on Jonah 1 :17
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish - דג גדול dag gadol.
This could not have been a whale, for the throat of that animal can scarcely admit a man's leg; but it might have been a shark, which abounds in the Mediterranean, and whose mouth and stomach are exceedingly capacious. In several cases they have been known to swallow a man when thrown overboard. See the note on Matthew 12:40 (note), where the whole subject of this verse is considered at large. That days and nights do not, among the Hebrews, signify complete days and nights of twenty-four hours, see Esther 4:16, compared with Esther 5:1; Judges 14:17, Judges 14:18. Our Lord lay in the grave one natural day, and part of two others; and it is most likely that this was the precise time that Jonah was in the fish's belly.
on Jonah 1 :17
Now the Lord had (literally "And the Lord") prepared - Jonah (as appears from his thanksgiving) was not swallowed at once, but sank to the bottom of the sea, God preserving him in life there by miracle, as he did in the fish's belly. Then, when the seaweed was twined around his head, and he seemed to be already buried until the sea should give up her dead, "God prepared the fish to swallow Jonah" . "God could as easily have kept Jonah alive in the sea as in the fish's belly, but, in order to prefigure the burial of the Lord, He willed him to be within the fish whose belly was as a grave." Jonah, does not say what fish it was; and our Lord too used a name, signifying only one of the very largest fish. Yet it was no greater miracle to create a fish which should swallow Jonah, than to preserve him alive when swallowed . "The infant is buried, as it were, in the womb of its mother; it cannot breathe, and yet, thus too, it liveth and is preserved, wonderfully nurtured by the will of God." He who preserves the embryo in its living grave can maintain the life of man as easily without the outward air as with it.
The same Divine Will preserves in being the whole creation, or creates it. The same will of God keeps us in life by breathing this outward air, which preserved Jonah without it. How long will men think of God, as if He were man, of the Creator as if He were a creature, as though creation were but one intricate piece of machinery, which is to go on, ringing its regular changes until it shall be worn out, and God were shut up, as a sort of mainspring within it, who might be allowed to be a primal Force, to set it in motion, but must not be allowed to vary what He has once made? "We must admit of the agency of God," say these men when they would not in name be atheists, "once in the beginning of things, but must allow of His interference as sparingly as may be." Most wise arrangement of the creature, if it were indeed the god of its God! Most considerate provision for the non-interference of its Maker, if it could but secure that He would not interfere with it for ever! Acute physical philosophy, which, by its omnipotent word, would undo the acts of God! Heartless, senseless, sightless world, which exists in God, is upheld by God, whose every breath is an effluence of God's love, and which yet sees Him not, thanks Him not, thinks it a greater thing to hold its own frail existence from some imagined law, than to be the object of the tender personal care of the Infinite God who is Love! Poor hoodwinked souls, which would extinguish for themselves the Light of the world, in order that it may not eclipse the rushlight of their own theory!
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish - The time that Jonah was in the fish's belly was a hidden prophecy. Jonah does not explain nor point it. He tells the fact, as Scripture is accustomed to do so. Then he singles out one, the turning point in it. Doubtless in those three days and nights of darkness, Jonah (like him who after his conversion became Paul), meditated much, repented much, sorrowed much, for the love of God, that he had ever offended God, purposed future obedience, adored God with wondering awe for His judgment and mercy. It was a narrow home, in which Jonah, by miracle, was not consumed; by miracle, breathed; by miracle, retained his senses in that fetid place. Jonah doubtless, repented, marveled, adored, loved God. But, of all, God has singled out this one point, how, out of such a place, Jonah thanked God. As He delivered Paul and Silas from the prison, when they prayed with a loud voice to Him, so when Jonah, by inspiration of His Spirit, thanked Him, He delivered him.
To thank God, only in order to obtain fresh gifts from Him, would be but a refined, hypocritical form of selfishness. Such a formal act would not be thanks at all. We thank God, because we love Him, because He is so infinitely good, and so good to us, unworthy. Thanklessness shuts the door to His personal mercies to us, because it makes them the occasion of fresh sins of our's. Thankfulness sets God's essential goodness free (so to speak) to be good to us. He can do what He delights in doing, be good to us, without our making His Goodness a source of harm to us. Thanking Him through His grace, we become fit vessels for larger graces . "Blessed he who, at every gift of grace, returns to Him in whom is all fullness of graces; to whom when we show ourselves not ungrateful for gifts received, we make room in ourselves for grace, and become meet for receiving yet more." But Jonah's was that special character of thankfulness, which thanks God in the midst of calamities from which there was no human exit; and God set His seal on this sort of thankfulness, by annexing this deliverance, which has consecrated Jonah as an image of our Lord, to his wonderful act of thanksgiving.
on Jonah 1 :17