by God about three hundred years later copied some of Hammurabi’s Laws. However that does not have to be true (which it is not).

All men are given a conscience from God, so it should not be surprising that many laws of man are similar to the laws of God.

“… (for not the hearers of the law [Moses’ Law] are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified [which is impossible, Galatians 2:16]; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)…” Romans 2:13-15.

Men and women of today, because of the falsehood of evolution think that we have evolved into a more civilized genteel society; this in spite of the crashing evil swallowing civilization up as we speak.

Mankind is and always has been affected by the sin nature within us; as a result, there are wonderful deeds of compassion right alongside incredible evil. This is why these mariners of old fought to save another soul on their ship.

“Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.’ So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” Jonah 1:14-15.

This precious prayer shows us the risk these men were taking. Think of it, they were about to kill someone they did not know on the unproven chance that it would stop the storm.

“We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood…” there are consequences for wrongdoing in life. And men know it; the saying, “what goes around comes around” and the inevitable “karma” are two signs of man’s awareness of God’s law of retribution.

“But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You.” Psalm 55:23.

“So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” Jonah 1:15.

We see a type of Christ in a couple of ways here, Jonah did not just jump in the water, committing suicide, he had to be thrown in by these men. This is not something that they decided to do on their own, Jonah told them to cast him into the water.

Just as Jonah was sacrificing himself for the sake of these men, and, I believe for the sake of his beloved Israel, so the mariners needed to identify with this sacrifice by laying their hands on him.

By laying their hands on him they were showing their acceptance of the exchange of his life for their own. In Jonah’s case it was a guilty life for innocent lives.

In the case of the Lord Jesus it was a sinless life for sinful mankind, which men identified with when they laid hands on Him to nail Him to the cross. For this reason, Jesus could not just commit suicide.

Today, when men accept Jesus as their savior they are in effect laying their hands upon Him in acceptance of His sacrifice for our sakes. Innocent blood shed, for the blood guilty.

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28.

This is not a new thing by the way, when a person would bring a sin offering to the priest the sinner was to lay their hands on the animal to be sacrificed for them. Again, the laying on of the hands was to identify themselves with the substitutionary sacrifice for themselves.

These men threw Jonah into the sea, “…and the sea ceased from its raging.” It sounds as though it immediately became calm does it not?

“O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.” Psalm 89:8-9.

The power of God exhibited by this miracle removed any lingering doubt in the minds of these sailors, every one of them. No longer would the gods of this world hold dominion over them. And the outward sign of the inward change of heart was shown when they offered a sacrifice and made vows.

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.” Jonah 1:16.

The name Jonah means dove. One expositor believes that the sacrifice was a dove, since they were often kept for food and sacrifices. The vows, whatever they were would indicate a changed life. Vows, by the way are a very serious thing, especially with God.

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed – better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” Ecclesiastes 5:4-5.

There is great power in vows, but there is great loss if one does not keep it. Trust me, I have vowed and suffered loss when I did not continue to keep it properly.

It is better not to vow if it is possible for one to fail to keep it. Make vows in only the most extreme circumstances and make them very simple to keep. Do not take this warning lightly.

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17.

There are two statements made in this verse, the second one is pretty straight forward, “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” The Lord Jesus mentions this in Matthew 12, and the fact that God inspired Jonah to write it is enough proof that this statement is true.

For those who think this is a bit simplistic, bear in mind that the same God who sent the violent tempest upon the sea and calmed it almost immediately is probably capable of miraculously preserving a man in the belly of a fish three days and three nights.

Let us consider something just as fantastic and just as misunderstood. “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.” Folks have raised a great many questions about Jonah and the whale, but nowhere is the word whale actually used.

The confusion starts with the translation of the Greek word ketos when Jesus is quoted in the King James Version of the New Testament.

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s [ketos] belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40 KJV.

The Greek word ketos can mean one of three different things, a huge fish, a sea monster, or a whale. It is translated a great fish in Matthew 12:40 in the New King James Version.

This same verse in the Septuagint Version translates ketos as a “great whale” that swallowed Jonah. The Septuagint is a translation made in 300-200 B.C. of the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek.

The Septuagint is also called the LXX which is the number 70 in Roman numerals. The seventy is a reference to the number of Hebrew scholars who made this translation; there were 70 of them, and possibly a few more.

Finally, the Hebrew Bible renders Jonah 1:17 as a “huge fish” which swallowed Jonah. In the case of the original Hebrew, the word “dag” is used and is translated as basically a “fish”.

It was a great fish that swallowed Jonah. The original Hebrew word for “great” is “gadowl” which means either great in size or importance. In this case the word would mean great in size.

So if we put these two Hebrew words together it would translate into a “great fish”. The Old Testament does not separate marine mammals from fish, they are all just fish.

So then, having weighed all of this evidence we can state somewhat dogmatically that the evidence is inconclusive as to whether the “great fish” was either a whale, or a huge fish, or a sea monster.

In a way this is good news, next time someone rattles on about how it is impossible for a whale to swallow a man; you can say it does not have to have been a whale.

There was a newspaper article in the 1920’s wherein the reporter noted that a whale could not have possibly swallowed a man because a whale has a gullet so small that it would choke on a loaf of bread. Actually, that is not true a whale would choke on anything larger than a beach ball.

It was quickly pointed out by one expert that it was the baleen whale that would choke on a loaf of bread, since they feed on krill, a crustacean that looks like shrimp and average about 0.4-0.8 inches long (though there are larger species).

Even the 98 foot long blue whale the largest animal on earth would choke on a beach ball because it is a baleen whale. The newspaper story, by the way, was never retracted.

On the other hand the 67 foot long sperm whale eats, along with other things, either giant or colossal squid, creatures that can be from 43 to 46 feet long.

Whales have been found with whole sharks in them, and chunks of food the size of three men tied together. There is the mention of a whale with a man in armor in its stomach.

Another source says that the armored man was found in a dog fish, but they range from four to six feet long, not big enough, unless this was some larger extinct species.

I read an account some years ago of a whaler who in 1891 was thrown overboard as they attempted to harpoon a whale. The man was swallowed by this same whale and lived within it for fifteen hours before the whalers who had caught the whale cut him out.

The story which is about a man named James Bartley is fictitious even though it was published in several periodicals at the time; apparently no one researched it very well. This is an unfortunate case of both the news media and sincere Christians swallowing a whale.

For the rebuttal, see,, type in “A Modern Jonah” to find the article.

However this does not mean that Jonah could not have been swallowed by a whale, or a huge fish, or sea monster.

Whatever the case may be, Jonah’s descent into the sea was a very pale picture indeed of Jesus’ descent into the darkness of death as He paid for the sin of all mankind. Sins which He did not commit yet had them laid on Him on the cross.

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck [My soul]. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; they are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully; though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it.” Psalm 69:1-4.

Jonah 1:12-17 taken from

Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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