Detail of the Verduner altarpiece in Klosterne...
Detail of the Verduner altarpiece in Klosterneuburg, Austria by Nicholas of Verdun. Jonah in the whale via Wikipedia

Jonah is a reluctant prophet in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. The account of his strange life is found in The Book of Jonah, thought to be written during Israel’s exile (5th to 4th century BCE), and set in the middle of the 8th century BCE.

According to the story, Jonah fears the consequences of disobeying God’s call to preach to the incredibly sinful city of Nineveh, so tries to escape by boat.

During his attempted escape he falls asleep and a nasty storm arises. His shipmates blame him for their misfortune and decide to throw him overboard. He’s then swallowed by a whale. Eventually the whale spits him out and he’s saved.

The story has struck the imagination of artists and writers worldwide. It’s also a popular theme for children’s books.

The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung says that Jonah, inside the belly of the whale, symbolizes the mysterious and often humbling workings of unconscious processes, particularly those of the so-called collective unconscious.

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