What’s Jonah really swallowed by a big fish? I mean, come on, this story sounds so Outlandish. This is clearly one of the most famous stories in the Bible. If you’ve ever been to Sunday school you’ve heard about God calling Jonah to go preach the Ninevites. He says “No, thank you God”, goes the opposite direction, gets thrown in the water, swallowed by a big fish, reluctantly goes and preaches in Nineveh. Could this really have happened?
Well there’re a few things to keep in mind. Number one, in Matthew 12 Jesus speaks about Jonah as a historical figure. If Jesus is the Son of God and we accurately preserved his words and he speaks of Jonah as being historical, that’s good reason. And there’s reason to think that Jonah would not want to go to Nineveh a major city in Assyria who is a huge enemy of the Jewish people at that time.
But third, also think a look at Jonah. He’s not the kind of hero people would often make up. He’s the “reluctant poor sport hero” of the story. These are some factors that give it kind of the ring of authenticity but for me, when it’s all said and done, could Jonah have been swallowed by a fish? Look, if God can speak the world into existence, if God can make life from non-life, if God can come down in the person of Jesus and walk on water heal the blind and heal lepers, then putting Jonah in the fish for three days is child’s play. They have good historical reason to think it’s authentic but when we step back and look at the larger case for God, then Jonah being swallowed by a big fish it’s actually quite easy in many circumstances to believe could be true.