Jonah : biography
- The city of Jaffa has a main street named after Jonah. The ancient port of Jaffa is still intact and functional. Archeological diggings find that the port has been functioning at this location as early as 300 BC.
- Another sanctuary and mosque called Nebi Yunes, is in the Palestinian West Bank town of Halhul, north of Hebron. Muslim tradition has it that this is the burial site of Jonah the prophet. A sign erected by the Israeli ministry of religions says that this is Jonah’s burial site, but according to Jewish traditions this is the location of the burial of the prophets Nathan and Gad Hahozeh.
- The sanctuary of Jama Naballa Jonas is another place that tradition says is Jonah’s grave, near the city of Mosul (today in Iraq), near the ancient remnants of Nineveh. On one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins, rises the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus (previously a Nestorian-Assyrian Church). Jonah is believed to be buried here, where King Esarhaddon had once built a palace. It is one of the most important mosques in Mosul and one of the few historic mosques that are found on the east side of the city.
- Jonah’s grave is also said to be near the city of Sarafand (Sarepta) in Lebanon. This is in accordance with several ancient Jewish writings about Jonah being the son of the woman from "Zarephath" (Sarafand) mentioned in the stories of Elijah.
Jonah in Judaism
The book of Jonah (Yonah יונה) is one of the 12 minor prophets included in the Tanakh. According to tradition Jonah was the boy brought back to life by Elijah the prophet, and hence shares many of his characteristics (particularly his desire for ‘strict judgment’). The book of Jonah is read every year, in its original Hebrew and in its entirety, on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, as the Haftarah at the afternoon mincha prayer.
Teshuva – the ability to repent and be forgiven by God – is a prominent idea in Jewish thought. This concept is developed in the book of Jonah: Jonah, the son of truth, (The name of his father "Amitai" in Hebrew means truth,) refuses to ask the people of Nineveh to repent. He seeks the truth only, and no forgiveness. When forced to go, his call is heard loud and clear. The people of Nineveh repent ecstatically, "fasting, including the sheep", and the Jewish scripts are critical of this.Babelonian Talmud:Sanhedrin 61a
Jonah in sailors’ superstition
A long-established expression among sailors uses the term "a Jonah" as meaning a person (either a sailor or a passenger) whose presence on board brings bad luck and endangers the ship.The New York Times Wednesday, March 6, 1885. Later on, this meaning was extended to "a Jonah" referring to "a person who carries a jinx, one who will bring bad luck to any enterprise.". CollinsDictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved October 06, 2012.
Interpretations of the "fish" fall into these general categories:
- A big fish or whale (of unspecified species) did indeed swallow Jonah.
- A special creation (not any fish we know of) of God accomplished the act.
- There was no fish: the story is an allegory, the fish is a literary device in the story, the story is a vision or a dream etc.
Though it is often called a whale today, the Hebrew, as throughout scripture, refers to no species in particular, simply sufficing with "great fish" or "big fish" (whales are today classified as mammals and not fish, but no such distinction was made in antiquity). While some Bible scholars suggest the size and habits of the great white shark correspond better to the representations given of Jonah’s being swallowed, normally an adult human is too large to be swallowed whole.
In Jonah 2:1 (1:17 in English translation), the original Hebrew text reads dag gadol (דג גדול), which literally means "big fish." The Septuagint translates this phrase into Greek as ketos megas (κητος μεγας). The term ketos alone means "huge fish," and in Greek mythology the term was closely associated with sea monsters, including sea serpents. Jerome later translated this phrase as piscis granda in his Latin Vulgate. He translated ketos, however, as cetus in Matthew 12:40.