(the capital of the Assyrians who destroyed Samaria in 722 BCE), although unheeded, results in the conversion of non‐Israelite sailors. The story is told in concise folktale style.
Jonah rebels against the divine commission and attempts to flee from God.
The word of the LORD, the book begins like other prophetic books. Central to biblical prophecy is the belief that the prophet's inspiration and
authority are not self‐generated, but come from God, whose will is disclosed through the prophet (Ezek 2.3–5; 3.10–11; Am 3.7; Zech 1.6
), whose personal agent the prophet is (Ex 4.15–16; Isa 6.8
), and whom alone the prophet must obey (1 Kings 13; Am 7.14–17
). Jonah means “dove.”
reports that Noah's great‐grandson, Nimrod, built Nineveh. For other divine judgments against the wickedness of Nineveh, see Nah 3; Zeph 2.13
. The narrative echoes also the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18.16–19.25
Prophets of judgment risk persecution and death. The port of Joppa was outside Israelite territory. Nineveh lay to the east, so Jonah heads for Tarshish (Isa 66.19; Ezek 27.12,25
), probably the city of Tarsus on the southern coast of Turkey or Tartessus in southern Spain.
God stirs up a storm at sea to halt Jonah's flight (see Ps 48.7
Wind, especially the east wind (
) was a favorite weapon of the LORD (Ex 14.21; 15.10; Isa 27.8; Hos 13.15
). The LORD controls the sea (Ps 65.7; 74.13; 107.23–32; Job 26.12; Isa 51.10; Hab 3.15
The cargo in the sea serves also as a sacrifice to the mariners' gods.
The focus shifts from the mariners' ineffective gods to the God of Jonah.
The LORD communicates by means of lots, a form of divination (Lev 16.8–10; 1 Sam 14.41
The term Hebrew, used to differentiate Israelites from non‐Israelites (Gen 40.15; Ex 2.6–7
), heightens the ironic contrast between Jonah and the conscientious foreign sailors who will soon acknowledge the LORD.
provides a likely description of the ship. The narrative betrays ignorance of seafaring; in storms ships must avoid land
at all costs.
Feared … sacrificed … made vows, multiple verbs highlight the non‐Israelite sailors' new devotion to the LORD.
and returned to dry land where he started. The fish, like the tempest, the east wind, the plant, and the worm, is an obedient agent of God's purpose.
The hero swallowed by a fish is well‐attested in folktales (Tob 6.3
). The text uses the common Heb word for fish; belly is a general term for internal organs. Early Christian tradition compared Jesus' resurrection after three days in the tomb
to Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish (Mt 12.38–41
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