Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book of Jonah’s ‘King of Nineveh’


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by

 

Damien F. Mackey

 

 

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

 

Jonah 3:6-9

 

Part One:

A Jonah Prior to Jeroboam II of Israel

 

The range of estimations for the life and activities of the prophet Jonah covers a fairly substantial period of time, from the days of the prophet Elijah, a contemporary of king Ahab of Israel (reign c. 871 – c. 852 BC, conventional dating) all the way down to the reign of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (reign c. 745 – c. 727 BC, conventional dating).

The one historical likelihood is that Jonah was a contemporary of king Jeroboam II of Israel (c. 789–748 BC, conventional dating), since (2 Kings 14:25): “[Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher”.

 


Jonah first appears in Scripture in 2 Kings 14:25. There are a couple of ways of looking at this passage. One can read the passage and say that during the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, the prophecy of Jonah was fulfilled, but not that Jonah lived during this time. However, I think the better reading is not only was Jonah’s prophesy fulfilled during this time, but this was the time Jonah lived. I note that in the very next verse the author explains the fulfillment as God seeing the affliction of Israel–that it was very bitter and that there was no helper. It does not make sense to me to read this passage as God first sending Jonah to prophesy, then God seeing the affliction of Israel, and then God deciding to fulfill Jonah’s prophesy through Jeroboam II. It makes far more sense to me that God saw the affliction and decided to exercise compassion, sent his prophet to prophesy and then fulfilled that prophecy. Accordingly, I see Jonah as living during the days of Jeroboam II. While there is some uncertainty as to the precise years of his reign, most scholars accept his reign as being around 790 B.C. to 750 B.C.

 

Considering an Early

Historical Window

 

Elijah

 

The geographical information provided by 2 Kings 14:25 that Jonah “was from Gath-hepher” would seem immediately to scotch a traditional view according to which Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath in Sidon. “Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, also known as Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol, relates that the son raised [from the dead] by Elijah was none other than the prophet Jonah, most notably associated with the incident involving a giant fish.[2]


 

Elisha

 

The Legends of the Jews, in turn, associate Jonah with the prophet Elisha (VIII. Elisha and Jonah) http://www.answering-islam.org/Books/Legends/v4_08.htm

 

Among the many thousands of disciples whom Elisha gathered about him during the sixty years and more of his activity, the most prominent was the prophet Jonah. While the master was still alive, Jonah was charged with the important mission of anointing Jehu king. The next task laid upon him was to proclaim their destruction to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The doom did not come to pass, because they repented of their wrong-doing, and God had mercy upon them. Among the Israelites Jonah was, therefore, known as "the false prophet." When he was sent to Nineveh to prophesy the downfall of the city, he reflected: "I know to a certainly that the heathen will do penance, the threatened punishment will not be executed, and among the heathen, too, I shall gain the reputation of being a false prophet." To escape this disgrace, he determined to take up his abode on the sea, where there were none to whom prophecies never to be fulfilled would have to be delivered.

[End of quote]

 

That Jonah could have been a young man when (and if) he anointed Jehu is chronologically possible in relation to 2 Kings 14:25, since king Jehu of Israel (reign c. 841 – c. 814 BC, conventional dating) was the great-grandfather of Jeroboam II, whose beginning of rule is estimated at about half a century later than that of Jehu.

 

My reconstruction for an early Jonah

 

With these traditional legends in mind, that Jonah’s early life had been contemporaneous with the great prophets Elijah and Elisha - {coupled with the biblical information that he had prophesied about the military successes of Jeroboam II} - I had looked for a possible ‘window’ at around this time, and had ended up by proposing a reconstruction for Jonah’s visit to Nineveh towards the end of the reign of king Ahab of Israel, just after he had achieved a great victory over Ben-Hadad I of Damascus. Before giving a brief outline of this reconstruction - which I have since rejected, anyway - I must mention that an earlier Jonah-to-Nineveh reconstruction of mine (towards which I am now again turning) had located Jonah’s mission to a period after the reign of Jeroboam II.        

 

What I had been looking for, fairly logically, was some indication of a dramatic conversion of a biblical king within range of the lives of Elijah and Elisha – a converted king who must have some connection with Assyrian Nineveh. That king, as I then thought, was Ben-Hadad I. Owing to the quirks of my revision, I had multi-identified this king - {albeit an extremely influential potentate} - over and above Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky’s identification of him with El Amarna’s [EA’s] Abdi-ashirta of Amurru (in Ages in Chaos, I, 1952).

This Velikovskian extension of Ben-Hadad I into EA time, which I fully accept, I had myself, in my university thesis:

 

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background

 


 

extended even further, to include EA’s Tushratta of Mitanni.

I continue to accept this identification as well, having more recently written about it in my:

 


 


 

In Volume One of my thesis, I gave my reasons for favouring this multi-identification.

For example, I wrote on p. 67:

 

With all of this in mind then it might not be so surprising that Ben-Hadad I, in his EA

guise as Abdi-ashirta, whose kingdom, at the very least, must have been adjacent to that of EA’s ‘Great King’, Tushratta, was bent upon ruling Mitanni - which after all was, as we are going to find, a natural extension of Syrian territory into the Upper Khabur and Balikh regions. And he even apparently covetted rule over Babylonia.

So, my question persists: How is it that there is no record of a clash, or a treaty, between Abdi-ashirta and Tushratta?

Not only that, but they are never mentioned anywhere together in any context. Tushratta was the king of Mitanni, that apparently buffer state between Syria and Assyria which however scholars have found somewhat difficult to circumscribe,169 and it is even thought sometimes that Tushratta must have controlled part of Assyria itself, given that he was able to send Amenhotep III the statue of Ishtar of Nineveh, in the hope that it would cure the declining pharaoh of his serious illness. ….

And my answer to the puzzle is that the reason why history has left us no record of any encounter of whatever kind between the contemporary EA kings Abdi-ashirta and Tushratta is because this was one and the same king.

[End of quote]

 

This passage also suppies us with the extra information about the king, that he apparently had some influence over Assyria: “… it is even thought sometimes that Tushratta must have controlled part of Assyria itself, given that he was able to send Amenhotep III the statue of Ishtar of Nineveh …”.

Now, when it came to my hopeful Jonah-to-Nineveh reconstruction within range of Elijah and Elisha, I naturally seized upon this information that Tushratta, my Ben-Hadad I, a king who had experienced a conversion of sorts, including his prominent wearing of “sackcloth” (cf. I Kings 20:32; Jonah 3:6), may also have had control over Nineveh.

The biblical text that I had then considered of relevance - {though admittedly, in retrospect, it does not obviously lend itself to a Nineveh environment} - was I Kings 20, with the condemnatory “prophet” of vv. 35-42 being, so I had suggested, the prophet Jonah himself. There we read of Ahab’s triumph over Ben-Hadad I, followed by the king of Israel’s act of consummate folly (I Kings 20:26-43): 

 

The next spring Ben-Hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. When the Israelites were also mustered and given provisions, they marched out to meet them. The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.

The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”

For seven days they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek, where the wall collapsed on twenty-seven thousand of them. And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid in an inner room.

His officials said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful. Let us go to the king of Israel with sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads. Perhaps he will spare your life.”

Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says: ‘Please let me live.’”

The king answered, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”

The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. “Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!” they said.

“Go and get him,” the king said. When Ben-Hadad came out, Ahab had him come up into his chariot.

“I will return the cities my father took from your father,” Ben-Hadad offered. “You may set up your own market areas in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”

Ahab said, “On the basis of a treaty I will set you free.” So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.

 


A Prophet Condemns Ahab


 

 By the word of the Lord one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.

So the prophet said, “Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.” And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

The prophet found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him. Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.’ While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.”

“That is your sentence,” the king of Israel said. “You have pronounced it yourself.”

Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’” Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.

 

Here we read that king Ahab was “sullen and angry”, similarly as he would be described (“sulking” and “sullen”) in the very next chapter, in the case of Naboth’s vineyard (21:4-6):

 

[Ahab] lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, ‘Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?’  He answered her, ‘Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’

 

The prophet Jonah, too, would turn sulky and “angry” even to the point of wishing himself “dead” (Jonah 4:1-9). And I had previously thought that Jonah’s vehement reactions might have been a reflection of the above described prophet’s anger at king Ahab for his having allowed the ‘converted’ Ben-Hadad I to go free, to the detriment of his own people: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people’.

But now I am again considering a significantly later era for Jonah’s visit to Nineveh.

 

 

 

 

Part Two:

A Jonah contemporaneous with

Jeroboam II of Israel

 

 

“Though both Jewish and Christian tradition, generally speaking, had long considered the Book of Jonah to be the account of an actual historical event, that view began to change about a century and a half ago. And by now the wheel has turned full circle. For, today, it is very difficult to find any biblical scholars in support of the view that the Book of Jonah is a true account”.

