What about Whale Miracles?
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:40-41)
Once a sneering skeptic scoffingly discussed the so-called “problem of miracles”, mockingly suggesting that “enlightened” thinkers doubt many Bible “stories”, such as what Christians believe about “the whale miracle”.
But what “whale miracle” was he treating as incredible? Was he thinking of Jonah being swallowed at sea, yet living to tell the tale of the whale? If so, is that the only whale miracle? Some assumptions need clarification, because there’s more than one “whale miracle” to think about.
The New Testament mentions the prophet Jonah thrice (Matthew 12:39-41 & 16:4; Luke 11:29-32). The Lord Jesus Christ compared His own death, burial and resurrection to the to the miracle of Jonah in the whale (see especially Matthew 12:40, quoted above).
So what is miraculous about Jonah’s life adventures?
Some say it was God miraculously preserving Jonah’s life, inside the whale (“great fish” in Matthew 12:40), emphasizing how Jonah’s miraculous preservation was comparable to how Christ miraculously defeated death after His crucifixion.(1)
Others (this writer included), considering details of Jonah’s adventure (see especially Jonah 3:2-6, including use of the Hebrew word sheol), suggest that Jonah actually died inside the “great fish”, so the real miracle (that parallels Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) was how God restored Jonah’s mortal life, miraculously, after Jonah died inside the whale.(2)
Furthermore, others stress that the large-scale revival of the violence-loving Ninevites, at the preaching of Jonah, was just as incredibly miraculous as Jonah’s escaping death in the Mediterranean Sea.(3) Surely the large-scale repentance of a wickedly violent people, promoted by a previously wicked dictator, involves thousands of heart-miracles, and that is so rare that such large-scale repentance is hard to imagine.(3)
Likewise, although God has sufficient power to preserve a human three days inside an ocean-going cetacean, doing that would be both miraculously rare and remarkable.(1) Even moreso, restoring a once-dead man to mortal life, after the ingested man died inside an oceanic cetacean, is a miracle that doubters quickly shy away from.(2)
Of course, God is quite capable of preserving a man alive, inside a whale – and God is likewise powerful enough to restore life to a man who died inside a whale. (And, God can even regenerate sin-deadened hearts of repentant humans, who genuinely trust Him for mercy and forgiveness.)
But what other “whale miracles” are there to consider, perhaps miracles “hidden in plain view”?
In fact, the very existence and activities of all the world’s whales – as well as all other cetacean creatures (like porpoises and dolphins) – constitute a mix of many miracles, beginning on Day 5 of Creation Week, and providentially continually unto the present day.(4)
Consider, as examples, these basic facts of Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) biology,(4) which more or less fit the oceanic lives of other whales: (a) sensitive underwater hearing, detecting whale “songs” miles away, as well as the amazing whale songs(5) themselves; (b) thick blubber, insulating vital organs from cold seawater; (c) live-birth in ocean-water; (d) recessed mammary nipples, for nursing babies with pressure-ejected milk (some whale mothers provide 150+ gallons of milk daily to their babies!); (e) breathing blow-hole, closing for submergence; (f) “floating” rib-cage, for lung collapse when deep-diving; (g) internally located testes, with counter-current cooling system to protect procreative potency; (h) flexible vertebral joints, for tail movement; (i) tail fluke controlled by system of tendons and muscles; (j) front flippers for maneuvering in ocean water; (j) “enormous tongues [used to] press the water out of their mouths between the [baleen] whalebone lamellae, thus filtering the water and retaining the minute organisms [such as krill]”(6) — and many more amazing details could be listed, with all of these combined making whale life possible, for every whale in the world.(4)
For those with eyes to see it, every whale is a miracle of God, showing God’s power and bioengineering genius.(4)
After analyzing Blue Whale wonders (such as whale-song), creation scientist David Coppedge says: “The more details you learn about living things, the less excuse you have to chalk it up to evolution.”(7)
Surely Jonah would agree.
(1) Morris, John D. Morris, “Did Jonah Really Get Swallowed by a Whale?” Acts & Facts, 22 (December 1993).
(2) J. Vernon McGee, Jonah: Dead or Alive? (Nashville, TN: Thru the Bible Radio Network, 1997), pages 13-17. See also Dr. Henry M. Morris’ editorial footnotes to JONAH 1:17, 2:2, 2:5, & 2:6, in The New Defender’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: World Publishing, 2006), pages 1319-1320.
(3) Paul Ferguson, “Nineveh’s ‘Impossible’ Repentance”, Bible & Spade, 27(2):32-35 (2014).
(4) “The gradual evolution of a whale [from land mammal to walking whale to oceanic cetacean] is an impossibility, in the same way that a Land Rover could not gradually turn into a submarine. The whale is designed for aquatic life.” Quoting David Shires, “The Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)— Did it evolve?” Journal of the Creation Science Movement, 20(6):4-5 (2019). See also Randy J. Guliuzza, “Are Whales and Evolution Joined at the Hip?”, Acts & Facts, 45(3):12-14 (March 2016).
(5) Whales emit a mix of vocal noises, including wailing, low whistle-like moaning, groaning, screeching, buzzing, rasping, droning, etc.; the classic audio recording is Roger S. Payne’s Songs of the Humpback Whale (1970, available via EMI Records Ltd, 2001 version). Regarding whale-song, see Craig Welch, “Elusive Blue Whale Behavior Revealed by Their Songs”, National Geographic (February 15th, 2018); Kate M. Stafford, Christian Lydersen, Øystein Wiig, & Kit M. Kovacs, “Extreme Diversity in the Songs of Spitsbergen’s Bowhead Whales”, Biology Letters, 14:20180056 (April 2018); Roger S. Payne & Scott McVay, “Songs of Humpback Whales”, Science, 173(3997):585-597 (August 13th 1971).
(6) Quoting from John Murray & Johan Hjort. The Depths of the Ocean (London: Macmillan, 1912), page 778.
(7) David Coppedge, “Underwater Troubadors”, Creation Matters, 23(2):11 (2018).