Jonah, the fifth of the minor Hebrew prophets, son of Amittai, born in Gath-hepher, in the tribe of Zebulun, prophesied in the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam II. The book called after him relates that he received the divine command to go to Nineveh and denounce the wickedness of that city. Fearing to undertake the mission, he embarked at Joppa for Tarshish, that he might flee from the presence of the Lord. Overtaken by a tempest, the mariners threw him overboard as the cause of their disaster. He was swallowed by a great fish, within which he lived three days and three nights, when the monster threw him forth upon dry land. Again sent to Nineveh, he prophesied the destruction of that city within 40 days. The Ninevites repented, and God forbore to execute the sentence which he had pronounced. Jonah complained of this result, retired from the city, and while dwelling in a booth was symbolically reproved by God. The literal interpretation of the book of Jonah was maintained by the early ecclesiastical authors.
Various allegorical and mythical interpretations have been advanced by some modern critics, as Semler, Michaelis, Herder, Eichhorn, Meier, and De Wette. A modern oriental tradition places the tomb of Jonah at Nebi Yunus, opposite Mosul. (See Nineveh.) - See Jager, Ueber den Zweclc des Buches Jonas (1840), and Krahmer, Das Buck Jonas his-torisch-kritisch untersucht (1846), besides the collective works on the minor prophets by Hitzig, Keil, and Lange.