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New Chronology and Jonah

4 September 2010

At http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/NewChronology/message/29214 … there are a lot of emails to wade through on this lively and very active Yahoo Group (requires a membership to read the emails), enough to faze even the most receptive of minds – but far from dulls the revisionist faithful. This one caught my eye after a brief trawl and was posted by Frank Taylor of North Carolina. He begins by saying he has been puzzling for some time over a seeming Biblical anachronism relating to the prophet Jonah and his visit to Assyria. As far as he can tell nobody has made note directly on the issue he goes on to address (and perhaps the anomaly can be explained by adjusting Assyrian chronology), and that is that Jonah is said in II Kings as having issued a prophecy that Assyria would be destroyed by divine wrath if it did not mend its ways. The Assyrian king repented and Yahweh stayed his hand. According to Biblical commentators and historians this is supposed to have taken place in the reign of Jeroboam II, early to mid 8th century BC. Jonah is commanded by Yahweh to go to Nineveh and warn the king of impending divine retribution. The king reins in his excesses and humbles himself – and the city of Nineveh is spared. Jonah is not happy as he had been looking forwards to Yahweh blasting the Assyrians – and had been reluctant to travel to Nineveh in order to warn them of impending doom. Or that is the theological interpretation of what may have happened. Setting aside whatever the religious elements might be Frank Taylor asks, does the historical context make sense? Jonah was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel – and that ceased to exist in mid to late 8th century (or at least, the elite were led away into forcible migration and replanted elsewhere somewhere within the Empire) – and this is the paradox. In the time of Jonah the Israelites were apparently being persecuted by the Assyrians – and Syria and Palestine were a target of constant annual sorties designed to subjugate the region. However, and here is the conumdrum, Frank Taylor also points out that in the story of Jonah Nineveh is depicted as ‘an exceedingly great city’ – a royal city with a king exercising considerable authority. It doesn’t actually say Nineveh was the capital of Assyria but why was it singled out if the capital was still at Ashur? The assumption is that God sent Jonah to Nineveh because it was the seat of power of the regime that controlled the fortunes of Israel – or threatened its existence. However, according to conventional chronology, Sargon II did not move the capital of Assyria from Ashur to Nineveh until about 713BC when he ordered a new palace to be constructed. This was actually after the fall of Samaria and the demise of the northern kingdom, in 722BC. So what was going on with Jonah?

In addition, we may note it was actually Sennacherib who was responsible for an expansion at Nineveh, the creation of a city worthy of an empire – and presumably this expansion continued to take place in the reigns of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. Frank Taylor is perplexed by this and is there any possibility the conumdrum is due to chronological issues. Nineveh was a splendid city and the seat of Assyrian power a hundred years after the reign of Jeroboam II – and the era of Jonah. Does the New Chronology offer a solution is the question he poses – and as of yesterday no reply has been posted. No doubt they will flood in during the course of the next week or so.

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