Day 181: Jonah and the Whale

The Book of Jonah

Author and Date:

  • The name of Jonah was probably borrowed from the biblical prophet Jonah of the Northern Kingdom during the reign of King Jeroboam II (cf. 2 Kgs 14:25-27), but this book does not reflect his life or ministry.

  • Jonah is rather a moral tale built around a fictional prophet, more in line with wisdom literature than with prophetic literature.

  • Christ’s reference to the “sign of Jonah” (cf. Lk 11:29-32) does not attest to its historicity, and even the early Father of the Church doubted that Jonah represented real persons or events.

  • Written in Hebrew with some Aramaic influence, Jonah probably was written after the Babylonian Exile in the fifth or fourth century BC.


  • Post-exilic Jews living in Judah and the Diaspora (Jewish people living outside of Israel).

Main Themes:

  • The narrative of Jonah carries with it a powerful theme.

  • God, whose power extends over all nations, can and will exert his justice over those peoples who warrant punishment for their sins.

  • At the same time, God is All-compassionate and All-merciful, and he will forgive the nations-even the pagan nations-if they repent of their sins.

  • Implicitly, this aspect of the story of Jonah in Nineveh explains why some of the previous Old Testament oracles prophesying the destruction of pagan nations did not materialize.

  • This was a source of consternation with many Jews, a frustration that God was not following through on what they perceived were his promises to deliver his people from oppression.

  • Yet, this attitude reflected a failure on the part of Israel to recognize their part of the covenant: The People of God were to serve as witnesses to the pagan nations and to be instruments of their repentance and conversion.

  • In God’s plan of salvation, even the non-Jews could repent of their sins, experience conversion of heart, and find redemption-a theme that later would be fulfilled more explicitly in the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:19-20).

  • Christ used the story of Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the whale as a metaphor for his own Death and Resurrection.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Jonah 1:1 This book is unusual among the prophetic literature for its lack of prophecies. It functions primarily as a moral lesson, illustrating God’s mercy in response to desires and deeds of repentance. It ranks among the best-known stories of the Old Testament.

Ch 1:1-3 Jonah’s initial response to God’s call was to flee since he did not want Nineveh to be spared from destruction. (CCC 29, 1656-1657, 2226, 2232, 2461)

Ch 1:4-16 The sailors, though pagans, were men of good will with some religious sentiments. In the time of crisis, they prayed to their gods; and when Jonah volunteered to be cast overboard, they refused to do so at first, only accepting the idea with great sorrow and prayer for forgiveness. In a last desperate moment, they called upon the Lord himself, the One True God, and when the storm abated, they honored God with sacrifices of thanksgiving.

Ch 1:4-16 This book does not need to be taken as a literal historical account. In fact, many Church Fathers viewed the Book of Jonah, or at least some of its elements, as a literary work intended to teach truths about God and his relationship with human beings.

Three days: This prefigures the three days Christ spent in the tomb before rising again. Christ himself used the story of Jonah in his preaching; noting the repentance of the ancient Ninevites and contrasting them to the skeptical Jews of his day, he referred to himself as “something greater than Jonah” (cf. Mt 12:41). Later, in reaction to arrogant requests for miraculous signs, he said that the only sign given would be the “sign of Jonah,” (Mt 12:39-40), a clear foretelling of his own Death and Resurrection. (CCC 590, 627, 994)

Ch 2:1-10 Jonah underwent his own conversion experience in the belly of the whale. His prayer of distress acknowledged his situation-likened here to Sheol, the place of the dead-and he prayed to God for mercy and deliverance. (CCC 627, 2585)

Ch 3:1-10 The now-obedient Jonah preached so effectively that the entire city of Nineveh, led by its own king, repented and called for a period of fasting. Thus, Nineveh was spared the anticipated destruction by God’s mercy. This event foreshadows the positive response on the part of sinners and Gentiles to Christ’s invitation to repentance and conversion. (CCC 1307)

Ch 4:1-11 Jonah resented God’s mercy toward the Ninevites and was disappointed that Nineveh was not destroyed. If Jonah cared about a withered plant that grew and died without his intervention, how much more must God care for the people of Nineveh, who are works of his own creation made in his image and likeness? (CCC 239, 2416)

So....Let’s talk about the WHALE in the room, shall we? Did the story of Jonah and the Whale really happen??🤔 What are we, as Catholic Christians to believe? 🤔🤔 Well, I’ve got you all covered...please read this from Catholic Answers and decide for yourself:

Psalm 138 This psalm of praise eagerly anticipates the day when the whole earth will honor and offer praise to God. God’s infinite grandeur and transcendence is certainly no obstacle to his love for every person, especially the poor and weak; furthermore, it is the poor and humble who enjoy special closeness to God. This singular care for everyone, especially the downtrodden, serves as a model for all rulers and people of good will. (Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, December 7, 2005)

I...give thanks to...your faithfulness: Steadfast love and faithfulness are two defining characteristics of God as are his trustworthiness, constancy, kindness, goodness, grace, and truth. (CCC 214, 304)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

  • Moving on on Day 181!!