 

 

 

Preface

 

The ‘Jonah’ that one encounters today in books and biblical commentaries is a sad and miserable reflection of the “Jonah son of Amittai”, or “Amathi” (2 Kings 14:25), who prophesied about the fate of Israel. The real Jonah has been all but lost in the mists of time: unknown, not only to those who do not believe in the reality of the prophet, but even to those who do. This is partly due to a chronological problem associated with the prophet Jonah, to accommodate which the rabbinical tradition had actually proposed ‘two Jonahs’ (see below). Thus, early, Jonah became ‘split into two’, so to speak, and he has since been progressively ‘sliced at’ and ‘minced into fragments’ in a way that not even the brazen brigand Procrustes of Attica might have dared to have done with his guests, to make these fit his notorious bed.

As I hope to show in this series, there may be far more to Jonah than has been recorded merely in the book that bears his name. The whole Jonah now needs to be pieced back together again, fully restored. Jonah can then emerge once again from his proper period in history, in full dimension. Only then will one be able to appreciate, perhaps, just how pitiful and unreal are the characterizations of Jonah with which we are presented by commentators today.

 

 

The Jonah Traditions

 

 

I agree that, for a Christian at least, there are serious ramifications in denying the historicity of the Book of Jonah; though contemporary Christians often seem to be quite oblivious to the implications of their so doing. Jesus Christ appealed to the narrative as genuine history (cf. Matthew 12:39-41), and this really should settle the issue for all who have any regard for the Saviour’s deity. His words were blunt and unequivocal. They are specifically recorded by two Evangelists, Matthew and Luke.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Modern biblical criticism can sometimes resemble an all-devouring sea monster, and this is no more apparent than in the case of the historical Jonah whom it has attempted to gobble up and then spit out devoid of any of his real substance. The following words of the prophet Jeremiah, spoken on behalf of Jerusalem, can be applied to this attempted transformation of the historical Jonah into an ‘empty shell’ of his former self: a ‘fiction’ (cf. Jeremiah 51:34):

 

“King Nebuchedrezzar of Babylon has devoured me,

He has crushed me;

He has made me an empty vessel,

He has swallowed me like a

[sea] monster; he has filled his belly with my delicacies,

he has spewed me out …”.

 

The attempted transformation of the prophet Jonah from real to imaginary, though, is only the final stage of what has in fact been a long process of, largely unwitting, ‘devouring and crushing’ of the original Jonah. Although the complete Jonah has been ‘writ large’ in the Sacred Scriptures for all to read now for many centuries, the ability of scholars to piece it all together seems to have faded away long ago. Thus the real Jonah has been ‘compressed’ beyond recognition; very much like that mass of whale food in one particular case, whose bulk was estimated to have been “equal to the bodies of six stout men compressed into one!”

Admittedly there are significant difficulties with regard to this most intriguing subject of Jonah. I have already referred to the chronological problem that had led to the rabbis actually proposing two real Jonahs. And I shall need to have quite a lot more to say about the chronology of it all. At least, though, the rabbis did not abandon the notion of a real Jonah, to replace it with a fiction. They simply doubled the man.

But, today, even a real Jonah is denied!

Let us now, in this new series, put aside any pre-conceived notions of the prophet Jonah that we might have, and try to determine, from Scripture, answers to the sorts of questions that the mariners had asked of Jonah during the storm at sea (cf. Jonah 1:8):

 

who was Jonah?

from whence did he hail? and

what was his history?

 

In other words, let us allow the Sacred Scriptures to help us to piece together again the real prophet Jonah.

Though both Jewish and Christian tradition, generally speaking, had long considered the Book of Jonah to be the account of an actual historical event, that view began to change about a century and a half ago. And by now the wheel has turned full circle. For, today, it is very difficult to find any biblical scholars in support of the view that the Book of Jonah is a true account.

Whilst many will still maintain that the story’s hero, “Jonah son of Amittai”, may have been a real person, based on mention of that prophet also in 2 Kings 14:25, as a contemporary of king Jeroboam II of Israel (early-mid C8th BC), they will deny that the Book of Jonah is an actual account of what might have happened to that particular holy man. The story, they say, is merely a “parable”; or an “historical or didactic fiction”, or a “symbolical narrative”, resting on a tradition of a real prophet.

Whatever appellation one might wish to apply to the book, the bottom line at least - according to the modern view - is that it is a “fiction”.

Moreover, such commentators maintain, the Book of Jonah must have been written centuries after the life of Jonah son of Amittai. It was written, they say, about 400 BC, or even as late as 200 BC.

The current situation is summed up by Christian writer Bill Cooper - who personally believes, in accordance with tradition, that Jonah himself wrote the book - when he laments (“The Historic Jonah”, Ex Nihilo Tech. J, vol. 2, 1986, p. 105):

 

... today we are informed that Jonah did not even exist! The book of Jonah, we are asked to believe, is nothing more than a pious fable, a moral tale written some time after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Exile; a story told around camp-fires that has all the historical validity of a Grimm’s fairy-tale.

 

Unfortunately, and not without incalculable loss, this latest view has prevailed. Most modern Christian (and Jewish) authors will, if they mention Jonah at all, speak of him only in terms of parable and myth, usually in tones that amount to little less than an apology. Very few indeed, and I personally know of none, will attempt to speak of Jonah in a purely historical sense.

[End of quote]

 

What is particularly curious is that Christians, too, have come to accept this non-traditional point of view, despite the fact that Jesus Christ himself had spoken about Jonah in real terms, even with reference to his own Resurrection from the dead. In fact I was prompted to write this article (in its initial form) after a Dominican priest had, in a homily on the Book of Jonah, argued the contemporary view that the document was written “in C5th BC post-exilic times”, when Israel was “having trouble with her enemies”, and that it was “a didactic fiction”. Cooper goes so far as to call this situation “sinister” (loc. cit.):

 

There is, indeed, something very sinister about the out-of-hand way in which Jonah is dismissed from serious discussion by modernist critics and historians. This sinister aspect has, perhaps, to do with the fact that Jesus spoke of Jonah in a historical sense, and He referred to Jonah in direct reference to His own forthcoming resurrection from the dead. Could it be, perhaps, that if modernists can cast doubt upon the historicity of Jonah, then they will have license to cast doubt upon the words and teachings of Jesus Christ and the truth of His resurrection? The two are intimately connected, and any dismissal of the historicity of Jonah should be treated with a great deal of suspicion.

[End of quote]

 

I agree that, for a Christian at least, there are serious ramifications in denying the historicity of the Book of Jonah; though contemporary Christians often seem to be quite oblivious to the implications of their so doing. Jesus Christ appealed to the narrative as genuine history (cf. Matthew 12:39-41), and this really should settle the issue for all who have any regard for the Saviour’s deity. His words were blunt and unequivocal. They are specifically recorded by two Evangelists, Matthew and Luke. Let us consider these together. (Taken from Synopsis of the Four Gospels, ed. K. Aland, 2nd edn., Westphalia, 1975):

 

Matthew 12:38-42

 

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him,

‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you’.

But he answered them,

‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

The Queen of the South will arise at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.’

 

 

Luke 11:16, 29-32

 

… while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven.

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

The Queen of the South will arise at the judgement with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.’

 

Strong words indeed!

This Synopsis also gives the following as being the corresponding section from Mark (8:11-12):

 

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say too you, no sign shall be given to this generation’.

 

And for John, this entry is given (6:30): “So they said to him. ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?’”

 

-----------------

 

There is indisputably a long enduring Jewish-Christian tradition according to which the story of Jonah was a genuine historical account. According to D. Hart-Davies, writing in 1925 (Jonah: Prophet and Patriot, Jarvis, London, p. 7): “Jewish tradition, in one unbroken line, testifies to a belief in the historical character of the book …”.

And: “… the Christian Church, with remarkable unanimity has confirmed the Jewish tradition …”.

By way of contrast, Hart-Davies would give the modern opinion (p. 5):

 

Such, however, is not the view which is generally held by modern theologians. The allegorical interpretation is widely accepted. Many treat the narrative as a fiction, with or without a very slight framework of history to rest upon. By many the non-historical character of the book is regarded as indisputable. A writer who ventures to maintain the opposite runs the risk of meeting, in certain quarters, with ridicule or invective. Sir George Adam Smith thus declaims: “How long, O Lord, must Thy poetry suffer from those who can only treat it as prose? On whatever side they stand, sceptical or orthodox, they are equally pedants, quenchers of the spiritual, creators of unbelief” ….

 

But, responded Hart-Davies, a fervent believer in the book’s historicity:

 

A strong case, surely, does not require to be buttressed by the immoderate terms of such an apostrophe. For it must not be forgotten that the great majority of Hebraists and theologians of the Church Universal, from Jerome and Augustine to Pusey and Perowne, are included in the compass of the distinguished professor’s denunciation.

 

[End of quote]

 

Estimates regarding the duration of the virtually universal acceptance of the historical character of the Book of Jonah range from 1800 years to “at least twenty-one centuries”…. The matter really depends upon a determination of its date of authorship, its terminus a quo.

We know the approximate terminus ante quem, when what Hart-Davies called the “unbroken” tradition, was broken.

