When is a fish a fish? When people say that it is. But what does our Creator say?
I am amazed at how searching in the Scriptures for the truth in Father’s Word can turn up so many treasures if we are willing to rightly divide the Word. It’s kind of like our pond in mid-Summer, without a proper pre-filter to remove the finer points of gunk that cause a pond to turn that wonderful brownish green color. With the right filter materials, that same water quickly clarifies and you can see things that were previously hidden.
That’s what the Father is doing in this season of our Spiritual growth in his people as a body. He’s washing out all the things in our hearts and minds which have gunked up our view of his holy Word. That’s not surprising if you believe that we are approaching the “last days” or the “end times” in biblical history. Of course those who believe in the idea that man has evolved from apes and the like, you can just humor me here, because Scripture teaches that all things are created by One Elohim, Yahuah, our heavenly Father.
While the fundamental Spirit that is behind the written and the spoken Word remains in tact, over centuries men who have attempted to “preserve” the written Word have added to and taken away from its content. While our heavenly Father created his Word and it is a living entity, a portion of his Spirit, what man sees in the works that are known as “Scripture” has evolved by the hand of man. That doesn’t necessarily change the Spirit behind the written Word. It just obscures it like the pond water that needs to be cleaned up.
Understand that we’re not cleaning up Father’s Word. What we’re addressing is the way that man has overburdened what has always been a simple message, with his fleshly interpretations, religious agendas and traditions that, when examined and compared to the whole of Scripture, typically don’t hold water. Like the leaky pond they create, over time their truth seeps out one drop at a time. And yet even so, Father is able to preserve his Word like a supernatural flotation device that no matter what the pond looks like, he is able to save. If we climb on board his boat, we’ll have no trouble in the stormy seas of life — even if we think he’s taking a nap. All we have to do is cry out and he answers.
One of the most interesting stories in the Bible is one that most people have heard many times from when they were a child. Given that scientists are still discovering sea creatures of many kinds even two thousand years after Yahusha (“Jesus”) calmed the seas, anything is quite possible. The story is Jonah and the “whale.” You know the guy who was told by God to go somewhere and he disobeyed. As a result, he ends up thrown overboard of a sea vessel while those on board begin to praise the Father and make vows to him. It makes you kind of wonder what was going on there. If they had a sudden change of heart because God calmed the waves the moment they threw Jonah overboard, shouldn’t they have picked him up after everyone repented? I mean, poor Jonah floating along until some enormous whale comes along and swallows him up?
After exploring the scientific options concerning this situation, a few things popped up or should I say shined forth. Then I went deep sea diving into the Word and found some interesting droplets that I think are worthy to be noted. Let’s take a look and “sea”, shall we?
Can we take Scripture literally? Should we? Yahusha tells us that the Father’s Word is given unto men in parables, short stories with powerful lessons that are disguised behind the story. And like the size of a certain fish’s tail, we’re going to see that the tale of Jonah may be a whopper of man’s own making. And we’re also going to see something interesting. That is that no matter how man rewords Scripture, even if it’s inaccurate as a translation, as long as a few of the words spoken remain, the Spirit behind the spoken Word remains. How we understand Scripture then depends largely upon who is providing the interpretation — man’s spirit or the Holy Spirit. I’ll show you what I mean. Catch this in your proverbial net.
Jonah and the whale or the fish, are a great example of the difference in interpreting Scripture using what we might call “blind faith,” the logical mind, and the interpretation of Scripture by the Holy Spirit — the Spirit of the living Word, the living Messiah, who spoke all things into existence in the first place. (That’s another lesson right there.)
Jonah 1:17 – 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.
If you want to go literal with the word “fish,” then look for two or three witnesses to the fact that a fish can swallow up a man, who can then survive that ordeal. That is if a fish can even swallow up a man in the first place, without chewing him into bite-sized pieces. There are some scientists who have done the “research” only to discover that there are no known species of whales or fish for that matter (whales are mammals), who are capable of swallowing a person whole, in any way where they could survive the encounter. There aren’t any known fish for that matter, so let’s just consider that and put it aside for those who insist that it must be a fish because the English translated Bible says “fish.”
Here is a breakdown of the Hebrew/Aramaic words from Jonah 1:17, using Strong’s Concordance reference numbers for Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek.
The word “Jonah” is “Yona” [H3124], meaning “dove.”
