Jonah 1:17

Now the LORD had prepared a large sea creature to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the sea creature for three days and three nights.

Is this a special one-of-a-kind fish?

  • 1
    We are not told - there are lots of big fish capable of doing such a job.
    – Dottard
    May 16 at 22:07
  • Although the throats of baleen whales are too small to swallow a person whole, there is one (non-baleen) species of whale with a large enough throat - the sperm whale. Sperm whales are found in the Mediterranean, so if I had to guess, my bet would be it was a sperm whale. May 16 at 23:29

Jon 1:17

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jon 4:6

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

Jon 4:7

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

Jon 4:8

And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

Was the great fish that swallowed Jonah a special one-of-a-kind fish?

Probably not one-of-a-kind in terms of species because God often uses existing materials. But it was specially prepared for the special occasion and purpose.


If not a special fish, a large whale. A man would stay in the mouth of a whale because the throat is too small. But air breathing would mean possible air pockets to breath. There are large whales in the Mediterranean. Swallowing a man would probably make a whale sick and cause it to beach.



Not necessarily unique.

In fact, if whalers' tales can be trusted, a man by the name of James Bartley was swallowed whole by a sperm whale in 1891 (see here). The story goes that his shipmates killed the whale, and after cutting it open and disinterring its stomach, they found Bartley disoriented but alive inside. Not sure what to make of the story--as with many fish tales, its veracity has been questioned.

Let's consider the 3 largest types of marine animals (by mass) to evaluate which could be capable of swallowing a human:

  • Baleen whales (the largest of the whales are baleen, including blue, fin, bowhead etc.). Baleen whales eat krill and other small organisms and have a throat far to small to swallow a human (see here). Baleen whales: no.
  • Sperm whale (the largest toothed whale). Sperm whales have a large esophagus and sometimes swallow squid whole. They could definitely swallow a human (see here). Sperm whale: yes
  • Whale shark (by far the largest shark). A whale shark would have to chew a person up before swallowing--but they don't like human meat so nothing to worry about =). Whale shark: no.

From Dr. Craig McClain:

I know that the esophagus of a whale shark measures only inches across. The massive beast could not choke me down even if it preferred man meat to plankton. (see here)

There is one known species of marine animal capable of swallowing a human whole: the sperm whale. Whether the human survives the encounter is another matter.

The natural range of the sperm whale is extensive, including the Mediterranean, where Jonah's ship sailed.


The most likely suspect for a marine creature capable of swallowing Jonah is a sperm whale. A sperm whale that can swallow a human is not unique. A human surviving the experience is much more so.

  • Considering Jonah died, the only reason he survived is because God gave him life again. May 17 at 2:59

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