“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish.”
Now about that fish, the whale that swallowed Jonah.
Some scholars believe the Book of Jonah is the story of a real life messenger of God: Jonah, son of Amittai, a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel serving about the 8th century BCE.
Other scholars point to the exaggeration in the story (not just the whale but the size of the city) and believe the story is legend, a parable, a pivotal story to make an important point.
Up to this point, God was understood as a tribal God. God belonged to the People of God. God was on their side. God fought for them in the wars. God blessed them and cursed their enemies.
This is not what the Book of Jonah is about. Jonah is sent to warn and bless the enemy. God’s grace, God’s mercy, is for everyone; even the enemies.
Jonah’s long journey was not just geographical. He was learning a lesson about God.
Jonah was making a journey of inner transformation and spiritual growth.
So the whale might be a whale.
And the whale might be Jonah’s second chance.
It’s his time out. It’s his dark night of the soul,
his time in the belly of the whale,
his coming to terms with God’s strange invitation.
It is the struggling that comes from deep inner resistance.
It is Jonah’s call to truth.
And God is still calling us.
[Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the fish is one of the most beautiful prayers in scripture. You might want to read Jonah 2:2-10.]