That the Book of Jonah is no allegory, no parable, is as certain as anything in literature can be.  For (1) the book is obviously meant by its author to be a straightforward historical narrative.  (2) The People of God - the only people guided by inspired prophets - so regarded it for a thousand years.  (3) No writer in the sacred Canon ever introduces prodigious miracles, or miracles at all, into a parable.  (4) The psalm uttered by Jonah from the depths of the seas would be totally out of place in an allegory, and is only consistent with a plain narrative of historical fact.  (5) Nor would any Jew, composing a fiction, select a well-known Prophet - at that time the greatest in Israel - on whom to hang a disobedient, fickle, irascible character; that the great Jonah is so depicted can only be accounted for by the fact that such was Jonah.  Above all (6) the seal of our Lord is so set on its literalness and absolute truthfulness that none who believe the Lord can doubt the Book.  He states that “Jonah was in the belly of the whale” (Matthew 12: 10).  Nor (7) is it conceivable that the Son of God, Himself the judge uttering a warning of the utmost solemnity (Luke 11: 32) to souls that would be actually summoned to His bar, should picture the Pharisees as condemned by a people who never existed, for sin greater than a sin that was never committed, and unrepentant under a miraculous sign far vaster than an older miracle which never happened.


For generations Rationalism countered the miracle by pointing to the gullet of a whale - a few inches across - as proving the miracle fabulously grotesque.  For decades this passed as Science.  Even as lately as 1867 a warm defender of the miracle, Dr. Alexander Raleigh, says: “That a whale could not swallow a man, without miraculous expansion of its narrow throat, is certain.”  Yet what are the facts?  It is true of the Greenland Whale, but it is not true of the Spermaceti Whale found in the Mediterranean, and it was in the Mediterranean that Jonah was cast.  Mr. Frank Bullen, speaking of a cachelot, or sperm whale, which came under his own eyes, says: “The lower jaw of this whale measured exactly nineteen feet in length from the opening of the mouth.  Its ejected food was in masses of enormous size, some of them being estimated to be of the size of the hatch-house, viz., eight feet by six feet into six feet”; so that this whale, in dying, vomited out a mass equal to six stout men rolled into one.


In view of the fact that Ketos, the word used both by the Septuagint and by our Lord, meant originally a sea-monster, and only later a whale, the narrative of a leviathan, neither whale nor mammal, caught off Florida is very illuminating.  In 1912 Capt. C. H. Thompson, of Miami, Florida, harpooned a huge fish from a lifeboat (with three men in it), launched from his steam yacht.  For 39 hours the lifeboat was dragged at lightning speed, with no pauses for sleep or food.  They threw into it five harpoons, and fired 151 bullets.  The yacht then hooked its anchor chain through its jaws, thinking it dead, when with a blow of its tail it smashed the. rudder and propeller of the steamer.  When the monster, with the aid of a steam tug, was towed 110 miles into Miami, and hauled by a steam crane on to the dock, it still had sufficient life to demolish the dockhouse and break a man’s leg with one bang of its tail.  It weighed 30,000 pounds (15 American tons); was 45 feet long, and 8 feet 3 inches high, and its mouth was three feet across.  Its skin, three inches thick, was barely pierced by the bullets.  It had in its stomach a whole fish weighing 1,500 lbs., besides an octopus.  A full-grown man could stand upright in its stomach; and it could have swallowed ten Jonahs.  The U.S. Government has embalmed it and housed it in Washington.”  It is most illuminating of the miracle to know what God thinks of Leviathan.  In the creation of ocean no other of the enormous population of the sea is even named; “and God created the great sea monsters” (Gen. 1: 21); and the Most High has devoted a whole chapter of the Bible (Job 41.) to a marvellous, description of what the Creator Himself calls “the king over all the sons of pride.”  In what a chariot Jonah rode!


The miracle consisted in the preservation of Jonah; “God prepared a great fish” (Jonah 1: 17) - not by exceptional creation, but by supernatural adjustment.


But the whole heart of the miracle is its spiritual import and it is finally corroborative of its truth, and of a value beyond all price, that we have our Lord’s own profound and detailed exposition.  If it could be shown,” says Dean Farrar, “that Jesus intended to stamp the story as literally true, every Christian would at once, and as a matter of course, accept it.”  Now our Cord evidently considered the miracle of the greatest importance; and in answer to the challenge for “a sign from heaven” - a direct, open, vivid miracle from God - He says that the miracle of Jonah was such.  He says:-“Jonah became- for he was not originally such – “a sign” - a ‘sign’ is a miracle viewed as evidence, something supernatural to authenticate a truth “unto the Ninevites” (Luke 11: 30) - that is, an embodied miracle because of what he had passed through.  And the people of Nineveh believed God (Jonah 3: 5): the moral marvel of an entire city prostrate before God because of one man come up out of Death, not only was as prodigious in the moral sphere as the disgorged Prophet in the physical, but foreshadowed a Messiah disgorged by Death, and believed on far and wide among the great Gentile cities of the world.


