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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jonah: an insight into being swallowed by the whale. It could have happened.



 King James Version (KJV)

Chapter 1

1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

4 But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.

10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.

12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.

14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.

15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.

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.

Chapter 2

 1 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his GOD out of the fish's belly,

2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.

7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

10 And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

Chapter 3

 1 And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying,

2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Chapter 4

1  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

3 Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

4 Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?

5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

6 And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

10 Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Nineveh is first mentioned in Genesis 10:11, very early on in Scripture,  as the fifth city to be built following the re-population of humanity through the three sons of Noah and their monogamous wives.   

The Nineveh that Jonah knew, perhaps pre-800 B.C., is thought to be a joining of  several major towns (Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamles and Khorsabad) joined as one in an alliance within what used to be an encircling high wall in the shape perhaps of a quadrangle, with great pastures and fields between them. The distance around the centralized 7 mile inner city walls, set up like a city-state, was probably over 75 -90 miles (3 days journey of its borders, or district, and probably partially included a low retaining levee or flood wall).  The size of the inner city was such, that more than twice the listed 120,000 persons and a sufficiency of cattle could easily live within its inner city walls.  The layout of the city state design was similar to their older cousins the Hyksos, who also were Assyrians and settled in northern Egypt from the 18th to 16th centuries B.C. using a similar pattern of settling (as indicated by the Jewish historian Josephus). Its discovery and then not long after 1843-1845 excavation (primarily then by Botta and Layard) gave us great finds in Cuneiform as well as the ruins of Sargon's palace  (a king mentioned in Isaiah 20:1) who was then only recently mocked as a fable in the year 1840.  The LORD did not waste much time in shutting the mouths of those scoffers by this find, and evidence of their ignorance and of Sargon's existence found baked into some of the ancient brick-work, was sent by Botta to Berlin. By the same token, it is far better to simply believe the Scriptures as an accurate historical record, including that of Jonah's harrowing experience of 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a whale (or such a sea / ocean mammal).  

  Jonah the prophet lived in Gath-Hepher of Galilee (2 Kings 14:25), about 2 miles from Nazareth.  When the pre-800 B.C. Assyrian armies out of Nineveh  invaded Israel, Jonah witnessed many thousands of fellow sons and daughters of Israel mutilated, tortured, killed.   From the information we have from the Assyrian Campaigns by the Assyrians themselves recovered in archaeology, it is clear that Jonah saw nobles skinned alive, and their skins draped upon the walls or spread and staked out for drying to be made into objects as trophies, the same as one would spread out and stake a buffalo hide.  Jonah saw the heads of those Israeli army troops who fought the Assyrians cut off and used to build a watch-tower as if they were bricks or simply hung on trees as if ornaments. And those of the armies of Israel captured but not killed, with hands and arms chopped off,  and others having various appendages (noses, ears, private parts) cut off and eyes gouged out.   Jonah also saw his fellow children (both boys and girls) killed and burned, sometimes vice versa.  In other words, for Jonah, there was no forgiveness for such an atrocious and vicious evil people as the Assyrians of Nineveh. 

 When GOD told Jonah to preach good news (a Gospel of repentance and deliverance) to the very people responsible for massacring his loved ones and fellow countrymen and women and children years earlier, he fled as hard and as fast as he could toward the Western end of the Mediterranean.   As we learn in the book of Jonah, he was swallowed by a great sea mammal (such as a sperm whale) and spent 3 days and nights in the bowels of the creature. 

Through Gleason L. Archer, Jr.'s  "A Survey Of Old Testament Introduction" (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, revised 1994) p.350, (a book I recommend to all  Bible  Studying laity), we learn the following. 

       In February of A.D. 1891, a sailor of the whaler 'Star of the East'  sailor James Bartley was recovered from the stomach of a sperm whale doubled up in a fetal position.  The exposed areas of skin of his face, neck, and hands were  bleached entirely white, to "the deadly whiteness...of parchment", from the stomach acid of the whale after spending just one day in it. It took James Bartley a full 3 weeks to recover from the shock of what he suffered before he could speak normally and fully resume his duties again.  All others who were in the whaler boat that was destroyed by the whale, drowned in the whale attack upon the spearing party.  Mr. Bartley was the only survivor of that boat spearing crew that was sunk approximately 3 miles off the Falkland Islands, and the testimony of what happened was affirmed by the crew of the second whale boat spearing party crew and those of the Star of the East when later interviewed.  The incident was carefully investigated and affirmed by two French scientists, one of whom was Journal des Debats (of Paris) scientific editor M. de Parville. (Fox, Francis "Sixty-three years of Engineering", London: Murray, 1924, pp. 298 - 300).  

 In the October 1927 Princeton Theological review, among others, there were listed  two other known survival incidents of whale swallowing that occurred: one in 1758, and one in 1777 (both said to be of considerably less duration than the entire day James Bartley can also be cited as having occurred), and yet demonstrating why Jonah was a favorite book of the Old Testament among sailors.  Ocean going sailors whose livelihood was the Sea or Ocean, , who by the very experience of some, could attest to its validity as to Jonah surviving in the belly of a whale or such a mammal for a sea creature.     

By that information, we can infer that when Jonah was vomited up on shore, he also was in shock  and had to spend some time recovering.  Further, that when he went to Nineveh, there was sufficient time for the very sailors who had thrown him overboard to return to Joppa, and relate the incident, as well as find out from those that saw Jonah vomited up by the whale onto the shoreline (and perhaps helped rescue Jonah from drowning, washing him off, etc.) what had happened.  

If that was the case, then this incident, then known by witnesses would have been relayed to the Assyrian Capitol, and the man, marked by the skin so discolored as white parchment by the acid of the whale's stomach, would be the ready sign that this one was THAT prophet who survived 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a whale, saved by his GOD to proclaim the message or Word of His GOD to who he was saved to so give that all important message.  Jonah was literally of the appearance of a walking dead man as if a walking talking white-washed tomb, as it were. 

When Jonah arrived at Nineveh, from what we think we know of Nineveh by modern archaeology, Jonah went into the cattle fields or farmlands outside the walls of the inner city to preach, perhaps hoping that the few who saw this strange site as he was,  would be indifferent to him, while he yet fulfilled his mission to a people he did NOT want to see saved.  To Nineveh's credit, they believed.  The king of Nineveh and of Assyria that repented under Jonah's message, may have been Adad-Nirari III whom is thought to have reigned sometime between 810 - 783 B.C.

 Nineveh נינוה,  means "the one of offense".  In Gematria, the prophetical significance to this city is that in the Last Days, (which I believe is our time in our generation), it is among the Gentiles through the act of "fishing for men" that “The Son”, i.e., "the perpetuation"  (נינ)  “of VeH” (וה) - the one who is perpetuated by the Spirit of GOD, is discovered in the Last Days.  

In effect, by the faith and trust into the LORD Yeshua / Jesus by the Gentiles, that message of Good News / the Gospel, which is then freely and unreservedly shared by the Spirit of GOD and right Faith into Him even with enemies -- not by power or might by Israel itself physically -- nations will believe.  In Jonah's day, this action of preaching the Gospel delivered Israel, as well as redeemed for a time a generation of Gentiles living there on the Eastern Banks of the Tigris , in what is now northern Iraq near the Turkish border.   

As a civilization, the Assyrians of Nineveh lasted almost two more centuries as an ethnic people after their act of believing faith and sincere repentance before being killed or absorbed into the emerging Babylonian Empire in circa 612 - 606 B..C.  May we in our generation, learn from the book of Jonah by their example.  


[This post was updated at ca. 10:12 pm Pacific on 09/16/2012 -- Brianroy]

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