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Archive for March 5th, 2015


Jonah 3:1-3: Setting Out for Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh

March 5, 2015

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you”. So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding.

Nineveh was the capital of the ancient empire of Assyria and it is thought that the word derives from the name Nin, a pagan god closely associated with the Greek god Hercules. Legend tells us that this settlement was begun on the banks of the Tigris River by the ancient leader and king Ninus, or Nimrod. Today the city’s ruins are located opposite Mosul, but at its apogee this enormous metropolis was the largest in the world. As early as the year 1800 B.C.E. the city was the center for the worship of Ishtar, goddess of love, war, sexuality and fertility. In 612 B.C.E. it was sacked by an alliance of Assyria’s former subject nations. We have a great deal to learn from Nineveh.

At the time of Jonah’s ministry (785-775 B.C.E.), Nineveh was a thriving cultural, social and political hub of enormous importance. We can well imagine the prophet’s hesitancy to preach God’s word in this environment; but at this time “Assyria had suffered military reverses, diplomatic setbacks, famine and domestic uprisings”. In addition, two eclipses had taken place in 784 and in 763 B.C. E. It is likely that all this prepared the Ninevites for a foreign prophet who suddenly appeared to bring them news of how they might make a positive change. (Zondervan 1469) Although reluctant, Jonah does as God asks of him and he sets out on the road to Nineveh. We have a great deal to learn from Jonah.

When challenged by corrupt Pharisees, Jesus says: This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:29-30)

Spend time with this story of Jonah and with Jesus’ words as recorded by both Luke and Matthew (12:38-45), and consider the meaning of these verses in our own lives. When we reflect on where our own Nineveh might lie and on who brings us our greatest challenge, let us also consider if we, like the reluctant Jonah, might make ready. Let us consider if we might rely fully on God. Let us decide to put aside our fears and anxieties as we carry the word of God. And let us, like Jonah, set out for the city of Nineveh.

Assyrian Wall Carving of Horses and Grooms

Assyrian Wall Carving of Horses and Grooms

For news about the condition and status of ancient Nineveh today, click on the carving image above or visit: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/tragedy-militants-bomb-2700-year-old-nineveh-wall-iraq-002632 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1469. Print.

For more on Nineveh, the wicked city, visit: http://www.mpumc.org/uploads/file/nineveh.pdf or use the other web links above. 

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