Okay. A dove is swallowed by a fish? Hmm. Something’s not quite right. Dove’s can’t swim last time I checked. And fish don’t typically eat doves; unless you are speaking about men who are “fish” swallowing down the Holy Spirit “dove” whole in an attempt to try to “feed” upon the Word — their success or failure having everything to do with the state of their heart toward Messiah. But I’m ahead of the net here, so let me backstroke a little bit.
The word “prepared” is “manah” [H4487] meaning to count, reckon, number, assign, tell, appoint, prepare; a primitive root to properly weigh out, by implication to allot or constitute officially, to enumerate or enroll, set, appoint, count.
Remember the “manna” in the wilderness that the Israelites were supposed to gather daily for six days and on the sixth day (the day of preparation) gather twice as much and then rest on the creator’s seventh day Sabbath? The Hebrew word for manna is “man” [H4478]. It means: “what is it?” If we think about it, “manna” is made up of two Hebrew words: “man” [H4478] = man (what is it?) and “na” [H4994] = meaning: Ah, beg, beseech, come, implore, may, now, O, please, pray.
Manna = man pray. Ask and you shall receive.
Kind of interesting then that the word for “prepared” here is “manah,” which means to reckon to appoint. Not only was Jonah facing his day of reckoning in the story (for which he wasn’t properly prepared), but he was undoubtedly a man who was praying with great fervor due to same. We can almost see everyone on the ship looking at the terrible raging storm and asking what is it and wanting answers as to why all of that was happening to them. After all, God had asked Jonah to do something for him, and he had refused and hopped a merchant ship instead.
The word for the “fish” in the story is [H1709] “dag.” Although it has been translated as “fish,” the word is actually symbolic, not literal. It’s meaning is “wonderfully prolific.” It is applied to the idea of fish, as in something that is thrashing about or is happening in a great quantity or motion, as in a large school of fish that would likewise thrash about.
The word “dag” comes from [H1711], which is “dagah,” meaning: grow, multiply, increase. It also means to cover over, and hence, to be dark. The word “dag” could also come from [H1672] “da’ag.” It means: to melt, to fear, to be afraid; anxious, dread, sorrow. Obviously the word isn’t a “fish.” It is the great increase of fear and dread and sorrow, in a situation that is going to cause a great wrestling of some kind and put our Jonah in peril. Jonah being cast into the ocean, is going to cause him to be in utter darkness and spiritual judgment. It’s his day of reckoning.
Not escaping our net is the idea that “dagon” is a pagan Philistine fish god, a FALSE “god” of fertility and crops and the “spawn” of manmade idolatrous religions, including a very prominent religious system today that has spawned little “fish” of its own.
Men have translated the Hebrew Jonah story into something barely recognizable. They have transformed a story about a man who falls into the depths of the sea of man’s own words, love of choice “fruit,” religions, interpretations and money to be a story about a guy being swallowed up by a fish. While this may be “true” from a child-like perspective, most of the time religious people have their head in the clouds, or should I say the celestial heavens amongst the stars of the night sky because man walks in darkness without the light of the world (Messiah).
Indeed there is an interesting scientific theory about “the belly of the fish” or the “belly of the whale” from the parable of Jonah being connected to a star constellation that appears in that area of the world, and which can be seen in a very dark night sky at certain seasons. That aside, we don’t need to be astute to see something apparently “fishy” going on in the English translations. Man pollutes anything he “hews” or lifts his hand upon, and this fish story apparently stinks from the perspective of man’s “cooking” up a whopper of a meal from what was a simple, tossed fish parable. You need eyes to see, like why Yahusha (Jesus) was barbequing fish on the seashore for the disciples. That was Jonah, and so was the fish with the coin in his mouth of Matthew 17. (That fish has the payment in its mouth; the redemption fee that the Master paid for his children, the strangers in a strange land.)
The Hebrew words show us a different picture than English translations, and we can’t ignore Hebrew/Aramaic words because they are closer to the origin of Scripture (as far as we can trace back). They would show our Jonah, whom the Father prepared a difficult situation for, disobeying God’s will for his life and ending up cast into a stormy sea. Once thrown in, the sea would immediately halt its storm. Now without a boat that had Messiah in it, Jonah would still thrash about wildly and prolifically. From the description in the following verses in the passage, we can see that Jonah had the wherewithal to note the underwater landscape, get caught up in some seaweed, and note the “billows” (clouds) above as well as the waves crashing all around him. If this occurred in great darkness for three days and nights, Jonah would have had a really tough time for thirty-six hours before exhausted, he drowned.
