The Book of Jonah

The Honorable Francis J. Lamb, Madison, WIS.


“This is the tragedy of the Book of Jonah, that a book which is made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connection with a whale.”1

IN this quotation, whether intended or not, there is recognized the fact that the Book of Jonah has the unique distinction of being peculiarly honored by Christ because of its “revelations of truth,” and peculiarly scorned by men as destitute of truth. It is not strange that the Book should have been flatly denounced as false by sceptics and atheists from Celsus in the second century all along down to Ingersoll of yesterday. But within late years hostile attacks upon the Book on new grounds have found favor and advocacy from persons prominent in educational work in Christian institutions, as well as in the Christian ministry, including a class that has come to be known as Advanced Higher Critics of the Bible. For brevity we will in this paper designate them by one word, Critics. These newer hostile attacks not only deny the verity of the Book on new grounds, but, in connection with such denials, impugn the integrity and capacity of Jesus. We are persuaded that their hostile attacks cannot stand when subjected to the ordeal of applied science. These attacks are variant in degree of hostility, but it will be found that they are so radically related that examination of either necessarily involves the other. We will, therefore, notice first the lesser. In them opponents contend that:

“The mere statement of the story shows the incongruity which lies in the very nature of the narrative,—‘the essential improbability of the instant heed of an entire people (600,000 or more) to the simple religious message of an unknown visitor from an enemy’s country.’”

Such attack proceeds upon the opponent’s contention, that the few words of menace spoken by Jonah in the streets of Nineveh were to the Ninevites merely the ipse dixit of a stranger unauthenticated by any credentials emanating from a power able to execute the menace. This contention raises the issue: Did the Ninevites have knowledge or warning that Jonah was the authenticated prophet of Jehovah in crying the message against their city? This is a question of fact to be determined by evidence and the employment of science, and the minuteness, if need be, of the scientific method and means in making the investigation.

The Bible like every written or printed document comes to men purporting to be evidence of its contents. The Books of the Bible as Ancient Documents are Competent Evidence.2 Jurisprudence is a science,—the science that deals especially with evidence and by its rules, methods, tests, and standards determines what is valid evidence, discriminates truth from error, and through evidence ascertains and establishes fact and verity. Obviously jurisprudence is the appropriate science to be employed in determining the question here at issue. Consulting a score or more of writers commenting on the Book of Jonah, we found a number that noticed this question, but none that attempted seriously to solve it.

It is coming to be understood that in the past theologians and religious teachers have not availed themselves, as they might, of the great and effective service of which jural science is capable. That condition is changing. We find much of the essentials of the rules, tests and methods of jural science, by which fact and verity are elicited from evidence, in a late work by an eminent scholar and theologian which we quote:

“When you find a record of events, actual or supposable, take the trouble to think out the nature of the events including the facts that are necessarily implied in them; facts geographical, topographical, biological, facts of human nature (i.e., facts psychological), facts that limit the movements of men in masses, or other pertinent facts.”3

This, so far as it goes, enunciates scientific methods which jurisprudence requires of investigators searching for truth. Some of the facts geographical, etc., that are necessarily implied or involved in the Jonah episode may be noticed here.

