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jonah Summary and Overview

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jonah in 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 in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(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." #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.

jonah in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

JO'NAH (dove), the prophet, son of Amittai, and born at Gath-hepher. Jon 1:1; 2 Kgs 14:25. Nothing certain is known of his history beyond what is recorded in his book. He was sent by the Lord about b.c. 825 to Nineveh, the metropolis of ancient Assyria, to preach repentance. Instead of obeying the command, he took passage at Joppa for Tarshish (Tartessus in Spain). In punishment, God caused a great storm to arise. The sailors cast lots to find out who was the guilty one. The lot fell upon Jonah, who confessed his sin and told them to cast him into the sea; so should the storm cease. Although loth to do it, they after a time obeyed. Jonah was swallowed by "a great fish," probably a shark or sea-dog, since these creatures are found in the Mediterranean. After three days he was vomited out upon the dry land. The Lord's command being repeated, Jonah went to Nineveh, delivered his message, and then sat down to see the destruction of the city. But the Ninevites repented; the threatened punishment was averted, and Jonah was very angry. He withdrew from the city and sat down under a booth he built. The Lord, greatly to his comfort, caused a gourd to grow up, but then to wither away; and this singular book ends with the debate carried on between Jehovah and his servant, in which the gourd is mentioned, and in which the divine mercy extending over all creatures is plainly declared. See Gourd. And so the most intensely Jewish of the Hebrew prophets is compelled by the Spirit to pen words of a truly Christian import. See Nineveh. The difficulty with the book is the story of the great fish. The miracle is not that he was swallowed by a fish -- for horses have been found whole in the bellies of sharks -- but that he was kept alive within it for three days. But this miracle receives the strongest possible confirmation to a Christian from the use made of it by our Lord, who sees in it a type of the resurrection. Matt 12:39-41; Lev 16:4. He also refers to the preaching of Jonah. Luke 11:29-32. Jonah, the Book of consists of two parts: I. Jonah's commission, refusal, and miraculous escape from death; his prayer in the great fish. Chs. 1 and 2. II. His second commission, obedience, the repentance of the Ninevites, and Jonah's hard spirit. The book is variously regarded; it has been called a fiction, a myth, a parable, but it is hhtory, as is proven by its place in the Jewish canon, and by Christ's use of it, as already quoted. Some infidels went so far as to deny there was a city called Nineveh, but all such objectors have been grandly Traditional Tomb of Jonah. silenced by the excavations of Layard, Botta, and others, which have caused this old city on the Tigris to live again. The lesson of the book is that God's providence and his mercy extend beyond the covenant people unto the heathens. Although Jonah was at first the narrowest of Jews, his book is the most catholic in the O.T. It approaches most nearly the catholicity of Christianity.

jonah in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

= dove (Genesis 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 (2 Kings 14:25-27, compare 2 Kings 13:4-7). Jeroboam II "restored the coast from the entering of see 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. "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 see JEHOAHAZ ' prayer, then completely under Jeroboam II. 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 (2 Kings 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 (Hosea 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 (Luke 13:32,33) to be revived from its national deadness, antitypically Messiah, raised on the third day (John 2:19; typifies the general resurrection, of which Christ's resurrection is the firstfruits (Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-14; 1 Corinthians 15:22,23; Daniel 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.P ERSONAL R EALITY . 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"(Matthew 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. C ANONICITY , D ESIGN . 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 (Luke 9:51-56). He feltrepugnance to deliver the Lord's warning to Nineveh ("cry against it," Jonah 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 (2 Kings 13:6; 14:24). Amos (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 araba h" or "wilderness" flowed into the S. end of "the sea of the plain" or Dead Sea (2 Kings 14:25; <300614> Amos 6:14). Hosea too (Hosea 9:3) had foretold their eating unclean things in Assyria. Instinctively Jonah shrank from delivering a message which might Jonah), took its name probably from its being the site of a Christian church named after him, Jerome preserves the older tradition of the tomb being in his native village of Gath Hepher.