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Morrish Bible Dictionary


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The capital of the ancient kingdom of Assyria. It was founded very early by Nimrod. Genesis 10:11,12; cf. Micah 5:6 . It was doubtless comparatively small at first, but nothing is related of its progress until Jonah was sent, about 1,300 years after its founding, to threaten its destruction. It was then an exceeding great city (lit. 'a great city unto God') of three days' journey, probably signifying, its circumference. A three days 'journey' is estimated by Niebuhr to be about ninety English miles. This area would include gardens, pastures (which the 'much cattle' would necessitate), and pleasure grounds. The population was large, but not densely located together as in modern cities. There were 120,000 that could not discern their right hand from their left, probably children, which would give a population of about 600,000.

Jonah took a day's journey in the city, delivering his message as he proceeded. The people believed God, and, led by the king, humbled themselves, fasted, and ceased from their evil deeds. Jonah 3 , Jonah 4 . God saw their works and turned from the evil that He had threatened. This king was perhaps Shalmaneser 2, whose reign has been dated at B.C. 858-823.

Nineveh is next mentioned in 2 Kings 19:36; Isaiah 37:37 , when Sennacherib, after the destruction of his army by God, retired to Nineveh, where he was slain by two of his sons.

The other references to Nineveh in scripture are occupied with its judgement and foretelling its destruction. The prophecy of Nahum is especially devoted to this. Diodorus asserts that there was an ancient prophecy that Nineveh should not fall till the river became an enemy to the city; which happened in the third year of the siege, when the river partially overflowed the city. In the prophecy of Nahum it is said, "with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place"; "the gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved." Nahum 1:8; Nahum 2:6 . It was to be totally destroyed and not rise again. "a desolation, and dry like a wilderness." Nineveh had been very proud, and had said in its heart, "I am, and there is none beside me"; it should be a place for wild beasts. Zephaniah 2:13-15 : cf. Isaiah 10:5-19 . It had been 'a city of blood,' and full of lies and robbery; it should be made vile; its destruction should be final: there would be no healing of its bruise. Nahum 3:1,19 . In Ezekiel 31:3-17 Assyria is compared to a cedar of high stature, which had been brought to utter ruin.

Nineveh may be regarded as typical of the world in its haughty pride, glorying in its prowess. It was the power used by God to carry out His indignation against Israel: it is thus called "the rod of mine anger," and the indignation of Jehovah against His land and people ceases in the destruction of the Assyrian — a reference to some power in the last days which will morally succeed to the character of the Assyrian, and be destroyed subsequent to Babylon. Isaiah 14:24,25 . Historically Assyria fell before Babylon.

The account of the taking of Nineveh is thus given by Ctesias, preserved in Diodorus Siculus, ii. 27,28. Cyaxares, the Median monarch, aided by the Babylonians under Nabopolassar, laid siege to the city. His efforts were in vain; he was repulsed again and again; but receiving reinforcements he overcame the Assyrian army and they were shut up in the city. He then attempted to reduce the city by blockade, but was unsuccessful for two years, till his efforts were unexpectedly assisted by an extraordinary rise of the Tigris, which swept away a part of the walls and allowed the Medes to enter. The Assyrian king Saracus, in despair, burnt himself in his palace. The conquerors gave up the whole to the flames, and it was razed to the ground.

Rawlinson and others do not credit this account, they consider it undeserving a place in history. Some such destruction would, however, agree with scripture, which, as quoted above, speaks of the water, it also refers to the place being pillaged of its gold and silver, "for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture." Nahum 2:9 . Those who of late years have examined the mounds testify to its destruction by fire. Calcined sculptured alabaster statues split by heat, charcoal, and charred wood have been found buried in bricks and earth. For years search has been made among its ruins, and there is yet much to be examined. The principal museums of Europe are stored with the relics, and many tablets have been discovered, one of which gives a remarkable account of the deluge. It may indeed be said that the library of Nineveh has been opened in modern times, and the details of the records made thousands of years ago can now be read.

The principal ruins are found at:

1. Kouyunjik (or Nineveh proper), opposite Mosul, which is situate 36 22' S, 43 E.

2. Some eighteen miles south-east, lies Nimroud.

3. About twelve miles nearly northward are ruins at Karamles.

4. About twelve miles north-west lies Khorsabad.

These four places may be taken as the corners of the ancient city. They form a trapezoid of about sixty miles in circumference. The walls of the ancient city may have extended further, except where bounded by the river Tigris. The excavations reveal extensive buildings with the entrances adorned with winged bulls and other sculptures. In some places the marks of the chariot wheels can be traced on the limestone pavements.

It was destroyed about B.C. 606, by the Medes and Babylonians, and the fall of this city was the end of the kingdom of Assyria.

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Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Nineveh'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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