Jonah and the Whale

Cartoon Of Man with a key and Bible The complete story is in the Old Testament of the Bible, Jonah Chapters 1, 2, and 3

A rough map of some of the Bible lands One day God told the prophet Jonah, "I have a message for you to take to the people of Nineveh. You know how cruel and wicked they are. You must tell both the king and people that unless they are sorry for their wrong-doings and change their ways, I am going to punish them."

Jonah did not want to do as God said. He was ready to preach to God's own people in Israel, but, he did not want to go a foreign nation. And what a nation! Nineveh was the capital of the great Assyrian Empire. Everyone knew of the cruelty of the Assyrians. They show no mercy.

"If I go to Nineveh and tell them about God," thought Jonah, "they may be sorry for their sins and tell God so. Then He will forgive them and decide not to punish them. They deserve to be punished without any early warning from me!"

Jonah decided to get as far from Nineveh - and God - as he could. He set off for the seaport of Joppa, where ships tied up, waiting to sail to places near and far. One, Jonah found, was due to sail to Tarshish, a land so far away that the land-dwellers of Israel heard of it only from sailors' tales.

Drawing of Assyrian soldiers Jonah paid the fare and climbed on board. Tired out with his long walk and his struggle against God, he went below to sleep. When he woke up he would be far away from the impossible mission that God had set for him.

Jonah soon fell asleep. The shouts of the crew as they got ready to sail and cast off ropes did not wake him up. At first the gentle rise and fall of the ship on the sea soothed his tired body and mind.

But, before they had gone far, a strong wind began to whip up the water. The waves rose higher and higher, then came crashing against the sides of the ship and breaking over the deck.

The sailors worked with all their strength to try to keep the ship on course. In desperation, they threw some of the cargo overboard, to make the ship easier to control. The ship's strong timbers seemed thin as matchwood in the teeth of the storm. Soon, they knew, it would break up and they would all drown.

Picture of a boat in rough seas The terrified crew began to cry out to their various gods for help.

The Captain went below and found to his astonishment that Jonah was still asleep. He shook him by the shoulder urgently and shouted, "Wake up! Pray to your gods! If this storm goes on, we are all lost!"

On deck the sailors talked and planned what to do next.

"I reckon we've got a villain on board, " said one. "The gods must be angry with him and have sent this storm to punish him. Let's draw lots to find who is to blame!"

The rest agreed. The names of everyone on board were written down and one name drawn out. It was Jonah's name, he was the culprit!

"Own up, Jonah!" they demanded, "tell us who you are and what you have done to bring such trouble on us all!"

"I am a Jew," Jonah answered. "I worship the God who made Heaven and Earth. You are right. I have sinned against God. I am His prophet, but, I have disobeyed His orders and I am running away from Him."

"That is terrible!" the sailors exclaimed. "But how can we put things right and stop this storm?"

"By throwing me overboard," Jonah said, bravely.

 The sailors were kind men and did not want Jonah to drown. So, they made one last attempt to get the ship to land by taking to the oars. But, they were helpless against the force of the storm. They would have to take Jonah at his word.

"Please, Jonah's God," they prayed, "don't blame us for throwing him out. We don't want to harm him, but, it's our only hope, and, it was You who sent the storm."

Then they picked up Jonah and tossed him over the side. At once the wind began to die down, the waves subsided and soon the sea grew calm.

The crew knelt on the deck of the boat in awe and prayed again to Jonah's God.

"We believe that You are the only true God. From now on, we will serve and worship You alone," they promised.

Jonah had shown great courage when he told the sailors to throw him overboard into the raging sea. As he began to fall from the side of the ship, straight into the angry, foaming water, he felt terrified.

Down, down, down he went. Green fingers of seaweed caught at his neck and feet. He heard a roaring in his ears, felt his mouth and lungs fill with water and prayed to God to rescue him.

Drawing of Assyrian soldiers A great, big, dark, shape appeared from the ocean depths and then Jonah found he was inside the biggest fish he had ever seen or scarcely imagine.

He did not drown! Praise be, he was alive! Jonah did not know what might happen next. He was sure that the big fish swallowing him was just as much God's doing as the violent storm.

"Thanks be to You, God!" Jonah shouted in the total darkness. "You saved me from drowning!"

Three days later, the fish swam close to land and at God's command, it brought Jonah up safely onto the beach.

"Go to Nineveh, Jonah," God said again.

Jonah had learned his lesson. He obeyed and went to Nineveh. He preached to the king and people telling them to change their ways. They did, and turned to God.

Cartoon Of Man with a key and Bible The complete story is in the Old Testament of the Bible, Jonah Chapters 1, 2, and 3

This website designed by and all photographs are the © copyright of Bob Douglas unless otherwise stated.

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