Monday, December 7, 2009

Manhunter analysis - part 51: Jonah and Nineveh


Russian Orthodox icon of Jonah, 16th century (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia). [Image from the Wikipedia 'Jonah' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

One of Lecktor's 'book code' verses is Jonah 6:8. Although the biblical book of Jonah has no chapter 6 in it, certain contents from this book do apply to the movie we are analyzing.

Beginning at Jonah 1:1-2,

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me."

Jonah responds by attempting to flee from "the presence of the Lord" [Jon. 1:3] by going to Jaffa and sailing to Tarshish. A huge storm arises and the sailors, realizing this is no ordinary storm, cast lots and learn that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits this and states that if he is thrown overboard the storm will cease. The sailors try to get the ship to the shore but in failing feel forced to throw him overboard, at which point the sea calms. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish specially prepared by God where he spent three days and three nights (Jon. 1:17). While in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out.

God again orders Jonah to visit Nineveh and to prophecy to its inhabitants. This time he goes and enters the city crying, "In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown." [Jon. 3:4] The people of Nineveh believe his word and proclaim a fast. The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, making a proclamation to decree fasting, sackcloth, prayer, and repentance. God sees their works and spares the city at that time.[a]

As described in part 45 of the analysis, there are several references to water in the movie. Also, there are at least a couple of references to fish, such as the aquarium in the Graham home, and the song Coelocanth (by the band Shriekback) playing during the tiger scene (a coelocanth is a type of prehistoric fish). These references to fish in Manhunter are, in turn, references to Jonah being inside the great fish.

Note that the city of Nineveh comes into play regarding Jonah. In the bible, Nineveh is first mentioned in Genesis. It was built by Nimrod, a "mighty hunter" [Gen. 10:9] who was descended from Noah. Genesis 10, verses 10-12, tell us that,

The beginning of [Nimrod's] kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen...

Historically speaking, it was under Sennacherib that Nineveh became a truly magnificent city (c. 700 BC). However, Nineveh's greatness was short-lived. Around 633 BC the Assyrian empire began to show signs of weakness, and Nineveh was attacked by the Medes, who about 625 BC, joined by the Babylonians and Susianians, again attacked it. Nineveh fell in 612 BC, and was razed to the ground. Following the defeat in 612 BC, the site remained unoccupied for centuries until the Sassanian period. The city is mentioned again in the Battle of Nineveh in 627 AD, which was fought between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanian Empire of Persia near the ancient city. From the Arab conquest 637 AD until modern time the city of Mosul on the opposite bank of the river Tigris became the successor of ancient Nineveh.[b]

A few of the things discussed here are covered in City of God 16.3, "Of the generations of the three sons of Noah." This is followed by 16.4, which is titled, "Of the diversity of languages, and the founding of Babylon" - a topic that we've already covered.

a. Wikipedia, 'Jonah'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Ninevah'. Web, n.d. URL =

City of God (Dods)


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