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Reference: Jonah


One of the minor prophets, was a native of Gath-hepher, in Zebulun, 2Ki 14:25. Being ordered of God to prophesy against Ninevah, probably in or before the reign of Jeroboam 2, which begun 825 B. C., he endeavored to avoid the command by embarking at Joppa for Tarshish, in order to fly as far as possible in the opposite direction. But being overtaken by a storm, he was thrown overboard at his own request, and miraculously preserved by being swallowed by a large fish. See WHALE. Several Greek and Roman legends seem to have been borrowed from this source. After three days, typical of our Savior's stay in the tomb, the fish cast Jonah out upon the shore; the word of the Lord a second time directed him to go to Nineveh, and he obeyed. The allusions of the narrative to the vast extent and population of this city, are confirmed by other ancient accounts and by modern investigations. See NINEVEH. At the warning word of the prophet, the Ninevites repented, and the destruction threatened was postponed; but the feelings of Jonah at seeing his predictions unfulfilled and the enemies of God's people spared, rendered necessary a further exercise of the forbearance of God. See GOURD.

The literal truth of the narrative is established by our Savior's repeated quotations, Mt 12:39-41; 16:4; Lu 11:29-32. It is highly instructive, as showing that the providential government of God extends to all heathen nations, and that his grace has never been confined to his covenant people.

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a dove, the son of Amittai of Gath-hepher. He was a prophet of Israel, and predicted the restoration of the ancient boundaries (2Ki 14:25-27) of the kingdom. He exercised his ministry very early in the reign of Jeroboam II., and thus was contemporary with Hosea and Amos; or possibly he preceded them, and consequently may have been the very oldest of all the prophets whose writings we possess. His personal history is mainly to be gathered from the book which bears his name. It is chiefly interesting from the two-fold character in which he appears, (1) as a missionary to heathen Nineveh, and (2) as a type of the "Son of man."

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("dove".) (Ge 8:8-9, seeking rest in vain, fleeing from Noah and the ark; so Jonah). Parentage, date. Son of Amittai of Gath Hepher in Zebulun (2Ki 14:25-27, compare 2Ki 13:4-7). Jeroboam II "restored the coast from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel which He spoke by the hand of His servant Jonah" etc. (See HAMATH.) "For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter; for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any (i.e., none married or single, else confined or at large, as a) helper for Israel." Israel was at its lowest extremity, i.e early in Joash's reign, when Jehovah (probably by Jonah) promised deliverance from Syria, which was actually given first under Joash, in answer to Jehoahaz' prayer, then completely under Jeroboam II. (See JEHOAHAZ.) Thus, Jonah was among the earliest of the prophets who wrote, and close upon Elisha who died in Joash's reign, having just before death foretold Syria's defeat thrice (2Ki 13:14-21).

Hosea and Amos prophesied in the latter part of the 41 years' reign of Jeroboam II. The events recorded in the book of Jonah were probably late in his life. The book begins with "And," implying that it continues his prophetic work begun before; it was written probably about Hosea's and Amos' time. Hosea (Ho 6:2) saw the prophetical meaning of Jonah's entombment: "after two days will He revive us, in the third day He will raise us up;" primarily Israel, in a short period (Lu 13:32-33) to be revived from its national deadness, antitypically Messiah, raised on the third day (Joh 2:19; 1Co 15:4); as Israel's political resurrection typifies the general resurrection, of which Christ's resurrection is the firstfruits (Isa 26:19; Eze 37:1-14; 1Co 15:22-23; Da 12:2). The mention of Nineveh's being "an exceeding great city" implies it was written before the Assyrian inroads had made them know too well its greatness.

PERSONAL REALITY. The pagan fable of Hercules springing into a sea monster's jaws and being three days in its belly, when saving Hesione (Diodor. Sic. 4:42), is rather a corruption of the story of Jonah than vice versa, if there be any connection. Jerome says, near Joppa lay rocks represented as those to which Andromeda was bound when exposed to the sea monster. The Phoenicians probably carried the story of Jonah to Greece. Our Lord's testimony proves the personal existence, miraculous fate, and prophetical office of Jonah. "The sign of the prophet Jonah, for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights (both eases count the day from, and that to, which the reckoning is) in the heart of the earth" (Mt 12:39-41).

