JONAH, in the Bible, a prophet who foretold the deliverance of Israel from the Aramaeans (2 Ki. xiv. 25). He may also be the hero of the much later book of Jonah, but how different a man is he ! New problems have arisen out of that book, but here we can only attempt to consider what, in a certain sense, may be called the surface meaning of the text.
The prophet Jonah is summoned to go and prophesy against Nineveh, a great and wicked city (cf. 4 Esdras ii. 8, 9). He fears (iv. 2) that the Ninevites may repent, so he proceeds to Joppa, and takes his passage for Tarshish. But soon a storm arises of which he proves to be the cause. He is, at his own request, thrown into the sea, which at once becomes calm. Meantime God has "ap pointed a great fish" which swallows up Jonah till, at a word from Yahweh, three days later, it vomits him on to the dry ground. Again Jonah receives the divine call. This time he obeys. After delivering his message to Nineveh he waits in vain for the de struction of the city (probably iv. 5 is misplaced and should stand after iii. 4). Thereupon he beseeches Yahweh to take away his worthless life. As an answer Yahweh "appoints" a small quickly growing tree with large leaves (the castor-oil plant) to shelter the angry prophet from the sun. But the next day the tree perishes by God's "appointment" from a wormbite. Then God "appoints" the east wind whose fierce heat brings Jonah again to desperation. The fine close reminds us of Job. God himself gives short-sighted man a lesson. Jonah has pitied the tree, and should not God have pity on so great a city? It is generally agreed that the psalm in ch. ii. has been trans ferred from some other place ; it is an anticipatory thanksgiving for the deliverance of Israel, mostly composed of phrases from other psalms. Further, the narrative is an imaginative story, a Midrash (q.v.), based upon Biblical data and tending to edifica tion. The narrator considered that Israel had to be a prophet to the "nations" at large, that Israel had, like Jonah, neglected its duty and for its punishment was "swallowed up" in foreign lands. God had watched over His people and prepared its choicer mem bers to fulfil His purpose. This company of faithful but not al ways sufficiently charitable men represented their people, so that it might be said that Israel itself (the "Servant of Yahweh"; see ISAIAH) had taken up its duty, but in an ungenial spirit which grieved the All-merciful One. The book, which is post-exilic, may therefore be grouped with another Midrash, the Book of Ruth, which also appears to represent a current of thought opposed to the exclusive spirit of Jewish legalism.
Besides symbolism there may be myth. The "great fish" has a mythological appearance. The Babylonian dragon myth (see COSMOGONY) is often alluded to in the Old Testament ; e.g., in Jer. li. 44, which, as Cheyne long since pointed out, may supply the missing link between Jonah i. 17 and the original myth. For the "great fish" is ultimately Tiamat, the dragon of chaos, represented historically by Nebuchadrezzar, by whom for a time God per mitted or "appointed" Israel to be swallowed up.
(T. K. C.) JONAH, RABBI (ABULWALID MERWAN IBN JANAH, also R. MARINUS) (c. 990–c. io5o), the greatest Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer of the middle ages. He was born in Cordova, studied in Lucena, and after somewhat protracted wanderings, settled in Saragossa, where he died. Though a physician, Rabbi Jonah devoted himself to the scientific investigation of the Hebrew language and to a rational biblical exegesis based upon sound linguistic knowledge. His first work—composed, like all the rest, in Arabic—bears the title Almustallta, and forms, as is indicated by the word, a criticism and at the same time a supple ment to the two works of Yehuda el-jayyuj on the verbs with weak-sounding and double-sounding roots. These two tractates, with which eljayyuj had laid the foundations of scientific Hebrew grammar, were recognized by Abulwalid as the basis of his own grammatical investigations. Rabbi Jonah's principal work, the Kitab al Tankih ("Book of Exact Investigation") includes the Kitab al-Luma ("Book of Many-coloured Flower-beds") and the Kitab al-usul ("Book of Roots"). The former (ed. J. Deren bourg, Paris, 1886) contains the grammar, the latter (ed. Ad. Neubauer, Oxford, 1875) the lexicon of the Hebrew language. Both works were published in the Hebrew translation of Yehuda Ibn Tibbon (Sefer Ha-Rikmah, ed. B. Goldberg, Frankfurt-am Main, 1855; Sefer Ha-Schoraschim, ed. W. Bacher, Berlin, 1897). The other writings were edited in Arabic with French translation by Joseph and Hartwig Derenbourg (Paris 188o). A few frag ments and numerous quotations in his principal book form our only knowledge of the Kitab al-Tashwir ("Book of Refutation") a controversial work in which he succes:fully answered the oppo nents of his first treatise. The grammatical work of Rabbi Jonah extended to the domain of rhetoric and biblical hermeneutics, and his lexicon contains many exegetical excursuses. This lexicon is of especial importance by reason of its ample contribution to the comparative philology of the Semitic languages—Hebrew and Arabic, in particular. Abulwalid's works exercised the greatest influence on Jewish exegesis.
See S. Munk, Notice sur Abou'l Walid (1851) ; W. Bacher, Leben and Werke des Abulwalid (Leipzig, 1885), Aus der Schrifterkldrung des Abulwalid (Leipzig, 1889), Die hebr.-arabische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalid (Vienna, 1884). Die hebriiisch-neuhebraische and hebr. aramaische Sprachvergleichung des Abulwalid (Vienna, 1885).