Though verse and chapter divisions were not part of the original Hebrew manuscripts, their inclusion in our modern Bible has given rise to the question of where to place Jonah 1:17. Though many Bible translations and commentaries place 1:17 as an opening event to chapter 2, it seems best to keep it as a fitting conclusion to chapter 1. The choice of where to place verse 17, while seemingly insignificant, actually makes a difference on how one reads the story. If it begins chapter 2, it simply sets the stage for the prayer of Jonah. Verse 17 is read this way: God delivered Jonah with a great fish, and now Jonah is going to thank God for it. But if the verse is the conclusion to the previous events, then the verse is read this way: Jonah asked to be thrown overboard and the reluctant sailors complied, but despite Jonah’s wishes, this was not the end of Jonah for God miraculously sent a great fish to keep Jonah from drowning. On the other hand, Stuart makes a good point that if the book of Jonah is a series of scenes, 1:17 fits best with chapter 2 since the entire scene takes place inside the great fish. Maybe it is best to see 1:17 as a “hinge” verse which transports the reader from the recently-calmed surface of the sea to the spiritual storm deep under the surface which is now raging in the heart and mind of a prophet and the belly of a fish.
Jonah 1:17. After Jonah is cast into the sea, Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. If the sailors saw the fish, they likely would have viewed it as a personification of the sea god, Yamm. And though the terminology is different than the instructions of God to Jonah in 1:1-2, it seems that there may be a contrast between Jonah’s rebellion and how the fish obeys God (cf. also 2:11).