The big fish sent to swallow Jonah and then to vomit him out is used to illustrate God’s total control over the most powerful forces of nature in air, land and sea.
But the LORD provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah;[… ]Then the LORD spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land. (NRSV Jonah 1:17, 2:10)
But if you read Jonah closely, as Shmoop knows you have all done—twice—you can see that Jonah’s thinking that being swallowed by the whale isn’t the worst thing that could have happened. He could have kept sinking and drowned at the bottom of the ocean. While he’s in the belly of the fish, he gets time to contemplate the situation, like a soggier and less adorable Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy. He’s grateful for the fishy life raft and vows to do God’s bidding next time. He’s on a kind of meditation retreat cruise. You can read this whole experience as suggesting a way of confronting our own behavior in times of crisis, especially when we realize we’ve acted like a jerk or a chicken-heart. No, don’t go asking to be thrown overboard from a boat. Sometime you’ve got to just step back, turn off the TV, regroup, and think about stuff.