Jonah and Isaiah

Published April 30, 2020 by amaic


Damien F. Mackey

Part One:

Focus on Esarhaddon

A: Historical ‘moment’

The historical ‘window of opportunity’ that I am going to propose here as best fitting the Jonah narrative will be one that I have already suggested before.

However, due to a then imperfect appreciation of the degree of historical revision required, I had had to drop that particular model as being unworkable.

Since that first effort, however, I have streamlined the histories of Israel, Judah,  Assyria and Babylonia, and that will now make all the difference.

The historical moment that I identify as that best suiting the intervention in “the great city of Nineveh”, נִינְוֵה, הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה, by the prophet Jonah (Jonah 1:2), is the ‘moment’ when King Esarhaddon was in the throes of trying to secure Nineveh from his older brothers, two of whom had assassinated the previous Assyrian king, Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37).

There may never have been a more dire or foreboding moment in time for the Assyrian people.

Had it not only recently been preceded by the utter rout of the proud king Sennacherib’s Assyrian army of 185,000 men. (v. 35)?

And, as we are going to find out, Esarhaddon’s crisis situation, now, was very much due to the fact that he had been personally involved in that horrendous and unprecedented humiliation of the highly-vaunted Assyrian army.

The Book of Tobit – which will actually refer to Jonah’s mission to Nineveh (Tobit 14:4) – seems to parallel Jonah’s threat (Jonah 3:4): “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown”, when it repeats that very same time period (Tobit 1:21): “But not forty days passed before two of Sennacherib’s sons killed him, and they fled to the mountains of Ararat. A son of his, Esarhaddon, succeeded him as king”.

Sennacherib himself – who was, just prior to his demise, in the process of hunting down the honourable Tobit to kill him (Tobit 1:19) – would seem to be a least likely candidate, amongst the Assyrian kings, for Jonah’s repentant “the king of Nineveh” (Jonah 3:6). And I don’t think any commentator has ever put forward Sennacherib as being a possible candidate. Esarhaddon, on the other hand – {who (under the benign influence of Ahiqar) would allow for Tobit to return home (Tobit 1:22): “Then Ahiqar interceded on my behalf, and I returned to Nineveh. Ahiqar had been chief cupbearer, keeper of the signet ring, treasury accountant, and credit accountant under Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians; and Esarhaddon appointed him as Second to himself”} – seems to have been surprisingly tolerant towards exilic Israel.

A footnote to this Jonah-Tobit connection: The non-historical, composite character, the Prophet Mohammed, whose biography tells of his various associations with “Nineveh”, all quite anachronistic of course (as Nineveh was completely lost from sight long before the supposed AD era of Mohammed), claimed that the prophet Jonah was his brother. “Muhammad asked Addas where he was from and the servant replied Nineveh. “The town of Jonah the just, son of Amittai!” Muhammad exclaimed. Addas was shocked because he knew that the pagan Arabs had no knowledge of the prophet Jonah. He then asked how Muhammad knew of this man. “We are brothers,” Muhammad replied”.” (Summarized from The Life of the Prophet by Ibn Hisham Volume 1 pp. 419–421).

And the names of Mohammed’s parents, ‘Abdullah and Amna, are virtually identical to those of Tobit’s son, Tobias, namely Tobit (= ‘Obadiah = ‘Abdiel = ‘Abdullah) and Anna (= Amna) (Tobit 1:9).

Islam also quotes from the wise sayings of Ahiqar, and even has its own Ahiqar in Luqman, “the Ahiqar of the Arabs”:

B: Esarhaddon a repenting king

And he certainly favoured the issuing of royal edicts or decrees – (“a public proclamation”, see below).

He also, early, appears to have had the solidarity-support of his people (cf. Jonah 3:5-6).

Thus Izabela Eph’al-Jaruzelska, “2016 Esarhaddon’s Claim of Legitimacy in an Hour of Crisis: Sociological Observations” (p. 126):

“The Apology mentions the oath sworn to Esarhaddon by the people of Assyria and the king’s brothers before the gods at his nomination as Sennacherib’s successor. …. This public ceremony was intended to express submission and obedience to the king in a solemn way. This oath is invoked as the basis of the loyalty manifested by the people of Assyria when they refused to join the rebellion of those who opposed Esarhaddon’s accession to the Assyrian throne. ….

“It also furnished grounds for the homage the people of Assyria paid to Esarhaddon after his victory over the rebels. …. A public proclamation of Esarhaddon as king during his struggle with the rebels also manifests the people’s consent”. [End of quote]

Cf. Jonah 3:6: “When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, wrapped himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust”.

There may be an even more relevant text, I think – which could be, in fact, the very Jonah incident – concerning when Esarhaddon went so far as to clothe the horses (or animals) in sackcloth when faced with the threat of a northern enemy. Most unfortunately, however, I cannot at present lay my hands on it – which, from memory, was quoted by D. E. Hart-Davies, Jonah: Prophet and Patriot (1925).

Cf. Jonah 3:7-8: “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”.

(Cf. Judith 4:10-14)

Perhaps a reader may be able to help me out with that missing text. It may well be tied up with the above: “A public proclamation of Esarhaddon as king during his struggle with the rebels also manifests the people’s consent”. 

Don E. Jones will write (Searching for Jonah: Clues in Hebrew and Assyrian History, 2012): “The ceremony of fasting and putting on sackcloth and ashes was not at all alien to Assyria [111] … the custom … goes back to Sumerian civilization and beyond”.

In the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, we read:

“Even the one feature which is peculiar to the mourning of Nineveh – namely, that the cattle also have to take part in the mourning – is attested by Herodotus (9:24) as an Asiatic custom.

“(Note: Herodotus relates that the Persians, when mourning for their general, Masistios, who had fallen in the battle at Platea, shaved off the hair from their horses, and adds, “Thus did the barbarians, in their way, mourn for the deceased Masistios.” Plutarch relates the same thing (Aristid. 14 fin. Compare Brissonius, de regno Pers. princip. ii. p. 206; and Periz. ad Aeliani Var. hist. vii. 8). The objection made to this by Hitzig – namely, that the mourning of the cattle in our book is not analogous to the case recorded by Herodotus, because the former was an expression of repentance – has no force whatever, for the simple reason that in all nations the outward signs of penitential mourning are the same as those of mourning for the dead.)” [End of quote]

As for fasting, we know that at least during Esarhaddon’s most terrible and enduring illness: “For days, he withdrew to his sleeping quarters and refused food, drink …” (K. Radner, The Trials of Esarhaddon: the Conspiracy of 670 BC, 2003, p.169). But that might simply indicate a lack of appetite at the time, rather than signifying a penitential fast.

