Trivia / Book of Jonah

  • Common Knowledge: Despite popular belief, the text never says Jonah was swallowed by a whale as such. The Hebrew original uses the phrase dag gadol, "giant fish," which could apply to any number of sea creatures. Theology being the Serious Business it is, there's been a lot of speculation by naturalists and other scholars as to which exact species of fish (or whale, or shark, or...) could have plausibly swallowed Jonah. But then, the text also says specifically that the swallowing was a miracle caused by divine intervention, so the usual laws of nature don't necessarily apply the same way.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jonah's fear of Nineveh was not totally due to him being a coward. Nineveh was a city-state of the Assyrian Empire (it's more likely at the time of Jonah it was the Neo-Assyrian empire, as they were at their highest then) and was for a time the strongest and largest city in the area. Their reputation for violence and cruelty was not unwarranted either: the Neo-Assyrian empire was expansionist and war-like and it's use of Iron weaponry gave it an edge against other city-state empires. Neo-Assyrian culture had an emphasis on war and its sculpture work shown scenes of war and hunting, having details of even the veins and muscles beneath the skin to be shown. God's demand of him going to the capital city, the biggest city in all of Mesopotamia, and tell them they're all doomed in 40 days was too much for Jonah to take (which was intentional).
  • Word of Dante: When Jesus refers to the story of Jonah in the New Testament, he refers to the "great fish" with the Greek word meaning "sea monster", which was then often used to refer to whales. For those who believe in the New Testament as well as the Old, that's as close as one gets to reading the beast being called a whale.