The antiquity of the tradition, and the force of ancient Christians’ enthusiasm for the story of Jonah, is borne out in this statement by Hart-Davies:

 

The Catacombs in Rome bear striking evidence of the belief of the early Christians. No Biblical subject was more popular for mural and sarcophagi representation, in those underground cemeteries of the disciples of Jesus, than that of Jonah’s submergence and deliverance as a symbol of faith and hope in the resurrection.

The history of Jonas [Jonah] having been put forward so emphatically by our Lord Himself, as a type both of His own and of the general resurrection, it is not to be wondered at that it should have held the first place among all the subjects from the Old Testament represented in the Catacombs. It was continually repeated in every kind of monument connected with the ancient Christian cemeteries; in the frescoes on the walls, on the bas-reliefs of the sarcophagi, on lamps and medals, and glasses, and even on the ordinary gravestones. Christian artists, however, by no means confined themselves to that one scene in the life of the prophet in which he foreshadowed the resurrection, viz., his three days’ burial in the belly of the fish, and his deliverance from it, as it were from the jaws of the grave. The other incident of his life was painted quite as commonly, viz., his lying ‘under the shadow of the booth covered with ivy on the east side of the city’ for refreshment and rest; or again, his misery and discontent, as he lay in the same place, when the sun was beating upon his head and the ivy had withered away.

…. Jerome … wrote a commentary on it; and the sermons and writings of Irenaeus, Augustine, Chrysostom, and other Fathers, abound in references which show conclusively that their belief in the historicity of Jonah was unquestioned. A long and bitter controversy was waged between Jerome and Augustine as to the nature of the plant which overshadowed the prophet; but, as to the historical character of the narrative itself, they were absolutely agreed. ….

[End of quote]

 

Hart-Davies appended an interesting footnote to this section; one which demonstrates how well instructed in Scripture were at least the early African Christians. When the bishop who read the lesson changed the word cucurbita (a gourd) into hedera (ivy), “the whole congregation”, he wrote, “protested, and would not allow the lection to proceed till the word to which they were accustomed was adopted”.

Now, imagine what might have been the reaction of these ancient Christians had they heard from the pulpit, as I did, that Jonah was a “didactic fiction”, written in “C5th BC post-exilic times”, and that it is only according to an appreciation of such a genre that one might be able to formulate an answer to a schoolchild’s simple question: “Was Jonah really in the belly of the whale?” It is all a matter of genre, we are told.

Commentator E. König, who regarded the Book of Jonah as a “symbolical narrative”, admitted though in relation to the following Jewish traditions (“Jona[h]”, The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, ed. L. Hartman, p. 1197):

 

The history of Jonah is, however, conceived as non-symbolical when into the mouth of Tobit … are put the words … [pepeismai hosa elalisen Ionas ho prophitis peri Nineui] (To 14:4), and … [pantos estai ha elalisen ho prophitis Ionas] (v. 8). Philo, too, regarded the story of Jonah as non-symbolical, for he took pains to explain the marvel of the fish (Orat. de Jona, § 16, 21). The same interpretation is followed in 3 Mac[cabees] 68 (cf. König, Einleit. p. 483) and in Jos[ephus]. Ant. JX. x. 2 … [who] reproduces the whole contents of the Book of Jonah, with the exception of the displeasure of Jonah at the sparing of Nineveh. So also in the Mishna, Ta’anit ii. 1, † Bab. Ta’anit 15a, Nedarim 38a, where … [vayyittayn secharah] … (Jon 13) is incorrectly understood as if Jonah had paid the price of the whole ship …. and had thus, in contrast to Amos, been a wealthy man. …. The non-symbolical … interpretation of the story of Jonah is the predominating one also among the Christians of the earlier centuries (cf., inter alios, Justin Martyr, Dialog. c. Tryph. cap. 107).

[End of quote]

 

König had at least conceded that an early Jewish tradition, namely the Book of Tobit (written no later than c. 200 BC even by modern estimates (E.g. D. Dumm, “Tobit, Judith, Esther”, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 38:2), had presented Jonah in terms that suggest historicity.

Now, in the New Revised Standard Version (1993) of Tobit 14:4, the name “Jonah” is substituted by the name, “Nahum”. It is universally presumed that Nahum was an Israelite prophet quite distinct from Jonah, though also concerned with Assyria, but living about a century after the prophet Jonah (See e.g. article, “Nahum”, Catholic Encyclopedia: www.newadvent.org/cathen/10670a.htm).

Though I had previously wondered if, within a revised chronology, Jonah and Nahum might be identifiable as the one prophet, I have since rejected this as impossible on various grounds. My preferred view now is of:

 

Prophet Nahum as Tobias-Job Comforted

 


 

Whilst I think that the insertion of “Nahum” in a version of the Book of Tobit is a mistake, the New Testament legitimately interchanges the name “Jonah” - but, in this case, with the name, “John” (Hebrew Yôhânân, meaning “Yahweh is gracious”).

Thus we read in the article, “Jona[h”, in The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible:

 

J[onah] the father of Simon Peter, who is addressed by Jesus in Mt 16,17 as Bar-Jona[h], which is Aramaic for “son of J.” However, in Jn 1,42; 21,15ff the father of Simon Peter is called John, which in Hebrew and Aramaic would be Yôhânân. Although it was rather common in those days for men in Palestine to have two names, one Hebrew (or Aramaic) and the other Greek, it is unlikely that a man would have two different Hebrew (or Aramaic) names. Perhaps Jona[h] is a contracted form of Johanan, John ….

 

[End of quote]

 

König, again, will make a point reflecting on chronology; one that will be of great significance later on in this series, as we come to discuss the period of floruit of Jonah, and his age. At the same time König will tell of the Jewish tradition that the Assyrian king in the Book of Jonah was “Osnappar” (var. As[e]napper), whom König would tentatively equate with a known neo-Assyrian king, “Assurbanipal” (var. Ashurbanipal) (A History of Israel, 2nd edn., SCM Press Ltd., London, p. 313, n. 11):

 

Jewish tradition, however, contains also the information that the history contained in the Book of Jonah was enacted in the reign of Osnappar (Ezr 4:10) [Assurbanipal?], and, seeing that the date of Jeroboam II, and that of Osnappar were different, the rabbinical tradition spoke of two Jonahs, of whom the first was of the tribe of Zebulun and the second of the tribe of Asher (see, further, Fürst, Der Kanon d. AT nach d. Ueberlief. in Talm. und Midrasch, p. 33 f.).

[End of quote]

 

Rabbinical tradition adds the possibility of some further information about the prophet Jonah. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_in_rabbinic_literature):

 

Ancestry

 

The tribal affinities of Jonah constitute a point of controversy; generally assigned to Asher, he is claimed for Zebulun by R. Johanan on the strength of his place of residence. 2 Kings 14:24 These opinions were harmonized by the assumption that his mother was of Asher while his father was of Zebulun (Yer. Suk. v. 1; Gen. R. xcviii. 11; Yalḳ., Jonah, 550; Abravanel's commentary to Jonah).[1]

According to another authority his mother was the woman of Zarephath that entertained Elijah (ib.; Pirḳe R. El. xxxiii.). As this prophet, who was also of priestly descent, would have profaned himself if he had touched the corpse of a Jew, it was concluded that this woman, whose son (Jonah) he "took to his bosom" and revived, was a non-Jew (Gen. R. l.c.).[1]

He received his prophetic appointment from Elisha, under whose orders he anointed Jehu. 2 Kings 9 (Ḳimḥi, ad loc.; and Tzemach Dawid).[1]

He is said to have attained a very advanced age (more than 120 years according to Seder Olam; 130 according to Sefer Yuchasin; while Ecclesiastes Rabbah viii. 10 holds that the son (Jonah) of the Zarephath widow never died).

[End of quote]

 

No matter from which angle we view the prophet Jonah from the point of view of biblical criticism, it seems that the outcome is always a ‘dismembering’, or a ‘splitting’.

 

There is already enough here, though, to suggest that Jonah may perhaps have been a real, flesh and blood Israelite, especially considering that Jonah’s ‘partner’ in witness and condemnation, “the Queen of the South”, has - thanks to Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos, I, 1952) - been so convincingly identified with Hatshepsut, the queen (later pharaoh) of 18th Dynasty Egypt. See my defence, but modification, of Velikovsky’s thesis:

 

Why Hatshepsut can be the 'Queen of Sheba'

 


 

A Fairytale?

 

 

“To take an analogy, of which the absurdity will be unavoidable: imagine that a great popular preacher of repentance … had been asked for a sign to justify the apparent novelty of their declarations, and had replied that just as Robin Hood had been persecuted by the wealthy for defending the poor, so would he be. It would seem frivolous, futile and odd. Yet, if Jonah is to be placed on the same level as Robin Hood, the fictional hero of picturesque adventures, it is with such an answer that one would apparently have to place the answers given to the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees according to which the sign validating the Lord's mission is the similarity to it of the life of Jonah”.