“Greatest to the least”, “small and great” – Compare Jonah 3:5: “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth”, with: “The use of this general term with the addition of the idiom TUR GAL (ṣeḫer u rabi), “small and great,” simply signifies the totality of Assyrians who were involved in the oath”. 

(Izabela Eph’al-Jaruzelska, op. cit., p. 127)

C: Is Esarhaddon too late for Jonah?

It should be noted that many commentators believe that aspects of the biblical text around 2 Kings 14 are hopelessly corrupt, that v. 28, for instance, about Jeroboam II, “how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah”, “probably should be understood as referring” (for example, according to the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, p. 419), “to the fact that Jeroboam II reconquered territory in Galilee and Transjordan held by Hamath and Damascus during the days of [Jeroboam’s predecessor kings of Israel]”.

In conventional terms, from the death of Jeroboam II (c. 740 BC) to the beginning of the reign of Esarhaddon (c. 680 BC), is about 60 years, meaning that Jonah at Nineveh would have to have been around 85-90 years of age.

That is a very old age for someone to have been tossed into a raging sea and swallowed by a sea monster.

The time span, at least, is easily covered by the traditional Jewish estimations of Jonah’s very long life: “[Jonah]  is said to have attained a very advanced age: over 120 years according to Seder Olam Rabbah; 130 according to Sefer Yuchasin …”.

In terms, though, of my revision of Israelite and Assyrian history (see Appendix A.), I would estimate Jonah then to have been in his early – mid seventies.

Many commentators favour for Jonah’s king, Adad-nirari III (c. 810-783 BC), a contemporary of Jeroboam II. Adad-nirari’s supposed preoccupation with the worship of Nebo is often taken as a sign of the king of Assyria’s conversion to monotheism. It has been likened to pharaoh Akhnaton’s Aten worship (actually henotheism). Adad-nirari may simply have been copying that earlier reform. However, according to Don E. Jones (op. cit.): “… as soon as Adad-Nirari could act on his own, he appears to have given the reform no support”. Adad-Nirari had been very young when he came to the throne. “… Adad-nirari III … was too young to rule. It would be left to Queen Sammu-ramat [Semiramis] to restore stability to Assyria through her regency”:

Some commentators favour the troubled reign (plague, rebellion, even a solar eclipse) of Ashur-Dan III (c. 772 to 755 BC).

Bill Cooper (see D. below) is convinced that Tiglath -pileser III (c. 745-727 BC) was that biblical king.

Despite Cooper’s enthusiasm for his choice, Tiglath-pileser was, like Adad-nirari, like Ashur-Dan III, a typical Assyrian king with nothing during his reign to indicate a phase of repentance with a corresponding edict.

Is there any biblical prophet who can meet the chronological requirements of my revised Jonah, spanning from Jeroboam II to late king Hezekiah of Judah (when Esarhaddon came to the throne)?

There is one, and only one, whose superscription, at least, covers that approximate time span. He is the prophet Hosea, according to whose superscription (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”.

From Jeroboam (II) all the way down to Hezekiah – the same approximate chronological span as in my revised scenario for Jonah. (Some critics have difficulty accepting Hosea’s alleged lengthy prophetic range, and must needs ‘correct’ it,  by replacing Jeroboam (II) in Hosea 1:1 with some later king(s) of Israel).

Hosea is straightaway told, like Jonah, ‘Go …’ (לֵךְ) (cf. Jonah; Hosea 1:2). That is an immediate likeness.

An immediate unlikeness is that, whereas Jonah was “son of Amittai” (as above), Hosea was “son of Beeri”.

The question of suitable alter egos for the prophet Jonah (e.g. Hosea) will be properly discussed in Part Two.

For example, the prophetic career of Amos also commenced at the time of Jeroboam II (Amos 1:1), and did extend – at least according to my own revision of Amos – all the way down to king Hezekiah of Judah.

Can Amos be Jonah?

Or, was Hosea, Jonah?

D: Why “king of Nineveh”?

“Ever since the prophet Jonah first penned the little book that is known by his name, some two thousand six hundred years ago, the most extraordinary notions have circulated concerning both him and his ministry. Some early rabbis claimed that he was the son of the widow of Zarephath, the lad whom Elijah had restored to life. …. Others, yet again, imagined him to have been the servant whom Elisha sent to anoint King Jehu. …. Jonah is also pointed out as having two tombs! One lies at Nineveh, and the other at Jonah’s home-village of Gath-hepher, just a stone’s throw from the town of Nazareth. And so it has gone on down the ages, until 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. …. This is very odd, to say the least, because Jonah enjoys more support from Jewish and Assyrian history than a great many other characters of the ancient world whose existence few historians would doubt. 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 also 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]

“A pious fable”, “a moral tale”. I have also heard a priest employ the description, “a didactic fiction”, for the Book of Jonah. These very sorts of terms are used, once again, to describe the Book of Judith, e.g., “a literary fiction”, about whose historical defence I can largely say with Bill Cooper: “Very few indeed, and I personally know of none, will attempt to speak of [Judith] in a purely historical sense”.

Commentators who do take seriously the Jonah narrative – yes there are indeed some – such as Paul Ferguson in his article, “Who Was The ‘King Of Nineveh’ In Jonah 3:6?” (Tyndale Bulletin, Issue 47.2, 1996) – will attempt to show that the title, the “king of Nineveh”, can be considered genuine historical usage. Ferguson, whose article is well worth reading as an overall commentary on the Book of Jonah, offers the following “Summary” (p. 301):

“This article seeks to show the title ‘king of Nineveh’ is not an anachronism. Comparison with Aramaic use of the north-west Semitic mlk, important in a north Israelite context, may suggest that a city or provincial official might have been under consideration. Cuneiform evidence seems to suggest that no distinction is made between city and province in designating a governor. Common custom was to give provincial capitals the same name as the province. This could explain the fact that the book of Jonah says the ‘city’ was a three day walk (3:3).

“I. The ‘King Of Nineveh’

The Hebrew phrase melek nînĕveh (‘king of Nineveh’) is found in the Old Testament only in Jonah 3:6. It never occurs in any contemporary documents. Most literature proceeds on the assumption that the author used this expression to refer to the king of the Assyrian empire. It has often been suggested that this wording indicates the author wrote centuries after the fall of this nation. ….

