Much of the attention surrounding the Book of Jonah focuses on the story of Jonah being swallowed for three days and three nights by a “whale.” There is a lot of confusion about this. For one thing, the actual Bible text calls it a “great fish,” and not a “whale” (Jonah 1:17). But in this post, I want to focus briefly on the city where Jonah was called to preach: Nineveh.
Nineveh was the capital of the ancient Assyrian empire. The Bible talks quite a bit about the threat that the dreaded Assyrians posed for the Israelites, a threat that was eventually realized by the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in the 8th century before the birth of Christ. So, you only imagine the horror experienced by the prophet Jonah, first mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, when he was called by God to urge the citizens of Nineveh to repent, and come to know the God of Israel.
Nineveh was the last place Jonah wanted to be.
The city of Nineveh is in the news quite a bit these days. Nineveh is part of the greater city of Mosul, in Iraq, where a coalition of military forces have been trying to force the Islamic State out of the city. Many skeptics may dismiss the story of Jonah as a “fairy tale,” but the story of what has happened in today’s Mosul is tragically real. For example, thousands of Christians have had to flee the city from the Islamic State, and surely, some remain, fearful for their lives. We should pray for them. Given what we know about Nineveh/Mosul today, I can relate a bit to Jonah’s desire not to go the Nineveh. I would not want to be there either! Continue reading