On the Day of Atonement we read the Book of Jonah in the synagogue. It describes the regret of the people of Nineveh and God’s forgiveness for their sins on account of their remorse. Many connections can be found between Jonah and other characters in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Let’s first look at the New Testament. If we look at the three days that Jonah spent in the belly of the fish, it could perhaps read as a metaphor for the three days of entombment Jesus endured before the resurrection as written in Mathew 12:39-40-
|“But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”||
“וַיַּעַן וַיּאֹמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם דּוֹר רָע וּמְנָאֵף מְבַקֶּשׁ־לוֹ אוֹת וְאוֹת לֹא יִנָּתֶן־לוֹ בִּלְתִּי אִם־אוֹת יוֹנָה הַנָּבִיא׃ כִּי כַּאֲשֶׁר הָיָה יוֹנָה בִּמְעֵי הַדָּג שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה לֵילוֹת כֵּן יִהְיֶה בֶן־הָאָדָם בְּלֵב הָאֲדָמָה שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה לֵילוֹת׃”
In the Old Testament the connection between Elijah and Jonah is obvious since both asked to die after they felt they had failed in their role as prophets (see Jonah 4:8 and 1 Kings 19:4). However, in Jewish tradition there was another connection between those two, with the addition of the prophet Jeremiah. When we read about all the three prophets there are two terms that repeat themselves in the text – the honor for the father (Kevod ha’v- כבוד האב) and honor for the son (Kevod Haben- כבוד הבן). I was surprised to see those terms, since usually when you discuss the father and a son you automatically refer to Christianity. In Jewish tradition the father remained the same – God. In each case, however, the son changed, in relation to the chosen prophet and the people of Israel.
In Jeremiah it’s written in the Mechiltah ( the compendium on Exodus) that he honored the father and the son (God and the people of Israel) as a prophet of the people but he never lost his faith and always honored his God. Elijah, on the other hand, respected only his God and forgot his people when he blamed them, as you can read (twice!) in 1 Kings 19:10, 14.
Jonah was different than both of these characters; he defended the people of Israel’s honor since he knew that one day the people of Nineveh, the Assyrians, would try and rise up, which eventually brought about the exile of the Northern Kingdom. For that reason he didn’t respect God!
It’s always great to discover new connections in the Old and New Testaments. We must keep in mind that there is only one Father and He has many sons. Each one of them, for me, is deserving of honor and respect!
Three- šəlōšāh – שְׁלֹשָׁה
Days-yāmîm – יָמִים
Nights-lēylôt – לֵילוֹת
Jonah-yônāh – יוֹנָה
Father-’āv – אָב