Jo'nah (Heb. Yonah', יוֹנָה, a dove, as often, but in that sense fem., Sept. Ι᾿ωνά in 2Ki 14:25; elsewhere and in the N.T. Ιωνᾶς: SEE JONAS ), the son of Amittai, the fifth in order of the minor prophets. No aera is assigned to him in the book of his prophecy, yet there is little doubt of his being the same person who is spoken of in 2Ki 14:25 as having uttered a prophecy of the relief of the kingdom of Israel, which was accomplished by Jeroboam's recapture of the ancient territory of the northern tribes between Coele-Syria and the Ghor (compare ver. 29). The Jewish doctors; have supposed him to be the son of the widow of Sarepta by a puerile interpretation of 1Ki 17:24 (Jerome, Proefat. in Jonam). His birthplace was Gath-hepher, in the tribe of Zebulon (2Ki 14:25). Jonah flourished in or before the reign of Jeroboam II (B.C. cir. 820), since he predicted the successful conquests, enlarged territory, and brief prosperity of the Israelitish kingdom under that monarch's sway (comp. Josephus, Ant. 9, 10, 1). The oracle itself is not extant, though Hitzig has, by a novel process of criticism, amused himself with a fancied discovery of it in chaps. 15 and 16 of Isaiah (Des Proph. Jonah Orakel. über Moab kritisch vindicirt, etc., Heidelb. 1831).
The personal history of Jonah is, with the exception of this incidental allusion, to be gathered from the account in the book that bears his name. Having already, as it seems (from ו in 1:1), prophesied to Israel, he was sent to Nineveh. The time was one of political revival in Israel; but ere long the Assyrians were to be employed by God as a scourge upon them. The Israelites consequently viewed them with repulsiveness; and the prophet, in accordance with his name (יוֹנָה, "a dove"), out of timidity and love for his country, shrunk from a commission which he felt sure would result (Jon 4:2) in the sparing of a hostile city. He attempted, therefore, to escape to Tarshish, either Tartessus in Spain (Bochart, Titcomb, Hengstenberg), or more probably (Drake) Tarsus in Cilicia, a port of commercial intercourse. The providence of God, however watched over him, first in a storm, and then in his being swallowed by a large fish (דָּג גָּדֹול) for the space of three days and three nights (see Hauber, Jonas im Bauche des Wallfisches [Lemg. 1753]; Delitzsch, in Zeitschr. f. Luther. Kirche u. Theol. 11840], 2, 112 sq.; Baumgarten, ibid. , 2, 187; Keil, Bibl. Commentar zu d. Kl. Propheten [Leipz. 1866 ]). After his deliverance Jonah executed his commission; and the king, having heard of his miraculous deliverance (dean Jackson. On the Creed, bk. 9, c. 42), ordered a general fast; and averted the threatened judgment. But the prophet, not from personal, but national feelings, grudged the mercy shown to a heathen nation. He was therefore taught, by the significant lesson of the "gourd," whose growth and decay (a known fact to naturalists: Layard's Nineveh, 1, 123, 124) brought the truth at once home to him, that he was sent to testify by deed, as other prophets would afterwards testify by word, of the capacity of Gentiles for salvation, and the design of God to make them partakers of it. This was "the sign of the prophet Jonas" (Lu 11:29-32), which was given to a proud and perverse generation of Jews after the ascension of Christ by the preaching of his apostles. (See the monographs on this subject cited by Hase, Leben Jesu, p. 160). But the resurrection of Christ itself was also shadowed forth in the history of the prophets, as is made certain to us by the words of our Savior (see Jackson as above, bk. 9, c. 40). Titcomb (Bible Studies, p. 237, note) sees a correspondence between Jon 1:17 and Ho 6:2. Besides this, the fact and the faith of Jonah's prayer in the belly of the fish betokened to the nation of Israel the intimation of a resurrection and of immortality.
On what portion of the coast Jonah was set down in safety we are not informed. The opinions held as to the peculiar spot by rabbins and other thaumaturgic expositors need not be repeated. According to modern tradition, it was at the spot now marked as Khan Nebi Yunas, near Sidon (Kelly's Syria, p. 302). The particular plant (קיקָיוֹן, kikayon', "gourd") which sheltered Jonah was possibly the Ricinus, whose name Kiki is yet preserved in some of the tongues of the East. It is more likely, however, to have been some climbing plant of the gourd tribe. The Sept. renders it κολοκύνθη. Jerome translates it hedera, but against his better judgment and for fear of giving offense to the critics of his age, as he quietly adds in justification of his less preferable rendering, "Sed timuimus grammaticos." (See an elucidation of the passage in the Beitr. zur Beförd. etc. 19, p. 183.) SEE GOURD.
Various spots have been pointed out as the place of his sepulchre, such as Mosul in the East, and Gath-hepher in Palestine; while the so called Epiphanius speaks of his retreating to Tyre, and being buried there in the tomb of Cenezaeus, judge of Israel. (See Otho, Lexicon Rabb. p. 326 sq.; comp. Ephraem Syrus' Repentance of Nineveh, transl. by Dr. Burgess, Lord. 1853.) Apocryphal prophecies ascribed to Jonah may be found in the pseudo-Epiphanius (De Vitis Prophet. c. 16) and the Chronic. Paschale, p. 149.