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The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. According to the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh/Old Testament) and Islamic Qur’an, Jonah (Hebrew: ‫ ,הָנֹוי‬Modern Yona Tiberian jon’ɔh ; Arabic: ‫سنوي‬‎, Yunus or ‫ ,نانوي‬Yunaan ; Latin Ionas ; "Dove") was a prophet who was swallowed by a great fish.

Russian Orthodox icon of the Prophet Jonah, 18th century (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia). no ordinary storm, cast lots and learn that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits this and states that if he is thrown overboard the storm will cease. The sailors try to get the ship to the shore but in failing feel forced to throw him overboard, at which point the sea calms. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish specially prepared by God where he spent three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). In chapter two, while in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out. God again orders Jonah to visit Nineveh and to prophecy to its inhabitants. This time he goes and enters the city crying, "In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown." The people of Nineveh believed his word and proclaimed a fast. The king of Nineveh put on sackcloth and sat in ashes and made a proclamation to decree fasting, sackcloth,

The story of Jonah
In the Tanakh/Old Testament of the Bible, Jonah’s story is told at length in the Book of Jonah. He is also mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 (as a prophet in the time of King Jeroboam II, from the Galilean village of Gath-hepher near Nazareth). In the New Testament, Jonah is mentioned in Matthew 12:38-41 and Luke 11:29-32. According to the book of Jonah, he was the son of Amittai (meaning ’My Truth’). God orders Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it "for their great wickedness is come up before me" [1]. Jonah seeks to flee from "the presence of the Lord" by going to Jaffa and sailing to Tarshish. A huge storm arises and the sailors, realizing this is


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prayer, and repentance. God saw their works and spared the city at that time [2]. Displeased by this, Jonah refers to his earlier flight to Tarshish while asserting that, since God is merciful, it was inevitable that God would turn from the threatened calamities. He then leaves the city and makes himself a shelter, waiting to see whether or not the city will be destroyed. God causes a plant (in Hebrew a kikayon) to grow over Jonah’s shelter to give him some shade from the sun. Later, God causes a worm to bite the plant’s root and it withers. Jonah, now being exposed to the full force of the sun, becomes faint and desires that God take him out of the world.

and teachers of the Law. Jonah’s restoration after three days inside the great fish prefigured the Resurrection of Jesus Christ after two days in the tomb. But He [Jesus] answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them – and now, something greater than Jonah is here!" Matthew 12:39-41 NET Jonah is regarded as a saint by a number of Christian denominations. He is commemorated as a prophet in the Calendar of Saints of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church on September 22. On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar his feast day is September 22 also (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, September 22 currently falls on October 5 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is commemorated with the other minor prophets in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31.

young ricinus plant But God says to him, Are you really so very angry about the little plant? (or "The good is what you are angry at!" - according to a traditional Jewish translation) You were upset about this little plant, something for which you have not worked nor did you do anything to make it grow. It grew up overnight and died the next day. Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals! (Jonah 4:9-11 NET)

Jonah in Islam
See also : Islamic view of Jonah Like many important Biblical characters, Jonah is also important in Islam as a prophet who is faithful to God (Allah) and delivers His messages. He is known to Muslims by his Arabic name, Yunus "Arabic: ????", and also as (The One with the Whale "Arabic: ?? ?????"). Sura 10 (equivalent to chapter 10) of the Qur’an is named "Sura Yunus|???? ????" after him, although he only receives one reference, in verse 98. The full story of Prophet Jonah is recounted in Sura 37, verses 139-149: • 37:139 So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us). • 37:140 When he ran away (like a slave from captivity) to the ship (fully) laden, • 37:141 He (agreed to) cast lots, and he was condemned:

Jonah in Christianity
Jesus made reference to Jonah when he was asked for a miraculous sign by the Pharisees


