|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
A dove, the son of Amittai of Gath-hepher. He was a prophet of Israel, and predicted the restoration of the ancient boundaries (2 Kings 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."
Jonah, Book of
This book professes to give an account of what actually took place in the experience of the prophet. Some critics have sought to interpret the book as a parable or allegory, and not as a history. They have done so for various reasons. Thus (1) some reject it on the ground that the miraculous element enters so largely into it, and that it is not prophetical but narrative in its form; (2) others, denying the possibility of miracles altogether, hold that therefore it cannot be true history.
Jonah and his story is referred to by our Lord (Matthew 12:39, 40; Luke 11:29), a fact to which the greatest weight must be attached. It is impossible to interpret this reference on any other theory. This one argument is of sufficient importance to settle the whole question. No theories devised for the purpose of getting rid of difficulties can stand against such a proof that the book is a veritable history.
There is every reason to believe that this book was written by Jonah himself. It gives an account of (1) his divine commission to go to Nineveh, his disobedience, and the punishment following (1:1-17); (2) his prayer and miraculous deliverance (1:17-2:10); (3) the second commission given to him, and his prompt obedience in delivering the message from God, and its results in the repentance of the Ninevites, and God's long-sparing mercy toward them (ch. 3); (4) Jonah's displeasure at God's merciful decision, and the rebuke tendered to the impatient prophet (ch. 4). Nineveh was spared after Jonah's mission for more than a century. The history of Jonah may well be regarded "as a part of that great onward movement which was before the Law and under the Law; which gained strength and volume as the fulness of the times drew near.", Perowne's Jonah.
Noah Webster's Dictionary
(n.) The Hebrew prophet, who was cast overboard as one who endangered the ship; hence, any person whose presence is unpropitious.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
jo'-na (yonah, "dove"; 'Ionas):
(1) According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah, the son of Amittai, of Gath-hepher, a prophet and servant of Yahweh, predicted the restoration of the land of Israel to its ancient boundaries through the efforts of Jeroboam II. The prophet lived and labored either in the early part of the reign of Jeroboam (790-750 B.C.), or during the preceding generation. He may with great probability be placed at 800-780 B.C. His early ministry must have made him popular in Israel; for he prophesied of victory and expansion of territory. His native village of Gath-hepher was located in the territory of Zebulun (Joshua 19:13).
(2) According to the book bearing his name, Jonah the son of Amittai received a command to preach to Nineveh; but he fled in the opposite direction to escape from the task of proclaiming Yahweh's message to the great heathen city; was arrested by a storm, and at his own request was hurled into the sea, where he was swallowed by a great fish, remaining alive in the belly of the fish for three days. When on his release from the body of the fish the command to go to Nineveh was renewed, Jonah obeyed and announced the overthrow of the wicked city. When the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of the prophet, God repented of the evil He had threatened to bring upon them. Jonah was grieved that the oppressing city should be spared, and waited in the vicinity to see what would be the final outcome. An intense patriot, Jonah wished for the destruction of the people that threatened to swallow up Israel. He thought that Yahweh was too merciful to the heathen oppressors. By the lesson of the gourd he was taught the value of the heathen in the sight of Yahweh.
It is the fashion now in scholarly circles to treat the Book of Jonah as fiction. The story is said to be an allegory or a parable or a symbolic narrative. Why then did the author fasten upon a true and worthy prophet of Yahweh the stigma of rebellion and narrowness? On theory that the narrative is an allegory, J. Kennedy well says that "the man who wrote it was guilty of a gratuitous insult to the memory of a prophet, and could not have been inspired by the prophet's Master thus to dishonor a faithful servant."
(3) our Lord referred on two different occasions to the sign of Jonah the prophet (Matthew 12:38-41 Luke 11:29-32 Matthew 16:4). He speaks of Jonah's experience in the belly of the fish as parallel with His own approaching entombment for three days, and cites the repentance of the Ninevites as a rebuke to the unbelieving men of his own generation. Our Lord thus speaks both of the physical miracle of the preservation of Jonah in the body of the fish and of the moral miracle of the repentance of the Ninevites, and without the slightest hint that He regarded the story as an allegory.
John Richard Sampey
JONAH, THE BOOK OF
This little roll of four short chapters has given rise to almost as much discussion and difference of opinion as the first four chapters of Genesis. It would be presumptuous to think that one could, in a brief article, speak the final word on the questions in debate.