Jonah's being in the fish's belly Christ makes a "sign," i.e. a real miracle typifying the like event in His own history, and assumes the prophet's execution of his commission to Nineveh; "the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold a greater than Jonah is here." The miracle is justified by the crisis then in the development of the kingdom of God, when Israel by impenitence was about to fall before Assyria, and God's principle of righteous government needed to be exhibited in sparing Nineveh through the preaching of Jonah, spared himself after living entombment. The great Antitype too needed such a vivid type.

CANONICITY, DESIGN. It seemed strange to Kimchi that this book is in the canon, as its only prophecy concerns Nineveh, a pagan city, and does not mention Israel, of whom all the other prophets prophesy. The strangeness is an argument for the inspiration of the sacred canon; but the solution is, Israel is tacitly reproved. A pagan city repents at a strange prophet's first preaching, whereas Israel, God's elect, repented not, though admonished by their own prophets at all seasons. An anticipatory dawn of the "light to lighten the Gentiles," Jonah was a parable in himself: a prophet of God, yet a runaway from God; drowned, yet alive; a preacher of repentance, yet one that repines at repentance resulting from his preaching. God's pity and patience form a wonderful contrast to man's self will and hard hearted pettiness. His name, meaning "dove," symbolizes mourning love, his feeling toward his people, either given prophetically or assumed by him as a watchword of his feeling. His truthfullness (son of Amirtai, i.e. truth) appears in his so faithfully recording his own perversity and punishment.

His patriotic zeal against his people's adversaries, like that of James and John, was in a wrong spirit (Lu 9:51-56). He felt repugnance to deliver the Lord's warning to Nineveh ("cry against it," Jon 1:2), whose destruction he desired, not their repentance. Jonah was sent when he had been long a prophet, and had been privileged to announce from God the restoration of Israel's coasts. God's goodness had not led them to repent (2Ki 13:6; 14:24). Amos (Am 5:27) had foretold that Israel for apostasy should be carried "captive beyond Damascus," i.e. beyond that enemy from which Jeroboam II had just delivered them, according to the prophecy of Jonah, and that they should be "afflicted from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness" (the southern bound of Moab, then forming Israel's boundary), i.e. the very bounds restored by Jeroboam II, for "the river of the arabah" or "wilderness" flowed into the S. end of "the sea of the plain" or Dead Sea (2Ki 14:25; Am 6:14).

Hosea too (Ho 9:3) had foretold their eating unclean things in Assyria. Instinctively Jonah shrank from delivering a message which might eventuate in Nineveh being spared, the city by which Israel was to suffer. Pul or Ivalush III (Rawlinson, Herodotus) was then king. (See ASSYRIA), and by Pal the first weakening of Israel afterward took place. "Jonah sought the honour of the son (Israel), and sought not the honour of the Father" (God) (Kimchi, from rabbinical tradition). Jonah is the only case of a prophet hiding his prophetical message; the reluctance at first was common to many of them (Isa 6:5; Jer 1:6,17; Ex 4:10). His desire was that Nineveh's sudden overthrow, like Sodom's, might produce the effect which his words failed to produce, to rouse Israel from impenitence.

HISTORY. Jonah embarked at Joppa for the far off Tartessus of Spain or Tarshish in Cilicia; compare as to the folly of the attempt Ps 139:7-10; Ge 3:8-10; Jer 23:24. However, "from the presence of the Lord" (Jon 1:3) means not from His universal presence, which Jonah ought to have known is impossible, but from ministering in His immediate presence in the Holy Land. The storm, the strange sleep (of self hardening, weariness, and God forgetfulness; contrast Mr 4:37-39, spiritually with Eph 5:14), the lot casting, and detection of Jonah and casting into and consequent calming of the sea, followed.

TYPICAL SIGNIFICANCE. Jonah reflected' Israel's backsliding and consequent punishment; type of Messiah who bears our imputed guilt and its punishment; compare Ps 42:7; 69:1-2; Joh 11:50. God spares the prayerful penitent: (1) the pagan sailors, (2) Jonah, (3) Nineveh. He sank to the "bottom" of the sea first, and felt "the seaweed wrapped about his head" (Jon 2:5-6), then the God-prepared great fish (the dog fish, Bochart; in any view a miracle is needed, the rest is conjecture). The prophet's experiences adapted him, by sympathy, for fulfilling his office to his hearers. God's infinite resources in mercy, as well as judgment, appear in Jonah's devourer becoming his preserver. Jonah was a type to Nineveh and Israel of death following sin, and of resurrection on repentance; preeminently of Christ's death for sin and resurrection by the Spirit of God (Mt 12:40). Jonah in his thanksgiving notices that his chief punishment consisted in the very thing which his flight had aimed at, being "cast out of God's sight" (Jon 1:3; 2:4,8; Jer 2:13; 17:13).