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• 37:142 Then the whale did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame. • 37:143 Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified God, • 37:144 He would certainly have remained inside the belly of the whale till the Day of Resurrection. • 37:145 But We cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness, • 37:146 And We caused to grow, over him, a spreading plant of the gourd kind. • 37:147 And We sent him (with the message) to a hundred thousand (men) or more. • 37:148 And they believed; so We permitted them to enjoy (their life) for a while. • 37:149 Now ask them their opinion: Is it that thy Lord has (only) daughters, and they have sons? According to the Qur’an, when, 10 years after receiving revelation, Muhammad went to the city of Ta’if to see if its leaders would allow him to preach his message from there rather than Makkah, but he was cast from the city by the urchins and children. He took shelter in the garden of Utbah and Shaybah, two members of the Quraysh tribe. They sent their servant, Addas, to serve him grapes for, although they were displeased at his Prophethood, their tribal bond - important in Jahili (pre-Islamic time) culture - took precedence. The Prophet asked Addas where he was from and the servant replied Niniwah. "The town of Yunus, son of Matta," the Prophet replied. Addas was shocked because he knew that the pagan Arabs had no knowledge of Yunus. He then asked how Muhammad knew of this man. "We are brothers," the Prophet replied. "Yunus was a Prophet of Allah and I, too, am a Prophet of Allah." Addas immediately accepted Islam and kissed the hands and feet of the Prophet.(Summarized from the book of story of the prophet Muhammad by Ibn Hisham Volume 1 pg.419-421) Narrated Ibn ’Abbas: The Prophet said, "One should not say that I am better than Jonah (i.e. Yunus) bin Matta." So, he mentioned his father Matta (Volume 4, Book 55, Number 608:Sahih Bukhari)

brought back to life by Elijah the prophet, and hence shares many of his characteristics (particularly his desire for ’strict judgment’). The book of Jonah is read every year, in its original Hebrew, on Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement, as the Haftorah at the afternoon mincha prayer. One of the most important ideas in the Jewish religion is Teshuva - the ability to repent and be forgiven by God. The essence and the source of the idea of Teshuva is said to be the book of Jonah: Jonah, the son of truth, (The name of his father "Amitai" in Hebrew means truth,) refuses to ask the people of Ninveh to repent. He seeks the truth only, and no forgiveness. When forced to go, his call is heard loud and clear. The people of Ninveh repent ecstatically, "fasting, including the sheep", and the Jewish scripts are critical of this[3]. When praying, Jonah repeats God’s 13 traits failing to say the last one which is "...and Truthful", and changing it with "...and whome is willing to forgive the bad".[4]. God responds by showing Jonah that he is "angry at doing good", and that he too would agree to spare an ephemeral plant [5] if it has importance for him. See also Jonah in Rabbinic Literature.

Jonah in the Bahá’í Faith
The Bahá’í Faith views Jonah as a prophet.[6]

Jonah in sailors’ superstition
A long-established expression among sailors uses the term "A Jonah" as meaning a person (either a sailor or a passenger) whose presence on board brings bad luck and endangers the ship. This presumably arose from Christian sailors taking the Biblical story at face value. Later on, this meaning was extended to "A Jonah" referring to "a person who carries a jinx, one who will bring bad luck to any enterprise" An example of a so-called "Jonah", would be that of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was supposedly cursed to be lost at sea due to him killing an albatross [1]

The person of Jonah
The greatest detail on his personal history is to be found in the Book of Jonah, traditionally ascribed to Jonah himself (although this is not stated in Scripture). In the book, Jonah is a reluctant and non-compassionate prophet. This story contains a twofold characterization

Jonah in Judaism
The book of Jonah (Yonah ‫ )הנוי‬is one of the 12 minor prophets included in the Jewish Bible. According to tradition Jonah was the boy


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of Jonah: first as a reluctant prophet of doom to the heathen city of Nineveh, and second as a "Son of man" type. The character of Jonah, who wants Nineveh destroyed, is contrasted with that of God, who is compassionate towards Jews and Gentiles, humans and animals.

