The Doom of Nineveh

Two of the Prophets had to do with Nineveh: Jonah, about 785 B.C., and Nahum, about 630 B.C.; about 150 years apart. Jonah's was a message of Mercy; Nahum's, a message of Doom. Together they illustrate God's way of dealing with nations: prolonging the day of grace, in the end visiting punishment for sins.

The Mon Nahum

Little is known of Nahum. He is called the "Elkoshite" (1:1). His name is in the word "Capernaum," which means "village of Nahum." This may indicate that he was a resident, or founder, of Capernaum, which was later made famous as the center of Jesus' ministry. Elkosh, his birthplace, was probably nearby. There is said to have been

an Elkosh on the Tigris, 20 miles north of Nineveh, and that Nahum may have been among the Israelite captives. If Capernaum were his home then Nahum was of the same locality as Jonah and Jesus.

Nahum's Date. The book itself indicates the limits within which it belongs. Thebes (No-Amon) had fallen ( 3:8-10, 663 B.C.) . The fall of Nineveh is represented as impending. It took place 607 B.C. Thus Nahum was between 663 and 607. As Nineveh is pictured in the full swing of its glory, and as its troubles began with the Scythian invasion (626 B.C.), it may be a good guess to place this prophecy shortly before the Scythian invasion, soy about 630 B.C-which would make Nahum a contemporary of Zephaniah, who also predicted the ruin of Nineveh in language of amazing vividness

(Zephaniah 2: 13-15 ) .

Chapters 1, 2, 3. Nineveh's Utter Ruin

Throughout these three chapters, in language spoken partly of Nineveh and partly to Nineveh, Nineveh's destruction is foretold in astonishing and graphic detail.

God's "slowness to anger" (1:3) , may have been mentioned as a reminder of Jonah's visit to Nineveh years before. God's wrath (1:2-8), throughout the Bible, stands opposite his mercy.

The fall of the bloody city (3:1), would be news of untold joy to the world it had so pitilessly crushed, especially to Judah.

"Like a pool of water" (2:8), the great number of protecting canals along the edges of the walls gave Nineveh this appearance.

Zephaniah also predicted the Fall of Nineveh, in these words: "Nineveh, the joyous city that dwells carelessly, and says in her heart, I am, and there is one besides me, shall become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in, L wilderness; the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof ; and every one that passes by shall hiss" (Zephaniah 2:13-15).


Nineveh was capital of the Assyrian Empire, which had destroyed Israel. Founded by Nimrod, shortly after the Flood (Genesis 10:11-12), it had, from the beginning, been L rival of Babylon: Babylon in the south part of the Euphrates valley, Nineveh in the north part of the Euphrates valley; the two cities about 300 miles apart. Nineveh rose to world -power about 900 B.C. Soon thereafter it began to "cut off" Israel. About 785 B.C. God had sent Jonah to Nineveh in an effort to turn it aside from its path of brutal conquest. Within the following 60 years (by 721 B.C.), the Assyrian armies had completed the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. For still another 100 years Nineveh continued to grow more and more powerful and arrogant.

At the time of Nahum's prophecy, Nineveh was queen city of the earth, mighty and brutal beyond imagination, head of a warrior state built on the loot of nations. Limitless wealth from the ends of the earth poured into its coffers. Nahum likens it to a den of ravaging lions, feeding on the blood of nations (2:11-13).

The term Nineveh refers to the whole complex of associated villages served by one great irrigation system, and protected by the one network of fortifications based on the river defenses. The city proper is also called Nineveh. It is the great palace area in the

heart of the greater system.

Greater Nineveh was about 30 miles long and about 10. miles wide. It was protected by 5 walls and 3 moats (canals) built by the forced labor of unnumbered thousands of foreign captives, Jonah's mention of 120,000 babes (Jonah 4:11) , suggests it might have had a population of near a million. The inner city of Nineveh proper, about 3 miles long, and l% miles wide, built at the junction of the Tigris and Khoser rivers, was protected by walls 100 feet high, and broad enough at the top to hold 4 chariots driven

abreast, 8 miles in circuit.

At the height of Nineveh's power, on the eve of its sudden overthrow, Nahum appeared with this prophecy, called by some, "Nineveh's Death-Song," a "Cry of Humanity for Justice."

The Fall of Nineveh

The Fall of Nineveh, 607 B.C. (or 612?). Within about 20 years after Nahum's prediction an army of Babylonians and Medes closed in on Nineveh. After 2 years of siege a sudden rise of the washed away. Nahum had predicted that the "river gates would- be opened" for the destroying army (2:6). Through the breach thus made the attacking Babylonians and Medes swept in to their work of destruction. Prancing horses, cracking whips rattling wheels, bounding raging, flashing swords, great heaps of dead bodies (2:3-4; 3:1-7) It all came to pass exactly as Nahum had pictured it; and the bloody vile city passed into oblivion.

Its destruction was so complete that even its site was forgotten. When Xenophon and his 10,000 passed by 200 years later he thought the mounds were the ruins of some Parthian city. When Alexander Great fought the famous battle of Arbela (331 B.C.), near the site of Nineveh, he did not know there had ever been a city there.

Discovery of the Ruins of Nineveh.. So completely had all trace of the glory Assyrian Empire disappeared that many scholars hat come to think that the references to it in the Bible and other ancient histories were mythical; that in reality such a city and such an empire never existed. In 1820 an Englishman, Claude James Rich, spent 4 months sketching the mounds across the Tigris form Mosul, which he suspected were the ruins of Nineveh. In 1845 Layard definitely identified the -site; and he and his successors uncovered the ruins of the magnificent palaces of the Assyrian kings; whose names have now become household words, and hundreds of thousands of inscriptions in which we read the history of Assyria as the Assyrians themselves wrote it, and which to a remarkable degree confirm the Bible.

Koyunjik is the name of the principal mound. East of the Tigris just across from the modern city Mosul. It covers about 100 acres, and is on an average about 90 feet high. It contains. the palaces of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal. Sennacherib was the king who raided Judah. His palace was the grandest of them all. It was uncovered by Layard (1849-50). About the size of three large city blocks.

Library of Assur-banipal. Perhaps the most epochal archaeological discovery ever made. Uncovered by Layard, Rassam, and Rawlinson ( 1852-54), in the palace of Sennacherib. Originally, contained 100,000 volumes. About a third of it has been recovered and is in the British Museum. Assurbanipal was something of an archaeologist; and his scribes search and copy the libraries of ancient Babylon, of

an age 2000 years before his day. Thus to him we are indebted for preserving knowledge of primitive Babylonian literature.