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What if Jonah Died? Part 1: It's Possible!

Did Jonah die when the sailors threw him overboard, or did he pull a Bear Grylls and find an air pocket, eat sushi, and chug seaweed shakes for three days and nights while waiting for extraction?

Honestly, it would make better sense if he did and here’s why. The scripture teaches that except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

What if the miracle of Jonah wasn’t that he lived, but that he died and was resurrected?

What do you mean?! Relax. Jonah dying doesn’t change the Good News.

Years ago, my husband put on a long robe with a belt he made from twine, draped a fishing net around his shoulders and hung real crawfish and Alaskan crab legs and scaly stinky fish all over it, then walked out onto the stage and with an English accent narrated the story as if he was Jonah from within the fish’s belly.

The kids were amazed. The adults were mesmerized. It was awesome!

Historians, theologians, atheist, and even artist, like Michelangelo, who painted Jonah on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a fish nibbling at his thigh and his head thrown back as if looking at a greater fish getting ready to swallow him up, have long been captivated by the narrative contained within the 4 chapters.

But what if it was a corpse the giant fish vomited up on the seashore? Really though…what if? It’s possible! Here’s a verse from Jonah chapter 2:

I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

The word “hell” in the original Hebrew is the word Sheol (Hades in the Greek), and it means the place of the dead or where the dead go when the soul separates from the body. Both good and bad, rich and poor, young and old, male and female are believed to go there. Perhaps, this is what Jesus meant when He told the parable about Abraham’s Bosom with the Rich Man and Lazarus or what 1 Peter 3:19 means when it says that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison after His death and before His resurrection. The Jews believe that from Sheol the dead can communicate with the living and the living with the dead, like in the Jewish movie Loving Leah. Certain Jewish sects also believe that the spirit hovers over the body for three days with the possibility of it re-entering.

Only three verses later, Jonah says: I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet thou has brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

The word “corruption” also means “pit”, i.e. the bottomless pit. Both “pit” and “bottomless pit” are words used to describe hell. Thus, reinforcing that he may have died and was in sheol. Here’s an example from the New Testament where Peter quotes David, saying, Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. In other words, God is not going to leave David in sheol, neither will he suffer the Holy One to see decay.

Then in the very next verse, Jonah says:

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

The word “soul” in the Hebrew is the word nefesh, which means “life.” What if Jonah’s life expired? The word ‘fainted’ here in the Hebrew means ‘to turn, to turn and cover.’ Keep in mind that the Jews read the story of Jonah every year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). What does atonement mean? To the Jews, it is the covering up of sin. It is the rolling ahead of their sins from God’s sight until the next Day of Atonement.

Now skip down to chapter 3:

And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

The word “arise” is the same word “cum or cumi” that Jesus used when He took the dead girl by the hand in the gospel of Mark, and said unto her, Talitha cumi.

The word "cumi" literally means, arise. In other words, Jesus told the corpse to get up!

Here’s what Jesus had to say about Jonah in Matthew:

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The words of Jesus in Matthew would make better sense to a Jewish audience if Jonah died, right? The miraculous sign in the book of Jonah is the resurrection of Jonah. This is why when Jesus was asked of those who came to Him for a sign that He was indeed the Messiah, Jesus responded that the sign would be that of Jonah, i.e., the death, burial, and resurrection on the third day.

John chapter 2 lets us know that it wasn’t until after the resurrection of Jesus that His disciples remembered His words and believed the scripture, and the words which He had said unto them, that He would rise from the grave on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, so that scripture could be fulfilled.

Wait!—what scripture?

No such prophecy in the Old Testament immediately comes to mind. Nowhere does it indicate the Son of Man would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, and on the third day He would rise from the dead. Nowhere, unless of course, you are reading Jonah.

Which brings us back to the question, Did Jonah die when the sailors threw him overboard, or did he pull a Bear Grylls and find an air pocket, eat sushi, and chug seaweed shakes three days and nights while waiting for extraction?

Just one more thing.

In Matthew 16, where Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am,” and Simon Peter says, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God,” and Jesus says, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee…”

There are 2 things I find interesting. The first that Peter recognizes Jesus as the Living God before he was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. The second is that Jesus calls him Bar-Jonah. Transliteration infers Jonah as “Yonah” which refers to a prophetic voice and “bar” which means “son of.” Jesus is telling Simon Peter that he is a prophetic voice that is announcing Jesus as the Living God who would raise from the dead just like Jonah.

The Old Testament is the schoolmaster that brings us to Christ. Jonah died and was resurrected, so that Nineveh could live, and Jesus died and was resurrected, so that all could live.

Stay tuned for Part 2: What Would Jonah Do?

I Am M.O.R.E., and so are you!

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