Is the book of Jonah is factual, allegorical, mythical or historical?

Q. Do you believe that the book of Jonah is factual, allegorical, mythical or historical?  What does the Bible say?   Why have such a book in the Bible?

Jonah 1:1

1* The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,

Jonah may be divided up into four sections:

I. Running From God (disobedience) – Ch. 1

II. Running To God (prayer) – Ch. 2

III.  Running With God (preaching) – Ch. 3

IV. Running Ahead of God (complaining) – Ch. 4


Considers the book of Jonah as fiction.  According to this view Jonah was an imaginary person and this is a fictions story.


Considers the book of Jonah as a parable designed to teach a lesson in which Jonah represents Israel, and the fish which swallowed him as Israel’s captivity.


Considers the book of Jonah as a true and literal narration of facts which occurred exactly as they were related in the book.

Which is the correct view?

Matthew 12:39-41

39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;

40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

41 “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

I believe that our Lord’s words here answer the first part of the question.  The book of Jonah is a factual and literal narration of events which occurred exactly as they are related in this book.

Why have such a book in the Bible?  The best way to answer this question is to take a closer look at the book of Jonah.

There are several things very interesting about the book of Jonah.

*Jonah is chiefly a book about a prophet instead of being a book which contains the teachings of a prophet.

*Jonah is the only minor prophet in whose career the miraculous plays a part (storm, calm, fish, gourd)

*Jonah is the only minor prophet whose work is among the gentiles.

*Jonah is the only Old Testament character to take a trip on the mediterranean.

*Jonah only minor prophet mentioned by Jesus, and is likened to our Lord (Matt:12:38f).

*Jonah stresses universalism more than any other minor prophet.

*Jonah means “Dove”

Jonah’s commission 1:1-3

Jonah 1:1-3

1* The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,

2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

Ninevah was located 500 miles east of Palestine.  Tarshis was 2,000 miles west of Palestine.  If you want to run from God …….Satan will provide the transportation.

Jonah acts contrary to God’s will – 1:4-9

Jonah 1:4-9

4* The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.

5 Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.

6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”

7 Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

8 Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

9 He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”

Jonah is the only atheist on board!

Jonah is chastened by God – 1:10-17

Jonah 1:10-17

10 Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

11* So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?”–for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.

12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.”

13 However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.

14 Then they called on the LORD and said, “We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.”

15 So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.

16 Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

You may run far…..but God knows where your are!

It’s easier to obey than to run away.


In Chapter two:

Jonah is running to God – he prays  2:1-6

Jonah 2:1-6

1* Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish,

2 and he said, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.

3 “For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.

4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

5 “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head.

6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.

Grave danger makes a man of God aware of his need for God.

Jonah makes a promise : 2:7-9

Jonah 2: 7-9

7 “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple.

8 “Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness,

9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.”

Many people make promises to God under stress the never intend to keep.

In verse 10 of chapter two we have the PRESERVATION OF JONAH

Jonah 2:10

10* Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

God is gracious to his penitent servant.  God can rescue when no one else has the ability.

In chapter three we have:

Jonah running with God – his commission is renewed: 3:1-3

Jonah 3:1-3

1* Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,

2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.”

3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk.

Jonah is given a second chance.  This demonstrates God’s patience with us all.

Verse 4 is Jonah’s sermon:

Jonah 3:4

4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Jonah sees results from his preaching  3:5-10

Jonah 3: 5-10

5* Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.

7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water.

8 “But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.

9 “Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

At this time in the history of Assyria (800-745 BC) there was such internal strife that the message of Jonah was welcomed.

This demonstrates the great power of God’s Word.  It is the responsibility of the church to preach the Word.  This also demonstrates the power of God to spare those who repent.

IN chapter FOUR we find that Jonah is running ahead of God:

Jonah is displeased : 4:1-3

Jonah 4:1-3

1* But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.

2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”

Jonah is given a demonstration:  4:4-8

Jonah 4:4-8

4 The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

5* Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.

6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.

7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.

8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

Jonah is given a sermon by the Lord: 4:9-11

Jonah 4: 9 – 11

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.”

10 Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.

11 “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

Romans 5:8

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

2 Pet 3:9

“…not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Here, in the book of Jonah we have the infinite concern of God for life in sharp contrast to the concern of man for the material.

Why is this book in the Bible?

Do we really need to answer such a question?

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