Jonah as a type of Christ

I am fascinated with Jonah. Four short chapters, concise and not a word wasted, but packs a powerful punch.

Isaiah was beloved. He saw God and was cleansed in the holy heavenly temple. Elijah is revered- and is to come again. So fervently do they look for Elijah that Jews set a place for him at the Passover table. Daniel was noted by God to be a righteous one among men. (Ezekiel 14:14). But Jonah? The disobedient one? Not so much.

Yet ... through Jonah's preaching God converted the largest city on earth. Jonah's story carries with it fantastical but true elements of runaway prophet, giant fish, death or near-death experiences, raging storms, begrudging task completion, a small worm and a withering shade tree. So many miracles pack Jonah it boggles the mind- ten of them in four short chapters.

And most amazingly, of all the prophets God sent, Jesus identified himself not with powerful Elijah, not with beloved Isaiah, not with righteous Daniel- but with runaway Jonah.

It has been said that Jonah is a type of Christ. To me, this is an interesting juxtaposition. After all, Jesus was the only human on earth to be perfect, sinless, and in complete obedience with the Father. So how or why is Jonah a type of Christ?

I'll tell you before we go on that I don't know the answer to that question. The why, anyway. But here is what my research uncovered on how Jonah as a type of Christ can be compared to THE Christ.

First, here is what Jesus said when referring to Jonah:
But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:39-41).
What did Jesus mean that He would give no such sign? Perhaps that He would give one that should be as satisfactory proof to them that he was from God, as the miraculous preservation of Jonah was to the Ninevites that he was divinely commissioned. I mean, how many miracles do they need?

The Ninevites, pagans after all, recognized God's work on first preaching. The Pharisees and unbelieving Jewish generation required miracle after miracle and still they refused to repent. That's why the Ninevites' example condemns the Pharisees and Jewish unbelievers.

To this day the tradition of what Jonah did at Nineveh remains. The city fell into ruin eventually and was covered over by desert sands for many generations. The city was not re-discovered until the 1800s. Yet throughout the entire time, the power of God through Jonah stayed. The area was always called and referred to by locals as Tell Nabi Yunus. A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides. (Wiki). Nabi is Hebrew for Prophet. Yunus, swapping the J for a Y is a transliteration of Jonah. In Greek it is Ionas.

So the ruins of Nineveh, near Mosul Iraq, means 'ruin of the Prophet Jonah'. The work that God did there was known and understood and remembered to be a great work of God.

There are several other parallels to the Jonah-Jesus story. Jonah's name means 'dove' by the way. Both were from Galilee. Though the Pharisees said no prophet comes from Galilee, they were so desperate to discredit Jesus that they forgot that Jonah was from Galilee. (John 7:52).

Both Jonah and Jesus were sent first to Jews and then the Gentiles.

They were both wiling to die for their people. Jonah first by perhaps expecting to be slain for disobeying God (as the example in 1 Kings 13:23 indicates happens to disobedient prophets) and then when Jonah urged the sailors to throw him overboard. We already know Jesus died as the sacrifice for all people.

They both preached and the Jews refused but the Gentiles accepted.

They both slept in a boat in a storm.

When the storm got worse, both sets of sailors asked the same question of Jonah and of Jesus: 'How can you sleep? Can't you see we're perishing?'
Jonah 1:6- "So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish."

Mark 4:38- "But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

The sailors asked God not to hold it against them as a sin that they shed innocent blood, and Judas told God he knew he had shed innocent blood.
Jonah 1:14- "Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.”'

Matthew 27:4a- "saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood."

And yet a startling difference, that couldn't be more apparent, is that Jonah had no compassion for the Gentiles and was disobedient.Jesus is perfect. Huh.

Below is a chart I'd made when pondering these things. It was the boat in a storm that made me start comparing. If  you are reading along and you're reminded of an incident or a verse in another part of the bible, turn to it. Slowly examine it, looking carefully at the language. That is how I found the perishing language and the innocent blood language. Then read credible commentaries and/or listen to sermons from good expositors. The bible will become more deep to you. It is how the Spirit applies truths to our hearts.

