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Who wrote the book of Jonah? Who was the author of Jonah?

author of Jonah

The book of Jonah stands among the twelve Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. It is distinguished from other prophetic literature by its unique style. Jonah primarily unfolds in a third-person narrative format, except for a poem in the second chapter, and it reads like a short story.

The book of Jonah recounts the journey of Jonah, a reluctant prophet who attempted to evade God’s explicit command to warn the people of Nineveh in Assyria. From boarding a ship to spending three days in the belly of a fish, Jonah experienced the repercussions of his disobedience, prompting him to repent and fulfill his duty by warning the Assyrians. The remainder of the narrative illustrates how God’s mercy can be as discomforting to humans as His justice. How many times do we bristle at God’s mercy toward those we deem undeserving? We find ourselves often in Jonah’s shoes, making this short story relevant to us. But who wrote this book?

The traditional view places Jonah himself as the author, with support from the superscription: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying” (Jonah 1:1, NKJV). However, some commentators, pointing to the third-person perspective, conclude that the book of Jonah was written by an unknown author. As one commentator puts it, “The book of Jonah is anonymous. We really don't have any idea who wrote it and the book doesn’t really offer any clues as to who might have written it” (, 8/13/19, accessed 3/26/24). Nevertheless, the option is that Jonah himself wrote it is still plausible. The chiastic poem in the second chapter, written in the first person, is undoubtedly Jonah’s.

Some modern scholars consider the book of Jonah as a fictional work due to its supernatural elements. However, 2 Kings 14:25 portrays Jonah as a historical figure who lived during the reign of King Jeroboam II, and Jesus Himself references Jonah and the events in the book as factual (Matthew 12:39–41). Denying Jonah’s historicity would equate to questioning Jesus’ knowledge or honesty, which Christians will not do. Knowing that Jonah was a real historical person and that God can indeed perform miracles, we can safely state that the book of Jonah relates real events. It takes a naturalistic bias against Scripture to argue otherwise.

Beyond its lessons on obedience and God’s mercy, the narrative of Jonah offers numerous connections to Jesus. Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish foreshadows Jesus’ burial, and his message of repentance to Nineveh parallels that of Jesus. Even Jonah’s complaint after Nineveh’s repentance provides insight about Jesus (Jonah 4:1–3). As Jonah complained, “I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people” (Jonah 4:2, NLT). God’s mercy and compassion are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb sacrificed for our sin.

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This page last updated: April 23, 2024