The Book of Jonah gives an account of the prophet Jonah and the well-known story in which God tells him to prophesy to the people of Nineveh to persuade them to repent or face destruction. Jonah attempts to run the other direction, is thrown from a ship in a storm, swallowed by a giant fish, and transported to Nineveh. He decides to take the hint and preaches to the city. The population is so moved by the warning that there is a general call to fasting and repentance which satisfies God enough to spare the city from destruction. Jonah is angered by God's mercy until God rebukes him about the need for him to show mercy.
Interpretations of the "fish" fall into three general categories:
- A big fish or whale (of unspecified species) did indeed swallow Jonah.
- A special creation (not any fish we know of) of God accomplished the act.
- There was not an actual fish: the story is an allegory, the fish is a literary device in the story, the story is a vision or a dream. etc.