being swallowed, normally an adult human is too large to be swallowed whole.[8] In Jonah 2:1 (1:17 in English translation), the original Hebrew text reads dag gadol (‫גד‬ ‫ ,)לודג‬which literally means "big fish." The Septuagint translates this phrase into Greek as ketos megas (κητος μεγας). The term ketos alone means "huge fish," and in Greek mythology the term was closely associated with sea monsters, including sea serpents. (See the Theoi Project "Ketea" for more information regarding Greek mythology and the Ketos.) Jerome later translated this phrase as piscis granda in his Latin Vulgate. He translated ketos, however, as cetus in Matthew 12:40. At some point cetus became synonymous with "whale" (the study of whales is now called cetology). In his 1534 translation, William Tyndale translated the phrase in Jonah 2:1 as "greate fyshe" and he translated the word ketos (Greek) or cetus (Latin) in Matthew 12:40 as "whale". Tyndale’s translation was later incorporated into the Authorized Version of 1611. Since then, the "great fish" in Jonah 2 has been most often interpreted as a whale.

The fish

Depiction of Jonah and the "great fish" on the south doorway of the Gothic-era Dom St. Peter in Worms, Germany. Interpretations of the "fish" fall into three general categories:[7] 1. A big fish or whale (of unspecified species) did indeed swallow Jonah. 2. A special creation (not any fish we know of) of God accomplished the act. 3. There was not a fish: the story is an allegory, the fish is a literary device in the story, the story is a vision or a dream. etc.

Suggested Explanations
While many modern Christians and Jews are content to view the story of Jonah as a spiritual metaphor, for those who believe that the bible is literally true (or based on similar true events) the story presents several challenges. There is no currently existing sea creature that could swallow a grown man whole, or keep him alive in its stomach for any length of time. Some believers claim that God, being omnipotent, simply created a unique creature when needed. Others have attempted more elaborate explanations. There is anecdotal evidence that the throats of many large whales, as well as possibly the whale shark, could accommodate passage of an adult human.[8] Some have speculated that chapter 2 of Jonah was about Jonah’s experience inside the stomach after being swallowed. Specifically that the seaweed mentioned in 2:5 was a protective seaweed. However, Chapter 2,of the Book of Jonah is not an account of what happened inside the belly of said speculated creature, but rather Jonah thanking God while in the stomach for saving him. Jonah 2 is Jonah speaking to God about his condition before he was

Though it is often called a whale today, the Hebrew, as throughout scripture, refers to no species in particular, simply sufficing with "great fish" or "big fish" (whales are today classified as mammals and not fish, but no such distinction was made in antiquity). While some Bible scholars suggest the size and habits of the White Shark correspond better to the representations given of Jonah’s


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technically saved from drowning by the whale. The seaweed mentioned in Jonah 2:5 was not a "protective" seaweed, but rather an trapping seaweed. Jonah, after being tossed overboad, found himself drowning and becoming tangled in the seaweed.[9]


