Francis Woodgate Mozley, Oxford, England
Enquiry into the historical value of the Book of Jonah implies enquiry into its literal truth,—how far is it a record of solid fact as opposed to allegory or edifying fiction.
In considering this question, one point, the story of the Fish, stands out in such importance that our attitude to it must be defined before going further. If such a fact were stated in any ordinary history, no one would think twice before putting it aside as fabulous. So we do with the story of Arion and the Dolphin, unless hunting for some hidden meaning. The acceptance, on the other hand, by ordinary Christians of the literal truth of Jonah’s story, has rested on the belief that God was almighty, and the Scriptures what our Lord, his Apostles, and the Church have regarded them, true, shown more particularly in this case by our Lord’s explicit use of the story. The historical truth and the absolute authority of the Bible are no longer accepted by a mass of Christian scholars, and with the less highly educated in this country the rejection of them generally means also the rejection of the Christian religion as having a claim on their faith and obedience.
A great matter like this cannot be dealt with in the by-argument of an essay. But as the answer to the question propounded for our subject is made here to rest ultimately on Christ’s acceptance of the story, the position taken must be indicated.
The change of view with regard to Scripture is no doubt connected with the repudiation of authority in every department, the breaking asunder of the bonds of it, and the casting away of all its hampering cords. But it has been actually brought about by the belief that Bible statements are contradicted by modern discoveries. Difficulties have always been recognized, but they have multiplied so greatly as to overwhelm; and it is represented as the only scientific, indeed the only truthful course, to cut the knot. But a scientific course is not always the truthful one. If we are quite clear as to two facts which seem inconsistent, the thing to do, is not to reject one of them, but to own that we do not know how to reconcile them. The truth of Scripture was not believed from an induction of its statements, much less the authority of Christ owned only from an independent examination of what he says. We have to stake the whole of this life, not to mention the next, on the belief in his words, for that is inseparable from belief in himself, and there are many other of his words which seem counter to experience or to history, by no means only those which deal with the Old Testament. We must not exaggerate the amount of what is irreconcilable; on the one hand traditionalists have to learn new interpretations, suggested by the new learning, on the other a standard which enforces the distinction between demonstration and suggestion will show how very far short of demonstration a great deal falls which is given by critics as proof or disproof.
But the authority of Christ, without taking into account his intention, is not enough to prove Jonah literal history, for it is conceivable that he should quote it as instructive and illustrative fiction. However strongly the opposite may be held it must be supported on other grounds than Christ’s veracity alone, on grounds appealing both to the real meaning of Our Lord’s words and also to the character of the book. That the story of the Fish should one way or other be not meant for literal fact yet the rest of the book be offered as literal fact is said to be held only by Orelli; so here it may be put aside; though I should have thought there might be reasons why the prophet found it expedient to disguise the method of his rescue in an enigmatical form reasons which did not apply to the rest of the book. However, words need not be spent in defence of a view which is not accepted here.
If the whole of the book is to go together, as either all literal, or all imaginative, it is evident that Christ takes the third chapter as literal for comparing the lots of the Ninevites and his contemporaries in the future day of judgment; he not only treats them and their history as real, but does so as claiming a knowledge and foreknowledge more than human.
But to go on to evidence which is not based on Christ’s authority, we may ask what are the alternatives to taking the book as literal truth? Much of the Old Testament, and no part more than what is held by those under consideration to be nearly contemporary with the book of Jonah, Chronicles, Daniel, Esther, is judged to be simply false, to be given out as literal fact but actually fiction. This is not conceived to be the case with Jonah, anyhow among the recent critics who need to be considered here. There is something in the book, some greatness, some weight, some reality, something whatever it is which keeps them from this line and inspires expressed or unspoken respect. We may exclude also mere fiction, given out as such with no aim beyond the reader’s amusement, and through it gain or fame for the writer. Even if there is a legendary base in Jonah it is worked up for a serious purpose. The two characters which are now ascribed are allegory and edifying fiction. The upholders of these severally are strongly opposed to one another, but outsiders can see them as having much in common. In both the object is to edify, in the allegory, perhaps, even more than in the story. The edifying fiction would throw light on real life by putting forward imaginary characters and circumstances and issues having some analogy to real life, and this may run very near the analogy of allegory. Both by an attractive form would it commend moral lessons whose more direct presentation might repel. Edifying fiction is almost identified with Midrash. Dr. Driver’s widely accepted definition of this is “an imaginative development of a thought or theme suggested by scripture, especially a didactic or homilectic exposition or an edifying religious story.” Tobit and Susanna are generally given as specimens (some add Ruth which is not granted here). Judith is not called a Midrash, but will come in under Marti’s “ahnliche Schriften.”
These three, Tobit, Susanna, and Judith, quite bear out what is said above of the style of edifying fiction. Whatever serious lesson they have in view, they seek it through an attractive dress. At every step the reader is aware of an effort to interest him. The persons are carefully introduced, actions and words thoughtfully mingled, there is plenty of description and picturesque detail. The absence of detail in Jonah is much dwelt on by the critics, and strangely claimed in support of their views. The above named stories have much detail, and so, too, in allegories is no scarcity of it, none in the vision of Er the son of Arminius (Plato Rep. X. 13). The Shepherd of Hermas, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the Sleeping Bard, and others to this day abound in it.
On either theory the Fish comes in as an incongruous patch. Marti says truly that it would destroy the unity of an allegory. No allegory can be quite consistent throughout, but this juxtaposition of the monstrous and the natural in figures, is as inexplicable as it is inartistic. But the Fish comes in not less awkwardly in the Tale theory. Popular philosophy distinguishes the miraculous from the merely wonderful. The distinction may be hard to express scientifically, but is one of practical usefulness. The story of the Fish contains a miracle of the most striking kind; but otherwise it is remarkable how little miracle there is in the book. There are wonderful coincidences and perhaps one or two other things that may be called wonderful. But the rest of the book teaches rather that God can use ordinary events for his moral purposes than that he can do things at variance with the ordinary course. There is only one other thing that can be called a miracle, the growth of the kikaion in one night. That would be a miracle of the less striking kind; only an exaggeration of the rapidity of a very rapidly growing plant; asserted moreover not in the narrative, but subsequently implied in the description, the son of a night; so that it is not forced on our attention as a miracle. Such a figurative expression might mean, I should have thought, no more than that so far as Jonah’s observation went the plant came into existence in that time, but might actually have been above ground longer, climbing (if botany allows this) among the stakes of the hut, but the leaves not sufficiently unfolded. De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. Anyhow, the question is not whether with our knowledge we know that growth in a night is impossible without miracle, but whether Jonah had such knowledge of Ninevite plants as to recognize the fact. There is nothing in chapter 4 to show this, nor in the Lord’s words is anything to distinguish the growth from the destruction in respect of miraculousness.
