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The Book of Jonah - Christogenea on Talkshoe 12-23-2011
2 Kings 14:16-27: 16 And Jehoash slept with his fathers [perhaps around 798 BC], and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead. 17 And Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel fifteen years. 18 And the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 19 Now they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem: and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish, and slew him there. 20 And they brought him on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David. 21 And all the people of Judah took Azariah, which was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 22 He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers. 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher. 26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel. 27 And the LORD said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.
So Jonah the prophet, the son of Amittai, lived and prophesied before the time of Jeroboam the son of Joash of the kings of Israel. Jeroboam II was king in Israel for about 40 years, from about 793 BC, so Jonah definitely prophesied before 753 BC, and possibly before 793 BC – although that is not certain from the text here in 2 Kings 14. This places Jonah as one of the earliest of all of those prophets of the Bible from Isaiah to Malachi which can be dated.
Jonah's home town was Gathhepher, and although it is poorly spelled in the King James Version, from Joshua 19:13 we see that the town was in the land of Zebulon. Therefore it appears that the Pharisees of the time of Christ were wrong once again, where at John 7:52 they had asserted that “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet”.
KJV Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
There was much intercourse through trade across the Mediterranean in the ancient world. Tyre, Sidon, Joppa and Dor were all busy ports at this time. Joppa has a place in the Greeks myths: it was said to be the place where Perseus rescued Andromeda from a sea monster, a tale which even Josephus repeats. Ezekiel chapter 27 shows the great amount of trade which occurred at Tyre, the New York of old. It is telling that the ships of trade in Scripture were often called “ships of Tarshish”, because in early days the Iberians of Spain were distinguished from the native Tartessians, and the Iberians must have been Hebrew settlers. Tarshish is a region of southern Spain known as Tartessus. Diodorus Siculus (25.10.1 ff.) discusses wars between the Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca and the “Iberians and Tartessians” in the third century B.C. The “ships of Tarshish” are mentioned in Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, and several of the prophets. Herodotus (4.152) is writing about a period much earlier than his own, even pre-dating the Trojan War, and speaking of Tartessus in southern Spain says, “This trading town was in those days a virgin port, unfrequented by the merchants”. The Trojan War was 200 years before King Solomon’s ships, so Herodotus surely seems to have been accurate, and his calling Tartessus a “trading town” illuminates the Scriptural record. In their Greek-English lexicon, Liddell & Scott readily identify Τάρτησσος as “the Tarshish of Scripture”.
Jonah attempted to flee on a ship “from the presence” of Yahweh. It was a common mistake in the ancient world, to associate a god with a certain place, where apparently the gods of a people became associated with the place in which that people lived. There is an example of this, in Jonah's very time, at 2 Kings chapter 17.
2 Kings 17:24-28: “24 And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim [here is where we should look for the source of the so-called sephardic jews, but most of these people were originally Whites from other lands that the also-White Assyrians ruled], and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. 25 And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them. 26 Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.”
So we see that although Yahweh said again and again that he was only the God of Israel, men confused genealogy and geography, and imagined Him to be the “god of the land” rather than the God of a people. Rather than rectify the misunderstanding, a priest of the captivity went along with it. That same idea existed of the gods of other peoples also. This same mistake is made today, where a people can imagine that their blessings are derived from a land rather than from their God, and that those blessings can be shared with anyone else who moves into that land. Today this same philosophy is called by rather secular names such as immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism. Here in II Kings 17 we have an early example of ecumenism. Ecumenism is a way to make religion palatable for empire. The idea that all of the world's people can get along and worship the same god and inter-marry and engage in the same religion is an idea of man created for the sake of world trade and world empires. These false religions of empire have nothing to do with God.
4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
Another similarity between the account of Jonah and the ministry of Christ, both Jonah and Christ were able to sleep at sea during a storm, as all the others on board feared death.
This passage reflects a typical mercantile multiculturalism we have had all throughout our history, where we see that there “cried every man unto his god”. This is not to say that there was multi-racialism as we know it today, and although there may well have been some Edomites or Canaanites in the mix, it is certain that these sailors on the “ships of Tarshish” were White whether or not they were Israelites. By Jonah's time, although priests of Yahweh were functioning in Israel, as we know from archaeology, it is evident from Scripture that Israel had long turned to paganism. From the time of Jeroboam when after the death of Solomon the kingdom was divided, we see Israel returning to the cult of calf-worship. This is evident in 1 Kings chapter 12:25-33: “25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”
This is the same pagan calf-worship cult that had been in Israel from the days of Egypt, which they took out with them in the Exodus. When we examined early Greek records of Mediterranean settlement in this same period, we find bull-worship was prevalent among the people, who were shown to have descended from the Israelites. Aside from the Baal-worship which was extent in Israel, as it was recorded in Scripture, there was also the worship of the female idols Anath and Ashteroth, and many other pagan idols, which appear in Greek religion in the later records of the Greek poets. They are called “all the host of heaven” in 2 Kings 17:16. While this is not related directly to Jonah, we see that aside from any sailors who may have been from other ports-of-call among the Greeks and other pagans, even the Israelites at this time had many different gods. For the most part, as the records attest, Israel after the division of the kingdom became a pagan nation. And thus is the state of our people today.
[Yet where it says “and cried every man unto his god”, I cannot find the word “his” in the Hebrew, and also the Septuagint Greek does not agree with the common renderings here. There it says that every man cried out to “their God”, however the context of Jonah 1:8-9 supports the manner in which the King James and other translation have rendered this passage.]
[So Jonah was able to sleep on the ship during the storm...]
6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
Verse 8 indicates that the men on the ship did not know much about Jonah. Therefore here it is not necessary that the shipmaster knew much about Jonah's god. Rather, every man crying out to his own god, it is much more likely that the shipmaster wanted to cover all of the theological bases.
In the Hebrew, the second occurrence of the word for god is accompanied with an article. Therefore I would translate it without assuming that the shipmaster understood that Jonah was a prophet of the One True God, as follows: “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy god, if so be that the god will think upon us, that we perish not.”
The next verse describes the casting of lots. It must be said, that Scripture looks upon the casting of lots as sometimes good, and sometimes evil, depending upon the purpose for which the lots are cast. All things being equal, the casting of lots was performed so that it may be determined which of two goats may die in sacrifice, as seen in Leviticus chapter 16. Lots were used to determine the division of land, in the Book of Joshua. Lots were used to determine the courses of the priests, when the tribe of Aaron grew too large for them all to work in the temple at once. Yet as it can be seen in Joel 3:3 and Obadiah 1:11, the casting of lots was also undertaken for evil purposes, and for gambling. Like any other tool, the casting of lots may be used for good or for evil. Here in Jonah, it is clear that the casting of lots worked into the plan of God.
7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? 9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
Rendering the name Yahweh as “the Lord” makes absolutely no sense in the context of this discourse, since even baal is a Hebrew word which means lord. Here there were many lords and many gods, and each man apparently had a different god in this multicultural setting. Here it is evident, that the men did not even know Jonah from his dress or his language. At this time, Akkadian was the lingua franca of trade and diplomacy, and Herodotus, who wrote over three hundred years after Jonah, spoke of the Greeks' familiarity with what he called “Assyrian letters” and their ability to read them, although several other languages had also been written in cuneiform in ancient times. That Akkadian was the diplomatic language of the ancient Near East is evident in many inscriptions dating all the way back to the Amarna period in Egypt, where Akkadian inscriptions indicating as much were also found, and it remained so up until the fall of Nineveh circa 612 BC, when it was supplanted with Aramaic. Jonah clearly had an ability to communicate both with these men, and later on with the Assyrians in Nineveh.
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. 12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
Here Jonah is to be commended, in caring more for justice than for his own life: for he knew that if the men on the ship suffered any injustice, it would have been due to him. Part of the lesson in Jonah, is that if God wants us to do something, there is no way that we are going to escape it. Trying to escape God's plans for us, we only make things harder for ourselves! This is also the lesson in Christ's prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, that although He would rather not have undergone what he did, He knew that it had to be so, and so He exclaimed that he would surrender to what was God's will.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. 14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
Even though Jonah asked the men to throw him overboard, they did not want to be responsible for his death, and they made every effort to get him to land, before they finally relented.
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. 17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Matthew 12:40: “For as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, thusly shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”
I have been asked whether Jonah was really swallowed by a whale, as if I can possibly know any more than what the writings plainly say, The Scripture says it was a whale. In Matthew 12:40, Christ says that it was a whale. The Greek is plain and literally says that it was a whale, and that Jonah was in the whale for three days and three nights. Whales can grow very large. For example, a baleen whale, a filter-feeder which generally eats plankton, is up to 110 feet long, and can weigh over 400,000 pounds, and they were known to the Greeks.
Some people, as I have witnessed, want to imagine that this was not a whale, but some sort of high-tech spacecraft or submarine that the angels of God used to fetch Jonah. I am not even going to argue that, since I was not there to see it. However this was done, plainly I accept that it happened in one way or another, and I am not going to dispute the words of Christ.
KJV Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, 2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. 10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Of course, this prayer must represent Jonah's thoughts over the course of three days, and we see that even in our darkest hour we may find repentance and deliverance. Jonah repented of his actions when he faced certain death, and even though it was his own disobedience which led him to that death, from that he was nevertheless delivered. We as a people seem to be in Jonah's position today, swallowed up by beasts because we obeyed not our God!
KJV Jonah 3:1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.
Mesopotamia is properly the land “between the rivers”, meaning the Euphrates and the Tigris. Nineveh was on the east bank of the Euphrates river, and therefore just east of Mesopotamia. It was far upstream from the Persian Gulf. The story of Jonah is often challenged with the contention that no whale could have swam from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf in three days. But the text does not say that the whale swam that far. Neither does it say that the whale spat Jonah up anywhere near the Persian Gulf or near Nineveh itself. The phrase “three days' journey” describes the size of the city, and not the distance from where Jonah was spat up to the city! Wherever Jonah was spat up, he “arose, and went to Nineveh”, and it may have taken him some weeks to get there. The text simply does not tell us much, and most of what is commonly perceived is really only conjectured. Once Jonah arrived in Nineveh, only then he saw that it was “an exceeding great city of three days' journey.”
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey [so we see that he did not get halfway through it], and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
It is evident all throughout Scripture, that the messages of the prophets as they were recorded were often actually more complex than our records indicate, and that they were often only recorded in summary. Many commentators like to cite what they call “Jonah's eight-word sermon”, however it would take much more than those eight words to gain such a reaction as Jonah did, from the Assyrian king who was already at the head of a great empire at this very time. Surely Jonah's eight-word sermon was only the summary of the message which he had for them.
6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
The king of Assyria, once he heard Jonah's warning, evidently took it to heart, and issued a proclamation demanding that his entire kingdom repent from any and all wickedness. We see that the proclamation of the king was made for both man and beast, but also herds and flocks. It was also commanded that both man and beast wear sackcloth as a sign of repentance. These are general statements indicative of the gravity of the situation and the king's order: that no matter your station or position in the empire, you had better heed the king's order.
As the historian Herodotus and others often relate, in Mesopotamia transgression against authority was treated very seriously, and justice dispensed harshly. Citizens who crossed their rulers often lost their noses and ears, and were then released back into society in disgrace. Crucifixion was a common form of execution. If a man betrayed his nation, quite often his entire village and all of his kin were exterminated in vengeance. Therefore such proclamations as this by the king were taken very seriously.
While it cannot be proven that the king of Assyria distinguished Adamic men in his empire from those of non-Adamic or mixed racial lineage by this order that “man and beast” wear sackcloth, it really does not matter. Neither does it really matter, as some would assert, that beasts repent. What does matter, is that the people of the land are not tempted into sin, and therefore everyone in the land must follow the same laws. For this reason, Yahweh commanded that even the strangers in Israel must obey the Sabbath. In Exodus 20:10 it says “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates." Of course, this does not mean that the cattle, or the stranger, are under the covenants, or that they are somehow “saved” and go to “heaven” because they were compelled to obey the Sabbath. Rather, it only assures that the children of Israel would not be tempted into defiling the Sabbath, if aliens were permitted to work within the environs of their habitations. It is quite certain that most of the people of the Assyrian empire, and especially of Assyria itself, where indeed White Adamic people. For they sprung from Asshur, the son of Shem and brother of Arphaxad who was the ancestor of the sons of Aram and Eber, the original White Syrians and Hebrews. However there was a population of Hittites and Amorites and others of the mixed Kenite and Canaanite peoples living within the bounds of the empire, and certainly also in its capital city.
A certain universalist so-called pastor recently made the assertion, that because beasts were ordered to repent of their sin by the king of Assyria, that means that at the end of days beasts would be judged by God, based upon their good or bad behavior, and rewarded accordingly in His kingdom! Yet those promises are made not to beasts anywhere in Scripture, but only to our Adamic race. Such thinking or total lack of thinking on the part of the universalist is absolutely disgraceful, and betrays a motive which is absolutely contrary to both Scripture and to our national well-being. We must be careful, when creating doctrines from Scripture, to assess not only what is being spoken, but also who the speaker is, what the context is, and who it is being spoken to. The Bible contains both the words and ideas of men, and the Word and intentions of God. We must be able to divide the Word correctly.
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
To further address the heresy that Yahweh somehow cares for the non-Adamic or mixed races, where it says that “God saw their works”, can it be imagined that God cares for the works of the beasts? Or for the men of Nineveh? Christ said, as it is recorded at Matthew 12:41, that “The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this race and they shall condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and behold: a greater than Jonah is here!” Christ did not say that “the men and the beasts of Nineveh” should rise up in the judgement, but only the men. As Paul describes at great length in Romans chapter 5, the entire scope of our fall and restoration has nothing to do with beasts, but only with the race of Adam. Here I will quote it from the King James Version, so that I am not accused of any contrivances:
Romans 5:12-21: “12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is not only foolish teach that non-Adamic peoples are going to be brought into the relationship between Adamic man and Yahweh God, but it is downright malicious, it is criminal, and therefore it must be addressed.
KJV Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. 4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
Jonah was angry, that Yahweh did not destroy Nineveh! However there is some history which must be understood, to understand why this was so. It is evident from his mention in 2 Kings chapter 14 that Jonah the prophet conducted his ministry some time in the latter part of the 9th to the early part of the 8th centuries BC. It is during this very time that Assyria, having arisen as a great empire, began to threaten the existence of Israel and Judah as sovereign states. The rise of Assyria was a long time coming. The ancient Hittite Empire met its decline in the 15th century BC. The Mittani Kingdom, based in ancient Padan-Aram and northern Mesopotamia dominated the area for the next 200 years. It is commonly described as having had “Indo-Aryan” rulers with a Hurrian – which is a Canaanite – underclass. It struggled between the Hittites and the Assyrians, and eventually succumbed to the Assyrians. In the 11th century BC Tiglath-pileser I made military expeditions which reached the Mediterranean, Lebanon and Syria. In the middle of the 9th century BC Shalmaneser III began to subject the Syrians. Adad-nirari III reached northern Palestine around the turn of the 8th century BC, very probably around the time of Jonah. Of course, after the days of Jonah, the Assyrians took all of Syria, and Israel, from the time of Tiglath-pileser III beginning around 741 BC. There are many extant ancient tablets and inscriptions documenting all of this. Jonah, of course, would have loved to have seen Yahweh prevent this inevitable Assyrian conquest, since the intent of Assyria must have been evident in his own time.
5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. 7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. 8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. 9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. 10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: 11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
There were in Nineveh 120,000 people who knew not the difference between what was good and what was evil. As Paul said in Acts chapter 17 speaking to the Japhethite Ionians, Yahweh “made from one every [Genesis 10] nation of [Adamic] men to dwell upon all the face of the earth, appointing the times ordained and the boundaries of their settlements, to seek God. If surely then they would seek after Him then they would find Him, and indeed He being not far from each one of us.” Of course, the same thing that applied to Japhethite Ionians would have applied to Shemite Assyrians.
Assyria is indeed the gourd that sheltered Jonah, and then withered. Likewise, Yahweh caused the Assyrians to deport nearly all of Israel and Judah, settling them in the lands to the north, and for their own good. Not long after Assyria accomplished this, just like the gourd itself, they also withered! It was the Scythian descendants of those same deported Israelites who in league with the Japhethite Medes and the Shemite Chaldaeans of Babylon, themselves a tribe of Aram, had in 612 BC destroyed Nineveh and the other notable cities of the Assyrians. So all of this worked into Yahweh's greater design, and serves as a lesson for us today, if indeed we understand the history that coincides with the Scripture.
Why the Assyrians Believed Jonah
The Bible tells us that Jonah, a man, was caught in the belly of a great fish and was delivered, where later he went to Nineveh, where, he preached repentance to the Assyrians and they believed him, and they repented of their sin in sackcloth. This was just a short time before Nineveh was to be destroyed, according to the Book of Jonah itself. What the Bible does not tell us, however, is why the Ninevites should have believed Jonah, or even whether witnesses had seen him ejected from the fish. But why else would the Assyrians believe this man? Maybe here we will see just how much the Bible can come to life once we gain an understanding of ancient history.
The following paragraph is from Diodorus Siculus' Library of History, 2.4.2-4, from the Loeb Classical Library edition, Volume 1 pages 359-361.
"Now there is in Syria a city known as Ascalon, and not far from it a large and deep lake, full of fish. On its shore is a precinct of a famous goddess whom the Syrians call Derceto; and this goddess has the head of a woman but all the rest of her body is that of a fish, the reason being something like this. The story as given by the most learned of the inhabitants of the region is as follows: Aphrodite, being offended with this goddess, inspired in her a violent passion tor a certain handsome youth among her votaries; and Derceto gave herself to the Syrian and bore a daughter, but then, filled with shame of her sinful deed, she killed the youth and exposed the child in a rocky desert region, while as for herself, from shame and grief she threw herself into the lake and was changed as to the form of her body into a fish; and it is for this reason that the Syrians to this day abstain from this animal and honour their fish as gods. But about the region where the babe was exposed a great multitude of doves had their nests, and by them the child was nurtured in an astounding and miraculous manner; for some of the doves kept the body of the babe warm on all sides by covering it with their wings, while others, when they observed that the cowherds and the other keepers were absent from the nearby steadings, brought milk therefrom in their beaks and fed the babe by putting it drop by drop between its lips. And when the child was a year old and in need of more solid nourishment, the doves, pecking off bits from the cheeses, supplied it with sufficient nourishment. Now when the keepers returned and saw that the cheeses had been nibbled about the edges, they were astonished at the strange happening; they accordingly kept a look-out, and on discovering the cause found the infant, which was of surpassing beauty. At once, then, bringing it to their steadings they turned it over to the keeper of the royal herds, whose name was Simmas; and Simmas, being childless, gave every care to the rearing of the girl, as his own daughter, and called her Semiramis, a name slightly altered from the word which, in the language of the Syrians, means "doves," birds which since that time all the inhabitants of Syria have continued to honour as goddesses."
Semiramis basically came out of a fish, her mother Derceto, and was then nurtured by doves. Dove in Hebrew is Strong's number 3123, or 3124, the word which is also the name Jonah. So Jonah means dove in Hebrew, and the Assyrians spoke a very close Semitic language. Therefore Jonah was a dove that came out of a fish, and that is why they believed the prophet! So here we see that even in our folly, God speaks to men on their own terms, and sort of makes fun of us in the process. Who thinks that Yahweh our God has no sense of humor?