Locations: Joppa: A coastal city in Israel approximately 25 miles from the present day Tel Aviv.
Tarshish: Scholars are not completely sure of the exact location of this city, but most think it is in Southern Spain.
Nineveh: At the time of this story, it was in the kingdom of Assyria. Nineveh was off and on the Capitol of Assyria. It is now in present day Iraq. There have been recent excavations that have proven Biblical and historical records. There could have been more uncovered if not for a burial site that has prohibited further progress.
Jonah (Dove), son of Amittai (Truth). They were Jews from the Northern tribe of Zebulon (II Kings 14:25)
Tarshish Mariners: These men were pagans and worshiped many gods. They were seasoned sailors.
A great fish: This fish was especially prepared for Jonah.
Assyrians: They were feared enemies of the Israelites. The Assyrians were extremely cruel. The Word Knowledge Commentary quotes Ashur Nasir Pal II (859 B.C.) boasting:
"Heads of their warriors I cut off - formed them into a pillar against their city."
"Their young men & their maidens I burned in the fire."
Regarding one captured leader he wrote:
"I flayed [him], his skin I spread upon the wall of the city . . .
He also wrote of mutilating the bodies of live captives and stacking their corpses in piles.
Shalmanese II (859 - 824 B.C.) boasts:
"A Pyramid of heads I raised in front of his city. the youths and their maidens I burned up in the flames."
In Jonah 1:1 we find that the Lord asks Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn them of coming destruction. Asking Jonah to go to Nineveh would have been like asking a Jew in NYC during WWII to go to Germany to deliver a message to Hitler and the people of that country! Thankfully, when God asks something of us, He prepares all circumstances and all persons involved. He never takes us only part way, but completes the journey with us. He's so faithful -- always faithful to us!
The story of Jonah in the most controversial in the Old Testament -- mostly because of the fish and whether or not it was possible for a fish to be large enough to swallow a man. Also, the question has been raised as to whether he could have survived three days and three nights inside a fish.
We don't have to go looking for other incidents as evidence to prove that something like Jonah being swallowed by a fish could be true. We don't have to find another occasion of it again because that's part of what makes it a miracle! The miracle is that only God could do it!
The New American Commentary says:
"Searching for historical incidents when people and large animals were swallowed and later recovered from sea creatures, show a posture of defensiveness, unnecessary, counter productive and violates the nature of the biblical accounts."
Dee Stuarts says: "A miracle is a divine account beyond human replications or explanation."
Jesus himself believed the story to be true (Matthew 12). So if we deny Jonah's experience to be fact, then we are charging Christ either with fraud, deception or ignorance of the truth. The truth is, God can do anything, be anything or use anything He chooses for the furtherance of the Gospel and His purpose!
Do you need a miracle today? God's supply is inexhaustible. He is ready and able to deliver you from, in, or through your circumstance. He knows. He knows you. He knows exactly what you need. Trust Him. Believe Him. He loves you and He cares.