Jnh 4:11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
This was God’s response to Jonah, after the prophet was angry about the people of Nineveh listening to his message – repenting – and therefore not being destroyed by God.
Seriously. One of God’s own prophets was angry about the people God wanted to save actually listening to the message and being saved.
Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?
Don’t be too quick to say yes, it’s unbelievable. Because I suspect the situation isn’t all that different today. Truth is – I know it isn’t any different. My own experience tells me that. My research into this has changed my mind, and has been one of the reasons I’m doing this series.
Truth is – my original goal was to show how Christians and Muslims don’t believe in the same God. As I dug into it, as you can see in even the first product of that research – What religion was Abraham – that appears to not be entirely true. As I’m moving things from my previous site to its new home here in forgiven, I’m going back and updating what I had done previously – and adding this article as the second in the series.
You see – I learned something. Something that Jonah probably should have known all along, but didn’t. Something God’s people probably should have known – certainly should have learned through Jonah’s experience – but apparently never did. The people of Nineveh, at that time, were enemies of God – enemies of God’s people – but still, God cared about them. God wanted them to be saved. Even though God’s people didn’t want them to be saved, as was made quite obvious by God’s prophet – Jonah.
So – how did they get to that point?
And why are we not really much / any different today?
If you haven’t read What religion was Abraham, I strongly encourage you to check it out now.
Then read this one on Jonah and Nineveh.
Then, as they show up, continue with the series – with this important background information in your mind.
How did Nineveh get started?
Two things related to the blood lines of the original inhabitants of Nineveh should be obvious – since today we all share these common ancestors.
They are from Adam and Eve.
Since we are in the post-flood era – they are also descendants of Noah.
So let’s follow the tree.
- We start with Noah. Noah had three sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth.
- Ham had four sons – Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan.
- The sons of Cush were – Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Rammah, Sabteca and Nimrod.
- The following is recorded of Nimrod –
Ge 10:8 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
The “Great City” reference is generally considered to be pointing to Nineveh.
All of this – yes, those boring lists of people are useful – serves to confirm Biblical dates with recovered historical artifacts, and we see this –
The occupation of the site dates to prehistoric times (c. 4500 B.C.), in agreement with the record of the founding of the city in Genesis 10. Materials from the various early cultures (Hassuna, Samarra, Halaf, Ubaid) have been found at Nineveh. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1554). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Things don’t stop there.
Notice the reference in verse 10 to Shinar.
If you’re really good with Bible trivia, you may remember something that happened at Shinar.
The Tower of Babel
Ge 11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
Ge 11:3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Ge 11:5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
Ge 11:8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Oh. That wasn’t a good thing.
Such is the beginning of the legacy from Cush’s descendants. through Nimrod.
The next time we read of Nineveh in the Bible comes in 2 Kings 19:20.
But let’s fill in some history before going there.
Here are some more historical findings from the Great City – Nineveh – between the time of it’s settlement in Genesis 10 and it’s next mentioned in 2 Kings. –
Sargon of Akkad (mid-24th century B.C.) was acquainted with Nineveh, which flourished during his time. A record from the reign of a later king, Shamsi-Adad I (c. 1800 B.C.), relates that a son of Sargon, Manishtusu, restored the temple of Ishtar at Nineveh.
Ishtar (Inanna), the goddess of love and war, was a fitting deity for the rapacious and warlike Assyrians. Many other deities were worshiped at Nineveh and gates of the city were named after them. The Assyrians worshiped at the temple of Nabu, the god of writing and of arts and sciences, who reflects the Assyrian interest in records, literature, and sculpture in relief and in the round.
Shamsi-Adad I and Hammurabi also restored the temple of Ishtar at Nineveh. Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I enlarged and strengthened the city, and other rulers built their palaces here—Tiglath-pileser I, Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 B.C.), and Sargon II (722–705 B.C.). But Sennacherib (705–681 B.C.) made Nineveh the capital and went to great lengths to beautify the city. In addition to his famous palace, he undertook many projects, rebuilding the city walls, creating parks, making botanical and zoological collections, and constructing aqueducts to bring water for the city from 30 miles away. To Nineveh came the tribute which the conquering Assyrians exacted from the nations, including Israel and Judah, which fell victim to their awesome armies. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1554). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
You may remember, I pointed out that the people were enemies of God at the time of Jonah.
Apparently, this was not a new development at that time – it was probably always the case.
In the 7th century BC, we read of this threat by the king of Assyria against Jerusalem –
Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem
18:13, 17-37 pp — Isa 36:1-22
18:17-35 pp — 2Ch 32:9-19
2Ki 18:17 The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 18 They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.
2Ki 18:19 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
“ ‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 22 And if you say to me, “We are depending on the LORD our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?
2Ki 18:23 “ ‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! 24 How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen ? 25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’ ”
I also mentioned, as you remember, they hated God’s people as well.
Hezekiah prayed to the Lord for deliverance.
We also read of Isaiah’s prophecy for that deliverance, which includes the following –
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
2Ki 19:32 “Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:
“He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
2Ki 19:33 By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,
declares the LORD.
2Ki 19:34 I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”
And then we read of what actually happened –
2Ki 19:35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
2Ki 19:37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.
