Now that we have our two main character’s Jonah and the whale, we need to introduce the final component in this story: the city of Nineveh.
Jonah was the what, the whale was the how, and Nineveh is the why in this equation of mercy.
To aquatint you with the city of Nineveh, I’m gonna lay down some history for you.
Where Is Nineveh?
Nineveh was an early Mesopotamian city founded by Nimrod in the land of Asshur, or Assyria. It is located on the Tigris River, in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Trade alone brought the city great wealth and it greatly prospered under the rule of Sennacherib.
Why Is It So Important?
For 50 years, the city of Nineveh was the greatest city on earth. In the end, it was subdued and defeated by a collaborative attack by the Persians, Babylonians, Medes, Chaldeans, Scythians, and Chimmerians; all former vassals of the Assyrians. Ninevah was the Capitol of the greatest empire in the world, the Assyrian empire, and is told to be a great city of 3 days journey. Which could mean it was a three days walk from one end to the other, or it likely meant that it would take three days to walk every main street in the city.
So, the city was large, the city was ideally located, but, it was also home to several monarchs who waged war on Israel.
2 Kings 15:29
In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.
This seizure of cities happened some time between 745 and 727 BC when Tiglath-pileser III went on his rampage, capturing most of the known world.
2 Kings 16:9
And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.
Also the doings of Tiglath-pileser III, wreaking destruction upon the lands of Damascus. This is when Assyria took control of Damascus and the conflict between Israel and Assyria began over that land.
2 Kings 17:6
In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
In 725 BC, the year of the death of Tiglath-pileser III his father, Shalmaneser, now the ruler of Assyria besieged and took Samaria. You may ask why is his name not Tiglath-pileser IX if his father was the third? Well, Shalmaneser was not the first born son of Tiglath-pileser III, his older brother died in battle some years earlier.
2 Kings 17:5
Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.
For three years the siege of Shalmaneser was waged against Samaria. In 722 he took it and divided it’s land and spoils. He died the same year.
2 Kings 18:13
Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
Sennacherib the Great, under his rule Assyria flourished, Nineveh became insurmountable, and he destroyed all the fenced cities of Judah. 46 cities he destroyed of the lands of Judah, exiling over 200,000 Jews. He was a true foe of the Israelites and hated more than all the others.
2 Kings 19:17
Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands,
Assyria ruled with an iron fist and a bloody sword, they were hated of all people’s but of the Israelites most of all. Truly, the did not deserve mercy. Surely God would not spare these villains their lives.
You can begin to understand Jonah’s hatred for the people of Nineveh, the seat of power for Israel’s arch-enemies. They deserved to be wiped from the face of the earth. And even when all men, including God’s faithful prophet turned their backs on the Assyrians, God never did. He gave them a second chance, and even gave Jonah a second chance for their sake.
It’s a picture of all men and our depravity from God. We were lost in our trespasses and sins, enemies of God. Yet He loved us so much, that He saved us anyway. Just like Jonah spent three days in the whale so that he could go and preach to save the Ninevites, Jesus spent three days in a tomb so that He could save you.
Nineveh did not deserve grace, but it was given to the city. Still, they could not save themselves.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Nineveh needed a preacher, Jonah, to proclaim the words of the Lord that the people of the city might believe. God sent Jonah, though unwilling to bow until he had no strength left to stand, Jonah eventually chose to obey. Because of one man’s obedience, however reluctant it was, an entire city was saved.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
No matter what you’ve done, God loves you, He always has, and He always will. He will forgive you, even when you don’t deserve it. Grace is so amazing because no matter how hard we try to make sense of it, we cannot. Our response should be that of the King of Nineveh.
For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
Immediately he recognized his wrong, he laid off his symbols of pride and power and humbled himself before God. The king of the greatest nation on earth, in an indomitable fortress city, the most powerful man alive, abases himself to God and orders his people to do the same. The King of Nineveh shows a willingness to surrender, and a desire to make things right. Not arguing his guilt, not pleaing ignorance of God’s laws, simply acknowledging God for who He is and crying out for mercy.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist