(Jonah 1:17) Was Jonah really swallowed (and preserved) by a whale?

Jesus certainly seemed to think so, because he compared it with his resurrection, which was a historical fact. Christ said, “For just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt. 12:40). Archer adds,

Numerous cases have been reported in more recent times of men who have sur­vived the ordeal of being swallowed by a whale. The Princeton Theological Review (Oct, 1927) tells of two incidents, one in 1758 and the other in 1771, in which a man was swallowed by a whale and vomited up shortly thereafter with only minor injuries. Still other instances are cited by R. K. Harrison in IOT, p. 907. One of the most striking instances comes from Francis Fox, Sixty-three Years of Engineering (London; J. Murray, 1924) pp. 298-300, who reports that this incident was carefully investigated by two scientists (one of whom was M. de Parville, the scientific editor of the Journal des Debats in Paris). In February, 1891. the whaling ship Star of the East was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, and the lookout sighted a large sperm whale three miles away. Two boats were lowered and in a short time one of the harpooners was enabled to spear the creature. The second boat also attacked the whale, but was then upset by a lash of its tail, so that its crew fell into the sea. One of them was drowned, but the other, James Bartley, simply disappeared without trace. After the whale was killed, the crew set to work with axes and spades, removing the blubber. “They worked all day and part of the night. The next day they attached some tackle to the stomach, which was hoisted on deck. The sailors were startled by something in it which gave spasmodic signs of life, and inside was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid on the deck and treated to a bath of sea water which soon revived him. At the end of the third week he had entirely recovered from the shock and resumed his duties… His face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and took on the appearance of parchment. Hartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not through lack of air.[1]

Geisler and Howe add, “There is archaeological confirmation of a prophet named Jonah whose grave is found in northern Israel. In addition, some ancient coins have been unearthed with an inscription of a man coming out of a fish’s mouth.”[2]


[1] The name “Ephrathah” may have been an ancient name for Bethlehem. David’s father was known as “an Ephrathite from Bethlehem in Judah” (1 Samuel 17:12; see also, Genesis 35:19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11). Or, it could’ve been the area in which Bethlehem was located (e.g. Columbus, Ohio is both the city (Columbus) and the general area (Ohio)) Barry R. Leventhal “Why I Believe Jesus is the Promised Messiah” Why I Am a Christian Norman L. Geisler & Paul K. Hoffman: General Editors (Chapter 12) 2001.

[2] Howe, Thomas, and Norman L. Geisler. Making Sense of Bible Difficulties Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Pub. Group, 2009. 133.