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Could a whale really swallow a person whole? “the Lord had prepared a great fish.” (Jonah 1:17.) Perhaps this wasn’t your typical whale. And it’s happened in more recent history: “In 1891, a whaling crew operating off the Falkland Islands was beset with difficulties. A whale, which emerged when a harpoon sunk into its flesh, turned on the small boat and capsized it. Three of the men who were overboard were unable to make it back to the mother vessel. Later that evening, the dying whale surfaced and was rigged to the side of the whaling ship. When the crew began the task of butchering it, one of the three missing men, James Bartley, was found inside the whale’s stomach. He had survived in his mammalian undersea prison for 15 hours! The acidity of the whale’s stomach had permanently bleached his skin and removed his hair, and he was almost blind. Unable to continue his chosen trade, Bartley turned to shoe making and remained a cobbler the rest of his life.” (Source)
Jonah was likely the worst AND most effective prophet in the Bible! Though he went about his work unwillingly the Lord used Jonah (a very imperfect vessel) to convert an entire city. Most prophets could only say they had a few converts, but Jonah had them by the city-full!
The Ninevites repentance might have been helped along by a serious trial and a big scare. The Assyrians experienced a plague during the reign of Ashur-Dan III (source) and about ten years before they had had a five-minute total solar eclipse(source). Jonah preached to the Ninevites right around the time these big events occurred.
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