. . . no SIGN shall be given it [to an evil and Jewish adulterous generation], but the SIGN of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the WHALES BELLY; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the HEART of the earth. --Matt. 12:39, 40

A preacher was asked by a liberal college professor whether he thought that Jonah was actually swallowed by the whale. The preacher responded, "Well, when I get to heaven, I will ask Jonah." The unbelieving professor responded, "What if Jonah is not in heaven?" The preacher retorted, "In that case, you ask him." (For all you skeptics, there have been actual cases of other human beings swallowed by whales that lived.)

To the question whether Jonah was dead or alive in the whale (Jonah 1:17-2:9) many Christians derive their answer from a suggested over exaggeration of typology in Matthew 12:40, taking all of the known but unmentioned details of Jesus’ death and resurrection experience and applying them to Jonah.

The fact that Jesus died and was resurrected means to them that Jonah must have died and then finally resurrected. Therefore, a closer look at Matthew 12:40 must be taken, regarding the differences between Jesus’ and Jonah’s account to show these stretches and exaggerations.

If a TYPE, Jonah being DEAD in the whale, 3days/nights, does not answer Jesus being ALIVE in the heart of the earth. One would think the parallel should be Jonah in the heart of the earth rather than in the whale or Jesus in the sepulcher and not the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40 should be interpreted as a SIGN to the Jews, rather than an exact TYPE, for Jesus did call it a SIGN and for the following differences:

1. Jesus and Jonah are different people, one is the God/man and the other is a Calvinist.

2. Jesus and Jonah were located in different places, Jesus was in the heart of the earth; Jonah was in the whale’s belly for the 3 days/nights.

3. Jesus and Jonah were in these different places for different reasons. Christ was there because of obedience; Jonah was there because of disobedience.

4. Neither the death of Jesus nor Jonah is mentioned, nor the resurrection of Jesus nor is Jonah mentioned in Matthew 12:40 or Jonah 2.

5. Nothing is the same in the 2 accounts except the time element of 3 days and 3 nights.

6. No one is resurrected until Jesus and the first-fruits are resurrected (after the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ - Matt. 27:52, 53).

7. Jonah agrees with Christ as to the location from which he cried out to God.

8. Can prayers from hell be prayed, heard, and answered? From out of the Whale’s belly?

The Narrative

What God Said 

Now the LORD prepared a GREAT FISH to swallow up Jonah [Jonah the person, not his dead body]. And Jonah [the person, not his dead body] was in the belly of the fish [neither hell nor sheol] for three days and three nights. THEN JONAH PRAYED unto the LORD his God OUT of the fish’s BELLY [neither hell nor sheol]. -- Jonah 1:17 to 2:1

 Some would point out that a whale is not a fish, per our modern biological phyla, contradicting the KJB rendering of the word that Jesus used (whose underlying word is KETOS, from where we get Ketology or the study of whales rather than ICTHUS or fish).

Nevertheless, here, God is said to prepare for Jonah a GREAT FISH and not a place in the underworld.) From the entrance of Jonah into the GREAT fish until Jonah’s exit thereof, there were 3 days/nights. Jonah was therefore alive from his entrance to his exit. God said it was Jonah the person, not Jonah the body.

Even Jesus’ body is referred to as the "body of Jesus" (everywhere except one place, which has it in the context of the "body of Jesus"). Jonah prays this 2nd prayer from inside the whale, recounting his experiences and FIRST prayer in the DEEP. It is interesting that during Jonah’s time in the great fish’s belly that Jonah PRAYED from there. Now, Jonah had to use some of that time to pray (while ALIVE inside the whale), if Jonah was in the fish 3 days and three nights. It would be a bit unusual for a dead body to pray.

Comparatively, Jesus’ body was not alive in the sepulcher and did not pray from there. Now, it also would be very inconsistent to say that Jonah was alive, part of the time, and dead, part of the time, completely destroying one’s own already stretched typology of three days and three nights.

The Narrative - What Jonah

Said About His Experience

And said, I CRIED by reason of my affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the BELLY OF HELL cried I, and thou HEARDEST my voice. FOR thou hast cast me in the DEEP, in the midst of the SEAS; and the FLOODS COMPASSED ME about: all the BILLOWS and thy WAVES passed over me. -- Jonah 2:2, 3

HELL from BENEATH is moved for thee to MEET THEE at thy COMING: it stirreth up the DEAD for thee . . . Thy pomp is brought DOWN to the GRAVE . . . -- Isa. 14:9-11

. . . my SOUL is full of troubles: and my LIFE draweth NIGH unto the GRAVE. I am counted with them that GO DOWN INTO the PIT: I am AS a man that hath no strength: Free AMONG the DEAD, LIKE the SLAIN that lie IN THE GRAVE . . . Thou hast laid me in the LOWEST PIT, in darkness, in the DEEPS. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast AFFLICTED me with all thy WAVES. -- Psalm 88:3-7

