While waiting for my appointment with a doctor, I picked up a Highlights magazine from the table beside me. I don’t often read magazines for children, but this one caught my eye because of a cover blurb.
“Whoa! Whale Sharks,” it said.
The article in the February 2015 issue was fascinating. As I read it, I began to wonder if perhaps this huge fish wasn’t of the species God chose to swallow Jonah. When I was growing up, our Sunday school teachers gave us flannel graph lessons and explained this reluctant prophet’s story as “Jonah and the Whale.” But ‘whale’ isn’t the animal name given in the Bible. (Jonah 1:17, emphasis mine)
The King James Version says, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.”
The New International Version reads: “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah.”
Yet another version, the New Revised Standard Version, says “But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah.”
Even more interesting language comes in the English Standard Version: “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.”
I guess, even aside from the verb used to say how the fish came into the story, it’s obvious that this is not a whale, but a fish. Whales are mammals; fish are not. Scripture also makes it clear that God caused this to happen.
Basic information about whale sharks is agreed upon from research which scientists have done on them. Science describes and provides “everything you ever wanted to know about” whale sharks. For perspective, a whale shark is about the size of a school bus so it could easily hold a man in its belly.
Most of us were captivated by the story of Jonah when we were children. It’s even captivating when we’re adults with the very idea that someone survived inside a fish for three days and three nights.
Some people don’t believe the story is true. But God never answers all the questions we have about what happens in the Bible. Scripture includes lots of mysteries.
Perhaps the mystery of what kind of great/huge/large fish swallowed Jonah will never be known. But I think it’s nice to have whale sharks as a possible answer to where Jonah spent three days in the dark as he came to his senses and decided to obey the Lord.