In Part One of this two-part series, we examined the historical and archaeological presence of Nineveh. In this final part we will explore the biblical significance of Nineveh and what we, as One New Man, can learn from it today.
“Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. …therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen…”—Genesis 10:8-12
Aside from the creation of Nineveh by Nimrod, and many Assyrian attackers, such as Sennacherib, coming from Nineveh, most of the biblical mentioning’s of the city lie, more or less, in two prophetic words against her. One by the prophet Jonah, and the other by the prophet Nahum.
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”—2 Peter 1:19-21
“The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed, a greater than Jonah is here.”—Mathew 12:41
Jonah’s prophetic word against Nineveh, should they not turn, is the oldest of the two prophetic books that, at their core, wholly focus on Nineveh.
Living during the time of the prophets Hosea and Amos—8th century BC—in the kingdom of Israel, Jonah is perhaps one of the most well-known prophets. Surprisingly however, his infamy is more for his disobedience than his prophetic gifting…
Yet, the story of Jonah and the whale was only a new start.
Jonah was a prophet first and foremost with only the first half of the book of Jonah touching upon the well-known tale of disobedience and repentance. Consequently, that pat of Jonah’s story, while important, does not give the full message—no matter how closely it echoes it.
The point where Jonah’s walk with the Lord and the other half of the story truly begins is not with Jonah’s initial disobedience, but with his obedience to proclaim the prophetic word the Lord gave him AND the subsequent mass repentance of Nineveh for their own disobedience…
And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’
“So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.”
“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”—Jonah 3:4-6, 10
Yet, even though Jonah ultimately obeyed God to spread the call for repentance to Nineveh, he was unhappy with the outcome. He wanted Nineveh to be destroyed by God, but the people cried out to God and turned from their evil ways—even if only for a time—and God spared them in that season.
We would think that after everything God did for Jonah—calling him to be a voice, sparing him when he disobeyed, restoring him when he repented, and caring for him when he obediently proclaimed the message of redemption to Nineveh—that he would understand God’s heart of forgiveness and feel it within himself. However, when we understand the history of the city and its connection to Assyria, it is perhaps a little easier to understand why he might not have been able to see them as God did—not withstanding his own personal shortcomings.
Nineveh was part of Assyria, a kingdom that often attacked Israel and Judah, their sworn enemy. Yet, beyond this, Nineveh—and Assyria as a whole—failed to follow after God, bowing instead to false idols, gods, demons, and other evils. They continually partook in highly ungodly and even violent behaviors—often at the expense of God’s people, mistreating and killing them in brutal ways.
Because of their many attacks on God’s people, Jonah felt that Nineveh, along with all of Assyria, was deserving of God’s wrath. And indeed they were. Yet, Jonah failed to understand God’s mercy and His willingness to forgive. That is why the book of Jonah ends as it does, with God trying to teach Jonah what he was so lacking in—even after the lesson in the whale and his days of obedience to the call.
“But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left…?’”—Jonah 4:10-11
Aside from one verse mentioning Nineveh by name in the book of Zephaniah, there is nothing written during the 7th century prior to Nineveh’s destruction in 612 BC, save for the book of Nahum. Written almost a century after Jonah, between 662 and 613 BC—after the conquest of Thebes by Ashurbanipal in 663 BC and before the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC—Nahum’s prophecy was the final one to speak of Nineveh before her destruction.
Interestingly, despite Nahum being from Galilee and prophesying in Judah, the book of Nahum speaks exclusively of the destruction of the once again, evil Nineveh. For while the people of Nineveh had repented and turned to God in the time of Jonah, a mere century’s passing was enough for her people to forget God. Indeed, had Jonah still been alive, he may have considered it inevitable, apropos even, that the Assyrians who took Israel captive in 722 BC should know the wrath of God.
Yet, unlike with Nineveh’s first offense, the book of Nahum speaks not of their chance to repent and change, but that their mistreatment of God’s people and disobedience had gone too far. Their hearts too hard…
Woe to the bloody city!
It is all full of lies and robbery.
Its victim never departs.
The noise of a whip
…of rattling wheels,
of galloping horses,
of clattering chariots!
Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear.
There is a multitude of slain…
they stumble over the corpses—
because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot…
“‘Behold, I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts…”—Nahum 3:1-5
By the time of Nahum, the vile nature of Nineveh was carved into the very walls of the Nineveh’s palace. They flayed their captives, slaughtered them, and imprisoned them—many from among the tribes and kingdom of Israel.
In fact, while God did not rise up to save the kingdom of Israel due to their having turned wholly away from Him, the words He spoke to the prophet Nahum show us that He was not deaf to their cries, nor failed to remember or love His people.
“For the Lord will restore the excellence of Jacob like the excellence of Israel…”—Nahum 2:2
“For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”—Psalm 100:5
Nineveh, a city built by Noah’s great-grandson, Nimrod, was perhaps not intended by him for the evils that would emerge—evils largely blooming once Nineveh became a stronghold in Assyria and eventually their capital city. Yet, aside from a period of less than one hundred years, the city—as far as we know—never followed after God, instead worshiping false gods and attacking those who followed Him: God’s people, Israel.
Today, the people of Israel—whose ancestors suffered and taken captive by the hands of the Assyrians—once again reclaim their rights to the land God promised them… prophecy fulfilled.
As One New Man at Curt Landry Ministries we have the ability and privilege to help modern Israel thrive as the Lord forespoke! We can be a part of returning the bounties once taken ransom, building up the land through the planting of olive trees, and supporting those who have been oppressed, misused, and abandoned—Holocaust survivors, abandoned youth, IDF Lone Soldiers and others..
—We can see the Lord’s will come to life before us!
Let us be a light to the roots of our faith, to the Jewish people, and to the land of Israel!
“‘I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.”—Amos 9:15