Jonah dwelt in the northern kingdom of Israel, about eight hundred years before the time of Christ. Legend says he was the son of the woman of Zarephath, the little child restored to life by Elijah. But of this the Bible tells nothing. Jonah’s book opens with the divine summons to the prophet, He is bidden to go to Nineveh, the great Assyrian capital, whose monarchs were already beginning to domineer over Palestine. There, in their own stronghold, Jonah was to warn the Assyrians: against their sins and threaten them with the wrath of God.
Jonah feared to go, he feared death at the hand of these fierce foes. Hence he disobeyed God, and sought to flee even from Him. Taking ship from Palestine he sailed for far-off Tarshish. But the ship was shaken by a great tempest, and when all the others on board prayed to such idols as they believed in, Jonah alone dared not pray. Then the seamen were convinced that this tremendous tempest was directed against some one person in the ship, and they drew lots to see which one this was. The lot fell to Jonah, whereupon he confessed that he was indeed a rebel against God. He was cast overboard, and immediately the storm ceased.
by Julius A. Bewer; Charles F. Horne