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An Israelite prophet, son of Amittai. Unlike the books of the other Minor Prophets, the short Book of Jonah (only four chapters) is narrative rather than oracular. Though he lived in the eighth century B.C., the book was not written until about the fifth century. To evade Yahweh's assignment, Jonah had fled in a ship but a terrible storm led to his being thrown overboard and being swallowed by a huge fish. After three days he was washed ashore and, properly chastened, proceeded to Nineveh to discharge his original task- to warn the people of Nineveh of their impending doom. Their contrition was so genuine that Yahweh relented and the catastrophe was averted. But now Jonah was outraged that his effective preaching was negated. He had to learn that Yahweh's compassion and love were dominant. The story uses an actual personality to teach a moral lesson: God's mercy is at hand provided man is willing to repent.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.