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Judas Maccabeus “the Hammer” and Charles Martel “the Hammer”

Published November 16, 2018 by amaic
Image result for judas hammer maccabeus

Judas Maccabeus – Judas the Galilean

Part Two: “The hammer” of God



“Other views link the name [Maccabee] with a root that means “to extinguish”,

since the Maccabees extinguished the Greek persecution, or with makkav, “a hammer”; Judah, like Charles Martel, was the hammer of his enemies”.




In the early days of the rebellion, Judah received a surname Maccabee. Several explanations have been put forward for this surname. One suggestion is that the name derives from the Aramaic maqqaba (“makebet” in modern Hebrew), “hammer” or “sledgehammer” (cf. the cognomen of Charles Martel, the 8th century Frankish leader), in recognition of his ferocity in battle. Others believe it is in reference to his weapon of choice.

It is also possible that the name Maccabee is an acronym for the Torah verse Mi kamokha ba’elim Adonai, “Who among the gods is like you, O Adonai?”, his battle-cry to motivate troops. (Exodus 15:11). Rabbi Moshe Schreiber writes that it is an acronym for his father’s name Mattityahu Kohen Ben Yochanan. Some scholars maintain that the name is a shortened form of the Hebrew maqqab-ya ¯hû (from na ¯qab, ‘‘to mark, to designate’’), meaning ‘‘the one designated by Yahweh.’[3]



“The victory at the battle near Poitiers and Tours would later earn Charles the cognomen “Martellus” (L., and so “Martel”, Fr.: “the hammer”) from 9th century chroniclers who, in the view of Pierre Riche, “seem to have been… recalling Judas Maccabaeus, ‘the Hammerer,'” of 1 Maccabees, “whom God had similarly blessed with victory” ….”[28]:44

Twelve years later, when Charles had thrice rescued Gaul from Umayyad invasions, Antonio Santosuosso noted when he destroyed an Umayyad army sent to reinforce the invasion forces of the 735 campaigns, “Charles Martel again came to the rescue.”[29]:TBD



The Battle of Tours ( October 10, 732), often called Battle of Poitiers and also called in Arabic بلاط الشهداء (Balâṭ al-Shuhadâ’) The Court of Martyrs was fought near the city of Tours, close to the border between the Frankish realm and the independent region of Aquitaine. The battle pitted Frankish and Burgundian forces under Austrasian Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel against an army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by ‘Abd-al-Raḥmān al-Ghāfiqī, Governor-general of al-Andalus. The Franks were victorious, ‘Abd-al-Raḥmān was killed, and Martel subsequently extended his authority in the south. Ninth-century chroniclers, who interpreted the outcome of the battle as divine judgment in his favour, gave Charles the nickname Martellus (“The Hammer”), possibly recalling Judas Maccabeus (“The Hammerer”) of Maccabean revolt. Details of the battle, including its exact location and the exact number of combatants, cannot be determined from accounts that have survived.

As later chroniclers increasingly came to praise Charles Martel as the champion of Christianity, pre-20th century historians began to characterize this battle as being the decisive turning point in the struggle against Islam. “Most of the 18th and 19th century historians, like Gibbon, saw Poitiers (Tours), as a landmark battle that marked the high tide of the Muslim advance into Europe.” Leopold Von Ranke felt that “Poitiers was the turning point of one of the most important epochs in the history of the world.”

While modern historians are divided as to whether or not the victory was responsible — as Gibbon and his generation of historians claimed — for saving Christianity and halting the conquest of Europe by Islam, the battle helped lay the foundations for the Carolingian Empire, and Frankish domination of Europe for the next century. “The establishment of Frankish power in western Europe shaped that continent’s destiny and the Battle of Tours confirmed that power.”



In a 2011 article on the subject, Mitchell First argues persuasively, based on an analysis of ancient Greek and Latin orthography, that the kuf spelling is the older one. He also agrees with the now commonly accepted theory, first put forth by the American Bible scholar Samuel Ives Curtiss, Jr. in 1876, that makkabi derives from Hebrew makevet or its Aramaic cognate makava, a hammer or mallet. First writes:


As to why Judah was called by this name, one view is that the name alludes to his physical strength or military prowess. But a makevet/makava is not a military weapon; it is a worker’s tool. Therefore, it has been suggested alternatively that the name reflects that Judah’s head or body in some way had the physical appearance of a hammer. Interestingly, the Mishnah at B’khorot 7:1 lists one of the categories of disqualified priests as ha-makavan [“the hammerhead”], and the term is explained in the Talmud as meaning one whose head resembles a makava. Naming men according to physical characteristics was common in the ancient world.


The derivation of makkabi from makevet or makava certainly makes better sense than any of the contending explanations.

What I would take issue with is the assertion made by First and others before him that since a hammer “is not a military weapon,” Judah Maccabee must have been likened to one because of his physical appearance, or else because of his physical power or strength of character.


The fact of the matter is that in both ancient and medieval times, hammers were military weapons. First himself mentions the French warrior Charles Martel, “Charles the Hammer,” the grandfather of Charlemagne, best known for stemming the Muslim advance into Europe at the Battle of Tours in 734. While this epithet, too, may have referred only to Charles’s prowess as a commander, the martel de fer or “iron hammer” was a feature of medieval warfare. Typically, it was mace-like or club-like at one end and pointed like a pickax at the other, and it was most commonly wielded by mounted cavalry to smash the armor of enemy soldiers.



…. Two individuals in history have been known as “The Hammer of God”: Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. The title “Maccabee” was given to Judah the son of Mattityahu Bar Hashmonay. (Judas Maccabeus is another way of saying Judah Maccabee.) The word “Maccabee” comes from the Aramaic word “Maqaba” and means “The Hammer.” (The Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Aramaic language is closely related to Hebrew and Arabic. According to the New Testament, Aramaic was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Aramaic is an important Jewish language. Many Jewish sacred texts, such as the Talmud and the Kaballah (the Zohar), are written in Aramaic as are several traditional Jewish prayers, such as the Kaddish, and traditional songs, such as the Passover song Chad Gadyo. Assyrian Christians of Iraq, Syria and Iran still speak Aramaic.) Judah Maccabee fought against the tyrannical Seleucid Greeks beginning in the year 167 BC. Centuries later, after defeating a massive Moslem army in central France, Charles the son of Pepin was called “Martel,” meaning “The Hammer” in Latin. Charles the Hammer beat back an invasion of Europe by the Muslim Empire in October 732 AD. Charles Martel defeated the Moslems at the Battle of Tours (also known as the Battle of Poitiers).



Naqia of Assyria and Semiramis

Published November 16, 2018 by amaic


 Damien F. Mackey


“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”.


What a terrific book! I read it in one go.

I am referring to Stephanie Dalley’s The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced (OUP, 2013). Apart from her unscrambling of the Classical texts on the subject of the Seven Wonders of the World, and being able to conclude that it was not Nebuchednezzar II the Chaldean, but rather the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who created the ‘hanging’ gardens that became so famed in antiquity, Dalley provides an abundance of important information on Assyro-Babylonian technology, art and architecture.

Despite the necessary technicalities, this book, written by a most disciplined researcher – “a world expert on ancient Babylonian language” – is easy to read and enjoyable.

In Chapter 6, “Confusion of Names”, Dalley makes this important point (p. 107):


Several confusions have been identified. It would be satisfactory if we could account for them, to strengthen yet further the argument that the Hanging Garden was built by Sennacherib in Nineveh rather than by Nebuchadnezzar or Semiramis in Babylon. Four distinct pairs of names are relevant for tracing the story of the legendary garden: ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ named for Sennacherib, the city name ‘Babylon’ used for Nineveh, the river ‘Euphrates’ named instead of the Tigris, and ‘Semiramis’ confused with other queens and with ‘Nitocris”. For each of them an explanation can be given.


[End of quote]


When reading Dalley’s account here of name confusion, I was immediately reminded of the situation right at the beginning of the Book of Judith, about which I have written much. And, indeed, the point has not been missed on Dalley either. For she writes on the next page (p. 108), referring to Judith as a “late” text (but I would prefer to say a late copy of the original):


Sennacherib was evidently confused with Nebuchadnezzar in several late texts. In the opening words of the Book of Judith the two kings are confused: ‘It was the twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar who reigned over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh’. When Josephus named Nebuchadnezzar as builder of the 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.

[End of quote]





“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 for having her name on inscriptions written during her lifetime, and for supporting publicly first her husband and then her own son, both as kings”.


Stephanie Dalley




Continuing with Stephanie Dalley’s intriguing and helpful Chapter 6, “Confusion of Names” (The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced (p. 120):


An accretion of legends is attached to the name ‘Semiramis’ in Greek texts, and the use of the name for more than one woman can be explained through that concept.

She was variously credited with leading campaigns with her husband ‘Ninus’, and with building works in Babylon, among them the famous Hanging Garden: Diodorus Siculus wrote that she founded a large city in Babylonia on the Euphrates including the temple of the Babylonian Zeus and the Hanging Garden (he does not actually name the city), and Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that Semiramis, not Bel, founded Babylon.

[End of quote]


An original ‘Semiramis’ is posited by some writers to have been contemporaneous with Nimrod and the Tower of Babel, obviously long before the days of Queen Sammu-ramat. According to: http://www.rogerswebsite.com/articles/Man’sHistoryfromAdamtoAbraham.pdf


…. Hislop identifies Ninus as Nimrod, the great hunter that defied God and built the Tower of Babylon and his wife Semiramis and son Tammuz as the great trinity who were worshipped all over Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Greece and Rome and other cultures around the world.


Whilst Roy Schulz – as we can read at the same site – takes Semiramis back to pre-Flood times: “Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and sensual love. She was actually a harlot or prostitute! Venus was the wife of Vulcan in pre-Flood times and so is the Semiramis of post-Flood history. She was actually a very distasteful type of person”.


Queen Sammu-Ramat and Naqia


Stephanie Dalley, referring to who she thinks to have been the “original ‘Semiramis’”, tells of this Queen Sammu-ramat (p. 121):


The original ‘Semiramis’ was a historical queen at a time when Nimrud, not Nineveh, was the main royal residence. If you were an Assyrian early in the 8th century BC you would have known about Sammu-ramat, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser III, wife of Shamsi-Adad V, and mother of Adad-nirari III, because she was the most powerful woman in the world at that time. You would know that she in person, contrary to the custom of queens at that time, joined her son in a campaign to Arpad in the vicinity of modern Aleppo with the result that her own name was inscribed on a royal stela, as partner in heroism with her son the king. That stela was set up on the border of Assyrian territory on the upper Euphrates, and was discovered in recent times.


Dalley thinks that this real event may have inspired the campaigns attributed to ‘Semiramis’ by the later writers: “The inscription shows without a doubt that Sammu-ramat campaigned with her son, which suggests that the campaigns later ascribed to Semiramis by Ctesias and others may have had some link, however tenuous or garbled, with a genuine event”.

Two documents similarly connect, now Sammu-ramat, now Naqia, to great Assyrian kings. Dalley continues here:


The extent of [Sammu-ramat’s] fame during her lifetime is confirmed by the existence of another stela, inscribed only with her name and titles, found during excavations in the city of Ashur on the Tigris, and first published in 1913:


Statue … of Sammu-ramat the palace woman [means ‘queen’, ‘official consort’: Dalley] of Shamsi-Adad king of the universe, king of Assyria, mother of Adad-nirari, king of the universe, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser, king of the four quarters ….


[End of quotes]


Compare this text with one that Dalley now gives for Queen Naqia (on p. 124):


Naqia, the palace woman of Sennacherib king of the universe, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Sargon king of the universe king of Assyria, mother of Esarhaddon king of the world, king of Assyria … a palace befitting royalty for Esarhaddon my beloved son ….


[End of quote]

Based on my article:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib




I would immediately have to query here the mention of “Sargon”, whose name I have shown to have been – in at least one case – unjustifiably inserted by Assyriologists into a gap in a text.


Continuing on now with Dalley’s account of this latter queen, Naqia, we read on the same page:


Naqia was closely associated with Nineveh because her husband built two palaces there and made the city his capital. Many letters were written directly to her, and we have a document recording the loyalty oaths that she imposed on members of her family, requiring them to support her two royal grandsons. Another text particularly relevant here is that which records the building work she undertook at Nineveh on behalf of her son Esarhaddon, who ruled vast territories including Babylonia ….


That is the text quoted (in small print) above.

Dalley continues, drawing a further connection of Naqia with ‘Semiramis’:


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 for having her name on inscriptions written during her lifetime, and for supporting publicly first her husband and then her own son, both as kings. There was every reason, therefore, to conflate the two great queens, two great builders, Naqia would be the wife of the later Assyrian king to whom Diodorus referred when he wrote: ‘the Hanging Garden, as it is called, which was built, not by Semiramis, but by a later Syrian [a Greek reference to Assyrian: Dalley] king …’ His account that ‘Semiramis alongside a Ninus founded ‘Babylon’ on the Euphrates gives details that are applicable to Nineveh: two palaces, technical details of water supply, walls adorned with hunting scenes.


A Religious Revolution



“A strange religious revolution took place in the time of Adad-nirari III, which can be compared with that of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ikhnaton. For an unknown reason Nabu (Nebo), the god of Borsippa, seems to have been proclaimed sole god, or at least the principal god, of the empire”.


Francis D. Nichol


The influence of two historical queens, Nefertiti and Naqia, ought not to be underestimated. Nefertiti may have been the one who religiously spurred on her husband, pharaoh Akhnaton, and may therefore have been instrumental in fostering the strange and somewhat Indic cult of Atonism in EA’s Egypt. If so, then she would have been acting just like the biblical Jezebel. For, the very first we hear of Queen Jezebel is in association with Baal worship (I Kings 16:31): “[King Ahab] also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him”. And she, again, was apparently the wind beneath his idolatrous wings (I Kings 21:25): “… there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up”.Likewise, Queen Semiramis may have been instrumental in the case of the (different) religious reform at the time of Adad-nirari III. Writing of “The Age of Semiramis” in his Chapter XVIII, Donald MacKenzie will make some interesting observations about her, including this one: “Queen Sammu-rammat of Assyria, like Tiy of Egypt, is associated with social and religious innovations”. Here is a part of MacKenzie’s intriguing account of this semi-legendary queen:

…. 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.

