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Jonah and the Whale

Jonah was the son of Amittai, and he is a prophet who lived in Israel in the 8th century B.C., which is where he appears on the Bible Timeline Chart.  His name means “dove”. There is a book in the Bible that bears his name and he also appears in 2 Kings as a prophet from Gath-Hepher. And he predicts that King Jeroboam II would take back lands that were previously lost to Israel. God had called Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh so that he could send them a message of repentance. The people of Nineveh were wicked and God wanted them to repent, but Jonah didn’t want to deliver this message. Nineveh was an ancient city that was a part of the Assyrian empire. The Israelite’s constantly had problems with the people of Nineveh and Jonah would have rather watched these people suffer for their sins than to warn them about turning away from their transgressions.


Jonah had run in the opposite direction of God because he wanted to get away from the Lord. He then boarded a ship to place called Tarshish which used to be located in modern day Lebanon. While he was sailing away, God sent a huge storm against the ship to sink it to the bottom of the sea. Jonah was asleep at the bottom of the ship while the storm was raging against the vessel. The sailors who were on board the ship began to pray to their gods to stop the storm, but it didn’t work. The captain went down to the bottom of the ship and woke Jonah up and had him pray to his god to make the storm stop. The sailors then cast lots to see who handled the storm and Jonah were the guilty one. Jonah then explained to the sailors why he was running from God, and they eventually threw Jonah into the sea at his request to stop the storm. The sailors began to pray and offer sacrifices to God once they threw Jonah overboard. They did this because God had immediately stopped the storm after they got rid of Jonah. God created a giant fish to swallow Jonah after he was thrown the ship overboard. Once Jonah was inside of the fish he prayed to God. His prayer was for God to save him from the fish because he realized that he was wrong for not obeying the Lord. After Jonah prayed this prayer, the giant fish spit him up on the beach. God spoke to Jonah again about delivering a message of repentance to Nineveh and this time around Jonah obeyed him. Once Jonah arrived in the city, he told the people that in 40 days God was going to destroy the place. The people believed his message, and they began to repent of their sins by wearing sackcloth and fasting. Their king also told all of his people that they had to wear sackcloth and pray to God for forgiveness. God saw that the people did have a change of heart, and he withheld his judgments from the people.


Jonah became very angry with God for allowing the people of Nineveh to repent. He knew that God would spare them from judgment once they turned from their evil ways. Jonah would have wanted the people to receive God’s punishment instead of mercy and grace. Jonah was so angry that he was depressed. Jonah then went to the eastern side of the city to see if anything bad would happen. While he was there, he built a shelter and God allowed a plant to grow to cover him from the sun. The next day God sent a worm to eat the plant’s root, and Jonah lost his shade. God then sent a hot wind against Jonah and the sun made him so uncomfortable that he wished to die.

God then explained to Jonah that he didn’t do anything to make the plant live but that he wanted to die because it no longer provided him shade. God said he felt the same way about the people of Nineveh and their animals even though they were no longer serving their purpose to the Lord by worshipping him. The book of Jonah ends without anybody knowing if Jonah was still angry with God or if the prophet finally saw things from God’s perspective.

Biblical References:

  • Jonah 1 God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and get the people to repent. A large storm appears and sailors throw Jonah overboard to stop the storm. Jonah is swallowed by a whale.
  • Jonah 2 Jonah says a prayer of repentance and the whale spits him up on a beach.
  • Jonah 3 Jonah finally goes to Nineveh to tell them about God’s judgment if they don’t repent. The people listen and they are spared from God’s wrath.
  • Jonah 4 Jonah is angry with God for sparing the people of Nineveh and he wants to die. God explains to Jonah that he cares for all of the people that he has created and did not want to damn anybody.
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