  • In 10 days, we will be concluding 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles

  • So on Day 192 we will do something a bit different

  • We won’t be leaving the story

  • But we will take a deeper dive into some other prophetic books, historical books, and wisdom books that were written or proclaimed at the time of THE EXILE

  • On Day 192 we begin the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

  • Today, in 2 Kings Ch 15 we will hear about Ahaz

  • Isaiah lived at the same time as Ahaz and he speaks to him in Isaiah Ch 7 so there is a bit of a crossover

  • So in 10 days we will come to a….let’s call it a MARKER….to take a deep dive into the works and the words of the Prophets

  • Let’s jump in quick to 2 Kings because we have the WHOLE BOOK OF JONAH to get to

  • 2 Kings Ch 15 we have the King Azariah

  • We know that name, don’t we?

  • Yes we do

  • BUT…

  • We also know the name Uzziah

  • Azariah became King of Judah (SOUTHERN KINGDOM) when he was 16 years old

  • Wait a second, wasn’t there a young king in 2 Chronicles who became a king but his name was Uzziah

  • Later on in Isaiah, we will hear about Uzziah again

  • So it is kind of like JOASH who we also know as JEHOASH

  • So just so you know, Azariah sounds a lot like Uzziah in what he did

  • You are 100% CORRECT


  • So Azariah becomes a GREAT KING


  • He doesn’t tear down the HIGH PLACES of false worship

  • Azariah/Uzziah does the same thing his father Amaziah did

  • Easy for Fr. Mike to say, eh?

  • Azariah/Uzziah restores worship in The Temple

  • BUT…


  • People still worshiped at these FALSE PLACES

  • So he was struck with leprosy

  • After Azariah/Uzziah died from leprosy, his son Jotham became king


  • Jotham was co-regent because Azariah/Uzziah had leprosy and couldn’t rule because he had to live in a separate place

  • That was when Jotham came into his own as co-regent

  • And then Jotham became king when Azariah/Uzziah died

  • The rest of 2 Kings Ch 15 there is CHAOS IN ISRAEL (NORTHERN KINGDOM)

  • Murder after murder


  • Some kings lasted 6 months

  • Some kings lasted 1 month

  • Things are tumultuous and they are going to get WORSE AND WORSE AND WORSE

  • Things will get REALLY BAD in 2 chapters

  • We even see the Assyrians with King Pul aka Tiglath-pileser are already coming into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and is already carrying people off into EXILE

  • Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead (we know that place!), Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali

  • ALL THESE PEOPLE are being carried off into ASSYRIA


  • We ended 2 Kings Ch 15 with Ahaz who is NOT A GOOD KING

  • We will hear about him tomorrow


  • Onto the Book of the Prophet Jonah

  • We have heard about Jonah in one other place (Can you guess where?)

  • We heard about Jonah in 2 Kings Ch 14

  • Jonah is a PROPHET to Jeroboam II, the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE KING of Israel (NORTHERN KINGDOM)

  • Jonah AFFIRMS what Jeroboam does and Amos in The Book of Amos Ch 6 speaks words AGAINST Jeroboam

  • So this is interesting

  • Amos is the TRUE PROPHET

  • Jonah was not actually a great prophet

  • So what happens?

  • God tells Jonah to go and preach at Nineveh and be a prophet to them, call them to repentance

  • Jonah demonstrates that he is NOT a great prophet

  • We don’t know RIGHT AWAY why Jonah doesn’t go IMMEDIATELY to Nineveh when God tells him to

  • At the beginning of the Book of Jonah we don’t know why he runs off to Tarshish

  • We find out later on

  • It’s because these other prophets are getting sent to Israel (NORTHERN KINGDOM) and Judah (SOUTHERN KINGDOM) in order to get the Lord’s people to REPENT

  • Jonah is getting sent to Nineveh which is in ASSYRIA

  • So these are the ENEMIES of God’s people

  • They are NOT God’s people

  • God is saying, “Ok, as a prophet though, I am calling you to go to THEM. I am calling YOU to call THEM to repentance.”

  • Jonah even says, after the Ninevites repent, in Jonah 4:2, “I pray you, Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy, and that you repent of evil.”

  • Jonah says why he didn’t want to come to Nineveh

  • He knows God is gracious

  • BUT…

  • The conversion of the people of Nineveh displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was ANGRY

  • Basically the reason why Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh was because he didn’t want it to work, which he KNEW IT WOULD

  • Jonah DID NOT WANT the Ninevites to REPENT

  • Jonah wanted the Ninevites to SUFFER FOR THEIR SINS

  • As a matter of fact, the Assyrians were NOT GOOD PEOPLE

  • They did not treat Israel (NORTHERN KINGDOM) well

  • They KILLED SO MANY of the people of Israel (NORTHERN KINGDOM)

  • So Jonah did not want to go there

  • BUT…

  • The Lord God demonstrated His KINDNESS

  • The Lord God demonstrated His GRACIOUSNESS

  • The Lord God demonstrated His MERCY


  • So Nineveh was an ENORMOUS CITY

  • It took THREE DAYS to walk through it

  • In Jonah Ch 3 Jonah barely gets a day into his journey into Nineveh to preach

  • Jonah 3:4, Jonah tells the Ninevites “...Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