It is not quite certain whether Sammu-rammat was the wife of Shamshi-Adad VII [we now take this as V] or of his son, Adad-nirari IV [III]. Before the former monarch reduced Babylonia to the status of an Assyrian province, he had signed a treaty of peace with its king, and it is suggested that it was confirmed by a matrimonial alliance. This treaty was repudiated by King Bau-akh-iddina, who was transported with his palace treasures to Assyria.

As Sammu-rammat was evidently a royal princess of Babylonia, it seems probable that her marriage was arranged with purpose to legitimatize the succession of the Assyrian overlords to the Babylonian throne. The principle of “mother right” was ever popular in those countries where the worship of the Great Mother was perpetuated if not in official at any rate in domestic religion. Not a few Egyptian Pharaohs reigned as husbands or as sons of royal ladies. Succession by the female line was also observed among the Hittites. When Hattusil II gave his daughter in marriage to Putakhi, king of the Amorites, he inserted a clause in the treaty of alliance “to the effect that the sovereignty over the Amorite should belong to the son and descendants of his daughter for evermore”. ….

As queen or queen-mother, Sammu-rammat occupied as prominent a position in Assyria as did Queen Tiy of Egypt during the lifetime of her husband, Amenhotep III, and the early part of the reign of her son, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton).

The Tell-el-Amarna letters testify to Tiy’s influence in the Egyptian “Foreign Office”, and we know that at home she was joint ruler with her husband and took part with him in public ceremonials. During their reign a temple was erected to the mother goddess Mut, and beside it was formed a great lake on which sailed the “barque of Aton” in connection with mysterious religious ceremonials. After Akhenaton’s religious revolt was inaugurated, the worship of Mut was discontinued and Tiy went into retirement. In Akhenaton’s time the vulture symbol of the goddess Mut did not appear above the sculptured figures of royalty.


What connection the god Aton had with Mut during the period of the Tiy regime remains obscure. There is no evidence that Aton was first exalted as the son of the Great Mother goddess, although this is not improbable.


Queen Sammu-rammat of Assyria, like Tiy of Egypt, is associated with social and religious innovations. She was the first, and, indeed, the only Assyrian royal lady, to be referred to on equal terms with her royal husband in official inscriptions. In a dedication to the god Nebo, that deity is reputed to be the protector of “the life of Adad-nirari, king of the land of Ashur, his lord, and the life of Sammu-rammat, she of the palace, his lady”. ….


During the reign of Adad-nirari … the Assyrian Court radiated Babylonian culture and traditions. The king not only recorded his descent from the first Shalmaneser, but also claimed to be a descendant of Bel-kap-kapu, an earlier, but, to us, unknown, Babylonian monarch than “Sulili”, i.e. Sumu-la-ilu, the great-great-grandfather of Hammurabi. Bel-kap-kapu was reputed to have been an overlord of Assyria.


Apparently Adad-nirari desired to be regarded as the legitimate heir to the thrones of Assyria and Babylonia. His claim upon the latter country must have had a substantial basis. It is not too much to assume that he was a son of a princess of its ancient royal family. Sammurammat may therefore have been his mother. She could have been called his “wife” in the mythological sense, the king having become “husband of his mother”. If such was the case, the royal pair probably posed as the high priest and high priestess of the ancient goddess cult–the incarnations of the Great Mother and the son who displaced his sire.


The worship of the Great Mother was the popular religion of the indigenous peoples of western Asia, including parts of Asia Minor, Egypt, and southern and western Europe. It appears to have been closely associated with agricultural rites practised among representative communities of the Mediterranean race. In Babylonia and Assyria the peoples of the goddess cult fused with the peoples of the god cult, but the prominence maintained by Ishtar, who absorbed many of the old mother deities, testifies to the persistence of immemorial habits of thought and antique religious ceremonials among the descendants of the earliest settlers in the Tigro-Euphrates valley. ….

It must be recognized, in this connection, that an official religion was not always a full reflection of popular beliefs. In all the great civilizations of antiquity it was invariably a compromise between the beliefs of the military aristocracy and the masses of mingled peoples over whom they held sway. Temple worship had therefore a political aspect; it was intended, among other things, to strengthen the position of the ruling classes. But ancient deities could still be worshipped, and were worshipped, in homes and fields, in groves and on mountain tops, as the case might be. Jeremiah has testified to the persistence of the folk practices in connection with the worship of the mother goddess among the inhabitants of Palestine. Sacrificial fires were lit and cakes were baked and offered to the “Queen of Heaven” in the streets of Jerusalem and other cities. In Babylonia and Egypt domestic religious practices were never completely supplanted by temple ceremonies in which rulers took a prominent part. It was always possible, therefore, for usurpers to make popular appeal by reviving ancient and persistent forms of worship. As we have seen, Jehu of Israel, after stamping out Phoenician Baal worship, secured a strong following by giving official recognition to the cult of the golden calf.


MacKenzie now proceeds to draw his hopeful religious parallel between EA and Sammuramat alongside Adad-nirari III:


It is not possible to set forth in detail, or with intimate knowledge, the various innovations which Sammu-rammat introduced, or with which she was credited, during the reigns of Adad-nirari … (810-782 B.C.) and his father. No discovery has been made of documents like the Tell-el-Amarna “letters”, which would shed light on the social and political life of this interesting period.


…. The prominence given to Nebo, the god of Borsippa, during the reign of Adad-nirari … is highly significant. He appears in his later character as a god of culture and wisdom, the patron of scribes and artists, and the wise counsellor of the deities. He symbolized the intellectual life of the southern kingdom, which was more closely associated with religious ethics than that of war-loving Assyria.


A great temple was erected to Nebo at Kalkhi, and four statues of him were placed within it, two of which are now in the British Museum. On one of these was cut the inscription, from which we have quoted, lauding the exalted and wise deity and invoking him to protect Adad-nirari and the lady of the palace, Sammu-rammat, and closing with the exhortation, “Whoso cometh in after time, let him trust in Nebo and trust in no other god”.




Connections between the biblical Jonah and Jason of the Argonauts

Published October 31, 2018 by amaic


Image result for greek jason and sea monster



Damien F. Mackey





“One wonders indeed what Gildas Hamel may have come up with if he had only known,

or could even have imagined the possibility, that the story of Jonah was the original”.


John R. Salverda





John R. Salverda has had much success in showing that a good deal of fantastic ancient mythology – especially the Greco-Roman (but also other ones) – derives from biblical tales.

And I fully concur with his view that the tale of Jonah, that is reflected in many parts of the Jason myth – as Gildas Hamel has so clearly demonstrated (see below) – “was the original”.


Why would one suggest otherwise – that a tale such as Jason’s, featuring such fantastic elements as “clashing rocks” and “harpies” and the goddess “Athena”, would be the model for the story of a prophet who had witnessed to an historically-attested king, Jeroboam II of Israel?:


“From the limited information given in the Bible, it seems that Jeroboam II was a gifted commander and an able organizer who succeeded in elevating the kingdom of Israel to a last climax before its fall. In the tradition of the Judahite redactors of the northern sources preserved in the Bible, Jeroboam is adjudged a king who “departed not from all the sins that Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin” (II Kings 14:24). However, his loyalty to YHWH can be deduced not only from the name of his son Zechariah (Heb. “Remembered by YHWH”) but also from the prophecies of “the prophet Jonah son of Amittai of Gath-Hepher” (ibid., 14:25), who encouraged Jeroboam in his wars and prophesied his victory. It is unfortunate that these prophecies are not preserved. A stamp seal depicting a lion and reading lšm ʿ ʿ bd yrb ʿ m, “Property of Shema, servant of Jeroboam,” was found at Megiddo (Cogan and Tadmor, pl. 12a)”.



John Salverda wrote to me on the subject:


Dear Damien,


I have recently come across a very interesting article written about 17 years ago by one, Gildas Hamel: “Taking the Argo to Nineveh:” Jonah and Jason in a Mediterranean Context.

(This website will read the article to you if you like, it takes a while to do so and you may read it for yourself faster.)

I feel certain that you will be well rewarded if you can find the time to check it out.

Hamel is of course handicapped by the fact that, in accordance with conventional chronology, he assumes the Greek myth of Jason to be much older than the Scriptural book of Jonah. Never-the-less his insight into the cultural connections between the Greeks and the nation of Israel are remarkable. He supposes that the Book of Jonah is somehow a parody of the Argonautica, the Hebrew author borrowing names, words, and motifs, from the Greek tale that, he feels, sailors out of the port of Joppa must have been familiar with.

I can’t help but feel that much of the difficulties that he has relating the two stories comes from assuming that the Greek tale is the original. He mentions parenthetically that, “there is an Edenic quality to the wood where the latter finds the Golden Fleece,” and he further notes, “the fleece of a ram which was sacrificed after saving Phrixus, in a story reminiscent of the Akedah in Genesis 22.” In neither case does he help us to understand how the “ancient” tale of the Argonauts could have borrowed those motifs from the Scriptures of a nation of Israel that he supposes did not exist yet for another couple hundred years.

Of course there is also incorporated into the story of Jason references to the tale of Noah, not only in the name of the “Argo” and in the mention of Doves (which Hamel explains away as “birds used in very ancient sailing practice to guide lost sailors to land”), but also in the very geography of the story. The destination of the Argo is in association with the destination of the Ark as Colchis is contiguous with Ararat. Neither does he attempt to explain the mysterious “Minyan” people, who also originate within the realm of Ararat (Urartu).

The story of the Exodus is also alluded to within the body of the ancient versions of the Argonautica; the ghost of Phrixus calling out to be returned and buried in his homeland, as the bones of Joseph; The “Midian” wife of Moses as “Medea” (the Ethiop Andro-“meda,” of Perseus, and Hesione of Heracles); Phinehas, who served before the Ark of God with it’s “cherubs,” and the Kosher laws, as Phineus whose “Harpies” befouled his food.

These not withstanding, Hamel has much to contribute to our understanding of the connections between Jonah and Jason. His explanations of the words “Boreas,” and “kikayon” (the gourd), are noteworthy even though the direction of the borrowing is not convincing. His equation of the iconography of the naked Jason with the naked Jonah, his noting of the conversion of the respective crews, and his insistence of the similarities between Jason, Jonah, and Jesus (thus their Messianic attributes), and much more, show an amazing grasp of the puzzle.

One wonders indeed what he may have come up with if he had only known, or could even have imagined the possibility, that the story of Jonah was the original.

-John R. Salverda

From: http://humweb.ucsc.edu/gweltaz/courses/prophets/commentaries/Jonah/jonah.html

Taking the Argo to Nineveh: Jonah and Jason in a Mediterranean Context

Gildas Hamel (notes at end of paper)


Naturally, the book of Jonah must be read, first and last, within its Hebrew context. Indeed, the text reverberates, especially to Hebrew ears, with clear echoes of biblical passages that come from the Noah story, from Jeremiah, Joel, and other prophets.**1** In numerous studies, commentators have pointed out these intertextual links, while disagreeing on the exact nature of their reemployment. They wonder if the author is being ironic, satirical, parodic, allegorical, or didactic.**2** Still, the story of Jonah also reads like a maritime tale whose meaning might be enriched and its themes emerge in bolder relief, were it set against its Mediterranean background, especially Greek lore. Wedged between the empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt, ancient Israel was also a Mediterranean country, in contact by sea from the earliest times with Greek civilization, among other maritime powers. While the cultural significance of this proximity has been recognized by some XIXth and early XXth century scholars, the use of the comparative method often has been too sweeping and led at times to reductive and unhelpful results.


In recent times, relatively little attention has been paid to the connections that the Jonah story may have to Greek tales, apart from a few notable recent and not so recent exceptions; elements of the legend of Heracles and the story of Perseus and Andromeda, for instance, are strikingly similar, as Cyril of Alexandria and Jerome had already noted.**3** In the end, though, these parallels have failed to impress most exegetes, who have concluded that they are not helpful in the interpretation of the book.

Yet, an interesting and hitherto little explored possibility is that the book of Jonah presents puzzling parallels with Jason and elements of the Argonauts’ story. The parallel between Jason and Jonah, not mentioned by early Jewish or Christian writers, has been evoked by a few classicists at the beginning of this century, because of an unusual representation of Jason found in 1833 in Caere (Cerveteri). Their comments are very brief, however, usually framed within a very broad comparative format, and without seeing and developing any analysis of the details that show the extent of cultural interaction.**4** Furthermore, the possible connection between the two stories seems to have been long since forgotten and has not drawn any attention from commentators of the text in the past sixty years.**5**

What I propose herein is to reexamine the parallels between Jonah and Jason. In particular, I hope to show how the author of Jonah plays with one of the variants of the story of Jason, or that Jonah’s story, at the very least, can be placed within the nebula of variants of Jason’s tale. The saga of the Argonauts seems to have been widespread in oral, written, and pictural forms, while numerous representations of various elements of their story, conveniently gathered now in the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae,**6** are sufficient proof of its diffusion around the Mediterranean. Many stories attached to Jason as a kind of patron of navigators circulated widely. The differences to be found in the written versions of Pindar (518-438 BCE), Euripides (ca. 485-ca. 406 BCE), Apollonius of Rhodes (third century BCE), Valerius Flaccus (flourished in the first c. BCE), and the so-called Orphic Argonautica, attest to the fluidity of a multi-faceted tradition which one imagines to have also been a living, ever-changing, oral tradition. One may suppose that from an early date, written, oral, and iconographic versions influenced each other in multiple ways.