“1. ‘King Of Nineveh’ Vs ‘King Of Assyria’

If this be the case, then one must consider why, if the author of the book lived centuries after the ‘historical Jonah’ of 2 Kings 14:25, he would ignore the usual designation ‘king of Assyria’. This phrase is found thirty times in 2 Kings 18-20. …”. [End of quote]

Arguments such as this one by Paul Ferguson had led me, in the past, to wondering whether the Jonah incident may have occurred when Assyria did not have an actual king – say, in between the assassination of Sennacherib and the triumph of Esarhaddon – when, as I had considered, the city of Nineveh may have been represented by a stand-in high official, such as Ahiqar, who, too, presumably, would have been favourable to the message of Jonah. The king soon afterwards – but seemingly only after the people themselves had begun to repent (Jonah 3:5-6) – received the message. But there was a time delay. Perhaps, I had pondered, the future king may still have been on his way:

“Sennacherib was murdered (681) [sic] by one or more of Esarhaddon’s brothers, apparently in an attempt to seize the throne. Marching quickly from the west, Esarhaddon encountered the rebel forces in Hanigalbat (western Assyria), where most of them deserted to him, and their leaders fled. Esarhaddon continued on to Nineveh, where he claimed the throne without opposition” [sic].

(Compare instead, below, “persistent resistance by the opposition”).

It is interesting that Jesus Christ himself, who will refer specifically to “the Queen of the South”, will fail to make any mention whatsoever of the king of Nineveh, but only his subjects (Matthew 12:41-42): “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. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it …”.

It can be (and is) debated as to the degree of conversion of the Ninevites – that it should not be understood that they had converted to a strict Yahwistic monotheism. Theirs was a general sort of repentance from their wicked ways of living. “The Ninevites believed God” [Elohim] (Jonah 3:5). For, when we turn to consider the parallel case of the Queen of Sheba (of the South), we find that she will refer to the God of Solomon as your, not as my, or as our, God (I Kings 10:9): ‘Blessed be the Lord thy God …’. Isaiah 7 is most instructive in this regard as the prophet begins his discussion with king Ahaz with the words (v. 11): ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign …’, but then soon switches in disgust to this (v. 13): ‘Will you try the patience of my God also?’

Consider, too, in light of all of this, the startling case of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, and his dramatic return to his Catholic roots just before he was hanged: “‘It was a hard struggle’, Höss had written toward the end. ‘But I have again found my faith in my God’.” (My emphasis):

I have since dropped any former notion of an official running Nineveh at the time of Jonah’s preaching there. Esarhaddon, according to the article by Izabela Eph’al-Jaruzelska from which I have been quoting, was confronted by revolutions and hostility all over the place, forcing him even at one stage to flee for his life (op. cit. p. 133):

“According to the Babylonian Chronicle: “On the twentieth day of the month Tebet Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was killed by his son in a rebellion (ina sīḫi). For [twenty-four] years Sennacherib ruled Assyria. The rebellion continued in Assyria from the twentieth day of the month Tebet until the second day of the month Adar. On the twenty-eighth/ eighteenth day of the month Adar Esarhaddon, his son, ascended the throne in Assyria” (Chron. “The early royal correspondence reflects this long struggle, which lasted about two months. According to Bel-ushezib (see above, section III), Esarhaddon “evaded execution [by fleeing] to the Tower (URU.a-ši-t [i])” (SAA X 109). Likewise, Mardi, probably a Babylonian, mentions in his letter to the king how he escaped to the tower (URU.i-si-ti) together with Esarhaddon (SAA XVI 29). These two early letters corroborate Esarhaddon’s reference to his asylum (RINAP 4 1 i 39). Bel-ushezib’s emphasis that plotting the murder of Esarhaddon and his officials continued “every day” (ūmussu SAA X 109 12′) implies persistent resistance by the opposition”. [End of quote]

I therefore suggest that the author of the Book of Jonah referred to the Assyrian ruler as “the king of Nineveh” because that is all that he actually was at that particular, most critical moment in time.

Esarhaddon was under extreme duress, in part because of the great debacle that had occurred in Israel, near Shechem (= “Bethulia”, the Judith incident), which late sources wrongly refer to as a defeat by Egypt. Thus Izabela Eph’al-Jaruzelska (op. cit., p. 123): “For example, the Babylonian Chronicle yields information on Esarhaddon’s great failure in Egypt, which is known only from here (Chron. 1 iv 16)”.
And again: “The Babylonian Chronicle 
mentions the expedition of B.C. 675 [sic]but the recently translated tablet shows why it was without results. Having ordered the investment of Jerusalem and Tyre, Esarhaddon marched against Pelusium … Egypt’s chief fortress on her north-east frontier. He was overtaken by a storm. …. The number of men who perished as given in the Bible must be an exaggeration, but as the storm wrecked Esarhaddon’s plans for the year his army must have suffered severely”. [End of quote]

(E. A Wallis Budge, The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archaeology, 1893, p. 75)

This late testimony as recalled by E. A. Wallis Budge needs a lot of tidying up.

Although the ultimate goal of king Sennacherib’s last great western campaign was Egypt (cf. Judith 1:10-12), the Assyrian king would by no means succeed in getting that far. For, as Isaiah had rightly foretold (37:33): ‘He will not enter this city [Jerusalem] or even shoot an arrow here. He will not fight against it with shields or build a ramp to attack the city walls’ – all of which Sennacherib had succeeded in doing on the earlier occasion. In that last major western campaign, this time led by Sennacherib’s eldest son, Ashur-nadin-shumi (the Nadin, or Nadab, of Tobit 14:10), and not Esarhaddon, his youngest, the Assyrian behemoth will not reach even as far as Jerusalem, having been stopped in its tracks in the north, near Shechem, by the ruse of Judith the Simeonite.

As with Herodotus, “Pelusium” in Egypt (perhaps confused with the like sounding “Jerusalem”) has irrelevantly been brought into the Babylonian Chronicle account. There was no “storm” involved. The Judith ruse would precipitate a rout, with many soldiers of the massive Assyrian army perishing. As Budge correctly observed, the Assyrian “army must have suffered severely”.

But the Bible, when properly read, does not (as Budge thought) ‘exaggerate’ this rout.

It took Esarhaddon, who succeeded Ashur-nadin-shumi (“Holofernes”), some time to get his army back to its full strength, ‘wrecking his immediate plans’. Historians wrongly attribute the demise of Ashur-nadin-shumi to, instead, an un-mentioned (though added in square brackets) “Sargon”.