 

Thomas Crean

 

 

 

Thomas Crean, when writing “On The Prophet Jonah”, has this to say about what he considers to be the historical aspect of the holy man (http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt101.html):

 

Scriptural Evidence

 

How does the Old Testament speak of Jonah? First of all, the author of the book of Jonah identifies the prophet as the son of Amittai. In so doing, he would seem clearly to identify him as the prophet called Jonah, son of Amittai, who is mentioned in 2 Kings 14, as having prophesied in the northern kingdom around the time of Jeroboam II. So the protagonist of the book of Jonah is presented as a real person. It does not follow from this alone that the story related of him happened in reality, since it is possible to invent stories about real people, as happens in the apocryphal gospels. Nevertheless, this fact may serve as a warning against simply assuming that this book, because it is written in the style of a popular narrative or ‘cautionary tale’, is not, therefore, also a narrative presenting historical events and happenings that really did take place.

The only other reference to the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament is to be found at the end of the book of Tobit, where Tobit warns his son to leave Nineveh "because what the prophet Jonah said will surely happen" (Tob.14, 8). For one who accepts the historicity of the book of Tobit, this would be a sufficient confirmation at least of the historicity of Jonah's preaching as related in the book of Jonah, if not of the other events narrated therein; but since many of those who hesitate to admit the reality of the events described in the book of Jonah would have similar reservations about the book of Tobit, the investigation of the Scriptural evidence must be continued.

If we turn, then, to the Gospels, it is evident that the prophet Jonah holds an important place in the Dominical [of or relating to Jesus Christ as Lord] preaching. It would seem that, on at least three separate occasions, the Lord compares the prophet Jonah to Himself. There is first of all the passage in Matt. 12:38-41. …. Next comes a passage further on in the same Gospel (Matt. 16:4), where the Pharisees again request a sign, but this time with the Sadducees …. Finally, there is found a passage in St. Luke's Gospel, 11:29-32, addressed it would seem to the multitude, that "as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation". It is added that the Queen of the South will arise at the judgement in condemnation, and then it is the men of Nineveh who this time are introduced by way of climax as also destined to arise on the last day.

 

Obviously, much could be drawn from these few words, but our purpose is to consider their bearing only upon the historicity of the book of Jonah. How might they be interpreted by one who denies that this book is, or was intended to be, historical in content? Such a one would perhaps reply that the Lord had used‘the ideas of His time’ in preaching the Gospel. This, without further explicitation, is ambiguous. It could mean, in the first place, that one of the ideas used was the false one that the book of Jonah narrates real events. In that case, in using this false idea, Christ would either have known of its falsity or not. If not, one would have to say that He was either ignorant of the meaning of the Scriptures (more ignorant than some modern exegetes, and on a point as fundamental as the historicity or fabulousness of an entire book) and also in error in supposing that certain men had repented at Jonah's preaching and would rise again - but neither of these things can be said. If, on the other hand, He was aware of the falsity of the idea used and the multitude was not, then in saying that the men of Nineveh who had repented at Jonah's preaching would indeed rise again when they could not because they had never existed, He would have been confirming them in their wrong opinion and teaching them something false, which again is entirely impossible.

On the other hand, it could be argued that one of the ideas of the time was that the book of Jonah was not an account of real events; that it was universally recognised to be not only a popular narrative but also a fictional one, imaginative not only in style or genre, but also in content. Although the witness of Josephus tells against this view (Antiquities, IX, 10, 2), one can at least consider how well it fits with the passages of the Gospels just quoted. Here one may want to distinguish the references to the sign of Jonah from the references to the resurrection of the Ninevites. In the first case, whilst the several analogies between Jonah and our Lord would in a sense hold good whether or not Jonah had done or suffered in reality that which is related of him, yet it can easily be seen how much the solemnity of the Lord's words would be prejudiced if he had not. To take an analogy, of which the absurdity will be unavoidable: imagine that a great popular preacher of repentance, a Savanarola or a St. Vincent Ferrer, had been asked for a sign to justify the apparent novelty of their declarations, and had replied that just as Robin Hood had been persecuted by the wealthy for defending the poor, so would he be. It would seem frivolous, futile and odd. Yet, if Jonah is to be placed on the same level as Robin Hood, the fictional hero of picturesque adventures, it is with such an answer that one would apparently have to place the answers given to the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees according to which the sign validating the Lord's mission is the similarity to it of the life of Jonah.

In the second case, however, that of the resurrection of the Ninevites, Christ's words would be simply impossible on the hypothesis that no one supposed the story of Jonah to be true. For here there is not simply a comparison of two items, but a statement that two groups of people will exist together, the men of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah and ‘this generation’, which cannot be true if the men of Nineveh had never existed. Nor is it possible to say that this is a literary allusion, as a preacher to-day might make an allusion in his homily to, say, Lady Macbeth. It would be quite possible for a preacher to use Lady Macbeth as an example of how sin may lead to despair. What would be wholly morally impossible would be for him to say, for example: "It is not only active crimes that are punished but inner ones as well. On Judgement Day you will see Judas Iscariot punished not only for treason but also for despair. You will see Lady Macbeth punished not only for killing King Duncan but also for despair". Yet, if this sounds ridiculous, it is how the passage quoted from St. Luke would have sounded, where, after the Queen of the South's resurrection, the resurrection of the men of Nineveh is foretold by way of climax, if the story of Jonah had been generally believed in the 1st century A.D. to be fiction.

[End of quote]

 

Subtle Traces?

 

There are two other possible indicators, I find, towards the reality of Jonah.

The first one, though it can by no means in itself be regarded as being hard historical evidence, may, in its uniqueness, point us to the very era of the famous Jonah incident. I refer to the impressive man inside a fish bas-relief as depicted on the wall of the palace at Calah (Nimrud).

The second indicator is the Jonah-like description of “Oannes” that was supposedly recorded in a history of Mesopotamia written in the third century BC by Berossus, a Babylonian priest whose work survives only in fragments recorded by later Greek historians.


 

….Biblical scholars have speculated that Jonah may have been in part the inspiration behind the figure of Oannes in late Babylonian mythology.[28] The deity name "Oannes" first occurs in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal (more than a century after the time of Jonah) as Uanna or Uan but is assimilated to Adapa, a deity first mentioned on fragments of tablets from the 15th or 14th century B.C. found in Amarna in Egypt.[29][30] [Mackey’s comment: In Velikovsky’s revised chronology, El Amarna actually belongs to the C9th BC. I follow him here in general, though not in detail]. Oannes is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man—a detail that, some Biblical scholars[who?] suggest, is not derived from Adapa but is perhaps based on a misinterpretation of images of Jonah emerging from the fish.

 

[End of quote]

And, on the actual name ‘Oannes”


 

….The name Oannes for Jonah appears in the Septuagint and in the New Testament with the addition of I before it (Ioannes). However, according to Dr. Herman V. Hilprecht, the eminent Assyriologist, in the Assyrian inscriptions the J of foreign words becomes I, or disappears altogether. Hence Joannes, as the Greek representation of Jonah would appear in Assyrian either as Ioannes or as Oannes. Therefore, in his opinion, Oannes would be a regular Greco-Babylonian writing for Jonah.

…. The preservation of the name "Yunas" or "Jonah" at the ruins of Nineveh also confirms the historicity of the Jonah story. As soon as modern discoverers unearthed the mound that had been known for centuries by the name of "Neby Yunas," they found beneath it the ruined palaces of the kings of Nineveh. ….

[End of quote]

 

Apart from these, there are the various Jonah-like legends in ancient mythology, notably the story of Jason. On this, see (http://bookofjonah2amaic.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/243/).


 

 

 

Potential Alter Egos

for the prophet Jonah

 

 

Now, most consistent with Jonah’s “… he … restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah”, is Amos’s (no doubt at a very late phase of the reign) (6:14): “For the LORD God Almighty declares, ‘I will stir up a nation against you, Israel, that will oppress you all the way from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah’.”

 

2 Kings 14:25 should assist the purpose of this series of filling out the prophet Jonah, so that he no longer resembles the compressed whale meat of modern biblical reductionism, but, instead, slips from its gaping throat to emerge as a vibrant historical human being:

 

[Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.

 

Let us reconsider, in turn, the several key pieces in this text.

 

  1. Jeroboam II

 

According to 2 Kings 14:23, this Jeroboam reigned for 41 years: “In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years”. Yet, despite his relatively long reign, and his dramatic success in enlarging his kingdom, the biblical scribe(s) exhibit(s) only passing interest in Jeroboam, probably because (v. 24): “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit”. On this apparent biblical lack of interest, see my:

 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Overall, Jeroboam is awarded a mere 7 verses of holy Scripture (2 Kings 14:23-29), though he, apparently, had much more about which to boast if one were inclined to check it out (v. 28): “As for the other events of Jeroboam’s reign, all he did, and his military achievements, including how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?”

We know Jeroboam II to have been a real historical entity from the jasper “Shema’ Seal” that was discovered in excavations at Megiddo in 1904.

And he is also my tentative candidate for the “saviour” of Israel (2 Kings 13:5) against the relentless Syrian foe:

 


 


 

Apart from Jonah himself, as according to verse 14:25, three or four other Yahwistic prophets are generally considered to have been contemporaneous with king Jeroboam II of Israel.

