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FOUR REASONS WHY I BELIEVE
JONAH DIED IN THE GREAT FISH

SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE #8

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, July 24, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles


By now you know that I agree with Dr. J. Vernon McGee and Dr. M. R. DeHaan that Jonah died in the stomach of the sea monster that God had "prepared" to swallow him. There are four reasons I believe that Jonah died in the stomach of that creature.

1. First, Jonah said that he cried out to God from the "belly of hell." Please turn to Jonah 2:1-2.

"Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice" (Jonah 2:1-2).

The Hebrew word "Sheol," translated "hell" in the King James Bible, means literally, "the place where the dead go" (The Scofield Study Bible, note on Habakkuk 2:5). Sometimes, in the Old Testament, this word is used to describe hades, Hell in the New Testament. In other places in the Old Testament it simply means "the grave, where all human activities cease" (Scofield, ibid.). This is the sense in which it is used here in Jonah 2:2. This verse could be translated, "I cried from the depth of the grave." This, in itself, is not conclusive evidence that Jonah died in the creature's stomach, but it tends to support that idea and, when coupled with the following three arguments, helps to build a very strong case for Jonah's death.

2. Second, look at Jonah 2:6. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God" (Jonah 2:6).

You may be seated.
    The Hebrew word translated "corruption" is "shachath." It means "destruction, corruption, grave" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #7845). Dr. Gill calls the fish's stomach "a grave, a pit of corruption, where he must otherwise have lain and rotted…" (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament).
    The same word for "corruption" is used in Psalm 16:10, in David's prophecy concerning the death of Jesus. "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10). "Shachath" is given there, the same word as in Jonah 2:6. This verse was quoted by Peter in Acts 2:31, where the Greek word is "diaphthora." It means "decay" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1312). The Hebrew and Greek words both refer to decay and death. Thus, the word "corruption" lends another support to the idea that Jonah died in the fish.

3. Third, the entire account of what happened to Jonah, as recorded in Jonah, chapter two, is a description of a man's death. If someone had never in his life read the second chapter of Jonah, and never in his life had heard this account told, I think he would conclude that Jonah died and was raised to life again by God. The problem many people have with that idea is that they have been swayed by Sunday School pictures that show Jonah alive and well in the fish - so they had that idea before they read the actual passage of Scripture.

When you put these three facts together (Jonah crying from "the grave," Jonah saved from "corruption," and the circumstances described in the chapter) you have a very strong case for the death of Jonah in the fish's stomach. But there is a fourth reason why I believe Jonah died.

4. Fourth, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ point unmistakenly to death and resurrection. Remember that Jesus said,

"As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's [sea monster's] belly; so shall the Son of man [Christ Himself] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40).

Christ really died. Christ really rose again from the dead. And Christ said that what happened to Jonah was a picture of what would happen to Him - He would die, be buried, and rise from the dead. Christ gave the account of Jonah as a picture of His own death and resurrection from the dead.

When you put these four facts together, I think it is clear that Jonah died in the fish, and was resurrected by the power of God, as Christ was in the New Testament.

Now, why do I belabor this point? I have spent three Saturday nights discussing it with you. Why take so much time on this?

1. First, I have taken a long time with this subject because I want you to see that the Old Testament Scriptures are reliable. We in the Western world live an age of unbelief. People in general in our culture think of the Old Testament as a book of mythology or "fairy tales." But few of them take the trouble to actually study the Old Testament Scriptures. I think that a thorough study of a passage like Jonah, chapter two, will show an unbiased person that Christ was correct when He pointed to Jonah as an actual, historical person in Matthew 12:40.

2. Second, I have taken a long time with this subject because this account of what happened to Jonah so perfectly pictures what happened to Christ in the New Testament. He died on the Cross. He was buried. God raised Him from the dead. That is the gospel, the foundation of Biblical Christianity. The Apostle Paul said,

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures"
      (I Corinthians 15:3-4).


 And Christ Himself said that this gospel was pictured in the Old Testament by what happened to Jonah (Matthew 12:40).
    And when you trust Christ, you are saved. You are united to Christ in His death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:19-2:10). This makes what happened to Jonah a picture of what happens to you when you get saved. You are raised from spiritual death to spiritual life by union with Christ.

3. Third, I have taken a long time with this subject because it gives you an answer to people who ridicule the Bible by saying Jonah couldn't have lived three days and nights inside a fish. Dr. McGee said,

I do want to say that I have had the privilege of teaching the Book of Jonah on quite a few college campuses, and I have found that the position I take does give ammunition to young people today…you must recognize that it has been helpful to a great many students. It has been the means, as in the case of [a] Georgia Tech student years ago, of bringing some to a saving knowledge of Christ (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, volume III, p. 751).

Dr. McGee said that this college student at Georgia Tech wanted to become a Christian, but the young man said, "I just can't believe a man could live three days and three nights in a fish." Dr. McGee said, "Who told you that?" The college student said, "I've got a professor who spends his time ridiculing that." Dr. McGee opened the Bible and showed the young man that Jonah died. The student went back and made the professor look this passage up in a Bible. He asked the professor to show him where the Bible said that Jonah was alive in the fish. The professor couldn't do it! Shortly afterwards this college student became a Christian (McGee, ibid., pp. 749-750).
    Likewise, these lessons from the second chapter of Jonah should give you plenty of ammunition when you hear someone ridicule the Book of Jonah!

(END OF SERMON)

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