When the WAVES of death COMPASSED me, the FLOODS of ungodly men made me afraid; the SORROWS OF HELL COMPASSED ME about; the snares of DEATH prevented [old word for anticipated] me; In my DISTRESS I called upon the LORD; and CRIED to my God: and he DID HEAR my voice OUT OF HIS TEMPLE [see Jonah 2:4], and my cry did enter his ears. -- 2 Sam 22::6 [See also Psalm 18:4, 5 for the same record]

Jonah recounts his experiences and first prayer from the DEEP in the framework of his second prayer from the whale’s belly. He recounts his former affliction and subsequent cry to the Lord, who heard him. This cry was not from the whale’s belly but from the "belly of hell," which is explained throughout this article, including the above passages. Some would tell us that this term refers to the gastric juice of the whale. Others would tell us that Jonah was in a burning hell.

Yet, others would tell us that he was in the paradise underworld. Nevertheless, Jonah was IN the WATER, in the midst of the SEA, in the DEEP. Rather than arbitrarily assume (from one’s forced point of view) what the "belly of hell" means, why not allow Jonah to describe what he meant by the term?

The narrative is merely recording Jonah’s words and Jonah’s perceptions (2:2 - 9), as Jonah realizes that he is at death’s door, ready to perish in a watery grave. The "belly of hell" is anticipated and referred to, as Jonah anticipates DEATH and the unseen world. Many elements of Jonah 2 match David’s words in the Psalms and Samuel; one would think that Jonah was reading David’s mail or that he was likening his experience with that of David. We seriously doubt, whether the SORROWS OF HELL were due to a visit by David to Hell fire or even to the underworld paradise, for that matter.

Jonah in the DEEP Continued

THEN [When? Where? -- While in the DEEP?] I said, I am cast out of the sight; yet I will look again to ward thy HOLY TEMPLE. The WATERS compassed me about, even to the soul; the DEPTH closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped around my head. I went DOWN to the bottoms of the MOUNTAINS; the EARTH with her BARS was about me FOR EVER [obviously, this was Jonah’s anticipatory perception of his fate in his own words, for it was not to be for ever.] --Jonah 2:4 - 6

So what does Jonah do? Jonah cries out to the Lord from the DEEP, compassed with WATER (rather than compassed with hell fire), sea WEED, BILLOWS, and WAVES and Jonah goes to the bottoms of the mountains. While in the deep, with the waters compassing Jonah, he realizes his spiritual problem and repents.

Once again, realizing where his help must come, Jonah decides to trust the LORD in his spiritual awakening and revival. The watery saga in the DEEP continues, after Jonah’s prayer, with Jonah still conscious of what is happening, still alive.

Unless one is prepared to contend for sea weed, billows, waves, and water, and the deep existing in a burning hell or in a paradise underworld, the consideration must be that Jonah is still in the watery DEEP, alive. Jonah’s perception was that of, "I ain’t getting out of this one; it is FOR EVER." Jonah is at the very gates of death/hell, but will he be rescued? Tune into the next caption.

Jonah is Rescued

. . . YET hast thou BROUGHT UP MY LIFE [brought UP still alive] from CORRUPTION [Did you get that? No death and no corruption for Jonah], Oh LORD my God. WHEN my soul FAINTED WITHIN me [Jonah’s SOUL is still WITHIN him] I remembered the LORD: and MY PRAYER came unto you [Jonah still recounting 2:2] and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine HOLY TEMPLE [see Verse 4]. -- Jonah 2: 6, 7

The LORD killeth and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the GRAVE, and bringeth UP . . . -- 1 Sam. 2:6

Jonah recounts his rescue from the deep [no doubt, here, he enters the air breathing whale and is rescued. Gasp! Whew!] This BEGINS Jonah’s 3 days and 3 night’s whale school experience. When Jonah PRAYED and cried and looked to God for help, he was, no doubt, nigh unto death, approaching the under world.

Jonah did not die but rather FAINTED, and the Lord rescued him from the deep and sent him to Whale College. No death or corruption for Jonah. The Whale was a grace and mercy rescue, the DEEP was the chastisement.

Thankful Jonah Contrasts

Himself With The Lost

They that observe lying vanities [the lost] forsake their own MERCY. BUT I will sacrifice to thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD [for all you ultra disps]. --Jonah 2:8, 9

After being rescued by the Whale, Jonah, the Calvinist, breathes a sigh of relief and says, I am glad that one is over. Jonah is thankful and appreciative, and promises to make sacrifice and to pay his vows. He recognizes (even in the O.T.) that salvation is of the LORD!