Undoubtedly our Jonah cried out to God for assistance, and prayed. He probably repented greatly for not listening to God’s commandment that he should go to Nineveh (Mosul, in modern day Iraq). Being a prophet and the son of the prophet Amittai (his name means “my truth”), Jonah was supposed to go to that city to cry out against the unrighteousness there. He disobeyed and hopped a ship to Tarshish ([H8659] meaning “yellow jasper”). It was a merchant vessel. Instead of speaking out against unrighteousness like God tells Jonah to do, he jumps on board a merchant ship with a bunch of men who are pursuing wealth and prosperity of their flesh. (Reminds me of prosperity gospel teachers today who twist Scripture for profit.)
The shipmaster (“rab” [H7227] “great” one, master) tells Jonah to arise and call upon God not to kill all of the men on board. (Yes that is likely where “rabbi” or “great one” or “master” comes from, although we’re commanded not to call anyone “master” or “father” or “great one” except for Messiah, but religious people disobey and do it anyway.) At any rate, lots are cast and Jonah draws the short stick and is thrown overboard. Immediately the seas become calm. That’s odd. There’s Jonah in the water while a bunch of repentant men are praising God and making vows of repentance. Meanwhile they are ignoring the guy they just cast overboard?
Jonah 1:15 – So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
Next Father prepares the great “fish” – a great “dag,” a great situation that will cause our Jonah to thrash about wildly, and he does. We don’t see a fish nor do we see Jonah being swallowed up by anything in Scripture except by his own rebellion. In the Word, the water or seas always represent man’s words in a sea of words. But in the next verse, we see Jonah praying “out of the fish’s belly,” the thing that is wonderfully prolific. Jonah is covered over with darkness and he’s thrashing about trying to remain afloat in a great sea without hope of rescue. He’s treading water in a great sea. It’s kind of what mankind does in a great sea of religious words. He swims and treads water and works feverishly to find truth while crying out to God.
The word for “belly” is “me`ah” [H4578]. It means: “soft.” It is used to describe intestines or inner parts of the body, or by extension, the uterus, womb or the heart. Jonah needs a change of heart, and Father is providing it in a huge situation where Jonah isn’t in control. God is. He needs to be born again, and he will be when he is “vomited” up onto the shoreline. We can be assured that Jonah was praying and crying out and making vows of promise to Yahuah. He’s undergoing a change of heart from his rebellion.
Now in verse 2 we see whose belly Jonah is actually in:
Jonah 2:2 – And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
Jonah is literally in the belly of the fish, the belly of hell. Remember that the “fish” is swimming in the water? That’s the earth swimming in the sea of life. When the earth was created, it was made from a firmament that came from waters separated from waters. It’s the womb of all life. It’s a great fish. Men are little fish.
We know that Jonah was going down for the count because he describes what happened to him in verse 3. My comments in brackets [ ]:
Jonah 2:3 – For thou hadst cast me into the deep [the water], in the midst of the seas; [not a whale or fish]; and the floods [waters] compassed me about: [they surrounded him]: all thy billows [clouds above] and thy waves [self-explanatory] passed over me.
Jonah despairs as he is about to drown. Verse 4:
Jonah 2:4 – Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
He has a change of heart, and observes his surroundings as he is drowning and dying.
Jonah 2:5 – The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about [not a fish], the weeds were wrapped about my head.
(Thus likely drowning him at the bottom of the sea.)
Jonah 2:6 – I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [a prison] was about me for ever: [it must have felt like forever]: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
Jonah’s soul faints in him. He prays and vows as he dies. Then Father saves him.
Jonah 2:10 – And the LORD spake unto the fish [remember this isn’t a fish, it’s the bowels of hell]. And it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Our poor “dove” Jonah. (That’s a metaphor for someone who is gentle as a dove, or who is to have the Holy Spirit). He gets swallowed up by the depths of hell at the bottom of the sea. But because of his repentance, Father breathes life back into him and has the sea cast him free from the seaweed that held him captive and he is saved.
As a special sauce to our fish story, it’s perhaps poignant to point out again, our pagan fish symbol whose costumes and similar “hats” are still worn in the prolific Catholic church today that has over 2 billion members like a great school of fish…. For those who repent of their involvement in manmade religions with all of their interpretations, including perhaps a child-sized portion of a translated Scripture to portray that a “fish” swallowed up Jonah, all can be saved. We must turn away from (repent) all religious teachings and traditions and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Word, the One who spoke all things into being, including his Word.