Then the miraculous being out of sight in the rest of the book, with what object does the writer fetch out of primitive myth or contemporary folklore this figure of the sea monster, agreeing so ill with his general style, for he could perfectly well have dispensed with the additional link, and let the waves throw Jonah up alive on the shore. To adorn his story? That is just what he did not let it do. God prepares the great fish; it swallows Jonah, and keeps him for three days; he prays from its belly, and it spits him out. That is absolutely all, we hear no more of it, no by-play with it, nothing descriptive, nothing comes of it, just those facts, startling yet baldly stated, and no allusion any more. Compare Tobit where the fish comes on the scene with picturesque ferocity; and the heart, liver, and gall play a great part in the evolution of the story.
To dwell on the style of the book of Jonah: “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai.” Enough here to command attention, no effort to attract it. Just barely enough to identify the central character, no description of him, nothing to satisfy a natural curiosity about him, what is not to come out in the narrative needs not knowing. Then the Lord’s message and the extraordinary course taken by Jonah, offering such opportunity for enlargement, but all from the moment he heard it to when he set foot on board dismissed in hardly more than half a verse. One superfluous detail we have, “he paid the fare thereof,” which attracts more attention than it would have in Tobit or Judith just because it is such a solitary exception to this writer’s use; and so we must assume some special point in it which the present writer has not discovered. Then for the rest of the chapter comes a string of unceasing detail, but all necessary to one point, how Jonah came to be thrown overboard, and more particularly to show the men who did it in a good and God-fearing light. Then comes the Fish dismissed in three verses, 1:17, 2:1, 10. What opportunity for grand dramatic behavior of the prophet as he offers himself to drown; something parallel to the devotion of Decius (Liv. 8:9). Would Tobit or Susanna have thrown it so away. Another opportunity in chapter III when the message is renewed and he obeys; but half a verse is enough to bring him to the gates of Nineveh; and one more verse begins and ends all we are told of his work in it. In six more verses, of comparative detail, yet short for the matter in hand, we have the history of the work on Nineveh concluded. Last comes the fourth chapter, comparatively lengthy in the telling, yet hardly a word could be spared for the showing of the main point, Jonah’s difficulty in accepting the wisdom of God, and the way God convinces him. His conviction is implied but left untold. The style all through is the very opposite of the style of books which we are told are fair specimens of the Midrash, and seems to come from the prophet himself, who alone could supply knowledge of the story.
The style itself is on the side of literal truth. Prof. G. A. Smith on Chapter I exclaims, “How very real it is, and how very noble, the source of it was God; men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” What a strong testimony to the simple truth of the book, one is about to say. But words have been passed over which sound so discordant to old-fashioned ears. “The art is consummate.” We feel justified in reckoning the instinctive appreciation wiser and truer than the cold judgment.
Other things point to Jonah himself as the author. The “with them” of Chapter 1:3, when no men have been mentioned, though we are soon to see why these men were so deeply impressed on his memory and his heart. Then his weakness and error are exhibited to us clearly in Chapter I, still more in Chapter 4. The moments of his greatness, the self-sacrifice on the ship, and his boldly plunging among the “fierce Ninevites” are touched on as lightly and briefly as the facts allow. An admirer would have spent more words on them; a detractor have added something to disparage the generosity of the action. But admiration and detraction are equally remote from the spirit of the book. The writer is burdened with the sense of an experience which has made him great, shown him great in the eyes of the Lord, yet in a humbling light; leaving the readers to draw their lessons from it, and to see it as a many-sided reality, not, so to say, like fiction painted on the flat. But if the Fish is an excrescence on the Fiction theory, it is not less so to the writer of facts. He recorded it, not because he understood it, or meant something by it, but because it actually happened like the other events of the book, a mighty experience of the presence of God with him. The art is consummate, but the art of the Holy Spirit is in realities. In 2 Kings 14:25, Jeroboam II is said to have “restored the coast of Israel according to the word of the Lord which he spake by the hand of His servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet which was of Gathhepher,” of Zebulun in lower Galilee. This prophecy is generally taken as spoken in Jeroboam’s reign, anyhow it would have been sufficiently late in the reign of Joash to allow his prophetic career to extend far into Jeroboam’s. When should we naturally suppose that such a message as Jonah’s would have most effect on Nineveh? Surely not in a time of success in war but in adversity. The reign of Jeroboam almost exactly coincides with what may be called a forty years of adversity for Nineveh, the only such period from the death of Solomon to the eve of the fall of the Assyrian empire. This points strongly to the truth of the story. The course of Assyrian history would not be so well known to Jewish romancers of the 5th or 4th centuries, as to choose a very obscure period for this reason. A traditional basis (the idea of which is emphatically rejected by some critics) would not help here unless it spoke at least of the historical Jonah preaching to Ninevites.
Narrative, Chapter I
The book opens with the Lord’s command, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” Nineveh was nearly 500 miles as the crow flies from Jonah’s home, yet there is not the faintest indication that he is sent on an unusual journey unless anything can be got out of the word “Arise.” “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish.” Some commentators would omit this first mention of Tarshish, thinking it more natural that the choice of destination was determined by the boat found at Joppa. Tarshish, in Spain, was about 2,000 miles to the West; and the language spoken there by Phoenician settlers would be intelligible to a Hebrew. If Jonah was a traveller he may have already been to Nineveh, possibly even to Tarshish or have come across those who had been there, and so he would have the knowledge, with which the Chronicle is not credited, in which direction Tarshish lay. There was, Sayce tells us (G. Smith’s Assyria, pp. 19, 20) a large carrying trade from India through Nineveh and Tyre to Spain, much of it in the hands of Tyrian merchants. If Jonah travelled, it would probably be for trade. G. A. Smith’s suggestion (approved by Driver1 ) is that Amos was a commercial traveller. Jonah would have been the same, only with a wider range; and we do not know in what wares. That he was accustomed to the sea is implied in the account of his going on board, and at once finding the retired corner of the vessel where he would be undisturbed, and in his being able to sleep soundly through the storm.
Why did the Lord’s mission shock him so much, so that though after his deliverance from the sea he obeys the second call, he is not thoroughly convinced of his mistake, however far he had learnt that blind obedience was his duty. The Lord has no reproof as for moral wrong, but only gentle instruction for ignorance. The motive which led him to desire punishment on Nineveh cannot have been wholly bad or contrary to God’s will. While accepting the prevailing opinion that he was jealous for Israel, and apprehensive of serious injury from Assyria, I venture to think that this is not exactly the key to the question. He desired vengeance on wickedness. There is an idea abroad that vengeance is contrary to the teaching of Christ and his Apostles and is something wrong. Μὴ ἄδικος ὁ θεὸς ὀ ἐπιφέρων τὴν ὀργήν. It is a witness how irremovable is the righteousnes which standeth like the strong mountains, and a witness necessary, because in the mysteries of Providence the righteousness can be defied and broken; then signal vengeance, a strange work, for God has to mark that his justice remains firm even when defied. Christ forbids it to all who (to use St. John’s expression) have sin and so are vulnerable themselves; i.e., he forbids it to all men here, and especially in the matter of personal wrongs. He forbids the act to all except the θεοὐ διάκονος (Rom. 13:4). He forbids everything in the thought or desire of it or satisfaction in it that is contrary to love by the example of God; but as to God who is love vengeance belongeth, the two cannot be absolutely irreconcilable. As justice and mercy are attributes of God they can never have been strange to the conscience of men; and yet in some way as general rational principles, or however it were, they came into full recognition by stages.
