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This article is about the prophet. You may be looking for the book named for him.

Jonah was a prophet, whose known life is recorded in the Biblical books of Jonah and very briefly in Second Kings. He was the son of Amittai and is most known for being assigned by God to go to the notorious metropolis of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, and forewarn the people of coming judgement. Jonah refused in fear and hatred of the city's immorality so he tried to sail to a city far from Nineveh.

In response, a storm halted the sailing ship Jonah was on and he thrown overboard, thinking he would die. A large fish swallowed Jonah and expelled him out three days later. Finally, Jonah went to the city of Nineveh; yet had regrets about saving the immoral people.

Jonah also gave a prophecy concerning restoration of Israel's bordering during the reign of Jeroboam II.

Biography

Early Life

Jonah was born in the border village of Gath-Hepher to his father Amittai[1]. He was born in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also known as Samaria) sometime before the reign of Jeroboam the Second. Jonah was named a "dove". This name may reflect his status a a prophet and giving "signs" of things to happen. If this is the reasoning behind his name, he may have been given the name once he became a prophet.

Border Restoration Prophecy

Sometime before the Kingship of Jeroboam II, Jonah predicted that borders of Israel; specifically from the city of Lebo-hamath to the Sea of Arabah would be restored. God gave Jonah this prediction, which was fulfilled in some manner of time when Jeroboam became King. The exact details of the prophecy and its time in relationship to Jeroboam II are unknown.[2]

Avoiding Nineveh

Sometime in Jonah's life, he was directed by God to go the Assyrian capital of Nineveh; it is not known whether or not this took place before Jonah's border prophecy. God's message came to Jonah, telling him to arise and travel to Nineveh and preach against it. Rather than obeying God Jonah refused. Jonah hated the large metropolis for its great immorality and knowing God would spare the city, decided to attempt to flee God's presence[3]. For in one way, Jonah expressed and knew to himself or to God that the city would be spared.

Jonah traveled southward to the port city of Joppa. There he found a ship that was outbound for the city of Tarshish located in the extreme far west of the known world; Jonah would plan to flee God in Tarshish. [4]

Stormy Waters

Once Jonah paid the fare, he was on his way to Tarshish alongside several sailors, a ship captain and onboard cargo. Jonah explained to the crew that he was fleeing the presence of His God, who was not worshipped by the fellow seafarers[5].

A storm emerged on the boat, threatening to tear the crash the ship at sea, which was common for ships of Tarshish[6]. Unbeknownst to the ship's captain, Jonah was not aware of the storm's presence or did not care enough to deal with the God-inflicted storm. While Jonah was sleeping in the ship's interior, the captain of the boat urgently ordered him to go on deck and plead to his God to stop the storm.[7]

The sailors determined to cast lots in order to discern who was guilty of bringing about divine wrath upon the ship. The lots were cast to Jonah and he was sternly confronted, being asked of his occupation, nationality and origins. Jonah responded that he was a Hebrew Yahwist. At this the sailors became extremely fearful, speculating how to deal with Jonah in a way that would remove Yahweh's wrath.

Jonah suggested the sailors throw him overboard and have him drown. After hesitating to throw him overboard, they reluctantly agreed with Jonah and threw him into the sea. [8]

Belly of a Fish

As Jonah plummeted to the bottom of the ocean, the storm ceased within a short time. At first, Jonah thought he was going to die when the waters began to drown him and he was caught in seaweed. As Jonah descended to the bottom of the sea, he prayed, hoping that he would once again see the Temple- the very place where he knew God would hear his prayer from.[9]

Approaching death and the bottom of the sea, a God-appointed fish came and swallowed Jonah. Inside of the fish, Jonah prayed to God thanking Him for rescuing him from death and recounting his near-death experience drowning[10]. After remaining for three days and three nights[11], Jonah was vomited by the fish onto dry ground[12].

Preacher in Nineveh

After his time in the fish, Jonah was once again commanded by God to go Nineveh and speak out against the city. Therefore, Jonah obeyed and went to the city of Nineveh- it is not known how far he was from the city after he was expelled by the Fish. Jonah traveled an entire day going deep into the city and proclaimed that Nineveh shall fall in forty days.The Ninevites believed Jonah's word, leading the City's Ruler to proclaim a feast of sackcloth in repentance. [13]

Despising Nineveh

Jonah had obeyed God and completed the task he was given, but he found the City's repentance to be despicable. Jonah prayed and confessed that he had fled to Tarshish, because his hatred for the metropolis was immense. Jonah knew that God would mercifully spare the city and then he asked God to take his life; the prophet preferred death over Nineveh surviving.

Jonah retreated to the East of Nineveh and set up shelter there. Jonah sat in his shelter, planning to wait to witness the city's fate. During this time a plant sprout up over Jonah's heading providing him shade and relief from further anger. Jonah was greatly happy about the plant, but the next day the plant died and he was subject to the sun's harshness. Now, Ammitai's son only wished to die, but God rebuked Jonah and told him that he pitied the plant but not metropolis of Nineveh with a population over 120,000.

After this, no other events are known about Jonah's life.

Legacy

Sign of Jonah

According to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, Jesus talked about Jonah with the Pharisees and crowds of Jews. In his teaching, Jesus was confronted by scribes and Pharisees who asked to see a sign. Jesus had already performed miracles, but he replied only the "sign of Jonah" would be given. The son of Joseph went on to liken Jonah's three day residence in a fish to his future three day residence in the grave. Jonah was considered to be a sign to the people of Nineveh. Further, Jesus recounted that even Nineveh could condemn the people of the generation, since they repented at Jonah's teaching.

Here, Jesus compares Jonah to himself and considers him great. Jesus's mentioning of Jonah inside the fish shows how remarkable and miraculous the event was.[14]

On a separate occasion Jesus was confronted against by the Pharisees and Sadducees who demanded a sign. In reply, they were given a stark reminder that only the Sign of Jonah (his Resurrection) to prove his Godhood.[15]

Recounts in Books

Second Kings

Jonah is remembered by the author of Second Kings as accurately prophesying some time before Jeroboam II became King of Israel. The author of the book refers to Jonah's border restoration prophecy, which is not contained in biblical record. Jonah is called a servant of God and affirms that God spoke through Jonah. Jonah specifically is given the epithet of "son of Amittai" in this context. The hometown of Jonah is also identified.

Book of Jonah

A brief biography of Jonah's prophesying to Nineveh is recorded in the book of Jonah. The book is eponymously named for Jonah; however the author of the book is unknown. Jonah may have written the record of his refusal and hatred towards Nineveh himself or perhaps another writer. The book does not give details of Jonah's upbringings, other than that he was the son of Amittai. It does not connect Jonah's life with his border restoration prophecy and vice versa. The Book of Jonah contains several instances of dialogue and a monologue prayer from Jonah, which he likely had to supply (given it was between him and God).

Verses

  1. 2 Kings 14:25, Jon 1:1 (Link)
  2. 2 Kings 14:25 (Link)
  3. Jon 4:2 (Link)
  4. Jon 1:3 (Link)
  5. Jon 1:10 (Link)
  6. 1 Kings 22:48, Psa 48:7 (Link)
  7. Jon 1:4-6 (Link)
  8. Jon 1:11-15 (Link)
  9. Jon 2:2-9 (Link)
  10. Jon 2:1-9 (Link)
  11. Jon 1:17 (Link)
  12. Jon 2:10 (Link)
  13. Jon 3:1-7 (Link)
  14. Luke 11:29-32, Matt 12:38-41 (Link)
  15. Matt 16:1-4 (Link)

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