My thesis, therefore, is that the author of the Jonah tale used bits of this widely circulating oral cycle within the framework of his own Hebrew tradition. His is a highly literate story, the work of a writer who used chiastic structures, repeats, puns, and ironic twists. In their re-employment in the Hebrew story, the elements of the tale of the Argonauts appear only as vestiges, although I think they are more significant than has been granted until now.**7** At a minimum, their selection and the way in which they are recast suggest an anti-polytheistic attitude turned against Ionians, as well as against the more obvious Ninevites. Many more elements are at work than were previously thought to be, as the study of parts of the story, especially philological and iconographic aspects, will soon make clear ––an important consideration for the on-going debate on the nature and complexity of cultural borrowings. Such study also sheds some light on the extent of Near Eastern influence on early Greek culture.**8**

The argument will proceed as follows. First, after a rapid synopsis of the stories, the mythological motifs they have in common will be laid out in detail. Secondly, I will propose an explanation for their use and shape in Jonah. Finally, it will be shown that the use of some of these common themes persisted in the later (mostly Christian) iconography of Jonah.




In the extant written versions of the Argonauts’ tale, Jason, son of Aeson, and great-grandson of Aeolus the wind, is given by his rival Pelias the impossible task of bringing back the Golden Fleece from Colchis. This is the fleece of a ram which was sacrificed after saving Phrixus, in a story reminiscent of the Aqedah in Genesis 22. The Golden Fleece is hanging on a tree in Ares’ sacred wood in Colchis, Aeetes’ kingdom, and is guarded by a never-sleeping dragon. At Jason’s call, the bravest of the Greeks hurry to the Argo, a ship built for Jason by Argos, with Athena’s help. On their way to Colchis, the country of the sunrise in the Orient, the Greeks meet with many challenges. The greatest danger they encounter in trying to reach their goal is a stormy sea in which they must pass through the shifting or clashing rocks, the Planctae or Symplegades, which the sea alternately pushes apart and brings together. Once in Colchis, they ask king Aeetes for the Fleece. He promises it to Jason, provided the latter can subjugate the brazen-hoofed and fire-breathing bulls, plow a field, and sow the teeth of the local dragon. Jason manages these feats with the crucial help of the king’s daughter, Medea. Because Aeetes goes back on his word, Jason sets out to steal the Golden Fleece. He succeeds, again with the help of Medea, who puts the ever-watching dragon to sleep with a magic potion. The Argonauts then flee with the Fleece and the king’s daughter.

Jonah’s tribulations, in contrast to Jason’s, begin with a divine call. The task proposed by God to the hero of the book of Jonah is to bring a divine warning to the traditional enemy of Israel. However, rather than obeying, Jonah flees to the other end of the world, on a ship going to Tarshish. During the storm caused by God, the pagan crew, in great fear, prove to be respectful of all gods, especially Jonah’s, and helpful to the hero. Jonah tells them he is the cause of the storm and following his advice, they reluctantly throw him overboard. He is swallowed by a large fish, kept in its entrails for three days, and finally vomited out onto dry land, after a long prayer which he expresses in the form of a psalm.

God reiterates his call, in spare words, and Jonah goes to Nineveh where he reluctantly announces the oracle, insisting on the impending doom. The oracle has been barely broadcast —Jonah has walked but one day in a city “of three days”— yet its call is immediately heeded by the Ninevites, and even more surprisingly, by the king who, though hardly informed of it, takes sackcloth and begins to fast. He orders all his subjects, even animals, to do likewise, in the hope of turning away God’s anger.

God’s anger gives way to mercy, which in turn makes Jonah very angry. He storms out of Nineveh, builds a hut wherein he waits to see what will happen. Overnight, God makes a miraculous tree grow; Jonah finds its shade soothing and pleasant. Next, God sends a worm which causes the tree to die and a hot wind which makes Jonah wish for death. In the ensuing discussion between God and Jonah, God shows that his concern for the Ninevites is at least as valid as that of Jonah for the shade tree. The story ends abruptly, without indicating whether Jonah accepts God’s point of view or not.




Several parallel motifs are of considerable significance in both stories: the names of the heroes, the presence of a dove, the idea of “fleeing” like the wind and causing a storm, the attitude of the sailors, the presence of a sea-monster or dragon threatening the hero or swallowing him, and the form and meaning of the difficult word kikayon. Looking at these themes and motifs reciprocally illuminates both accounts.



First of all, the names of the two sea adventurers appear to be strikingly similar, at least in Greek. Jonah’s name in Hebrew, Yônah, when transliterated in Greek as Iônas, can easily be seen as a metathesis of Iasôn. Whether that was a factor in the author’s choice of a name cannot be known. But it is curious to read in the twelfth-century commentator Eustathius that an ancient tradition thought the name Jason was a metathesis of his own father’s name, Aisôn.**9** The fluidity of this name, together with the personality of the hero, may explain why Jason was one of several Greek names often used by Jews in Palestine, Egypt, and Cyrenaica, at least from the third century BCE on.**10** Regarding Cyrenaica, it is notable that in some of the many variants on the return of the Argonauts,**11** the latter reach Africa and meet a Triton, the merman of pre-Greek mythology, who announces to them that Cyrene would be the possession of their descendants. The legends and the name of an heroic sailor circumnavigating the sea on the first mythic long-ship would have appealed to Jews and other peoples who were settling around the Mediterranean sea. This interest is still in evidence at the time of the so-called “Tomb of Jason” in Jerusalem, which is dated to the beginning of the first century BCE and contains a Greek inscription and the drawing of a military ship.**12**



The second element in the comparison of the two stories concerns the name of Jonah alone. Yônah in Hebrew means “dove,” one of the birds used in very ancient sailing practice to guide lost sailors to land, as we see both in the story of Noah and the saga of Jason and the Argonauts.**13** When the Argonauts arrive at the Clashing Rocks (the Symplegades) and are unable to find a way out, Phineus, a king-prophet hunted by the Harpies (perhaps because he has betrayed divine secrets), advises the heroes to release a dove to see if it will go through (The story uses an old theme which appears already in a different form in the Odyssey: the flock of doves bringing ambrosia to Zeus must also go through the Planctae but invariably one dove is lost). The Argo eventually follows the dove; bird and ship find a passage through the rocks, but not without leaving a few vestiges behind them —one, its feathers and the other, pieces of rigging. In other variants of the story, doves also play an important role; in Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance, two doves lead Aeneas and the Sybil to the Golden Fleece hanging in a tree.**14** In other texts, the prophecies uttered by an oracular oak are reported by doves.**15**


Boreas the fleeing wind

There is a further connection to Phineus, who in Apollonius’ Argonautica, is pursued by the vengeful Harpies because he has betrayed prophetic secrets. After promising the Argonauts that he will help them with his prophetic gifts, he is delivered from his pursuers by the Boreads, the “fleers,” sons of Boreas, the northern wind that brings the worst storms at sea.**16** The story of Jonah begins very abruptly with his flight, right after God’s command that he go and deliver his oracle to Nineveh. Jonah betrays nothing of the divine message entrusted to him, but he flees to avoid its accomplishment (as he sees it), and does so without explanation. He flees from the consequences of the message he has received but, paradoxically, not the structure of prophetic tales, in which one expects failure. In these stories, the structure is as follows: the more trustworthy the prophets, the less willing to hear them their audience will be. Above all, kings are expected to resist the message and punish the messenger, thereby increasing the element of veracity for the audience of the story. In fear of retaliation, Elijah flees to the Horeb after his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, walks one day in the desert, sits under a broom tree, and asks for death, saying: “Israel has forsaken the covenant, slain prophets, and I, even I only, am left.”**17** In the second part of his adventure, Jonah also flees to an analogue of the desert, that is, a dry place, with wind, as opposed to the fluid and humid vastness stirred up by storm winds. But he is not pursued. Jonah does what prophets (and Jason and his friends) are supposed to do, namely, he flees, but for no apparent reason. He is pushed by rhetorical reason alone, the force of the text and previous biblical stories.

The puzzling motif of Jonah’s flight, however, is connected to the Argonautic cycle of stories in two ways. First of all, it indirectly creates a storm caused by God’s great wind, in Hebrew ruah gdolah. Secondly, the Hebrew word for fleeing in Jonah 1.2, boreah, corresponds closely to the name of Boreas, the storm god and father of the Boreads. A “fleeing” sea creature, a leviathan, actually appears in the texts of Ras Shamra and is mentioned in Isaiah 27.1 and Job 26.13. It is a sea monster originating in the primordial chaos and threatening chaos. In the story of Jonah, however, the “fleeing” is separated from the monster, yet still connected to a storm. I propose therefore that the Greek word Boreas has a semitic origin, perhaps the Ugariticboreah. Chantraine’s Dictionnaire étymologique du grec classique gives no sure origin for the Greek word, but the presence of other Argonautic elements in the story of Jonah makes it distinctly possible that mythical elements surrounding Boreas were borrowed by the Greeks, together with the name, from Semitic mythology. The stories surrounding this divinity or hero associated with storms were adopted at a much earlier stage, perhaps at the end of the second millennium before our era. The sound change from a pharyngeal to an alveolar fricative (“heth” to “s”) is natural, since Greek lacked the former (a later example of this sound change appears in one of Jerome’s letters, in which he speaks of a Silas whose Hebrew name is Shaloah).



In Greek stories and in ancient folklore in general, sailors had a terrible reputation. It was thought that they were only after passengers’ possessions and money, which they could try to obtain, for example, by forcing a victim to sign a will in their favor before throwing the person into the sea. The sailors in the Argonauts’ saga are of an heroic type and do not do this. They are dangerous, however; in the later Argonautica Orphica, these adventurers behave according to expectations and become angry at Medea, because she has been denounced by the speaking or prophesying beam of the Argo. They are ready to throw her to the fish but Jason calms them in time to save her.**18** In a different story reported by Herodotus, sailors behave also as expected, throwing Arion of Mytilene overboard, out of greed for his money and possessions. He is saved by a dolphin which is sensitive to his poetic and musical gifts.**19**

By analogy, then, the much debated psalm in the book of Jonah could be, among other things, a parody of widely known stories about music-loving animal helpers. In any case, Jonah’s sailor companions, contrary to what an ancient audience would expect, are respectful, tame, and even unselfish, though the reason for their civility may be simply a healthy fear of Jonah’s God. Here is a man who, seemingly imprudently or rashly, has hired the whole ship and paid in advance, an action noted as unusual in talmudic literature.**20** He is a foreigner, alone, without protector or friend, at the mercy of a whole crew against whom he could never retaliate. Yet, these rough fellows not only do not attempt to kill him out of greed, but they do a most dangerous thing in stormy weather: they try to bring the ship to shore to save their onerous passenger.**21**

According to a literal interpretation of his Hebrew name, Jonah is a “dove” kept in the hold of the ship, something light and capable of flight. Yet, he engages in a downward movement, going down to Jaffa, into the ship, then down into its hold, where he falls into a deep sleep (wayyerâdam, a word also evoking, phonetically at least, a downward movement), and finally down into the great fish. Normally, passengers and crew were on the deck. The Hebrew text suggests that Jonah himself becomes part of the cargo; he is a piece of the ballast, often merchandise but normally stones or sand, kept in the depths of the hold of the ship. Surely, he is stowed in the most dangerous place of the ship, among stones and heavy cargo which could crush him in a storm. One might think of him as being in the same position as the oak beam placed by Athena Pallas in the Argo, a beam which occasionally utters “true” prophecies or predictions. The beam reveals Zeus’ anger and invites the heroes to purify themselves,**22** or warns that they are being pursued by the Erinyes, who avenge wrongs, especially murders committed among kinsmen.**23** Another similarity is that in helping the crew, and being “helped” by them, Jonah is acting like Phineus the seer, already mentioned above, whom the Argonauts –specifically the Boreads, Calais and Zetes, sons of Boreas– help after receiving precious information from him.**24**



There is no musically enchanted dolphin in the book of Jonah, but a large fish or ketos who swallows and then vomits up the hero. Neither is there a leviathan or dolphin in the extant textual variants of Jason’s odyssey. But Jason does fight a sea- or land-monster in several of the variants of the tale, often represented on vases, in actions similar to those of Heracles.**25** Or in scenes found widespread around the Mediterranean, Jason emerges from a coiled, upright serpent or monster.**26** It is in this context that earlier scholars briefly noted the connection with Jonah. In particular, a beautiful red-figured cup found at Cerveteri (Caere) in 1833 and dated from the beginning of the fifth century BCE (490-475) shows a scaly and wide-eyed monster vomiting a limp, naked, bearded, and long-haired Jason (see plate). To the right of the scene is Athena, with spear in her right hand, bird in her left, and perhaps looking into the eyes of the dragon, whom she has commanded to disgorge Jason.**27** Behind the dragon’s head, at left, the Golden Fleece hangs as limp as Jason, on a tree laden with fruit (apples?). It is most natural to conceive of this monster as a sea-monster, as did A. Flasch and other scholars,**28** given the position of Cerveteri, an Etruscan sea-port which would be understandably interested in Jason’s Gesti as those of the first navigator. An abundance of maritime themes at the place is evidence of this interest. The Boreads themselves do not appear to be represented at Caere but they figure prominently in many other places, for instance, in Laconia.**29**

This cup has been widely commented upon in the past, but has remained unnoticed, as far as I am aware, by biblical commentators. Late XIXth and turn-of-the-century commentators offer varying interpretations of this scene. A. Flasch thinks that the dragon is alive, forced to disgorge a passive Jason, which is also my interpretation.**30** Flasch is followed by H. Schmidt and others, e.g. Pfuhl and Kerényi. Vian, in his recent edition of Apollonius’ Argonautica, mentions the cup without comment. M. Lawrence, after E. Pfuhl and K. Kerényi, thinks it is a sea-monster “forced by Athena to disgorge Jason [….] a rare variant of the famous story.”**31** The rest of Lawrence’s article deals with the iconography of Jonah’s story. But the commentary of P.E. Arias and M. Hirmer on Athena is inexact. They think that Athena, with owl, is looking with surprise at Jason coming out of the dragon’s mouth.**32**