I just started jotting them down and then, being visual, I put them into a chart so I could see them side by side. I love the Old Testament for painting pictures for us that in the New Testament become principles. Brethren, don't forsake the OT. There is so much there, and it is a joy always to discover more in God's word.

I don't know the answer to why Jonah & Jesus slept, or how Jonah is a type of Christ, but I sure did have fun exploring. My faith is such that I know the Spirit will show me more in His timing, either on this side of the veil or surely in the next.

This side: "But God hath revealed them< unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10).

Other side: "For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Thanks for reading. :)


  1. This was a great read elizabeth, I love the multi-layered meanings in the Bible. It becomes apparent that there is sooooooooo much that we still do not see.

    I feel it right to say to you to remember to not condemn others for not having the full complete understanding that God does. =)

    Love, from Drew

  2. Elizabeth, thanks. I think there's a loud yet subtle message being preached through the distinction between Jesus and Jonah. They have so many similarities that we might learn more from investigating the meaning behind the difference. Jonah did not have compassion or patience for the Gentiles, but Jesus did. I was actually writing in my journal as I was reading your post, and reflecting on it. Here's the relevant portion:

    "The Bible says the Gospel came “for the Jew first, and then the Greek [Gentile].” The subtle message, or one of them, that Jesus appears to be making is that the Jews have lost that aspect of their ‘special-ness’ that was their unique access to and relationship with God. Romans 11: “11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” "

    The passages surrounding that verse in Romans talk all about how the Gospel has gone out from the Jews and now to the Gentiles. In eschatology there's the indication that we are now in "the time of the Gentiles." We are adopted children of God. There’s also a parallel between Jonah being disobedient and the Jews as a nation being disobedient. I think the message is for us Gentiles: God loves us too. Paul when preaching to the gentile Greeks on Mars’ Hill in Acts 17 said this: “30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” My thoughts aren’t organized systematically, I’m just kinda throwing them out all at once…but I think this is the ‘hidden’ meaning of Jesus’ identification with Jonah. Well, one of the many meanings.

  3. Jonah and Jesus both slept because they were not afraid. Jonah knew that God was merciful, "slow to anger" - although he was running away he was not afraid - and he was ready to take the consequences of his actions. Like Job he could say "though He slay me yet will I trust Him." Faith is the proof that we are in a relationship with God. We belong to Him. Whatever happens - whatever we do - He won't let us go.

  4. Greetings! Jesus at one place said- " 'be' harmless as doves and wise as serpents". Serpent is compared to satan. So what did Jesus mean? Again, Jesus look at what Jesus said - An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Emphasis is on the 'sign'.

    He also said 'the One greater than Jonah is here' or the sign greater than that is here. At another place He says 'one greater than Solomon is here. Both Jonah & Solomon nose dived in their walk God. The Highlight of Jesus's ministry is His relationship with the Father. Ministry once internalised this way (as Jesus) then external ministry will be awesome. It is when the heart of the Father is not understood and ministry is done, it is nothing but a false one. Just think, Jonah's anger against the very character of God is amusing. God humble as He is asks him - shouldn't I forgive them? And he is upset at the character of God which is being merciful. This is what happens when we focus more on ministry than on a relationship with God. I as a Pastor believe that ministry must always be an outcome of a loving and a living relationship with God and never doubting His character.

    A miracle must be one that happens when Word & Spirit come together. Many miracles happen in the world too. But they are not approved by God. Only that where Word & Spirit are the source - are approved by God.

    I come from a Hindu brahmin (priestly) background & my wife from a muslim background. Both of us received the Lord and are pastoring 3 churches. Incidentally, I am teaching on Jonah, John & jezebel tomorrow.

    Paul & Naomi

    Please visit: (site is not fully complete yet);


Post a Comment