Archaeology

Jonah and the Whale—Why do the Heathen Rage?

What’s the backstory to Jonah and the whale? What accounts were left by the merchant marines who threw Jonah into the sea and possibly saw him swallowed alive by a sea monster? Did they see Jonah again—alive—or did they hear of the account of a man being vomited up on the beach by a great whale? Did anyone see that event? Does history and archaeology concur?
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Jonah and the Whale—Why do the Heathen Rage?

Article#: 1597

Is there life after death?  God’s Word not only declares that there surely is, but also gives explicit instructions on how to get there and supplies the needed wisdom, strength, and extraterrestrial supportMultiple features on GodSaidManSaid establish this truth beyond any reasonable doubt.

Many Biblical verses can be cited that declare the way to life and life more abundantly.  Seven powerful, core principles of life and life eternal follow:

1. You must be born again.  John 3:3

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

2. Faith in and a public confession of Jesus Christ is foundational.  Romans 10:10:

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

3. Water baptism by emersion is commanded.  Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

4. The very first commandment to the church that was entered into at Pentecost was to receive the baptism of the Holy GhostActs 1:4-5, 8:

4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

5. II Timothy 2:14, 15, 19:

14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

6. Faith is the standard all the way.  Hebrews 11:6:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

7. Hebrews 10:24-25:

24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Have you yet to participate in step number one?  Have you been born again—born a second time, this time of the Spirit of God?  Today can be your new beginning—literally—a beginning that has no end.  All your sin and shame can be forgiven and all your bondages can be broken—today.  Click onto “Further with Jesus” for childlike instructions and immediate entry into the Kingdom of God.  NOW FOR TODAY’S SUBJECT. 

GOD SAID, Jonah 1:15-17; 2:1-10:

1:15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

1:16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

1:17 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.

2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish''s belly,

2:2 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.

2:3 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.

2:4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

2:5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

2:6 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.

2:7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

2:8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

2:10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

GOD SAID, Matthew 12:39-40:

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale''s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

MAN SAID:  Jonah and the whale?!  That’s just another Bible fairytale! 

Now THE RECORD:  Psalm 2:1-3:

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Why do the heathen rage against the Word of God?  Jesus answers this question in John 3:19-21:

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

The miraculous is God’s signature in the events of men, so that man might consider God and turn his heart toward Christ for reconciliation. Jesus says in John 14:11:

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works'' sake.

The miraculous is a testimony to the living God and to His Word in His Holy Bible.  The unrepentant must rage because their deeds are evil.  Jonah and the whale is ridiculed by the world’s academics and this GodSaidManSaid feature, 817, will once again set the record straight—solidly confirming that God’s Word is true and righteous altogether, miracles and all. 

The city of Nineveh was the royal city of the Assyrian kingdom.  They served multiple gods, one of which was a vicious god they called Ashur.  The Assyrians were known for their brutal savagery.  They impaled their enemies on stakes; hacked off noses, ears, fingers, and gouged out their enemies' eyes; tore off lips and hands.  Historians say the Assyrians covered the city wall with the skin of their victims; erected piles of skulls to terrorize their enemies, and hung the heads of the king’s enemies from the trees in the king’s garden.  Fear of the Assyrians was not listed in the Book of Jonah as one of Jonah’s reasons for resisting God’s charge to preach destruction to the wicked Assyrians, and that in itself was quite a testimony to this Old Testament prophet. 

What’s the backstory to Jonah and the whale?  What accounts were left by the merchant marines who threw Jonah into the sea and possibly saw him swallowed alive by a sea monster?  Did they see Jonah again—alive—or did they hear of the account of a man being vomited up on the beach by a great whale?  Did anyone see that event?  Does history and archaeology concur? 

The following excerpts are from the GodSaidManSaid feature “Jonah—Everyone Says Yes:” 

In regard to Jonah, it must be noted that Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe (Hebrews 1:2), fully believed and testified of the record of Jonah, comparing it to the three days He Himself would be in the tomb and His resurrection from the dead in Matthew 12:39-40.

t’s a shame someone didn’t tell the Christ, who was and is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, that Jonah was a fairy tale before He exposed His "ignorance."