Jonah is an historical person, a Hebrew and prophet of Israel, son of Amittai, citizen of Gath—Hepher in Galilee, contemporary of Jeroboam II, King of Israel 791 B. C. to 750 B. C. As such prophet Jonah foretold Israel’s recovery of its borders from the entering of Hamath to the sea of the plain.4 He lived more than one hundred and fifty years after the dedication of the temple built by Solomon, and after altar sacrifice and worship of Jehovah had been established there specifically in Jerusalem. Jonah in common with the Hebrew nation had the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Job, the writings of Samuel, Proverbs, the writings of Solomon, Psalms of David, a considerable and grand literature in a period of intellectual atmosphere and life incident to such conditions. For more than a thousand years before Jonah, there existed the great commercial and military highway between Egypt on the west, and the empires of Assyria, Babylon and Nineveh in the Euphrates Valley on the east, passing through Palestine. This way led from Egypt north along the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza. From Gaza by numerous lines it intersected the cities of Canaan, Joppa, Tyre, Jerusalem, Damascus, the various lines converging to “the entering in of Hamath,” the long valley of Coele-Syria, running east and west through the natural pass, lying between the Lebanon and Nusaieryeh Mountains, connecting the inland regions of Syria with the coast of the Mediterranean. Haran, a commercial center to which Abraham migrated from Ur of the Chaldees, was situated on this great highway at a point about two hundred and forty miles west, by north from Nineveh, and two hundred and eighty miles northeast from Damascus.5 Over this highway the armies of Syria and armies of Egypt alternately surged in their contests for supremacy. As other caravans with family, servants, flocks, herds and goods, Abraham and Lot from Haran “went forth to go into the land of Canaan and into the land of Canaan they came,” Gen. 12:5. Constant use of this highway through that natural pass made it a living line of transmission, not only of people and physical property, but also of knowledge of events. Furthermore, over this way there had been established a postal system extending from the Euphrates Valley to Canaan and the provinces bordering on the Mediterranean. This had been established in the days of Naram-Sin hundreds of years before the time of Abraham.6 Prof. Sayce says:

“There was an excellent postal service connecting Canaan with Babylonia, which went back to the days of Naram-Sin and some of the clay bullae which served as stamps for the official correspondence are now in the Museum of the Louvre.”7

A postal system implies necessarily not only the art of writing but wide diffusion of the art. As stated by Kyle:

“The discovery of the Tell-el-Amarna tablets in 1857 turned the full light of day upon the subject. These tablets reveal the literary conditions in Palestine about midway between Abraham and Moses.

The widest diffusion of letters is indicated. All sorts of people are found writing letters,—governors, court officials, private citizens, ladies and servants.”8

Under such conditions of civilization and life in the world, God commanded his prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and “cry against it” because of its sins. Jonah disobedient attempted to flee from God and duty on a ship sailing from Joppa. The record is that God halted Jonah by smiting the ship and sea with such a “mighty tempest” that the mariners lost control of their craft; each cried to his god for help without avail. They then appealed to Deity, by the lot, to ascertain the culprit for whose sin they believed the tempest smote them. The lot fell upon Jonah. This answer of Deity was corroborated to the mariners by Jonah. Answering their question, Jonah told them he was a Hebrew, that he feared (reverenced) Jehovah “the God of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land,” that Jehovah had commanded him as his prophet to go to Nineveh and “cry against it,” that he had disobeyed, that he knew the tempest inflicted on them was because he was on the ship, and that, if he was cast into the sea, it “would be calm to them.” The mariners “rowed hard” to beach the ship and save Jonah, their passenger, but could not. Evidently believing the counsel of Jonah, Jehovah’s prophet, was the counsel of Jehovah, the mariners prayed to Jehovah and cast Jonah into the sea. It became calm. Immediately the miracle of God was wrought causing Jonah to be swallowed by a great fish and held there three days and three nights and then to be delivered alive upon dry land. While thus imprisoned Jonah, humble and penitent, prayed seeking deliverance. Conscious as he prayed that his prayer was heard, Jonah made vow to Jehovah: “I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that I have vowed, Salvation is of Jehovah.”

Later God’s command was laid upon Jonah “the second time” to go to Nineveh and proclaim God’s judgment determined against that city. Jonah obeyed and proclaimed in the streets of that great city: “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” The people and king and nobles repented. God saw their repentance was sincere, recalled the destruction determined upon and “did it not.”

The first and specific question we are examining is— Did the Ninevites have knowledge or warning that Jonah was the authenticated prophet of God when Jonah proclaimed God’s judgment against Nineveh? We examine first the testimony of Jesus. It is essential to notice with care the language used. The Greek has several words to describe superhuman and supernatural transactions wrought by the special fiat of Deity—transactions possible to Deity alone. By usage now common each of those Greek words, in such transactions, is properly rendered in English by the word miracle. On the day of Pentecost Peter, divinely inspired, addressing Jews, said: “Ye men of Israel hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved (authenticated) of God by δυνάμεσι καὶ τέρασι καὶ σημείοις which God did by him in the midst of you as ye yourselves also know . . . ye have slain.”

Primarily in σημεῖον (English sign) there is the element of evidence, something that witnesses. Hence it readily gives the character of evidence, witnessing to miracles of God designated as σημεῖον, i.e., the testimony of God to authenticate his messengers or agents in His service. This use of that word in scripture has become commonplace, so recognized, e. g., Century Diet.

“Sign 8. In biblical use (a) that by which a person or thing is known, especially as divinely distinguished (Luke 11:12; Rom. 4:11; 2 Cor. 12:12). Hence (b) especially an appearance or occurrence indicative of divine presence or power and authenticating a message or messenger (Acts 11:22; 7:36; 1 Cor. 1:22).”

Mathew 16 records that Pharisees and Sadducees (designated hypocrites by Jesus) tempting (trying) Jesus asked him to show “them9 a σημεῖον from heaven,” in this way imitating the tempting by the Devil (Matt. 4:3), “If thou be the Son of God,” perform a miracle, make stones bread. Denouncing them as hypocrites and rebuking them because, while they could discern the signs of the weather, they did not discern the function of the many miracles that Jesus wrought as Nicodemus did (Jno. 111:2). Jesus refused their hypocritical request saying “no σημεῖν shall be given but the σημεῖον of the prophet Jonah.”

That expression, σημεῖον of Jonah, or of the prophet Jonah, “occurs so frequently in the scriptures we are examining that it is essential that we get a just and clear apprehension of what it designates.” In Matt. 12 (R. V.) Jesus defines it in replying to a similar request by Scribes and Pharisees, i.e., the phrase designates the fact that “Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale,” v. 40 (margin, sea monster).

This reply shows marked condensation of language, caused by the use by Jesus of the rhetorical figure synecdoche, i.e., taking part for the whole or whole for part. Fully and literally expressed the σημεῖον of Jonah, the prophet, is “Jonah was cast into the sea whereupon the σημεῖον—attesting miracle of God—was wrought by which Jonah was taken into the belly of a great fish and held there three days and three nights.”

This transaction of Matt. 12 is also recorded by Luke 11, R. V. with additional matter confuting opponents. Jesus was executing his office as Messiah, evidently in a public place, and cast a demon out of a dumb man whereupon “the dumb spake; and the people marvelled” (Matthew says people asked “is not this the son of David?” i.e., Messiah—Matt. 12:23). Luke records that two classes of opponents, at this time, challenged the claims of Jesus, i.e., that he was Messiah, Teacher sent from God (Jno. 5:36). One opponent challenging that claim of Jesus, professed to account for the miracle just wrought by charging Jesus with being in league with, and dependent upon, Beelzebub for ability to cast out demons. The other opponent also challenging Jesus’ claims sought (Gr. ᾿εζήτουν, required) of Jesus, that he then and there in the presence of the multitude, perform a miracle from heaven, i.e., one of a character that would refute the Beelzebub charge. This is said because Jesus dealt with both opponents on the same issue, i.e., of his Messiah-ship, particularly of the evidence that should authenticate him as Messiah. By a simple statement he refuted the Beelzebub charge. But the record shows that, on the other challenge, i.e., of proof or evidence that should authenticate Jesus as Messiah, the audience was deeply moved, anxious. When this was manifested, i.e., “the people were gathered thick together” about Jesus, he dealt with the issue they raised with thoroughness. The record shows that, in doing this, Jesus determined to bring before the audience the Supreme evidence authenticating himself as Messiah, i.e., the miracle of God raising Jesus to life from death on the cross. This could not at the moment be done, for the fact did not yet exist— could not exist before the death of Jesus. But he could bring forward that supreme evidence proleptically and helpfully, as in Jno. 14:29 telling the audience “before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass ye might believe.” ‘

