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Jonah, Yeshua, And The History of Israel Print E-mail
Written by Victoria Radin   

A prominent part of the Yom Kippur service is the reading of the Book of Jonah. It serves as a reminder that all people, even Gentiles [non-Jews] can have a second chance, a new beginning with God. More notably, though, this short story was a sign that pointed to Yeshua’s mission, His death, burial, and resurrection. It is also an allegory of the history of the Jewish people from inception to the Millennial reign of the Messiah – from the mission to which they were called, to their eventual ‘resurrection’.

The Hebrew sages taught that Jonah’s mother was from the tribe of Asher and his father was from Zebulun (2 Kings 14:25). The “widow of Zarephath”[1] was commanded by God to provide for the prophet Elijah during the time that Elijah was in hiding from King Ahab (1 Kings 17:3). Elijah stayed in an upper room of this widow’s home for many days (1 Kings 17:15). The widow’s son, after a time, became ill and died, but Elijah raised him from the dead by a kind of miraculous CPR (1 Kings 17:19-23). The Jewish sages taught that this boy was Jonah. The second mention of Jonah is in 2 Kings 14:25. He is identified as Jonah the son of Amittai[2], the prophet who was from Gath Hepher in the territory of Zebulun[3]. He was called on by God to prophesy during the reign of Jeroboam, King of Israel. The next and last time Jonah is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible is in the Book of Jonah.

Jonah’s name is traditionally thought to mean “dove”, meaning peace; yet its root source could lead to the interpretation of “one who vexes”. From the story, it would seem that God was sending Jonah to bring salvation (peace) to the people of Nineveh but he ended up vexing the people on the ship he boarded, and certainly vexed God. Jonah was so desperate to escape going to Nineveh that the story records he went to Jaffa, found a ship going to Tarshish and “paid the fare thereof”. The sages teach that this meant Jonah paid everyone’s fare, since ships stayed in the harbor until they were full and had sufficient cargo to leave.

When God sent a storm to prevent the ship from going to Tarshish, the “mariners were afraid”. The men on the ship sought to lighten the load and pray to their gods, but the sages taught they noticed other ships passing by unaffected by “the storm”. As such, they cast lots to ascertain who was responsible for the “evil that is upon us”. The lot fell on Jonah. He identified himself as a Hebrew (Jonah 1:9) who worshipped the Lord, the God of Heaven, and told them to throw him overboard and the sea would become calm. Thus began Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish after which he carried out God’s instructions to cry out against the people of Nineveh, calling upon them to repent from their wickedness.

Although a short Book [four brief chapters], it has a powerful prophetic message about Yeshua as well as the history of the Nation of Israel. The fact that Jonah’s prophecy with its great miracle of salvation for Nineveh was referred to by Yeshua as a type of the His own mission (Luke 11:30) and a sign of His death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:40), discloses that Jonah actually died and was resurrected as the Hebrew sages taught. They described how Jonah drowned in the water before the great fish swallowed him, which both protected him and ushered him to the place of God’s choosing, i.e. Nineveh.

“I sank to the base of the mountains; the bars of the earth closed upon me forever. Yet You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God! When my life was ebbing away, I called the Lord to mind; and my prayer came before You, into Your holy Temple.” (Jonah 2:7-8) – The Standard Jewish Bible)

With this in mind, Yeshua said this would be the only ‘sign’ He would give to the Pharisees.

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

         [Sign of Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection]


“For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.” (Luke 11:30)

         [Sign of Yeshua’s mission of salvation]

As an allegory of the history of the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel, this is the narrative.

  • God chose Jonah [a type of the Nation of Israel] to become a universal voice, a man for all nations of the earth. He instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh [a type of the world] to preach against evil and to call them to repentance.
  • Instead, Jonah went the opposite direction to Tarshish [away from God]. God sent a violent storm [persecution] that steadily grew worse and worse until Jonah was thrown into the sea[4] [exiled from Israel to the nations of the world].
  • Jonah was expected to die there, scattered throughout the world. But, God sent a large fish [Christians whose sign is the fish] to swallow him and protect him for three days and three nights [God’s protection of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and then during God’s out-poured wrath on the earth (Rev. 16)].
  • Jonah repented [before the Bowls of Wrath are poured out– Rev. 11:15], and God caused the fish to vomit Jonah onto the shores of Nineveh [the world] to carry out God’s originally intended purpose [in the Millennial Kingdom].
  • When Jonah preached God’s message, the pagans of Nineveh [the world] repented and turned to the One True God.

Jonah was the only successful prophet in the Bible. The rabbis say that each year, Yom Kippur asks:

“Which shall it be, Tarshish or Nineveh? Darkness or Light? Death or Life?”



[1] Zarephath was in the territory of Asher (Joshua 19:10).

[2] Amittai = Son of Truth

[3] Jonah’s father was from the tribe of Zebulun. Zebulun’s territory was bordered by the territory of Asher.

[4] The sea often refers to the world or nations in the scriptures.

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