It is interesting to discover that a version of Jason’s story had Athena as his helper, rescuing him from death, which is perhaps closer to the role of the Hebrew God in the book of Jonah. The bird she carries on her left hand, however, is not necessarily the usual owl, as all commentators seem to identify it,**33** but could actually be a dove (or a sea bird). Athena’s owl is usually represented with its head turned outward, facing the viewer, at least in all images of her catalogued in the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae.**34** On the Caere cup, the bird has a straight beak and a more sloping body. However, since ornithological details may not have been the concern of the vase painters, the idea of a dove can only remain a suggestion. The role played by doves in reporting prophecies and helping heroes has been mentioned above: in Apollonius’ Argonautica, the crew of the Argo takes along a dove in a cage. They also are featured in several illustrations of the episode of the capture of the fleece.**35**


The “kikayon”

In the second part of Jonah’s story, the word kikayon is a famous hapax legomenon which, in its context, refers to a plant, with later tradition hesitating between a type of gourd and ricinus communis (castor oil).**36** Many interesting explanations have been offered, none of them entirely convincing.**37** No one seems to have noticed, however, that this word sounds very much like the brew prepared by Medea, kukeon or kukaon (from the verb kukaô, to stir up, to create confusion), in Apollonius’ version and in the Argonautica Orphica.**38** Here, a mysterious potion, a mixture made of medicinal and dangerous plants,**39** is used by Medea to put to sleep the serpent or dragon guarding the tree where the fleece was hanging. In Apollonius, Medea rubs the head of the monster with the potion and sprinkles it to achieve the same result. In some later (Roman) representations, she is shown presenting a vial to the serpent coiled around the tree, while Jason, unseen, grabs the Golden Fleece. The kukaon or kikaon is also the name of the drink of barley gruel and water, associated with Eleusinian mysteries,**40** where perhaps the role of the python had been similar to that of the sea monster in ancient versions of the tradition. The problem is that the kikayon of the Hebrew story is obviously a fast-growing plant, not a potion or brew. Yet, the Greek magic mixture is clearly made with pharmacological plants. Furthermore, whatever the Hebrew kikayon denotes, it acts as an emetic or aims at making Jonah rid himself of his anger, in a punning parallel with his disgorgement from the fish. I would like to suggest, then, that the kikayon of the book of Jonah may have lost its original meaning but has retained the idea of a magic act, perhaps together with the emetic or purging virtue of the original, suggested by the Hebrew sound (wayaqe` in Jonah 2.11, from the verb qi`) associated later with other plants, such as the ricinus. In the Hebrew text also, the dragon has been reduced to a worm, an annoyance whose night work, however, makes Jonah wish for death. In the second part of Jonah’s story, there is no magician (daughter of a king) or any dragon to be put to sleep. There is, however, a gleeful and absurd reduction of the Greek monster to the size of a worm and the fire-breathing of an irate Jonah whom God attempts to calm down.




It is not surprising in itself that motifs and characters from a version of the story of the Argonauts would appear in the book of Jonah, when one considers how widespread they are in the literary (from the fifth c. BCE) and iconographic record (from the eighth c. BCE) of the whole Mediterranean region. Furthermore, the Hebrew story is far from being a pale recasting of Jason’s adventures. First of all, the related elements of flight and storm complicate the picture, in that Semitic versions of this story had been circulating for an even longer time, and had themselves been borrowed by the earliest Greek settlers of the Mediterranean. The Greeks seem to have borrowed a Boreas and sea-monsters at an early date. Textual and pictorial materials show that Greeks took over stories of sea-monsters from the East in the early, so-called “orientalizing” period.**41** Behind Jonah’s story and its vestigial echoes of Jason and the Argonauts, there are remains of an older, more widely told story of a fight between a god and a sea-monster.**42** These stories all seem to belong to the category of tales of voyages to the netherworld.**43** Secondly, the creator of Jonah appears to be playing in a very conscious manner with some of the elements and motifs of the Greek story, inverting some, laminating others, or fusing them with Hebrew themes on the basis of linguistic or structural similarities.

One may begin with the complex geography of the Argonauts’ saga, which has been drastically simplified in the story of Jonah, with only Tarshish and Nineveh mentioned as presumably summarizing the known world contained between these extremities. And then there is, at least at a superficial level, the beneficial dove of the Argonauts’ tale which is turned into an occasion of trouble for the sailors of the Hebrew story. At a deeper level, however, it causes the conversion of the crew, who sacrifice to the proper god after they have been saved. Throughout the ordeal they act civilly, even generously, though not heroically, instead of showing the greed and lack of courage which are their normal attributes, as in the much later and edifying story of Paul of Tarsus’ shipwreck in Acts 27.**44** The storm is not a dangerous moment for Jonah but rather simply a means to return the hero to the land he should not have left. Instead of being sent away on a highly risky journey by a jealous or fretful king figure, he chooses to bring his fate upon himself. The king in the second part of the story is not a frightening or vengeful character bent on eliminating or testing the hero or prophet, as are Pelias, Aeetes, or even Jezebel in Elijah’s story. Rather, he is most pliable, a keen listener, obedient and prompt to repent. The never-sleeping dragon guarding the Golden Fleece has been miniaturized and become a worm. I have suggested above that some of its characteristics have been given to Jonah himself, who watches intently over the city he wishes to see destroyed. Like the dragon preventing Jason’s possession of the wondrous Fleece (a magical remain of a foundational sacrifice), Jonah fiercely blocks access to divine mercy. He is willing to face God in hot anger and apparently knowing no reason. The pharmaceutical mixture which Medea uses to put the monster to sleep has changed in form but retained its soothing quality for the overheated Jonah. Yet, the leafy kikayon remains somewhat of a conundrum. In the later iconography to be mentioned below, Jonah is seen resting under, or surrounded by, a large-leafed bush which resembles some of the earlier images of the tree in which Jason finds the Golden Fleece. Perhaps tree and magic mixture have been associated from the earliest times.

The question now is whether this recasting of the Greek story has been done simply in jest, or is part of a more complex structure. The comparison of certain themes present in both stories may throw some light on this problem. Jason’s calm, contrasted with Aeetes’ anger, parallels Jonah’s extraordinary passivity. Jason needs assistance at every crucial turn of the story and appears weak, a kind of anti-hero.**45** But Jonah’s passivity does not stem from meekness, rather it comes from his extreme view of prophecy. Medea’s night monologue in Apollonius’ Argonautica 3.771ff., when she is wavering in her desire to help Jason tame Aeetes’ monstrous bulls, presents interesting parallels to that of Jonah. Perhaps it is not overly speculative to say that the way in which Apollonius presents hellenism as immensely seductive to Medea, daughter of a tyrant, has its counterpart in the Hebrew author’s idea of a natural attraction that pagan sailors, and Nineveh’s king and people feel for the Jewish God. This appeal has little to do with Nineveh, whose historical kingship ended at a much earlier time than the composition of this story, but would make sense in an atmosphere of competition between Hebrew and Greek cultures. The author might be inverting the image of attraction presented by Greek civilization and so present foreigners suitably attracted to the Hebrew divinity when they are Greeks (the sailors?), and stupidly so when they are Ninevites.

Recent studies of the book of Jonah, while discovering new layers of meaning in the story, have exposed the complex structure of the narrative.**46** They reinforce the notion that the work is an ironic parable, one with a pointed question. The parallels we have detected between the story of Jonah and that of Jason point even more strongly in the same direction. To the irony underlined by several commentators,**47** it is possible to add a new twist, namely that Nineveh encompasses the “Ionians” also. Nineveh and Yavan sound similar, as do Yônah the “dove”, Yôniyah the ship, and Ionia the region. Phonetically as well as mythopoetically, it appears that the author of the book of Jonah is playing with a variant or variants of Jason’s adventures as told in Greek and other languages, selecting some of its motifs or sounds and refashioning them for altogether different purposes, all the while with a view to entertain. The author manipulated a myth which had become alien and re-elaborated parts of it in order to reflect on and reinforce his own culture.**48** The hero’s name, a storm caused by a fleeing/northern wind, uncontentious sailors, a sea-monster swallowing and regurgitating the hero under divine command, a monster diminished to worm size in the second part, a magic emetic ––all these serve the author’s meaning.

If it is true that the element of mockery of the Greeks is part of this story, then all the more reason to set aside the view of the book of Jonah as a didactic parable teaching that divine compassion knows no boundaries and is universal.**49** Christian exegetes in particular have often propounded a universalistic interpretation, put forward by Jerome, for instance, and especially by Ephrem the Syrian, who had his own neighborly reasons to offer a literal interpretation and present the Ninevites in a flattering light.**50** Philo of Alexandria could have been expected to offer this kind of interpretation but it is absent from his commentaries on Jonah.**51**

In line with tradition, I would argue rather that the problem posed by God’s boundless compassion is the primary subject of this story. The question is framed in an ironic and even tragic mode, in spite of the author’s apparently jocular manner. The geographical or ethnical considerations on the bounds of divine compassion which later (Christian) interpretation found congenial add a new, secondary dimension to the original story, the main point of which is to highlight a debate or question intrinsic to Israel. It is the answer to that question, in turn, which may be given universal significance.

As commentaries have long shown, the book of Jonah presents a reflection on the dangers of prophecy. In Israel, oracles of doom had long before given place to conditional oracles, which were better suited to the vagaries of historical circumstances. But the conditions for belief in conditional oracles appear to have developed also in the Graeco-Roman world. Even though on the surface they differ in mode, goals, and significance, a self-questioning or ironic discourse on prophetic traditions arose in both cultural areas.**52** Similar questions were raised in Hebrew and Greek stories regarding the functioning of divine justice and mercy and their mechanism. This is not to say that the Greek and Hebrew Weltanschauungen of the time were identical. Rather their differences are to be sought at another level, in the tautness of the question that the author is asking Israel, as will presently be seen. This tenseness, I suggest, stems from the structure of the Hebrew faith, in which the dialogue regarding the mechanisms of history was projected as being conducted with a God who is creator of the universe, and therefore free and totally gracious, above any contingency. This divinity might well decide to reverse or change the flow of nature or history, thus lifting the burden of fatality. From the prophet’s point of view, however, the kind of conditional oracles that the nature of the divinity required made the dangers of life altogether too predictable.

Yet, the story of Jonah contains a more poignant idea than a concern for the prophet’s thorny position. If the tale places its hero Jonah in a rhetoric of prophecy that is problematic, it also implies a basic questioning of Israel’s relation to God. Jonah is apparently caught in a dilemma between basic tenets of Israel’s faith whose consequences the author exaggerates to bring them into clear conflict. Jonah is shown as trapped between two extreme ideas: one is the notion of the automaticity, swiftness, and infinite range of God’s justice and anger in response to Israel’s failures; the other is its converse, namely the automaticity, and infinite patience, of divine compassion.

One may imagine the ancient Hebrew or Judaean audience of the story smiling at the Ninevites’ (or Ionians’) expense, for how could the latter be so dense as to think of divine mercy as remotely possible for them? Furthermore, how could this compassion be exercised towards people who, in Israel’s estimation, did not even know the boundaries of sinful action and included in it their domestic herds? Here, there may have been a dark joke or innuendo, still having force for later Jewish commentators, regarding the sexual mores of Ninevites (or Greeks/Ionians; it may have been a joke often reciprocated). But Nineveh is the converse of Israel, where prophetic and Deuteronomistic traditions would have it that conversion has hardly ever been completed in the past, or that it has been accomplished by a few rare individuals, and specifically not by kings, who need repeated warnings in the normal discourse of prophecy.

The story contains a logical exercise or equation which can be formulated as follows: If a conversion which is rhetorically and historically wrong (no effort by the “prophet;” too obedient a king; in Nineveh the paradigmatic enemy) brings about the immediate and full benefits of divine mercy, then shouldn’t the listeners ask themselves what is the proper dynamics of conversion and mercy? “How much” conversion is actually necessary, at what point does mercy “kick in,” and what must one do, short of total conversion, which is actually so impossible that it looks silly? The author’s vision of what a divine determinism would entail is amusing, at least superficially. But this vision of the world is ironic, in that it questions the listeners’ ordinary notions, which are of a world bound by determinisms of all kinds, yet freed, even at the most physical level, by the word of God.

In the book of Jonah, physical nature is entirely removed from the reach of determinism: storm, fish, worm, are all appointed by divine command. But, and this to me is part of the irony of the book, determinism is applied to the divine sphere. In Greek stories, on the contrary, there is considerable fickleness to be found in the Greek gods. So, here too, the author might be thinking about Greek conceptions of the world, under cover of anti-ninevism. The lesson of the book, if there is one, is the strengthening of “ordinary” or common perceptions —I mean ordinary for a listener or reader of the biblical stories— not for a non-Hebrew, say a Greek, who precisely has these beliefs, namely that the gods are all powerful, and that nature is essentially ruled by unpredictable gods. The hidden philosophy of the book, to be derived from its ironical posture, would be exactly contrary to its surface story and to popular forms of Greek wisdom. It would be suggesting that there is determinism in nature, but complete divine freedom.

In Greek mythology and theater, the precautions taken to keep the heroes away conspire to bring them back to the center of the drama through a complicated chain of events. The book of Jonah does away with the niceties of the complex mechanism which Greek drama slowly unfolds and presents a hero who, though naked and battered, remains proud before his God.





Jonah as naked hero features prominently in later Christian iconography. Scholars have shown that ancient versions of sea stories and especially their iconography (for instance combinations of the story of Heracles and Hermione), were integrated more or less successfully in Christian retellings and illustrations of Jonah’s story.**53** I suggest that among the themes re-employed in this iconography, some of the motifs of the Jason cycle might have an important role which has not been brought to light until now, at least to my knowledge. Motifs which were common to both stories in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE (and even before?) are still fused together in the first centuries of our era. I can indicate only briefly some of the parallels and adaptations, however, while hoping that a full study of the representations of Jason and Jonah be undertaken in the future to check the hypothesis.

