Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jonah 1:17

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Fish;   Jonah;   Miracles;   Types;   Scofield Reference Index - Jonah;   Miracles;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Types of Christ;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Fish, Fisher;   Miracle;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Fish;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Providence of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Whale;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Fish;   Matthew, the Gospel According to;   Peter;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Animals;   Fish, Fishing;   Number Systems and Number Symbolism;   Whale;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jonah;   Whale;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Nineveh, Ninevites;   Numbers;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Whale;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Fish;   Israel;   Jonah;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Belly;   Jonah, the Book of;   Number;   Whale;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish - גדול דג dag gadol .

This could not have been a whale, for the throat of that animal can scarcely admit a man's leg; but it might have been a shark, which abounds in the Mediterranean, and whose mouth and stomach are exceedingly capacious. In several cases they have been known to swallow a man when thrown overboard. See the note on Matthew 12:40; (note), where the whole subject of this verse is considered at large. That days and nights do not, among the Hebrews, signify complete days and nights of twenty-four hours, see Esther 4:16, compared with Esther 5:1; Judges 14:17, Judges 14:18. Our Lord lay in the grave one natural day, and part of two others; and it is most likely that this was the precise time that Jonah was in the fish's belly.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Now the Lord had (literally “And the Lord”) prepared - Jonah (as appears from his thanksgiving) was not swallowed at once, but sank to the bottom of the sea, God preserving him in life there by miracle, as he did in the fish‘s belly. Then, when the seaweed was twined around his head, and he seemed to be already buried until the sea should give up her dead, “God prepared the fish to swallow Jonah”. “God could as easily have kept Jonah alive in the sea as in the fish‘s belly, but, in order to prefigure the burial of the Lord, He willed him to be within the fish whose belly was as a grave.” Jonah, does not say what fish it was; and our Lord too used a name, signifying only one of the very largest fish. Yet it was no greater miracle to create a fish which should swallow Jonah, than to preserve him alive when swallowed. “The infant is buried, as it were, in the womb of its mother; it cannot breathe, and yet, thus too, it liveth and is preserved, wonderfully nurtured by the will of God.” He who preserves the embryo in its living grave can maintain the life of man as easily without the outward air as with it.

The same Divine Will preserves in being the whole creation, or creates it. The same will of God keeps us in life by breathing this outward air, which preserved Jonah without it. How long will men think of God, as if He were man, of the Creator as if He were a creature, as though creation were but one intricate piece of machinery, which is to go on, ringing its regular changes until it shall be worn out, and God were shut up, as a sort of mainspring within it, who might be allowed to be a primal Force, to set it in motion, but must not be allowed to vary what He has once made? “We must admit of the agency of God,” say these men when they would not in name be atheists, “once in the beginning of things, but must allow of His interference as sparingly as may be.” Most wise arrangement of the creature, if it were indeed the god of its God! Most considerate provision for the non-interference of its Maker, if it could but secure that He would not interfere with it for ever! Acute physical philosophy, which, by its omnipotent word, would undo the acts of God! Heartless, senseless, sightless world, which exists in God, is upheld by God, whose every breath is an effluence of God‘s love, and which yet sees Him not, thanks Him not, thinks it a greater thing to hold its own frail existence from some imagined law, than to be the object of the tender personal care of the Infinite God who is Love! Poor hoodwinked souls, which would extinguish for themselves the Light of the world, in order that it may not eclipse the rushlight of their own theory!

And Jonah was in the belly of the fish - The time that Jonah was in the fish‘s belly was a hidden prophecy. Jonah does not explain nor point it. He tells the fact, as Scripture is accustomed to do so. Then he singles out one, the turning point in it. Doubtless in those three days and nights of darkness, Jonah (like him who after his conversion became Paul), meditated much, repented much, sorrowed much, for the love of God, that he had ever offended God, purposed future obedience, adored God with wondering awe for His judgment and mercy. It was a narrow home, in which Jonah, by miracle, was not consumed; by miracle, breathed; by miracle, retained his senses in that fetid place. Jonah doubtless, repented, marveled, adored, loved God. But, of all, God has singled out this one point, how, out of such a place, Jonah thanked God. As He delivered Paul and Silas from the prison, when they prayed with a loud voice to Him, so when Jonah, by inspiration of His Spirit, thanked Him, He delivered him.

To thank God, only in order to obtain fresh gifts from Him, would be but a refined, hypocritical form of selfishness. Such a formal act would not be thanks at all. We thank God, because we love Him, because He is so infinitely good, and so good to us, unworthy. Thanklessness shuts the door to His personal mercies to us, because it makes them the occasion of fresh sins of our‘s. Thankfulness sets God‘s essential goodness free (so to speak) to be good to us. He can do what He delights in doing, be good to us, without our making His Goodness a source of harm to us. Thanking Him through His grace, we become fit vessels for larger graces. “Blessed he who, at every gift of grace, returns to Him in whom is all fullness of graces; to whom when we show ourselves not ungrateful for gifts received, we make room in ourselves for grace, and become meet for receiving yet more.” But Jonah‘s was that special character of thankfulness, which thanks God in the midst of calamities from which there was no human exit; and God set His seal on this sort of thankfulness, by annexing this deliverance, which has consecrated Jonah as an image of our Lord, to his wonderful act of thanksgiving.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Jonah 1:17

And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

The crux of the miracle

The real miracle was that Jonah should survive so long in his strange prison. “That violates the laws of nature.” But let us once understand Christ’s profound saying about a Father who “worketh hitherto” (John 5:17), that is, who has never taken His hand from off the thing which He has created, but is ceaselessly active and operative in His creation. Once let us understand that all force, in the last reach of our thought, is with force, and that the forces of nature are only the many-sided puttings forth of that force of the will of God, outspoken and expressed in that Word of His power by which He upholdeth all things. Once understand that there are no “laws of nature” to be violated, except the rules which He has laid down for His own ordinary and orderly action in governing His world. Once let it be seen that whilst for our sakes it is generally best and happiest that He should keep to His own rules, and should very seldom indeed do in any way differently, yet He is at perfect liberty to choose whether He will keep to His ordinary and orderly plan, or for some special reason will in any particular instance turn aside. Then, if there is as good evidence for the fact as the case admits of, and, above all, if plainly there is good reason for the fact, we may as reasonably fred no more difficulty in the miracle than in the general providence. What is ordinary is of God, just as much as the extraordinary. The natural is of God, as much as the supernatural. Once more it may be said that if our eyes were not too much the eyes of the children, we should see that the wonder is the orderly, reliable, age-long, ordinary providence, rather than the special thing, done just once, to meet an emergency for which the ordinary rule and method did not sufficiently provide. And the special is not an after-thought. It is provided for in the whole great plan of the Worker. It is one of His rules. It quite as much needed God to keep Jonah alive year after year in the atmosphere and upon the earth, as to keep him alive for three days within the body of the great fish. (H. J. Foster.)

The miracle of the whale

No miracle has been more frequently quoted, or more severely scrutinised.

I. Establish such principles as will warrant the fact.

1. There are some things of which even the Divine power is incapable. Things inconsistent or contradictory cannot be asserted of God.

2. There are other instances in which the Divine power may be easily supposed to interfere for the suspension or even contradiction of those laws which God hath given to a material world.

3. Besides these parts of creation with which we are in some measure acquainted, there are, doubtless, many others of which we remain totally ignorant. The infinitude of the Divine power is the basis on which this observation is built.

II. Consider the particular difficulties with which it has been thought this miracle was attended.

1. The act of deglutition.

2. The difficulty of respiration in the body of a fish.

3. The impossibility of resisting for so long the digestive powers of so huge an animal.

III. There were designs to serve which were worthy of such interposition.

1. It was of important advantage to the prophet.

2. It was of vast importance to the mariners.

3. It was of vast advantage, we may believe, to the people of Nineveh.

4. It was of the utmost importance if you consider it in its relations to the promised Messiah.

5. The sign of Jonas is intended for standing use to the Church, to the end of the world. (James Simpson.)

The miracle of the great fish

Strauss said, “He who will rid the world of priests, must first rid religion from miracles.” But the Christian religion stands or falls with the supernatural. A man may believe in a living God who works miracles, and yet hesitate and recoil at the extraordinary one which is narrated in the history of Jonah. No one will say that every man who believes that God can work miracles is bound to accept implicitly every miraculous event described in the Bible as having really happened, and as being the work of God. Let no one think that he is not a Christian because he must hesitate about the literal interpretation of this miracle of the “great fish.” Instead of adopting any artificial interpretation of this miracle, it would be better to suspend our judgment, and acknowledge that we cannot come to any conclusion about it. At any rate there is only the choice between saying that the whole history of Jonah is a parable, or an allegory, including the preaching in Nineveh, and saying that every event in it is related as an actual occurrence. To suppose that Jonah fell into a “mysterious hiding-place” is only to set aside the biblical miracle, and put another and more wonderful one in its place. We seek an answer to the general question, whether it is so wonderful a thing to believe that God works miracles: or whether, on the contrary, the belief that He must and does do so, is not founded on the very being of God, and on His relations with men. If we arrive at that decision, the question of the miracle by which Jonah was saved will be settled. A God without miracles would be the greatest miracle of all. If we have not a God who works miracles, we have no living God; and if no living God who communicates with men, then no God at all. Whoever knows anything of the living God, cannot possibly think that God has tied His own hands, once for all, with laws of nature. The rank and privilege of man demands Divine miracles. God must work for us in extraordinary and exceptional ways, or we could neither fear nor love Him, and He would soon be indifferent to us. (Otto Funcke.)