Since Christ we are living in a dispensation not yet perfect, but an advance on the one before. That again was an advance on one in which the claims and powers of justice were only dimly felt, when the earth was filled with violence, and men did that which was right in their own eyes. It was an advance to recognize that iniquity had to be punished even when a sufferer was himself the executor; much more was it laudable for others than injured parties to find satisfaction in the ruin of highhanded wrong doers. Justice must be known before mercy can be understood. Assyria seems even then to have been conspicuous for scoffing at righteousness, anyhow in its side of justice to fellowmen, and for making her strong right hand in self enrichment her only principle (Isaiah 10). If Jonah travelled in many countries, he might hear, and perhaps see, something of the wrongs done by Nineveh on the weaker nations round, nations in which he may himself have made friends; and no doubt it would be a consideration that his own country might easily be another victim. He may have seen in Nineveh the spoils of their invasions, valuables, or slaves of all sorts torn from their homes, and in the city itself the reign of the same bad principles. And seeing the strength decaying, yet the wicked principle still alive, did not doubt that she was now ripe for the sickle. It was too bitter to him that he should be the instrument of averting so righteous and wholesome a consummation. It was zeal for righteousness, and the righteousness which he knew was God’s, and only in a second degree patriotism, that made him reject the idea of saving Nineveh and feel sure that he was really at one with the Lord all the time.
The Psalm, Chapter II
The place of Jonah’s Psalm strikes the reader at once. A Psalm of thankfulness to God who has heard his prayer we should naturally expect to come after his deliverance from the fish and the sea. But it is introduced as Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish (the rendering of ממעי הדנה “delivered from the fish’s belly” seems to be generally rejected); and after the Psalm comes “And the Lord spake to the fish and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” It is suggested that the Psalm had an origin quite independent of the story, into which it was afterwards inserted at an inexact place. But a difficulty so very obvious is hard to ascribe to oversight or negligence. In the Psalm itself is no mention of actual deliverance. God has answered him, heard his voice, his prayer has come unto God’s holy temple, and he says how he will show his thankfulness at large. But after “he hath heard my calling” there is no going on “and brought me out of the horrible pit” as in Psa. 40:1, 2. It is more like Psa. 3:4, sqq., “he heard me out of his holy hill but has not at present altered my circumstances only sustained me in them, freed me from fear and promised me victory.” This experience of Jonah’s is too exceptional for us to lay down a rule concerning what is done under such circumstances, and how much originality we should expect. Nor even accepting the literal truth of the story do we exactly know what that experience was, as is well pointed out by Huxtable (Speaker’s Commentary). Was he simply insensible for the greater part of that time, did he actually die and rise to life again, how far was he conscious where he was. It is a common idea with some grounds for belief, that between life and death a very few seconds may hold a world of thought. Whether he descended into actual death or only its near neighborhood, there may have been an experience of the horrors of Sheol, and the point when he was released from them, and had the assurance of complete deliverance is the point of the song, expressions with which his mind was already stored taking a large place in it. It is like Daniel’s thanksgiving after learning the secret of the dream (Dan. 2) before he had used it for deliverance, Paul and Silas in the stocks, the Three Children in the furnace according to the LXX, and perhaps some of the Psalms like the 22nd, 31st, 69th where the first part implies actual distress, but thanksgiving and joy come before they end. Huxtable, however, follows Luther in thinking that the Psalm is the throwing into poetical form later on, the thoughts which had passed through his mind at the point indicated.
It is argued that the quotations from the Psalms of the Psalter make it impossible to date Jonah’s Psalm in the reign of Jeroboam II, for they are far later. It is freely allowed that, if the agreement of scholars of the day can afford assured results, one of them is that little of the Psalter is pre-exilic. The Greek translation is a bottom below which nothing can sink, but the nearer to that you can bring the date of a Psalm, the more likely your suggestion is to be approved.2 The space of this essay, to say nothing of learning and ability, would make proof of the opposite seem impossible. I can but try to indicate its reasonableness.
The authority of the titles is absolutely rejected. Yet the external support of them could hardly be stronger. “We can point to no era of sacred history and say, Then was the period when the Psalms had not their titles in the current copies of Scripture” (Armfield Gradual Psalms, p. 32), or indeed individually. This is the more remarkable that for liturgical use the titles are easily dispensed with. But the LXX translation, which is dated “the second half of the second century B. C.” (v. Swete’s Introd. to 0. T. in Greek, p. 25), though adding to them leaves the Massoretic titles almost untouched. Taking it that the titles were where we have them, 150–100 B. C, they were ancient then, for they were at least as obscure to the Greek translator as to us, nor only to him. There is a remarkable identity in the canon of the Psalms, LXX with Massoretic; the psalms the same and in the same order, and excepting the Μικρὸς ἤμην (LXX, Psalm 151), hardly a word of original matter added outside the titles. We may assume the same identity in the Jerusalem canon of the later second century B. C. If recent compositions like Maccabean were then flying about, there must have been a close correspondence with Alexandria to secure this identity; and in the Temple with its musical guild of Levites of at least 300 years continuous life must have been the same ignorance of the titles’ meaning. Then there is no indulgence of invention in the Titles; sincerity marks their form, no Tendenz or side-object, or attempt at edification as in the Syriac titles, they are dry, concise, mostly uninteresting, irregular.
In Driver’s I. O. T. which presents the results of modern criticism in its more moderate forms, the history of David’s life and reign, contained in Samuel and Kings is treated as practically complete and sufficient for forming a judgment of his character, his private life and thoughts at each point. But in fact there is an immense amount we are not told; very little of the origins and processes of his foreign wars, very little about the gradual settlement of the country after the battle of Gilboa, how it was saved from Philistine domination, and converted from disorder to peace, how and with what amount of loyalty or dislike it was led to accept David’s rule; and then how these two lines, foreign and domestic policy, were mutually entangled, friends of David abroad and malcontent disloyal parties at home, religious political personal influences acting and reacting confusedly. Reading the Psalms in the light of the titles we may perhaps see a little further into such matters than in the history alone. Psalms of popular currency might easily substitute late forms, Aramaic or other. Perhaps this is as much as may be said here.
