Jonah Deliberately Disobeys God

Jonah 1:1-3 KJV

1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

Lands in the Belly of a Fish...

When God brought a storm upon the ship, he ends up overboard and in the belly of a fish--by God's design.

Jonah 1:17 KJV

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.

Proceeds on the Mission...Meeting Success

After this, Jonah was again called by God, this time obeying, and succeeded in causing Nineveh to repent.

Jonah 3:1-10 KJV

1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

But was the success improved by his experience in the fish?

Possible reasons for this:

  1. [More obviously] Jonah himself would have had an attitude adjustment, and his speech to the Ninevites can be expected to have been more impassioned, affected by his own recent brush with death and God's merciful deliverance.

  2. [Of particular interest to this question] Jonah may have become blanched (whitened) in the stomach acid of the fish for three days, thus considerably altering his appearance, giving him a shocking sort of authenticity as a prophet. News of his deliverance from the fish may have reached the ears of the Ninevites. All of this may have made it easier for the Ninevites to actually listen to Jonah and to take him at his word.

Any Biblical or extrabiblical evidence for these things, such as other archeological or historical findings, would be especially appreciated. Are there any subtle clues in the original Hebrew of the story?

Was Jonah more successful because of his rebellion-earned three days in the belly of the whale?

A Different But Possibly Related Question

How did Jonah become a sign to the people of Nineveh?

2 Answers 2


We are not told the answer to this question, however, there is a distinct possibility that Dagon, the fish god worshiped by the Ninevites (and the Philistines) helped Jonah's fame.

See https://www.gotquestions.org/who-Dagon.html https://www.christianity.com/wiki/cults-and-other-religions/who-was-dagon-the-philistine-fish-deity.html

Thus, the prophet Jonah was the man swallowed by a giant fish but survived. This presumably made a deep impression on the Ninevites and increased his popularity and credibility.

If Jonah's skin had become partially bleached by digestive juices, this would have added further credibility to Jonah's notoriety and made his story spread further and faster.

However, we should not discount the vital work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of the Ninevites that made Jonah's message so effective and compelling.


I think Jonah's whale journey is a lesson about being born again.

In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented he came out of the belly of the whale smelling like perfume and bleached whiter than snow. This reminds me of the Glory of Christ and the transfiguration.

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