The transformation of motifs taken from Graeco-Roman depictions of other heroes and their re-employment in Christian and Jewish representations of Jonah have long been noted. For instance, it has been shown that the image on a sarcophagus from Santa Maria Antiqua of a naked Jonah resting languidly under a vine, closely resembles that of Endymion reclining in seemingly beatific pleasure, with his right arm stretched behind his head.**54** Structurally speaking, however, and without dismissing the aforementioned striking comparison, the presence of a ship, a sea monster to the left (not a whale or fish), a tree (not a gourd?) above Jonah, with a ram and two sheep (?) above him, and a woman standing to his right ––all of these elements make sense as the continuation of the Jason imagery. I propose therefore that the artist conflated stock images of both Jason and Endymion. I note also that this paradisiac interpretation of Jonah under the gourd, though in line with the Jewish interpretation of the sukkah and the Christian idea of resurrection, and fitting long-standing representations of Endymion and even Jason (there is an Edenic quality to the wood where the latter finds the Golden Fleece), is completely contradictory to the sense one gets of Jonah in the Hebrew story, namely that of an angry and sulking man. Furthermore, in the Biblical story, the episode of the gourd is placed after Jonah goes to Nineveh and is well separated from the storm and disgorgement episode. But in the Jewish or Christian iconography of Jonah, the gourd scene is set close by the ship and sea-monster or whale, and Nineveh is altogether absent. The simplest explanation for this juxtaposition is that painters and sculptors were fitting familiar images from Greek mythology onto Jonah’s story.

In one of his letters, Augustine answers, or rather dodges, a curious question asked by a pagan friend of the Carthage priest Deogratias, who is writing to the bishop of Hippo for intellectual ammunition he might use in his discussions with that friend.**55** The question seems to be occasioned by a representation of Jonah very much like the one described above, and other similar images in which the ocean adventure and the “gourd” scene are juxtaposed. The pagan friend wishes to be enlightened about the meaning of the gourd plant growing above Jonah, who has just been disgorged by the monster.**56** This pagan man may have heard the biblical story but more certainly he has seen Jonah represented as vomited by a monstrous sea-creature on the seaside, probably naked,**57** under the gourd. The scenes of the vomiting and the gourd could be kept apart, as in the fourth century mosaic at Aquileia, for instance. Yet there are numerous representations setting both motifs side by side. One could argue that this proximity was a function of artistic convenience alone but it makes good sense to see in it the direct influence of the figurative Jason cycle.

A proper elucidation of the role of the Jason story in these traditions might help to explain some of the questions that ancient representations posed for early Christian interpreters and exhortative preaching. There are curious silences in early Christian teaching regarding, for instance, the treatment of the episode of the gourd, Jonah’s nakedness and baldness, which stand out in contrast to the images of Jonah. The latter detail forms an interesting puzzle: compare Jason on the Cerveteri cup, bearded, with long wavy and glistening hair, hanging below him like the fleece, and Jonah. Jason’s lustrous hair is also mentioned by Pindar.**58** Early pictures of Jonah, likewise, show him long-haired, occasionally bearded. An eastern Mediterranean marble figure from the second half of the third century CE, for instance, has a bearded, long-haired and naked Jonah being vomited out of a sea-monster (part whale?).**59** For the Midrash on Jonah, however, the heat inside the monster was so intense that Jonah lost his clothes and his hair. But in this case, it may have been the classical representations of yet another hero, namely Heracles, which brought about the theme of baldness and nakedness (though, as mentioned in a note above, nakedness seems to have been a standard component of any image of shipwrecked victims). As for the gourd usually shown above Jonah, it might have been part of the stock images used for Jason at a very early stage. In an Etruscan bronze mirror of the fifth- or fourth-century BCE, a long-haired Jason (HEIASUN, see plate) emerges from the dragon with sword in his right hand, fleece in his left, surrounded by what appears to be a broad-leafed plant having the shape of a vine and bearing fruit which look like melons.**60**

These are only a few of the iconographic parallels and adaptations. A thorough study of the representations of Jason and Jonah would show in detail in what way century-old images of Jason were attached to Jonah in the first centuries CE. Eventually, though, the Christian messianic interpretations of the Hebrew story asserted their influence and slowly altered the nature and presentation of the repertory of stock images.

To conclude, I note that the persistence of these images and themes over the centuries in a wide cultural area is a striking phenomenon. The cultural bonds between Greece and Israel were stronger than has been thought sometimes, although the borrowings were made in all directions and the resulting knots are near inextricable. Yet I hope to have shown that replacing the stories of Jonah and Jason in the wider context of their Mediterranean matrix enriches their meaning and leads serendipitously to new philological observations. Now, the use of widely scattered mythological themes by the author of the book of Jonah does not necessarily mean that the influence of Greek language and institutions was very deep in Israel, even in the last centuries B.C.E.**61** In fact, the author plays with these heroic stories very much as he questions the Hebrew prophetic accounts. The book might therefore be interpreted as a chapter in the multi-sided resistance to hellenistic culture. It is hoped that a more thorough study of the rhetoric of prophecy in Israel and Greece, together with a fully developed analysis of the iconography of Jason and Jonah, will yield even more assured results in the future.


**1** See A. Feuillet, “Les sources du livre de Jonas,” Revue biblique 54 (1947) 161-86; P.L. Trible, Studies in the Book of Jonah (Ph.D. Diss., Columbia, 1963) 107-8, 110-12; J. Sasson, Jonah. A New Translation with Introduction, Commentary, and Interpretation (The Anchor Bible, 24B; New York: Doubleday, 1990) passim.

**2** 2 See Sasson, op. cit., pp. 331-40.

**3** 3 See A. Feuillet, art. cit., p. 162; E. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible (New York: Schocken, 1967) mentions also the stories of Arion in Herodotus and Heracles’ three day sojourn in a sea cave. A. Feuillet, after reviewing the possibilities, thinks that the results are meager and unimportant. P. Trible reviews all previous proposals, op. cit., pp. 127-52.

**4** 4 The most important work is by H. Schmidt: Jona. Eine Untersuchung zum vergleichenden Religionsgeschichte (Göttingen, 1907), pp. 22-23. As the title indicates, this is a broad comparative study which, in the opinion of Y.M. Duval (in: Le livre de Jonas dans la littérature chrétienne grecque et latine. Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1973) is carried too far. Flasch, Angebliche Argonautenbilder (Munich: F. Straub, 1870); Welcker (Alte Denkm˛ler); Radermacher (Mythos und Sage bei den griechen, Leipzig: R.M. Rohrer, 1938, p. 183; alsoDas Jenseits im Mythos der Hellenen, pp. 67ff.); Kerényi also (in The Heroes of the Greeks, London: Thames & Hudson, 1959).

**5** Not in Feuillet or in Sasson. The work of H. Schmidt (above, note 4) is not mentioned in J. Sasson’s bibliography.

**6** Abbreviated as LIMC from now on, vol. V, books 1 and 2, see under Jason.

**7** J. Sasson speaks of “vestiges of tales” but does not specify their origin (pp. 16-18).

**8** A question most recently addressed by W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press) 1992, about the archaic period. The book appeared in German in 1984.

**9** Eustathius, Commentarii ad Homeri Iliadem pertinentes (M. Van der Valk, Leiden: Brill, vol. 1, 1971, p.773, lines 15-17).

**10** See Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, vol. 3 (1964), p. 179, 9 mentions. For Cyrenaica, see index in W. Horbury and D. Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Graeco-Roman Egypt (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 326. Also: A. Lalonde, “La Cyrénaïque romaine des origines à la fin des Sévères (96 av. J.-C.–235 ap. J.-C.),” Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, vol. II/10.1 (1988), p. 1045. Note the names of high priests under Antiochos IV: Onias, then his brother Jason, then Menelas.

**11** In Pindar, Pyth. 4.

**12** See The New Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2 (Jerusalem/New York: Israel Exploration Society and Carta; Simon andSchuster, 1993), p. 751.

**13** Apollonius, Argonautica 2.317f.; 2.555f. The use of doves may have been a most ancient technique. It is not documented in J. Rougé, La marine de l’antiquité, Paris: P.U.F. (1975), or in L. Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (London: Allen & Unwin, 1974).

**14** Aeneid 6.190f.

**15** Soph. Trachiniae 169f.; Servius, In Aeneidem 3.466.

**16** Bora is still the name of a northern wind coming from Dalmatia and causing storms in the Adriatic Sea: J. Rougé, La marine de l’antiquité, Paris: P.U.F. (1975) 24. The Boreads are pictured as winged creatures, often naked, as in LIMC III/1 (1986), pp. 126-33.

**17** 1 Kings 19.10. The whole story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18.20-40.

**18** AO 1155-77.

**19** Herodotus, History 1.4. Parallel evoked by E. Bickerman, among others (see note 3 above).

**20** bNedarim 38a; PRE 10. Tradition hesitates about the nature of the payment: Jonah’s passage alone, or the value of the entire cargo, a problem evident in the difference between MT and LXX, and which puzzled Jerome, In Ionam 1.3. See Y.M. Duval, Le livre de Jonas dans la littérature chrétienne grecque et latine (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, vol. 1, 1973) p. 100, n. 158, following L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, vol. 6 , p. 349, n. 28.

**21** As noted by J. Sasson, Jonah, New York: The Anchor Bible (1990), 141-42.

**22** AO 1157; Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, 4.580-91.

**23** AO 1159.

**24** AR 2.172-530.

**25** Like Heracles, who fights a sea-monster to save Hesione, for instance; see E. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible, p. 11.

**26** LIMC V/2 (1990), p. 427, no. 30: seventh century scene, with Jason long-haired and bearded; p. 428, no. 34.

**27** Reproduced in color in P.E. Arias and M. Hirmer, Le vase grec, Paris: Flammarion (1962), fig. 147 (Italian original 1962. Also ET, with marked differences). Also in H. Schmidt, op. cit., p. 23; Kerényi, The Heroes of the Greeks, fig. 62; now in LIMC, vol. V/2, p. 428 (fig. Iason 32).

**28** Flasch, Angebliche Argonautenbilder (Munich: F. Straub, 1870), p. 27.

**29** See Laconian iconography. Check LIMC on Boreadae.

**30** Angebliche Argonautenbilder (Munich: F. Straub, 1870), chapter 3, p. 25. See also Radermacher, Das Jenseits im Mythos der Hellenen, p. 67. But see Welcker, Alte Denkm˛ler, p. 378.

**31** “Ships, monsters and Jonah,” American Journal of Archaeology 66 (1962), 294, pl. 78, fig. 7. She is following E. Pfuhl, Malerei und Zeichnung der Griechen, vol. 3, Munich (1923) pl. 164, no. 467; and K. Kerényi, The Heroes of the Greeks (1959) fig. 62, pp. 264–65, for a commentary on the Cerveteri vase.

**32** “A l’intérieur, Athena casquée, armée de l’égide et de la lance, la chouette dans la main droite, assiste, étonnée, à l’approche du héros Jason (ijvason) qui sort de la gueule ouverte du dragon.”

**33** P.E. Arias and M. Hirmer, Le vase grec, Paris: Flammarion (1962), fig. 147 and p. 80 for a brief commentary.

**34** LIMC II/1 (1984) 975-76; II/2 (1984) No. 187, etc.

**35** A fifth to fourth century BCE Greek volute-krater features doves in two trees connected with the Jason story: LIMC V/2 (1990), Iason 17. The Golden Fleece hangs from an olive-tree, to the left, and a dragon is coiled around the trunk of an apple-tree (?) to the right.

**36** Note that Aquila and Theodotion transcribed the word, kikeôna (Sasson, p. 292).

**37** Surveyed and evaluated by B.P. Robertson, “Jonah’s Qiqayon Plant,” ZATW 97 (1985) 390–403.

**38** Not in Pindar, but in several passages of the version in Apollonius of Rhodes and in the Argonautica Orphica.

**39** Note also the tradition of fast-growing trees in AO (?).

**40** See A. Delatte, “Le Cycéon, breuvage rituel des mystères d’Eleusis,” Revue d’Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses 32 (1954) 690-748.

**41** K. Shepard, The Fish-Tailed Monster in Greek and Etruscan Art, New York and Menasha, Wisc.: Privately printed and G. Banta Co. (1940), 4-9, for mermen 10-11, 19, 43-44 for discussion of the origins of Skylla, a sea-monster popular in the 5th c. BCE. There is no mention of Jonah in this work. See also G. Ahlberg–Cornell, Heracles and the Sea-Monster in Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painting, Stockholm: P. Åströms Förlag (1984), 17, for Near Eastern influence on Greek art in the middle of the 7th c. B.C. This author suspects Corinth had a special role in this cultural transmission in that period. Now see W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution. Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.

**42** See J. Fontenrose, Python. A Study of Delphic Myth and its Origins. Berkeley: UC Press (1959) 121–45, esp. 133–34; 143–45.

**43** Fontenrose, ibid., p. 485.

**44** On which see G.B. Miles and G. Trompf, “Luke and Antiphon: The Theology of Acts 27-28 in the Light of Pagan Beliefs About Divine Retribution, Pollution, and Shipwreck,” Harvard Theological Review 69 (1976) 259-67.

**45** For Jason as anti-hero, see G. Lawall, “Apollonius’ Argonautica: Jason as Anti-Hero,” Yale Classical Studies 19 (1966) 119-69.

**46** Especially J. Magonet, Form and Meaning: Studies in Literary Techniques in the Book of Jonah (1976); D. L. Christensen, “The Song of Jonah: A Metrical Analysis,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (1985) 217-31.

**47** On Jonah as a parody: A. Band, “Swallowing Jonah: The Eclipse of Parody,” Prooftexts 10 (1990), 177–95, who may be exaggerating the comic effect. Band is in substantial agreement with J. Miles especially, M. Burrows, B. Halpern and R. Friedman, J.C. Hulbert, J. Ackerman and others. The parodic interpretation has been strongly opposed by several authors, esp. A. Berlin.

**48** Cf. E. Gruen, “Cultural Fictions and Cultural Identity,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 123 (1993) 1-14.