The Psalms from which Jonah’s words are derived need be only those of the first two books together with Psa. 142:3 entitled David’s, Jonah 2:2 is nearer in form to 120 than to 18:6, but the words used are so common and the meaning so simple that the reference to 18:6 may be sufficient, if indeed there is any borrowing here.
Other anachronisms are found in the attribution of the book to the historical Jonah.
It is said to show signs of dependency on other books, inconsistent with an early date; these are summarized in Driver’s I. 0. T. It is difficult to see the relevance of some of the instances. Exod. 32:12, 14; 34:6 stand in a J and E passage. The 8th century B. C. (Jonah’s century) is suggested (I. 0. T., p. 116) as the date of J and E’s combination. At that time, then, special attention was called to them, not that separately they were new then. 1 Kings 19:4 is of Elijah, whose career was before Jonah’s. In Jerem. 18:11; 26:3, 15, Joel 2:13, 14, so far as there is need to suppose any dependency there is nothing to show that Jonah is not the original. In Jerem. 18 as a whole the resemblance is not of expression but of thought. It can hardly be said that the radical position of the book of Jonah could not have been taken before the events of Jerem. 18 were recorded. Jeremiah himself views it differently. In vv. 7–10 he reports a standing practice of the Lord not confined to his dealings with Israel, and apparently not in the first place exemplified in these but extending to other nations. This is quite consistent with the prophet having in mind at least one older instance of this rule.
The next point is the intrusion of Aramaic words, and words of later use, into the vocabulary. The linguistic argument, as I understand, does not go further than that. No claim is made for lateness on the ground of language except on account of a limited number of definite words, unless we add the use of the cognate substantive after the verb, and once? with the direct object. “The diction is purer than that of Esther and Chronicles,” says Driver; and others agree. The ordinary Hebrew reader cannot trust himself to recognize the fine shades of diction, and it would have been more satisfactory if the great scholars had told us directly how the diction and not merely the vocabulary compares with that of pre-exilic writings. Still if we must abstain from claiming it as inconsistent with the late date, we may assume that it is no argument against the early one.
What is the force of the argument from the use of Aramaic words? Margoliouth (Languages of the O. T., Hastings, D. B.) says that every book has Aramaisms and that except in the case of words of Aramaic form they do little to prove a late date. And what is the significance of late words? I opened quite at random a one-volume Shakespeare at Henry VIII, the fourth scene of the second Act; and found in that scene of tragic seriousness the following words in colloquial use to-day but teste Cruden not occurring in A. V. (the Apocrypha is omitted), more might be given which would add force to the argument; verger, wand, mace, consistory, induce, inducement, warrant (verb), domestics, broach, cur, resolution, legitimate, daring, trifle (verb), dilatory. This does not itself answer the question why one book should draw more on a late vocabulary than others; but it does suggest that all along a great mass of words might escape Bible use and yet be ready on slight occasion to appear; a slight alteration in the level of classical or religious tone, would bring them to the surface. And it is not hard to discover adequate occasion in the case of Jonah. As compared with other prophets he is a story teller and not a preacher. Cf. Driver I. O. T., p. 188, in which he speaks of “longer continuous narratives (in Kings), describing usually occurrences in which the prophets were more or less directly concerned . . . written mostly in a bright and chaste Hebrew style, though some of them exhibit slight peculiarities of diction, due doubtless in part to their North Israelitish origin” (this he works out in a footnote). Then Jonah was a Galilean. We have not many specimens of the Hebrew of Galileans, probably Nahum and the Song of Deborah, both poetry, while Jonah is, except for the Psalm, pure prose.3
Thirdly, Jonah was a traveller, he might be much where Aramaic was spoken, and with Phoenicians near enough in speech to affect his own language, or as sailors familiarizing him with technical terms and expressions of the sea.
That the exceptional vocabulary of Jonah is due not to lateness but to difference of circumstances and experience is borne out by the fact that there are exceptional points not to be explained by lateness. חשב לי 1:4 (to threaten to break up); הטל in the way it is used 1:4; חרעשית 4:8 of the wind; עד with the infinitive for while.
It is widely allowed that as nautical matters are rarely referred to in the O. T., no argument can be drawn from the rareness of words connected with them. These are מלח (sailor), רב דחבל (captain), inn (dig=row hard).
םפינה (ἅπ.λγ. in 0. T.) is said by most of the critics to be used in Aramaic for a “decked ship.” Bewer, however, here gives it the meaning “the below-deck,” and A. Lukyn Williams extends the same meaning to its Aramaic use. Bewer (if I may speak so positively) is clearly right here. It will mean not the whole vessel, but the part boarded over, perhaps=the hold. The ordinary word אניח is used three times in these verses for ship. Why then the change? Obviously because a different meaning is wanted. What word for hold, or the part below deck would the critics substitute? Whatever word were used it must be one not found elsewhere in the O. T. in that sense. On the other hand, if the word ספינה is, as most of the scholars affirm, used in Aramaic in the sense of ship, i.e., cargo ship (cf. the English Bottom, New. Engl. Diet., s,v, 1:7), this will be an argument for an earlier date of Jonah, when the word had not yet changed its meaning.
To these nautical expressions it is reasonable to add שתק, this being used in the same way as in Psa. 107:30, of quietness of the sea.
We have, as was said, no full means of determining what are Galilean idioms; but if there are any in the book, they become a positive argument for the authorship of Jonah of Gath-hepher in Lower Galilee.
The relative .ש has quite apart from Jonah been strongly suspected of early use in Northern Israel. It prevails in late literature but is found in the Song of Deborah, and as Pusey says is not Aramaic. It is found in a usual form 4:10 and in unusual or strange combination 1:7 בשלמי in the mouth of the sailors, and 1:12 בשלי in Jonah’s answer to them. These two last are found only here in the 0. T.; though they are not Aramaic the combination is said to be in Aramaic style. The ordinary relative אשרis found nine times in the book and there is nothing against referring the instances of .ש to Northern use, Galilean or Phoenician patois.
The use of עמל (4:10) for labour as in late Hebrew. In Deborah’s song (Judges 5:26), הלמום is rendered in the Vulgate fabrorum malleos, A. V., workmen’s hammer, and so other modern versions. In that case this would be a Northern use of the word. Moore, however (on Judges 5:26), with the LXX and others, disagrees with this rendering of either word.
Other words of late use are: —לתעשת. This, as Pusey points out, “is an old Hebrew root, as appears in its use in the number eleven it is used in Jonah, not by the Prophet himself, but by the shipmaster.”
מכה. This occurs four times, yet it is misleading to call it a favorite word of the writer’s; it is used as fittest to express a continual thought of his, that God uses natural means to carry out his providential designs; it is the thought, not the word, that is favorite. It is used with the same thought (only not confining the means to physical) in Psa. 61:8. In its later Biblical use it has no religious association in Job 7:3.
