What does the name Jonah mean in The Giver?

Expert Answers
jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

See also Psalms 55, where the psalmist wishes he could fly away from his troubles like a dove, just as Jonah attempted to "fly" away from his troubles:

4 My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.

6 I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest

7"Behold, I would wander far away,
I would lodge in the wilderness."

Compare this to Jonah in The Giver, who also runs away from his community at the end of the novel.

A little deeper:

The Biblical Jonah did not want to deliver God's message to the people of Nineveh, so he ran away, was swallowed by a whale, etc., Why didn't he want to deliver God's message?

There is a Jewish tradition as follows. The people of Nineveh were not Jewish; Jonah, as stated clearly in the text, was a Hebrew (Jew).

The Jews at that time had drifted quite afar from God's laws; they had been rebuked by many prophets, but had failed to mend their ways.

Now, Jonah had an intuition that the people of Nineveh would quickly repent from their evil ways if they received a message from a prophet of God to do so. Jonah was afraid that if this happened, the Jews would look bad. So, he attempted to run away and avoid the whole issue.

In effect, Jonah was sympathetic to the people of his community, but was pained by their hypocrisy. So, he ran away.

Remind you of someone in The Giver?

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The name Jonah means – “dove” in Hebrew (Yonah). Now I assume that the question is what does the name mean in connection to the story of Jonah in the bible. First, let me give a brief explanation of who Jonah was. Jonah was a one of the minor prophets in the bible. He was called of God to go to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance in view of impending doom. However, Jonah did not want to go. Instead he fled only to be caught in a storm, thrown overboard, and swallowed by a huge fish. Through these events he is finally brought to Nineveh and is wonderfully successful in his preaching. At this point, rather than being happy at his success, he is bitter at God’s kindness. Now what does all of these things have to do with a “dove?”


There is no easy answer, but if you trace the imagery of a dove in the bible – both the Old and New Testaments, then we will see that the dove is present during very important episodes. You will remember that a dove was present with Noah during the flood (Genesis 8:8) and during the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:10). I think the water connection is significant. In both instances, water symbolizes a destructive force, but in the end there is salvation. In the light of this, perhaps Jonah is a symbol of salvation to the people of Nineveh (even though he is an imperfect one!) through his symbolic death in the belly of the fish. From the angle of the New Testament, Jesus is likened to Jonah. Jesus even says that the only sign he will give is the sign of Jonah, namely that Jesus will be in the belly of the earth for three days. I think this is a reference to his death.

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The Giver

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