The BBC & Jonah

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Last night while browsing the BBC news, I came across an article about a scuba diver who was momentarily “swallowed” by a Humpback whale off the coast of Massachusetts. This morning, after handing her a cup of coffee, I told my wife about the article. How did she react? She gasped in delight and said…

“Jonah!”

Which is exactly how I reacted when I noticed the article. And, my goodness, who wouldn’t? Who would not immediately think of Jonah in the belly of the whale?

Curiously, the author of the BBC article nowhere mentions the name of Jonah, although the clear connection was made immediately by me and my wife. For the sake of fairness and accuracy, I should say that the BBC writer does refer to Michael Packard’s brief Humpback enveloping as a “Biblical ordeal,” and does refer to the whale as “the leviathan,” and thus demonstrates some level of familiarity with the Bible. However, no mention is made in the article of the name of Jonah. Again, I find that curious. Why not make a clear and obvious point of connection explicit?    

One is left to speculate on why the author or the editor of the article declined to make the connection. Whatever the reason, I will say that the account of Jonah (and his 72-hour ordeal inside the “great fish”) has been received with a lot of skepticism, at least by a lot of adults. Moreover, Michael Packard’s brief scare does not exactly compare, in terms of duration, since, by his own estimation, it lasted less than a minute, whereas Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. Significantly, Jesus once made a prophetic point of that 72 hour period.

For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, 12:40

Three days and three nights inside of a marine creature is a very long time. It is a wonder that Jonah was not digested. It is a wonder that Jonah had enough oxygen to breathe. It is a wonder that Jonah could somehow survive that. More than a wonder, it would have been a miracle. As for Jesus’ comment, a resurrection from the dead is also a miracle, indeed even more of a miracle. But Jesus’ point had to do with the duration of internalization, those 72 hours. I will speak to that duration in my next blog post.

For now, though, I will affirm that Christians do believe that the God of the Bible is sovereign over the course of history, even over curious events off the coast of Massachusetts. When a scuba diver is momentarily swallowed by and then spat up by a Humpback whale, I would suggest that the obvious biblical connection is supposed to be made.  Upon hearing about it, people are supposed to react with a gasp of delight and exclaim “Jonah!”     

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