Thus we read at: http://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/israelite-king-jeroboam-ii-son-of-jehoash/ Jeroboam II ruled the land of Israel during the time of the prophets Jonah, Hosea, Joel and Amos”.

But we might do a bit of revised adding and subtracting here.

I would immediately ‘scrap’ Joel from this list, who, I think, sits perfectly at the later time, when the massive Assyrian army of “Holofernes” had invaded the north and the priest Joakim in Jerusalem was leading the people in prayer, fasting and putting on sackcloth (Judith 4). See:

 

Prophet Joel's 'locusts' refer to the Assyrians

 


 

As for Amos, I have already tentatively identified him with the prophet Micah:

 


 


 

“Not only did Micah live in the vicinity of Amos’ home, Tekoa, but he was like Amos in many respects. He was so much influenced by the spirit of Amos that he has been called “Amos redivivus”.” Could Amos even have been the same person as the prophet Micah?

 


 


 

I have since read that Philip J. King, who wrote articles on both Amos and Micah for The Jerome Biblical Commentary, there referring to Amos as a prophet of social justice (see also his Amos, Hosea, Micah: An Archaeological Commentary, p. 28: “This blunt “Amos of the southern Kingdom” preached social justice …”.) also wrote the very same of Micah (17:2): “The prophet of social justice”.

Hosea I have tentatively identified with the great prophet Isaiah:

 

Family of Prophet Isaiah as Hosea’s in Northern Kingdom

 


 

So my revised lists of Yahwistic prophets contemporaneous with Jeroboam II of Israel, ignoring Jonah (in anticipation of a potential alter ego), would be simply:

 

Amos (= Micah), and Hosea (= Isaiah)

 

And these two prophets I would consider to be a father (Amos) and his son (Isaiah). Isaiah 1:1: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amos …”. Isaiah also being, in my revised scheme of things, the “Uzziah son of Micah” of the Book of Judith (6:14-15):

 

Then the Israelites came down from their town and found [Achior]; they untied him and brought him into Bethulia and placed him before the magistrates of their town, who in those days were Uzziah son of Micah, of the tribe of Simeon, and Chabris son of Gothoniel, and Charmis son of Melchiel.

 

 

2.      “His servant Jonah”

 

Of these two prophets (revised), Amos/Micah and Isaiah/Hosea - if Jonah were to be filled out with a prophetic alter ego - then one would have to favour the father, Amos/Micah, rather than the son, Isaiah/Hosea. For Jonah, it would seem, must have begun prophesying in relation to Jeroboam II fairly early in the king’s reign, when he had begun to carry all before him.

Because it was to be doom and gloom for the latter part of Jeroboam’s reign.

It is very difficult to date this reign, in relation to king Uzziah of Judah, with the likes of Anstey and Mauro, for instance, favouring a long interregnum at the end of Jeroboam’s reign. Nor does the extremely scant (auto)biographical information that the Bible provides concerning Jeroboam II and those prophets contemporaneous with him make it easy to form a satisfactory prophets-to-king type of synchronistic table.

Added to all this is the problem that the reign of Jeroboam II is wrongly stacked up in conventional chronology against Egyptian dynastic history and archaeology.

Todd Bolen, who has tried to make sense of it all in conventional archaeological terms: https://www.academia.edu/1644551/The_Reign_of_Jeroboam_II_A_Historical_and_Archaeological_Interpretation

The Reign of Jeroboam II: A Historical and Archaeological Interpretation

has suggested some reasonable synchronisms, I think, between the king of Israel and those who he considers to be “the three Israelite prophets who spoke the word of the Lord during the reign of Jeroboam II” (viz., Jonah, Amos and Hosea) (Bolen’s pp. 257-259):

 

Date of the Prophetic Messages

 

Written records have been preserved of three Israelite prophets who spoke the word of the Lord during the reign of Jeroboam II. Jonah the son of Amittai prophesied the restoration of Israelite borders to their Davidic and Solomonic extent before his mission to Nineveh to bring about an Assyrian repentance (2 Kgs 14:25; Jonah 1:1).

 

Amos’ message was directed specifically at the contemporaries of Jeroboam who had benefited from the political and economic upswing but at the same time disregarded the moral obligations that divine favor required. Hosea also initiated his ministry during Jeroboam’s reign, as his superscription indicates, and focused primarily on the cultic shortcomings of the people (1:1). A precise dating of each of the prophets is more difficult. The historical allusions within these prophetic books are minimal and obscure. Scholars cannot agree on the historical interpretations of several of the Hoseanic passages, and thus it is difficult to know which portion of his writing is contemporary with Jeroboam II. At least a part of his ministry dates to this time as the book’s superscription places him in the reigns of Jeroboam of Israel and Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.1 This suggests that Hosea ministered at least from 753, the death of Jeroboam II, to 729, the accession of Hezekiah as coregent, a lengthy period of time.2 The difficulty is correctly ascribing to Jeroboam’s reign those oracles of Hosea which were spoken at this time. It is generally concluded that the prophecies of the book of Hosea are ordered “more or less chronologically from the 750s to the 720s,” and thus the opening portion of the book will best suit the reign of the last great Israelite monarch.3 In Chapter 1, Hosea is commanded to name his son “Jezreel,” because the Lord would “punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel,” clearly indicating that at least a portion of the prophecy pre-dated the death of Jeroboam. Not only does the symbolic story of Hosea and Gomer reflect this time, but the oracle in chapter 4 also appears to have been delivered during the reign of this same king. Prosperity seems to be the norm and there are no indications of political instability, as became the case upon Jeroboam’s death.4 Many scholars believe that the incidents recorded in 5:8-7:1a seem to reflect the events of the Syro-Ephraimite war of 734-733, and thus with this section, Hosea’s words move beyond the period of this study.

[End of quote]

 

Since Jonah - likewise Amos - is the more solidly entrenched within the reign of Jeroboam II, then my definite preference (based, too, on other considerations to follow), is that the Lord’s “servant Jonah” is to be filled out by the prophet Amos/Micah.

 

3.      “… restored the borders of Israel”

 

Now, most consistent with Jonah’s “… he … restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah”, is Amos’s (no doubt at a very late phase of the reign) (6:14): “For the LORD God Almighty declares, ‘I will stir up a nation against you, Israel, that will oppress you all the way from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah’.”

Bible hub has picked up the connection (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/amos/6-14.htm):

 

Jeroboam "recovered Damascus and Hamath" 2 Kings 14:282 Kings 14:25, which belonged to "Judah, unto Israel. He restored," as God promised him by Jonah, "the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain. The entering of Hamath" expresses the utmost northern boundary promised to Israel Numbers 34:8. ….

 

Amos describes the extension of the kingdom of Israel in the self-same terms as the Book of Kings; only he names as the southern extremity, "the river of the wilderness," instead of "the sea of the wilderness." The sea of the wilderness, that is, the Dead Sea, might in itself be either its northern or its southern extremity. ….

[End of quote]

 

The prophets were called, as along the lines of Jeremiah of a later era, to ‘build up and tear down’ (1:10): ‘Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant ...’. And Jonah-Amos typified this, firstly by announcing Jeroboam II’s greatest expansion, and then, later, the potential loss of it all. It is as if these two opposite biblical statements, by who I believe to be the one prophet, had actually bookended the career of king Jeroboam II of Israel.

 

 

Prophet poor or wealthy?

 

Finally, speaking of ‘opposite statements’, we read from one direction (Bible Teacher's Commentary, Larry Richards, p. 274) that “Amos was one of the poor that the wealthy in Israel despised”; whilst, from another direction (Ein Yaakov: The Ethical and Inspirational Teachings of the Talmud, p. 405) “Amos was wealthy”.

 

Some even consider Amos to have been an influential ‘sheepmaster’, like Abraham.

 

Micah, “the prophet of the poor and downtrodden”, may have been rich or poor. We may not have sufficient relevant information to make a proper evaluation as to the wealth or lack thereof of Micah qua Micah.

 

Regarding Jonah’s financial situation, Ein Yaakov claims straight out: “We know that Jonah was a wealthy man …. he rented the whole ship” in his frenetic urgency to get away.

 

Acquiring a New Name?

 

Jonah, Amos and Micah are actually three quite distinct Hebrew names whose meanings differ the one from the other.

 

Jonah (יוֹנָה) means “dove”.

Amos (עָמוֹס) means “strong”, “carried”, ‘brave”.

Micah (מִיכָה) means “who is like [the Lord]?”

 

One thing to recall from earlier in this series is that the prophet Jonah is traditionally considered to have lived a very long life: “He is said to have attained a very advanced age (more than 120 years according to Seder Olam; 130 according to Sefer Yuchasin …”.

Plenty of time to have earned, picked up, an extra name and/or nickname.

Also, according to my tentative opinion, this prophet may have been the father of Hosea, whose children underwent name changes.


 

God reverses the names of each of Hosea’s children.  Jezreel, God sows, goes from being seeds of destruction to the sowing a people.  The people of God will be planted, rooted, established as God’s people in the land that He has given them. Lo-Ruhamah, the one who has not experienced love or compassion, becomes Ruhamah, because God will show love to her. And Lo-Ammi, not My people, becomes Ammi, as God will claim them as His people. “‘You are My people,’ and they will say, ‘You are my God’.”