  • Jonah doesn’t even tell them that GOD IS GOING TO DO IT

  • Jonah doesn’t even tell them that it is the LORD GOD FROM THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

  • Jonah doesn’t even tell them WHAT THEY SHOULD DO

  • Jonah doesn’t even tell them WHAT THEY ARE DOING WRONG

  • Jonah just gives the BARE MINIMUM of a prophet’s message

  • AND YET…

  • The people of Nineveh BELIEVED GOD

  • They proclaimed a FAST

  • They put on SACK-CLOTH

  • EVEN THE KING HIMSELF took off his robe

  • He ordered that NO ONE EATS

  • He ordered that NO ONE DRINKS



  • This is so ironic isn’t it?

  • It’s almost satire

  • Even the mariners on the ship CONVERT after God calms the storm!

  • THEY worship God

  • And yet Jonah is NOT CALLING UPON GOD

  • The people of Nineveh end up WORSHIPING GOD

  • And Jonah is ANGRY about this

  • God teaches Jonah a lesson

  • God wills this plant to grow overnight, this gourd tree to make shade over Jonah’s head

  • Jonah is PLEASED with the planted tree

  • And then God causes a worm to kill the planted tree

  • And now Jonah is DISPLEASED because now he is hot

  • God says something SO POWERFUL not just for Jonah the Prophet, but for US AS WELL

  • Jonah 4:10, “And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night.’”

  • This PLANT that Jonah didn’t even work for, he didn’t even have anything to do with it growing

  • Jonah was just happy it was there

  • Now, Jonah was so angry he wanted to die

  • God is basically saying, “Should I the Lord, the God of EVERYTHING, the God who made EVERYONE, should I not have more care for these people in Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left?”

  • These Ninevites have not been given the Commandments of God

  • These Ninevites don’t have the Law

  • They don’t know what is RIGHT and what is WRONG

  • So should not God care for them?

  • Fr. Mike’s favorite line in almost the ENTIRE BIBLE and at least in the Book of Jonah is ...and also much cattle!

  • Yo Jonah, they have A LOT OF COWS!!!

  • There is an element here where God is saying, “This is the depth of my love. And Jonah, you and your love have no depth. You didn’t want me to call these people back to repentance. You didn’t want me to give them my mercy and you are angry enough to die. So Jonah, what you need is you need DEPTH. You need to experience the DEPTH of my LOVE IN YOUR LIFE.”

  • That is SO MANY OF US

  • We can speak the Words of God and still have SHALLOWNESS IN OUR HEARTS

  • We can speak the Words of God and still NOT WANT TO EXTEND MERCY to someone

  • We can speak the Words of God and still NOT WANT TO EXTEND GOD’S JUSTICE to someone

  • We can speak the Words of God and still NOT WANT TO EXTEND GOD’S GRACIOUSNESS to someone



  • If you have been BAPTIZED, you have been BAPTIZED and ANOINTED PRIEST, PROPHET, AND KING (Does this sound familiar to you? Go read Day 66: Forbidden Forms of Worship for a refresher 😁)

  • All of us called to be PROPHETS, let us hope that we are NOT prophets like JONAH


  • Because we don’t want people to KNOW HOW MUCH GOD LOVES THEM

  • Hopefully, we are prophets like AMOS

  • Notice the contrast here

  • When they are talking to Jeroboam, JONAH tells him what he WANTS TO HEAR

  • When they are talking to Jeroboam, AMOS tells him what he NEEDS TO HEAR

  • Hopefully all of us allow the Lord to tell us what we NEED TO HEAR and then we are able SPEAK THAT TRUTH OURSELVES

  • Hopefully we are able to HEAR THAT TRUTH OURSELVES

  • Hopefully we are able to LET THAT TRUTH CONVERT OUR HEARTS



  • It is NOT an easy thing

  • It is often a CHALLENGE for ALL OF US




Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and thank you so much. Lord you do, you see us and you observe us, you watch us, and not just watch us to bust us, right? Lord God, you don’t just watch us to catch us doing something wrong. You are attentive to us. You attend to us, which makes no sense, Lord God, because you are the God of the universe. And yet, these people, us that you have made in your image and likeness, you attend to us with the love of a Father, because you have made us your sons and your daughters. And so we thank you. And we know that you hear every one of our prayers. We know that you know all of our needs. And so in this moment we bring our hearts to you, God. Not just my words here, but the words, the heart, the needs, the desires of every person listening to these words, Lord God. I know that you know us. You know us by name. And every person who is listening to these words with a desire in their heart, with grief in their heart, with hope or joy or love in their heart, every person listening to these words, Lord God, you know the secret of the heart. And you are the answer. You are the answer to the questions of our hearts, to the grief of our hearts, to the brokenness of our hearts. You are the answer. And so we praise you and we pray to you and we love you. May you be glorified, Lord God, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”