I quote again from Izabela Eph’al-Jaruzelska (op. cit., p. 131):

“Another example is the tablet K.4730 (+) Sm.1876, called The Sin of Sargon, allegedly attributed in the text itself to Sennacherib, which resembles the Naram-Sin epic in style and content. This text explains that Sargon’s death on the battlefield was a result of his sin: “Was it because [he honored] the gods o[f Assyria too much, placing them] above the gods of Babylonia [ ……, and was it because] he did not [keep] the treaty of the king of gods [that Sargon my father] was killed [in the enemy country and] was not b[uried] in his house?” In light, then, of this attitude about divine support, Esarhaddon must have been highly embarrassed by his military failure in Egypt, particularly as it followed a four-year period (from the end of 677 until around 673) [sic] devoid of military achievement”. [End of quote]

Part Two:

Focus on Jonah

A: Retracing my earlier steps: Elijah to Amos

My search for the prophet Jonah has led me ‘all around the mulberry bush’. Or perhaps, to be more contextual, all around the ‘kikayon’ (קִיקָיוֹן) bush (Jonah 4:6).

With 2 Kings 14:25 in mind, I did what other commentators tend to do, and that was to search for the Jonah incident during the time of an Assyrian ruler contemporaneous with king Jeroboam II of Israel.


But I also went even further back than that, to a possible connection of Jonah with Elijah, based on the following sorts of smiliarities between this pair of prophets, taken from:

“If we add to this list the fact that the phrase in Jonah 1:1 (“now the word of Yahweh came”) also introduces Elijah in 1 Kings 17:2, 8; 21:17, 28 then we are subtly led to this conclusion; one of the goals of the Jonah narrative is to compare the prophet from Gath-hepher with Elijah.

“More specific – and indeed more satirical – connections between Jonah and Elijah begin in Jonah 1:2 where Yahweh calls Jonah to, “arise, go” to Nineveh. This call to go to a foreign land is paralleled only in 1 Kings 17:9 where Yahweh commands Elijah also to “arise, go to Zarephath which is in Sidon.”

“Usually Yahweh’s word is the perfect performative, where to speak is to create. The God who says “Let there be light” and “it was so” (Gen. 1:3), commands Elijah to “Arise go to Zarapheth” (1 Kings 17:9) and Elijah “arises and goes,” (1 Kings 17:10). Following this normal biblical pattern we expect the Jonah narrative to continue, “So Jonah got up and went … to Nineveh.” But, instead, Jonah says nothing to Yahweh and rises to flee. It’s as though outside his door Jonah hangs a large sign with the words, “Do Not Disturb!” Jonah is certainly no Elijah!”

Perhaps I should have taken that last hint.

The prophet Elijah disappears from the scene, at least qua Elijah, during the reign of Jehoram of Judah (2 Chronicles 21:12). That was well before the time of Jeroboam II. But there is always, for me, that possibility of an extension of a biblical floruit through an alter ego.


The extraordinary prophet Elisha, ‘miracles on tap’, also loomed for me as a possible Jonah. He, like Jonah in the case of Jeroboam II, had advised a king of Israel, Jehoash, about the extent of his military conquests (2 Kings 13:14-19). Even though Elisha died shortly after this (v. 20), I shall be having more to say in Appendix A about the Jehoash-Jeroboam II connection, about a shortening of Israelite history, and about the identification of the “saviour” of 2 Kings 13:5.

Obviously, though, Elisha could not qualify for my prophet Jonah at the time of Esarhaddon.

My termini a quo and ad quem for Jonah have so far been determined as, respectively, Jeroboam II and early Esarhaddon. One would think, however, that there must have been more to the ministering of the prophet Jonah than just these two, chronologically far apart, occasions.

And we are going to find out that there was much more activity than that involving Jonah.


A far more promising candidate for Jonah, however, began to loom in the person of Amos, whose prophetic witness commenced “when … Jeroboam … was king of Israel” (Amos 1:1). Amos, too, as with Elijah, can be likened to Jonah. Thus I have previously quoted from the book by Hadi Ghantous, Elisha-Hazael Paradigm and the Kingdom of Israel ( p. 180):

… Jonah and Amos

The connections between Jonah and Amos are not as clear as those with Elijah although it is more clear that the fate of nations surrounding Israel is a major concern in both Amos and Jonah (Andersen and Freedman 1989: 236). The superscription in the book of Amos (Amos 1:1) sets Amos in the days of Jeroboam II and makes Amos a contemoprary of Jonah. In 2 Kings 14:23-29Jeroboam II recovers territories from the Entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, and restore [sic] Damascus and Hamath to Judea in Israel. SimilarlyAmos 1:3-5 is an oracle against Damascus; Amos 5:27 threatens Israel with an exile beyond Damascus. In Amos 6:2, Zion and Samaria are called to compare themselves with Hamath. Amos 6:14 refers to oppression from the Entrance of Hamath to the Valley of the Arabah (Pyper 2007: 351-3). In other words, both prophets deal with Damascus, Hamath, and the region from the Entrance of Hamath to the Sea/Valley of the Arabah. Amos refutes the prophetic title (Amos 7:14); Jonah is never said to be a prophet in Jonah. Amaziah warns Jonah to flee … for his life (Amos 7:12), while Jonah almost loses his life while fleeing (Jon, 1).

“Other topical similarities can be found; singing (Amos 8:3// Jon. 2), sackcloths (Amos 8:10// Jon 3:6), wandering from sea to sea (Amos 8:12// Jon. 1:3-2:10), thirst (Amos 8:13// Jon. 4:8), and sheol (Amos 9:2// Jon. 2) (Edelman 2009: 162). These similarities pose the question whether they go beyond a mere imitation of details and indicate a fundamental similarity and connection between Amos and Jonah. …”. [End of quote]

Jonah is well-known as ‘the reluctant prophet’, and this, too, may have been a trait of Amos (7:14): ‘I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet …’.

There is also a very Jonah-like note in Amos 9:3: “Even if they tried to hide from me at the bottom of the sea, from there I would command the Sea Serpent [הַנָּחָשׁ] to bite them”. Don E. Jones (op. cit.) has made this very same connection: “There is something ominous in Amos’s prophecy, the first part of which [9:3] certainly applies to Jonah …”.

While Amos qualifies chronologically as being a contemporary of Jonah’s at the time of Jeroboam II, he will fall just short of early Esarhaddon (the ‘moment’ of Jonah’s intervention at Nineveh). See next.