**49** For instance, this is considered the main point of the story in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), pp. 580-84.

**50** See E.E. Urbach, “Tshuvat anshey Nineveh” Tarbiz 20 (1959) pp. 119-20.

**51** Duval, vol 1, p. 77. See F. Siegert, Drei hellenistisch-jüdische Predigten (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum NT, vol. 61, Mohr: Tübingen, 1992).

**52** See E. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible (1967), pp. 29-33, where he explains the evolution of oracles of doom (fata denuntiativa) and conditional prophecies.

**53** See important pages in Y.M. Duval, Le livre de Jonas dans la littérature chrétienne grecque et latine (Paris: Etudes augustiniennes, 1973), esp. pp. 13-19 for texts and 19-39 for figurative art.

**54** T. F. Mathews, The Clash of Gods. A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993, fig. 13, and pp. 30-31 (following Von Sybel, see Mathews’ note 16). A structurally similar image of Jonah asleep under staked up gourds, with long hair and no beard, appears on a third century (end) fragment of a sarcophagus lid in the Louvre museum: see P. Du Bourguet, Early Christian Art (New York: Reynal &Co.; William Morrow & Co., 1971), p. 39.

**55** Letter 102.6; see Y.M. Duval, vol. 1, p. 28.

**56** Augustine, Letter 102.6.30: “Quod sibi etiam vult supra euomitum Ionam cucurbitam natam?”

**57** He mentions the incredible fact that a man could have been swallowed fully clothed by the fish. Nakedness, however, was part of the motif of the shipwrecked victim, and applies to Jason as well as to Jonah.

**58** Pyth. 4.82-83.

**59** P. Du Bourguet, Early Christian Art, p. 109.

**60** LIMC V/2 (1990), Iason 35; see also H. Schmidt, op. cit., fig. 5, p. 24.

**61** The book was probably written in the fifth or fourth c. B.C.E. But as J. Sasson writes (op. cit., p. 328), this book is not written “in a style favorable to historical inquiry,” and is difficult to date.




Micaiah and Micah

Published October 24, 2018 by amaic

 Image result for micaiah prophet


Damien F. Mackey



“Micah uses the imagery of a threshing floor (same word in Hebrew) and

iron horns that come from the events surrounding Micaiah’s prophecy”.

 Christadelphian Books 




Many have observed the amazing series of compelling likenesses between the words and visions of the prophet Micaiah and those of the prophet Micah. {“The name Mica(h) is the accepted abbreviated form of the name Michaiah (like … Rick is to Richard)”: Abarim Publications: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Micah.html#.W8vYKWdRc_w}

However, the next step, to identify Micah as Micaiah, would clearly seem to be a step too far, given Micah’s contemporaneity with king Ahab of Israel (c. 871 – 852 BC, conventional dating) (1 Kings 22:8-28), and Micah’s contemporaneity with king Hezekiah of Judah (c. 715 – 686 BC, conventional dating) (cf. Jeremiah 26:18).


That is a time separation of at least a century and a half!



Micah, though, does seem to be making definite reference to king Ahab and the Naboth incident.

(See chart below). Not to mention this clearly direct reference to Ahab and Omri (Micah 6:16): “The statutes of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab are observed; and in their devices you walk.”

So I suspect that the Divided Monarchy needs further shortening, with the age of Ahab brought significantly closer to that of Micah.


The following chart is one example of just how well Micah lines up alongside Micaiah: http://www.christadelphianbooks.org/mannell/jehoshaphat/JEH5%20(Micah%20and%20Micaia


Micah Micaiah Comment
“Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth”(1:2) “Listen, all you people.”(2Chron 18:27) Micah’s opening quotes Micaiah’s final words(the only occasion of this phrase in scripture).
“…the Lord from His holy temple.“(1:2) “I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, andall the host of heaven standing on His right

and on His left.”

(2Chron 18:18)

“All this is for the rebellion of Jacob and for thesins of the house of Israel. What is the rebellion

of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What is the high

place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? For I will

make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open

country, planting places for a vineyard. I will pour

her stones down into the valley, and will lay bare

her foundations. All of her idols will be smashed,

all of her earnings will be burned with fire, and all

of her images I will make desolate, for she

collected them from a harlot’s earnings, and to

the earnings of a harlot they will return. Because

of this I must lament and wail, I must go barefoot

and naked; I must make a lament like the jackals

and a mourning like the ostriches. For her wound

is incurable, for it has come to Judah; it has

reached the gate of my people, even to




Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat theking of Judah were sitting each on his

throne, arrayed in their robes, and they were

sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance

of the gate of Samaria; and all the

prophets were prophesying before them.

(2Chron 18:9)

Micah’s concern is that the evil from Samariais infecting Judah, it has even reached the

gate of Jerusalem. That infection can be

traced back to the gate of Samaria.

Micah Micaiah Comment
“Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who workout evil on their beds! When morning comes,

they do it, for it is in the power of their hands.

They covet fields and then seize them and

houses, and take them away. They rob a man

and his house, a man and his inheritance.”


So Ahab came into his house sullen andvexed because of the word which Naboth

the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he

said, “I will not give you the inheritance of

my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed

and turned away his face and ate no food.

(1Kings 21:4 and context)

Micah’s description of evil doers is veryreminiscent of the incident of Ahab and


“If a man walking after wind and falsehood hadtold lies and said ‘I will speak out to you

concerning wine and liquor,’ He would be

spokesman (KJV: prophet) to this people.”


“Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put adeceiving spirit in the mouth of these

your prophets; for the LORD has

proclaimed disaster against you.”

(2Chron 18:22)

Lying prophets
“I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I willsurely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put

them together like sheep in the fold; like a

flock in the midst of its pasture they will be noisy

with men.


So he said, “I saw all Israel Scattered onthe mountains, like sheep which have no


(2Chron 18:16)

Scattered sheep.
“Thus says the LORD concerning the prophetsWho lead my people astray; when they have

something to bite with their teeth, they cry,

Peace,” but against him who puts nothing in

their mouths, they declare holy war.“


Then the king of Israel assembled theprophets, four hundred men …And they

said,” Go up, for God will give it into the

hand of the king.”

(2Chron 18:5)

400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at

Jezebel’s table.

(1Kings 18:19)

Ahab’s false prophets were clearly only sayingwhat their employer wanted.



Micah Micaiah Comment
Therefore it will be night for you– without vision,and darkness for you– without divination. The

sun will go down on the prophets, and the day

will become dark over them. The seers will be

ashamed and the diviners will be embarrassed.

Indeed, they will all cover their mouths Because

there is no answer from God.


And Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see onthat day, when you enter an inner room to

hide yourself.”

(2Chron 18:24)

Zedekiah was a blind seer (“seer” and “see”are almost identical in Hebrew) who would

finally see on the day he cowardly hides

himself in shame. (Inner room can mean the

toilet as in Judges 3:24)

On the other hand I am filled with power– Withthe Spirit of the LORD— And with justice and

courage To make known to Jacob his rebellious

act, even to Israel his sin.


How did the Spirit of the LORD passfrom me to speak to you?”

(2Chron 18:24)

Zedekiah claims that Micaiah did not have thespirit of Yahweh as he makes known Ahab’s


“But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD,and they do not understand His purpose; for He

has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing

floor. Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion, for your

horn I will make iron and your hoofs I will make

bronze, that you may pulverize many peoples,

that you may devote to the LORD their unjust

gain and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.


Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat theking of Judah were sitting each on his

throne, arrayed in their robes, and they were

sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance

of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets

were prophesying before them. And

Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made

horns of iron for himself and said, “Thus

says the LORD, ‘With these you shall gore

the Arameans, until they are consumed.’”

(2Chron 18:9-10)

Micah uses the imagery of a threshing floor(same word in Hebrew) and iron horns that

come from the events surrounding Micaiah’s


“Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter oftroops; they have laid siege against us; with a rod

they will smite the judge of Israel on the



Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah camenear and struck Micaiah on the cheek…

(2Chron 18:23

Struck on the cheek



Micah Micaiah Comment
And He will arise and shepherd His flock in thestrength of the LORD…


Shepherd Thy people with Thy scepter, the

flock of Thy possession which dwells by itself in

the woodland, in the midst of a fruitful field. Let

them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days

of old.


Israel Scattered on the mountains, likesheep which have no shepherd; and the

(2Chron 18:16)

Micah looks forward to the day when Israeland Judah will have a proper shepherd.

He also looks forward to that flock feeding in

Gilead, the very place Ahab and Jehoshaphat

were seeking to reclaim.

“My people, remember now what Balak king ofMoab counselled…Does the LORD take delight

in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of

oil? Shall I present my first-born for my

rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the

sin of my soul?

(6:5, 7)

When the king of Moab saw that the battlewas too fierce for him, he took with him 700

men who drew swords, to break through to

the king of Edom; but they could not. Then

he took his oldest son who was to reign

in his place, and offered him as a burnt

offering on the wall. And there came great

wrath against Israel, and they departed from

him and returned to their own land.

(2Kings 3:26-27)

A couple of years later Jehoshaphat andAhab’s son were again joined in a campaign,

against Moab when the king of Moab offered

his first born son.

“The statutes of Omri and all the works of thehouse of Ahab are observed; and in their

devices you walk.”


Micah’s criticism of Judah is that it is following the example Ahab and his father.

Part Two:

Not an overshadowed prophet

“It seems poor Micah is destined to forever play backup to headliner Isaiah”

Michael Williams 


This view expressed here by Michael Williams about Micah is by no means the one that I found to have been the case when Micah is accorded some stunning prophetic alter egos. See e.g. my:


Prophet Jonah’s long life of service


And, in the first part of this particular series:


I had embraced a tradition according to which Micah was the same as the prophet Micaiah at the time of king Ahab of Israel.

The names are the same, and it is interesting that the prophet Jeremiah gives Micah the longer form name of Micaiah: “His name is a shortened form of Micaiah (Jdgs. 17:1,4; I Kgs. 22:13), which meant “who is like YHWH” (BDB 567). Jeremiah 26:18 has the full name in the Hebrew text (i.e., Micaiah) [מיכיה הַמּוֹרַשְׁתִּי]”: https://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-micah

Whilst this tradition is extremely difficult to sustain within the context of the extended conventional chronology of the Divided Kingdom, it becomes feasible when it is recognised that (as according to the Prophet Jonah article above):


  • our composite prophet lived to 120-130 years of age; and that
  • the early-mid Divided Kingdom period needs to be considerably shortened.


I have already applied such a radical shortening to the later kingdom of Judah period in my article:


‘Taking aim on’ king Amon – such a wicked king of Judah


Far from Micah’s having played second fiddle to the great Isaiah, he was – according to my reconstructions – the very father of Isaiah. For one, he was the “Micah” of the Book of Judith (6:15): “Uzziah son of Micah, of the tribe of Simeon …”, with the “Uzziah” here being Isaiah.

This was when the reluctant prophet (cf. Jonah), a shepherd and tender of sycamore trees, had been assigned to Bethel (“Bethulia” of Judith) in the reign of Jeroboam II (cf. Amos).

Micah (“Amos redivivus”) was thus Amos (or Amoz) the father of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1).

Micah and Isaiah were a father-and-son prophetic combination, operating both in northern Israel and in the southern kingdom.


Wrongly Michael Williams writes (Hidden Prophets of the Bible: Finding the Gospel in Hosea through Malachi):


We have already seen that Micah’s ministry was far overshadowed by that of Isaiah, his contemporary. Although the precise dates for the ministry of many of the Minor Prophets are difficult to nail down with any precision …


My comment: Absolutely impossible “to nail down with any precision” the way that the conventional biblico-history has been constructed.


… tradition maintains that Micah’s ministry also overlapped that of at least two other prophets: Hosea and Amos.


My comment: I have already noted, though, that Micah was Amos.

Hosea, I believe, to be, again, Isaiah, operating (like his father) in northern Bethel.


So, according to tradition, possibly as many as three other biblical prophets who have left books for us in our canon ministered at the same time as Micah.


My comment: Perhaps make that just one other biblical prophet: namely, Isaiah (= Hosea, Uzziah).


That same tradition asserts, however, that Micah “was a younger contemporary of the other three” ….


My comment: Swing and a miss! Micah was older than the other one, who was his son.


It seems, therefore, that our hidden prophet Micah had to deal not only with other practitioners of his craft, but also with the fact that he was a junior to them.


My comment: Same comment. Micah was in fact like an Alpha prophet!

Further on, Michael Williams will write:

Although extrabiblical traditions regarding Micah are rare, there is one that claims he was a disciple of Elijah. …. Elijah ministered during the reign of Ahab in Israel (874–853). Clearly, this period precedes the time of Micah’s ministry by at least a hundred years. So how an assertion that Micah was a disciple of Elijah could possibly be true is interesting to consider.


My comment: Micah was Elijah according to my reconstruction (see Prophet Jonah article above). And Jonah, too – thought to have been the boy raised to life by Elijah – was Elijah.


As we saw above, Micah’s name is actually a shorter form of the name Micaiah. And there is indeed a prophet named Micaiah who ministered during the reigns of King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah (I Kings 22:8). Apparently, Jewish tradition has confused our Minor Prophet Micah with this earlier prophet Micaiah son of Imlah … even though they clearly ministered at different times.


My comment: “Different times” during a very long life of 120-130 years.

Jewish tradition got this connection dead right.


So not only is poor Micah overshadowed by Isaiah and opposed by false prophets, but he has also been mistaken for someone else.


My comment: The reality of Micah is far less negative than this, so I think.






Elijah-Jonah (Jonadab) ‘The chariots … of Israel’

Published October 24, 2018 by amaic
Image result for elijah in chariot


 Damien F. Mackey


This is, I now believe, an epithet given to Elijah by his servant Elisha,

when Elijah went up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:12): “Elisha saw this and cried out,

‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’”



To Heaven in a fiery chariot


This may well be where the name “Jonah” comes in for the prophet Elijah.


