Have you ever thought about what the sailors of Jonah’s ship did after that great fish swallowed him up? The text tells us that “Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17), and we know that he repentantly prayed to God during that time (Jonah 2), but what did the sailors do?
The first thing they did was worship God. Because of Jonah’s sin, God brought about a violent storm that nearly broke their ship apart. Once the men threw Jonah overboard, the text tells us that “the sea stopped it raging” and “the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord” (Jonah 1:16). They had witnessed God’s mighty hand at work which caused them to worship. But then what?
Did the sailors return to port after throwing their cargo into the sea and witnessing an incredible miracle? Did they spread the word about God, Jonah, and the great fish? Did their account reach Nineveh ahead of the prophet? Once Jonah arrived and preached, was it obvious that he was the man people were talking about?
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what happened during those three days and three nights, but when Jonah finally preached just eight words, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown,” that entire city of pagans repented and turned to God (Jonah 3). Perhaps God’s message to Nineveh, His power displayed in the life of Jonah and displayed for those sailors, helped to prepare the Ninevites for repentance.