King Jareb and Nineveh

By Eduardo Martínez-Rancaño

Speaking of the calf-idol at Bethel1, Hosea 10:6 states:

"It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel." (KJV)

A modern translation, such as the NIV, states it this way:

"It will be carried to Assyria as tribute for the great king. Ephraim will be disgraced; Israel will be ashamed of its wooden idols."

Apart from the clarification as to what "his own counsel" really meant, it is to be noted that instead of the unknown "King Jareb" of Assyria, the Hebrew lemelek yareb has been regrouped as lemalky rab, which renders the protocolary title "my great king" (sharru rabu in Assyrian) very nicely. The same thing happens in Hosea 5:13. So, the best available evidence today is that Hosea 5:13 and 10:6 present a royal title without a specific reference to a king by name.

Now, if we turn to Mrs. White's writings we find the following:

"The ten tribes of Israel were not to reap the fruitage of the apostasy that had taken form with the setting up of the strange altars at Bethel and at Dan. God's message to them was: 'Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; Mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency? For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.' 'The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it. . . . It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb' (Sennacherib). Hosea 8:5, 6; 10:5, 6."2

In this passage Mrs. White identifies King Jareb as Sennacherib. Mrs. White went out of her way to identify the unnamed king vaguely alluded to by Hosea as "the great king". How inspired was she in her choice? Well, considering that Israel ceased to exist, at the very latest, early in the reign of Sargon II, who happened to be Sennacherib's father, it would appear she was mistaken. In Hosea 5:13, it says Israel would ask for the great king's help. Applying this to Sennacherib is nonsensical. Israel did not even exist during his reign!

There are significant pointers in Hosea 5:13 that involve dating this request several decades earlier than Mrs White's identification would allow.3 It does not take a prophet to know these things. Although some knowledge of ancient history does help, just reading the Bible should be enough not to be confused by the false revelation that Sennacherib was King Jareb.

When was Nineveh Assyria's Capital?

Another Assyrian mistake by Mrs White is found in the following paragraph:

"Among the cities of the ancient world, one of the greatest was Nineveh, on the fertile bank of the Tigris, over two hundred miles to the northward of Babylon. Founded about the time of the dispersion from the tower of Babel, it had become 'an exceeding great city of three days' journey.' Jonah 3:3. In the days of divided Israel it was the capital of the Assyrian realm."4

By "divided Israel" Mrs White must have meant the time from Jeroboam's schism, after Solomon's death, until the downfall of Samaria after Hoshea, the last king of Israel. The commonly accepted dates for these events are 931 BC and 722 BC, respectively, a period that lasted just over two centuries. Undoubtedly, throughout this period, Nineveh was an important city of the Assyrian kingdom. The question, however, is how accurate is Mrs White's assessment that in this period Nineveh "was the capital of the Assyrian realm"?

The Assyrian kings involved in this time frame, and their capital cities were as follows:

King's Name Dates B.C. Capital City
Tiglath-pileser II 965-933 Ashur
Ashur-dan II 933-910 Ashur
Adad-nirari II 910-889 Ashur
Tukulti-Ninurta II 889-884 Ashur
Ashurnasirpal II 884-859 Calah
Shalmanaser III 859-824 Calah
Shamshi-Adad V 824-810 Calah
Adad-nirari III 810-782 Calah
Shalmanaser IV 782-772 Calah
Ashur-dan III 772-754 Calah
Ashur-nirari V 754-746 Calah
Tiglath-pileser III 745-727 Calah
Shalmaneser V 727-722 Calah
Sargon II 722-705 Dur-Sharrukin
Sennacherib 705-681 Nineveh

Nineveh first became the official, undisputed capital of the Assyrian Empire during the reign of Sennacherib.5 Israel had ceased to exist some fifteen years before. The capital of Assyria was in Calah at the time Jonah went to Nineveh. Thus, Mrs. White's statement that Nineveh "was the capital of the Assyrian realm" is entirely wrong.


1. Bethel is called Beth-Aven in Hos. 10:5, 'the house of sin', no longer the 'house of God'.

2. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 285.

3. First of all, the reference to Judah in this context might involve a contemporary Jewish request for help from the king of Jerusalem, not the king of Samaria. We know that King Ahaz of Judah asked for Tiglath-pileser III's help, about 735 BC (2 Chronicles 28:20-22). We have no sources telling us of a contemporary Israelite request for help, but we know that not many years before that Menahem paid tribute to Pul, which happens to be the private-citizen name of Tiglath-pileser III before he reached the throne (2 Kings 15:19). From the numbers in the books of Kings we know that Pekah began his rival reign in Transjordan during Menahem's official reign, so Pekah and Pekahiah could have also been involved in requesting Assyria's help against their political rivals both at home and abroad.

4. Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 4, 1913 paragraph 1. Editor's note: According to Stephanie Dalley, of Oxford University, the ancient city of Babylon was 300 miles from ancient Nineveh, not 200.

5. During this entire period Nineveh was an important city. For instance, many of Shalmanaser III's military campaigns began in Nineveh. Cities were founded in this period, too. However, the fact remains that Nineveh was not the capital of Assyria until Sennacherib. Perhaps someone will try to rescue Ellen White from this predicament by going to Jonah 3:6, "When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust." Since what Mrs White is discussing in her 1913 RH article "Nineveh, That Great City" is primarily Jonah's mission, could it be that all she meant to say is that Nineveh was once the capital of Assyria in the days of Jonah? Well, that explanation is hardly satisfactory. Some people contend that speaking of a "King of Nineveh", meaning Assyria, is more or less the same as speaking of a "King of Samaria", meaning Israel. Maybe so, although I've never heard of the Queen of London, meaning Britain, or the King of Madrid, meaning Spain. The problem is that there's no evidence that Nineveh was the capital of Assyria in the days of Jonah, whether he went there in the final days of Shalmaneser III or sometime in the reigns of his immediate weak successors. The hypothesis that Jonah might have gone to Nineveh in the closing years of Shalmanaser III might be the one that most easily accommodates most known data. While Shalmanaser III was besieging Tarsus (a city which according to Flavius Josephus was otherwise known as Tarshish), Ashurdanappli, one of his sons, rebelled against him and managed to obtain control of several cities, Nineveh being one of them. If Josephus is right, then by choosing Tarshish as the destination of his maritime adventure Jonah might be making sure he couldn't comply with God's command to go to Nineveh. Once Tarsus was captured, it would have been next to impossible for Jonah to go through two hostile military fronts in order to reach Nineveh. This could account for the presence in Nineveh of a "king of Nineveh", who was not the Assyrian king, only a local ruler of a rebellious city in those days.

Category: Bible vs. Mrs. White
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