Jonah’s preservation

I. An ordinary event in the providence of God. It was not a miracle that a large fish should swallow Jonah. Instances have been known in which sharks have swallowed men.

II. What may be called a special providence of God. A remarkable coincidence of ordinary providences leading to some important result we generally regard as a special providence.

III. We have a miraculous providence of God. That the prophet should have lived in the fish was a miracle. And the miracle is the more striking because conscious ness continued. Learn--

1. That there is no way out of a plain duty except through chastisement.

2. That the place of prayer can neither add to nor take from the value of prayer.

3. That the inferior creatures may become instruments of moral instruction to man.

4. That the fish was honoured by being thus brought into the plan of God for Jonah’s recovery to the way of duty. Consider--

Jonah in the sea

Mercy and truth, or an innate tendency towards kindness, and an essential love of rectitude form the most prominent features of the revealed character of God. A God all mercy would be a God unjust. The demands of justice were rigorously exacted, and the prophet was hurled into the deep. Why such severity? Jonah had sinned presumptuously against God, and he must bear the penalty. In this phase of Jonah’s experience, which we now consider, we find “mercy rejoicing against judgment.”

I. The prophet’s imprisonment. Note--

1. The singularity of the mode of imprisonment; the agency of God in preparing the prophet’s cell. On the supposition that Jonah retained his consciousness when cast into the mighty deep, it must have been with emotions of indescribable horror that he saw the jaws of this marine monster expanding to receive him.

2. The term of Jonah’s captivity. Explain Jewish reckoning “three days and three nights.”

II. The prophet’s prayer. Jonah retained his consciousness during the term of his imprisonment. Evidently we have only the substance of the prophet’s prayer. Note the evidences which his spiritual exercises furnish of sanctified affliction.

1. The spiritual exercises with which the prophet’s prayer is identified.

2. The conclusion of unbelief. “I am cast out from Thy sight.”

3. The victory of faith. “Yet will I look again towards Thy holy temple.”

4. The ardour of Jonah’s gratitude.

5. His emphatic ascription. “Salvation is of the Lord.” Notice the evidence of spiritual reclamation which the prophet’s prayer supplies. See his altered feeling towards God: the rekindling of the spirit of devotion: the vigorous action of faith. In the expression of his faith Jonah embodied the sentiments of former saints. Jonah was evidently cured of his folly in flying from God.

III. The prophet’s deliverance. This was miraculous in its character. Jonah was conveyed back safely to the Holy Land, and cast upon the dry shore. It was intended to test the sincerity of the prophet’s penitence, to secure the fulfilment and success of his errand, and to typify the mission of Christ. (John Broad.)

A restrained fish

The chapter closeth with the narration of Jonah’s preservation. Though thus pursued by justice in a fish’s belly, where, in a miraculous way, he was kept three days and three nights. Doctrine.

1. When God is pursuing the rebellion of His children in a most severe way, yet doth He not altogether cast off His mercy toward them, but out of the abundance thereof, moderates their affliction: for “the Lord,” pursuing Jonah, “had yet prepared a great fish to swallow him up.”

2. God’s providence over rules and directs the motions of irrational creatures and sea monsters, as pleaseth Him. For “ the Lord had prepared a great fish,” etc., whereas it knew nothing but to range up and down in the sea, and swallow him as any other prey.

3. God may have a mercy and proof of love waiting upon His people, in a time and place where it would be least expected; for Jonah meets a mercy in the heart of a raging sea, into which he is cast in anger, as to be destroyed.

4. Albeit the mercy of God will not destroy His guilty people in their afflictions; yet His wisdom seeth it not fitting at first totally to deliver them, but will have their faith exercised.

5. God can, when He seeth fit, preserve His people from ruin in an incredible and miraculous way. Therefore Jonah is not only swallowed whole by the fish, not being hurt by its teeth; but is preserved in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, where he was in hazard of choking for want of breath, or of being digested by the fish into its own substance. (George Hutcheson.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jonah 1:17". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"And Jehovah prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."

The word "prepared" as used here actually means "commissioned" or appointed, or "ordered."[36] It may be assumed that the great fish was ready at the instant God needed it, just as the tree had been growing by the bitter waters of Marah for a long time prior to the moment when Moses was commanded to cast it into the waters for the purpose of making the bitter waters sweet (Exodus 15:23f). The miraculous nature of the event narrated here is seen in the timing of the fish's appearance and swallowing Jonah and in the fact of the experience not being fatal to Jonah.

"Three days and three nights ..." Most commentators move quickly to protect the popular superstition regarding this being a reference to the so-called "Hebrew idiom," in which any part of three days and three nights, as for example two partial days, one whole day, and two nights may properly be called "three days and three nights!" However, we reject this, not only as it is alleged to apply here to the experience of Jonah, but in the fact of its application to the experience of Christ as well, who was in the grave "three days and three nights," rising the third day. Sunday was described in the Book of Luke as "The third day since" the crucifixion (Luke 24:21); and there is no honest way to make that mean that Sunday is the third day since Friday! (See my dissertation on this entire subject in my commentary on Mark, pp. 343-351.)


The King James translators made an unfortunate mistranslation of Matthew 12:38-40, in which this great fish was called "a whale"; but that word is nowhere found in the Scriptures in connection with the events recorded here.

As to what kind of fish this was, there is utterly no way of knowing. Many scholars have needlessly exercised themselves in trying to help God out (!) by finding a record of some great fish that could actually swallow a man; but such "findings" have no value at all. The event here described is clearly beyond nature and above it. The supernatural is written on every word of this narrative. In nature, there is no such thing as a fish that could swallow a man without killing him; and it is a futile kind of vanity that looks for such a thing. As a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, this event was designed to be altogether above and beyond the ordinary occurrences in the realm of nature.

A more pertinent question, it seems to this writer, is that of whether Jonah remained alive for that three days and three nights within the belly of the great fish, or if God raised him from the dead upon the occasion of the great fish's vomiting him out upon the dry land. The record of the prayer which Jonah prayed after being swallowed seems to argue that he was alive; but, since the prayer was only a matter of a very few minutes duration, it falls short of proving Jonah's continued life within the fish's belly for a whole three days and three nights. Basing argument upon the fact that Jesus Christ certainly was not alive for three days and nights in the tomb, DeHaan did not hesitate to affirm that, "Jonah was dead for three days and three nights, and then was resurrected and sent forth to preach."[37] The event must be accepted as "a sign from heaven," no matter how it is understood, that is, whether Jonah was maintained alive inside the fish for that extended period, or if he was resurrected after the fish vomited him up.

It really serves no purpose to find examples of extraordinarily large specimens of ocean life such as the Mediterranean white shark, and others, which are alleged to have swallowed men, or even horses; what of it? No such event ever heard of even approaches what is said here of Jonah. This is intended as a sign from God, the particular sign to which Jesus appealed in his struggle against the Pharisees, and the one which he made, preeminently above all others, the sign of his own death, burial and resurrection (Matthew 12:38-40).

"Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:38-40).

It is poor exegesis that attempts to explain Jesus' words here as anything other than an acceptance of the events in Jonah as factual. He even went on to declare in that same passage:

"The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:41).

And in the very next line, Jesus went on to mention the queen of the south who would rise up in judgment and condemn the generation of the Pharisees, "For she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42). The only logical deduction that may be made from this statement is that Christ considered Jonah just as historical as the queen of the south.


There are no less than three miracles in this first chapter:

(1) the great tempest which God sent out into the sea,

(2) the immediate calm which ensued when Jonah was cast overboard, and

(3) the great fish appointed at the right instant to appear and swallow up Jonah. Strangely enough, one finds little objection to the first two of these wonders. Why is that? The same applies to the other miracles that appear subsequently in the narrative, such as

(4) the worm,

(5) the gourd vine, and

(6) the scorching east wind.

