The first thing I learned about Jonah and the whale was that there is no whale; Scripturally speaking, it was a real big fish. (Not to be confused with Reel Big Fish.)
The Friar picks up the story, somewhere at sea:
He sits in the fish’s stomach for three days — and if you think about it, the only kind of air anyplace inside the alimentary canal is what we take Pepto-Bismol for, which means Jonah spends three days inside a giant fish burp. After three days of this, it occurs to him to pray. Like many of us, he prays quoting some of the prayers and songs he knows. My Old Testament professor in seminary pointed out the different psalms and songs Jonah quoted, weaving them together in a lament about how bad he had it.
When Jonah finished, my professor said, the fish threw up. His sympathies were with the fish.
Jonah now finds himself near Nineveh, and when God calls again he decides he’ll answer. Nineveh the city stretches so far a person takes three days to walk across it, which makes the hotel chains like it very much. Jonah ambles in about a third of the way and says five words in Hebrew. He did raise his voice, and that may have been because nobody would get near him since, as far as the story we have says, he hasn’t taken a bath since leaving the fish.
And the wicked souls of Nineveh repented; the Lord stayed His hand, and Jonah pitched a hissy fit; he’d gone through all that business with fish guts, and he was expecting an ending with serious entertainment value.
There are, of course, contemporary Jonahs, though perhaps not with the seafood connection:
Well, we probably all know some people in our churches who just don’t seem happy unless they or someone is talking about someone else going to hell.
It might be well to remember that they’re not going to be the One making that fine Judgment call.