Demons Do Likewise, Ninevite Repentance

1.  In Othmar Keel’s Symbolism of the Biblical World, I saw pictures with funny captions about demons.  In a seventh century B.C.E. Assyrian relief, two demons are attacking each other.  According to Keel, this “is intending to induce intruding demons to do the same…”  In an eighth century B.C.E. Assyrian relief, two guardian demons flank the entrances to Assyrian palaces.  Their objective is to “prevent any evil powers from entering the protected precincts.”

That’s funny.  “Demons, let me plant into your mind an idea!  Here are two demons fighting each other.  Go and do likewise!”  Or demons scaring other demons.  I’ve often heard that there is no honor among thieves, for, when people are corrupt, they end up undermining one another for their own personal advancement.  In a sense, evil contains the seeds of its own destruction.  But is the demonic realm like that?  In Matthew 12:26, Mark 3:23, and Luke 11:18, Jesus denies that Satan’s kingdom is divided against itself.  Maybe it’s so committed to evil that the demons lay aside their differences.

2.  I read the Anchor Bible Dictionary article on the Book of Jonah, written by Jonathan Magonet.  Magonet states:

With the rise of historical criticism came the search for sources, as well as scepticism about the miraculous elements and the lack of evidence in external sources of a massive act of “repentance” in Nineveh. This led, in turn, to conservative attempts to “prove” its historical truth. This concern has waned, at least in scholarly circles, and has been replaced with an attempt to identify the precise “genre” of the book: Is it a parable or legend, a folk tale or didactic story?

I was interested in how conservative scholars dealt with “the lack of evidence in external sources of a massive act of ‘repentance’ in Nineveh.”  Here, I read that they appealed to catastrophes in Assyria in the eighth century B.C.E., which supposedly would have made the Assyrians open to a national repentance.  Keil-Delitzsch state: The powerful impression made upon the Ninevites by Jonah’s preaching, so that the whole city repented in sackcloth and ashes, is quite intelligible, if we simply bear in mind the great susceptibility of Oriental races to emotion, the awe of one Supreme Being which is peculiar to all the heathen religions of Asia, and the great esteem in which soothsaying and oracles were held in Assyria from the very earliest times (vid., Cicero, de divinat. i. 1)…  For conservative scholars, a massive act of repentance in Ninevah of the sort that the Book of Jonah depicts is historically plausible.  Does that mean that the Ninevites consciously worshipped the God of Israel?  Not necessarily, for they repented before Elohim, which, according to Magonet, is a general term for a god or supreme being.  I wonder if the Assyrians addressed their chief god with a generic title, however. 

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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