I. Contents of the Book.
The story is too well known to need retelling. Moreover, it would be difficult to give the events in fewer words than the author employs in his classic narrative. One event grows out of another, so that the interest of the reader never flags.
1. Jonah Disobedient, Jonah 1:1-3:
When the call came to Jonah to preach in Nineveh, he fled in the opposite direction, hoping thus to escape from his unpleasant task. He was afraid that the merciful God would forgive the oppressing heathen city, if it should repent at his preaching. Jonah was a narrow-minded patriot, who feared that Assyria would one day swallow up his own little nation; and so he wished to do nothing that might lead to the preservation of wicked Nineveh. Jonah was willing to prophesy to Israel; he at first flatly refused to become a foreign missionary.
2. Jonah Punished, Jonah 1:4-16:
The vessel in which the prophet had taken passage was arrested by a great storm. The heathen sailors inferred that some god must be angry with some person on board, and cast lots to discover the culprit. When the lot fell upon Jonah, he made a complete confession, and bravely suggested that they cast him overboard. The heathen mariners rowed desperately to get back to land, but made no progress against the storm. They then prayed Yahweh not to bring innocent blood upon them, and cast Jonah into the sea. As the storm promptly subsided, the heathen sailors offered a sacrifice to Yahweh and made vows. In this part of the story the mariners give an example of the capacity of the Gentiles to perform noble deeds and to offer acceptable worship to Yahweh.
3. Jonah Miraculously Preserved, Jonah 1:17-2:10:
Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and to bear him in his body for three days and nights. Surprised to find himself alive and conscious in the body of the fish, the prophet prayed to his God. Already by faith he speaks of his danger as a past experience. The God who had saved him from drowning in the depths of the sea will yet permit him once more to worship with loud thanksgiving. At the command of Yahweh the fish vomits out Jonah upon the dry land. The almost inevitable grotesqueness of this part of the story is one of the strongest arguments against the view that the Book of Jon is literal history and not a work of the imagination.
4. Jonah's Ministry in Nineveh, Jonah 3:1-4:
Upon the renewal of the command to go to Nineveh, Jonah obeyed, and marching through the streets of the great city, he cried, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" His message was so brief that he may well have spoken it in good Assyrian. If the story of his deliverance from the sea preceded him, or was made known through the prophet himself, the effect of the prophetic message was thereby greatly heightened.
5. The Ninevites Repent, Jonah 3:5-10:
The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, the entire city uniting in fasting and prayer. So great was the anxiety of the people that even the lower animals were clothed in sackcloth. The men of Nineveh turned from deeds of violence ("their evil way") to seek the forgiveness of an angry God. Yahweh decided to spare the city.
6. A Narrow Prophet versus the Merciful God, Jonah 4:1-11:
Jonah breaks out into loud and bitter complaint when he learns that Nineveh is to be spared. He decides to encamp near the city to see what will become of it. He hopes it may yet be overthrown. Through a gourd vine Yahweh teaches the prophet a great lesson. If such a mean and perishable plant could come to have real value in the eyes of the sullen prophet, what estimate ought to be put on the lives of the thousands of innocent children and helpless cattle in the great city of Nineveh? These were dearer to the God of heaven than Jonah's protecting vine could possibly be to him.
II. The Aim of the Book.
The main purpose of the writer was to enlarge the sympathies of Israel and lead the chosen people to undertake the great missionary task of proclaiming the truth to the heathen world. Other lessons may be learned from the subordinate parts of the narrative, but this is the central truth of the Book of Jonah. Kent well expresses the author's main message: "In his wonderful picture of God's love for all mankind, and of the Divine readiness to pardon and to save even the ignorant heathen, if they but repent according to their light, he has anticipated the teaching of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and laid the foundation for some of the broadest faith and the noblest missionary activity of the present generation" (Sermons, Epistles, etc., 420).