Is the Bible correct? Could Jesus Christ be accurate? In the April 2005 issue of Smithsonian, in a story titled "Evolution on Trial," which was about the famous Dayton, Tennessee, Scopes trial that occurred in 1925, the author framed some of the cries of the Bible skeptics of that day. They challenged the time that the sun stood still in the days of Joshua and Hezekiah, and the idea that Jonah lived for three days in the belly of the whale. The skeptics continue to whine, but God’s Word continues to reign undefeated.

Part of the skeptics’ ridicule is focused on the idea that a whale’s throat would be too narrow to swallow a mature man. That is true in regard to the Blue, Gray, Humpback, and Bowhead whales, but not the Sperm whale. The following excerpt is from www.probe.org:

The Sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales, adult males measuring over sixty feet in length (walk into your garage and multiply the length by four!). They are most prominent in the Pacific Ocean, but not unknown in the Atlantic and a favorite of Norwegian whalers. This whale’s diet consists of giant squid, large sea-bottom and mid-water sharks, skates, and fishes. The Sperm whale has a huge capacity in its gullet to store food. In his book, Sixty-Three Years of Engineering, Sir Francis Fox tells of a manager of a whaling station who indicates that the whale can "swallow lumps of food eight feet in diameter, and that in one of these whales they actually found ’the skeleton of a shark sixteen feet in length.’"

In the Daily Mail of December 14th, 1928, Mr. G. H. Henn, a resident of Birmingham, England recounted the following story:

"My own experience . . . about twenty-five years ago, when the carcass of a whale was displayed for a week on vacant land in Navigation Street, outside New Street station . . . I was one of twelve men who went into its mouth, passed through its throat, and moved about in what was equivalent to a fair-sized room. Its throat was large enough to serve as a door. Obviously it would be quite easy for a whale of this kind to swallow a man."

This could only have been a sperm whale. On the coast of England, Mr. Frank Bullen in his book, The Cruise of the Cachalot (another name for the Sperm whale), notes that the sperm whale always ejects the contents of its stomach when dying. He himself witnessed such an incident and described the huge masses of regurgitated contents, estimating their size as about "eight feet by six feet into six feet, the total equal to the bodies of six stout men compressed into one!"

G. C. Aalders, author of the 1946 book, The Problem of the Book of Jonah, refers to an article published in Bibliotheca Sacra, written by G. Macloskie. Macloskie points out that a whale is an air-breathing animal. After the whale has taken in a large draft of food it must expel the superfluous water immediately. All live air-breathing animals, or a man such as Jonah, would be able to breathe inside the whale’s belly. Macloskie also points out that a human being could exist inside the whale in another way and that is in the possibility that a man "might reach the great laryngeal pouch, which starts from below and in front of the larynx and runs down the front of the neck on to the chest. It has thick, elastic walls, and a cavity quite large enough to receive a human body, and to supply it with air for breathing. [End of quote]" Biology says "Yes" to Jonah.

God sent Jonah to the heathen city of Nineveh, which was the famous capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire, 280 miles north of Babylon and presently located in the country of Iraq. It was called the "Robber City" because it obtained its great riches by conquering its neighbors and claiming their wealth. The Word of God declares that because of the preaching of Jonah, this entire wicked city repented, from the king down. Jonah 3:5-10:

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.

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?

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.

Does secular history record such an event? G. C. Aalders cites history reporting a sweeping religious reform in Nineveh at approximately the time of the preaching of Jonah. History records that the city turned monotheistic, which means they worshipped one God. These historians claim this one god was known by the Assyrians as Nebo, who was the one they claimed "invented the arts and sciences" and understood "all the mysteries connected with literature and the art of writing." The true God of creation, of course, created all such things and His national name in Scripture is Jehovah. He is actually known as the Word. John 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Revelation 19:11-13:

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

History reports a city-wide turn to one God in the days of Jonah. History says "Yes" to Jonah.

Note: The Assyrians cast off all their gods to worship one.  He is the God of the arts, that which is lovely, and of science, which is defined as “knowledge,” and of course, the God of words.  Jesus is known in The Book as the Alpha and Omega, which is the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, and all the words in between. 

