(Jonah 3:6) Why would Jonah write of the “king of Nineveh” if he was writing in the eighth century BC?

CLAIM: Critics of the historicity of Jonah argue that Jonah was written during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah in the fifth century—not the time of the eighth century BC, when it claims. They argue that Jonah (in the eighth century) would never have written of the “king of Nineveh.” He would have written the “king of Assyria.” Critics charge that Jonah was writing in the fifth century, and he was ignorant of the fact that the king of Nineveh was also the king of Assyria. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: Archer argues that this is surely a false assumption on behalf of critics. Anyone in the fifth or eighth century would know that these titles were interchangeable. He writes, “Certainly the Greek authors, like Herodotus of the fifth century and Xenophon of the fourth century, were well aware of the Assyrian empire and Herodotus at least of Nineveh as its capital.”[1]

Archer also provides other examples which are similar in the ancient world. For instance, while King Ahab was king over all of Israel, he is sometimes referred to as the king over Samaria (1 Kings 21:1). Ben-hadad was the king over all of Syria, but he is called the “king of Damascus” (2 Chron. 24:23).


[1] Archer, Gleason. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (3rd. ed.). Chicago: Moody Press. 1994. 343.