III. Is the Book History? 1. What Did our Lord Teach?:
Most of the early interpreters so understood it, and some excellent scholars still hold this view. If Jesus thought of the story as history and so taught, that fact alone would settle the question for the devout believer. On two, possibly three, different occasions He referred to Jonah (Matthew 12:38-41; Matthew 16:4 Luke 11:29-32). It is significant that Jesus brought the two great miracles of the Book of Jon into relation with Himself and His preaching. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the body of the fish, so should the Son of Man be three days in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, while the contemporaries of Jesus for the most part rejected His message. It is the fashion now among advanced critics to treat Matthew 12:40 as an addition to the words of Jesus, though there is no manuscript evidence in favor of regarding the verse as an interpolation. G.A. Smith, among recent scholars, holds the view that Jesus did not mean to teach the historicity of Jonah's experience in the fish.
"Christ is using an illustration: it matters not whether that illustration be drawn from the realms of fact or of poetry" (BTP, II, 508). In a footnote Dr. Smith says: "Suppose we tell slothful people that theirs will be the fate of the man who buried his talent, is this to commit us to the belief that the personages of Christ's parables actually existed? Or take the homiletic use of Shakespeare's dramas-`as Macbeth did,' or `as Hamlet said.' Does it commit us to the historical reality of Macbeth or Hamlet? Any preacher among us would resent being bound by such an inference. And if we resent this for ourselves, how chary we should be about seeking to bind our Lord by it."
Notwithstanding Principal Smith's skillful presentation of his case, we still think that our Lord regarded the miracles of the fish and the repentance of the Ninevites as actual events. Orelli puts the matter judiciously: "It is not, indeed, proved with conclusive necessity that, if the resurrection of Jesus was a physical fact, Jonah's abode in the fish's belly must also be just as historical. On this point also the saying, `A greater than Jonah is here,' holds good. But, on the other hand, how arbitrary it is to assert, with Reuss, that Jesus regarded Jonah's history as a parable! On the contrary, Jesus saw in it a sign, a powerful evidence of the same Divine power which showed itself also in His dying in order to live again and triumph in the world. Whoever, therefore, feels the religious greatness of the book, and accepts as authoritative the attitude taken to its historical import by the Son of God Himself, will be led to accept a great act of the God who brings down to Hades and brings up again, as an actual experience of Jonah in his flight from his Lord" (The Twelve Minor Prophets, 172, 3).
2. Modern Critical Views:
Most modern critical scholars since Kleinert (1868) and Bloch (1875) have regarded the Book of Jonah as a work of the imagination. Some prefer to call it an allegory, others a parable, others a prose poem, others a didactic story, others a midrash, others a symbolical book. Keil, Pusey, Delitzsch, Orelli, J. Kennedy and others have contended for the historical character of the narrative. A few treat it as a legend containing a kernel of fact. Cheyne and a few other scholars assert that in the symbolic narrative are imbedded mythical clements. The trend of critical opinion, even in evangelical circles, has of late been toward the symbolical interpretation. Radical critics boldly set aside the teaching of Jesus as erroneous, while the more evangelical take refuge either in the doctrine of the Kenosis (Philippians 2:5-8), or in the principle of accommodation. The last explanation might commend itself to the devout student, namely, that Jesus did not think it worth while to correct the views of his contemporaries, had our Lord not spoken more than once of the sign of Jonah, and in such detail as to indicate His acceptance of the entire narrative with its two great miracles.
IV. Authorship and Date.
The old view that Jonah was the author is still held by some scholars, though most moderns place the book in the late exilic or post-exilic times. A few Aramaic words occur in the Hebrew text. The question in debate is whether the language of Israel in the days of Jeroboam II had taken over words from the Aramaic. There had certainly been a century of close political and commercial contact between Israel and the Arameans of Damascus, so that it would not be surprising to meet with Aramaic words in a prophet of Samaria. Hosea, in the generation following Jonah, betrays little evidence of Aramaic influence in his style and vocabulary. Of course, the personal equation is a factor that ought not to be overlooked. If the author was a Judean, we should probably have to think of the post-exilic period, when Aramaic began to displace Hebrew as the vernacular of the Jews. The Book of Jonah is anonymous, and we really do not know who the author was or when he lived. The view that Jonah wrote the story of his own disobedience and his debate with the merciful God has not been made wholly untenable.