DeHaan explained the complacency with which the lesser wonders are received as follows:

"The one incident in the Book of Jonah upon which almost all the attacks are leveled is the story of Jonah's sojourn in the belly of the fish. We hear little objection to the worm, or the supernatural gourd, or the stilling of the storm. The reason for this becomes immediately evident in the fact that Jonah's experience was a picture of the gospel of the death and the resurrection of Christ! That is why the enemies of Christ can swallow the storm, and the calm, and even the worm and the gourd vine, etc; but the fish, the fish (!) - that is just too big a mouthful for them."[38]

We conclude the study of this chapter with Deane's comment regarding the wonders related in it:

"The historical nature of these occurrences is substantiated by Christ's reference to them as a type of his own burial and resurrection. The antitype confirms the truth of the type. It is not credible that Christ would use a mere legendary tale, with no historical basis, to confirm his most solemn statement concerning the momentous fact of his resurrection."[39]

Before leaving this chapter, it should be noted that Jonah here appeared as a remarkable type of Israel. Christ of course is the "new Israel," Jonah being also a vivid and instructive type of the Lord Jesus Christ; but it also follows that his life in certain particulars is also typical of the old Israel.


Both Jonah and Israel were satisfied in Jerusalem, or Samaria.

Both Jonah and Israel despised the Gentiles.

Both Jonah and Israel were unwilling to preach to Gentiles.

For Jonah's failure, he was "cast overboard"; and for Israel's failure, they were rejected as "the chosen people."

Jonah was overruled by God who required him to preach the word to Gentiles; and Israel too in the person of the apostles was required to preach the truth to the Gentiles.

Jonah's preaching converted many Gentiles; and Israel's witness to the Gentiles (by the Jewish apostles and Paul) also converted a host of Gentiles.

Jonah was sorely displeased by the Gentiles' conversion; and secular Israel also stubbornly rejected all allegations that Gentiles should be saved by the gospel.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah,.... Not from the creation of the world, as say the JewsF16Pirke Eliezer, c. 10. fol. 10. 2. ; for this is to be understood, not of the formation or making of it; but of the ordering and disposition of it by the providence of God to be near the ship, and its mouth open to receive Jonah, as soon as he was cast forth from thence: and a great one it must be, to take him at once into its mouth, and swallow him down its throat, and retain him whole in its belly; and such great fishes there are in the sea, particularly the "carcharias", or dog fish; the same with Triton's dog, said to swallow Hercules, in which he was three days; and which fable perhaps took its rise from hence. In Matthew 12:40, it is said to be a "whale"; but then that must be understood, not as the proper name of a fish, but as common to all great fishes; otherwise the whale, properly so called, it is said, has not a swallow large enough to take down a man; though some deny this, and assert they are capable of it. Of the "balaena", which is one kind of whale, it is reportedF17Philostrat. Vit. Apollonii, l. 1. c. 7. , that when it apprehends its young ones in danger, will take them, and hide them within itself; and then afterwards throw them out again; and certain it is that the whale is a very great fish, if not the greatest. PlinyF18Nat. Hist. l. 32, c. 1. speaks of whales six hundred feet long, and three hundred and sixty broad; and of the bones of a fish, which were brought to Rome from Joppa, and there shown as a miracle, which were forty feet long; and said to be the bones of the monstrous fish to which Andromede at Joppa was exposedF19Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 5. ; which story seems to be hammered out of this history of Jonah; and the same is reported by SolinusF20Polyhistor. c. 47. ; however, it is out of doubt that there are fishes capable of swallowing a man. NierembergiusF21Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 26. apud Schotti Physics Curiosa, par. 2. l. 10. c. 10. sect. 9. speaks of a fish taken near Valencia in Spain, so large that a man on horseback could stand in its mouth; the cavity of the, brain held seven men; its jaw bones, which were kept in the Escurial, were seventeen feet long; and two carcasses were found in its stomach: he says it was called "piscis mularis"; but some learned men took it to be the dog fish before mentioned; and such a large devouring creature is the shark, of which the present bishop of BergenF23Pantoppidan's History of Norway, par. 2. p. 114, 116. , and others, interpret this fish here; in which sometimes has been found the body of a man, and even of a man in armour, as many writersF24Vid, Lipen. Jonae Displus, c. 2. th. 6. in Dissert. Theolog. Philol. tom. 1. p. 987. have observed. SomeF25Vid. Texelii Phoenix, l. 3. c. 6. p. 242, 243. think it was a crocodile, which, though a river fish, yet, for the most part, is at the entrance of rivers, and sometimes goes into the sea many miles, and is capable of swallowing a man; some are above thirty feet long; and in the belly of one of them, in the Indies, was found a woman with all her clothes onF26Mandelsloe in Harris's Voyages and Travels, vol. 1. B. 1. c. 2. p. 759. :

and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights: that is, one whole natural day, consisting of twenty four hours, and part of two others; the Jews having no other way of expressing a natural day but by day and night; and to this the antitype answers; namely, our Lord's being so long in the grave; of whose death, burial, and resurrection, this was a type, as appears from Matthew 12:40; for which reason Jonah was so miraculously preserved; and a miracle it was that he should not in this time be digested in the stomach of the creature; that he was not suffocated in it, but breathed and lived; and that he was able to bear the stench of the creature's maw; and that he should have his senses, and be in such a frame of mind as both to pray and praise; but what is it that the power of God cannot do? Here some begin the second chapter, and not amiss.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the m belly of the fish three days and three nights.

(m) Thus the Lord would chastise his Prophet with a most terrible spectacle of death, and by this also strengthened and encouraged him of his favour and support in this duty which was commanded him.
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

prepared a great fish — not created specially for this purpose, but appointed in His providence, to which all creatures are subservient. The fish, through a mistranslation of Matthew 12:40, was formerly supposed to be a whale; there, as here, the original means “a great fish.” The whale‘s neck is too narrow to receive a man. Bochart thinks, the dog-fish, the stomach of which is so large that the body of a man in armor was once found in it [Hierozoicon, 2.5.12]. Others, the shark [Jebb]. The cavity in the whale‘s throat, large enough, according to Captain Scoresby, to hold a ship‘s jolly boat full of men. A miracle in any view is needed, and we have no data to speculate further. A “sign” or miracle it is expressly called by our Lord in Matthew 12:39. Respiration in such a position could only be by miracle. The miraculous interposition was not without a sufficient reason; it was calculated to affect not only Jonah, but also Nineveh and Israel. The life of a prophet was often marked by experiences which made him, through sympathy, best suited for discharging the prophetical function to his hearers and his people. The infinite resources of God in mercy as well as judgment are prefigured in the devourer being transformed into Jonah‘s preserver. Jonah‘s condition under punishment, shut out from the outer world, was rendered as much as possible the emblem of death, a present type to Nineveh and Israel, of the death in sin, as his deliverance was of the spiritual resurrection on repentance; as also, a future type of Jesus‘ literal death for sin, and resurrection by the Spirit of God.

three days and three nights — probably, like the Antitype, Christ, Jonah was cast forth on the land on the third day (Matthew 12:40); the Hebrew counting the first and third parts of days as whole twenty-four hour days.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

(Heb. Ch. 2:1). “And Jehovah appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” מנּה does not mean to create, but to determine, to appoint. The thought is this: Jehovah ordained that a great fish should swallow him. The great fish (lxx κῆτος, cf. Matthew 12:40), which is not more precisely defined, was not a whale, because this is extremely rare in the Mediterranean, and has too small a throat to swallow a man, but a large shark or sea-dog, canis carcharias , or squalus carcharias L. , which is very common in the Mediterranean, and has so large a throat, that it can swallow a living man whole.

(Note: The aqualus carcharias L. , the true shark, Requin , or rather Requiem , reaches, according to Cuvier, the length of 25 feet, and according to Oken the length of four fathoms, and has about 400 lance-shaped teeth in its jaw, arranged in six rows, which the animal can either elevate or depress, as they are simply fixed in cells in the skin. It is common in the Mediterranean, where it generally remains in deep water, and is very voracious, swallowing everything that comes in its way - plaice, seals, and tunny-fish, with which it sometimes gets into the fishermen's net on the coat of Sardinia, and is caught. As many as a dozen undigested tunny-fish have been found in a shark weighing three or four hundredweight; in one a whole horse was found, and its weight was estimated at fifteen hundredweight. Rondelet (Oken, p. 58) says that he saw one on the western coast of France, through whose throat a fat man could very easily have passed. Oken also mentions a fact, which is more elaborately described in Müller's Vollständiges Natur-system des Ritters Carl v. Linné (Th. iii. p. 268), namely, that in the year 1758 a sailor fell overboard from a frigate, in very stormy weather, into the Mediterranean Sea, and was immediately taken into the jaws of a sea-dog ( carcharias ), and disappeared. The captain, however, ordered a gun, which was standing on the deck, to be discharged at the shark, and the cannon-ball struck it, so that it vomited up again the sailor that it had swallowed, who was then taken up alive, and very little hurt, into the boat that had been lowered for his rescue.)

