319: Jonah 1:17

365 Prophecies: Prophecy 319

The Messiah will raise from the dead after three days.

Old Testament Prediction:

Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

New Testament Fulfillment:

Matthew 12:40 (Jesus speaking) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Luke 11:30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.


One of the objections that many critics of the Bible have concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, is in the subject of the three days between His death and resurrection.

I received a note from an Atheists a short time ago in which he claimed that scholars have not been able to find any prophecy from the Old Testament, which predicts the resurrection of the Messiah in three days. This question is easily answered as Jesus Himself told us that Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish was a prophecy of His future resurrection.

What this reveals to us is that Jesus has a depth of knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures that no one else in the history of the world possesses. It also validates for us the story of Jonah as being an actual event that took place, and not a myth or allegory. If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and our Savior, then we should have no problem believing that the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale actually happened because Jesus said that it did.

Jonah’s story reveals the grace and mercy of God.

If we carefully study the Book of Jonah, we will see that one of the most amazing illustrations for the love of God is demonstrated in this wonderful story.

This narrative comes to us about 800 years before Jesus made His entry into the world. Jesus said that all of the events which are described in the book of Jonah are real and they actually happened. In fact, this 319th prophecy of the Messiah exists because the story of Jonah really took place.

Jesus also confirmed the effectiveness of Jonah’s feeble attempt at bringing a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. As the scribes and the Pharisees demand a sign of His authority as the Messiah, Jesus reminds them of the prophet Jonah and his words.

Matthew 12:38-41 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you. 39 But he answered them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (ESV)

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh with God’s message of repentance, because he knew that the Lord is very loving, patient, and kind. He understood that if he brought this news of hope to the people of Nineveh, whom he viewed as worthless—should the people actually repent—God would save them. Jesus condemnation of the leaders of Israel is observed by the similarities between Jonah’s callousness to deliver a message to Nineveh, and the complete and utter disregard of the scribes and Pharisees to acknowledge Jesus as the true Messiah.

Both Jonah and the leaders of Israel were guilty of being self absorbed, rather than fulfilling the purpose that God had called them to as leaders in the first place—to love and care for people.

Jonah’s message was not loving, kind, nor persuasive.

Jonah 3:4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed! 5 The people of Nineveh f believed Gods message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. (NLT)

Jesus used the true repentance of Nineveh as a public chastening for the nation of Israel. In this regard, it is certain that Jonah and the incredible story of being swallowed by a great sea creature was not a metaphor, it was a genuine event. For those who cannot believe that God exists, every supernatural event that is claimed in the Bible is unachievable. For God, who has the infinite power of creation, nothing is impossible or supernatural—they are all quite typical, indeed. By the immenseness of the universe, the complexity of life, the fine balance that is required to allow the universe and intelligent life to be possible—all these unattainable components of life that we take for granted hundreds of times per day—became a reality because of the Greatness of God who makes things possible.

Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

We should understand the reason for Jonah’s unwillingness to go to Nineveh with the message of salvation. This was a city so immense that it would take a man three days to cross on foot. In their surveys of Nineveh, archeologists have discovered that the city was more than thirty miles in length and ten miles wide. As the capital of Assyria, Nineveh contained some of the most brutal, and vicious people who have ever lived on the earth.[1] Perhaps it was because they lived such reprobate lives that the majority of people who occupied Nineveh knew in their heart that they were wicked and somehow longed for an opportunity to be free of their sin and guilt.

Nimrod, the father of every false religious system of mankind, established Nineveh about 4500 B.C.,[2] according to the book of Genesis.[3] The people of Nineveh had tried all of the religions of man, every pleasure and exciting preoccupation of that present world, yet they felt empty and unsatisfied. We know this is true because of their immediate response to Jonah when he informed the city that in forty days, God would destroy them all if they did not repent.

Jonah 1:2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

The Ninevites were such a brutal people that when they would lay siege to a city and begin to conqueror, many of the inhabitants of these besieged cities would commit suicide rather than be taken captive and tortured by the soldiers of Nineveh.[4]

It is of particular interest to discover that as Jonah was seeking to flee from God’s call to deliver a message of salvation to the Gentiles of Nineveh, he goes instead to Joppa to try and escape the will of God. About 800 years later, a fisherman by the name of Peter, was up on the roof of Simon the Tanner in Joppa, when the Lord gave him a vision to go to the Gentiles and deliver the very same message that God had given to Jonah.[5]

On the first day walking through Nineveh, just a third of the way through the city—Jonah delivered God’s message of repentance or they would be “overthrown.” The response of the people was immediate and heartfelt, they believed God and turned from their sins. The response of the Lord was equally swift and sure, He ceased from His plan to destroy their city, and saved all those who came to Him in sincerity.

Jonah 3:4-5 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

Jonah 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? 10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

In response to their turning to God, Jonah was exceedingly angry.