מים the King’s decree is an Aramaic word, but whether or no Aramaic was the vernacular of Nineveh, the Assyrians made great use of it at least in foreign relations, and an Aramaic word was bound to exist for the decrees of the King. It certainly has been the modern custom in England to adopt in such and similar cases the native word, ukase, firman, Imperial Hatt, Papal Brief and Bull, Pragmatic Sanction.
רבּו 4:11. This (almost always in singular, and=10,000 exact), except for a dual form Psa. 68:17, and a very doubtful instance Hosea 8:12, and this place, is found only in the later books, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, 11 times all included, רבבה almost entirely pre-exilic, stands with one exception for a large but vague number only so far defined that it is considerably greater than a thousand, and only in poetical language. The one exception is Judges 20:10, where the number meant is exactly 10,000, and the language not poetical. It has, however, a rhetorical color as shown by the threefold repetition of the ratio 1:10, and by this being carried up to 10,000, which is not a number of organization. Contrast Exod. 18:21, 2 Sam. 18:1, 4. In Jonah we want the language of statistics, not of poetry; the argument corresponds, and the rude unrhythmical run of the peroration. Does then the Biblical use of רבבה make it really suitable here? And instead of mm is not the general competitor of אלף רבו with a multiplier? Here רבו is chosen to allow use of the number 12, by it to bring up the thought of Israel, and so to remind of the equality of God’s providence and to wake up some sympathy in the prophet. If, however, Jonah were a trader he would be familiar with numerals; and possibly even by the eighth century, Greek traders were influential enough to familiarize the reckoning by myriads. Anyhow, the use in Psa. 68 implies that the singular form was already in existence. The critics from time to time call attention very fairly to points favorable to an older date. On ברח מלפני י”י Marti remarks that “Der Ausdruck stammt aus der alten Zeit”; says also that the general late sense of קריאה is not Proclamation but Reading aloud.
“The God of heaven,” 1:9, “A post-exilic expression used in converse with heathen or placed in their mouth” (Driver, I. 0. T., p. 553), and he gives the references Ezra 1:2; 5:11, 12; 6:9, 10; 7:12, 21, 23; Nehem. 1:4, 5; 2:4, 20; Jonah 1:9; Dan. 2:18, 19, 37, 44; (Psa. 136:26); Gen. 24:(3), 7. It was separation from the land of Israel, the holy land, which turned Israel’s eyes to heaven as the home of their God, and made them adopt this distinctive title almost as his name. It was the thought of sending his servant to do God’s work in a distant land which made Abraham mention heaven. Here in Jonah everything combines to make the description natural. He is speaking to heathen, he is no longer on holy ground, and the forces of the sky are pursuing him at sea. The difference of tone must be felt between the use of the word “God of heaven” in Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel (except in Cyrus’ decree), and in this place of Jonah. In those it indicates one already known, here it introduces by description one hitherto unknown. In the other books it is a name with little special insistence on the connotation; in Jonah it is a lively reference through the urgency of circumstances to the question he was answering, and to the storm. When a simple phrase fits the context hand in glove, that is explanation enough of its use.
Prof. G. A. Smith and some other critics (not Cheyne or Driver) include among their arguments for a late date the preponderating use of אני in this book: אני 5 times (1:9, 12; 2:5, 10; 4:11) to אנכי 2 (1:9; 3:2).
The mere numerical fact may be suggestive but cannot furnish a weighty argument unless (as e. g., in Ezekiel) the inequality is more considerable or the scale larger than here. Considering the many influences which might affect the choice of pronoun the ratio 5:2 is not worth much. But compare numerically other writers. Amos and Hosea were about contemporary with Jonah. In Amos אנכי 8 to אני1: Hosea about 11:10. Both very different from Jonah. But if this difference is to count for so much, is the difference of Amos from Hosea to go for nothing, a drop from almost the whole to a half? Why not argue: The Southern Amos has more of אנכי than the central Hosea, and so we may expect the central Hosea to have more than the Northern Jonah. There may possibly be something in this. Ruth (7:2) and Amos have the highest proportion for אנכי of all books: and the fact that in Samuel (50 to 50) the proportion is so much larger than in Kings (about 8 to 39) may be due to Samuel dealing mostly with Southern Israel, and Kings with the Northern Kingdom. Of the other books nearer the eighth century we have in Micah אנכי 1 to אני 2: in Isaiah 1–39 אנכי 4 to אני 8, a proportion not appreciably different from Jonah’s. But in modern criticism the prophets are such regions of shifting sand, there is not much controversial force in this argument.
To pursue a method more rational than the merely arithmetical and examine the instances separately.
1:9 עברי אנכי. “With (substantive) predicate אנכי is regularly employed” (New Hebr. Diet. B.D.B. s.v.) which quotes this with other examples. (The substantive in this case is descriptive of the person.)
3:2. אשר אנכי דבר אליך; ptcp. following; so Gen. 7:4; 15:2; Josh. 1:2; 11:6; 25:14, etc.
1:9, את י”י אלהי השמים אני ירא possibly even a reminiscence of Gen. 42:18 האלהים אני ירא; anyhow nothing modern in it.
1:12, יודע אני “following ptcp. as subject” B.D.B.
2:5, ואני אמרתי quotation from Psa. 31:23, and ten common phrases B.D.B.
2:10, ואני בקול תודה אזבחה לד. Nothing special of note, but cf. 45:6, 13:6, 59:17, 88:14, etc.
4:(10) 11, ואני לא אחום . . . . אתה חסת (10). אני where two subjects are contrasted as Gen. 31:52 אם אתה לא תעבר . . . אם אני לא אעבר
אני is usual when persons are set one against another, e. g., Gen. 24:23 the King of Sodom and Abram; 55:13 Jacob and Esau; 40:16 Baker and Butler; Judges 9:2 Abimelech and his brothers; 2 Sam. 19:39 (38) Chimham and David; Psa. 109-A the Psalmist and his persecutors.
Various things, as B. D. B. notes, may determine the choice of pronoun, and one of them we might perhaps say is that אני is felt more suitable when the individuality is emphasized, i.e., I and not you, he, they, others; and אנכי when the personality, what I am, my character, what you know of me or I am about to show of myself. There is nothing rigid, ‘mm might stand often where it does not, only it comes not so often in the first case. We have אנכי Genesis 4:9 (Cain and Abel), 27:11 Jacob and Esau, 31:39 Jacob and Laban, 2 Sam. 24:17 (David and his people). Yet even here we may note that in Gen. 27:11 Jacob is describing himself איש חלק; 31:39 he is insisting on the fact of his resolute and loyal endurance; and 2 Sam. 24:17 the common text of the LXX rightly interprets the meaning by its addition [ἐγὼ]ὁποιμήν. David is thinking of himself in a particular character. Num. 23:15 it is the two methods of approaching God rather than the two persons that are contrasted.