Elijah’s fiery ride upwards (2 Kings 2:1-17) is by no means the end of the prophet, as is thought. According to my theory, at least, he would live into the age of (his yet other alter ego) Micah, as late as the time of king Hezekiah of Judah (cf. Jeremiah 26:18).

He would need all of his 120-130 years of age (as traditionally accorded to Jonah) to have been able to have accomplished this.


After the prophet (as Micaiah) had foretold the imminent death in battle of king Ahab of Israel and (as Elijah) of queen Jezebel, he next emerges, I think – and this is completely new – as Jonadab (Jehonadab) son of Rechab near Beth-Eked of the shepherds (2 Kings 10:12, 15-17):


Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds ….

After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Rekab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, ‘Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?’

‘I am’, Jehonadab answered. ‘If so’, said Jehu, ‘give me your hand’. So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot.  Jehu said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord’. Then he had him ride along in his chariot.

When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab’s family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah.


The meaning of Rekab (Rechab)


A lot of effort has been expended by scholars in trying to work out this one.

Who was Jonadab’s ancestor, Rekab?

This is, I now believe, an epithet given to Elijah by his servant Elisha, when Elijah went up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:12): “Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’”

Elijah had become “The Chariots of Israel”, or Rekeb Yisrael:


יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ רֶ֤כֶב


To use a Hebraïsm, Elijah is now, therefore: a Son of Rekab.

In this case, Rekab is not his father.

According to Elijah as Micaiah, his father (or ancestor) was Imla[h].

According to Elijah as Jonah, his father (or ancestor) was Amittai.



The prophet was undoubtedly a Nazirite, foregoing all strong drink.


His loyal descendants, known at the time of Jeremiah as “Rechabites”, greatly revered their holy ancestor, or “father” (Jeremiah 35:6-11):


‘We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever. You shall not build a house; you shall not sow seed; you shall not plant or have a vineyard; but you shall live in tents all your days, that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’ We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, and not to build houses to dwell in.

We have no vineyard or field or seed, but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us. But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem’.


The meaning of Jonadab (Jonah)


“Jonadab, is a contracted form of יהונדב, Jehonadab …”.


The Jeho- element pertains, of course, to “the Lord”. Whereas: The graceful verb נדב (nadab) connotes “an uncompelled and free movement of the will unto divine service or sacrifice …”.


The name “Jonah” (יוֹנָה), on the other hand, is taken to mean “dove”, as explained at:


“There’s something deeply peculiar about the name Jonah. Pretty much all sources derive it of the root יון, and render the name Dove. Jones’ Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, however, makes a striking observation (or perhaps even an error). Jones suggests that the Hebrew word for dove comes from the verb ינה(yana), meaning to oppress, vex, do wrong …”.


In our new context, though, with Jonah identified as Jehonadab (Jonadab), then this latter name





would be the actual foundation for the name, Jonah.


Elijah as Micaiah – why not?

Published October 21, 2018 by amaic
Image result for prophet elijah like melchizedek



Damien F. Mackey


No commentaries that I have read pertaining to the prophet Micaiah will – whilst regarding him as Elijah’s contemporary, and of similar ilk – take that a step further by suggesting that Micaiah might have been Elijah.




A typical example of this that I shall present here is Rabbi David J. Zucker’s very useful article, “The Prophet Micaiah in Kings and Chronicles”. In the “Introduction” to Zucker’s article, we read: http://jbqnew.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/413/jbq_413_2_ahabmicaiah.pdf



One side effect of turning his back on the history and personalities of the kingdom of Israel was that the Chronicler could not (or chose not to) refer to the cycle of stories surrounding Elijah and Elisha so prominent in Kings (I Kgs. 18-19, 21; II Kgs. 1-2 – Elijah; I Kgs. 19; II Kgs. 2-13 – Elisha).


The Chronicler, however, did choose to refer to one prominent northern prophet, Micaiah ben Imlah, a contemporary of Elijah and Elisha. Chronicles essentially repeats the narrative of the Ahab-Micaiah confrontation, which appears in I Kings 22. The Chronicler includes this episode, despite the fact that it refers to the northern kingdom’s ruler, Ahab, and that its locale is Samaria. The most probable reason for the inclusion is that this narrative also features Judah’s King Jehoshaphat.


Zucker then proceeds to discuss:




In the single chapter in Chronicles where Ahab appears as a personality in his own right (II Chron. 18) … his presence is minimized when compared to the earlier history of First Kings, where Ahab is found in several chapters (18-22).

Since Ahab does not appear elsewhere in Chronicles, it is difficult to make sense of his statement to his southern counterpart, King Jehoshaphat, concerning the prophet Micaiah: ‘I hate him [Micaiah ben Imlah] because he never prophesies anything good for me, but always misfortune’ (II Chron. 18:7, cf. I Kgs. 22:8).


My comment: Should not this statement by King Ahab, who had called Elijah ‘my enemy’ – coupled with the singularity of Micaiah himself: ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD …’ – make us think immediately of the loner prophet Elijah?


Clearly, there was no love lost between Ahab and Elijah.


I Kings 18:17-18: “When [Ahab] saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’ ‘I have not made trouble for Israel’, Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals’.”

And I Kings 21:20-24:

“Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me, my enemy!’ ‘I have found you’, he answered, ‘because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin’. And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel’. Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country’.”


Zucker continues:


The context for this statement [to Micaiah] is an event late in the life of King Ahab, a proposed joint Israel-Judah battle against their mutual enemy, the king of Aram. They plan to recapture the territory of Ramoth-gilead. Four hundred of the prophets based in Samaria claim that the kings of Judah and Israel will prevail. Then the Judean king, Jehoshaphat, turns to King Ahab. He calls for an independent endorsement for this possible encounter. ‘Is there not another prophet of Y-H-V-H here through whom we can inquire?’ he asks (18:6, cf. I Kgs. 22:7). Ahab then replies, pointing out that there is someone, the aforementioned Micaiah ben Imlah, although he never prophesies anything good for me.


My comment: Rabbi Zucker will now ask the questions that I have just answered.


What is the basis for Ahab’s hatred of Micaiah? Where and when has Micaiah spoken ill of Ahab? Since Ahab only appears in this one chapter of Chronicles, the answer cannot be found in that book. Logically, we would expect it to be revealed in the earlier books of Kings ….


My comment: Exactly where “it” is to be found, I believe.

But Rabbi Zucker does not proceed to make what I would consider to be the connection begging to be made, that Micaiah is Elijah.


… yet even a close perusal of the relevant chapters provides no solution. Just as Micaiah ben Imlah only appears in this one chapter of Chronicles, so does he appear in only one chapter of Kings (I Kings 22).


My comment: In Rabbi Zucker’s next comment, the seeming “mystery” surrounding Micaiah’s comment is perfectly explained by the fact that the prophet is being, as Zucker continues, “sarcastic”. There is no “mystery” as far as Ahab is concerned. He knows what the prophet is like. Elijah’s sense of irony and mockery had been fully on display during his contest with the Baalists on Mount Carmel. So much so that we find contemporary writers, such as Leah Bronner, writing about Elijah’s biting ‘Polemics Against Baal’.


To add to the mystery, when the prophet Micaiah is summoned to appear before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, he first seems to endorse the coming battle; he foretells success (II Chron. 18:14) in a tone that may be sarcastic. Ahab then upbraids Micaiah, saying: ‘How many times must I adjure you to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of Y-H-V-H?’ (vs. 15). This rebuke makes it clear that these two have met on several occasions in the past.

… when Ahab says to Jehoshaphat that Micaiah ‘never prophesies anything good,’ it is apparent that there have been multiple occasions where Micaiah has opposed Ahab. To what, then, does Ahab refer?


My comment: Rabbi Zucker will now turn to the Mount Carmel incident as being one such of those ‘multiple occasions’ when Ahab was opposed by the prophet Micaiah. But, even now, he will not connect Micaiah with Elijah, but only with some obscure, “unnamed attendant” of Elijah’s.


One needs to turn to Kings to offer a possible answer to this matter. I Kings 18 relates the Ahab-Elijah-prophets of Baal contest on Mount Carmel. On that occasion, an attendant accompanies Elijah. Elijah sends this figure out to seek whether there is any hint of the coming rain, which will end the three year drought. Six times the servant goes and looks westward toward the Mediterranean, but sees nothing. Finally, on the seventh occasion the servant reported ‘A cloud as small as a person’s hand is rising in the west’ (I Kgs. 18:44).

Nothing more is said about this unnamed attendant in that chapter. In the next chapter an attendant, presumably the same person, accompanies Elijah when the prophet flees from the wrath of Jezebel. They travel south from Samaria as far as Beersheba in Judah. There Elijah leaves his servant behind (I Kgs. 19:3) and travels alone into the desert, eventually reaching Mount Horeb where he will experience a theophany with God.


My comment: Although Zucker will tell of Ahab’s turning his bitter wrath upon Elijah, he will maintain his line of argument – Micaiah is a recipient of the king’s wrath due to his association with Elijah.


At the Baal prophets’ episode, when King Ahab meets Elijah, he dismisses him in scathing language. Ahab caught sight of Elijah, [and] Ahab said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’ (I Kgs. 18:17). On a later occasion, Ahab describes Elijah as an enemy (I Kgs. 21:20). Ahab detests Elijah, and Elijah’s opposition. In like manner, Ahab associates that opposition with people connected with Elijah, and in particular (I suggest) Elijah’s unnamed attendant, Micaiah.


My comment: Perhaps it is “the Midrash” to which Zucker refers next that has prevented Jewish scholars, at least, from proposing an identification of Micaiah with Elijah.


There is some support for this idea in rabbinic literature: the Midrash names Micaiah as one of the four students of Elijah. ….

[End of quotes]



The prophet Elijah, a most mysterious character, who, like Melchizedek, seems to appear right out of nowhere, and whom King Ahab found to be frustratingly hard to pin down geographically, as attested by the godly ‘Obadiah (I Kings 18:10): ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master [Ahab] has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you’, ought to become somewhat easier to trace if he is also – as according to this article – Micaiah son of Imlah. For now at least, in this name “Imlah”, we have a further clue (patronymic) towards the assembling of a biographical identikit of Elijah.




Parallel neo-Assyrian Kings

Published October 18, 2018 by amaic
Image result for book of tobit

Book of Tobit a guide to neo-Assyrian succession



Damien F. Mackey


Biblical scholars, such as Edwin Thiele, can be so committed to the supposedly unassailable accuracy of neo-Assyrian chronology that they are prepared to sacrifice multiple biblical synchronisms in order to ‘rectify’ the biblical chronology.


Here, instead, far from my passive acceptance of the received neo-Assyrian chronology, I shall be questioning the very number and succession of the neo-Assyrian kings.





The extent of the neo-Assyrian succession that will occupy my attention in this article will be limited to that embraced by the Book of Tobit, i.e., from “Shalmaneser” (1:13: GNT) to “Esarhaddon” (1:21: GNT).


Whilst the standard textbook arrangement of neo-Assyrian monarchs runs something like this (my reason for including Tiglath-pileser III will become clear from Table 2):


Table 1


Tiglath-Pileser III 745–727 BC son of Ashur-nirari (V)
Shalmaneser V 727–722 BC son of Tiglath-Pileser (III)
Sargon II 722–705 BC
Sennacherib 705–681 BC
Esarhaddon 681–669 BC


my revision would truncate this by reducing these conventionally five kings to a mere three, as according to the succession given in the Book of Tobit, whose accuracy I accept.



Table 2


Shalmaneser V 727–722 BC son of Tiglath-Pileser (III)
Sennacherib 705–681 BC
Esarhaddon 681–669 BC


The relevant parts of Tobit, all occurring in chapter 1, are verses 10, 12-13, 15, 21 (GNT):


‘Later, I was taken captive and deported to Assyria, and that is how I came to live in Nineveh.

…. Since I took seriously the commands of the Most High God, he made Emperor Shalmaneser respect me, and I was placed in charge of purchasing all the emperor’s supplies.

…. When Shalmaneser died, his son Sennacherib succeeded him as emperor.

…. two of Sennacherib’s sons assassinated him and then escaped to the mountains of Ararat. Another son, Esarhaddon, became emperor and put Ahikar, my brother Anael’s son, in charge of all the financial affairs of the empire. …’.


The royal succession is here clearly given. “Shalmaneser”, who deported Tobit’s tribe of Naphtali (see Tobit 1:1), was succeeded at death by “his son Sennacherib”, who was, in turn, upon his assassination, succeeded by his “son, Esarhaddon”.


No room here for a Sargon II.


And Tobit’s “Shalmaneser” appears to have replaced Tiglath-pileser III as the Assyrian king who is said in 2 Kings 15:29 to have deported to Assyria the tribe of Naphtali: “… Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria”.


Is the Book of Tobit therefore contradicting the Second Book of Kings?


Objections to Tobit


It is common for scholars to point to what they consider to be the historical inaccuracies of those books generally described as “Apocryphal”.

To give some examples (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/111-apocrypha-inspired-of-god-the): “Professor William Green of Princeton wrote: “The books of Tobit and Judith abound in geographical, chronological, and historical mistakes” (1899, 195). A critical study of the Apocrypha’s contents clearly reveals that it could not be the product of the Spirit of God”.


And (https://books.google.com.au/books?id=27KsQg7): “The books of Tobit and Judith contain some serious historical inaccuracies …”.


And – but more sympathetically (http://douglasbeaumont.com/2014/11/10/journey-through-the-deuteroncanonicals-tobit/):


The book of Tobit has occasionally been identified as being in the literary form of religious novel (much like Esther or Judith). Although it has sometimes been considered to be partially fictional (in the same way that Jesus’ proverbs are), Tobit was taken to be historical by Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, Cyprian, Ephrem, Ambrose, Augustine, and Aquinas. Despite its solid historical pedigree, however, Tobit is often attacked for its historical errors (much like other biblical books are attacked by skeptics today). Further, Tobit’s manuscript history is messy. These alleged historical errors seem to have been caused by (and can be explained by) Tobit’s multiple manuscript versions and scribal inconsistency.

