When IS seized Mosul as well as destroying churches they blew up the shrine believed to mark the tomb of the prophet Jonah and also dug deep tunnels underneath it. Now that IS have been evicted from East Mosul Iraqi archaeologists have discovered that IS actions have revealed an untouched 600 BC palace including a marble cuneiform inscription relating to King Esarhaddon. The Daily Telegraph reported this story today.
What they haven’t commented on is the significance of the find. Although Jonah is mentioned in both the Bible and Qur’an, Esarhaddon is mentioned only in the Bible (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38) and was the Assyrian king at the time of the deportation of Manasseh to Babylon mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:11. Significantly Manasseh was taken to Babylonia rather than to the capital of Assyria possibly as Esarhaddon was then rebuilding Babylonian cities.
There is other archaeological evidence for this historicity of Esarhaddon and it will be some time before we know the full archaeological significance of his newly discovered palace. However, it raises the intriguing possibility that IS’ destruction of the tomb of Jonah may actually have unearthed archaeological evidence that corroborates the historicity of a part of the Bible that has no parallel in the Qur’an.
As Psalm 2 puts it “He who sits in the Heavens laughs”.
Dr Martin Parsons is an expert on Islam and Head of Research for Barnabas Fund