The following excerpt is found in the archaeological supplement in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible: "Henry Austin Layard visited ruined Nineveh in 1845 and found the entire circuit of its walled area to be seven and one-half miles. Within the 1,800-acre enclosure were two mounds. The southern mound was one hundred feet high, covered forty acres, and was known by the natives as ‘Nebi Yunis,’ (the Prophet Jonah). The north mound was ninety feet high, covered one hundred acres, and was called ‘Kuyunjik,’ (The Castle of Nineveh). [End of quote]"

The city had two colossal mounds: one in the south, known by the people of Nineveh as "Nebi Yunis" which means "the Prophet Jonah," and the mound in the north, known as "the Castle of Nineveh." Did a man named Jonah proclaim the Word of God in Nineveh? Does the history of Nineveh revere a man named Jonah? Archaeology says "Yes!" [End of quotes]

▶ GodSaidManSaid, “Exciting Archaeology (Part II):”

Jonah and the whale, of course, is true and GodSaidManSaid features certify the Bible’s accuracy. Mr. Down writes in his 2011 book, Unveiling the Kings of Israel:

It was on this journey that a tempestuous storm arose and Jonah was flung into the sea and swallowed by this big fish. When the fish spat him out on the Phoenician beach (there is a beach in Lebanon today fronting water called Jonah’s Bay), it was then that Jonah decided to go quietly and set out for Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.  [End of quote]

Nineveh, the royal city which repented after the preaching of Jonah, was spared from God’s judgment for a season, but when the inhabitants reverted to their evil ways, God returned. David Down writes the following:

In 612, the combined armies of Babylon and Media conquered Nineveh and destroyed it. Nineveh was not rebuilt and the dust of time blew over it. Approximately 200  years later, no one knew where Nineveh was. When Henry Layard excavated Nimrud, he thought he had found Nineveh. He was wrong. It was not until he excavated Kuyunjik, on the east bank of the River Tigris opposite Mosul, that he found evidence that this was indeed Nineveh.

Zephaniah also predicted Nineveh’s doom. “And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her,”(Zeph. 2:13-14).

After Babylon, we travelled north to Nineveh. I hoped against hope that I might see a shepherd with his flock among its ruins. I need not have worried. Nineveh is buried under rolling hills covered with verdure. There were flocks and herds everywhere among its ruins. [End of quotes]

The question posed at GotQuestions.org is “Was Jonah truly swallowed by a whale?”  Excerpts follow:

Critics also find Nineveh’s repentance (Jonah 3:4-9) hard to believe, though it isn’t technically a miracle.  In actual fact, Nineveh’s repentance makes perfect sense given Jonah’s extraordinary arrival upon the shores of the Mediterranean and the prominence of Dagon worship in that particular area of the ancient world.  Dagon was a fish-god who enjoyed popularity among the pantheons of Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean coast.  He is mentioned several times in the Bible in relation to the Philistines (Judges 16:23-24; I Samuel 5:1-7; I Chronicles 10:8-12).  Images of Dagon have been found in palaces and temples in Nineveh and throughout the region.  In some cases, he was represented as a man wearing a fish.  In others, he was part man, part fish—a merman of sorts. 

As for Jonah’s success in Nineveh, Orientalist Henry Clay Trumbull made a valid point when he wrote, “What better heralding, as a divinely sent messenger to Nineveh, could Jonah have had, than to be thrown up out of the mouth of a great fish, in the presence of witnesses, say on the coast of Phoenicia, where the fish-god was a favorite object of worship?  Such an incident would have inevitably aroused the mercurial nature of Oriental observers, so that a multitude would be ready to follow the seemingly new avatar of the fish-god, proclaiming the story of his uprising from the sea, as he went on his mission to the city where the fish-god had its very centre of worship.” 

Some scholars have speculated that Jonah’s appearance, no doubt bleached white from the action of the fish’s digestive acids, would have been of great help to his cause.  If such were the case, the Ninevites would have been greeted by a man whose skin, hair, and clothes were bleached ghostly white—a man accompanied by a crowd of frenetic followers, many of whom claimed to have witnessed him having been vomited upon the shore by a great fish (plus any colorful exaggerations they might have added). 

Jonah needed only to cause enough of a stir to gain himself admittance to the king who, upon believing Jonah’s message of imminent doom for himself, would have the power to proclaim a citywide day of fasting and penance.  According to the Biblical narrative, that’s exactly what happened (Jonah 3:6-9).  So we see that, given the caveat that Jonah was spewed upon the shore by a great fish, Nineveh’s repentance follows from a very logical progression. 

