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Men God Called
pp. 15 - 20
Jonah! The man popularly supposed to have been swallowed by a whale; a
suggestion deemed so impossible that the higher critics (and others) tells us that this book
is only a story, although one with a message for its time. Was he swallowed by a whale,
or was he not? The A.V. tells us "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish . . . . ." (1: 17):
where the Lord Jesus Christ refers to this incident in Matt. 12: 40 the same version
translates "whale" for the Greek ketos which means "any sea-monster or huge fish". In
Jonah the Hebrew tells us that the Lord had prepared a "great dag", dag meaning simply
"fish". It simply tradition based on a faulty translation of the word used in Matthew that
has given rise to the idea that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. However, as the old lady
said, when she was told Jonah could not possibly have been swallowed by a whale "I
believe that if the Lord had wanted Jonah to swallow the whale, he could have done it!".
Did this actually take place, or is it a `myth' with a meaning? For the believer it is
surely sufficient that his Lord refers to this event as a type and sign of His Death and
Resurrection. That there was indeed such a prophet is confirmed by a reference to him in
II Kings 14: 25, where he is identified as "Jonah, the son of Amittai"; precisely the
same identification as is given in the book of Jonah. He is therefore an historical person,
and given the omnipotence of God there is no logical reason why the events recorded of
this prophet could not be true.
There had been a succession of evil kings over Israel: we read of Jehoahaz the son of
Jehu, who "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord" (II Kings 13: 1, 2).
Although this king "besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened unto him", the people
"departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam" (II Kings 13: 3-5). He was
followed by his son, Jehoash, "and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord"
(verse 11). On his death he was succeeded by his son Jeroboam, and the same sad
verdict is given on his reign: "he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord"
(II Kings 14: 23, 24). Nevertheless the following two verses tell us that he was used by
the Lord "which He spake by the hand of His servant Jonah". For even evil rulers are
overruled by the Lord for His purposes.
Against such a background was Jonah called to prophesy. Clearly sooner or later God
would bring some form of judgment upon Israel. It seems probable he was called to his
work before the commission to Nineveh:
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come
up before me" (Jonah 1: 2).
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and was noted for its violence and cruelty, and
their wickedness was "full", "their wickedness is come up before Me". Jonah was to "cry