Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Destruction of Nineveh

            In the book of Jonah we read about when Jonah went to Nineveh to warn the people of Nineveh that God was going to destroy them for their wickedness. Remember reading that the people of Nineveh repented and God spared them of their destruction? They may have repented, but did they stop their harlotry and sorcery? No, they didn't…and God destroyed them after all. This destruction came about 100 years after Jonah and was prophesied by Nahum in the short book of the Bible that bares his name. But why is Nineveh so important? Why was it given two prophets and two whole books of the Bible?

            I always pictured Nineveh as a small or average sized town, but that is incorrect. Possibly founded by Noah’s grandson, Nimrod, Nineveh was vast and technologically advanced.

8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, 12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.

            The Tower of Babel was built in its region and the people’s use of brickwork is still a testament to time.  The city was the center of the ancient Sumerian civilization that brought us Cuneiform writing, the first recorded law codes under Hammurabi, and the Epic of Gilgamesh which included a similar version of Noah’s flood. Nineveh became the center of power within the Assyrian Empire. Diodorus Siculus said that its walls were sixty miles around and one hundred feet high. Three chariots could be driven abreast around the summit of its walls, which were defended by fifteen hundred bastions, each of them two hundred feet in height. A virtually indestructible city, it was the center of the entire region during Jonah and Nahum’s time.

            The city’s remains were found by A. H. Layard in 1845-1854 outside of Mosul, Iraq. Some of the Ziggurat temples still partially stand in this area of the world. These Ziggurats are thought by some to be the architectural style used in the building of the Tower of Babel.

             What if the Tower of Babel was not the fanciful tower described to us as children that reached up into the clouds to try and reach God’s throne. What if the tower was a taunt to God and a temple to man? Jewish historian Josephus wrote the following:

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah-a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny-seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his own power.
He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers! (Ant. I: iv: 2)

            So Nineveh was likely founded on rebellion towards God. It was probably the original Babylon. The city could have been the birthplace of many types of sins against God. Even still, God provided salvation to the Gentiles of this city if they would repent of the evil they had honed and perfected for centuries. Through his prophet Jonah, God gave them a chance to get out the destruction they deserved and they took him up on this offer. Nineveh over time reverted back into their old ways however, and Nahum was then given a prophecy of the city’s utter destruction.

God said that a flood would come on the city:

Nahum 1: 8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.

1: 10 For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.

The city under siege, will open it’s gates because of a fire:

3: 13 Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars.

This invasion would utterly destroy the city not to return:

3: 19 There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?

How accurate was Nahum’s prophecy?
The following is a historical account of Nineveh’s destruction:

“But, in the third year, rain fell in such abundance that the waters of the Tigris inundated part of the city and overturned one of its walls for a distance of twenty stades. Then the King, convinced that the oracle was accomplished and despairing of any means of escape, to avoid falling alive into the enemy's hands constructed in his palace an immense funeral pyre, placed on it his gold and silver and his royal robes, and then, shutting himself up with his wives and eunuchs in a chamber formed in the midst of the pile, disappeared in the flames.
Nineveh opened its gates to the besiegers, but this tardy submission did not save the proud city. It was pillaged and burned, and then razed to the ground so completely as to evidence the implacable hatred enkindled in the minds of subject nations by the fierce and cruel Assyrian government. The Medes and Babylonians did not leave one stone upon another in the ramparts, palaces, temples, or houses of the city that for two centuries had been dominant over all Western Asia.
So complete was the destruction that the excavations of modern explorers on the site of Nineveh have not yet found one single wall slab earlier than the capture of the city by Arbaces and Balazu. All we possess of the first Nineveh is one broken statue. History has no other example of so complete a destruction.”

I do not know how anyone could be more accurate than Nahum’s prophecy from God. May we never take the word of God lightly, nor take his mercy for granted.


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