As for Jonah’s aquatic experience (which is the crux of the story), while there is no conclusive historical proof that Jonah was ever swallowed by a fish and lived to tell about it, there is some provocative corroboratory evidence.  In the 3rd century BC, a Babylonian priest/historian named Berosus wrote of a mythical creature named Oannes who, according to Berosus, emerged from the sea to give divine wisdom to men.  Scholars generally identify this mysterious fish-man as an avatar of the Babylonian water-god Ea (also known as Enki).  The curious thing about Berosus’ account is the name that he used: Oannes

Berosus wrote in Greek during the Hellenistic Period.  Oannes is just a single letter removed from the Greek name IoannesIoannes happens to be one of the two Greek names used interchangeably throughout the Greek New Testament to represent the Hebrew name Yonah (Jonah), which in turn appears to be a moniker for Yohanan (from which we get the English name John).  (See John 1:42; 21:15; and Matthew 16:17).  Conversely, both Ioannes and Ionas (the other Greek word for Jonah used in the New Testament) are used interchangeably to represent the Hebrew name Yohanan in the Greek Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.  Compare II Kings 25:23 and I Chronicles 3:24 in the Septuagint with the same passages from the Hebrew Old Testament. 

As for the missing “I” in Ioannes, according to Professor Trumbull, who claims to have confirmed his information with the renowned Assyriologist Dr. Herman V. Hilprecht before writing his own article on the subject, “In the Assyrian inscriptions, the ‘J’ in foreign words becomes ‘I,’ or disappears altogether; hence Joannes, the Greek representative of Jona, would appear in Assyrian either as Ioannes or as Oannes."

Nineveh was Assyrian.  What this essentially means is that Berosus wrote of a fish-man named Jonah who emerged from the sea to give divine wisdom to man—a remarkable corroboration of the Hebrew account.  

Berosus claimed to have relied upon official Babylonian sources for his information.  Nineveh was conquered by the Babylonians under King Nabopolassar in 612 BC, more than 300 years before Berosus.  It is quite conceivable, though speculative, that a record of Jonah’s success in Nineveh was preserved in the writings available to Berosus.  If so, it appears that Jonah was deified and mythologized over a period of three centuries, first by the Assyrians, who no doubt associated him with their fish-god Dagon, and then by the Babylonians, who appear to have hybridized him with their own water-god, Ea. 

In addition to Berosus’ account, Jonah appears elsewhere in the chronicles of Israel as the prophet who predicted Jeroboam II’s military successes against Syria in the 8th century before Christ (II Kings 14:25).  He is said to be the son of Amittai (Jonah 1:1) from the town of Gath-hepher in lower Galilee.  Flavius Josephus reiterates these details in his Antiquities of the Jews (chapter 10, paragraph 2).  Jonah was not an imaginary figure invented to play the part of a disobedient prophet, swallowed by a fish.  He was part of Israel’s prophetic history.  [End of quote]

In the archives of Society of Biblical Literature, the 1892 writings of H. Clay Trumbull are preserved. Several paragraphs follow:

Berosus also records that from time to time, ages apart, other beings of like nature with this first great teacher, came up out of the sea with fresh instructions for mankind; and that each one of these avatars, or incarnations, marked a new epoch, and the supernatural messenger bore a new name.  So it would seem to be clear that, in all those days of Israel’s history within which the book of Jonah can fairly be assigned, the people of Nineveh were believers in a divinity who from time to time sent messages to them by a personage who rose out of the sea, as part fish and part man.  This being so, is there not a perceivable reasonableness, or logical consistency of movement, in the narrated miracle of Jonah and the fish, and of the wonderful success of the fish-ejected Jonah as a preacher in the Assyrian capital?  [End of quote]

Everyone says YES! to Jonah and the whale.  God’s Word is true, a place to build a life that will last forever. 

GOD SAID, Jonah 1:15-17; 2:1-10:

1:15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

1:16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

1:17 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.

2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish''s belly,

2:2 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.

2:3 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.

2:4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

2:5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

2:6 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.

2:7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

2:8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

2:10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

GODSAID, Matthew 12:39-40:

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale''s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

MAN SAID:  Jonah and the whale?!  That’s just another Bible fairytale! 

Now you have THE RECORD.

 

 

References:

Authorized King James Version

“Was Jonah Truly Swallowed by a Whale?”  GotQuestions.org

GodSaidManSaid, “Exciting Archaeology (Part II)

GodSaidManSaid, “Jonah—Everyone Says Yes

Trumbull, H.C., “Jonah in Nineveh,” Journal of Biblical Literature

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