Smith's Bible Dictionary


Jo'nah. (dove). Jonah, 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 from 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." Luk_11:29-30. But the resurrection of Christ itself was also shadowed forth, in the history of the prophet. Mat_12:39; Mat_12:41; Mat_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.

Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)