I wrote this for a friend and thought I'd post this as well:
After trying to flee from God, Jonah is cast in the sea and swallowed by a big fish. While inside the belly of the fish he prays to God and repents. He is then vomited out of the mouth of the big fish.
The key passages for understanding the esoteric part of the story are here:
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
The three days are three nights are an allusion to the moon when it disappears from the sky for three days and nights prior to the advent of a new moon. This is important because in essence it is describing the need for your soul to descend into matter or the "waters" in order to be cleansed and then resurrected. The ancients observed this behavior with the moon that would disappear into the waters on the horizon only to be reborn and grow into a shining light existent in the darkness of night. The darkness of night being a metaphor for material existence, i.e. not much light. In the New Testament it is the Easter story where Jesus is crucified and left for dead as Jonah was and then resurrected after the three days.
In Jonah 2:7 Jonah says "my soul fainted within me" which is describing your soul incarnating into matter and lying dormant until you awake it from its sleep of death. A few years ago I stumbled across an explanation of death in ancient scripture that works for trying to decipher the texts. Death is referring to your soul, not your material existence. Your soul "dies" in matter and needs you to resurrect it. The ancient Egyptians referred to death as going to the West - exactly where the sun, moon, and stars set. Your soul comes to the material plane via the west. I should also add that the ancient Egyptians considered death and birth to be synonymous and death of your soul would mean birth of your material into matter. Death of your material self allows your soul to be reborn and freed of its material bonds.