This, the record shows Jesus determined to do, and did it by picturing it to the audience; by employing the contents of a book of their sacred scriptures, i.e., that of Jonah, and teaching that the events of that book, the σημεῖον of Jonah—the miracle of God wrought upon Jonah, by which Jonah was held three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, and then delivered upon dry land alive, “was,” R. V., “became” the testimony of God, that authenticated Jonah as prophet of God to the Ninevites, and that the peculiar facts of that miracle pre-figured, or foreshadowed, the σημεῖον of the Son of Man,—the miracle of God to be wrought by taking the dead body of the Son of Man (Jesus) from the cross, laying it away in “the bosom of the earth” three days and three nights, and then bringing it to life—should be the testimony of God that should authenticate Jesus as Messiah. This we have stated, because unquestionably the gist, the very essence, of the testimony of Jesus here considered was authentication, t. e., evidence that authenticated Jonah as God’s messenger to the Ninevites and evidence that should authenticate Jesus as God’s messenger to men. The record is that Jesus taught: “This is an evil generation, they seek (after) a σημει`ον; and there shall no σημεῖον be given to it but the of Jonah, the prophet. For as Jonah “was” (R. V. “became”) a σημεῖον to the Ninevites, so shall the Son of Man be to this generation.”

Here again Jesus employes synecdoche. This is true of the key-word “Jonah,” and also of the key-phrase “Son of Man.” The truth Jesus here teaches will not be fully apprehended, unless what is condensed by synecdoche, is expanded and expressed in literal fullness. So expanded, the testimony Jesus gives is: For as the σημεῖον of Jonah —the attesting miracle of God—by which he caused Jonah to be cast into the sea, to be taken into and kept in the belly of a great fish three days and three nights, and then to be delivered on dry land—was (R. V., became) the testimony of God which authenticated Jonah as His prophet to the Ninevites, so shall the σημεῖον of the Son of Man—the attesting miracle of God by which the dead body of the Son of Man shall be taken from the cross, and held three days and three nights in the bosom of the earth, and then brought to life—be the testimony of God, that shall authenticate the Son of Man as Messiah. At this point in our investigation, we are inquiring whether or not the Ninevites had knowledge that Jonah was the authenticated prophet of God. Jesus’ testimony is that they did have that knowledge. His testimony goes farther and shows that because they had that knowledge and feared God, they repented.

There is other evidence on this question not examined now, because the conclusion we have just reached is based on the testimony of Jesus, and his testimony is challenged by Critics. We notice the challenge. The Critics as a consequence of their contention, that the Book of Jonah is post-exilic, written by no one knows whom, several hundred years after the death of Jonah—that the events narrated in the Book never occurred and in that respect the Book is false, find themselves in dilemmatic trouble in accounting for the fact that Jesus employed in evidence the events of the Book as verities, realities, as he expressly did, to prove and cause men to believe in the proposition of fact, i.e., that he (Jesus) was Messiah. It is the verdict of common sense, as well as the doctrine of jural science, that the essential of that which can be evidence to prove or produce belief in an alleged proposition of fact, must be fact, reality. It cannot be unreality, fiction, fabrication, myth, parable or allegory. It is a fact of human nature, that the mind instinctively and justly insists upon fact, reality, in evidence, before yielding assent to or believing an asserted proposition of fact Jural science says:

“Evidence is a relative term. It signifies a relation between two facts, the factum probandum or the proposition to be established and the factum probans or material evidencing the proposition. The former (the proposition to be established) is what one party affirms and the other denies . . . . The latter the evidentiary fact is brought forward as a reality for the purpose of convincing the tribunal that the former is also a reality.”10

