Bible Story Summary of the Book of Jonah

by David Peach · Print Print · Email Email

The book of Jonah is an Old Testament story which tells about how the prophet Jonah refused to follow the Lord. Through some supernatural events, God convinced him to obey and carry out the Lord’s plan. While Jonah eventually did what he was asked to do, the book closes with showing Jonah as a bitter man.

God Calls Jonah Disobeys

Jonah received a calling from the Lord to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Instead of obeying and going straight to Nineveh, he went to Joppa to board a ship to the city of Tarshish. Nineveh was inland from where Jonah lived and Tarshish was across the sea.

Disobedience hurts others too

His disobedience brought punishment upon himself and others around him. After he boarded the ship to Tarshish there was a great storm. During the storm the men working on the ship began calling upon their gods and idols to deliver them from whatever punishment was being given. The workers found Jonah in the bottom of the ship asleep. They awakened him and asked him to pray to his God to protect them.

The men cast lots to see who had brought this punishment upon them (even though Jonah knew it was his fault). The lot fell upon Jonah. He confessed that he was a Hebrew and was running away from the Creator God. Jonah asked the men to throw him overboard. Instead they tried harder to bring the ship to land. Jonah finally convinced them that he was the one who had brought judgment from God. Perhaps Jonah thought that if he were dead then God would stop punishing the ones around him. The sailors agreed to throw him into the sea.

As soon as Jonah was tossed into the water the storm broke and everything was calm. The sailors probably had no idea what happened next.

Jonah’s trial from God

Jonah was in the whale’s belly for 3 days and 3 nights.

Jonah went into the water, but not to be killed by drowning. Instead he was swallowed by a great fish (Jesus called it a whale in Matthew 12:40). He was in the whale’s belly for 3 days and 3 nights.

Jonah awoke in the belly of the fish and cried out to God. He confessed his disobedience and told God that he would accomplish the task that the Lord had called him to. God then instructed the whale to vomit Jonah out onto dry ground.

Jonah lacks appreciation for God’s mercy

After finding himself alive and on dry land, Jonah ran to the city of Nineveh. To his amazement, and apparent disappointment, the people of Nineveh did repent and asked for the Lord’s salvation. God knew that they needed a preacher to show them the error of their wickedness, but Jonah knew that God was merciful and would forgive them if they asked.

Even though Jonah preached to the people, he was not happy. He climbed to the top of a mountain to watch the Lord destroy the city. Because of their repentance God did not destroy them. Jonah complained again. To help teach Jonah a lesson, God caused a gourd to grow and to protect Jonah from the sun. A short time later God killed the gourd and Jonah became angry. Finally, God had Jonah’s attention. God showed Jonah the foolishness of the fact that he was more concerned for the gourd than he was for the people. The gourd, which had no soul, received more attention from the prophet Jonah than thousands of people who were destined to eternal punishment.

No Conclusion

The book closes without a real conclusion. God did not reveal to us what happened to Jonah though he is believed to be the author of the book. We don’t know if he wrote the book while sitting on the mountain and died shortly thereafter, or if this was a reflection back on a certain period of time in his life. The book was written sometime during the reign of Jehoahaz between 820 and 804 BC. Even though the book is placed towards the end of the English Bible, Jonah and Elisha were contemporary prophets.


YouTube video “In the Belly of the Whale” by Newsboys

Image courtesy of [image creator name] /

Share this post:  |  |  |  | Twitter

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Regina Ndunge Mutuku June 20, 2012 at 3:46 am

praise be to God, do you have deaf churches in KENYA? hope not and need to plant one.


David Peach August 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

My organization does not have any Deaf churches in Kenya, but a quick Google search for Deaf Churches Kenya will give you your answer.


Rene Tanaka September 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I need to make a kids’ version picture book of Jonah. Can you give me any tips for making my book? Thanks, it will be appreciated!!



David Peach September 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I don’t know that I have any specific resources, but I heard something interesting one time that you may want to keep in mind. The question was posed to the audience, “How many of you think of Noah’s Ark as a cartoon drawing having animal’s heads sticking out of it?” Of course all of us probably think of that at some time. The point the man was making is that we do many Bible stories an injustice by trivializing them. People grow up with only an image of a cartoon and not a real concept that God’s Word is true and accurate. While we would never say that the stories in the Bible are just fairy tales, we often teach them as if they are.

Whatever you end up doing, at least try to help the children understand that this is a real story and not just a fairy tale.


dinelle February 5, 2020 at 10:07 am

wow so true ,am speechless honesty you could not of say it better .


kimoya October 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm

it was good to know


Nozipho October 29, 2012 at 5:51 am

I agree with you David, that is very true.


Emircan January 8, 2013 at 11:04 am

I’m really glad you were beessld by this message. I still think it’s a little weird and discouraging, especially in light of how many people have attacked Rob Bell in recent days how so many Christians seem really worried about people thinking that God is only love. Of course God is about justice, too but I think many people equate justice with some kind of arbitrary punishment, which it’s not, but they think that it is, and that’s why they decide to reject God altogether. Speaking as someone who was a devout secularist for most of my life, I really believe that the non-Christian world needs to hear the message about God’s love FIRST. Once you get to the point where you trust God’s character, the idea of justice is a necessary and good thing, not a bad thing. But again, only once you trust God’s character.


Clinton gfroerer June 17, 2013 at 11:20 pm

This is a great summary, however I’m a little confused. I thought Jonah was dead, and his soul was in Sheol among the dead while in the great fishes belly. Then was RESURRECTED (making this make sense of why Jesus said this would be the only miracle for the Pharisees, since Jesus was also RESURRECTED) after three days in the earth. This was the miracle to take (RESURRECTION), more so rather than being preserved in a great fish for 3 days. Is it possible Jonah was dead, his soul in Sheol, while in the whale, then brought back to life after three days?


jonathan mutua August 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm

praise GOD. man of God ….
glory be to GOD for the work you are doing for it’s not in vain our good GOD will definitely reward you


Vetazo Khesoh August 11, 2013 at 10:41 am

I’m really blessed.


mark July 9, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Thank you GOD for all you have done and please keep us all safe and happy.


Banda prince moses February 16, 2019 at 8:37 am

Thank you so much ,I am kindly asking for an advise and people to be connected to .I have a Diploma in Biblical theology and General Agricultural science. I am a young Preacher am 29 years. I love to work with Deaf people. I am from Africa Country called Zambia.
Thank you so much May the good lord Bless you.


Emmanuel Adom September 17, 2019 at 2:06 pm

God richly bless you. Am moved by the wonderful work God is using to do. For allowing yourself I say kudos may the Almighty showers his oil on you in Jesus name. Please, I am working among the deaf in Ghana, how can I make it big to other churches even making the national church hold the ministry.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: