Jonah is an ancient biblical character who is thought to have lived in the northern kingdom of Israel around the 8th century BC. Jonah’s story is told in three religious traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The story begins when God commands Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and tell the people there that they have 40 days to repent before God destroys the city. Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah for the city was an enemy of Israel’s and the Ninevites were very wicked. So Jonah decides to flee and sail to Tarshish, a town in the complete opposite direction of Ninevah.
Angered by Jonah’s decision, God caused a terrible storm at sea. Jonah knew he was to blame and believed that the storm would go away if he were tossed off the ship. The crew members did not want to toss Jonah but became desperate as they realized the storm was extraordinary and nothing else would save them. Shortly after Jonah was tossed out to sea, the storm stopped and Jonah was swallowed by a whale or “big fish”!
The whale saved Jonah from drowing and he was kept safe in the whale’s belly for three days and three nights. During this time, Jonah asked God for forgiveness and praised God’s name. Hearing Jonah’s cries of repentance and praise, God ordered the whale to spit Jonah out on the coast near Nineveh. This time, Jonah obeyd God, marched into Nineveh and proclaimed God’s message that the town will be destroyed if the people do not repent. At Jonah’s surprise, the Ninevites recieved Jonah’s message very well and repented at once! God forgave the Ninevites and spared them from destruction. In this way, Jonah fulfilled his duty as a prophet but reluctantly as he was swallowed by a great fish!