Prehistoric Animals
There may be, however, some other possible candidates for the creature that could swallow a whole human. Creationist science, according to their chronology, would have easily accept both huge headed Jurassic pliosaurs (such as Liopleurodon) and Cretaceous gigantic mossasaurs (like Hainosaurus), due to enormous mouths of those sea monsters. Even more plausible candidate would have been the eel-whale Basilosaurus, both because of the lesser timegap and the area (Egypt) in which its fossil remnants had been discovered. The representation of Jonah’s sea monster in early Christian art is quite constant and unchanged during several centuries, and depicts a long, serpent-bodied creature with whale- or fishlike tail end. Its muzzle is clearly mammalian, and its head is equipped with ears, which existence in the case of Basilosaurus is uncertain. Moreover, the very same creature had been used in art previously, as one of the protagonists in many representations of the drama illustrating the Perseus’ rescue of a chained princess from the jaws of a sea monster. Most striking is the fact that this event from Greek mythology supposedly occurred at the very same spot from Eastern Mediterannean coast (today’s Lebanon) where Jonah embarked the ship, trying to avoid the task that God had given to him. Concerning that the remnants of Basilosaurus were found in this area, this long-bodied whale seem to be the most plausible candidate for the sea monster in question. However, the current scientific chronology presumes that Basilosaurus was extinct millions of years before the human race appeared on the surface of the Earth. Since the Bible states that "Jonah was inside the ’fish’ for three days and three nights", it is highly questionable how he got sufficient oxygen to breathe and stay alive during that time. A fish’s gills would not supply him with any, and neither would a whale’s mouth, since a whale’s digestive and respiratory system are not connected otherwise the whale might drown while trying to eat. One may argue that applying contemporary taxonomy from a literalist perspective does little to further our understanding of this story, written in a time when such knowledge did not yet exist (and as such was less relevant than in our time) and all large sea

Jonah Mosaic at St. Anne Melkite Greek Catholic Church, North Hollywood. However, doubts have been cast that any existing whale or fish would be able to repeat the feat described, either due to size of mouth, narrowness of throat, or because it diverges so wildly from these animals’ normal eating habits. The largest whales baleen whales, a group which includes the blue whale - eat plankton and "it is commonly said that this species would be choked if it attempted to swallow a herring."[10] The sperm whale, on the other hand, has "a small mouth... Its food is torn to pieces before being swallowed," according to Dr. C. H. Townsend, a former Acting Director of the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Aquarium. He further states that "there is no evidence that such a feat would be possible." However, Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick and a professional whaler, wrote about a sailor who was swallowed by a sperm whale. The whale was later captured, and the man rescued, unharmed except for his skin being bleached by stomach acid. As for the whale shark, Dr. E. W. Gudger, an Honorary Associate in Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, noted that "while the mouth is cavernous, the throat itself is only four inches wide and has a sharp elbow or bend behind the opening. This gullet would not permit the passage of a man’s arm." In another publication he also noted that "the whale shark is not the fish that swallowed Jonah."[11][12]


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creatures had the same symbolism so that a generic term could easily suffice. Another argument is that Jonah being swallowed was a divine miracle and thus the type of fish/whale is immaterial. God either used whatever sea life was available or created a large fish/ whale to serve his purpose of causing Jonah to repent and to carry out His command of preaching repentance. A similar instance can be found in Book of Numbers, chapter 22, versus 28 through 30 where The Lord gives Balaam’s donkey the power of human speech in order to have a conversation with Balaam.

• The city of Jaffa has a main street named after Jonah. The ancient port of Jaffa is still intact and functional. Archeologic diggings find that the port has been functioning at this location as early as 300 BC. • Another sanctuary and mosque called Nebi Yunes, is in the Palestinian West Bank town of Halhul, a few kilometers north of Hebron. Muslim tradition has it that this is the burial site of Jonah the prophet. A sign erected by the Israeli ministry of religions says that this is Jonah’s burial site, but according to Jewish traditions this is the location of the burial of the prophets Nathan and Gad Hahozeh. • The Jama Naballa Jonas is a sanctuary of Jonah’s grave, near the city of Mosul (today in Iraq), near the ancient remnants of Ninveh. • There is a sanctuary of Jonah’s grave, near the city of Sarafand in Lebanon. This is in accordance with several ancient Jewish writings about Jonah being the son of the woman from "Zarephath" (Sarafand) mentioned in the stories of Elijah.