We are to come to Messiah as little children. But that doesn’t mean we have to have the understanding of a child. We are to have his wisdom, the wisdom of a serpent and gentility of a dove. And yet some people in their innocence of both still happily defend their “fish” story interpretation with another Scripture: Matthew 12:40.
Matthew 12:40 – For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
If you’re swimming in the literal word pond, then you can see that the literal translation of Matthew here is incorrect. The earth doesn’t have a “heart” in the sense of a heart in man’s chest. But it has a heart or center in which the pit, “hell” (which is death) is said to reside. When we extend that thought, the heart of the fleshly earth is hell, the seat of Satan. Those who live according to their flesh will reap their reward – as the wages of sin is death. I see a coin with a dead person’s image on it. Anyone worshipping false images and money, choice fruits, the fruit of our choices, will die. Reminds me of the days of darkness between moon phases.
You know, where the light of the moon literally passes through the shadow of death, when it goes from a waning moon into no moon at all, then back into a new moon that waxes and wanes in a new cycle? That’s the cycle of our Spiritual and physical journey in this world. Though we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, Messiah is with us, bringing us into new life and the hope of a resurrection, a new moon “phase.” When we repent, cry out to and join with him, he literally and metaphorically swallows us up whole like the belly of the whale, and that’s really a great place to rest forever.
But the word “belly” here is “koilia” [Greek: G2836] meaning womb, belly, entire cavity, the lower region, the receptacle of excrement, to be given up to the pleasures of the plate, gluttony, the innermost part of a man, the soul, heart as the seat of thought, feeling, choice, interior, midst of a thing.
The phrase “of the earth” is of course the earth, soil, land. This isn’t a valid “witness” to anyone being swallowed up by a fish. It’s a witness to something else entirely. Not even Jonah’s name is the same. In Matthew his name is Jonas. Yes, those subtle changes are significant. This Scripture can’t be used as a witness to Jonah’s story if you are trying to support the concept of a man-eating fish.
The “fish” in our story and indeed in the Word, always represents mankind or the womb of mankind. Ask any woman who’s ever been pregnant if she felt like a whale and I rest my case. But there are plenty of witnesses in the Word as to who the Word says is a fish.
Think fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17)
According to the prophet Habakkuk:
Habakkuk 1:14 – And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them.
Men are fish and unclean creeping things. That’s why we see a sheet with unclean and clean things coming down from heaven in the Book of Acts 10:11 and Peter giving the interpretation not to call any MAN UNCLEAN…not animals that man interprets as “food” but that are unclean because Father defined certain animals as unclean that we are not to eat! Another morsel for you fish to feed upon.
We can choose to believe man’s interpretation, understanding that man always corrupts the Word. Or we can choose to follow the Spirit of the Word’s interpretation and see that a fish is not a fish. It’s a man. The womb is the seat of all life. Jonah probably had his entire life flashing before him. He was undergoing the trial of his life and died or nearly died. He drowned but was saved only because he cried out to God. Even in the depths of darkness (of hell and in sin and despair), if we cry out to Yahuah and repent, he will hear us and we can be saved.
Matthew 16:13 – When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
Matthew 16:14 – And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
(Another morsel for you to chew on: Note their changed names Elijah/Elias, Jeremiah/Jeremias indicates they undergo a Spiritual transformation in their life from a fleshly person into someone who transforms in the Spirit and walks as Word made flesh. You’ll always see a name change like Jacob to Israel after he wrestles in the flesh and Spirit. John the Baptist is our exception because he was born filled with the Spirit already in him.)
Matthew 16:15 – He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Who does fleshly man say that I am (how do men translate the Word), and who do you, who are walking as Word made flesh (with the Spirit of Messiah before you) say that I am? The difference between the two interpretations is whether it is the flesh or the Holy Spirit in you who is the One doing the translations or the interpretations.
When Simon Peter identifies Messiah as the Son of the living God, Yahusha says:
Matthew 16:17 – And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
(Simon is the son of Jonah, so our Jonah went on to live and procreate and his son became a disciple, a follower of Messiah. Jonah had repented.)