To relieve them of the consequences of the fact, that Jesus thus used in evidence the events recorded in the Book of Jonah as verities Critics sometimes choose one horn of their dilemma, and contend that Jesus knew the events described in the Book of Jonah were false, yet palmed them off on men as true, thus impeaching the integrity of Jesus. At other times Critics, taking the other horn of the dilemma, contend that Jesus did not know (what the critics have discovered eighteen hundred years farther off from the events of the Book than Jesus was), i.e., that the events of the Book were false and so Jesus used them in evidence as true, thus impeaching the capacity of Jesus to be Teacher sent from God to found, establish and teach the Christian religion in the world. But this impeachment of the integrity and capacity of Jesus by the Critics, is based on their aforesaid contention that the Book of Jonah is post-exilic and false in fact. Hence, if on examination that contention is found to be untrue, the contention falls and with it falls all their charges against Jesus based on that false contention. We therefore do not here consider those charges impugning the integrity and capacity of Jesus, farther than to observe, that the Critic’s charges do not terminate on Jesus, the Supreme Prophet and Teacher sent from God. Necessarily those charges reach beyond the Agent to the Principal, for sending a hypocritical or incompetent Teacher to men reaches beyond the one Sent to the Sender. For on the assumption that the contentions of the Critics are true, t. e., that the events named in the Book of Jonah are untrue in fact, it follows directly and legitimately, that God Omniscient knew the falsity of the Book, knew that Jesus knew its falsity and that Jesus hypocritically and corruptly palmed off in evidence upon men the events named in the Book as verities, or—on the other horn of their dilemma God knew that Jesus was ignorant of the falsity of the Book and so sent an incompetent Teacher who imposed upon men as veritable evidence that which was false, and yet Omniscient God, He that inhabiteth eternity; whose name is Holy, knowing the whole course of Jesus in His mission including His dishonesty and incapacity if true, as charged against Him by the Critics, yet expressly approved Jesus, and all His acts—testifying of Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, Hear ye Him.” Matt. 17:5; Lk. 9:35; 2 Pet. 1:17. We next examine the definite grounds, on which the Critics contend that the Book of Jonah is wholly fiction. Midrash (Hebrew name for pure fiction) stories such as “Tobit” and “Susannah,” unreality. These grounds are found in the Critic’s Encyclopedia Biblica, Vol. 2, Column 2656, criticising the Book of Jonah, viz.:

“Jonah (Book) I Post-Exilic. It is by a strange inconsistency that the Book of Jonah ranks among the records of the Twelve Prophets, for the only oracle of Jonah which it professes to give is composed of four words (Jonah 3:4 Heb.). Obviously it must be compared not with the accompanying prophetic books but with the narratives of episodes in the lives of the prophets such as 1 Kings, 17–19 (Elijah Episode); 2 Kings, 4–6 (Elisha Episode) and Is. 7–16; 36–39 (Isaiah Episode). The narratives referred to are based on traditional matters, sometimes oral, sometimes written. Can we hope to find such in the Book of Jonah? Unfortunately we cannot. The leading fact of the story—the journey of an Israelite prophet to Nineveh—is so surprising that only on good pre-exilic testimony could we be excused for receiving it. Such testimony is wanting. No part of the Book is pre-exilic. Except glosses and in the psalm ascribed to Jonah there is no trace of more than one hand.” (Bracketed words inserted to show nature of citation.)

The Book of Jonah is in the list (canon) of Sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew, and constituent in the Word of God. Because the supernatural—the bete noire of the Critics—is prominent in the Book of Jonah, the Critics struggle to destroy the Book. We have quoted what they put forth for such destruction. They measure the value— the potency of the prophecy, i.e., the “oracle” of the Book by the number of its words, i.e., four, and contend that the paucity of its number of words condemns the oracle as negligible, in gross disregard of the mighty effect of the oracle,—its potency bringing repentance to several hundred thousand, and averting the destruction of a great city.

