For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

A casual reading of this little book is likely to evoke the question, Why is it commonly regarded as a prophetic book when there isn’t a word of prophecy in it?

It is the Lord Himself, however, who has declared Jonah to be a prophet, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet, Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here,” Mt 12:39-41.

(Many have had a problem with the “three days and three nights” of the Lord’s entombment, but the explanation is that with the Jews, any part of a day was considered as a whole day, so that the term “three days and three nights” is not necessarily to be understood as the equivalent of three twenty-four days and nights, in relation either to the Lord or to Jonah).

The assurance that Jonah’s experience is also a symbolic or typological foreshadowing of the Lord’s Own death, burial, and resurrection, declares in addition that the book of Jonah is prophetically unique: it foretells more than the experience of peoples and nations: it sets forth in graphic figure the experience of none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The Lord’s revelation of the symbolic and typological character of the book has furnished the key that has enabled us to see the still further scope of the prophecy: it is also the revelation of the experience of the nation Israel, not at the hand of the Gentiles, but of God Himself directly.  Scofield, for example, writes, “Jonah’s character and God’s dealing with him foreshadow the subsequent history of the nation of Israel: outside the land, a trouble to the Gentiles, yet witnessing to them; cast out, but miraculously preserved; in future deepest distress calling upon the Lord as Savior, finding deliverance and then becoming missionaries to the Gentiles (Zech.8:7-23).”

Nothing is known of the prophet other than what is recorded in the book itself and in 2 Ki 14:25, from which we learn that he ministered either before or during the reign of Jeroboam 11 (793-753 BC), and that he was, “... the son of Amittai, meaning my faithfulness ... who was of Gath-hepher, Gath meaning a wine-press, and hepher, a pit: shame,” the two names combining to mean wine-press of a pit or wine-press of shame.  Since Gath-hepher was a Zebulunite town we may conclude that Jonah was also a Zebulunite.  His own name, incidentally, means a dove.

Relative to Gath-hepher, the late Dr Harry Ironside has made the following instructive comment, ”... the fact that he was born in Gath-hepher is of moment, refuting, as it does, the self-confident words of the Jewish doctors, ‘Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.’ Gath-hepher was in Galilee....”

Because virtually all of the book is in the third person, some have concluded that Jonah was not the author; but most scholars accept the work as being his, not that the authorship in any way affects the validity of the prophecy, it being clear that the words are those of the living God, and not of the amanuensis He choose to use.

Others have drawn attention to the interesting fact that Nineveh may have been prepared to receive the prophet’s words because of two devastating famines, one in 765, the other in 759 BC, and a total eclipse of the sun on June 15, 763 BC, such phenomena being viewed by the ancients as expressions of the anger of the gods.

[Jonah 1]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough