Bible Review 6:4, August 1990
Jonah and the Whale

Did God Play a Dirty Trick on Jonah at the End?

By David Noel Freedman

To the modern critical scholar, the Book of Jonah may be a romance, a short fictional delight with a moral. But that’s not what the author—whoever he or she was—intended. According to the author, our hero was an actual historical person, Jonah ben Amittai. Jonah not only has a named father but, as we learn in 2 Kings 14:25, he came from a particular place called Gath-hepher. According to the allotment of the tribes in Joshua 19:13, Gath-hepher is in Galilee.

Nobody really knows when the Book of Jonah was composed. That is with all due respect to my colleagues, both past and present. We are all guessing. Some say that the book is full of Aramaisms—phrases borrowed from Aramaic—and therefore late. On the other hand, my good friend and colleague George Landes says this is nonsense: If there are Aramaisms, they can be early as well as late; besides most of them are not Aramaisms anyway, but perfectly good Hebrew.

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