Games for Children on Jonah & the Whale

Updated February 21, 2017

"Jonah and the Whale" is a story from the Bible's Book of Jonah in which Jonah, a prophet, is ordered by God to go to city of Nivesh and preach against its wicked ways. Jonah refuses, and God punishes him by causing him to be swallowed by a large sea creature (in some interpretations, a whale) and remain in its belly for three days and three nights. The implications and metaphors behind this story can be difficult to show to children, but there are certain games you can play to help them understand.

Flash Cards

There are many proper nouns involved in the story of "Jonah and the Whale" -- Jonah, God, the city of Nineveh, Jaffa (the place where Jonah flees) and Tarshish (where Jonah was sailing to when God forced him overboard). One simple game to play with students is to make flash cards of these proper names and have them mix and match the definitions. Alternatively, jumble up the names next to the corresponding definitions and have students unscramble the names.

Role Playing

Another way to have students understand the story of Jonah and the Whale is to assign each students a role in the story and have them act it out. Have a group play the impious sinners of Nineveh, someone playing an angry God and a main actor in the role of Jonah. Additionally, have a group of students play the sailors who decide to cast off Jonah when they find out he is to blame for the storm.

Inside the Whale

Prepare a lesson plan around what it was like inside of the whale. Divide students into two groups; one group can prepare the aesthetics of the whale and the other can write personal narrative. The aesthetics group would deal with both what the whale looked like on the outside (be sure to inform students that "whale" is a loose translation and it could be any large sea creature) and what it looked like for Jonah on the inside. The narrative writing group could write something both from Jonah's perspective inside the whale and also God's reasoning for putting him there (and, possibly, the whale's perspective).


As a fall back for classroom games, nothing beats playing "Jeopardy!" There are detailed trivia-type questions in "Jonah and the Whale," such as "How many degrees is Jaffa from Tarshish? Answer: 180" and "How many days does Jonah tells Nineveh they have until the suffer God's vengeance?" Answer: 40," in addition to the important facts. "Jeopardy!" can be played with each student vying against each other or in groups. Be sure to have a reward, such as candy or bonus points, to encourage maximum participation.

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About the Author

Drew Lichtenstein started writing in 2008. His articles have appeared in the collegiate newspaper "The Red and Black." He holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from the University of Georgia.