Amos is, according to my revision of Israel and Judah, the same as the prophet Micah, known as “Amos redivivus”. Micah (Amos) is also the Micaiah who prophesied the death of king Ahab of Israel (I Kings 22:8-28). This controversial connection (Micaiah = Micah), which has the support of some Jewish tradition (see e.g., Ginzberg, Legends, 6:355, n. 20), pitches Micah back well before king Jeroboam II. Amos is also generally considered to have been the father of Isaiah, “son of Amoz” (Isaiah 1:1). I have also identified Isaiah son of Amos with the “Uzziah son of Micah, of the tribe of Simeon” of Judith 6:15. Uzziah must have followed his father Amos northwards to Bethel (the “Bethulia” of the Book of Judith), which is the strategically vital city of Shechem, where Uzziah later became the chief magistrate. He is also described as “the prince of Juda[h]” and “the prince of the people of Israel” (Judith 8:34; 13:23. Douay), perhaps due to his father Amos’s apparently royal connection with king Amaziah of Judah. “The rabbis of the Talmud declared, based upon a rabbinic tradition, that Amoz was the brother of Amaziah (אמציה), the king of Judah at that time (and, as a result, that Isaiah himself was a member of the royal family)” (article, “Amoz”):

The prophet Micah must not have lived to have witnessed the Judith incident.

He is not mentioned there (Book of Judith) as still being alive.

The Book of Jeremiah tells that Micah was yet prophesying during the reign of king Hezekiah of Judah (26:18): “Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus said the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest’.”

This prediction pertained to Sennacherib king of Assyria’s earlier successful invasion of Judah and Jerusalem. Micah, though, apparently was no longer alive when Ashur-nadin-shumi (“Holofernes”), son of Sennacherib, came to the region of “Bethulia” (Bethel-Shechem) with an army of 185,000 men. Thus the prophet Micah cannot qualify for my Jonah early in the reign of Esarhaddon, who succeeded Sennacherib. Micah just misses out – he must have been extremely old when he died.

B: Hosea, Isaiah

The prophet Hosea is, as determined in Part One, the only one of the prophets who – at least according to his superscription (Hosea 1:1) – spanned my requisite era from Jeroboam II unto Hezekiah. His prophetic floruit is closely matched by Isaiah’s, but without (in the case of Isaiah) the inclusion of Jeroboam II (Isaiah 1:1): “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah”.

The names of Hosea and Isaiah, as well, are very close in meaning, both pertaining to “Salvation”. Abarim Publications lists Isaiah as a name “related” to Hosea (article, “Isaiah meaning”):

Previously I have written regarding the striking similarities between Isaiah and Hosea:

“The names Isaiah and Hosea are indeed of very similar meaning, being basically derived from the same Hebrew root for ‘salvation’, יֵ֫שַׁע

– “Isaiah” (Hebrew יְשַׁעְיָהוּ , Yeshâ‘yâhû) signifies: “Yahweh (the Lord) is salvation”.

– “Hosea” (Hebrew הוֹשֵׁעַ) means practically the same: “Yahweh (the Lord) is saviour”.


“Hosea’s/Isaiah’s Family

Though no doubt young, the prophet was given the strange command by God to marry an ‘unfaithful’ woman: “‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord’. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim …” (Hosea 1:2-3). Biblical scholars have agonised over the type of woman this Gomer might have been: adulteress? harlot? temple-prostitute? But essentially the clue is to be found in the statement above that she was a citizen of the ‘land of great harlotry’: namely, the northern kingdom of Israel. ….

“A further likeness between Isaiah and Hosea was the fact that ‘their names’ and those of ‘their’ children were meant to be, in their meanings, prophetic signs. ….

– The prophet Isaiah tells us: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and portents …” (Isaiah 8:18).

– Similarly, the names of the children of the prophet Hosea were meant to be prophetic (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

“Charles Boutflower (The Book of Isaiah Chapters I-XXXIX, 1930), who has written perceptively on Isaiah’s children, has rightly noted the prophetic significance of their names and those of Hosea’s children, without however connecting Isaiah and Hosea as one: …. “Isaiah like Hosea had three known children, all of whose names were prophetic”. [End of quote]

“It is most unlikely, one would have to think, to have two great prophets contemporaneously operating over such a substantial period of time, and each having three children whose names were prophetic. The fact is, I believe, that it was just the one prophet, who may possibly have had six children in all”.

[End of quotes]

For these, and for other reasons, I have identified Hosea and Isaiah as “just the one prophet”, ministering to both Israel and Judah. That to go with my already mentioned identification of the prophet Isaiah with the princely “Uzziah” of the Book of Judith.

Hosea-Isaiah is the only possible prophetic candidate, in my revised context, for Jonah son of Amittai.

Jonah’s otherwise unknown father, “Amittai”, must then be Amaziah, that is, Amos.

Jonah’s (or probably his father’s) home of “Gath-hepher”, which cannot possibly have been the place of that name in Galilee – since, as the learned Pharisees well knew (John 7:52): ‘…. Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee’ – must then be the southern Gath of Moresheth, the home of Micah-(Amos) (1:1): “The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth …”.

“Micah is called the Morasthite, probably because he was a native of Moresheth-gath, a small town of Judea, which, according to Eusebius and Jerome, lay in a southwesterly direction from Jerusalem, not far from Eleutheropolis on the plain, near the border of the Philistine territory” (“The Twelve Minor Prophets”):

Although “the vision … concerning Israel” as seen by Amos will occur at “Tekoa” (Amos 1:1), I have previously written on this:

“There are reasons, though, why I think that Tekoa would not have been the actual home of the prophet Amos. When confronted by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, Amos retorted (7:14-15): ‘I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.  But the Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’.’

“Now, commentators such as Eugene Merrill have been quick to point out “that sycamores were abundant in the Shephelah but not around Tekoa” (The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2011, p. 431, n. 4).

“So, my first point would be that Amos’s cultivating of sycamore-fig trees would be most appropriate in Moresheth, but highly unlikely in Tekoa. Moresheth, we read, “is the opposite exposure from the wilderness of Tekoa, some seventeen miles away across the watershed. As the home of Amos is bare and desert, so the home of Micah is fair and fertile” (“Micah 1”, Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

“My second point is that Amos, apparently a herdsman (בַנֹּקְדִים) – some think a wealthy “sheepmaster”, whilst others say that he must have been poor – was, as we read above, “following the flock” מֵאַחֲרֵי הַצֹּאן)), meaning that, seasonally, he was a man on the move. Stationed at his home town of Moresheth in the Shephelah, I suggest, where he trended the sycamore trees, the prophet also had to move with the flock from time to time.

