Jonah’s type

In Luke 11:30, Jesus says:

30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 

This was in response to demands for a sign by insisting that the only sign the people would be getting was that of Jonah.[1] The other Gospels flesh out the nature of the sign a bit more.

For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

Matthew 12:40

Jonah, therefore can be seen as an example of typology, providing a picture, an image pointing forward to Christ.  As with other Old Testament types, there are echoes backwards.  Noah is commanded by God to build an ark, he obeys and is kept safe through the storms and flood in the boat. Those with him are kept safe through him. Jonah, like Noah is warned of coming judgement but disobeys God. He seeks refuge in a boat but brings danger to those with him  Jonah must be ejected from the ark/boat although chapter 2 might push us towards thinking of the fish/whale as the equivalent of the ark, rescuing Jonah from death in the waters. This also echoes or contrasts the way in which Moses was kept safe instead of being thrown into the water.

Jonah contrasts Abraham in that Abraham is sent to the promised land but Jonah is sent from it back to Mesopotamia.  Again, Jonah disobeys and flees whilst Abraham obeys.  Jonah might be seen as the anti-Noah/Abraham/Moses.  He represents the opposite of what God’s chosen and righteous people do. 

Jonah represents exile. He flees God’s presence, he describes himself as “banished” when in the fish and indeed a return to Mesopotamia is a form of exile.

The imagery of Jonah asleep in the hold of the boat whilst the storm shakes it and having to be shaken awake by frightened sailors is echoed when Christ sleeps in the boat on Galilee, woken up by the sailors, Jonah insists that they must throw him overboard and when they do, peace comes. Jesus does not need to be thrown overboard but can address the wind and the waves, however, in a similar way, he brings peace and stills the storm.

The primary type/antitype pattern we see when looking at the life of Jonah is the way in which he spends 3 days in the belly of the fish.  This is a death like experience and it points to Christ’s 3 days in the tomb before rising from the dead.  Jonah, this failed runaway is still used by god, not only to prophecy in Nineveh but to point forward to the Gospel.

[1] Luke 11:29.

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