According to the earliest records, the book of Jonah was written by Jonah himself. Jonah, whose name means “dove,” was the son of Amittai from the town of Gath-hepher, about three miles north of Nazareth. Jonah was a prophet during the 8th century, around the time of Amos and Hosea. God called Jonah to preach in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital with over 120,000 people, near the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq. Although Jonah initially resisted God’s call, a violent storm at sea and three days inside a great fish changed his mind. Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, and they repented of their sins. According to Jonah 3:5, “the people of Nineveh believed God,” and God had compassion on them.
September 22 is the feast day set aside for Jonah on the church calendar. Due to the miraculous nature of Jonah’s time in the big fish, some modern scholars question the historical character of Jonah. However, all the events in Jonah conform to its historical setting. Furthermore, doubting one miracle in the Bible puts all miracles into question, which ultimately denies God and His work. Even Jesus Himself treats Jonah as history, using this historical account to foreshadow the greatest miracle in Scripture, namely Jesus’ own death and resurrection. “For just 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).