[End of quote]

 

My only other suggestion would be one pertaining to the geography of the prophet’s career.

Perhaps given at birth the name of “Micah” (short for Micaiah), and growing up in his town of Moresheth-gath in the southern land of Judah; he acquired the name of “Amos” when called to the prophetic office, especially in relation now to the northern kingdom (Bethel); and finally was named, or nick-named “Jonah” in relation to his mission to Nineveh.

 

Name “Jonah” a soubriquet?

 

The name Jonah, as meaning “dove”, may be pregnant with possible significance.

Noah’s dove, protected in the Ark, had risen above the waters of the Flood (Genesis 8:8-12); whilst Jonah, the “dove”, protected in the great Fish, had risen safely from the once turbulent sea.

The prophet Hosea at about this time describes Ephraim (where Amos ministered) as “a silly dove” (Hosea 7:11), and Jonah, in his act of rebellion, “typified the people of Israel [Ephraim] in their relationship to God” (Mark Allfree, The Prophecy of Jonah, p. 4).

Allfree proceeds from this statement to make a vital connection between Jonah and Amos:

 

Amos 9 is also interesting in connection with the overall theme of the book of Jonah: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this” (Amos 9: 11,12). This prophecy is quoted in Acts 15 with reference to the bringing of the Gentiles into the purpose of God: “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof; and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things” (Acts 15:14-17). Thus Amos, a contemporary prophet, predicted a turn of the purpose of God to the Gentiles, which ultimately began to meet its fulfilment in the days of the apostles. This, as we shall see, is the essential theme of Jonah’s prophecy.

….

The general theme of Jonah's prophecy can be summarised very well in the words of Acts 11:18: “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life”. The prophecy of Jonah is in effect an enacted parable of the bringing in of the Gentiles into the purpose of God. It is therefore very relevant to us today, since we are Gentiles, and the call of the Gospel has reached our ears.

[End of quote]  

 

All sorts of symbolical connections have been suggested for Jonah the “dove” with Assyria and the mother goddess Ishtar, one of whose symbols was the “dove”, and Queen Semiramis who “once had turned herself into a dove” (G. Quispel, Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions, p. 149). For instance, according to (http://gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/the-laws-of-the-second-coming/chapter-12-the-sign-of-jonah/):

 

Jonah was one of the few successful prophets in history, because he was a type of Christ …. Nineveh means "City of Fish," and they worshipped the fish god.

….

Since Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, which conquered and captivated Israel, Assyria is symbolized by the great fish. Hosea 8:8-9 says,

 

8Israel is swallowed up; they are now among the nations like a vessel in which no one delights. 9 For they have gone up to Assyria, like a wild donkey all alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.

 

Assyria represented the great fish, and Jonah represented Israel. In that the fish swallowed Jonah, so also would Assyria swallow up the House of Israel. Jonah knew that this would happen, and this was why he did not want to preach the Gospel to Assyria. He did not want them to repent, because he did not want God to have mercy upon that enemy nation. So he took a ship to Tarshish ….

[End of quote]

 

And concerning Semiramis (or Sammu-ramat), a definite historical figure, who was the mother of the Adad-nirari III, we read at (http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/mba/mba24.htm):

 

ONE of the most interesting figures in Mesopotamian history came into prominence during the Assyrian Middle Empire period. This was the famous Sammu-rammat, the Babylonian wife of an Assyrian ruler. Like Sargon of Akkad, Alexander the Great, and Dietrich von Bern, she made, by reason of her achievements and influence, a deep impression on the popular imagination, and as these monarchs became identified in tradition with gods of war and fertility, she had attached to her memory the myths associated with the mother goddess of love and battle who presided over the destinies of mankind. In her character as the legendary Semiramis of Greek literature, the Assyrian queen was reputed to have been the daughter of Derceto, the dove and fish goddess of Askalon, and to have departed from earth in bird form.

[End of quote]

 

Quispel again (op. cit., ibid.): “Semiramis …. was nourished by doves when growing up … near Ascalon”. Interestingly, Jonah, a “dove”, may have (if he were Micah) grown up near Askalon during the approximate era of Queen Semiramis. For more on Semiramis, see my:

 


 


 

“When Josephus named Nebuchadnezzar as builder of the [hanging] garden, both he and his readers would have been confused between Nineveh and Babylon, and between Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, because at the time they were reading his account, the Book of Judith was already in circulation”.

 


 


 

“Here, then, we have a group of material that indicates attachment of Naqia's deeds to the name 'Semiramis'. As second wife of Sennacherib, she bears comparison with the historical Sammu-ramat”.

 

 

Possible other recollections of the Jonah incident

 

Was Jonah, as Amos, recalling what had happened to his very self with his words about one’s not being able to escape from God even at the bottom of the sea? (Amos 9:3): “And though they hide from my eyes at the bottom of the sea, I will send the Sea Monster to swallow them up”.

And was the prophet Hosea also recalling this Jonah incident, with its three days/nights inside the belly of the Sea Monster? (Hosea 6:1-2): “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight”.

 

 

  1. “Son of Amittai”

 

The Hebrew name “Amittai” (אֲמִתַּי) means “my truth”.

The Vulgate and the Septuagint both render the name of Jonah’s father (or ancestor) as “Amathi” (Αμαθί), Greek for “sand”, or “dust”. (“Sand” in Hebrew is chol; “dust” is aphar).

So far in the process of my attempting to fill out the prophet Jonah, I have reached the conclusions that Jonah had, as his alter egos, Amos and Micah. That:

 

Jonah = Amos = Micah

 

Jonah was contemporaneous with the prophet Amos, whose predictions marvellously encapsulated the whole point of the Book of Jonah: “Thus Amos, a contemporary prophet, predicted a turn of the purpose of God to the Gentiles, which ultimately began to meet its fulfilment in the days of the apostles. This, as we shall see, is the essential theme of Jonah’s prophecy”.

And Micah 4 resonates with the very same sentiment.

Micah, as we have found, was so like Amos that he has been described as “Amos redivivus”. Neither Amos nor Micah was after personal gain.

Yet Amos, like Jonah the famously fleeing prophet, exhibited a certain degree of prophetic reluctance (Amos 7:14): “Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit …’.”

We also considered some possible biblical (but also mythological) reminiscences of the Jonah incident, such as Amos 9:3, the “Sea Monster” serving God’s purposes; Hosea 6:2, “third day” revival, and Hosea 8:8-9: “Israel is swallowed up … Assyria …”. The prophet Jeremiah, who favourably recalls Micah (Jeremiah 26:18), will take up Hosea’s metaphor and apply it now to the all-devouring Nebuchednezzar II (Jeremiah 51:34):

 

King Nebuchedrezzar of Babylon has devoured me,

He has crushed me;

He has made me an empty vessel,

He has swallowed me like a

[sea] monster; he has filled his belly with my delicacies,

he has spewed me out ….

 

There is insufficient explicit (auto)biographical detail provided in the books of Amos and Micah to supplement our search for the “Amittai” of Jonah 1:1 and 2 Kings 14:25. Neither book offers any sort of patronymic for its prophet.

The Hebrew name “Amaziah” (אֲמַצְיָה) means “Strength of the Lord”. If Amittai is meant to be taken as a variant of Amaziah, then there is a notable possibility for who Jonah’s ancestor Amittai may have been. For Amos was, according to Rabbinical literature, the brother of king Amaziah of Judah (Meg. 15a): http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah

 

  1. Gath-hepher

 

No need for me to say much more about this element than I have already done in my article:

 

Jonah of Gath hepher

 


 

The chief priests and the scribes at the time of Jesus Christ well knew that no prophet had ever arisen out of the land of Galilee. That discounts the Gath-hepher of Galilee, about 5 km north of Nazareth, as qualifying for the home town of the prophet Jonah.

 

According to my scheme of things - and one of the reasons why I eventually rejected the consideration that Jonah had been a younger contemporaray of Elijah and Eisha - Jonah was Amos/Micah – meaning that he would necessarily have lived from at least the reign of king Jeroboam II (as Jonah/Amos) to king Hezekiah of Judah (as Micah), according to Jeremiah 26:18: “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah”.

 

 

Part Three:

Jonah continuing on after Jeroboam II

 

 

“Jonah seems to have been known to Tobit, who will later tell his son Tobias to take his

family and flee Nineveh, “… for I believe the word of God that Jonah spoke about

Nineveh, that all these things will take place and overtake Assyria and Nineveh” (Tobit

14:3, 4). Perhaps an even more precise time correspondence is Tobit’s mention of “not

forty days passed” before Sennacherib’s assassination, possibly echoing Jonah’s: ‘Forty

days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ (Jonah 3:3-4). Indeed the last days of the

furious Sennacherib, and the brief hiatus after his death, would be a most appropriate

time for the intervention of Jonah in Nineveh”.