Jonah 4:1-3 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

The conundrum for Jonah was his intimate knowledge of God’s character. He knew and understood the love and compassion of God. He was certain that if the people of Nineveh repented of their sins, that the Lord would save them. Because of the harsh treatment of the Ninevites against Israel in the past, Jonah did not want God to show mercy, he was happy to watch them all perish under God’s judgement.

Jonah did not have the same heart for people that the Lord has. God was willing to do anything that was necessary to save us all, even when it meant sending His own Son to die a horrible death for our sins. Jonah did not want the people of Nineveh to be saved, his hatred and disregard for their welfare was apparent by his unwillingness to go to Nineveh in the first place and further revealed by his anger when they did repent and received a pardon from God.

When the Lord saved the people of Nineveh in response to Jonah’s’ call for repentance, he was so disappointed and self consumed that he requested that God would kill him.

Jonah 4:2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

In this example, we see the true nature of the human heart, in contrast to the merciful and loving heart of God. Because Jonah knew God and His immense compassion for even the worst of people, He was unwilling to be a part of saving those who he considered unworthy of God’s love. Many people who do not know God consider Him mean, vengeful, and unfair. Some simply deny His existence at all. The fact remains, the scriptures give us countless examples of how truly good and loving the Lord is.

The Bible is also brutally honest in its revelation of the true heart of mankind. When we don’t get what we want, our feelings are hurt, we pout, and often turn and blame God for our problems.

Jonah 4:4-8 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

Again, the loving acts of a wonderful and compassionate Father. As Jonah sits outside the city to see what will become of it, he makes himself a shelter. God causes a vine to grow over Jonah to protect him from the heat of the sun. Shortly after God comforts Jonah, He sets out to cause him great discomfort. We may miss the reality that both the blessings and the difficulties are from the same Father who allowed the shade of the vine, as well as the worm who ate the vine. Both events were for the purpose of causing Jonah to grow up and become the man of God that he should be. We should never think that because we are experiencing trials and difficulties that we are not in the will of God. In fact—all those who truly seek to serve the Lord, will suffer great difficulties and trials.

Acts 14:22 …through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

The final three verses of the book of Jonah, vividly illustrate the genuine character of God in His eternal compassion for human beings. This is observed in contrast to Jonah’s preoccupation with himself, and a total lack of concern for the thousands of lives which are at stake if God does not move to save them. This is a common problem for us as human beings who are fallen from God’s intended perfection. We often become so enthralled with our own lives that we fail to perceive the vast number of other people who are drastically affected by our actions and equally grievous—our indifference to their despair and suffering.

Jonah 4:9- 11 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” 10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

It is a common reaction amongst those who suffer disappointment, failure, or difficulties, to fall into a sorrow that makes us feel as if ending our life would be better than going on. We fail to understand that even the worst of circumstances do not last for long. In a day, a week, or a year, our entire outlook on life can change substantially—if we will only persevere and trust in the goodness of God to help us.

The Lord reminds Jonah what is really at issue here, and of greatest importance.

Although Jonah is feeling sorry for himself because he is disappointed in how God has dealt with the people of Nineveh, he has failed to understand that there are over 120,000 young children and infants in Nineveh who have yet to attain an age where they understand their sin and accountability to God (who cannot tell their right hand from their left). Jonah is grieving over a withered vine, but he has no compassion for people who are about to perish eternally.

It is a common error of human beings—that we major on the minors. The passion of individuals who protest and make public demonstrations for the rights and lives of whales, spotted owls, trees, lakes, rivers, and the seas—while failing to stand up for the right to life of helpless human beings. Are not the lives of unborn children of greater significance than the rights of animals? Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the conception of a child, or the inconvenience or responsibility that is required to bring the unborn into this world, should we not demand protection for innocent human life? At issue in this regard is not the rights of the mother or her own body, but the fact that she carries within her, the life of a tiny—helpless baby.

As a race of fallen beings who often reveal ourselves as lacking the glorious qualities that God originally created us with, we frequently fail to differentiate between the importance of people, in favor of things of lesser value.

While Jonah is only thinking of himself, God is always thinking of everyone, even those considered the least amongst us.

It was to this end that God planned for His own Son to come to earth, in fulfillment of hundreds of predictions that would allow us the proper validation and identify of the Messiah. Jesus has met every requirement of these prophecies and He stands alone as the only person who can rightly be identified as the Savior of the world.

In this 319th prophecy of Jonah, God is describing the three days and three nights of the Messiah lying dead in the heart of the earth, only to defeat death forever by raising Himself to life again on the third day.

[1] “Nineveh, the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire, was noted for its cruelty and violence (Jon. 3: 8). This is confirmed by the ancient records found there.” New Scofield Bible Study notes on the book of Jonah.
[2] “The great city of Nineveh” goes back to early postdiluvian days (Gen 10: 11); archaeologists date the oldest of the discovered remains about 4500 B. C.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the book of Jonah.
[3] Genesis 10:8-11
[4] 1.Assyria, Its Princes, Priests and People, by A. H. Sayce: http://rbedrosian.com/Classic/sayce2.htm
2.Contenau (1954, p. 148).
[5] Acts 9:43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

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