V. The Unity of the Book.
Nachtigal (1799) contended that there were three different authors of widely different periods. Kleinert (1868) held that two parallel narratives had been woven together in Jonah 3 and 4. Kaufmann Kohler (1879) contended that there were a considerable number of glosses and interpolations besides some transpositions of material. W. Bohme, in 1887, advanced the most radical theory of the composition of the roll. He partitioned the story among two authors, and two redactors or supplementers. A few additional glosses were charged to later hands. Even radical critics treat Bohme's theory as one of the curiosities of criticism. Winckler (AOF, II, 260;) tried to improve the story by a few transpositions. Hans Schmidt (1905) subjects the roll of Jonah to a searching criticism, and concludes that a good many changes have been made from religious motives. Budde follows Winckler and Schmidt both in transposing and in omitting some material. Sievers (1905) and Erbt (1907) tried to make of the Book of Jon a poem; but they do not agree as to the meter. Sievers regards the roll as a unit, while Erbt contends for two main sources besides the prayer in Jonah 2. Bewer, in ICC (1912), is far more conservative in both textual and literary criticism, recognizing but few glosses in our present text and arguing for the unity of the story apart from the insertion of the psalm in Jonah 2. Nearly all recent critics assign Jonah's prayer to a writer other than the author of the narrative about Jonah, but opinions vary widely as to the manner in which the psalm found its way into the Book of Jon. Bewer holds that it was probably put on the margin by a reader and afterward crept into the text, the copyist inserting it after 2:2, though it would more naturally follow 2:11. Bewer remarks: "The literary connections with various post-exilic psalms argue for a post-exilic date of the psalm. But how early or how late in the post-exilic period it belongs we cannot tell. The Hebrew is pure and no Aramaic influence is apparent." It is evident, then, that the presence or absence of Aramaic influence does not alone settle the question of the date of the document. Geography and the personal equation may be more important than the question of date. Bewer recognizes the fact that the psalm in Jon is not a mere cento of quotations from the Psalms. "The phrases it has in common with other psalms," writes Professor Bewer, "were the common property of the religious language of the author's day" (p. 24). Those who still believe that David wrote many of the psalms find no difficulty in believing that a prophet of 780 B.C. could have drawn upon his knowledge of the Psalter in a prayer of thanksgiving to Yahweh.
Among commentaries covering the twelve Minor Prophets, see especially Pusey (1861), Keil (English translation, 1880), von Orelli (English translation, 1893), Wellhausen (1898), G.A. Smith (1898). Among special commentaries on Jonah, consult Kleinert, in Lange (English translation, 1875); Perowne, in Cambridge Bible (1897); Bewer in ICC (1912). See also C. H. H. Wright, Biblical Essays (1886); H. C. Trumbull, "Jonah in Nineveh," JBL, XI (1892); J. Kennedy, Book of Jon (1895); Konig in HDB; Cheyne in EB. For more elaborate bibliography see Bewer in ICC, 25-27.
John Richard Sampey
Jonah (30 Occurrences)
Matthew 12:39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, someone greater than Jonah is here. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 16:4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there will be no sign given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah." He left them, and departed. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 16:17 Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (WEB WEY ASV BBE NIV)
Luke 11:29 When the multitudes were gathering together to him, he began to say, "This is an evil generation. It seeks after a sign. No sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah, the prophet. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:30 For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will also the Son of Man be to this generation. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:32 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, one greater than Jonah is here. (WEB WEY ASV BBE WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
John 1:42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is by interpretation, Peter). (WEB)
John 21:15 So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." (WEB)
John 21:16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." (WEB)
John 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you have affection for me?" Peter was grieved because he asked him the third time, "Do you have affection for me?" He said to him, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I have affection for you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. (WEB)
2 Kings 14:25 He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of Yahweh, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath Hepher. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Daniel 4:17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he will, and sets up over it the lowest of men. Jonah (WEB)
Jonah 1:1 Now the word of Yahweh came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid its fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 1:5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it. But Jonah had gone down into the innermost parts of the ship, and he was laying down, and was fast asleep. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 1:7 They all said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is on us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 1:15 So they took up Jonah, and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased its raging. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 1:17 Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to Yahweh, his God, out of the fish's belly. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 2:10 Yahweh spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 3:1 The word of Yahweh came to Jonah the second time, saying, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 3:3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey across. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 3:4 Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried out, and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 4:5 Then Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made himself a booth, and sat under it in the shade, until he might see what would become of the city. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 4:6 Yahweh God prepared a vine, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to deliver him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the vine. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 4:8 It happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a sultry east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he fainted, and requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jonah 4:9 God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the vine?" He said, "I am right to be angry, even to death." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)