In my reading of late I have come across a few biblical scholars who profess that OT characters such as Jonah, Ruth, Job, Esther and lately even Adam and Eve are not literal characters. They are, in their opinion, works of fiction. However, these same sages suggest that these imaginary characters have something to teach us.
I just finished reading John N. Oswalt’s, The Bible Among the Myths. While answering the question is the Bible unique among ANE writings, he makes a statement that needs to be answered by those who present the people of the OT as no more than imaginations.
“…the researcher must believe that falsification of data is inimical to understanding. If he or she concludes that we can learn such and such from what certain persons chose to do in the past, and if it turns out that those persons did not exist and did not do those things, the conclusions are worthless” (114).