 

 

The dramatic end in regicide of the reign of Sennacherib, at the time of Tobit’s persecution and exile by the Assyrian king, was the brief window in time that I had considered most appropriate for the prophet Jonah’s arrival in Nineveh, in my university thesis:

 

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background

 


 

(the above quote being from Volume Two, p. 94).

And it is the historical scenario to which I now - having rejected a Jonah at the time of Elijah and Elisha, in favour of a Jonah at the time of Amos (reign of Jeroboam II of Israel) and Micah (reign of Hezekiah of Judah) - shall be returning, but with some necessary modifications to my original, faulty reconstruction of it all.

A prophetical career spanning the period from the reign of Jeroboam II down to Hezekiah is not unreasonable, considering that there was a biblical prophet, Hosea, whose career apparently did span that very period (Hosea 1:1): “The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel”.

 

Here are the still relevant parts of my thesis pertaining to the death of Sennacherib, and to Jonah (pp. 93-98):

 

Isaiah and the Death of Sennacherib

 

According to [the Book of Tobit] Sennacherib was, after the defeat of his army – and not surprisingly – a very angry man. Tobit, in his customary charitable fashion (cf. 1:17), “buried any whom King Sennacherib put to death when he came fleeing from Judea in those days of judgement that the king of heaven executed upon him because of his blasphemies. For in his anger he put to death many Israelites …” (v. 18). I am presuming that this is a reference to Assyria’s second major invasion of Palestine ….

 

Mackey’s comment: For a more positive account of this, see my mor recent:

 

Historical Era of the Prophet Job. Part Three: Marriage. (ii) Demise of Sennacherib

 


 

When an informer told Sennacherib of what Tobit was doing, the vengeful king began a search for Tobit to put him to death as well. But he fled (v. 19).

“Then all my property was confiscated”, Tobit tells, “nothing was left to me that was not taken into the royal treasury except my wife Anna and my son Tobias” (v. 20).

Tobit’s exile though was of a relatively short duration, for as he goes on to relate: “But not forty days passed before two of Sennacherib’s sons killed him, and they fled to the mountains” (v. 21). Sennacherib’s death must thus have come not long after his army’s débâcle in Israel. Now would be a phase of utmost chaos in Nineveh, with even its longreigning king, Sennacherib, having been snatched away. It is into this chaos that there stepped the mysterious prophet Jonah. At least I think that this is the only period in Assyrian history – in the range of the life of ‘Jonah son of Amittai’ (cf. 2 Kings 14:25 & Jonah 1:1) – that is an appropriate context for this extraordinary prophet.

….

Besides Ahikar, Tobit’s family likely had another powerful ally before the young king of Assyria at this time. I return to the extraordinary prophet Jonah, in the midst of Nineveh, pronouncing doom upon a land that had then seemed utterly doomed.

….

There are yet further possible clues for late [era of Hezekiah] being the time of Jonah’s intervention.

Jonah seems to have been known to Tobit, who will later tell his son Tobias to take his family and flee Nineveh, “… for I believe the word of God that Jonah spoke about

Nineveh, that all these things will take place and overtake Assyria and Nineveh” (Tobit 14:3, 4). Perhaps an even more precise time correspondence is Tobit’s mention of “not forty days passed” before Sennacherib’s assassination, possibly echoing Jonah’s: ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ (Jonah 3:3-4). Indeed the last days of the furious Sennacherib, and the brief hiatus after his death, would be a most appropriate time for the intervention of Jonah in Nineveh. ….

 

Mackey’s comment: Those who think that the prophet Jonah’s mission to Nineveh must have corresponded approximately with the reign of king Jeroboam II of Israel - and quite reasonably, based on the mention of both the prophet and the king in 2 Kings 14:25 - will look to the neo-Assyrian kings reigning at this time for Jonah’s “king of Nineveh” (3:6). With Jeroboam II conventionally dated to c. 789–748 BC, then the range of choice is approximately as follows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Assyrian_kings):

 

811–783 BC
"son of Shamshi-Adad (V)"
783–773 BC
"son of Adad-nirari (III)"
773–755 BC
"son of Shalmaneser (IV)"; solar eclipse 763 BC[8]
755–745 BC
"son of Adad-nirari (III)"
745–727 BC

  

Particularly favoured amongst this bunch have been Adad-nirari III and Tiglath-pileser III.

Gerard Gertoux, though, will favour the slightly earlier Asyrian king, Shamsi-Adad V, father of Adad-nirari III. His reconstruction, just like mine, has Jonah’s intervention in Nineveh right at the time of the death of an Assyrian king – in Gertoux’s case, Shalmaneser III. Thus he writes (https://www.academia.edu/2518023/Jonah_vs_King_of_Nineveh_Chronological_Historical_and_Archaeological_Evidence):

 

Dating the warning of Jonah against Nineveh

 

Abstract: Historians consider the Biblical account of Jonah's warning against Nineveh as pious fiction, however, the Gospels refer to it as a real story (Lk 11:29-32). The book of Jonah, despite its brevity, gives some verifiable information regarding Nineveh, a very old city, which disappeared completely after its destruction in 612 BCE. The dimensions mentioned seem colossal, however they do agree with the accounts of Herodotus (The Histories I:178), Diodorus quoting Persica ¤3 of Ctesias (Historical Library II:3) and Strabo (Geography XVI:1:3). Moreover, these dimensions, seemingly boundless, have been confirmed by archaeology. The text of 2 Kings 14:23-25 relates the mission of Jonah with the accession of Jeroboam II, as  pointed out Josephus (Jewish Antiquities IX:205-207), which enlightens the reason and the urgency of his mission, because this particular year coincides with the death of Shalmaneser III (824 BCE). The coincidence in time sheds light on the strange role of Jonah. When Jonah comes to Assyria, in 824 BCE, the situation was this: the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III who resided in the new capital Kalhu was dying, his son Shamshi-Adad V was commissioned, as new Crown prince, to quell the revolt headed by his brother Assur-danin-pal was the leader of 27 cities including the renowned Nineveh. Jonah's mission was therefore a success since Assyrian expansionism to the Mediterranean coast would cease, at least for 80 years. The fact that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish is often ridiculed but this unique event is rationally possible, moreover, the Biblical text describes it as a divine intervention (Jonah 1:17).

 

 

There are some potential traps in all of this, however.

Firstly, there is the danger of uncritically aligning a biblical king against a possibly faulty neo-Assyrian chronology. Shalmaneser III may be a case in point. I, at least, have argued in various articles now for the need for a radical lowering of Shalmaneser III’s reign on the timescale.

Secondly, Jonah’s “king of Nineveh” may not actually have been a king of Assyria, but simply a “governor” of Nineveh.

According to Paul Ferguson, in his useful article (Tyndale Bulletin 47.2 (Nov. 1996) 301-314):  http://tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/library/TynBull_1996_47_2_05_Ferguson_KingOfNinevehJonah3.pdf

 

WHO WAS THE ‘KING OF NINEVEH’

IN JONAH 3:6?

 

At this time the north-west Semitic word for ‘king’ (mlk), especially when associated with a city, often meant ‘governor’ of a province rather than king over a nation. This is clearly displayed on a bilingual statue from Gozan, a western Assyrian province. This is the only text of any size so far discovered in both Aramaic and Assyrian. The Aramaic word mlk is regularly translated with the Assyrian šakin which means ‘governor’.5 ….

 

Thirdly, also to be pondered, is the intriguing, complete omission by Jesus Christ of any mention of Jonah’s “king of Nineveh” in Matthew (12:41; cf. Luke 11:32): ‘The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here’, despite His explicit reference there to “the Queen of the South” (Matthew 12:42; cf. Luke 11:31).

 

At the time of writing my thesis, I had rejected, as Jonah’s “king of Nineveh”, those neo-Assyrian kings considered to have been contemporaneous with Jeroboam II, and favoured as candidates. Now, in the section “Oracles Against Assyria”, I wrote (leaving out erroneous bits):

 

As to the precise historical time of Jonah’s visit to Nineveh, I have not been impressed by previous attempts to locate it to the eras of the Assyrian kings who ruled close to the conventional time of Jeroboam II of Israel (such as Adad-nirari III, or even Tiglath-pileser III).1370 These were all typical Assyrian kings, who continued to act like Assyrian kings without any indication of the sort of change of heart that one might expect would have accompanied the repentant king of Jonah 3:6. As I have said, the only time in Assyrian history that a king showed some sort of favouritism towards Israel – or was well-regarded by the Jews – was immediately after the death of Sennacherib.

Isaiah himself had, at Bethulia, witnessed the defeat of the Assyrian host and its rout.

Indeed, as I have argued, he was related to the very agent of the victory for Israel, Judith.

Now, shortly after this Judith-inspired victory would have been an ideal time, I suggest, for … Jonah – to have received the call (Jonah 1:1-2). ….

