One ancient tradition states the tomb of the prophet Jonah is located near the remains of the city of Nineveh. This particular site has been considered Jonah’s tomb since the 4th century and resulted in the construction of a Christian church and monastery at the site.
God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the city to repent of its sins. Fearing the city would escape God’s judgement if it responded, Jonah refused and sailed off to Tarshish located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
However, God stirred up a storm that eventually resulted in Jonah being tossed overboard and swallowed by a large fish. Stuck in it’s stomach for three days, Jonah repented and was coughed up on land. He went back to Nineveh who then responded to Jonah’s message.
If this tradition is right, Jonah must have stayed on in Nineveh. However, this is not universally accepted. Other traditions state that Jonah returned to his home town of Gath-Hepher where he died.
The Assyrian church initially built at the shrine located just a few hundred feet from the remains of Nineveh was eventually taken over by the Muslims and converted into a Mosque, as Islam also considers Jonah one of its prophets.
However, when ISIS captured Mosul, they took over the mosque and ordered the shrine’s destruction. Most suspect the Shrine’s christian roots were enough reason for ISIS to destroy the site even if it had been converted into a Mosque. They want to wipe out any evidence of Christianity in territory under their control.
After Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from ISIS a few weeks ago, they discovered that ISIS had dug a series of tunnels under what remained of Jonah’s tomb looking for artifacts to sell on the Black market.
In the process, ISIS had inadvertently stumbled upon the 2,300-year-old palace of King Sennacherib who ruled Nineveh at the height of its power between 705 BC to 681 BC.
During the invasion, Sennacherib was able to take Lachish. A clay tablet on display at the British Museum describes Sennacherib sitting on a throne of Judgment at Lachish ordering its destruction.
However, Sennacherib was unable to capture Jerusalem because an angel of the Lord wiped out thousands of Assyrian soldiers one night as they encamped around Jerusalem. This was in response to King Hezekiah’s prayer for help.
The death of thousands of soldiers forced Sennacherib to retreat. With his political position now substantially weakened, he was assassinated by enemies when he returned to Assyria.
36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. 37 It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place. (2 Kings 19:36-37 NASV)
Though ISIS had looted many of the smaller items of Sennacherib’s palace, archaeologists found many larger relics confirming this was Sennacherib’s palace. They even found mention of Sennacherib’s son Esardaddon who took over after his assassins killed his father.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih spoke of a “marble cuneiform inscription of King Esarhaddon thought to date back to the Assyrian empire in i673 BCE.”
So the irony is the destruction of a Christian shrine that ISIS intended for evil has instead become a yet another confirmation of the Biblical record.