Abrahamic / Middle Eastern Christianity Jonah and the Whale: Bible Story Summary Share Flipboard Email Print VCG Wilson / Getty Images Christianity The Bible Christianity Origins The New Testament The Old Testament Practical Tools for Christians Christian Life For Teens Christian Prayers Weddings Inspirational Bible Devotions Denominations of Christianity Funerals and Memorial Services Christian Holidays Christian Entertainment Key Terms in Christianity Catholicism Latter Day Saints View More By Jack Zavada Christianity Expert M.A., English Composition, Illinois State University B.S., English Literature, Illinois State University Jack Zavada is a writer who covers the Bible, theology, and other Christianity topics. He is the author "Hope for Hurting Singles: A Christian Guide to Overcoming Life's Challenges." our editorial process Jack Zavada Updated October 01, 2018 The story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible, opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. Synopsis Jonah found God's order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel's fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah "ran away from the Lord." In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First, they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher. Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him. Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. He praised God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, "Salvation comes from the Lord." (Jonah 2:9, NIV) Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah's message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them. Again Jonah questioned God because Jonah was angry that Israel's enemies had been spared. When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the hot sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again. God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked. Scripture References 2 Kings 14:25, The book of Jonah, Matthew 12:38-41, 16:4; Luke 11:29-32. Points of Interest God commands everything in his Creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out his plan. God is in control.Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.It's not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when his people are in trouble.Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale's stomach acid bleached Jonah's hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.Jesus did not consider the book of Jonah to be a fable or myth. While modern skeptics may find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days, Jesus compared himself to Jonah, showing that this prophet existed and that the story was historically accurate. Question for Reflection Jonah thought he knew better than God. But in the end, he learned a valuable lesson about the Lord's mercy and forgiveness, which extends beyond Jonah and Israel to all people who repent and believe. Is there some area of your life in which you are defying God, and rationalizing it? Remember that God wants you to be open and honest with him. It's always wise to obey the One who loves you most.