Our Father in Heaven will reveal things by the power of his Holy Spirit. It will not be revealed by men who don’t have the Holy Spirit within them. And if you don’t have the Holy Spirit within you, you won’t be able to see the hidden things in the Word without someone who has the Spirit pointing them out to you.
It’s really that simple. Those who see with the eyes of the flesh, will see a fish. Those who see with the eyes of the Spirit will see the deeper depths of truth in the Word. In either case, the Spiritual lessons remain the same.
The surface (literal) or bottom feeding (deep Spiritual) lessons of the pond are these. God is in control. We are given what we ask for. If we want the surface interpretation, we’ll see with eyes of flesh. We may be misled by Bible translations and miss some of the deeper Spiritual lessons. If we ask for Father’s truth, we’ll see the deeper, hidden things revealed by his Spirit of truth.
If we cry out to God, he will hear and respond. He will bring us low to cause repentance. If we love the flesh, if we love manmade religions and interpretations and our own wisdom, our own holidays and traditions and “Sabbath” days and doctrines and commandments and laws of men; and not the appointed feast days and Sabbath days and commandments (Laws) of the Father, we’ll die. But if we repent, we’ll be saved. If we love money and merchandise and our own choices instead of God’s will for our life, we are turned away from Father’s voice.
The wages of that sin is death and he is perfectly and rightly able to set up the circumstances in which you can be killed if you are unrepentant, or saved if repentant. If we don’t repent of our fleshly ways and thinking, we’ll end up in the pit of hell at the bottom of the pond. We’ll fare worse than pond scum for eternity. But if we repent we may be vomited back up onto the shore in a violent manner, but we’ll live to see another day. After all, his mercies are renewed every morning, so your weeping endures for only a night. Sleep on your pain and in the morning you’ll see things more clearly if you trust in Messiah.
Whether it’s a fish that takes us to repentance or a great wave of Father’s Word, the outcome will be entirely the same if we believe what Father tells us to do. Take time to search the Scriptures, or just believe what lies on the surface. If the Spirit of the Word is in the translation, it will bring you by the Spirit of the Word, to all of Father’s truth.
That dove, that Holy Spirit and the lesson of Jonah are still speaking to us today. Come out of sin. Come out of rebellion. Come out of church “Sabbaths.” Come out of beliefs that teach you that Messiah “did it all for you” and you can do whatever you want, including reject the Laws of our Father (his commandments), which is HIM SPEAKING TO YOU TODAY BY HIS SPIRIT–and that includes when you read the Word, when you pray and when you are just plain quiet and relaxed and open. Repent! Be saved. Then “Shema” the Hebrew word for “hear and obey” the voice of Elohim. He will tell you where to go and what to do to please him. You must do it or you’ll end up like Jonah, whose name was changed to Jonas after his ordeal. Except that the belly you will end up in won’t be a fish. It will be far more painful.
Obedience begins with obeying Father’s commandments. Our first test as a body was with the biblical Sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday. If we don’t keep the Saturday Sabbath, Father says we won’t keep any of his commandments. Oh yeah, the folks with the fish god hats “changed” that day to Sunday under their own “authority” (rebellion).
You may choose to believe what you want. But in the end, Yahuah reigns. He prevails. Flesh dies. Then judgment comes.
You don’t want a fish to swallow you up whole. Remember how fishermen tell that great big lie about the one that got away? Well, you will be swallowed up in the lies and choices that are of your own making. So jump out of the boat you are in if it’s not seaworthy and ask Elohim to bring you to safety above the shoreline. He’s the steady rock of our salvation. Those other guys are relying upon their interpretation of a “rock” that was really a little stone.
Jonas was a human that denied the Living Word of our Father’s voice, and who needed to repent right then and there before it was too late, to be saved. We must do the same thing. Peter and the other “saints” men revere according to their own doctrinal beliefs are the dead remnants thrown onto the shoreline. They are the unclean little crabs, the people who build their houses upon shifting sands of the shoreline of the religious doctrines and teachings that fleshly men leave behind when they die.
In due time, when the merchant ship arrives in port with the bill of sale for the fish they have caught in their religious nets, the flood of Father’s truth against that leaking boat will allow the fish who have repented to be rescued by the wave and carried off to safety in the great eternal sea of life. Better yet, the Father’s waves wash everyone clean of all iniquity if they would only repent, even after they have been caught by the wrong fisher of men.
Time is short. It’s either sink or swim, but it’s fully your choice. Choose wisely.