Jonah is Swallowed by a Great Fish
There was a prophet named Jonah who lived in a small town in Israel. One day the word of the Lord came to him and said: "Arise and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it for the people are wicked and I will punish them."
Now Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and was one of the greatest cities at that time. It is said that the walls that surrounded the city were sixty miles in length and one hundred feet high and so thick that three chariots could be driven side by side upon their top. There were one hundred towers, some of them two hundred feet high, and many beautiful gates for the people to go in and out. Inside the city there were beautiful palaces, gardens, and wonderful temples for the worship of the heathen gods. It was a great, splendid and wicked city.
Jonah was an humble prophet whose home was five hundred miles away from this great city of Nineveh and when the Lord told him to go and preach against this great and wicked city and to warn the people that the city would be destroyed he was troubled in his mind and dismayed at the size of his task. He said to himself: "What can I do, an insignificant prophet, against so mighty a host of heathen and so great a city as this Nineveh?" Therefore, Jonah was afraid to undertake the task which the Lord had set for him to do.
Jonah ran away from the mission which the Lord had set. Instead of going to Nineveh he went to Joppa, and there he found a ship going to Tarshish. It was a little town in Spain, about the end of the then known world. He paid his fare and went down into the ship, and soon was fast asleep because he had walked a long ways and was very tired.
Hardly had the ship set sail, when the Lord sent a great wind into the sea and there was a mighty tempest so that the ship was likely to be lost with everybody on board.
The sailors were much afraid and every man cried unto his own god to save the ship from the fury of the storm. They cast into the sea all the wares that were on the ship in order to lighten it. Still the storm raged and the shipmaster did not know what to do. He went down into the sides of the ship and saw Jonah fast asleep. "What do you mean by sleeping at such a time?" said he to the prophet. "Arise and call upon your God so that He may help us and that we may not perish."
Then every one said to his fellows: "Come, let us cast lots that we find out which one of us is the cause of this storm." So they cast lots and the lot fell upon Jonah.
The sailors then turned upon Jonah and asked him: "What have you done to bring this storm upon us, what is your occupation, and what is your country and who are your people, and from whence do you come?"
"I am a Hebrew," replied Jonah, "and I fear the Lord, who is the God of heaven, and who hath made the sea and the dry land."
The men were very much afraid for they had heard that Jonah was a Hebrew and served the Lord, and they said unto him again: "The anger of the Lord is against us."
Jonah then told them what the Lord had commanded him to do and that he was afraid to go to Nineveh and was fleeing from the task which had been set him.
"What shall we do to you," asked the sailors, "that the sea may be calm, and that our ship may not be wrecked and that we be not destroyed?"
Jonah said to them: "Take me up and cast me into the sea, so shall the sea be calm, for I know that it is on my account that this great storm is upon you."
The sailors did not wish to throw Jonah over-board, so they rowed very hard to bring the ship to the land, but they could not for the tempest was great and the waves were high. Therefore, they said: "We must not perish all for one man's life.' Then they took up Jonah and threw him overboard', into the sea. As soon as they did this, the winds, stopped blowing and the sea became calm and the ship went upon its way.
When Jonah was thrown overboard a great fish which the Lord had prepared, came out of the depths of the sea and swallowed up Jonah. And the prophet stayed in the body of the fish for three days and three nights.
While Jonah was inside the fish he prayed to the Lord to deliver him out of the body of the fish and he would do what the Lord had commanded him to do. He saw now, how wrong he had been to flee from the great task which had been set him and he promised the Lord that if he should be delivered from the body of the fish that he would do whatever was commanded of him.
After three days and three nights, the great fish which the Lord had prepared, came near the land and cast Jonah out of its mouth upon the shore. The prophet arose and walked to his home in Israel and waited the word of the Lord to tell him what to do.