Jonah and the Big Fish

Photo by Sebastian-Alexander Stamatis.

Last week the sermon at our church was about Jonah being swallowed by a big “fish” and his subsequent prayer. But most people get hung up on the big “fish”. For instance, was this fish a whale, a dogfish, a shark, or some other fish specifically manifested by God for this sole purpose? Those who want to discredit the Bible gravitate to this book in particular as being “proof” that the Bible is a book of myth and not to be relied upon. However, I would disagree with that assessment. God created heaven and earth, so what would be the difficulty in Him making a fish for such an event as described in Jonah? [bra_blockquote align=’right’]There are recorded incidents in which an individual was swallowed by a whale.[/bra_blockquote]There are recorded incidents in which an individual was swallowed by a whale. This sailor was caught up in the whale’s stomach (of which they have multiple stomach’s like cows), and the individual was rescued by a whaling ships crew after being cut from the intestinal sack of the whale. This event occurred in October of 1891. There are several news articles that document this event. I find that my questions are about how Jonah was protected while in the stomach of the fish. In researching this question I have found the following: • The human brain can survive for about 4-6 minutes without oxygen • The human brain requires constant flow of oxygen, which is transported through our blood supply • The human brain can survive only slightly longer in a hypothermic condition. In addition to the question of oxygen, I wonder about the fluids that are associated with digestion. What prevented Jonah from being dissolved by the acidic reaction of the internal digestive system? Then, there is the question of pressure from the ocean depths that are known to crush submarines when exceeding a specific depth. The following article addresses some of the issues concerning depth pressure and how deep some whales dive for food.

“At sea level, the air that surrounds us presses down on our bodies at 14.5 pounds per square inch (1 bar). You don’t feel it because the fluids in your body are pushing outward with the same force.

Dive down into the ocean even a few feet, though, and a noticeable change occurs. You can feel an increase of pressure on your eardrums. This is due to an increase in hydrostatic pressure, the force per unit area exerted by a liquid on an object. The deeper you go under the sea, the greater the pressure of the water pushing down on you. For every 33 feet (10.06 meters) you go down, the pressure increases by 14.5 psi (1 bar). In the deepest ocean, the pressure is equivalent to the weight of an elephant balanced on a postage stamp, or the equivalent of one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets!

Many animals that live in the sea have no trouble at all with high pressure. Whales, for instance, can withstand dramatic pressure changes because their bodies are more flexible. Their ribs are bound by loose, bendable cartilage, which allows the rib cage to collapse at pressures that would easily snap our bones.

A whale’s lungs can also collapse safely under pressure, which keeps them from rupturing. This allows sperm whales to hunt for giant squid at depths of 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) or more. That means almost 3076 lbs. per square inch of pressure is being exerted on the whale.

Now, considering all these scientific facts, wouldn’t you think that God would ensure that Jonah was fully protected while being in transit from the storm to the shore, where the fish vomited him out? There is no obstacle in which God doesn’t consider and provide a solution to fit his needs. God parted the Red Sea to allow the people to cross on dry land, then returned the sea back to its normal state and drowned the Egyptians and their horses. God provided manna to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness before crossing into the Promised Land. God sustained the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years! Now consider Jonah 1:17 that states, “17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (KJVA). In comparison to God’s people being cared for even in the face of a rebellious nation, I am convinced that such a fish was created for the express purpose of providing Jonah the means to be sustained while being transported over the course of three days and nights to be deposited safely upon the shore. In addition, I believe that God would use his angles to ensure the protection from the elements for Jonah.”

In a way, I have sympathy for those who reject the Bible because of an unwillingness to accept that a being of such holiness could create a creature as described in the book of Jonah. It saddens me as well, because in their own finite mind they cannot see beyond the fleshly things of this world. They are unwilling to believe God, who created all things from nothing, being considered either non-existent or incapable of creating a creature for the very specific task of protecting the messenger being sent to proclaim God’s word of repentance to such a wicked and evil community such as Nineveh. These are people who are cast into the very likeness of those dwelling in Nineveh. And, later, we will see the Ninevehites repented for a period of time because of Jonah accomplishing God’s tasking for him. When Jonah realized he was caught up in the belly of the fish, he put away his prideful thoughts and submitted the prayer listed in Jonah 2: 1–9 to God, his Lord, and his Savior:  Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” [bra_blockquote align=”]Isn’t it interesting that Jonah remembered God when he became “afflicted”. Do we remember God only when we are afflicted? Do we cry out to be saved only when we are in the darkest times of our lives? Do we wait until our “…soul fainted…” before we remember the LORD? Isn’t it humbling to know that God never “waits” to hear and answer our prayers when we are only desperate?[/bra_blockquote]Isn’t it interesting that Jonah remembered God when he became “afflicted”. Do we remember God only when we are afflicted? Do we cry out to be saved only when we are in the darkest times of our lives? Do we wait until our “…soul fainted…” before we remember the LORD? Isn’t it humbling to know that God never “waits” to hear and answer our prayers when we are only desperate? I, for one, am so grateful that God hears me even in the times of joy as well as in my every day activities. I want Him to know that He is my savior in good as well as bad times. What about you? Do you believe that God is greater than anything else in your life? Don’t you want to have a relationship with Him in every moment of your busy life? Take pause today, right now, and praise Him for all he has brought you through. Remember the Bible is filled with Psalms and Proverbs and teachings that will help you overcome your circumstances, no matter what they are. And, Salvation is of the LORD.

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