Jonah, Jona, Jonas [Jō’nah,Jō’nă, Jō’nas]—a dove. The son of Amittai, and the first Hebrew prophet, or missionary, sent to a heathen nation (2 Kings 14:25; Jonah 1:1).
The Man Who Ran Away
The meaning of the prophet’s name is suggestive. When first chosen, it doubtless meant to Jonah’s mother gentleness and love. This son of Amittai was a citizen of Gath-hepher in Zebulun of Galilee and a subject of the Northern Kingdom. He is thus a proof of the false statement of the Pharisees about no prophet coming out of Galilee (John 7:52).
Jonah lived in the early part of the reign of Jeroboam II, and in a period when the kingdom was in a divided and abject condition. He is without doubt one of the earliest, if not the first, of the prophets whose writings are preserved to us. He is the first of a new order of prophets, appearing that he might declare God’s love claims the whole world. By friend and foe Jonah has been ridiculed and tortured and treated as a myth or parable. Our Lord, however, believed him to be a historic person; so do we! For proof in this direction compare Jonah 1:7 with Matthew 12:39, 40 and Luke 11:29, 30; Jonah 3:5 with Matthew 12:41.
Jonah’s mission was to Nineveh and therefore beyond the bounds of Israel, which is in perfect harmony; for whenever God brought His people into any relation with other peoples, He made Himself known to them as was the case in Egypt through Joseph and Moses; to the Philistines through the capture of the Ark; to the Assyrians by Elisha; to Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzer by Daniel.
Within the Book of Jonah we have the most beautiful story ever told in so small a compass. In 1,328 words we are given a wealth of incident and all the dialogue needed to carry on the grand and varied action. Jonah was an isolationist, believing that salvation was for the Jews, and the Jews only. Through affliction he came to know of God’s embracing love (John 3:16). Dealing with Jonah as a servant, Dr. C. I. Scofield gives us these helpful points: disobedient (Jonah 1:1-11); afflicted (Jonah 1:12-17); praying (Jonah 2:1-9); delivered (Jonah 2:10); recommissioned (Jonah 3:1-3); powerful (Jonah 3:4-10); perplexed, fainting but not forsaken (Jonah 4:1-11).
Another serviceable outline for the worker can be developed around these thoughts:
Chapter one: A disobedient prophet running from God and punished.
Chapter two: A praying prophet running back to God and delivered.
Chapter three: A faithful prophet running with God and rewarded.
Chapter four: An angry prophet running ahead of God and rebuked.
Here are other aspects to deal with: Jonah was sent to a foreign field (Jonah 1:2); sought to flee from his unwelcome task (Jonah 1:3); was overtaken in his flight (Jonah 1:4-17); found God in the depth of the sea (Ps. 139:10; Jonah 2); became a revivalist (Jonah 3); was disappointed with his own work (Jonah 3:5-10; 4:1); reveals bigotry (Jonah 4:1-3); was taught the breadth of divine mercy (Jonah 4:4-11). See below JONAS, JONA.
Jona is given as the name of the father of Peter (Matt. 16:17; John 1:42; 21:15).