And there we see the reference to Nineveh – the city to which Sennacherib, king of Assyria, retreated after being defeated by the angel of The Lord. And then he was assassinated. That assassination in also verified historically –
After the assassination of Sennacherib, his son and successor, Esar-haddon (681–669 B.C.), captured Nineveh from the hands of rebels. He built a palace at Nineveh and had another at Calah, where he spent most of his time. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1554). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Other than the same incident also being recorded in the book of Isaiah, we don’t see mention of Nineveh again in the Bible until the time of Jonah.
Jonah and Nineveh
Given that all three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have references to Jonah, I will not include the actual events related to Jonah until later.
When we get to Jonah in the Qur’an – then the details will come in.
At that time, you will see that there is a very odd reference to Jonah in the Qur’an. It tells the reader to not be like Jonah. That’s all it says. Nothing as to why one shouldn’t be like Jonah – just to not be like him.
So – when we get there, we’ll have more background information, and should be able to better understand the warning.
In the meantime, here’s the rest of the history related to ancient Nineveh –
After the assassination of Sennacherib, his son and successor, Esar-haddon (681–669 B.C.), captured Nineveh from the hands of rebels. He built a palace at Nineveh and had another at Calah, where he spent most of his time.
Esar-haddon’s son, Ashurbanipal (669–633 B.C.), made his residence at Nineveh, where he had been educated and trained in sports and military skills. He was somewhat of an antiquarian and mastered the reading of Akkadian and Sumerian. In his palace was housed the famous library of such importance for the study of Assyriology. The temple of Nabu contained a library dating at least to the time of Sargon II, but the royal library of Ashurbanipal far surpassed it in size and importance. Sargon and his successors had collected many tablets, but Ashurbanipal sent scribes all over Assyria and Babylonia to gather and to copy tablets, so that tens of thousands of tablets accumulated. Like the library of Nippur, the Nineveh collection covers a great range of materials: business accounts, letters, royal records, historical documents, lexicographical lists and bilingual texts, legends, myths and various other kinds of religious inscriptions, such as hymns, prayers, and lists of deities and temples. Among the tablets were 7 that preserved a Babylonian creation story and 12 which bore the epic of Gilgamesh, with a version of the flood. Other writings which sometimes are cited as parallels to Bible accounts include the story of Adapa, with the lost opportunity to achieve immortality, and the legend of Etana, a shepherd who ascended to heaven.
Ashurbanipal was also well known for his wars and for his cruelty. The palace relief showing a peaceful banquet scene also displays the severed head of an Elamite leader hanging in a tree.
In the later years of the aging king and after his demise, the vassal kingdoms rebelled. Babylon became independent and joined with the Medes to take Ashur and Calah in 614 B.C. Cyaxares the Mede, Nabopolassar of Babylon, and a Scythian force laid siege to Nineveh in 612 B.C.; the city fell and King Sinshariskun (Sardanapalus) perished in its flames.
Although a Ninevite remnant under Ashuruballit held out at Harran until 609 B.C., Nineveh had been destroyed: the divine predictions of the Hebrew prophets had their complete fulfillment. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1554). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Did I mention that the people were enemies of God? Yes, I believe I did.
Except, of course, for that brief period of time when the people listened to Jonah.
Then they returned to the old ways – and the Great City of Nineveh was destroyed.
The image on the left in Nineveh in modern times.
The destruction is being carried out by ISIS – at least that’s the claim for this picture. There are other sources of destruction there as well.
The point is – it seems not much has changed. Even those who claim to be the “true” followers of God are destroying the former Great City of Nineveh in God’s name.
They cannot all be the true followers of the One True God.
God would not fight against Himself.
We see where God used the “Angel of The Lord” to destroy the Great City in the past. We also see where God uses someone’s enemy to bring destruction on them. But we never see God fighting against Himself.
As Jesus said, Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
So – what’s the reality here?
So where do we go from here?
Well, we’ve looked at Abraham – seen how three religions all claim him as the father of their faith.
Jews and Christians through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Muslims through Abraham and Ishmael.
We’ve seen that God made a promise to Abraham concerning Isaac – and another about Ishmael. Exactly what those promises were are a matter of dispute. Muslims do not believe the same thing as Jews or Christians.
We’ve also just seen, through Jonah – that even though the people of Nineveh were nearly always enemies of God – God still cared about them.
So we’ve taken some initial steps. Looked at some background information.
There’s one more piece of background that’s required.
And – no surprise – it’s also disputed. Muslims do not believe the same thing as Jews or Christians.
BTW – you may notice I put Jews “or” Christians both time. That’s because, at some point in history, Jews and Christians differ in their belief as well. I point that out – and will continue to do so – without much explanation. Those differences are not what I’m concerned with here. That they exist is, I believe, very important. Just like the fact that differences exist between Islam and Christianity. However – my goal is to research the latter differences – starting with Isaac and Ishmael, and continuing to the present day, where differences also exist within difference sects of Christianity and Islam.
Understanding the when and the why of those differences – it seems – would be critical to uncovering the truth about the One who made those promises to Abraham – a long time ago, but still valid to this day. And should that not be our goal? Are we to blindly follow the teachings of men – or are we after knowing the One True God?
So we’ll move on – with the next topic going way back. Back to the beginning.
To Adam, Eve, and a serpent.
To a time when the very first dispute comes between Islam and Christianity.
Are you ready?
It’s right here – The stories of Adam and Eve