So our Lord proceeds:-Jonah” - not his corpse – “was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale (Matt. 12: 40); whether in swoon, or conscious, or actually dead, is not stated; but his prayer implies consciousness.  The fact of the miracle could not be stated in words simpler or plainer: Jesus assumes and endorses it.  For He who multiplied fish, for the mouths of thousands, could equally prepare a fish, for one man’s lodgement - incomparably the lesser miracle: He who could shut the lion’s mouth, while He opened, could also restrain, a whale’s devouring maw: He who located a coin inside a fish down in the glimmering depths, could manifestly find, and deliver, an entombed prophet in the heart of the seas.  All the miracles of the

Jehovah-Christ are woven of one tissue, and utter one revelation.


For the very prodigiousness of the miracle which, down all the ages, has been its stumbling block, ought to have been its principal clue.  For God works in cycles, and history is again and again a forecast of prophecy - the past is the future in little; and a type bulks large in proportion to the importance of the antitype.  The Florentines said of Dante:-There goes the man who has walked in Hell”: much more must the Ninevites have said of Jonah, still dripping, as it were, from his plunge to the roots of the mountains – “There goes the man who has re-crossed the Bourne from which no traveller returns.”  So our Lord’s comment is the unveiling of the heart of God in the miracle.  As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale” - and so became an accepted marvel to the whole family of Semitic peoples, possibly to all nations – “so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth(Matt. 12: 40).  Jonah’s was the huge moon of the Old Testament’s most startling miracle cast by its far vaster and un-risen sun, the supremest miracle of all the ages.


So the three days and three nights exactly delimit the parallel; and reveal God’s design in a miracle not so great in quality - the preservation of the Youths in fire was an intenser miracle - as huge in its panorama; for it pictured the Lord’s marvellous underworld experience for the redemption of the race.  A storm raised by the wrath of God, and threatening all on board with instant destruction; both outcast, both flung, as the reason of the wrath, to the raging tempest; the storm centring on One - Christ made sin, and sacrificed for all on board; a great peace following at once on a great sacrifice; drowned in the depths - “all Thy waves and Thy billows,” cried both in identical words (Psalm 42: 7) in the Hebrew, “have gone over me” - wrath-billows for sin; swallowed by death, and actually in Sheol - out of the belly of Sheol,” Jonah says, “cried I”;* resident in Hades for three days and three nights - the three greatest days of the prophet’s life, in which he got his power to revolutionize vast Nineveh, as the Lord, the world; emerging, at last, perfectly delivered – wrath-free, sin-free, death-free; both embodied miracles from the grave; each no longer now “a minister of the Circumcision,” but moving over the world for salvation among surging, sobbing, praying multitudes of the Gentiles.  So was this enormous miracle none too huge to shadow forth the transcendent experiences of the Son of God in the salvation of the world.


[* It is possible that the Fish, with the Prophet, entered Sheol.  The False Prophet emerges from Hades by way of the sea (Rev. 13: 1); and as infernal animals come out of Sheol (Rev. 9: 3), so it must be possible for earthly animals to enter it.  Korah and his company went down alive into Sheol - (Num. 16: 33).  That Jonah actually died, his spirit entering Sheol while his corpse remained in the Whale, seems negatived by typology: a type of resurrection could hardly be resurrection.]








A Modern Jonah



Dear Sir,- That a man can exist as Jonah did, though unconscious, and for less time, experience has proved.  M. de Parville, editor of the Journal des Debats, and himself a man of science, reports a case which he himself thoroughly sifted.  A harpooned whale, mad with pain, and in his death-agonies, upset a boat from the English whaler “Star of the East” off the Falkland Islands in 1891.  One sailor was drowned, and another - James Bartley - disappeared.  The men, busy cutting through the flesh for the fat with axes and spades, worked all day and part of the night; until, with horror, they discovered something living doubled up in the vast pouch of the fish - the unconscious sailor.  He was laid out,” the narrative proceeds, “on deck and treated to a bath of sea-water, which soon revived him, but his mind was not clear, and he was placed in the captain’s quarters, where he remained two weeks a raving lunatic.  He was carefully treated by the captain and officers of the ship, and he finally began to get possession of his senses.  At the end of the third week he had entirely recovered from the shock and resumed his duties.  During the brief sojourn in the whale’s belly Bartley’s skin, where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juices, underwent a striking change.  His face and hands were bleached to a deathly whiteness, and the skin was wrinkled, giving the man the appearance of having been parboiled.  Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright, and not from lack of air.  He says that he remembers the sensation of being lifted into the air by the nose of the whale and of dropping into the water.  Then there was a frightful rushing sound, which he believed to be the beating of the water by the whale’s tail, then he was encompassed by a fearful darkness, and he felt himself slipping along a smooth passage of some sort that seemed to move and carry him forward.  This sensation lasted but an instant, then he felt he had more room.  He felt about him, and his hands came in contact with a yielding slimy substance, that seemed to shrink from his touch.  He could breathe, easily, but the heat was terrible.  It was not of a scorching, stifling nature, but it seemed to open the pores of his skin and draw out his vitality.  Bartley is not a man of a timid nature, but he says that it was many weeks before he could pass a night without harrowing dreams.  The skin on his face is yellow and wrinkled, and looks like old parchment.”


Criticisms, however, challenging the veracity of the narrative will be found in the Expoistory Times for June and August, 1906.


I am, etc.,