The miracle consisted therefore, not so much in the fact that Jonah was swallowed alive, as in the fact that he was kept alive for three days in the shark's belly, and then vomited unhurt upon the land. The three days and three nights are not to be regarded as fully three times twenty hours, but are to be interpreted according to Hebrew usage, as signifying that Jonah was vomited up again on the third day after he had been swallowed (compare Esther 4:16 with Esther 5:1 and Tob. 3:12, 13, according to the Lutheran text).

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

A great fish — The Hebrew word is, numbered, has appointed him for Jonah's receiver and deliverer. God has the command of all his creatures, and can make any of them serve his designs of mercy to his people.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

(2:1) Смерть в морской пучине - вот чего ожидал пророк Иона, осознав греховность своей попытки «убежать» от Бога. Слова и повелел Господь большому киту поглотить Иону указывают на то, что Ионе было уготовано спасение, а не смерть. Существует несколько сообщений о том, что так называемые китовые акулы проглатывали людей, которые при вскрытии желудка пойманной рыбы оказывались живыми (см.: Stuart D. К. Hosea–Jonah [Word Books, 1987]). Медициной доказано, что человеческий организм способен выдерживать достаточно долгую нехватку кислорода, правда, в основном в бессознательном состоянии и при низкой температуре, например, в холодной воде. Если библейская рыба действительно была китом, то потребность китов часто всплывать на поверхность могла сыграть свою роль. Но в любом случае спасение Ионы можно считать сверхъестественным: оно было делом рук Бога. Большой кит в переводе с еврейского может означать либо кита, либо одну из разновидностей гигантских акул. Три дня и три ночи -это специальное выражение, означающее «достаточно долго, чтобы наверняка погибнуть», а не обязательно 72 часа. Оно произошло от древнего языческого верования, что путешествие души в загробный мир занимает три дня и три ночи. Когда Господь Иисус Христос использовал это выражение, говоря о периоде между Своей смертью и воскресением (Мф. 12:40), Его слова имели тот же смысл: таким образом Он хотел сказать, что действительно умрет, а не будет мертвым буквально в течение семидесяти двух часов.



Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. We left off with Jonah in the Mediterranean, looking like Jason Bourne floating in the East River, at the end of Bourne Ultimatum.
    2. Jonah 2 slows down the pace of the story.
      1. This is a tool used by writers, and especially the Biblical writers. When the pace slows down, the writer wants you to focus on something or catch a specific detail. Here we see a little window into the life of Jonah in this slow down prayer.
    3. Remember the last time you were out swimming at the lake or the pool, and everyone was jumping around, screaming and yelling? What happened when you went under?
      1. It gets quiet real quick doesn’t it. The water muffles all the sounds.
      2. So it is getting quiet and dark, and Jonah is slowly sinking down deeper and deeper down into the darkness, into the pressure of the deep water.
      3. There is where we find Jonah today. Sinking further into the darkness, farther away from his family and friends, down he goes. And then Jonah cries out to the Lord from inside of the belly of the fish God sent to save him. Jonah finally prays. He wouldn’t pray for God to save the pagan sailors, but he does to thank God for saving him.
    1. (1:17) The great fish might have been…
      1. A Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) Known to have swallowed unusually large objects including even a 15’t shark. (Frank T. Bullen, Cruise of the Cachalot Round the World after Sperm Whales. London: Smith, 1898)
      2. A Whale sharks (Rhineodon Typicus) have swallowed men who later were found alive in the sharks’ stomachs.
      3. If man could prepare a big fish (submarine) to hold a man for 3 weeks even 3 months, couldn’t God prepare a big fish (what ever it was) to hold a man for 3 days?
    2. This is the prophet’s description of his plunge into what appeared to be a watery grave.
    3. The Hebrew phrase, 3 days & 3 nights, need not to be understood as a 72-hour period...but as 1 24-hour period & parts of 2 other days.
    4. Gen.George Patton(old BloodnGuts) said Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom
      1. Patton’s words remind us that all of us hit bottom at some point.
        1. Life has its ups/downs, its highs/lows. No matter how you try to stay on the high peaks of the mountain, at some point you descend into the deep dark valley. At some point you hit bottom.
        2. You may hit bottom when you make wrong, foolish choices, or you may hit bottom because of the wrong foolish choices of others.
          1. When your money runs low, or your health is snatched away. When depression drags you down and you can’t seem to find any hope. When you find out divorce is now inevitable. When you feel all alone and God feels far away - you look around and discover you’ve hit bottom.
      2. Everybody goes through it at some time or another. Everybody hits bottom. The real issue is: How do you bounce back when you hit bottom?
        1. Let’s ask a man who’s been there. He knows what’s like to go as low as you can go.
          1. Jonah went to the bottom and bounced back.
    5. Title: Bouncing Back from the Bottom
    6. Outline: To Bounce Back: Cry Out - Ask 3 Questions - Expect His Hand of Help.
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Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Scofield's Reference Notes

great fish

No miracle of Scripture has called forth so much unbelief. The issue is not between the doubter and this ancient record, but between the doubter and the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 12:39; Matthew 12:40. Science, "falsely so called" 1 Timothy 6:20 failing to take account of the fact that it deals only with the outward phenomena of a fallen race, and of an earth under a curse Genesis 3:17-19 is intolerant of miracles. To faith, and to true science, miracle is what might be expected of divine love, interposing God in a physically and morally disordered universe. Romans 8:19-23.


Four prepared things. Jonah 4:6; Jonah 4:7; Jonah 4:8

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Jonah 1:17". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". 1917.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

I stay not to enquire what fish this was. Our Lord Jesus himself hath said it was a whale. Matthew 12:40. Neither do I consider myself as called upon to show how Jonah could remain the time here spoken of, without being suffocated. The subject itself is miraculous; and as such, he that appointed the means, made it effectual to the end. I only beg the Reader to observe with me, that the time here mentioned of three days and three nights, doth not mean, neither was it ever intended to mean, three whole days and three whole nights; but only part in each, of the first and third of those times, that is to say, one whole day, and part of two others. For the Jews have no way of expressing a day and a night separately, but together. So it was by Christ when he lay in the grave; that is, part of the day of his crucifixion, from the time he was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb; then the whole following day; and then to the next morning before sun rise; for that Christ was risen before the sun is evident from what is said of the godly women. Mark 16:2. And as Jonah was an express type of the Lord Jesus, it should seem that the time in both events was the same.


PRECIOUS Lord Jesus! improving as the history of Jonah may be found in numberless instances, I cannot, I dare not for a moment lose sight of thee, while beholding thy type in the wonderful account here given, and which so strikingly sets forth thy glorious person, as three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. If Jonah was the only sign given in the days of thy flesh, to an evil and adulterous generation, let my, soul bless the Lord for the sweet testimony this brings with it, to thy sovereign grace and salvation. Yes!, dearest Lord! Jonah did resemble thee, when delivered to the raging sea for the salvation of the people. Thou didst indeed bear the overwhelming torrents of thy sufferings, when the vials of justice were poured out upon thy devoted head, and when thou didst tread the wine-presses, of thy Father's wrath alone. And although in thy holy nature there was no shadow of guile; and never wert thou otherwise from one eternity to another than the unceasing object of thy Father's love; yet, as the sinner's surety, like Jonah, thou didst stand the only cause of the dreadful storm; and all the cataracts of tempest came in upon thy soul, until thou wert sorrowful even unto death, sore amazed, and very heavy. And hence those cries of soul; I sink in deep water where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me. Blessed Lord Jesus! may my soul frequently meditate on thee in this endearment of character! And as often as I read of Jonah's being cast forth, and the tempest of the sea ceasing in consequence, may I feel my soul refreshed in the contemplation; Jesus I will say was made this and infinitely more for me, that I might be made the righteousness of God in him!

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Jonah 1:17 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.

Ver. 17. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish] A whale, Matthew 12:40, which is a great fish indeed. Pliny tells of one taken that was six hundred feet in length, and three hundred and sixty in breadth; when they swim and show themselves above water, annare insulas putes, saith the same author, you would think them to be so many islands. So many mountains, saith another; who also addeth, that when they grow old they grow to that size and weight, that they stay long in a place. Insomuch as ex collectis et condensatis pulveribus frutices erumpere cernantur, the dust and filth gathered upon their backs seems to be an island, which while shipmen are mistaken and think to land at, they incur a great deal of danger (Sphinx Philid.).

Such a great fish God prepared] Either at first, when in creating of whales, creavit vastitares et stupores, as one saith; or he now commanded this great fish to be ready to ship Jonah to the shore, and to afford him an oratory in the mean while.