After The SIGN Of 3 Days

And 3 Nights

And the Lord spake unto the fish [the actual narrative again], and it vomited out Jonah on dry land. -- Jonah 2:10

God uses everything to accomplish His purpose. He even used Jonah’s disobedience to create a comparative sign for Israel, who knew nothing about the death and burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to Jonah until after the resurrection. They did know, however, about the 3 days and 3 nights of Jonah in the whale.

The Belly Of Hell

Some argue whether or not Jonah went to a burning hell or to the paradise part of hell. If you believe that Jonah was lost and went to the burning part of hell and then ended up in paradise after dying the second time, you are in real trouble in that here is a fellow that did an Audie Murphy ("To Hell and Back!").

This contradicts what Abraham said that you could not pass from one to the other (even by living again). Others believe that Jonah went directly to the Paradise part (Sheol). But we believe that neither are true here, since this was only Jonah’s perception and feelings that characterized the belly of hell, rather than the actual narrative (Jonah 1:17-2:10) with God giving the actual record.

Regarding This Belly Of Hell:

1. Jonah said the water compassed him in this belly of hell (no water in a burning hell)

2. Jonah said the sea weed wrapped around his head in this belly of hell.

3. Jonah said there were billows and waves and floods in this belly of hell.

4. Jonah called the belly of hell the DEEP.

5. Jonah said that his body sank to the bottoms of the mountains in the belly of hell.

6. Jonah's said that his SOUL was still WITHIN him, in this belly of hell, although he fainted.

7. Jonah's said that his LIFE was brought UP from this belly of hell.

8. Jonah agrees with Christ as to the location of the place from which he cried out from, namely, the whale.

9. Can prayers be prayed, heard, and answered from hell? From a Whale’s belly?

10. Jesus and Jonah were located in different places, Jesus was in the heart of the earth; Jonah was in the whale’s belly for the 3days/nights.


Hell Etymolog

There is more than one hell in the Old Testament, unseen underworld (also the N.T.). The final hell, the temporary hell, the angels that sinned hell (no fire-just dark with chains), the lowest hell, and the paradise hell. Most folks think that believers went to the paradise hell, which some erroneously call Abraham’s bosom.

Jonah would have to be in that underworld place, if he died, if you believe that he was saved. But nothing in Jonah 2 indicates that he died. Quite the contrary! So what does the word hell describe in the old Testament? It describes the unseen underworld or nether world that all went to prior to the resurrection of Christ, when Jesus took all the saved prisoners from the underworld to heaven’s paradise, after paying their redemption and being resurrected Himself.

The difference between the lost and the saved in this prison was that they were prisoners in separate parts of the unseen underworld. The patriarchs called it the grave, where they were gathered unto their people, JW's notwithstanding. The saved and the lost were there in that underworld together but separately in different compartments with a great gulf fixed between them. The saved compartment is now empty; only the angel’s hell and burning hell for the damned remain.

The Dictionaries

Hell, hel, n. [O.E.hell = D. hel = G. hole = lcel. hel = Goth. halja, hell; root of O.E. helan, cover, hide.] – Webster (1971)

Hell, n. [Sax, helle, G Holle; D. Hel, helle; Sw. Helvete; Dan. Helvede. Qu. HOLE, a DEEP place, or from Sax, to COVER.]

1. place or state of punishment for the wicked after death. Mat 10, Luke 12

2. The place of the dead, or souls after death; the LOWER REGIONS, or the GRAVE; called in Hebrew, sheol, and by the Greeks, hades. Psa. 16. --Webster’s 1828

Hence the hidden and covered hole or unseen world or prison (where they were thrown into the "HOLE" or the PIT). We asked a Greek restaurant owner, where we frequent, what Hades meant to a Greek.

He told us that it was a connotation of the unseen world, rather than a connotation of a fiery place (which is usually determined by the context, where it does, indeed, mean a burning hell). He told us that the word’s combination roots were "NOT" and "SEEN."

This is consistent with Strong’s explanation of a negative particle attached to the past tense of "to see" or "seen" (Hades-unseen) and also with some of the "unseen underworld of the departed spirits" definitions of "hell" in the various English dictionaries, all consistent with the O.T. view of Sheol, the counterpart of HADES.

We are contending that Jonah was in neither the burning hell nor any "Sheol" nor any non burning hell (to cite the angel’s hell as an example) nor grave, although Jonah did approach the underworld and nearly died. Now, hell in the O.T. is in the nether parts of the earth, the unseen underworld.

Of course, the saved, fire-free part of this underworld prison was emptied at the resurrection, but the hell for the angels and the lost still remains, with that of the angels (not necessarily burning but in chains of darkness).

The O.T. "saints were also within the earth (Psalm 16:3), BEFORE Christ's resurrection. The saved and the lost were there in that underworld together but separately in different compartments with a great gulf fixed between them. The saved compartment is now empty; only the angel’s hell and burning hell for the damned remain. ÿ

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