And this is apparently where Tekoa (about 6 miles SE of Bethlehem) comes into the picture”.

[End of quotes]

The reason why such striking similarities can be found between Amos and Jonah (as we read above in A.) is because this was a father-son prophetic combination ranging from Israel to Judah. It is the very same reason why we find some almost identical statements and actions emanating from Micah (= Amos) and from Isaiah (= Jonah). Read, for example,  Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:2-4.

“But who quoted whom?”, it is asked:

Well, Micah was the father, and Isaiah was the son.

Compare also Micah 1:8: “Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl”, and Isaiah 20:3: “Then the LORD said, ‘Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush …’.”

No doubt Jonah’s prediction regarding Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25): “[Jeroboam] was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher”, was uttered with all due awareness of his father Amos’s own prediction (cf. 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’.”

More tellingly, from my point of view, commentators have suggested that some parts of the Book of Isaiah (my Jonah) may actually have originated with Jonah. Don E. Jones, again, writes of it (op. cit.):

“Spurred by the reference in II Kings 14:25, scholars over the years have searched diligently in the Scriptures for the “Lost Book of Jonah”. Hitzig and Renan have attributed the prophecies of Isaiah 15-23 to Jonah as being inconsistent with other parts of the book. Allusions to Moab, Egypt and Ethiopia, would certainly give Jonah a wider scope of action. He would know conditions in Tyre, Sidon and Damacus from the Assyrian venture. Sargon’s reign in Assyria (Isaiah 20:1) began in 721. It was by no means impossible that Jonah could still have been alive at the time of Isaiah”. [End of quote]

The view of Hitzig and Renan enables us to fill out the prophet Jonah all the more. His prophetic mission beyond Israel was not just limited to Nineveh. Isaiah, like Jonah (1:3), appears to have been very familiar, too, with the “ships of Tarshish” (e.g., 2:16; 23:1; 60:9).

As to why (we read this earlier) the name of Hosea’s father would be given as “Beeri”, whereas Isaiah’s father is given as “Amoz”, the Book of Judith may provide something of a clue. Judith was, like Uzziah (my Isaiah-Hosea) of Bethulia, a Simeonite (cf. Judith 8:1; 9:2). The Bethulians were a closely knit bunch, with Judith’s husband, Manasseh, belonging “to the same tribe and clan” as she (8:2). Uzziah, also a Simeonite, may well have been a relative of both Judith and her husband. Judith seems to have been immensely proud of her ‘father’, Merari, she singing, after her great victory over “Holofernes”:

‘For their mighty one did not fall by the hands of the young men,

    nor did the sons of the Titans strike him down,

    nor did tall giants set upon him;

but Judith daughter of Merari

    with the beauty of her countenance undid him’.

Hosea’s father, “Beeri”, could possibly be that Merari, given what C. Conder will refer to (I noted this in my postgraduate university thesis on King Hezekiah of Judah) as the “occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature” of the substitution of M for B. Conder was hoping with this to establish the fairly unimportant site of “Mithilia” (or Mesilieh) as Judith’s “Bethulia”.

Somewhat coincidentally, we read in Genesis (26:34): “When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite …”. Obviously no relation, though.

Consulting Abarim Publications, I find that the name “Merari” does not have Amoz (Amos) listed as a “related” name:

Perhaps Merari could have been an ancestor, rather than a direct father, of both Hosea and Judith.

One name “related” to Merari in Abarim is “Imrah”, which is very much like the biblically rare name, Imlah (Imla), father of Micaiah (I Kings 22:8) – hence grandfather of Hosea-Isaiah (and Judith?).

A special mention is made in I Chronicles 4:33 to the Simeonites keeping “a genealogical record”.

Part Three:

Deeper Focus on Jonah

A: A Revised life of Jonah

Here (A-B) I intend to trace in outline the life of the prophet Jonah, largely through his better known alter ego (that is, according to my revision), Isaiah (= Hosea). The historicity of the prophet Isaiah (and hence of Jonah) may perhaps be attested by a clay seal found in Jerusalem (Amanda Borschel-Dan’s, “In find of biblical proportions, seal of Prophet Isaiah said found in Jerusalem”):

“The oval-shaped bulla, however, is not intact. On its legible portion, there is an inscription with First Temple Hebrew letters that seem to spell out the name l’Yesha’yah[u] (Belonging to Isaiah). On a line below, there is the partial word nvy, which presumably spells out “prophet.” Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at the end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” [Dr. Eilat] Mazar said”. [End of quote]

Isaiah likely began his prophetic career as Hosea (1:1) “When the Lord began to speak though Hosea …”. As we know, this was during the reign of king Jeroboam II of Israel. Hosea, I have suggested, had followed his (= Isaiah’s) father Amos to Bethel (= Judith’s “Bethulia”), which is Shechem, in the north. There, the prophet must have made the prediction about king Jeroboam of 2 Kings 14:25 that is attributed to Jonah.

Isaiah-Hosea fluctuated between Israel and Judah. He famously recorded (Isaiah 6:1): “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the Temple”.

And, later, in Judah, he will offer a sign to a recalcitrant King Ahaz (Isaiah 7:11).

Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, these are all historically verifiable kings. Thus, for instance, we read in Christoper Eames’ “Archaeology unearths historical fact – and proves the biblical record at the same time”:

“You’ve probably heard the names of many of Israel’s and Judah’s biblical kings. Do you know just how many have had their existence proved—independently—through archaeology?

These are the names thus far that have turned up in early, original contexts: kings DavidOmriAhabJehuJoashJeroboam iiUzziahMenahemAhazPekahHosheaHezekiah, Manasseh and Jehoiachin. The existence of these kings has been verified through scientific discovery even by the most stringent of analytical standards.

“Several years ago, the personal seal impression of King Hezekiah was found during excavations on Jerusalem’s Ophel mound. The tiny stamped clay piece reads: “Belonging to Hezekiah, [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah.” The impressive find is one of many that refer to King Hezekiah. His name also turns up in inscriptions belonging to his arch-nemesis, Assyria’s King Sennacherib”. [End of quotes]

According to Sirach 48:22-25:

“For Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord,
    and he kept firmly to the ways of his ancestor David,
as he was commanded by the prophet Isaiah,
    who was great and trustworthy in his visions.

In Isaiah’s days the sun went backward,

    and he prolonged the life of the king.

By his dauntless spirit he saw the future,

    and comforted the mourners in Zion.

He revealed what was to occur to the end of time,

    and the hidden things before they happened”.