And Jonah was in the belly of the fish] Where interpreters note a concurrence of these four miracles. 1. That he was not there consumed, but that the concoctive faculty of the fish’s stomach was so long time kept from doing its office. 2. That he could in such a close prison breathe and live without the common use of air and light. 3. That he was not killed up with intolerable stench in so loathsome an outhouse. 4. That he could there frame such an excellent prayer, or rather song of thanksgiving; for Jonah was the true Arion whom the poets feign to have been a minstrel cast into the sea by the mariners, and saved by a dolphin.

Three days and three nights] Part of them at least; as Christ was in the grave, Matthew 12:40, where, in the history of Jonah, he descrieth the mystery of his own death, burial, and resurrection; teaching us thereby to search the Scriptures, to search them to the bottom ( ερευνατε); as those that dig for gold content not themselves with the first or second ore that offers itself, but search on till they have all. The Rabbis have a saying that there is a mountain of sense hangs upon every apex of the word of God. And so great is the depth of the Holy Scriptures, saith Augustin, that I could profit daily in the knowledge thereof, though I should set myself to search them from my childhood to decrepit old age, at best leisure, with utmost study and a far better wit.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Jonah 1:17

We have no external history of the days spent by the prophet in his living grave. Neither he nor anyone else can tell how far he travelled, how long he rested, what were the aspects of the scenery, how many "small and great beasts" were met on the journey—that strange but fruitful journey "through the paths of the seas." But we have a very intense and clear history of his inward life.

I. There was evidently a great and sudden quickening of consciousness. The man who speaks in this holy psalm hardly seems the same person whom we have seen in flight—dark, moody, silent, despairing. Now, and all at once, he seems to leap again into life—clear, fervent, passionate life. The burial of his body is the resurrection of his soul.

II. Rapidly this new consciousness became distressful. His soul fills itself fuller than the sea, with affliction. The reserved sorrow of long sinning comes all at once. He feels "cast out of God's sight," and shivers in the utter loneliness.

III. Then he began to "look"—upwards to earth, eastwards to the Temple where he knew that the lost Presence was richly manifested. "Ah, if I could but go there! If I might see but once again the priest, the altar, and the mercy-seat! I could then be content to die. But at any rate I will look. If I die looking, still I shall look till I die."

IV. The look soon became a cry: "I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord."

V. He began to be grateful. There was daybreak in the land of the shadow of death. The sweet bloom of the morning smote down into the rayless depths, and revealed there the strangest sight those depths have ever disclosed—a living oratory and a thankful worshipper.

VI. Then, apparently, his soul passed into the more active state of renewed personal consecration to God.

VII. The final state of his mind is a state of entire dependence, involving a quiet and trustful surrender of the whole case to God. "Salvation is of the Lord."

A. Raleigh, The Story of Jonah, p. 145.

References: 1:17-2:10.—J. Menzies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 94. Jonah 1—Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 457. Jonah 1-4—J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 1. Jonah 2:1-7.—W. G. Blaikie, Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 247. Jonah 2:2-10.—Ibid., p. 248.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jonah 1:17. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish That there are fishes large enough to swallow a man, there can be no question; the Scripture calls this a great fish, in the general, and therefore there is no need to confine it to a whale. But we shall speak more on this subject, when we come to Matthew 12:40. See also Calmet's dissertation on the subject, and Scheuchzer. We may just observe farther, that the Hebrew language has no one word to express what we call a natural day: so that what the Greeks express by νυχθημερον, they denote by a day and a night: therefore the space of time consisting of one whole revolution of twenty-four hours, and part of two others, is fitly expressed in that language by three days and three nights. Such a space of time our blessed Lord lay in the grave; that is to say, one whole νυχθημερον, or natural day, and part of two others: and we may thence conclude that Jonah, who was an eminent figure of him in this particular, continued no longer in the belly of the fish. But on this point we shall say more when we come to speak of our Saviour's resurrection.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The prophet's name and parentage: יונה Jonah, a dove; God's prophets should be harmless as these, and, like the dove of Noah, bring the olive-branch of peace, the tidings of mercy and salvation to perishing sinners: his father's name was אמתי Ammittai, my truth; for prophets must be sons of truth faithful to their office, and steady to maintain the truths of God.

2. His mission. The word of the Lord came unto him, bidding him arise, and go to Nineveh, that great city, the metropolis of the Assyrian empire, where wickedness abounded, as in great cities it usually does, the multitudes of sinners serving to embolden and stimulate each other to commit iniquity. It was now ripe for vengeance, and he must go and cry aloud in the streets, to give the inhabitants warning of their approaching doom unless they repented.

3. His disobedience. He rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord, from the chosen land, where God was pleased in an especial manner to reveal himself, to Tarshish; either Tarsus in Cilicia, or the sea, determined to ship himself in the first vessel, and fly any where rather than go to Nineveh. Either he dreaded the dangers of the service; or rather, as he suggests, chap. Jonah 4:2 he knew God's compassions, that the Ninevites would be forgiven, and himself be counted a false prophet. A ship was ready to sail as soon as he arrived at Joppa, and he instantly paid the fare and embarked. Providence seemed to concur with his desires: but the ready way is not always the right way; and they who fly from duty, whatever present relief they may gain, are only treasuring up for themselves greater sorrow.

2nd, They who think to fly from God will soon perceive the folly of the attempt.

1. God sends a mighty tempest on the ship in which the prophet sailed, so that it seemed ready each moment to founder. Such storms does sin raise in the conscience; and the poor sinner in despondence is ready to give himself up for lost, little suspecting that the very tempest, which he imagines will be his ruin, is only designed to drive him to the haven of rest.

2. Jonah alone seemed unconcerned about the danger. The mariners, affrighted, ran to their prayers, and cried to their idols for help: for the imminent views of death will sometimes bring those to their knees who never thought of bowing them before: and, life being dearer to them than all besides, they readily part with their merchandise, and cast it into the sea to lighten the ship. Worldly goods are nothing worth when death stares men in the face: what folly then, for the sake of them, to make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, and lose an immortal soul, infinitely more precious than the dying body! When will men be wise? The roaring billows, which terrified the heathen seamen, joined perhaps with the grating sorrows of his mind, served but to rock Jonah asleep: he of all that company appeared the only person insensible, though none had so much cause to be alarmed. Into such stupefaction does sin sometimes lull the conscience of the back-slider. He appears to have lost all apprehension of danger; and even the judgments which make others tremble, he seems to pass over unaffected. From such blindness and hardness of heart, good Lord, deliver us!

3. The ship-master rouses him from his slumbers, and upbraids him with his insensibility. What meanest thou, O sleeper? Strange that a prophet of the Lord should need reproof even from the mouth of a heathen! Arise, call upon thy God: delay is ruinous when danger urges. They had cried to their gods in vain; perhaps his was more able to help them; if so be that God will think upon us that we perish not, as, without immediate help, they knew they must. Note; No danger is so great, but, if God think upon us, he is able to save us to the uttermost.

4. The storm increasing, notwithstanding all their endeavours and prayers, they began to suspect that there might be among them some atrocious sinner, on whose account the divine displeasure pursued them. As was usual with the heathens, therefore, they resolved to inquire which of them it was, and to refer the decision to the lot; and God so ordained that the lot fell upon Jonah. Thus is the iniquity of the sinner often found out by means that he never suspected, and when he thinks himself most secure and best concealed from detection.

5. They hereupon strictly interrogate the prophet. The lot had said, This is the man, and he is called upon to acknowledge his crime, that they might know for whose cause, or for what cause, this evil was upon them; what he had done to provoke God; what was his occupation; whence he came; and to what country he belonged. Note; In order to get our troubles removed, we must search diligently into our sins, which are the cause of them.

6. Jonah, without reserve, makes confession of his crime; and probably, now convicted in his own conscience, desired to take to himself all the shame and punishment which he felt that he had deserved. He declares himself by nation and religion a Hebrew, which was an aggravation of his guilt; his occupation was that of a prophet of the Most High, I fear the Lord Jehovah, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land; which, though it added to his sin, yet he owns to God's glory, and in order to the instruction of the heathen mariners, who blindly worshipped many gods, instead of the one true and living Jehovah. His crime he owns: he had told them that he fled from the presence of the Lord, rebellious to his command, and running from his duty; for which this judgment was sent. Note; When we have sinned, nothing remains but to justify God in his judgments, and with penitence to bow into the dust.

7. The seamen appear exceedingly affected with his narrative. Probably they had heard what the God of the Hebrews had done of old; and this increased their terrors. With just upbraidings, therefore, of the prophet, who by his wickedness had brought them into this imminent danger, they expostulate with him, Why hast thou done this? why didst thou so foolishly attempt to fly? and why embark with us, to involve us with thyself in danger. Note; (1.) They who profess religion, and act unsuitably, deserve to be reproached. (2.) None know how extensive and dangerous the consequence of even a single sin may be.

3rdly, The criminal is detected by his own confession; the question is, what is to be done with him?

