THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET JONAH.
The prophet Jonah ("dove"), the son of Amittai, was undoubtedly identical with the man who is called a prophet in 2 Kings 14, 25. The village of Gath-hepher in Galilee, in the tribe of Zebulun, was his home town, which makes it probable that he lived under Jeroboam II of Israel and prophesied at about the end of the ninth century or at the beginning of the eighth century before Christ. The period in which he lived was approximately that of the prophets Amos and Hosea in the northern kingdom and of Isaiah and Micah in the southern kingdom. As he had announced to King Jeroboam the restoration of the ancient boundaries of the kingdom, whereby the glory and majesty of Israel were once more established, so he was here sent to Nineveh as a special messenger of the Lord in order to preach the need of repentance to this wicked Assyrian metropolis.
The Book of Jonah, obviously a historical account of the chief events connected with the sending of Jonah to Nineveh, restricts itself to this one narrative. It abounds in miraculous circumstances, such as that of the great fish in whose stomach the life of the prophet was preserved, of the terrible storm sent by God, which died down as soon as the prophet had been delivered to the waves, of the remarkable growth of the gourd planted by Jonah, and other extraordinary features. Unbelievers and scoffers have tried, for this reason, to make the book the target of their mockery. But all their attacks are found to be idle talk if we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself referred to the Book of Jonah as a record of facts, even using the experience of Jonah as a type and prophecy of His own burial and resurrection.
The purpose of the book is to show that the true God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles as well, that God will have all men, including the Gentiles, to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. The book treats, in chronological order, the call of Jonah, his flight, his being preserved in the stomach of the sea-monster and his deliverance, his preaching to the Ninevites and its effect, the prophet's consequent great displeasure and complaint, the Lord's loving correction. 1)