After Isaiah’s strong warnings to King Hezekiah and his subjects about the futility of turning to Egypt for help against Assyria – just he had warned Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, not to depend upon Assyria – Sennacherib will come up against Jerusalem and will successfully lay siege to the city.

Isaiah will, at that approximate time, cure King Hezekiah of a life-threatening illness, and will afterwards promise a better outcome against the Assyrians in the face of Sennacherib’s subsequent blasphemy (2 Chronicles 32:9-19).

Isaiah (as Uzziah) is back in the north, in “Bethulia”, when the ill-fated Assyrian army of 185,000 arrives at his doorstep. The great man will, in fact, be soundly reprimanded by the beautiful, and younger, Judith, for agreeing upon oath to deliver the city to the Assyrians within five days if rain does not come (Judith 8:9-27). It is Moses all over again, in a watery situation, but, in the case of Moses, the reprimand had come directly from Yahweh (Numbers 20:9-13).

As Uzziah, the prophet will receive into his household the abandoned Achior (Tobit’s nephew, Ahiqar), left by “Holofernes” to die amongst the Israelites whom he had verbally defended (Judith cf. 5:5-21; 6:10-19). This is the Nadin-Ahiqar situation of betrayal as recalled by Tobit (14:10-11):

Tobias, my son, leave Nineveh now. Do not stay here. As soon as you bury your mother beside me, leave; do not stay another night within the city limits. It is a wicked city and full of immorality; the people here have no sense of shame. Remember what Nadin [Nadab] did to Ahikar his own uncle who had brought him up. He tried to kill Ahikar and forced him to go into hiding in a tomb. Ahikar came back into the light of day, but God sent Nadin down into everlasting darkness for what he had done. Ahikar escaped the deadly trap which Nadin had set for him, because Ahikar had given generously to the poor. But Nadin fell into that fatal trap and it destroyed him. So now, my children, you see what happens to those who show their concern for others, and how death awaits those who treat others unjustly”.

Ahiqar “came back into the light of day” thanks in large part to the courageous intervention of Judith (14:6-10):

“So they called Achior [Ahiqar] from Uzziah’s house. But when he came and saw the head of Holofernes in the hands of one of the men, Achior fainted and fell to the floor. When they had helped him up, Achior bowed at Judith’s feet in respect. ‘May every family in the land of Judah praise you’, he said, ‘and may every nation tremble with terror when they hear your name. Please tell me how you managed to do this’.

“While all the people were gathered around, Judith told him everything that she had done from the day she left the town until that moment. When she had finished her story, the people cheered so loudly that the whole town echoed with sounds of joy. When Achior heard all that the God of Israel had done, he became a firm believer. He was circumcised and made a member of the Israelite community, as his descendants are to the present day”.

Achior (Ahiqar), (var. Arioch) wrongly called “the leader of all the Ammonites” (Judith 5:5) – when he was actually governor of the Elamites (cf. Tobit 2:10; Judith 1:6) – was ethnically an Israelite, and the nephew of the holy Tobit. Hence he already had the background for a proper conversion to Yahwism. This needs to be contrasted with the Ninevites and their king, who – though they, too, may have imbibed some good influences from Tobit and his family long dwelling in Nineveh – had only a pagan background.

Not to be outdone in praise of Judith, but before Ahiqar had thus been summoned (Judith 14:18-20):

“Then Uzziah said,

Judith, my dear, the Most High God has blessed you more than any other woman on earth. How worthy of praise is the Lord God who created heaven and earth! He guided you as you cut off the head of our deadliest enemy. Your trust in God will never be forgotten by those who tell of God’s power. May God give you everlasting honor for what you have done. May he reward you with blessings, because you remained faithful to him and did not hesitate to risk your own life to relieve the oppression of your people’.

All the people replied,

‘Amen, amen!'”

One can perhaps well imagine why our prophet – after his having been an eyewitness to the greatest military victory in the history of Israel (at least to that point in time), and over the hated Assyrians, no less – chafed at the bit when, not too long afterwards, he was thus ordered by Yahweh (Jonah 1:2): ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me’. The prophet , who would no doubt have shared the sentiments of his fellow-Simeonite, Judith (16:17):

‘Woe to the nations that rise up against my people!

    The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment;

he will send fire and worms into their flesh;

    they shall weep in pain forever’ [,]

knew what this, Yahweh’s new command, probably meant (Jonah 4:2-3) ‘That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live’. 

Compare Isaiah 30:18: “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

B: The name “Jonah”

The Hebrew name, “Jonah” (יונה) is generally regarded as meaning “dove”.

Abarim Publications adds “vexer” (article, “Jonah meaning”):

The word “Jonah” is used in Hosea 7:1, for instance: “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria”. And again in Isaiah, where the prophet recalls the seriously ill king Hezekiah’s use of the word (38:14): ‘I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a mourning dove’.

Given that the prophet’s father had at least two names, with variations thereof, Amos (Amittai) and Micah (Micaiah), it would be expected that the son, who so faithfully (though not slavishly) imitated Amos, would likewise have had more than the one name, Isaiah (Hosea, Uzziah) and Jonah. Even more so, considering that the names of Isaiah-Hosea and his children (which may have undergone changes: cf. Hosea 1:4-11) were meant to have a symbolical significance for Israel. The prophet Isaiah, in his flight from the Lord, might later have acquired the name mindful of “a silly dove” (Hosea 7:11), that is, Jonah.

The father of the Apostle Peter is variously given as “Jona[h]” (Matthew 16:17) and as “John” (John 1:42).

There is a Babylonian tale – but written centuries after Jonah, it needs to be appreciated – that features a Jonah-like sage called Oannes, a name considered to be very close to the name, Jonah.

Bill Cooper tells of it (op. cit., pp. 110–111):

“In his book, Chaldean Genesis (1876), George Smith, the Assyriologist, cites the writings of Berosus (c.330–260 BC), a Babylonian priest who recorded many of the myths and legends of the early Mesopotamians. Among many other things, Berosus records the fascinating story of a certain ‘Oannes’.

He writes:

“At Babylonia there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldea, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field.” …. In the first year there appeared, from that part ofthe Erythraean Sea … which borders upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with reason, by name Oannes, whose whole body was that of a fish; and under the fish’s head he had another head, with feet also below similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish’s tail.

His voice too, and language were articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved to this day.”

“This being (Oannes) was accustomed to pass the day among men, but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in everything which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions.”  ….

“It is clear from Berosus’ own narrative that the Assyrians and Babylonians held Oannes in the highest esteem. ….