1. They refer the matter to himself. Since he was a prophet of the God of the Hebrews, he best could inform them what was the likeliest means to appease his anger, and thereby, obtain deliverance from the storm, which raged more furiously than ever. Note; When by our sins we have raised a storm of wrath around us, it highly imports us to inquire how it may be appeased.

2. Jonah pronounces his own doom. He well knew himself to be the troubler, and that, till he was cast into the sea, there could be no hope of the storm's abating; and therefore he bids them throw him overboard: he would not be his own destroyer; yet, conscious that he deserved to die, he offers himself for execution; and chooses rather himself to perish, than involve the innocent in destruction. Note; (1.) They who truly know the evil of sin, and are deeply humbled under it, are ready to submit to any shame or suffering, whereby God may be glorified, and reparation be made to the injured. (2.) When sin has raised a storm, we must never hope for peace till the accursed thing is removed.

3. Very unwilling to execute this grievous sentence, the mariners rowed hard for land; but the more they strove, the more the sea wrought, and was tempestuous; so that despair took place in every countenance, and nothing remained but this last experiment, with which they felt the more reluctance to comply on account of the noble simplicity and deep humiliation which now probably appeared in the penitent prophet. Note; (1.) When a gracious man, overtaken with a fault, with frank acknowledgment takes shame to himself, he is entitled to our greatest compassion; nor should we ever by severity aggravate his distress. (2.) There is no striving against God's counsels: his will must be done.

4. Before they execute the dread decree, they present their importunate supplications to God, that he would not impute to them innocent blood, nor cause them to perish for taking away this man's life; when they had desired to know his will, and acted now, according to the best of their light, in conformity thereto; it appearing to be his pleasure that Jonah should be cast into the sea. Note; (1.) In all our emergencies we must have recourse to God in prayer. (2.) When we follow, according to our best knowledge, under the guidance of Divine Providence, what appears to be God's will, we are bound with satisfaction to trust him with the issue.

5. Jonah is cast into the sea, and, to the astonishment of the mariners, instantly the storm ceased. They feared the Lord exceedingly, amazed at the sudden change; and, filled with thankfulness, offered an immediate sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and made vows of future oblations whenever they should reach the shore. Thus, sometimes, our greatest loss proves our greatest gain. The acquaintance which they hereby gained with Israel's God amply compensated for the damage that they had sustained by the storm.

6. By a miracle the prophet's life is preserved. God, who designed not to destroy but save him, had prepared a great fish which swallowed him alive; and by almighty power he was preserved three days and three nights, at least part of three days, unhurt in the fish's stomach, a monument of divine mercy, and an illustrious type of him, who, when he had given his life a ransom for others, lay so long in the grave, and rose again the third day, Matthew 12:40.

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Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Now, Heb. And.

Prepared; created at first, say some; but what need that, when a mighty overgrown fish of a double age may do this; by God’s will and appointment it attended the ship, and followed it in the storm, expecting a prey, and ready to receive the prisoner.

A great fish; a whale, as we read, Matthew 12:40; others say it was a shark, a fish common in those seas.

To swallow up; not to chew upon him, but to take him down whole.

Jonah was in the belly of the fish, in safe custody, three days and three nights, that he might rightly typify Christ’s burial in the grave.

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F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:1-10

The great fish was probably a shark. He who sent the storm prepared the fish. Life is full of contrivances on the part of the great Lover of men. To plunge beneath the wave is to fall into His arms. More than once the body of a man has been found in the belly of a shark in the Mediterranean. Even those who hold that this story is an elaborate parable must admit that it is probably founded on such a fact. Our Lord’s endorsement of this book and incident is very emphatic, Matthew 12:39-41.

The psalm which follows is very helpful to those who have brought themselves into the depths by their wrongdoing. God will hear such out of the depths of Sheol. When you think you are cast out of His sight forever, if you will look toward His holy temple, you will find that His love is gradually extricating you from the pit. To trust in your own efforts and expedients is to regard lying vanities and to forsake your own mercy. “Salvation is of the Lord.” All nature waits upon His word. The big sharks and the tiny minnows are alike at the behest of God for the help of man. Only “look again” to God, and then be sure to pay your vows when delivered!

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And YHWH prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly (innards) of the fish three days and three nights.’

Meanwhile YHWH had not forgotten YHWH and as God of land and sea had already made provision for Jonah by arranging for a large fish to be in the area, so that as Jonah began to drown in the turbulent seas, the fish might swallow him. And when it did he was inside the fish for ‘three days and three nights’, which in Israelite terminology indicated ‘a day or two’. (A ‘day and a night’ could refer to part of a day, seeing it as part of the day and night cycle. Compare Esther 4:16 with Esther 5:1). He had not deserted His prophet, but had arranged for his rescue. The word for ‘belly’ simply means the innards, and is not necessarily specifically referring to the whale’s stomach. They did not know the physiology of whales.

Jonah, who had found himself drowning in the sea, and being dragged down into the depths, was, once he found himself alive and well and able to breathe in what appeared as some kind of chamber, grateful to God, and the psalm in chapter 2 expresses his gratitude. He probably did not quite know what had happened to him, or where he was (he would find that out later), but he knew that he was alive and was therefore confident that if he repented God intended to spare his life. Ironically he found himself in the same position as the Ninevites to whom he had refused to go, as one who was under sentence and deserving of death, but with an opportunity of repentance. The Psalm adequately expresses this position, and is a necessary part of the story. Without it there would be no indication of Jonah’s repentance.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The identity of the great fish remains a mystery since the only record of what it was is in this story, and that description is general. The Hebrew word dag, translated "fish," describes a variety of aquatic creatures. The text does not say that God created this fish out of nothing (ex nihilo) nor does what the fish did require such an explanation. There are many types of fish capable of swallowing a human being whole. [Note: See Wilson, pp631-32.] Two examples are the sperm whale and the whale shark. Occasionally today we hear of someone who has lived for several days in a fish or in some other large animal and has emerged alive. [Note: See Harrison, pp907-8, or Keil, 1:398, for several such instances.] Notwithstanding Jonah"s experience has been one of the favorite targets of unbelievers in the miraculous, who claim that this story is preposterous (cf. Matthew 12:39-40). Some Bible students have faulted some commentators for documenting instances of large fish swallowing people who have survived, as if such suggestions slight God"s power. They do not necessarily.

"The numerous attempts made in the past to identify the sort of fish that could have kept Jonah alive in it are misguided. How would even Jonah himself have known? Can we assume that he caught a glimpse of it as it turned back to sea after vomiting him out on shore ( Jonah 1:1 10])? How much could he have understood of what had happened to him when he was swallowed? These questions have no answer. To ask them is to ignore the way the story is told. What sorts of fish people can live inside is not an interest of the scripture." [Note: Stuart, p474.]

Significantly God saved Jonah"s life by using a fish rather than in a more conventional method such as providing a piece of wood that he could cling to. Thus this method of deliverance must have some special significance. The Jews were familiar with the mythical sea monster (Ugaritic lotan, Heb. leviathan) that symbolized both the uncontrollable chaos of the sea and the chaotic forces that only Yahweh could manage (cf. Psalm 74:13-14; Psalm 104:25-26). The Hebrews did not believe that leviathan really existed any more than we believe in Santa Claus. Yet the figure was familiar to them, and they knew what it represented. For Jonah to relate his experience of deliverance in his ancient Near Eastern cultural context would have impressed his hearers that a great God had sent him to them. It is probably for this reason that God chose to save Jonah by using a great fish.

Here God controlled the traditionally uncontrollable to spare Jonah"s life. The God who is great enough to control it could control anything, and He used His power for a loving purpose. This is more remarkable since Jonah, as God"s servant, had rebelled against his Master. God"s method of deliverance therefore reveals both His great power and His gracious heart.

"Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God." [Note: G. Campbell Morgan, The Minor Prophets, p69.]

"It is the greatness of Israel"s God that is the burden of the book." [Note: Allen, p192.]

Jonah was able to calculate how long he was in the fish after he came out of it. Obviously he lost all track of time inside the fish.

Ancient Near Easterners viewed the trip to the underworld land of the dead as a three-day journey. [Note: George M. Landes, "The "Three Days and Three Nights" Motif in Jonah 2:1," Journal of Biblical Literature86 (1967): 246-250.] Original readers of this story would have concluded that the fish gave Jonah a return trip from the land of the dead to which Jonah, by his own admission, had descended ( Jonah 2:2; Jonah 2:6).

