Jonah and the Whale

Image by Pieter Lastman – Public Domain “Jonah and the Whale”

This week is going to be a little different. I have done archaeology based articles that support the Bible before, but this one even blew my mind a little when I read the evidence. I have always believed the Bible to be a true history of the Jewish nation, even the seemingly impossible stories, like Jonah and the whale, but recent discoveries have proven not only that the story is possibly true, but evidence was found that is enough to prove it actually happened, just like the Bible tells the story.

To open the topic of Biblical archaeology I would like to give the reason I believe the Bible to be a truthful historical account. I studied ancient history as a side topic in college and was fascinated by the “historical” accounts of Egypt. I found it interesting that a majority of Egypt’s history only talks about the success in battle, you never find an account of a battle that was lost. This turns out to be true for most races of ancient people. It is quite different in the written history of the Hebrew/Jewish nation. The Bible tells stories of both the defeat and the success of the Hebrew people. The success is always attributed to the people following the laws of Yahweh, and their defeat from breaking the laws of Yahweh. My argument is that if their historians were willing to report the truth from both victory and defeat, why would I expect a lie an any circumstance. I know I likely have readers that disagree with my view and welcome them to open discussion.

Since I am also not sure if you know the story of Jonah I must tell the story before providing the evidence. Jonah was a prophet of Yahweh, the only prophet major prophet shared between Judaism and Muslim faiths. The Jewish Bible and the Quran both tell basically the same story of Jonah. He was told by God (Allah/Yahweh) to go to the people of Nineveh and warn them of their pending destruction unless they repent an turn back to God. Jonah refuses to go and gets on a ship going the opposite direction. While on the ship a storm come and Jonah is chosen through the casting of lots to be thrown overboard to appease the gods and save the ship. As soon as he hits the water the storm stops. Jonah repents for not following God’s command to go to Nineveh and is swallowed by a whale. Living in the whale for three days, Jonah is spit out and goes immediately to Nineveh, a city of over 100,000 people. They all believe his prophecy and turn to God saving the city.

The largest argument against the story was a lost history. It was long believed that there were no whales in the region of Nineveh, but a recent study produced evidence that the Mediterranean was once home to whales. Ana S. L. Rodrigues and colleagues published a paper in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences” entitled “Forgotten Mediterranean calving grounds of grey and Northern Atlantic right whales: evidence from Roman archaeological records”. In this article they find a history of a massive Mediterranean whale industry that hunted the whales to extinction in the region. They also found known whale bones on several dig sites in the region. This of course does not exactly prove the story of Jonah to be true, but refutes the main argument making the story possible.

The second argument is the obvious one, “How can someone survive for three days in the belly of whale and leave healthy enough to carry on a ministry to 100,000 people?” I must admit this one is a little tricky to prove. For this we must look to the story of James Bartley. Bartley was swallowed by a whale during a whaling expedition off the Falkland Islands in 1896. Bartley’s boat was struck by the whale, he fell overboard into the whales mouth. It was 36 hours later when we was cut free from the whale by his peers, not knowing he was inside the freshly harpooned whale. His skin was bleached and he was blind, but lived to tell the story for 18 years.

I know it still does not prove the story to be true, but having it told by two separate and at odds groups of people is enough for most historians to agree that a particular piece of history is true. Adding that to the fact that people can survive being swallowed by a whale and whales existing in the Mediterranean during time of the Jonas story make it seem very likely. Even for those who don’t believe the story it teaches a valuable lesson that there is always hope, even for one who finds himself in the stomach of a whale.

Here is the real kicker. There was a first-century bone box found in Jerusalem with a sketch of the whale vomiting out Jonah, which is believed to be Jonah’s burial place. Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.

Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to or through his website at

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