This book in Hebrew is called “Sepher Yonah” and his name means “a dove” and the symbol for peace. He was most likely from Gath-Hepher in the Galilee, in the territory of Zebulon (2 Kings 14.25). This clearly refutes the Pharisees from Beit Shammai in Yeshua’s day who said that no prophet came out of Galilee (John 7.52). Even though there are no prophecies in the book, it is clear that the story given is prophetic. Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC) making the date of this book about that time.
He was a historical person (2 Kings 14.25; Matt 12.39-47) and this book clearly teaches about the call of Jonah to preach to the non-Jews in the Assyrian capital of Ninevah, so this alludes to the calling of the non-Jews in line with Matt 28.19-20 and Acts 10.1-48. This book is also ridiculed among unbelievers because of Jonah being swallowed by a “dag gadol” or a great fish, but Yeshua attested to this as a fact in Matt 12.40.
Why is this book prophetic? Jonah is seen as Israel who has a commission to go to the non-Jews with the knowledge of Yehovah and the Basar (good news). They “ran” from this calling, even excluding the non-Jews from the kingdom of God (through what was called the “Eighteen Edicts of Beit Shammai”) if they did not receive circumcision (convert) and become Jewish (Acts 15.1). As a result, they were cast into the turbulent sea of the nations, where they encounter the “dag gadol” or Leviathan. Even the nations “spit them out” (Ezek 37). Israel is sent again into the world to fulfill its commission.
This book should be studied on many levels. In the Peshat level (literal) it is Jonah’s prophecy, and in the Sowd level (secret) it alludes to Yeshua and his resurrection, Peter in Acts 10, the son of Jonah, and Israel. The essential meaning of this book can be seen when Peter, the son of Jonah, who was in Joppa (the place where Jonah ran from-Jonah 1.3; Acts 10.5-8), is sent the non-Jews with the Basar in Acts 10.
v 1…The word of the Lord (Yehovah) came to Jonah (dove) the son of Amittai (my truth) saying,
v 2…”Arise, go to Ninevah the great city (of the Assyrians; their capital), and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before me (to a great height, to the heavens)”
v 3…But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish (possibly Tartessus, a Phoenician port in Spain-Gen 10.4; Isa 23.1; some scholars believe this may be Tarsus; Jonah despised the Assyrians) from the presence of the Lord (not his omnipresence, but from the commission God gave him). So he went down to Joppa (a seaport, the same place Peter received his vision about going to the non-Jews in Acts 10), found a ship which was going to Tarshish (probably a commercial ship), paid the fare, and went down into it (the hold) to go with them to Tarshish from the presence (commission) of the Lord (thus denying his services to Yehovah).
v 4…And the Lord hurled a great wind (a mighty tempest) on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up (in danger of it).
v 5…Then the sailors became afraid and cried to his god (for help), and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below (everything he is doing takes him “down” -verse 3, 5 and away from God) into the hold of the ship, lain down, and fallen sound asleep (Israel sleeping spiritually).
v 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.”
v 7…And each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots (a common method to determine guilt, like Haman) so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us (they sensed something uncommon about this storm)’ So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah (by the direction of Yehovah as with Haman, and Zechariah in Luke 1.8-9).
v 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 (all these questions are shouted at him almost all at once in a confused manner because they were in a stressful situation; they also might ascertain what God he worshiped and what he may have done to offend that God).
v 9…And so he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord (Yehovah) God (Elohay) of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land (he is saying he is Torah observant, not an evil person, nor were his people; they knew Yehovah).”
v 10…Then the men became extremely frightened (when they found out he was a Hebrew and who his God was) and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord (Yehovah), because he told them (in his confession in v 9).
v 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 (agitated and getting worse).
v 12…And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea (a type of Yeshua being lifted up and buried on our behalf). Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you (in fleeing his commission).”
v 13…However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.
v 14…Then they called on the Lord (Yehovah and not to their false gods-by Jonah’s statement and the leading of God, they had some conviction about the true God) and said, “We earnestly pray, O Lord (Yehovah-they used his name), do not let us perish on account of this man’s life (his sin reckoned to them as their crime also) and do not put innocent blood on us (Jonah had not harmed them, so they were not qualified to make a judgment on account of what he had done), for thou, O Lord (Yehovah), has done as it pleased you (as he determined it through the storm, lot, etc).”
v 15…So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging (no longer tossed to and fro in billows, etc).
v 16…Then the men feared the Lord (Yehovah) greatly (seeing the hand of Yehovah and what happened to the sea), and they offered a sacrifice (a “zevach”-being a large ship they may have had live animals aboard) and made vows (“nedarim” which is common with men under stress, but whether their hearts were changed we do not know).
v 17…And the Lord appointed (prepared, ordained, but not created) a great fish (he appointed the “dag gadol”) to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights (being alive and conscious through Yehovah because he still had plans for Jonah; Yeshua himself said this is a picture of his own death so others could live, including his burial and resurrection-Matt 12.39-41)