The three-day time was significant also because Jonah"s deliverance became a precursor of an even greater salvation that took three days and nights to accomplish ( Matthew 12:40). God restored Jonah to life so he would be God"s instrument in providing salvation to a large Gentile (and indirectly Jewish) population under God"s judgment for their sins. He raised Jesus to life so He would be God"s instrument in providing salvation for an even larger population of Gentiles and Jews under God"s judgment for their sins.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Jonah 1:17. Now the Lord prepared a great fish, &c. — We have but an imperfect acquaintance with the natural history of fishes. However, it is a well-attested fact, that there are fishes, sharks, for instance, that grow to a size capable of swallowing and containing a man. The Scripture calls this a great fish in the general, and therefore there is no need to confine it to a whale; in which view, much of the wit thrown out by persons disposed to be merry on the Scripture is quite foreign to the purpose. See more in the note on Matthew 12:40, in Calmet’s dissertation on the subject, and in Scheuchzer. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights — “The Hebrew language,” says Lowth, “has no one word to express what we call a natural day; so that what the Greeks express by νυχθημερον, they denote by a day and a night. Therefore the space of time consisting of one whole revolution of twenty-four hours, and a part of two others, is fitly expressed in that language by three days and three nights. Such a space of time our Lord lay in the grave;” (that is, one whole νυχθημερον, or natural day, and part of two others;) “and we may from thence conclude that Jonah, who was an eminent figure of him in this particular, was no longer in the fish’s belly.” This miracle of preserving Jonah was evidently very important. It served to spread the knowledge of the true God, the whole transaction having this tendency: see Jonah 1:16. And it also taught Jonah, and in him the whole prophetical order, God’s power and determination to enforce his commands.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

prepared = appointed, or assigned. From Hebrew. mdndh, to number. Hence, to appoint, as in Job 7:3. Daniel 1:5; Daniel 1:10-11; and Chaldee. mynah (Daniel 5:25, Daniel 5:26). Compare Jonah 4:6-8. Never means to create.

great fish. Large enough to swallow him. in Matthew 12:40, Greek. kilos - any large marine monster; whence Cetacece -the mammalian order of fish. No need for any name. Compare Matthew 12:20; Matthew 16:4. Luke 11:30.

swallow up . . . belly. Not therefore kept alive in the fish " s mouth, as some imagine. When thus swallowed up, Jonah must have died, and thus became a type of Christ. The "as" and "so" in Matthew 12:40 require Jonah"s death. He would have been no type if he had been miraculously kept alive. See further notes below.

was = came to be.

belly = bowels.

three days and three nights. The Hebrew idiom "three days" can be used for parts of three days (and even of years): but not when the word "nights" is added. See Matthew 12:40, and note the force of "as". See App-144and App-156.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

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 - not created specially for the purpose, but appointed in His providence, to which all creatures are subservient. The prophet, in the simplicity of faith, does not stop to tell us how God performed the miracle. It is enough for him that God willed it; and what God wills He has no lack of means for accomplishing. Miracles were as much fore-ordered by God as the ordinary course of so-called nature. They are no more incongruous interruptions of nature than are the acts of man's freewill, whereby he modifies nature's course. Nature is simply God's will. If a man will not believe until he has solved all difficulties by his reason, he will never believe; and eternity, with all its momentous issues, will overtake him before he has settled on what is to be the main principle of his life. God could as easily have kept Jonah alive in the sea as in the fish's belly. In the first instance, he did sink to the "bottom" of the sea, and felt 'the seaweed wrapped about his head.'

But then God "prepared" a great fish to be his living grave, in order to prefigure the three days' burial and resurrection of the Saviour. The fish, through a mistranslation of Matthew 12:40, was formerly supposed to be a whale: there, as here, the original means 'a great fish' [ keetos (Greek #2785)]. The whale's neck is too narrow to receive a man. Bochart thinks the dog-fish, the stomach of which is so large that the body of a man in armour was once found in it ('Hierozo.,' 2: 5, 12). Others, think it was the shark. The white shark, having only incisive teeth, has no choice between swallowing its prey whole, or cutting off a portion of it. It cannot hold its prey or swallow it piecemeal. Otto Fatricius ('Fauna Gronlandica,' p. 129), says 'its custom is to swallow down dead,' and 'sometimes also living men whom it finds in the sea.' Its cartilaginous skeleton adapts it for swallowing large animals.

Jebb, the cavity in the whale's throat, large enough, according to Captain Scoresby, to hold a ship's jolly-boat full of men. A miracle in any view is needed; and we have no data to speculate further. A "sign" or miracle it is expressly called by our Lord in Matthew 12:39-40, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it but the SIGN of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Respiration in such a position could only be by miracle. The miraculous interposition was not without a sufficient reason; it was calculated to affect not only Jonah, but also Nineveh and Israel. The life of a prophet was often marked by experiences which made him, though sympathy, best suited for discharging the prophetic function to his hearers and his people. The infinite resources of God, in mercy as well as judgment, are prefigured in the devourer being transformed into Jonah's preserver. Jonah's condition under punishment, shut out from the outer world, was rendered as much as possible the emblem of death-a present type to Nineveh and Israel of the death in sin-as his deliverance was of the spiritual resurrection on repentance; as also a future type of Jesus' literal death for sin, and resurrection by the Spirit of God.

Three days and three nights. Probably, like the antitype Christ, Jonah was cast forth on the land on the third day (Matthew 12:40); the Hebrew counting the first and third parts of days as whole 24 hour days.


(1) This book of Jonah is the first sample and earnest in the Old Testament of God's purpose, in the fullness of time, to offer to the Gentiles also, as well as to the Jews, "repentance unto life." It brings forth, in vivid contrast to Israel's impenitence, notwithstanding all her religious privileges, the readiness of the pagan to obey the first call of God. As the children hardened their necks against God's loving appeals, He would show them their exceeding guilt by the one instance of Jonah's mission to Nineveh, and its marvelous and immediate effect upon the Ninevites. Surely, if the penitent Assyrians condemned Israel's hardness of heart, much more will the pagan now, being gathered into Christ's fold out of uncivilized lands, rise in judgment against professing Christians who "neglect so great a salvation." Our privileges, being manifold greater than Israel's, bring with them the greater condemnation if neglected or abused.

(2) When we read of Jonah's disobedience to the command of the Lord to go to Nineveh, let us remember Jonah's temptation; and then, instead of too hasty condemnation of him, let us mourn the sinful weakness of our fallen nature, even in the true servants of God when they are left to themselves. Jonah loved his country, and so gave way to unloving zeal against her enemies. What he desired was, to see the fall of her fore-appointed destroyer Nineveh. There was no want in him of animal courage as he proved by his readiness to give himself up to apparent death in the tempest, as well as by his subsequent boldness in proclaiming Nineveh's doom, though alone in the midst of her violent and warlike citizens. He was ready, as far as himself was concerned, at God's bidding, to enter that "dwelling of lions," as Nahum describes it (Nahum 2:11-12). But he feared the effect of his proclamation would be, Nineveh would repent of its sin, and so God would "repent" of the threatened evil, according to God's own gracious character, as "merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Jonah 4:2).

Thus the consequence would be, Nineveh's repentance would prove Israel's ruin. Nineveh would be the instrument of destroying impenitent Israel. Hence, Jonah, at God's command, "rose up," not to obey, but to disobey and to flee. Not that he, who so vividly realized God's might in his prophesying to others, thought he could escape beyond the reach of God's presence and power. His object in fleeing was, to escape from standing in the presence of the Lord as His prophet. When we substitute our own will for the will of God, we run into inextricable perplexities and dangers. Fleeing from imaginary evils we fall into real and fatal ones. Our safety as well as our duty is to leave future events in God's hands, and to give ourselves unwholly to be His instruments to do by us and with us as He will. Instead of self-will, let us pray that, when "the word of the Lord comes unto" us, the Spirit of the Lord also may make us ready to obey heartily and immediately. Our cry to the Lord should be, Work for me by Thy providence, work in me by Thy grace, and work by me for Thy glory!

(3) As David stands alone among the servants of God, who after conversion have been murderers and adulterers; and Peter stands alone among the apostles in having denied his Lord, and then being restored: so Jonah stands alone among the prophets in having obeyed the Lord's command to prophesy, and then disobeyed, and, lastly, being constrained to obey once more. How the love of God transcends the highest conceptions which man can form of it!

(4) Jonah, we read, "went down to Joppa" (Jonah 1:3). When men turn their backs on the word and presence of the Lord, what a suicidal descent they make! They go down from a place of honour and safety to the region of humiliation and destruction. However strongly-built the ship was, and however complete were Jonah's arrangements for escape, nothing could be for him where God was against him. Jonah had done his all. Now began God's part. God lets the sinner seem to have his way up to a certain point. God waits in the calmness of His omnipotence until the sinner's plans are all but accomplished, and then He scatters them in a moment to the winds. When all appeared going on smoothly, God "hurled into the sea a mighty tempest" (Jonah 1:4). What were the troubles which Jonah feared as likely to ensue from his going to Nineveh, as compared with those which now he has brought on himself by fleeing in the opposite direction? Sin is, therefore, the one thing to be feared as the source of all trouble, rather than any outward trial.

