Summary: There are truths in the Book of Jonah that are worth fishing for. Truths that the whole world needs to hear. Truths that should make us faithful to the call God has on our lives.
One Big Fish Story
Isn't That A Whale of A Tell
There are many who have called the book of Jonah, nothing but a "Big Fish Story." Others have said that is just a "Whale of a Tell!" Meaning that the Book of Jonah is no more than a fairy tale, causing many, to miss the truths God wants them to grasp. This folklore myth approach to understanding the Book of Jonah has cause many to distrust the whole concept, there is a God in heaven who can do all things for His purpose and He is the Lord who is "gracious and compassionate... slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." (Jonah 4:2; Exodus 34:6)
Now reason with me, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone begins to tell you about his fishing trip - especially, if it was a really good fishing trip. What comes to your mind when someone does a teaching and he begins with this statement, "Let me tell you a fairy tale, a parable or allegory if you will?" All Satan has to do is draw question about the truths in Book of Jonah, just a little, so people can miss out on the foundational truths of God's redemptive love for those who are bound by the world view they live in.
I would propose to you there are truths in the Book of Jonah that are worth fishing for. Truths that the whole world needs to hear. Truths that should make us faithful to the call God has on our lives.
Just what does God, the original author of the Bible, have for you and me as we live in a world that is influenced and controlled by a philosophy that breaks His heart every day? What is to be our attitude as we live among a people who live a life we know is wrong, which is leading most astray and bringing our nation under the chastisements of God?
What Swallowed Jonah / Point People to God and Jesus Christ
Let us begin with that passage of Scripture that causes people to question the historical authenticity on how God dealt with His disobedient prophet. The Bible says, in the Book of Jonah, "Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights." When people state a reason for not believing the Bible this passage of Scripture is often brought up. However, Jesus did not see the story of Jonah as being a fairy tale, a parable, or as folklore. When teaching about His death and the length of time His body was going to be in the ground, He referred back to it in saying, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish..." (Matthew 12:40)
Jesus takes it seriously we should to. And Christians do not need to be arguing over rather Jonah was swallowed by a fish or whale. This is why, the Hebrew word for fish (dag) here is a general term and not a particular species. (Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) The creek word for fish (ketos) as used by Jesus can refer to any large fish or sea creature, sea monster or whale - this particular word is a common parlance for any kind of aquatic creature. (Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers; Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.; Newman, B. M., Jr. (1993). A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. (p. 100). Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies.; Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 47). New York: United Bible Societies.; Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.) The conclusion to be drawn from the linguistic data that is available for us, "Both the Hebrew and Greek languages lack the precision to identify with a specific identity of the sea creature that swallowed Jonah." Lewis writes, "According to the Hebrew "dahg" and the Creek "ketos" words for fish - it was an undefined species."
One of the arguments made by the world opinion is - the different translations of Bibles give different descriptions of the sea creature that swallowed up Jonah. It is a weak argument causing many to miss the Biblical truth - God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing... that moves about in it, according to their kind." (Genesis 1:21) People disputing over which Bible translations has the best description is a waste of time and fuels an unbelieving fire that brings doubt on the authenticity of the Bible.