The Book of Jonah is a parable of mercy. It may be read as an allegory, one of sin and repentance, with God's loving mercy and forgiveness. Jonah and the whale is a favorite story among children.
The prophet Jonah - יוֹנָה - is mentioned in II Kings 14:25 during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC) of the Northern Kingdom of Israel before the Assyrians under King Shalmaneser conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The timing of the composition is unknown. Jonah was a disobedient prophet, who "fled from the Lord" (Jonah 1:3) rather than perform God's mission. He is punished and swallowed by a "great fish" (2:1), but repents and prays, and receives God's abundant (2:8) mercy - חֶסֶד - ḥesed, and carries out his mission to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The King and all the people listened to Jonah's warning of punishment and put on sackcloth and ash (3:4-5). When Jonah becomes upset over God's mercy towards Israel's enemy, God teaches him a lesson (4:5-11).
The Book of Jonah is one of the key readings in Judaism during Yom Kippur - יוֹם כִּפּוּר, the Day of Atonement, which occurs on the tenth day of Tishri following Rosh Hashanah, generally in September or early October.
Jonah is the fifth of the twelve prophets in the Book of the Twelve in Hebrew Scripture. The Twelve Prophets were preserved on one scroll because of the brevity of the text, and together formed one Book of the 24 Books of Hebrew Scripture. The Twelve include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
"The Twelve" Prophets - Trei Asar - תְּרֵי-עֲשַׂר - span over 300 years and range from the middle of the eighth century BC during the Divided Kingdom of Israel through the Babylonian Exile to the Restoration of the Jerusalem Temple and the Jewish religious community. The Book of the Twelve follows the writings of the four Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. All together the 16 prophets are called the Latter Prophets, as they began writing after the Division of the United Kingdom of Israel. The Prophets follow the Torah, the five Books of the Law of Moses beginning with Genesis, and precede the Writings beginning with Psalms and the Wisdom Literature in Hebrew Scripture. The Latter Prophets follow Psalms and the Wisdom books in the Greek Septuagint, as well as our Christian Old Testament of the Bible.
Early Christian tradition compared the time Jesus Christ spent in the tomb to Jonah's three days in the belly of the whale (Matthew 12:40).
The following Scripture is the Authorized King James Version, now in the public domain, and the New International Version of The Holy Bible. King James I commissioned a group of Biblical scholars in 1604 to establish an authoritative translation of the Bible from the ancient languages and other translations at the time, and the work was completed in 1611. The original King James Bible included the Apocrypha but in a separate section. A literary masterpiece of the English language, the original King James Bible is still in use today! Chapter 3 is from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. 4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. 6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. 7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? 9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. 12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. 14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee. 15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me;
out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas;
and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul:
the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever:
yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD:
and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day's journey into the city, proclaiming, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown." 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. 8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. 10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?