(5) The mariners cried in their distress to their false gods, while Jonah, the prophet of God, cried not to the true God. They were alive to the danger who were comparatively innocent, while he who was the guilty one lay fast asleep (Jonah 1:5). How often great sin brings with it great insensibility! The sinner tries to drown thought, stifle conscience, and forget God and himself in the sleep of carnality and worldliness. They who are most dead to fear are just those who are nearest destruction.

(6) But God would not allow his servant to sleep the sleep of death. The pagan shipmaster (Jonah 1:6) is used by God as the instrument to awaken the drowsy prophet. Jonah, who was about afterward to call the pagan to the prayer of penitence, is now himself called to prayer by a pagan. The zeal of the pagan and Mohammedans in their false religions virtually appeals to many a professing Christian, "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God"

(7) When earthly means of deliverance fail, men at last have recourse to God. He is a "very present help in time of trouble." His providence overruled the casting of lots whereby Jonah, the culprit, was detected. Ordinary casting of lots without necessity, or in the spirit of unbelief, which makes a god of chance, or in prying curiosity concerning the future, to which God hath not revealed, is a tempting of God. 'Satan may mix himself unknown in such inquiries, as in mesmerism. Forbidden ground is his own province' (Pusey).

(8) The reverent carefulness which the pagan mariners showed in behalf of the one life of Jonah, which they would not sacrifice, though the sole cause of their danger, if they could possibly avoid it, was a tacit reproof the reckless zeal of Jonah in wishing, in spite of God's command, to leave no opening for repentance and escape to the hundreds of thousands in pagan Nineveh. Alas! how much more zeal we all are apt to have for our party or kindred than for the glory of God and for the cause of the merciful Redeemer's kingdom throughout the whole earth!

(9) Jonah's confession, when he was at last roused to spiritual feeling, was as unreserved as his sin previously had been scandalous and monstrous. He now awakes to the penitent fear of the Lord God, who hath made sea and land alike (Jonah 1:9). Well might the mariners ask, "Why hast thou done this?" (Jonah 1:10.) The inconsistencies of Christians are the great stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of unbelievers. To know God, and yet to disobey Him, is the greatest of all marvels. 'A servant flee from his Lord, a son from his Father, man from his God!' (Jerome.)

(10) Jonah by inspiration directs (Jonah 1:12), and through penitence accepts, the punishment of his iniquity. The sea, which he had meant to make the instrument of his flight, is by God made, in just retribution, the instrument of his punishment. And the tempest raised through the wrath of God against Jonah's sin ceased when the divine wrath was satisfied in Jonah's punishment. The mariners now that all earthly fears were removed, "feared the Lord exceedingly." The prophet's punishment was overruled to their conversion; and the account of their deliverance, in connection with the wonderful circumstances of Jonah's history, prepared the way for the conversion of the pagan Ninevites at the subsequent mission of the prophet.

(11) All difficulties concerning the preservation of Jonah in the fish's belly are simply resolved by the consideration of the omnipotence of God. Self-wise rationalists are rebuked by the simple faith of the once-pagan mariners - "Thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased Thee" (Jonah 1:14). He who preserves the embryo in its living grave could as easily "prepare" a suitable fish, and preserve Jonah within it unto the time appointed for his typical resurrection. Faith laughs at impossibilities, where God is the Worker.

(12) The correspondence between Jonah the type and Christ the antitype is most minute. Man was ready to be swallowed by the waves of hell, stirred up by the tempest of God's wrath against sin, when Christ, as one of us, volunteered to give up His life to save our lives; just as the mariners were about to perish in the waves, until Jonah gave himself up as the victim to appease God's righteous anger. But the sin in Jonah's case was inherent: in Christ's, not inherent, but voluntarily imputed. As the Gentile mariners prayed that innocent blood should not be laid upon them, so the Gentile Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the death of Christ, saying, "I am clean from the blood of this man." The conversion of the Gentiles flowed from the death of Jesus, as the conversion of the mariners, and subsequently of the Ninevites ensued upon the casting of Jonah into the sea. From Christ's vicarious sacrifice there results to believers the settled calm of heartfelt peace. As Jonah, after a three days' entombment, through his return to the land of the living, became a prophet to the Gentiles, whom he was the instrument of converting, whereas he had failed to convert Israel: so Christ, through His resurrection out of death, became the power of God to the salvation of the Gentiles, after the Jews had rejected Him. The life of Jonah illustrates how wonderfully God can overrule history to be covert prophecy. Thus the infidel is rebuked, who would make nature the master instead of the servant of the God both of nature and of grace: and who 'would extinguish for themselves the Light of the world, in order that it may not eclipse the rushlight of their own theory' (Pusey).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(17) Now the Lord.—In the Hebrew, Jonah 2 commences with this verse.

Had prepared.—The pluperfect is misleading. Render appointed, and comp. Jonah 4:6-8, where the same word is used of the gourd, the worm, and the east wind. The Authorised version renders the word accurately in Job 7:3; Daniel 1:5-10. Previous special preparation is not implied, still less creation for the particular purpose. God employs existing agents to do His bidding.

A great fish.—The Hebrew dag is derived from the prolific character of fish, and a great fish might stand for any one of the sea monsters. The notion that it was a whale rests on the LXX. and Matthew 12:40. But κῆτος was a term for any large fish, such as dolphins, sharks, &c. (See Hom. Od. xii. 97.) And unless we have previously determined the question, whether the Book of Jonah is intended by the sacred writer to be a literal history, or an apologue founded on a history or a parable pure and simple, tota hœc de pisce Jonœ disquisitio, as an old commentator observes, vana videtur atque inutilis. The explanations given by commentators divide themselves into those of a strictly præternatural kind, as that a fish was created for the occasion; or into the natural or semi-natural, as that it was a ship, or an inn bearing the sign of the whale; or that it was a white shark. (For the last hypothesis see all that can be collected in Dr. Pusey’s commentary on Jonah.) In early Christian paintings the monster appears as a huge dragon.

Three days and three nights.—See Matthew 12:40, New Testament Commentary.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
the Lord
4:6; Genesis 1:21; Psalms 104:25,26; Habakkuk 3:2
Matthew 12:40; 16:4; Luke 11:30
Heb. bowels. Reciprocal: Exodus 2:5 - when she;  1 Samuel 30:12 - three days;  Psalm 124:3 - swallowed;  Jonah 2:10 - GeneralJonah 4:8 - that God;  Matthew 17:27 - and take;  Mark 8:31 - and after;  1 Corinthians 15:4 - according

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

What the Prophet here briefly relates ought to be carefully weighed by us. It is easily passed over, when we read in a few words that Jonah was swallowed up by a fish, and that he was there three days and three nights: but though Jonah neither amplified or illustrated in a rhetorical manner what is overlooked by us, nor adopted any display of words, but spoke of the event as though it were an ordinary thing, we yet see what the event itself really was: Jonah was cast into the sea. He had been previously not only a worshipper of the true God, but also a Prophet, and had no doubt faithfully discharged his office; for God would not have resolved to send him to Nineveh, had he not conferred on him suitable gifts; and he knew him to be qualified for undertaking a burden so great and so important. As Jonah then had faithfully endeavored to serve God, and to devote himself to him through the whole of his past life, now that he is cast into the sea as one unworthy of the common light, that he is cut off from the society of men, and that he seems unworthy of undergoing a common or an ordinary punishment, but is exiled, as it were, from the world, so as to be deprived of light and air, as parricides, to whom formerly, as it is well-known, this punishment was allotted — as then Jonah saw that he was thus dealt with, what must have been the state of his mind?

Now that he tells us that he was three whole days in the inside of the fish, it is certain that the Lord had so awakened him that he must have endured continual uneasiness. He was asleep before he was swallowed by the fish; but the Lord drew him, as it were, by force to his tribunal, and he must have suffered a continual execution. He must have every moment entertained such thoughts as these, “Why does he now thus deal with thee? God does not indeed slay thee at once, but intends to expose thee to innumerable deaths.” We see what Job says, that when he died he would be at rest and free from all evils, (Job 14:6.) Jonah no doubt continually boiled with grief, because he knew that God was opposed to and displeased with him: he doubtless said to himself, “Thou hast to do, not with men, but with God himself, who now pursues thee, because thou hast become a fugitive from his presence.” As Jonah then must have necessarily thus thought within himself of God’s wrath, his case must have been harder than hundred deaths, as it had been with Job and with many others, who made it their chief petition that they might die. Now as he was not slain but languished in continual torments, it is certain that no one of us can comprehend, much less convey in words what must have come into the mind of Jonah during these three days. But I cannot now discuss what remains; I must therefore defer it to the next lecture.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.