Various locations

Jonah, Jason and Gilgamesh
The story of the hero Jason in Greek mythology shares several similarities with the story of Jonah which have been noted by Joseph Campbell and more recent authors such as Gildas Hamel.[14] Drawing on the Book of Jonah and Greco-Roman sources — including Greek vases and the accounts of Apollonius of Rhodes, Valerius Flaccus and Orphic Argonautica — Hamel identifies a number of shared motifs, including the names of the heroes, the presence of a dove, the idea of "fleeing" like the wind and causing a storm, the attitude of the sailors, the presence of a sea-monster or dragon threatening the hero or swallowing him, and the form and the word used for the "gourd" (kikayon). The Greek rendering of the name Jonah was Jonas, which differs from Jason only in the order of sounds —both os are omegas. This may suggest that the Greeks confused accounts of Jonah with those of their own hero, but Hamel argues that the Hebrew author was reacting to and adapting this mythological material to communicate his own, quite different message.

Depiction of Jonah in a champlevé enamel (1181) by Nicholas of Verdun in the Verduner altar at Klosterneuburg abbey, Austria. • Place of birth: Mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, the town of Gath Hepher has saved its name to this day, near the Gallilean Arab town of Mashhad, where a monument for Nebi Yunes still exists. The Israeli Gat Hepher industrial zone is erected on that mountain. • Location of landing: In the city of Ashdod the light-tower hill is called Givat-Yonah, on the holy Muslim site of Nebbi Yunes, according to traditions of the three monotheistic religions, the site where Jonah was thrown by the large fish. Aerial photos taken by German pilots during WWI clearly show the Nebbi Yunes sanctuary, near the British landing site at the beginning of the British 1918 Jerusalem offensive. [13]


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Campbell also attempted to draw parallels with the epic of Gilgamesh, in which Gilgamesh obtains a plant from the bottom of the sea.[15] Similarities of the accounts, however, are minor: in the Book of Jonah a worm (in Hebrew tola’ath, "maggot") bites the plant’s root causing it to wither, while in the epic of Gilgamesh the plant is eaten by a serpent.

[12] "Essays of an Atheist," Woolsey Teller. Copyright 1945, The Truth Seeker Company, Inc., found online here. [13] A second look at the land of Israel by Prof. B.Z. Kedar [14] "Taking the Argo to Nineveh: Jonah and Jason in a Mediterranean context," Judaism Summer, 1995; reproduced online here. [15] Campbell, Joseph (1988). The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press. pp. 90–95. ISBN 0-586-08571-8.

See also
• James Bartley

[1] [2] [3] [4] Jonah 1:2 Jonah 3:5-10 Babelonian Talmud:Sanhedrin 61a Another translation could be: "...and who regrets the bad". [5] "Kikayon" - The small Castor tree - is a synonym in Hebrew to "ephemeral" [6] H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah - The King of Glory, p. 182 [7] McCurdy, George. "Minor Prophets:Major Messages". Dove Press. Retrieved on December 9, 2008. [8] ^ Theological Topic Search [9] Hill, Andrew and Walton, John H.-Survey of the Old Testament Pg. 495-501 [10] Lydekker’s New Natural History, Vol, III, p. 6 [11] The Scientific Monthly, March, 1940, p. 227

External links
• Jonah and Repentance • Prophet on the Run: Jonah and Yom Kippur • The Book of Jonah (Hebrew and English) • The Book of Jonah (NIV) • Jewish Encyclopedia: Jonah • Catholic Encyclopedia: Jonah • Jonah from an Islamic viewpoint • A Guide to Jonah • Prophet Jonah Orthodox icon and synaxarion • An examination of the "James Bartley" story who some claimed was swallowed by a whale in 1891 and survived the encounter. This article incorporates text from the public domain Easton’s Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897. This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "Jonah" by Emil G. Hirsch, Karl Budde, and Solomon Schechter, a publication now in the public domain.

Retrieved from "" Categories: Prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Prophets in Islam, Old Testament saints, Fertile Crescent This page was last modified on 18 May 2009, at 15:15 (UTC). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) taxdeductible nonprofit charity. Privacy policy About Wikipedia Disclaimers


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