Most are familiar with the story of Jonah which is recorded in the book of Jonah. Jonah was fleeing from God in a ship and was eventually cast into a stormy sea. There he was swallowed by a great fish, and he lived in the belly of the fish for three days and nights. He was then expelled on dry land.
The story of Jonah is often ridiculed by critics of the Bible. They may call it a “fish story.” They are usually quicker to attack the account about Jonah than they are to attack the miracles of Christ because Christ is generally well loved and respected by people. The critics feel like they can have more success in attacking the story of Jonah.
The miracles in Jonah are no more difficult to believe than the miracles of the Gospel accounts or the miracles of the book of Acts. Further, if God could create the universe, He could easily appoint a large fish to swallow Jonah, and He could cause Jonah to remain alive in the belly of a fish. If one believes in God, the miracles of the Bible should be easy to accept.
In Matthew 17:27, we read where Jesus told Peter to go and catch a fish from the sea. He told Peter that he would find a coin in the mouth of the fish, and he was to take the coin to pay the taxes. There would be no more reason to reject the miracle in the book of Jonah than this miracle by Christ. Both of these miracles actually happened as the Bible reveals.
What actually swallowed Jonah? This is another question that sometimes comes up. The King James version uses the term “whale” in Matthew 12:40 where the event is mentioned. In the book of Jonah, the term “fish” is used (KJV). The word in the Hebrew (O.T.) and in the Greek (N.T.) means a sea-monster, a huge fish, a creature of the sea. The definition is a broad definition and is not so specific as to demand the translation “whale.” It may well have been a whale that swallowed Jonah, but it may not have been. The term, found in Matthew 12:40, is translated “whale” (ASV- with a side note which says a sea monster), “sea monster” (NASB), “a huge fish” (NIV), and “great fish” (NKJV).
The story of Jonah and the great fish happened exactly as the book of Jonah reveals. Jesus believed it also as we can learn from Matthew 12:39-40. He did not call it an allegory or a parable. He actually called Jonah a prophet of God. We can certainly believe what Jesus said.