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What's the deal with Yona being swallowed by a fish (2:1)? Couldn't the same thing (i.e. him realizing his mistake) be achieved if he landed on an island?

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3 Answers 3

Take a step back and look at the message of the entire book. G-d tells Jonah, "go rebuke Nineveh." Jonah doesn't want to, because he's concerned with his reputation as a prophet; because how it will work out with history (Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, which will later attack Israel; and besides, it will make Israel look bad for not responding to rebuke). G-d's retort is to have the entire natural world turn topsy-turvy on Jonah -- storm, fish, gourd, you name it -- to prove a point. If you try making all sorts of calculations, even for the best of reasons, to defy the will of G-d, then the world stops functioning as we know it.

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Being in a cramped fish, which felt like a grave, caused Yona to turn to God in prayer [and repentance]. Source: Rashi to 2:1 and :3.

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this can be accomplished without a miracle. there are natural ways to torture a person such as being stuck on a raft in the ocean in the hot sun. or stuck in a desert island without food –  ray Oct 8 '13 at 7:08
    
@ray The question wasn't why he was stuck in a fish and not otherwise tortured. It was why he was stuck in a fish and not landed on an island. I think Rashi, as paraphrased in my answer, sufficiently addresses that difference. –  msh210 Oct 8 '13 at 7:14
    
i think the question was what is the need for a miracle. the asker gave the alternative of an island which is non-miraculous –  ray Oct 8 '13 at 8:06
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Being trapped inside a fish is a greater miracle, because you can't survive without oxygen, but Yonah survived there without oxygen (see Malbim).

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I think the question was why do you need a miracle in the first place. –  ray Oct 8 '13 at 7:09
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