Christian History

Introduction to Jonah

Jonah was the prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BCE who was known as the man who ran away. Based on the Book of Jonah, he was called upon by God to travel to Nineveh to warn the residents to repent their sins or face divine wrath. However, he did not want to go and instead, he ran away as far from Nineveh as possible. Let us know more about Jonah and the major events that happened in his life.

Sistine jonahName: Jonah

Nickname: Jonas (alternate, though less popular, spelling)

Family: Amittai (Father)


  • Disobedient (initially)
  • Proud (initially)
  • Unfaithful (initially)
  • Isolationist (initially, thought salvation was only for the Jews)
  • Obedient
  • Humble
  • Faithful
  • Stalwart

Major Events in Jonah’s Life

Jonah was commanded by God to go to the city of Nineveh and explain to the people their wrong doings and get them to change their ways. The city of Nineveh was hundreds of miles away, and it is what we know now as Iraq. It was one of the larger and more important cities in the world. But Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, that’s why he ran away in the opposite direction instead.

Jonah chose to go to Jaffa, sailing to Tarshish in his attempt to flee from “the presence of the Lord”. However, while on his way, a huge storm arises and the sailors realized that it was not an ordinary storm and they discovered was Jonah was to blame.

Jonah admitted that it was his fault and he said that if he will be thrown overboard, the storm will cease. But the sailors refused to do so and they continued rowing instead. But no matter how hard they tried, their efforts failed and they were forced to throw Jonah overboard.

Jonah and the Whale

After being thrown in the water, the storm calmed and the sailors offered sacrifices to God. Jonah was saved miraculously by being swallowed by a large fish where he spent three days and three nights in its belly. While he was inside the large fish, he prayed to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving, as well as to paying what he has vowed. After that, God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out.

Jonah was again commanded by God to travel to Nineveh and prophesy to its inhabitants. This time, Jonah went to the city saying that in forty days, Nineveh shall be overthrown. After he walked across the city of Nineveh, the people believed him and they proclaim a fast.

The King of Nineveh wore a sackcloth and sat in ashes. He made a proclamation which decrees fasting, wearing of sackcloth, prayer, and repentance. God had seen their repentant hears and he spared the city of Nineveh that time.

But instead of being happy about what happened, Jonah was displeased because he thought of Nineveh as enemy of Israel. Jonah would have been quite pleased if he saw them punished by God. Jonah referred to his earlier flight to Tarshish thinking that since God is merciful, it was inevitable that He would turn from the threatened calamities.

Jonah left the city and made himself a shelter while waiting to see if the city will be destroyed. God made a plant grow over Jonah’s shelter to give him some shade from the sun. Then, God causes a worm to eat the plant’s root and it withered. Jonah was exposed to the full heat of the sun. He became faint and plead to God to kill him. With this, Jonah had to learn that God forgives those who turn to him, even the people that Jonah did not like.

The story of Jonah teaches us that even though we are in darkness sometimes, we can be saved if we turn to God and obey Him.

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