Hezekiah's hymn is based on it (Isa 38:17; Jon 2:6). Jehovah's next message (more definite and awful than the former) was faithfully delivered by Jonah: "yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Jonah, himself a living exemplification of judgment and mercy, was "a sign (an embodied

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1. The man Jonah.

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Son of Amittai and the prophet of Gath-hepher (in Galilee: cf. Joh 7:52). His prophecy is in the main the history of himself. It shows that the prophet embodied in himself the testimony of God through Israel to the Gentiles (comp. Mt 24:14), and also the important fact that God regards the contrition and turning from evil of a city or nation. Jonah was directed to go and cry against that great city Nineveh; but instead of obeying, he fled from the presence of the Lord. He himself tells us why he fled

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(dove), the fifth of the minor prophets, was the son of Amittai, and a native of Gath-hepher.

2Ki 14:25

He flourished in or before the reign of Jeroboam II., about B.C. 820. Having already, as it seems, prophesied to Israel, he was sent to Nineveh. The time was one of political revival in Israel; but ere long the Assyrians were to be employed by God as a scourge upon them. The prophet shrank from a commission which he felt sure would result,

Jon 4:2

in the sparing of a hostile city. He attempted therefore to escape to Tarshish. The providence of God, however, watched over him, first in a storm, and then in his being swallowed by a large fish (a sea monster, probably the white shark) for the space of three days and three nights. [On this subject see article WHALE] After his deliverance, Jonah executed his commission; and the king, "believing him to be a minister form the supreme deity of the nation," and having heard of his miraculous deliverance, ordered a general fast, and averted the threatened judgment. But the prophet, not from personal but national feelings, grudged the mercy shown to a heathen nation. He was therefore taught by the significant lesson of the "gourd," whose growth and decay brought the truth at once home to him, that he was sent to testify by deed, as other prophets would afterward testify by word, the capacity of Gentiles for salvation, and the design of God to make them partakers of it. This was "the sign of the prophet Jonas."

See Whale

Lu 11:29-30

But the resurrection of Christ itself was also shadowed forth in the history of the prophet.

Mt 12:39,41; 16:4

The mission of Jonah was highly symbolical. The facts contained a concealed prophecy. The old tradition made the burial-place of Jonah to be Gath-hepher; the modern tradition places it at Nebi-Yunus, opposite Mosul.

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JONAH, son of Amittai, the fifth of the minor prophets, was born at Gathhepher, in Galilee. He is generally considered as the most ancient of the prophets, and is supposed to have lived B.C. 840. The book of Jonah is chiefly narrative. He relates that he was commanded by God to go to Ninevah, and preach against the inhabitants of that capital of the Assyrian empire; that, through fear of executing this commission, he set sail for Tarshish; and that, in his voyage thither, a tempest arising, he was cast by the mariners into the sea, and swallowed by a large fish; that, while he was in the belly of this fish, he prayed to God, and was, after three days and three nights, delivered out of it alive; that he then received a second command to go and preach against Nineveh, which he obeyed; that, upon his threatening the destruction of the city within forty days, the king and people proclaimed a fast, and repented of their sins; and that, upon this repentance, God suspended the sentence which he had ordered to be pronounced in his name. Upon their repentance, God deferred the execution of his judgment till the increase of their iniquities made them ripe for destruction, about a hundred and fifty years afterward. The last chapter gives an account of the murmuring of Jonah at this instance of divine mercy, and of the gentle and condescending manner in which it pleased God to reprove the prophet for his unjust complaint. The style of Jonah is simple and perspicuous; and his prayer, in the second chapter, is strongly descriptive of the feelings of a pious mind under a severe trial of faith. Our Saviour mentions Jonah in the Gospel, Mt 12:41; Lu 11:32. See NINEVEH and See GOURD.

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