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Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Nineveh (nîn'e-veh), perhaps dwelling of Nina, the capital and greatest city of Assyria. It was founded by Nimrod, Genesis 10:11, and was on the eastern bank of the river Tigris, about 250 miles in a direct lino north of the rival city of Babylon, and not far from 550 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf. Assyrian scholars are not agreed in respect to the size of this ancient city. Some, as Layard, regard it as covering a large parallelogram, whose sides were each from 18 to 20 miles long, and the ends 12 to 14 miles wide. This view would include the ruins now known as Konyunjik, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Keremles. Diodorus Siculus makes the circumference of the city 55 miles, including pastures and pleasure grounds. This view of the great extent of the city is, on the other hand, sharply disputed by Rawlinson, who thinks it highly improbable that this ancient city should have had an area about ten times that of London. He would reject it on two grounds, the one historical and the other topographical. He maintains that the ruins of Khorsabad, Keremles, Nimrud, and Konyunjik bear on their bricks distinct local titles, and that these titles are found attaching to distant cities in the historical inscriptions. According to his view, Nimrud would be identified with Calah, and Khorsabad with Dur-sargina, or "the city of Sargon." He further claims that Assyrian writers do not consider these places to be parts of Nineveh, but distinct and separate cities; that Calah was for a longtime the capital, while Nineveh was a provincial town; that Dur-sargina was built by Sargon—not at Nineveh, but near Nineveh; and that Scripture similarly distinguishes Calah as a place separate from Nineveh, and so far from it that there was room for a great city between them. See Genesis 10:12. He also suggests that a smaller city in extent would answer the requirements of the description in the book of Jonah, which makes it a city of "three days' journey." Jonah 3:3. As already stated, Nineveh was founded by Asshur, or, as the marginal reading of Genesis 10:11 states, Nimrod. When Nineveh became the capital of Assyria is not definitely known, but it is generally believed it was during the reign of Sennacherib. The prophecies of the books of Jonah and Nahum are chiefly directed against this city. The latter prophet indicates the mode of its capture. Nan. 1:1-8; 2:6, 8; 3:18. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria during the height of the grandeur of that empire, and in the time of Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and Assur-bani-pal. It was besieged for two years by the combined forces of the Medes and Babylonians, was captured, and finally destroyed b.c. 606. Excavations have been made by M. Botta, Layard, Hormuzd Rassam, Loftus, and George Smith. They have brought to light, among others, the following noted buildings: 1. Three ruined temples, built and restored by many kings in different ages. 2. The palace of Shalmaneser, as improved by subsequent rulers. 3. A palace of another ruler, restored by Sennacherib and Esar-haddon. 4. A palace of Tiglath-pileser II. 5. A temple of Nebo. 6. The southwest palace of Sennacherib. 7. The northwest palace of the same ruler. 8. The city walls built by the latter king and restored by Assur-bani-pal. See Assyria. The prophecies respecting the destruction of Nineveh are very specific; the prophet seemed to see her in her desolation and exclaims: "Nineveh hath been from of old like a pool of water... Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her?... Thy worthies are at rest; thy people are scattered upon the mountains, and there is none to gather them." Nahum 2:8; Nahum 3:7; Nahum 3:18, R. V. "The Lord... will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like the wilderness. And herds shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations; both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the chapiters thereof; their voice shall ring in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds... how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in!" Zephaniah 2:11; Zephaniah 2:13-15. These prophecies have been literally fulfilled. The city was destroyed; its very site was lost and unknown for centuries; it has now been found, its ruins opened, but are uninhabited except by wild beasts.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Nineveh'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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