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I'm reading through the book of Jonah, and in an historical context it doesn't make much sense to me.

Nineveh was part of Assyrian empire. It practised Ashurism focused on worship of of Ashur and Inanna.

When God sent Jonah to Nineveh I expected the response to be something like:

"Who is the LORD, that I should obey him ..." Exodus 5:2

Assyrians are also said to have practised homosexuality, which was contrary to Judaism. To me it seems unlikely that an entire city would abandon their religion and established customs instantly on the words of an unknown man calling himself a prophet of some foreign religion.

Is the book of Jonah describing a historical event?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Nathaniel, Lee Woofenden, Dick Harfield, curiousdannii, Andrew Sep 3 '16 at 23:25

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    Which question are you asking? (a) "Why did the Ninevites respond [to Jonah] the way they did?"; or (b) "Is the book of Jonah describing a historical event?" These seem to me to be somewhat unrelated. – user22553 Sep 3 '16 at 16:26
  • @Dialogist In my view the two are related. You can't directly prove that the events described indeed happened. But if their response can be explained by some socio-religious factor prevailing at that time then the narrative could be assumed to be grounded in reality and thus probably historical. But yes, my main question is why they responded in the way they did? – John Doe Sep 3 '16 at 17:04
  • The question of Jonah's historicity will dictate the answers given. If it's not historical, answers will tend to say "this is what the Israelites needed to hear," while if it's historical, answers will tend to say "God worked in their hearts." You could try asking "What socio-religious factors are theorized to have contributed to the repentance of Ninevah according to those who consider Jonah to be a historical account?" – Nathaniel Sep 3 '16 at 18:07
  • @Nathaniel I'm really hoping that no one will answer "God worked in their hearts". That seems to be the generic response when you don't really have an answer, and could be said for basically every Biblical question. – John Doe Sep 3 '16 at 18:17
  • @JohnDoe That's my point. If you want something else, you need to specifically ask for it. – Nathaniel Sep 3 '16 at 18:22