Another of the Critics’ grounds for destroying the Book of Jonah is, that the Book must be compared with narratives of episodes in the lives of Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah. There is no ground whatever for this alleged test,—the Critics show none—nothing but the Critics’ assertion. This arbitrary groundless test, as the citations appear to show, is that the three, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah were each endowed with power to foretell events. So was Jonah. Pre-exilic proof of this is in 2 Kings 14:25. But Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah appear to have been also endowed with powers to employ miracles. The record does not show that Jonah was endowed with power to employ miracles. Does that show that Jonah was not a prophet of God? Divine endowment of an individual with superhuman and supernatural power to employ miracles, or to foretell events, constitutes authentication of such individual as God’s agent in His service. This, as we have seen, is common place (Vide Cent. Diet.). Double endowment of the three prophets, in no way destroyed or detracted from the single endowment of Jonah. Another alleged test is that the Book of Jonah must be condemned as post-exilic unless pre-exilic evidence or reference to pre-exilic evidence is found in the Book or in other Scriptures. This alleged test is groundless, also. Pre-exilic testimony is testimony of pre-exilic facts, pre-exilic transactions, pre-exilic custom or life. Jonah as prophet was a teacher of religion of the Hebrews, as well as foreteller of events. As such, he must be regarded as instructed in that religion, and with God’s dealings with that people. Pre-exilic fact is, that God chose the tribe of Judah and Jerusalem to place his name there. 1 Kings 8:29, 30; Deut. 12:11.

Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Holy Temple he had built brings this forward. He prays to Jehovah “that thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there; that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which they servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place.”11 These are both divine and human pre-exilic facts, pre-exilic transactions, pre-exilic part of the Hebrew worship and religion. Jonah in his prayer in the depths of the sea testifies to those pre-exilic facts, and pre-exilic worship, by founding his prayer upon them, viz.: “I am cast forth out of Thy sight; yet will I look again toward Thy Holy Temple,” Ch. 2:4. “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto Thee, into Thy Holy Temple.” Jonah 2:7.

Before the destruction of that temple, along with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile, we found this form of worship and prayer in conformity with Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, but not after the exile. Prayer may have been toward the temple built by Zerubbabel or that of Herod, but we do not find it in the record. But Jonah’s prayer distinctly conforms to the pre-exilic form of prayer designated by Solomon at the dedication, and satisfies even the unwarranted tests of the Critics and showing the Book pre-exilic and properly in the list of prophets of the sacred scriptures of the Jews devoutly believed in by them. Josephus testifies, “it is the instinct of every Jew from the date of his birth, to consider these scriptures as the teaching of God and to abide by them and, if need be, to cheerfully lay down his life in their behalf” (against Apion 1:8).

The contention of the Critics that the Book of Jonah is post-exilic is based on their unwarranted speculative fancies and tests which we have briefly noticed. Without following their speculations farther, we examine the testimony of Jesus on this question of the post-exilic date of the Book.

