Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah is a book in the Bible Old Testament and Jewish Tanakh.

The book gives an account of the prophet Jonah and the well-known story in which God tells Jonah to prophesy to the people of Nineveh to persuade it to repent or face destruction. Jonah attempts to run the other direction, is thrown from a ship in a storm, swallowed by a giant fish, and transported to Nineveh. He decides to take the hint and preaches to the city. The population is so moved by the warning that there is a general call to fasting and repentance which satisfies God enough to spare the city. Jonah is angered by this act of mercy until God rebukes him about the need to show mercy.

This book professes to give an account of what actually took place in the experience of the prophet. Most scholars interpret the book as a parable or allegory about God's mercy for all people, and not as a history.

Jonah and his story is referred to by Jesus (Matthew 12:39, 40; Luke 11:29).

It is traditionally believed that the 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.

Initial text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed