Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jonah and "the Whale"

This weekend has been just so much fun! And especially busy! I can now say I've officially moved in all the big furniture to my apartment (with help from my gracious parents). Okay, not everything is moved in that my roommate and I will need for the upcoming semester, but the big things are set. I have to say, sleeping on a real bed is something I don't take for granted any more! (These past 3 weeks I've been sleeping on an air mattress!)

Jonah and the Big Fish
This morning my mom and I went to church and the sermon was really good. He spoke about the first chapter of Jonah, a small book in the Old Testament of the Bible. If you don't know the story, Jonah was a prophet of God. He was told by God in the beginning of the book that he should go preach in Ninevah, this place of violence and intolerance. Let's just say you wouldn't want to vacation there! Jonah didn't want to go, so he decided to go the exact opposite way, to another city named Tarshish. He got on a boat with other men heading toward Tarshish to run from what God had called him to do. 
A great storm came upon them in the sea and they all realized Jonah was the reason why. They ended up throwing him into the sea. And what do you know, the storm stopped. Then, my favorite part, he was swallowed by a big fish and survived in it for 3 days and 3 nights. While in the fish, Jonah prayed to God and repented from his sin of trying to run from Him. God had the fish vomit him out onto dry land. Then Jonah journeyed to Ninevah and told them to repent. And, surprisingly, they did. So God decided not to destroy their city. The book of Jonah ends on a weird note, in the middle of the story almost. Jonah was angry, sitting under a tree right outside Ninevah, and God was speaking to Jonah explaining why the city shouldn't be destroyed.
I always heard this story when I was a kid as "Jonah and the Whale" or "Jonah who was swallowed by the Whale." In the Bible, though, Jonah is swallowed by a big fish. As you all know, a whale is not a fish. It's big, but it's not biologically a fish. A whale is a mammal. A marine mammal, but a mammal nonetheless. So my childhood was a lie. 
A sperm whale.
So what could this "big fish" be? If the writer of this book of the Bible was being slightly vague, it could've been an actual whale. Like a sperm whale or a blue whale. But let me throw this wrench into the mix. What if it was a shark? Yes, like the ones with hundreds of razor sharp teeth and are known as being man-eaters (which they aren't). What if it was a whale shark? Or even a great white? 
If you really want to get into the details of the story, you might ask, "How in the world did Jonah get swallowed into a whale/big fish/whatever the heck it is, and not get digested after 3 whole days?" That's a very good question. Some people have thought about this over the years, and they might have an answer. A couple marine scientists who work in Sea World: San Francisco say it must've been a great white shark. They say a shark because their metabolism is very slow. Certain sharks, like great whites, won't usually eat every day. Something as large as a human body wouldn't even start deteriorating in 3 days time. 
Let's say it was a whale. Well, whale's stomachs are kind of like a cow's. They have multiple chambers. The first crushes the food, and the second will digest it with digestive juices. If Jonah were to have survived in the first chamber, he wouldn't have had to deal with acidic conditions. Of course, he would have to worry about being crushed, but that's not as bad as being dissolved by digestive whale juice, I think. 
Of course, the whole point of the story isn't to think about what the big fish was. Jonah was running from God, and God still wanted to use him. The big fish was used in the story like a supporting actor in a movie! It wasn't the main character, but was useful in the story line. But, I got to say, I do like thinking about what that fish was!


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