Jesus in bringing forward the Book of Jonah as evidence, did an act vastly transcending the production of ordinary or human evidence, for in performing that act Jesus testified that the σημεῖον of Jonah was type—type of the σημεῖον of the Son of Man, that the episode in the life and mission of Jonah in which God held Jonah three days and three nights in the fish in the depths of the sea, and then caused Jonah to be delivered alive on dry land was type, the antitype of which was supreme events of the earthly mission of Jesus, wrought out objectively through his death on the cross—his dead body entombed three days and three nights in the bosom of the earth, and then resurrected to life. If we “think out” as science and reason require, what is necessarily implied and in fact involved in this testimony of Jesus we find “Type” is: “Specifically a prefigurement, a foreshadowing or that which foreshadows some reality which is called the antitype; particularly in theology a person, thing or event in the Old Testament, regarded as foreshadowing or betokening a corresponding reality of the new dispensation, a prophetic similitude” (Cent. Diet.—Type). “A divinely purposed illustration of some truth.”12 Jesus in His testimony, Lk. 11, in teaching the way by which he should be authenticated as Messiah does not use the word “type” but simpler and better for human understanding than using the word “type,” he describes the prefiguring, the foreshadowing that constitutes the type, viz., that “as” the miracle wrought upon Jonah was the testimony of God that authenticated Jonah as God’s messenger to the Ninevites, “so” would the miracle of God, yet to be wrought upon Jesus within the lifetime of the generation Jesus was addressing, be the testimony of God that should authenticate Jesus as Messiah, God’s messenger to men. It is the testimony of Jesus that designates this type. Inherent in type is the element of prophecy. It is “prophetic similitude,” “a divinely purposed prefiguring” of the antitype. The transactions that constituted the type were the miracles of Jehovah wrought upon the living Jonah. They were transactions and experiences in the lifetime of Jonah and record thereof was record of that time, i.e., during the reign of Jeroboam II, 791 to 750 B. C. and at least more than one hundred and sixty-five years before the exile, whose date is 582 B. C.13

We have mentioned further evidence. It is that of Jonah’s vow. That vow was necessarily conditioned on Jonah’s delivery on dry land. He was so delivered. As religious teacher of Israel Jonah knew the divine law of vows, viz.:

“When thou shalt vow a vow to Jehovah, thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for Jehovah, thy God, will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.” Deut. 23:21; see, too, Numb. 30:2.

That Jonah promptly performed his vow is clear, for had he failed, or even been slack in its performance, it is evident from the record that God would again have dealt with Jonah for such new sin instead of again advancing Jonah to the exalted honor and office of predictive prophet of God to the Ninevites, i.e., “the second time.” Jonah’s sacrifice was to be voiced “with the voice of thanksgiving.” The religious record of Israel shows that the function of the sacrificer is not only to express personal gratitude to God for himself, but to audibly and most publicly give to God specific thanks for specified blessings, that thereby the majesty, might and goodness of God should be declared throughout the earth, that men should be led thereby to believe in God, reverence and obey Him. Moses zimrash—song of praise—Ex. 15:2—recounting miracles, ruling wind and wave, saving the Hebrews, destroying, pursuing enemies in the Red Sea was the essence of thanksgiving proclaimed aloud most publicly that knowledge thereof should speed to “Palestine,” “Edom,” “Moab” and “the inhabitants of Canaan,” nations soon to be affected by the people Moses was leading out of Egypt. When the Ark of the Covenant had finally been “set in the midst of the tent David had pitched for it” in Jerusalem, where Jehovah had chosen to put His name there, Deut. 12:5, to be the place thenceforth for worship, altar and sacrifice—David and the people offered sacrifices, and “Then on that day, David delivered first this psalm to thank Jehovah” (1 Chron. 16 R. V.), “Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people,” following this by instancing specified marvels God had wrought in blessing the nation, from the time of the covenant with Abraham down to David’s time, as specified ground of specific thanksgiving, adding, “Declare His glory among the nations, and His marvellous works among all the people,” v. 24, R. V. Jonah as sacrificer could not perform his vow in his offering, in the presence of the assembly at the sacrifice at Jerusalem, on a line of the great highway, without audibly, publicly giving thanks for the blessing that caused him to make his vow, recounting the essential facts of the first two chapters of his book, especially the miracles of “the God of Heaven who maketh the sea and the dry land”—and the facts that gave rise to those miracles, i.e., that caused Jonah to be cast into the raging sea—the miracle saving Jonah by causing him to be taken into a great fish, kept there three days and three nights and then delivered on dry land alive, unharmed—testimony to lead and cause men to believe in God, His greatness and goodness, and to reverence Him.