 

From there I continued on to consider the:

 

City of Nineveh

 

The description in Jonah 1:2 of Nineveh as “that great city” … is a biblical expression for a complex of cities (cf. Genesis 10:11 …), rather than indicating just the one city known archaeologically at the site of Küyünjik. By the time of Jonah’s mission, ‘Nineveh the great city’ would have included Sargon II’s new Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad), some 24 kilometres to the north-east of the original Nineveh. This city’s importance though would quickly begin to diminish after the assassination of Sargon II/Sennacherib. For, as Roux tells:1372

 

In one of his so-called ‘Display Inscriptions’ Sargon says:

 

‘For me, Sargon, who dwells in this palace, may he (Ashur) decree as my destiny long life, health of body, joy of heart, brightness of soul’. ….

 

But the god hearkened not to his prayer. One year after Dûr-Sharrukîn was

officially inaugurated Sargon ‘went against Tabal and was killed in the war’ [sic]

…. His successors preferred Nineveh to the Mesopotamian Brazilia, but Khorsabad remained inhabited by governors and their retinue: until the final collapse of Assyria ….

 

Hart-Davies has, with reference to other authorities, given an impression of the size of what he has called ‘Greater Nineveh’:1373

 

“Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey”. Diodorus

Siculus describes Nineveh as an irregular quadrangle of about sixty miles in

circuit. Commander Jones, who made a trigonometrical survey of the district,

says, “From Nineveh to Nimrud in round numbers is eighteen miles; then to Khorsabad about twenty-eight, and back to Nineveh by the road fourteen miles”

…. The whole area of the Assyrian metropolis he computes as 350 square miles.

The area of Greater London is said to be 315 square miles. Greater Nineveh … must have included vast tracts of parks and pastures. ….

“The conclusion to which recent discoveries lead is,” says Keil, “that the name

Nineveh, was used in two senses: first, for one particular city; and secondly, for a complex of four large primeval cities (including Nineveh proper), the circumvallation of which is still traceable, .... The mounds of which cover the

land”.

… To walk to the four principal points of the quadrangular city, Kouyunjik [Küyünjik], Nimrud, Karamless [possibly the ‘Resen’ of Genesis 10:12] and Khorsabad, would be to travel a total distance of sixty miles – a three days’ journey.

 

Our ubiquitous prophet, as Jonah, now stepped from a land exulting in victory (Israel), to a land dwelling in the shadow of death (Assyria).

….

The vast size of the ‘great city of Nineveh’ might account for why this new ‘king of Nineveh’ seems to have been a bit tardy in hearing any report about Jonah (3:6): “When the news reached the king of Nineveh …”

….

According to the Book of Jonah, the prophet had gone to Assyria with the greatest of reluctance; even complete aversion (1:3; cf. 4:1-2). He apparently had no desire to see God’s mercy bestowed upon Nineveh. Beast-like ferocity had characterised Assyria’s treatment of subject nations and peoples. “Woe to the bloody city!” the prophet [Nahum] had cried …. “It is all full of lies and rapine” (3:1). Why should Jonah now therefore have to be the instrument by which Nineveh might be given the chance to repent and be saved the destruction that he had been wont to pronounce upon her? Despite his fear of the worst, knowing that “you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing” (Jonah 4:2; cf. Nahum 1:3), the prophet sat under a booth … that he had made, “waiting to see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:5) ….

 

 

 

 

What follows is as yet tentative.

 

The prophet Jonah we have, in the course of this series, ‘rescued’ from the dark belly of that typically negative type of biblical criticism that so drastically minimalises the original person. The weak and gloomy spectre that is the ‘Jonah’ of biblical commentaries has been en-fleshed and re-invigorated with some sturdy alter egos in Amos and Micah (= ‘Amos redivivus’).   

If this filling out of the prophet Jonah is legitimate, then he - already a known contemporary of king Jeroboam II of Israel - must have lived at least until the reign of king Hezekiah of Judah. For, according to Jeremiah (26:18-19):

 

Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, “This is what the Lord Almighty says:

 

‘Zion will be plowed like a field,
    Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
    the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets’.”

 

Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the Lord and seek his favor? And did not the Lord relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves!”

 

Interestingly, Micah’s dire prediction for Jerusalem was, like Jonah’s in the case of Nineveh, forestalled due to a kingly act of repentance. (Does this, in part, explain Jonah’s petulance?)

These predictions were, of course, conditional.

The conclusion is inevitable that the prophet Jonah must have been a very old man when he was commissioned to warn the Ninevites. But did we not read earlier in the series that, according to rabbinic traditions, the prophet lived to a great old age: “He is said to have attained a very advanced age (more than 120 years according to Seder Olam; 130 according to Sefer Yuchasin; while Ecclesiastes Rabbah viii. 10 holds that the son (Jonah) of the Zarephath widow never died”?

According to what I think was the likeliest scenario or historical window for Jonah’s mission to Nineveh it would have occurred late in the 29-year reign of king Hezekiah of Judah, not long after the Judith-inspired victory over Sennacherib’s massive army (which never actually penetrated to Judah, by the way). The enraged Sennacherib had vented his anger upon the Yahwistic Tobit, who was burying his people, and who subsequently had to flee for his life.

In the course of those grim days, Sennacherib was slain by two of his sons. “Not forty days” after the death warrant had been issued for Tobit (Tobit 1:21). And those “forty days”, I believe, somehow (the chronology is yet uncertain) interconnect with Jonah’s arrival and proclamation (Jonah 3:4): ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown’. It is a catch phrase.

The kingdom of Assyria must have been, at that time, in complete chaos. Its forces had been decimated; its king slain; his sons had fled to “the mountains of Ararat” (Urartu) to where Noah’s Ark had landed (Genesis 8:4). {Tradition has Sennacherib gathering wood from the Ark in the region and worshipping it}. Intriguingly, and I am sure that it is no coincidence, “forty days” is mentioned in the Genesis context as well (v. 6): “After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark …”. Another “window” in time.  

Esarhaddon was apparently in exile at about the time of the assassination of his father (http://www.ancient.eu/Esarhaddon/): “It appears that, after Sennacherib announced his choice [for Esarhaddon to succeed him], the brothers made clear their displeasure and Zakutu sent Esarhaddon into hiding. Exactly where he went is unknown, but it was somewhere in the region formerly held by the Mitanni”.

So Esarhaddon may not yet have been on the throne when the prophet Jonah arrived at Nineveh. And that may explain why the Book of Jonah refers to a “king of Nineveh”, rather than the usual “king of Assyria”. The most likely candidate to have been ruling at the time would have been the legendary Ahikar, nephew of Tobit, who was second only to the king (Tobit 1:21-22):

 

Another son, Esarhaddon, became emperor and put Ahikar, my brother Anael's son, in charge of all the financial affairs of the empire. This was actually the second time Ahikar was appointed to this position, for when Sennacherib was emperor of Assyria, Ahikar had been wine steward, treasurer, and accountant, and had been in charge of the official seal. Since Ahikar was my nephew, he put in a good word for me with the emperor, and I was allowed to return to Nineveh.

 

If Ahikar were temporarily at the helm, filling in for the king of Assyria in absentia, then the title “king of Nineveh” (meaning “governor”, as previously explained) would be perfectly appropriate. It would also explain the willingness of said “governor” to comply with the wishes of Yahweh as expressed through Jonah. And it might also, I think, account for why Jesus Christ does not refer to any converted king in the case of Jonah. For Ahikar had already experienced his conversion when Judith had shown him the severed head of “Holofernes” (Judith 14:6-10).

Tradition names Jonah’s “king of Nineveh” as “Osnapper”, or “Asenapper”. Interestingly, a ruler of the same name is referred to in the Book of Ezra, and he, according to the following, may be Esarhaddon, or “some high functionary of Asarhaddon”, which could again indicate Ahikar (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ezra/4-16.htm):

 

…. the "nations brought in by Osnapper" must be identical with those who, according to Ezra 4:2, and 2 Kings 17:24, had been placed in the cities of Samaria by King Esarhaddon. Hence Osnapper would seem to be merely another name for Esarhaddon. But the names Osnapper (lxx Ἀσσεναφάρ) and Asarhaddon (lxx Ἀσαραδάν) being too different to be identified, and the notion that Osnapper was a second name of Asarhaddon having but little probability, together with the circumstance that Osnapper is not called king, as Asarhaddon is Ezra 4:2, but only "the great and noble," it is more likely that he was some high functionary of Asarhaddon, who presided over the settlement of eastern races in Samaria and the lands west of the Euphrates ….

 

The scenario that I would most favour, then, is that Ahikar was the “king of Nineveh” who had responded so promptly to the preaching of the prophet Jonah, and that his influence was such over Esarhaddon (who had restored Tobit’s fortunes at Ahikar’s request) that he may later have ratified Ahikar’s penitential decree.

Indeed, Esarhaddon in known to have ordered “sackcloth” even for the animals’ bridles, in the face of “the northern enemy” (his brothers?). I read this (in Bill Cooper’s book?), but cannot locate the reference at this moment.

Obviously it is important.

My second best scenario would be that Esarhaddon was the repentant “king of Nineveh”, referred to as such because Jonah’s mission was directed solely to Nineveh, and not to the kingdom of Assyria as a whole.

 


According to Tradition, Jonah the Prophet died and was buried in Nineveh, which is modern-day Mosul (northern Iraq), during the reign of Sennacherib's son, Esarhaddon.[9]  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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