The story of Prophet Jonah is placed in the Book of Jonah. In numerous ways, the Book of Jonah is unique compared to other prophetic books. Of the prophetic parts, there is only one prediction in it that was not fulfilled in the way and time when the prophet announced it. It is also unusual that he did not prophesy in Israel, but God sent him to Nineveh. The only similarity with the prophets is that they are told similarly to the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Prophet Jonah is nothing like prophet Nathan who unquestionably listens and obeys God.

When God sent Nathan to inform King David about his sins (adultery & murder), Nathan was not afraid for his life. But he listens to the word of God and obeys it. The story of Prophet Jonah begins when the Lord invites Jonah to go to a great city in Nineveh to preach to tell the Ninevites that the Lord sees all the evil they do.

And Jonah would not obey the Lord but fled from the Lord. He went to Joppa and entered into a ship that sailed for Tarshish, to hide from Yahweh. Prophet Jonah thought that he could hide from the Lord someplace, and he ignored that the Lord sees everything and that no one can disappear anyplace without the Lord see him. But the Lord raised a great wind on the sea so that everyone in the boat was remarkably afraid of what might happen. And the boatmen, who were polytheists, began to invoke their gods, thinking that they could save them. Jonah got into the boat and fell asleep.

Historical introduction to the story of Prophet Jonah

Amittai from the city Gathhepher was the father of prophet Johan according to the 2 Kings 14:25. His mother was, according to myth, the widow of Zarephath. She fed the prophet, Elijah, during the famine. To be more specific, she was fed by the prophet because he made flour in her house. The Lord didn’t let rainfall on the earth for many days (1 Kings 17: 14-16). However, Jonah, then still a small child, became ill and died. Then the widow said to Elijah: What have I done to you, the man of God? Did you come to me to mention my sins and to tire my son? And he said, Give me thy son.

And taking the child from his arms, Elijah’s tongue took him to the upper room, where he lived, and gradually put him on his own. And Elijah cried unto the Lord, and said, Alas for me, O Lord my God! Do you want this widow with whom I am a guest to grieve by killing her son? And he blew on the child three times, and helped the Lord, saying: O Lord my God, let his soul return to the child. The Lord answered the prayer of His holy prophet, and His soul returned to the child and was resurrected (1 Kings 17: 17-22).

When he grew up, Jonah lived a virtuous life, walking flawlessly according to all the commandments of the Lord. He would soon be honored with the gift of prophecy. The story of Prophet Jonah is placed in the Old Testament in the Book of Prophet Johan, which has four chapters.

Prophet Jonah
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Chapter 1

Summary: The Lord calls Jonah, who is later punished for disobedience.

The story of Prophet Jonah begins in the first chapter with the Lord calling Jonah. God told Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach therein: for their wickedness is numerous (Jonah 1: 2). But Jonah did not carry out God’s command. He thought that the Ninevites would not believe his words, and they would put him in torment. So frightened, he got up to flee to Tarshish, wanting to hide from the face of the Lord. But no one can hide from the Lord, for the Lord is the earth and all that is in it (Ps. 23: 2). Who can hide from the One who is everywhere and fulfills everything?

And Jonah fled, and came to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; But the Lord, wanting to enlighten and encourage His servant, raised a great wind on the sea, and a great storm arose. Strong waves shook the ship, and it was in danger of breaking. Frightened, the boatmen shouted at each of their gods. They threw almost everything that was in the boat into the sea to make it easier. Only Jonah had descended to the bottom of the ship, and the sleeper slept soundly.

And the steward came to Jonah and found him sleeping amid such danger he woke him up and asked, how are you sleeping since we are in crisis? The steward asked him to arise, call on his God, that you may warn us not to perish. – However, the storm did not stop, and the danger of it.

Then the boatmen agreed to roll the dice to see on whom would evil befalls among them. – And he threw the dice, and the dice fell on Jonah. Then they asked him to tell why evil is coming, and what was his occupation, and from where is he? Jonah answered: I am a Jew, and I respect the Lord God of Heaven, who created the sea and the dry land; but when I sinned before him, I was afraid, and behold, I fled from his presence. – Hearing that, they were very frightened. They were wondering what they should do with him so that the sea would calm down? – Because the storm at sea was getting bigger.