The case of the use of אני mentioned by B.D.B. “appended to verb for emphasis” comes under this head. Judges 8:23 “Whoever will be king, I will not” 2 Sam. 12:28 “The King must take the city, not I.” See also the examples below of composite subject. Is it too much, then, to ask the Hebrew Scholars, which of the אני in Jonah will you alter, or how will you sprinkle in אנרי to give the book the true eighth century color?
In depreciating the numerical test, it may be allowed to suggest other circumstances beside those mentioned above which may influence the choice between אני and אנכי
In composite subjects אני is regularly used: —
Gen. 22:5 (אני והנעד) 31:44; 37:10; 41:11; Exod. 9:27; Num. 20:19; Josh. 8:5; Judges 12:2; 20:4; 1 Sam. 14:40; 20:23; 1 Kings 1:21; 3:17; 20:4; unless the speaker has a pre-eminent importance, when אנכי is used.
Judges 11:37, Jephtha’s daughter and her companions.
Joshua 24:15, Joshua’s own faithfulness is seen in that of his house.
2 Sam. 3:28, blood guiltiness of the King itself involves the kingdom.
Isaiah 8:18, the witness of the prophet’s children is part of his own.
Judges 7:18, the verb preceding is in the first person singular which is not usual in this case (But Judges 12:2). In Gen. 34:30, Jacob has been speaking of himself as a clan and makes the mention of the other men something of an afterthought.
When the tribe speaks of itself in the singular, perhaps אני is preferred, Gen. 34:30; Joshua 17:14; 2 Sam. 19:44. Exceptions (?) are Judges 11:27 (with אנכי).
Moses, speaking of himself, prefers אנכי.
Exod. 3:11; 4:10, 10; 8:25; 32:18; Num. 11:12, 12, 14; and (evidently though with an anacoluthon) Exod. 7:17, and Deuteronomy passim.
Exceptions with אני Exod. 0:12, 30 both P. and the same phrase, אני ערל שפתים.
Exod. 33:16, אני וימך (bis)—composite subject.
To view the matter from another point. In books dated by the critics not very far from Jonah, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, אנכי is found only twice; 1 Chron. 17:1, quoted or extracted from 2 Sam. 7:2; and Nehemiah 1:6, אל עבדך אשר אנכי מתפלל which, like other words in the passages, comes from Solomon’s prayer, 1 Kings .9:28, 29; 2 Chron. 6:19, אל־התפלה אשר עבדך מתפלל. As עבדך has immediately preceded in Nehemiah, אנכי is substituted as a conscious archaism to suit the passage. It is to the point to keep in mind the antiquity of the prayer and ensuing promise (1 Kings 9:3) which showed how this was all worked into their history from early times.
In Jonah there is no occasion of this sort for the use of אנכי; once it is in the Lord’s mouth, and once used to the sailors in the most natural manner; both occasions in accordance with the time when its use was a living one. An imitator of old style like Chatterton would have peppered it over the book much more freely. Instead of the small number of cases being an argument against early date, the using of it at all, and the way it is used, speaks very strongly for an early date.4
Stress is laid by the critics upon the היתחי of 3:3. “Nineveh was an exceeding great city,” as showing that it was so no more when the book was written. This seems a great deal to get out of one word in the whole book; indeed had the writer known that Nineveh had perished, would there be no indication that Jonah’s threat had not gone quite for nothing? There is such agreement of great scholars on this point, one might hesitate only that (1) they take no notice of the obvious explanation and have no argument against it. “The past tense was used because the statement of Nineveh’s greatness is not intended as an historical notice but is altogether relative to Jonah’s sentiments respecting his mission” (Huxtable ad loc. Speakers Comm.). And (2) Dr. Driver does not mention this argument; and as he is a recognized authority on Hebrew tenses one would expect to find it in what he says on Jonah in I. O. T., if he regarded it as weighty. When the brethren said to Joseph, Gen. 42:11, לא היו עבדיך מרגלים they did not mean to leave it in doubt whether they were spying that very moment. In approaching the study of Hebrew Tenses the learner humbly strives by Einstein-like contortions of brain to acquire the Semitic time-sense. It is therefore with some relief he finds that anyhow in prose and allowing the rule of thumb which gave birth to vau conversive he only rarely comes upon a tense not easily intelligible; even the habitual future is represented in English idiom. No doubt, then, we do right to follow the critics here in making אנכי as simple and European a past tense as Fuit or Was. In English describing a walking tour we could say, “This hill was higher than the other, so we expected a better view from it” or “We had to look out for a bridge, as our next place lay West of the river,” no implication that the hill has changed its height since then, or the town its site! But where closely connected with past events permanent facts can borrow the tense. The assertion Nineveh was a great city which has been made twice before (1:2; 3:2) here is put in closest connection with Jonah’s actual journey. Need we look for an idiom? There is nothing here not literally true, nothing even inexact: only out of an extended fact (that Nineveh was great up to the moment of writing) that portion is selected which is pertinent to the matter in hand (that it was great when Jonah was there).
Chapter 5:3. Two more questions are raised over this verse. What is Nineveh? And what is meant by a day’s journey? The difficulty is that three days’ journey, reckoning 20 miles a day, is far beyond the size of the Nineveh which lies on the left bank of the Tigris, opposite the point where now is Mosul, and now marked by mounds which are called Kuyunjik and Nebi Junus. The answer given by Pusey and others is first that the name Nineveh is extended to include a large thickly populated area stretching along the Tigris from Nineveh proper some 16 miles southward to the ancient Calah, the present Nimrud, near where the upper Zab joins the Tigris, and extending some distance eastward from the River. The Greek geographers seem to have embraced this area, and more, under the name Nineveh; and so also a 17th century traveller is said the have done (Pusey). This is not accepted by most of the critics, but G. A. Smith, who gives a very clear and helpful account of the area, which he seems to have seen, agrees with Pusey on this point; but I venture with hesitation to follow the general critical opinion. As for numbers Nineveh proper would have a large extramural population and perhaps the limit of age for the over 120,000 should be placed considerably higher than two years.) Next, the three days’ journey is reckoned as traced round the circumference of this enlarged city. The length of this circumference on the authority of the Greeks is stated as about 60 miles. Without questioning that dimensions of towns are sometimes stated in this way (Revel. 21:16 has been thus interpreted) it is a perplexing method of measurement, especially in terms of days’ journey; for who in an ordinary way has occasion to walk around the circumference of a place; and the one day’s journey in the city mentioned immediately after, would naturally lie on the diameter (Bewer and others). Then to reckon the interval between towns by days’ journey may be natural but not the distances in the town itself, not only because of the shorter lengths, but of the difference of object in the movement, it is not so continuous.
