Jonah 1:17 describes how Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Now notice Matthew 12:40, in which Jesus Christ gave the sign that He was the Messiah: “For as Jonah was three days in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Some believe that this is another instance in which the Bible contradicts itself. But we know that this is not the case. As Paul stated in I Corinthians 14:33, “God is not the author of confusion.” So, was Jonah swallowed by a fish, or by a whale?
The King James translators correctly rendered the original Hebrew in Jonah 1:17 to read, “a great fish.” However, their translation in Matthew 12:40 is wrong. The New King James correctly renders “in the whale’s belly” as “in the belly of the great fish.”
Smith’s Bible Dictionary provides further evidence that it was a fish—not a whale—that swallowed Jonah: “[speaking of the word whale] Probably the fish which swallowed Jonah was some large kind of shark, or fish especially provided.”
Based on scriptural evidence, we can safely conclude that a fish swallowed Jonah—not a whale.
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