And Jonah said unto them, Take me up, and cast me into the sea; and the sea shall be quiet: for I perceive that this great storm comes upon you for my sake. – The sailors took Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the storm at sea stopped. Then all the people on the ship were afraid of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and offered prayers.

Chapter 2

Summary: Jonah’s prayer and deliverance

The story of prophet Jonah got a twist here. The whale swallowed the prophet Jonah by the command of the Lord. He was alive in the belly of the whale, and he spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale.

He was alive, but in mortal trouble and danger, Jonah repented and cried out to the Lord from the womb of the whale as from the grave. He was praying to the Lord and repenting his sin and promising to keep the Lord’s command. The merciful Lord answered Jonah’s prayer and commanded the whale to spit out Jonah on the ground (John 2: 1-11). Turning to the earth and seeing the light of day and the heavens and the earth and the sea, Jonah offered wholehearted thanks to God for rescuing him from death.

Chapter 3

Summary: A preach in Nineveh about the ruin of the city.

The story of prophet Jonah goes back to the beginning here, and God commands again. And after this came to the word of the Lord unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the things that I have commanded you. And Jonah arose and went to Nineveh; and Nineveh was a great city, three days’ walk away. And Jonah began to walk in the city one day, and preached, saying Forty days, and Nineveh shall perish.

The people of Nineveh believed God and announced fasting and dressed in sackcloth, all from the greatest to the least. The sermon of Jonah reached the king of Nineveh himself, and he arose from his throne, and took off his royal garment, and put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And the king commanded to be proclaimed throughout all Nineveh, that the men and the cattle, the oxen, and the sheep should not taste anything, neither should they feed on the water.

But let men and beasts cover themselves with sackcloth, and call upon God mightily, and let everyone return from his way evil and iniquity. The story of prophet Johan has a happy ending. God, seeing the conversion and repentance of the Ninevites, as they returned from evil way, took pity on them, and did not bring upon them the evils with which he threatened them through His prophet, but acted with them according to His unspeakable mercy (Jonah 3: 1-10).

Chapter 4

Summary: Jonah is angry that God did not destroy Nineveh, but he is coming to his senses.

But Jonah after he had carried out the commandment of the Lord went out of the city and climbed up the mountain on the east side. He made himself a cottage there and sat under it in the shade to see what would become of the city. Since he saw that nothing had happened to the city he was sad, and in prayer, he said to God: Oh, Lord! Did I not say that when I was still in my country? That is why I hurried to flee to Tarshish because I knew that You were merciful and compassionate, long-suffering, and merciful. And now, Lord, take my soul from me, for it is better for me to die than live.

The Lord God commanded, and at night a pumpkin grew over Jonah to be a dream over his head, to protect him from the heat of the sun. And Jonah rejoiced greatly over the pumpkin and rested under it during the day. The next night, God ordered a worm, and the next day he came at dawn and bit the pumpkin, and it withered. And when the sun was set Jonah was very grieved on his head, Jonah fainted, and desired to die, saying, It is better for me to die than to live.

And the Lord said to Jonah: You are so sorry for the pumpkin, about which you did not work, nor did you raise it, but one night it grew, and the next night it perished. And should I not feel sorry for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand people, who turned to me and repented, and many cattle? (John 4: 6-11).

After forty days had passed and Nineveh did not perish, the Ninevites saw in this a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and went out of the city to the prophet Jonah and gave him gifts for the temple in Jerusalem, as thanksgiving for salvation. Accompanied by the gratitude of the Ninevites for reasoning them in time and bringing them to repentance, Jonah left Nineveh in peace for his existence. Prophet Jonah died peacefully and scratched in his hometown.

The story of the prophet Jonah – moral message

There is more than one moral message in the story of prophet Jonah. God is all-powerful while He is all-merciful. He always keeps His promises. We should be obedient and listen to His commands even when we don’t like them. It is because His way is the only true way. The story of Prophet Jonah has a happy ending because people repent and turn back to God. That is why God had mercy on them. And while Jonah was in the fish belly, he was turning to God. A powerful message for everyone, no matter where you are, you should always turn to God first.

The main message in the story of Prophet Jonah is God’s compassion is boundless.