What is a מהלך? The word only recurs late. In Ezek. 42:4 it is a corridor in the Temple, which does not help here. But in Nehem. 2:6 (near the critics’ date for Jonah) Artaxerxes asks Nehemiah “For how long shall thy journey be?” (מהלכך). The King knew probably as well as Nehemiah what the distance was and how long the journey would take. What he wants to know is how long the work would occupy him when he got there; i e., the מהלך includes not only the travelling but the work for which it is undertaken. There is no reason why the word should not have kept the meaning for 300 or 400 years. Again (5:4) “Jonah began to enter the city” implies that a new stage began as he entered it, not a mere continuance of the travelling up to that point; and by it is most naturally understood that his prophesying began then. If so, he cannot have done his day’s walk at a travelling pace (there are, however, commentators on both sides who think he was silent till the end of the day). Then he might word it, “Nineveh was a place it took three days to get through,” though in the dark as to the sort of work which fixes the standard of time, whether commercial or prophetic, or the two identified, or any other.
Before going on it may be well to state a few points of the history about this time. Rimmon- (alias Adad-) nirari III, the last powerful king of his family, was succeeded in 783 by Shalmaneser III, after him came in 773 Assurdan III, then 755 Assurnirari II, who was supplanted in 745 by Pul, a usurper taking the name Tiglathpileser and reigning till 727. The three reigns from 783 to 745 are the inglorious ones, in which the arms of Assyria were first used in a vain attempt to regain conquests, and then were idle or not engaged abroad. These dates are fairly certain; and the 38 years nearly coincide with the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel, where the dates, though sufficiently ascertained, are not so precise. What gives certainty to the Assyrian dates is the eclipse of the sun June 15, 763 B. C. This is recorded in the Eponym Canon. It was the custom for some centuries to name each year after a distinguished official, who is now called the Eponym, and we have copies of the list of names in two forms, one a mere list, the other adding in most years one or two occurrences of the year. In each list a line is drawn across after the last Eponym of a reign, though owing to some difference of computation the line is not always drawn at the same point in both lists. In the annotated form a line is also drawn after 764, the year before the eclipse. The explanation, as I understand it, is this:5 Assur, a city some miles further down the river on the right bank, the original capital and residence of the king, was still the home of the priestly power. But a century before this the royal residence had been moved to Calah, which lies between the Tigris and the Upper Zab at their confluence, the stronghold of the military and official class. The priests, discontented at the loss of the residence and perhaps now encouraged by weakness of the army, started in 763 an insurrection in Assur which was put down next year, setting up a new king of unknown name whose reign they marked by the usual line. The year 765, two years before the eclipse, was a year of plague, as was 759. Assurnirari, the last of the dynasty, at the beginning of his reign, restored the residence to Assur, but then again after some years a rebellion in Calah helped to bring his reign to an end. Apparently all through this Nineveh was the great city and the capital, a great commercial center though many miles from the King’s seat.
3:5, “The people of Nineveh believed in God and proclaimed a fast.” Obviously Assur and Calah had a city life of their own. Then still more, Nineveh was a greater place and farther off from the King’s person. It would have some municipal government, which is here distinguished from the imperial, incidentally and not ostentatiously, in a way not to be expected of a late romancer, least of one who out of ignorance talked of the King of Nineveh, inventing a title to suit his story. If the King were brought in, only to ornament fiction, the movement would not be represented as in full swing under public orders before he comes to the scene. Not until there has been time to proclaim the fact, and put on general mourning does the news reach the King, וינע הדבר מלך נינוה (3:6). The verb seems to imply a point out of near reach, cf. Jerem. 51:9; 1 Sam. 16:8; Micah 1:9; 2 Sam. 5:8. This, as we have seen, corresponds with the facts of the time. The post-exilic writer imagined would not have put his king outside the city, at a distance from it, or have known that in Jonah’s time the king lived there, especially when in 2 Kings 19:36 we are expressly told that Sennacherib resided at Nineveh.
More than one critic quotes Sayce, “The title ‘King of Nineveh’ could never have been applied to him while the Assyrian empire was in existence.” This is a large assertion to base on the documents, even were we as well off for those of Jonah’s time as for the period of their greatest abundance. What evidence do they afford of the way the populace spoke, or of the language a low class traveller would use when he got home? King of Nineveh is, we might say, a description, not a title. And yet possibly it would be right to go further and question how far at this point the Assyrian empire had a real efficacious existence. Assyria had come down to be a second rate power; and the title King of Assyria might even then have called up associations in foreign ears which it was hard to fit on the kings of Jonah’s time.
As for the mention of the King’s name, why should it be mentioned? How often do we mention our king’s name in conversation, and not merely say “the king”? Jonah need never have heard it, or known it, unless in a commercial contract. Then the space devoted to Nineveh itself, a short chapter of ten verses. The spirit of the narrative is to exclude superfluity.
If the absence of historical detail is noticed, it will be to the point to quote Prof. Kennett (quoted in Church Quarterly, January, 1923), although details of the sentence do not apply here “(Compilers of the books of) the Prophets were actuated not by any archeological interest (in the sayings of holy men of old), but by a desire to provide spiritual edification (for their own time).”
It is argued that there is no other evidence of a reformation, and that there is no notice in documents of Jonah’s preaching and its effects. We are not required by our Lord’s words, much less by the O. T. account to suppose that the results remained very conspicuous for a long time. Religious revivals often are short lived, anyhow on the surface. Expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. In the early years of the century the revival movement in S. Wales under Evan Roberts had astonishing results in the habits of the people generally, striking every eye. A very short time, all that was gone, and the surface of society there looked, and looks now in those respects, just as it always did. We need not say no results remain, but there is nothing out of the way to see. Again to judge from the book what was staring and conspicuous was the reign of vice of whatever kind; the better period would show the improvement by the absence of things worth recording.
We have no reason to suppose Jonah’s preaching in Nineveh directed against idolatry. So far as appears he merely threw them on their own conscience and that reproached them only with their evil ways and the violence in their hands. There was indeed monotheism in its voice, instinctively not didactically expressed, weak through the infirmity of the flesh, and ready to fade as moral effort relaxed.
As for there being no trace of the office of Jonah’s visit in the documents, native or foreign, what proportion of all that went on in Nineveh in the reigns of Rimmon-nirari’s three successors are we supposed to have recorded still? We know something which is very well worth knowing, foreign losses and internal disorders; yet Nineveh must have been a strange city had it no more history than what has survived to us. We have to strain our eyes to get what can be got out of the records left. So doing one may fancy some meaning in the name of an Eponym in the middle of Assurdan’s reign 764 B. C. Sidki-ilu=in Hebrew form Zadkiel, The Righteousness of God (or something like it). Many of the elements of which the names are formed recur in other combinations. The names often record the power and patronage of special gods; I know not whether any witness to their good moral qualities. But this as far as I can see is the only name among the Eponyms (possibly among recorded Assyrians) formed from the root answering to Zedek. It might be that the chosen Eponym, for a monument of the moral reformation, altered his name as did King Zedekiah at the King of Babylon’s instance (2 Kings 2.4:17) no doubt with a meaning in the change, nor need we suppose this the only case in which an Eponym adopted an official name.