Such oral public proclamation of those facts, in and of itself, necessarily put the knowledge thereof upon its passage and transmission on the line at Jerusalem and over the great highway to Nineveh and to all. But that does not of itself prove that that knowledge of the miracle wrought upon Jonah, and other facts in the proclamation, were in fact communicated to the Ninevites. Nor is the fact of such communication to the Ninevites shown by the fact of the excellent facilities of the great highway for its transmission, coupled with the facts of human nature, i.e., the instinctive love and universal human habit of spreading knowledge of ordinary and especially of marvelous events. Neither the fact that the “cry” of Jonah was commanded to proclaim, portended, dire calamity to Nineveh, nor the fact that the entire episode of Jonah and its menace pointed to, centered on, the Ninevites, nor the additional fact of the maxim, that evil news travels fast to its subject or victim, in themselves proves that knowledge of the miracles wrought upon Jonah and the facts of his thanksgiving, were in fact communicated to the Ninevites; but they do furnish presumptive evidence, that the knowledge was given to and had by that people. Presumptive evidence is evidence afforded by circumstances and facts, from which unexplained, a jury or an investigator, may infer other facts and circumstances—here infer that that knowledge was had by the Ninevites. In such case the question remains: Is that inference a safe one? That it is a safe one will be shown when that presumptive evidence and that inference are joined and considered in connection with a potent fact in the record, viz: “The people of Nineveh believed in God,” Ch. 3:5. Hebrew scholars agree that this is the correct translation as in Gen. 15:6, “Abraham believed in Jehovah.”

If we “think out” what is involved in that potent fact in the record, we see that belief is not voluntary, but belief is a product produced by evidence brought before the mind. Also it is fundamental principle in jural science, that evidence to be competent, admissible to prove or produce belief in a fact, must be relevant, germane, to that fact—also that evidence must be not only relevant, but must be coordinate, that is equal in rank, dignity or order with that fact. The fact that the Ninevites believed in was the fact of God—a superhuman and supernatural fact. Evidence required to prove or produce belief in that fact was coordinate evidence, i.e., superhuman and supernatural evidence. Objective miracles wrought upon Jonah by “the God of heaven which hath made the sea and the dry land” constituting the gist of his thanksgiving was such coordinate evidence, and we have presumptive evidence and inference that knowledge thereof was communicated to and had by the Ninevites, and we have also the potent fact that belief in God was, in fact, produced in the people of Nineveh. There is no other evidence in the record or within the field of view to produce that belief in that people, and the maxim of jurisprudence applies, viz., an adequate cause for producing in the Ninevites that belief in God having been shown, and no other cause shown, the cause shown must be held to be the true cause. It justifies the conclusion that the Ninevites did have knowledge of the miracles of God authenticating Jonah as His prophet when Jonah delivered God’s message to them in the streets of their city. We thus, by a new line of inquiry, reach the same conclusion which we reached before in examining the testimony of Jesus. There is no conflict but entire harmony between the two lines of inquiry employed.


1) The Twelve Prophets, G. A. Smith.

2) Greenleafs Testimony of An Evangelist. Greenleaf on Evidence. Sec. 142 (12th ed.).

3) W. J. Beecher, D.D.: Reasonable Biblical Criticism, p. 84, S. S. Times Co. 1911.

4) 2 Kings 14:20; Josephus B. IX, Ch. X; Matt 12:39–41.

5) Davis, Bible Dictionary, Westminster Press, Phila., 1911.

6) Kyle: The Deciding Voice of the Monuments, p. 84, Bibliotheca Sacra Co., 1912.

7) Sayce: Archaeology of the Cuneiform Inscriptions, p. 143. Hentzy, Revue de Assynology, 1897, pp. 1-17.

8) Deciding Voice of the Monuments, p. 85.

9) Italics in scripture quotations here indicate emphasis.

10) Wigmore on Ev., Sec 2.

11) 1 Kings 8:29, 30.

12) Rev. C. I. Scofield, D.D.: Annotations to Scofield. Reference Bible, 1911, p. 41.

13) Davis: Bible Dictionary, Article, “Chronology,” pp. 136, 137.