“While we cannot know for certain the Assyrian equivalent of Jonah’s name, we can at least be sure that it was not dissimilar to that of Oannes. The resemblance between the two names, even before such transposition, is remarkable. …. Unknown to the Assyrians, however, was the fact that a greater than Oannes was here. Here was no mythical figure dreamed up by an undiscerning pagan philosophy. Here was a living prophet of the Ever-Living God to Whom the Assyrians, in common with all mankind, owed their very creation and continuing existence!

“Judging by the attention that marooned sea monsters attract in our own day, it is easy to envisage the tremendous impact of such a monster disgorging a living man who then proceeded to a certain city to warn it of coming destruction. To those who had been nurtured on the story of Oannes, such an event would seem that Oannes himself had returned according to all that was laid down in the ancient legends. How else could God have achieved the effect that was so necessary to the accomplishment of His Will? The Assyrians would hardly have heeded a prophet (and a despised Israelite, at that), who rode into Nineveh on donkey, or as a passenger in a desert caravan. There was only one way, it seems, in which to startle and surprise the Assyrians into a positive response to Jonah’s message, and that was by God Himself staging what has proved be one of the most spectacular events of history.

“On its own even this, perhaps, may not have been sufficient to drive the Assyrians into a response to the message that Jonah brought them. They would also need to be in particularly distressed state of mind, driven into a corner by political, economic and military events over which they had no control, and which were pushing them inexorably further towards complete devastation. We have seen, in fact, that just such conditions prevailed at this very point in history, and thus the Assyrians may even have been importuning their gods for a teacher or deliverer of the stature and wisdom of their beloved Oannes …. Most assuredly, they were both psychologically and spiritually prepared for just such an event and message as Jonah was about to deliver”. [End of quotes]

Some of what Bill Cooper has written here makes perfect sense to me. But parts of it don’t. As already noted, the story of Oannes is a late legend, post-dating Jonah. It is typical for historians to presuppose that any pagan account that resembles a biblical one always has the chronological precedence. I have spent many articles arguing that the opposite is the case. So, when a presumed c. 300 BC writer records a tale that is, in some instances, uncannily like the much older Jonah story – as Bill Cooper has well noted – my immediate reaction to this is that the Oannes legend must have arisen from the Jonah story.

Certainly the latter resonates with Berosus’s description of the Mesopotamians who “lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field”. And, again, the two names, “Jonah” and “Oannes”, are indeed very similar. It is common to identify Oannes with the the Mesopotamian water god, of knowledge, Ea (Sumerian Enki). And the account of Berosus seems to have commingled Mesopotamian theology with a garbled recollection of the biblical Jonah incident.

Some of the geography of Berosus, however, “Euxine Sea” (Black Sea), “Erythrean Sea” (Indian Ocean?), is completely irrelevant to Jonah and is, moreover, internally contradictory.

Bill Cooper is right on the mark in describing what must have been the mental state of the Ninevites at the time of Jonah’s arrival – except that he has located all this to the era of king Tiglath-pileser III. Things were far, far worse, I have suggested, at my preferred moment in time of early Esarhaddon.

Moreover, God was never going to use a pagan ‘theology’ to reinforce his message.

The “representation of [Oannes] … preserved to this day” (Berosus) is the well-known fish man (kulullu) of which Bill Cooper has provided a photo on his p. 111 (fig. 7).

It is the prophet Jonah himself, depicted on a wall of the palace of Nimrud (Calah).

But it will be chronologically too early for Jonah in the context of the conventional system.

More of that in Appendix A.

Later, it is said, the figure came to be associated with the god, Dagan: (“Kulullu (“Fish Man”) “Dagon”):

This figure was known to the Assyrians as Kullulû, meaning “fish man.” The kullulu was a guardian figure, a dweller of the sacred Absu, the watery underground domain of the God Ea. Figures of the fish-man were often concealed in the construction of buildings to serve as protective charms.

From about the fourth century, the figure was associated (probably erroneously) with the god Dagan (meaning “grain”), most commonly known by his Hebrew name, Dagon. Dagan was a vegetation god, the father of the god Baal, the mythological creator of the plow. Dagon is mentioned several times in the Hebrew scriptures, where he is associated with the Philistines. It is to Dagon’s temple that the Ark of the Covenant is taken after being captured from the Hebrews; the next morning, they discover the statue of the god lying on the floor, sans head and hands”. [End of quote]

Another note on ‘AD’ pseudo-history. Earlier on (Part One, A.), I argued for the Nineveh-connected, and hence quite anachronistic Prophet Mohammed to have been a non-historical composite, partly based on Tobias, the son of Tobit of Nineveh. Although Mohammed would be regarded by most as being a true historical character, whilst Jonah would not, I would insist upon the very opposite.

The same comment would apply to that muddle-headed navigator, Columbus (meaning “Dove”), whose maritime epic is, for me, the story of Jonah ‘writ large’. Christopher Columbus sets sail (rather more enthusiastically than had Jonah) to convert the pagans.

Many, many centuries before Columbus, 1492 and all that, the Late Bronze Mediterraneans (Cretan Philistines and the Phoenicians) were mining tons of nearly pure copper, for their precious bronze, from far-away Lake Superior in Northern America (Gavin Menzies, The Lost Empire of Atlantis, 2001)

“Columbus” (whoever he/it may have been) did not discover America!

Not surprisingly, though, “Columbus” is supposed to have encountered “a great fish” – a description that accurately translates Jonah 2:1’s dag gadol (דָּג גָּדוֹל) (“… Columbus sees a Sea Monster”):

“From a modern English translation of [his son] Ferdinand’s biography, we read that sometime between September 1~14 in 1494, this curious event occurred to Columbus and his men:

Holding on their course, the ship’s people sighted a large fish, big as a whale, with a carapace like a turtle’s, a head the size of a barrel protruding from the water, a long tail like that of a tunny fish, and two large wings. From this and from certain other signs the Admiral knew they were in for foul weather and sought a port where they might take refuge.”

“As far as I know, no such creature exists. So what did Columbus see?

‘Did It Happen…?

“This is one of those moments where the gray zone of what is considered history and what is considered not history is fully exposed.

“History is often just stories that have been agreed upon and accepted, with no hard evidence past this agreement to support it… and in the case of most of Christopher Columbus’ voyages, this is the case. Ferdinand’s account of his father’s life is taken as authoritative on many details that no other document can confirm; yet the story above is quietly ignored, even though it has the same amount of evidence to support it as anything else in Ferdinand’s biography”. [End of quotes]

To be continued ….

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