We may trace these few years as follows. In 765 during the pestilence, or as it was abating, came Jonah with his prophecy to Nineveh, and worked at once on the anxious minds. In the following year 764, the Eponym’s name was a sign of the reforms social and religious which the king was pressing on a people of divided feelings, not only in Nineveh, but in neighboring towns such as Calah ad Assur. Those reforms might include changes distasteful to a strong party, and possibly offensive to religious feelings, as of the priests in Assur whose thoughts the national disasters were already turning towards revolt. Then the eclipse came as a plain sign of the displeasure of the gods and the revolt broke out. Tiele (Babyl.-assyr. Geschichte, 1886), apparently with no thought at all of Jonah, regards the Assyrian people as being at this time full of religious apprehension, though the moment of which he is actually speaking follows the eclipse. (I., p. 208) “Ohne Zweifel erblickten die frommen Assyrier, als all dieses Unheil (defeat abroad, rebellion in the Provinces, plague at home) über das Land hereinbrach, in der grossen Sonnenfinsterniss des Jahres 763 ein Zeichen des göttlichen Zornes, und einen Verboten der furchtbaren Heimsuchung.”
This is not offered as more than an hypothesis which can incorporate a few known points of the documents; but to demand anything of the sort is like asking one to trace footprints on hard grounds; and this is sufficient answer to such a demand.
Ch. 4:6–9; Bewer says “The author pictures here, psychologically correctly how such a little thing can reconcile Jonah, and then also how quickly he despairs again” (International Critical Commentary, Jonah, p. 60).
It has been endeavored here to show that chapters 2, 3, 4 (Hebrew division) bear the marks of simple truth in their style and tone; that Cheyne’s view (Encycl. Biblica) ‘the story is constructed for effect,” has only so much truth in it that the outlines or plot are such as could be clothed in a very effective style of literary art. But they are not so clothed. It is bare narrative with not a word more than is necessary to set the main points in the right light. This is especially clear in the Fish episode, which Cheyne calls “shrivelled up myth.” In what sense can anything shrivelled up be said to be constructed, or at least set forth, for effect? All through there is no effort at the descriptive, the graphic or the poetical in expression. But “shrivelled” does not express the style, for all through we are felt to be in contact with life, and deep life.
This claim for reality and truthfulness is corroborated by the fact that the moment is suitable for the mission, which being in Jonah’s lifetime must be in or near the reign of Jeroboam II, a time of depression for Assyrian fortune; a time, moreover, at which a modern historian, as has been seen, recognizes the combination of piety and low spirits in the people. Further, there is a recognition of both local and royal authority and of the distance of the King’s home from the city which would hold for that period.
The truthfulness of these chapters will be an additional support to Chapter II; to Jonah’s authorship of the Psalm, at whatever exact point of his experience; and to the historical fact represented by the Fish; not absolutely rejecting as impossible the idea that it is a figurative statement of what happened, but very much preferring a literal understanding as both more natural in our Lord’s words, and as harmonizing with the style of expression in the rest of the book.
Here is a book consisting of four remarkably heterogeneous chapters. According to the traditional theory the thread on which they are strung is Jonah’s mission to Nineveh with its actual befallments, not invented by literary skill but copied down from a life, the resultant of Providential guidance and human self-will. According to the critics the real thread is a favorite doctrine, preferably God’s care for the Gentiles, and a mission to Nineveh is invented to give opportunity for hinting it. I am not denying that this doctrine is the most prominent lesson of the book, but many have failed to see it, anyhow in this light: the Psalm has nothing to do with it. One who wrote with such a purpose would have let his tale speak for itself more distinctly; and the disjointed form of the book, the strange sudden contrasts of the scenes of the four chapters, are not such as ordinarily come from a literary workshop. Can the critics tell us where to find Jewish stories, written for a purpose, and then more particularly point out those of them that illustrate most clearly Jonah’s method.
It was maintained above that, if the story is fiction, the Fish is an incongruous excrescence; if the narrative is true, it appears meaningless and unnecessary unless it records a fact. The Christian writers take the true point of view when they make Jonah coming from his grave to preach to Gentiles, a type of Christ risen bringing them the Gospel. But then only as God is true as well as merciful; so, though all need His mercy (Rom. 11:32), yet there are those who benefit by His truth (Hebr. 6:10) and as the faithful Israelites are the typical class of these, so the Gentiles are typical of those who would perish but for God’s mercy (Rom. 15:8, 9). But as it was necessary for Christ to die and rise again, or mercy could not have come to the wicked, so Jonah has to go through the figure of death and resurrection before he could bring life to those whose wickedness he truly saw deserved vengeance and perdition. How, then, if he had obeyed the first command? “What would have been?” is a question which often partakes of the unanswerable. In this case it shares the difficulty with other questions cognate and far greater.
Then according to the view of this paper, the book of Jonah has all the historical value that literal truth can give it, not only so much as would attach to a specimen of the thought and literary method of a particular period. This is not to claim for it considerable historical value. Its great value is religious; clearly no great historical value can be ascribed to the Story of the Fish, accepted as literal fact, unless as showing the strength of a prophet’s faith. In the 1st and 4th chapters we see a little of the sea-faring of the day, and have a very rough indication of the population of Nineveh. In the 2nd chapter the mention of the holy temple, though that is the heavenly one, and the style of the Psalm suggests that one of the most devout of Northern Israel might possibly visit Jerusalem and value its worship. The 3rd chapter gives an interesting glimpse of the people of Nineveh at home, even if it be not much more than could have been gained from the documents.
1) Cambridge Bible. Amos, pp. 105-106.
2) Marti, however, dates the latest Psalms about 80 B. C.
3) G. A. Smith, while explicitly only calling him “a citizen and probably a priest of Northern Israel” (Geogr. of Holy Land, p. 417; Min. Prophets, I, p. 233) repeatedly implies that Hosea was a Galilean; but I have not found where he gives his reasons; nor do other commentators or Bible dictionaries seem to say so, though the Christian tradition (Hast. D. B. Hosea, p. 420) is said to give Issachar, and Rabbinic conjecture, Reuben as his native country. But even so Issachar as the Southernmost part of Galilee, plain and not like the rest in the hills, might in dialect go with their neighbors south of them rather than with the hill country. “Nature has manifestly set Esdraelon in the arms of Samaria” (G. A. Smith, Geogr. of Holy Land, p. 379. What he says to the contrary, p. 416, seems to refer to the time after the exile). Anyhow, Hosea’s heart was in Ephraim and his tongue cannot have been far different, and at the worst he would not expose his reproofs to ridicule by obtrusive provincialism.
4) Mr. Finn (The Unity of the Pentateuch, p. 517) has a very suggestive article on אני and אנכי; his meaning, however, of אנכי in not adopted here.
5) Schrader (Winckler): Keilinschrift. u. A. T. (1902), pp. 48-49.