Can a human live inside a whale, like in the story of Jonah?


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“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

The Bible tells the story of the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, or in other words, a whale (Matthew 12:40).

While this is an amazing story, many skeptics have questioned if it is physically possible. Could a whale hold a human alive for three days and nights? Let us look to God’s creation for the answer.

God created all things (Colossians 1:16). And He made whales with four stomachs and their digestion takes place in phases. When whales eat, they swallow their prey whole. The good enters the esophagus and then is pushed into the first stomach called the fore stomach or rumen. The rumen is where food is stored and partially broken down with bacteria. The tissue of the rumen does not create digestive juices. This means that the contents in this first compartment could hold a food item without breaking it down chemically.

Some wonder if there is enough air to survive in a whale’s stomach. In the rumen, there tends to be no oxygen, as the microbes within that organ cannot live with oxygen present. This is true for a healthy rumen, however, air can be present in the case of ruminal tympathy (bloating). This would have been the case for Jonah’s case. Whales breathe air, and if its stomach is upset it would be coming up frequently for more air and possibly swallowing some in.

While this story seems possible scientifically, we should not rule out the creative power of God who can perform miracles. Jonah 1:17 says that the Lord prepared “a great fish” for Jonah, meaning, that this sea animal could have been made specifically just for this incident. God created all creatures with His Word and can create anything that He wants to meet a specific purpose (Psalm 34:6) to fulfill his good will.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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