Sunday Devotional: The lesson of Nineveh

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“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.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, “
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Nineveh is an ancient Mesopotamian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. It was the capital of the short-lived Assyrian Empire (911 BC-609 BC) and the largest city in the world for some 50 years.
The Book of Jonah, set in the days of the Assyrian empire, describes it as an “exceedingly great city of three days journey in breadth” with a population of “more than 120,000,” but a wicked city worthy of destruction. God sent Jonah to preach to the Ninevites of their coming destruction, and they fasted and repented. As a result, God spared the city; when Jonah protests against this, God states He is showing mercy for the population who are ignorant of the difference between right and wrong (“who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand”) and the animals in the city. Nineveh’s repentance and salvation from evil is also noted in the Gospel of Matthew (12:41) and the Gospel of Luke (11:32).
The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city, foretelling its eventual ruin and utter desolation (Nahum 1:14; 3:19; 2:6–11). Its end was strange, sudden, tragic. In 612 BC, after a bitter period of civil war in Assyria, Nineveh was sacked by a coalition of former subject peoples — the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians.
In fulfillment of prophecy, God made “an utter end of the place” — it became a “desolation.” Today, the ruins of Nineveh are across the river from the city of Mosul, in Iraq.
Nineveh in today's Iraq
See also “Archeologists find evidence of the obliteration of Sodom-Gomorrah”.

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Auntie Lulu
Auntie Lulu
5 years ago

Thank you Dr Eowyn . . . wonderful lesson on this Sabbath day.

5 years ago

Thank you for this post, Dr. Eowyn.
Jonah is a perfect reminder of God’s love for people who are outside our religion. Nineveh was not a nation of Jews, or descendants Jacob. But God loved them enough to send a warning.
Jonah was so upset at his assignment to the east, that he set off as far in the opposite direction as he could travel, Tarshish, which is believed to be either a port in Spain, or a southern port in the Brittish Isles, possibly even Port Isaac (Port Wenn to Dr. Eowyn). 😀

Elihu Wygant
5 years ago

But He ended up exterminating them about 100 years later…
Shalom to you!

5 years ago
Reply to  Elihu Wygant

Yes He did, Elihu. But let’s examine the pronoun, “them.”
God did bring destruction down on Nineveh, but if it was 100 years later, the Ninevites who repented at Jonah’s warning had lived out their lives in safety from God’s destruction. The people who occupied the city 100 years later were not the same people.
Of course, this makes me ask if another prophet was sent 100 years later, but the new group ignored the warning.

5 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Eowyn

YES! Of course! His message was to Nineveh! That would mean Nineveh was definitely warned before disaster.
Thank you, Dr. Eowyn. That was a really quick answer. Silly of me to so quickly forget that important part of your article. 😀