[End of quotes]



The common historical objections to the accuracy of Tobit are those already referred to, pertaining to both Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II.

Thus, for example, we read at (http://taylormarshall.com/2012/03/defending-the-book-of-tobit-as-history.html):


  1. Objection: It was Theglathphalasar [Tiglath-pileser] III who led Nephthali (IV Kings, xv, 29) into captivity (734 B.C.). But Tobit wrongly says that it was (i, 2), Salmanasar [Shalmaneser].
  2. Objection: Tobit wrongly states that Sennacherib was the son of Salmanasar (i, 19) whereas he was in verified history the son of Sargon.


These cease to be problems, however, if – as I have argued in a thesis and in various articles – Tiglath-pileser III was the same as Tobit’s “Shalmaneser” [= history’s Shalmaneser V], and Sargon II was the same as Tobit’s “Sennacherib” [= history’s Sennacherib].


Might not the Book of Tobit have the last laugh on its critics?


Revised Neo-Assyrian Succession


Whether or not my truncation of five neo-Assyrian kings to become three is valid, there are certainly some strong points in favour of such a reduction.


Tiglath-pileser III/Shalmaneser


That Shalmaneser (so-called V) may be in need of a more powerful historical alter ego seems to me to be apparent from the fact that certain considerable deeds have been attributed to so virtually unknown and insignificant a king.

According, for instance, to 2 Kings 17:3-5:


Shalmaneser the king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea [king of Israel] became his vassal and paid tribute to him.  But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and he did not offer tribute to the king of Assyria as he had year after year; so the king of Assyria arrested him, and confined him in a house of imprisonment. So the king of Assyria went up in all the land, then he went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years.


Despite this, Shalmaneser qua Shalmaneser has left hardly a trace. According to one source, “there is no known relief depiction of Shalmaneser V” (http://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/rel3).

Be that as it may, there is so little evidence for him, anyway, that I was led to the conclusion, in my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



that Shalmaneser must have been the same ruler as Tiglath-pileser III (Volume One, p. 147):


Unfortunately, very little is known of the reign of this ‘Shalmaneser’ [V] to supplement

[the Book of Tobit]. According to Roux, for instance: … “The short reign of … Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.) is obscure”. And Boutflower has written similarly: …. “The reign of Shalmaneser V (727-722) is a blank in the Assyrian records”. It seems rather strange, though, that a king who was powerful enough to have enforced a three year siege of Israel’s capital of Samaria (probably the Sha-ma-ra-in of the Babylonian Chronicle), resulting in the successful sack of that city, and to have invaded all Phoenicia and even to have besieged the mighty Tyre for five years … and to have earned a hateful reputation amongst the Sargonids, should end up “a blank” and “obscure” in the Assyrian records.

The name Tiglath-pileser was a throne name, as Sargon appears to have been – that is, a

name given to (or taken by) the king on his accession to the throne. In Assyrian cuneiform, his name is Tukulti-apil-ešarra, meaning: “My confidence is the son of Esharra”. This being a throne name would make it likely that the king also had a personal name – just as I have argued … that Sargon II had the personal name of Sennacherib.

The personal name of Tiglath-pileser III I believe to have been Shalmaneser.


And on p. 148 I continued:


Boutflower had surmised, on the basis of a flimsy record, that Tiglath-pileser III had died in battle and had been succeeded by Shalmaneser: …. “That Tiglathpileser died in battle is rendered probable by the entry in the Assyrian Chronicle for the year 727 B.C. ….: “Against the city of …. Shalmaneser seated himself on the throne”.” Tiglath-pileser is not even mentioned.

[End of quotes]


But the following may constitute the real crunch.

On pp. 371-372 of my university thesis I discussed the following fascinating piece of research by S. Irvine, who, however, may not have – due to his being bound to a conventional outlook – fully appreciated just what he had uncovered (Isaiah, Ahaz, and the Syro-Ephraimitic Crisis, Society of Biblical Literature, Dissertation Series No. 123, Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1990):


According to my revised neo-Assyrian chronology (as argued in detail in Chapter 6), Tiglath-pileser III himself was heavily involved in the last days of the kingdom of Israel. And indeed Irvine has discussed the surrender of Hoshea to Assyria, interestingly, and quite significantly, to Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria, in connection with what he refers to as “ND4301 and ND4305 … adjoining fragments of a summary inscription found during the 1955 excavations at Nimrud and subsequently published by D. J. Wiseman”….. Here is Irvine’s relevant section of this: ….


Line 11 reports that Hoshea … submitted personally to Tiglathpileser. Where and when this occurred is not altogether clear, for the Akkadian text is critically uncertain at this point. Wiseman reads, ka-ra-ba-ni a-di mah_-ri-ia, and translates, “pleading to my presence”. This rendering leaves open the date and place of Hoshea’s submission. More recently, R. Borger and H. Tadmor restored the name of the southern Babylonian town, Sarrabanu, at the beginning of the line …. On linguistic grounds this reading is preferable to “pleading” (karabani). It appears then that Hoshea paid formal homage to Tiglathpileser in Sarrabanu, where the Assyrian king was campaigning during his fourteenth year, Nisan 731 – Nisan 730. The event thus occurred well after the conclusion of the Assyrian campaigns “against Damascus” (Nisan 733 – Nisan 731).


This may have vital, new chronological ramifications. If this were indeed the “fourteenth year” of the reign of Tiglath-pileser III, who reigned for seventeen years …. and if he were Shalmaneser V as I am maintaining, then this incident would have been the prelude to the following Assyrian action as recorded in 2 Kings 17:5: “Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it”. These “three years” would then approximate to Tiglath-pileser III’s 14th-17th years. “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria” (v. 6). That event, as we know, occurred in c. 722 BC. And it may just be that this apocalyptical moment for Israel is recorded in the fragments of Tiglath-pileser III now under discussion.

I continue with Irvine’s account: ….


The Assyrian treatment of Israel at large, presumably once described in 1. 10, is also uncertain. According to Wiseman’s translation, the text refers cryptically to “a district” and “their surrounding areas” …. Alternatively, Borger and Tadmor restore the Akkadian along the lines of III R 10,2:15-18: “[House of Omri] in [its] en[tirety …together with their pos]sessions [I led away] to [Assyria]” …. This reading is conjectural but possible. If it is correct, the text reports the wholesale deportation of Israel. The truth of this sweeping claim is a separate question ….


Further on, Irvine will propose that this “statement exaggerates the Assyrian action against Israel”, though he does not deny the fact of an Assyrian action. Thus:

…. “Not all the people could have been exiled, for some people obviously must have remained for the new king Hoshea to rule”. But if this were, as I am maintaining, the time of Hoshea’s imprisonment by Assyria, with the subsequent siege and then capture of Samaria, his capital city, then there may have been no king Hoshea any more in the land of Israel to rule the people.



Sargon II/Sennacherib


Without going over old ground here I shall simply refer readers to a recent article:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib




according to which Sargon II, Sennacherib, the same person, represent ‘two sides of the one coin’. This conclusion arose, not from any direct intention to defend the Assyrian succession in Tobit 1 (from Shalmaneser straight on to Sennacherib), but from the significant overlap beyond mere co-regency that I found there.

And I notice that this connection has been taken up by A. Lyle (Ancient History: A Revised Chronology: An Updated Revision …, Volume 1) (https://books.google.com.au/books?id=w), when he writes: “Sennacherib is conventionally listed as a separate king. There are some who believe that he is the same king as Sargon, including this revised chronology”.

I believe that this serves to solve a host of problems, many of which I discussed in my thesis. For example, there is the constant problem for conventionalists of whether to attribute something to Sargon II or to Sennacherib, an irrelevancy in my scheme of things. Wm. Shea seems to struggle with this (SARGON’S AZEKAH INSCRIPTION: THE EARLIEST EXTRABIBLICAL REFERENCE TO THE SABBATH? Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD



The Azekah Text


The “Azekah Text,” so called because of the Judahite site attacked in its record, is an Assyrian text of considerable historical significance because of its mention of a military campaign to Philistia and Judah. …. In this tablet the king reports his campaign to his god. An unusual feature of this text is the name of the god upon whom the Assyrian king calls: Anshar, the old Babylonian god who was syncretized with the Assyrian god Assur. This name was rarely used by Assyrian kings, and then only at special times and in specific types of texts, by Sargon and Sennacherib. The text is badly broken. In fact, until 1974 its two fragments were attributed to two different kings, Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon. In that year, Navad Na’aman joined the two pieces, showing that they once belonged to the same tablet. When Na’aman made the join between the two fragments, he attributed the combined text to Sennacherib, largely on the basis of linguistic comparison. Because the vocabulary of the text was similar to the language used in Sennacherib’s inscriptions, Na’aman argued that Sennacherib was the author. However, since Sennacherib immediately followed Sargon on the throne, it would be natural to expect that the mode of expression would be similar. In all likelihood some of Sargon’s scribes continued to work under Sennacherib, using the same language.


[End of quote]

Likewise, G. Gertoux has appreciated the need to recognise a substantial overlap – though not a complete one, as in the cased of my reconstructions – between Sargon II and Sennacherib. This is apparent from what he has written in his Abstract to Dating Sennacherib’s Campaign to Judah:



The traditional date of 701 BCE for Sennacherib’s campaign to Judah, with the siege of Lachish and Jerusalem and the Battle of Eltekeh, is accepted by historians for many years without notable controversy. However, the inscription of Sargon II, found at Tang-i Var in 1968, requires to date this famous campaign during his 10th campaign, in 712 BCE, implying a coregency with Sennacherib from 714BCE. A thorough analysis of the annals and the reliefs of Sargon and Sennacherib shows that there was only one campaign in Judah and not two. The Assyrian assault involved the presence of at least six kings (or similar): 1) taking of Ashdod by the Assyrian king Sargon II in his 10th campaign, 2) taking of Lachish by Sennacherib during his 3rd  campaign, 3) siege of Jerusalem dated 14th year of Judean King Hezekiah; 4) battle of Eltekeh led by  Nubian co-regent Taharqa; 5) under the leadership of King Shabataka during his 1st year of reign; 6) probable disappearance of the Egyptian king Osorkon IV in his 33rd year of reign. This conclusion agrees exactly with the biblical account that states all these events occurred during the 14th year of Judean King Hezekiah dated 712 BCE (2Kings 18:13-17, 19:9; 2Chronicles 32:9; Isaiah 20:1, 36:1, 37:9).

[End of quote]


Less perspicacious in this matter, however, was Edwin Thiele, who, in his much lauded text book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Academie Books, Grand Rapids, 1983), had been prepared to sacrifice biblical chronology on the altar of a presumed highly accurate conventional neo-Assyrian chronology.

I wrote about this, for instance, on p. 22 of my thesis:


Firstly, regarding the Hezekian chronology in its relationship to the fall of Samaria, one

of the reasons for Thiele’s having arrived at, and settled upon, 716/715 BC as the date for the commencement of reign of the Judaean king was due to the following undeniable

problem that arises from a biblical chronology that takes as its point of reference the conventional neo-Assyrian chronology. I set out the ‘problem’ here in standard terms. If Samaria fell in the 6th year of Hezekiah, as the Old Testament tells it, then Hezekiah’s reign must have begun about 728/727 B.C. If so, his 14th year, the year in which Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem, must have been about 714 B.C. But this last is, according to the conventional scheme, about ten years before Sennacherib became king and about thirteen years before his campaign against Jerusalem which is currently dated to 701 B.C. On the other hand, if Hezekiah’s reign began fourteen years before Sennacherib’s campaign, that is in 715 B.C, it began about twelve to thirteen years too late for Hezekiah to have been king for six years before the fall of Samaria. In short, the problem as seen by chronologists is whether the starting point of Hezekiah’s reign should be dated in relationship to the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C, or to the campaign of Sennacherib in 701 B.C.

[End of quote]


Another knotty problem, that dissolves completely, though, if Sargon II be Sennacherib.


Thiele’s influential work has in fact had a disastrous effect, serving to destroy a three-way biblical synchronism for the sake of upholding a hopelessly flawed conventional Assyriology.

Still on p. 22, I wrote:



The Fall of Samaria


This famous event has traditionally been dated to c. 722/21 BC … and, according to the

statement in 2 Kings, it occurred “in the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of King Hoshea of Israel” (18:10). While all this seems straightforward enough, more recent versions of biblical chronology, basing themselves on the research of the highly-regarded Professor Thiele … have made impossible the retention of such a promising syncretism between king Hoshea and king Hezekiah by dating the beginning of the latter’s reign to 716/715 BC, about six years after the fall of Samaria.

[End of quote]


That vital three-way synchronism, the Fall of Samaria; 6th year Hezekiah; 9th year Hoshea; coupled with the known neo-Assyrian connections attached to it, is a solid biblico-historical rock of foundation that needs to be staunchly preserved and defended, and not overturned on the basis of a flimsy and unconvincing Mesopotamian ‘history’.




In my thesis, I, flushed with my apparent success in reducing Sargon II, Sennacherib, to just the one king, became ‘too cute’ afterwards in the case of Esarhaddon by trying to make his entire reign fit within that of his father Sennacherib.

I would have been far better off having paid closer heed to the Book of Tobit, as I had done in the cases of Esarhaddon’s predecessors.


I now fully accept the triple succession of neo-Assyrian kings as laid out in Tobit 1, namely:



(= Tiglath-pileser III), the father of


(= Sargon II), the father of





I have recently added to Esarhaddon, also, an alter ego, in the same fashion as I had to his predecessors (according to the Book of Tobit): “Sennacherib” (= Sargon II) and “Shalmaneser” (= Tiglath-pileser III), identifying the “son” with the conventionally-supposed “father”.

Esarhaddon I now consider to have been the same as his supposed son, Ashurbanipal.


See the implied connection between Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal in my recent article:


“Nebuchednezzar Syndrome” : dreams, illness-madness, Egyptophobia. Part Four: Archaeological precision about foundation alignment




with more in the future presumably to be written about this fascinating new connection.