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Bible Dictionaries

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

Nineveh

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Dwelling of Ninus, the metropolis of ancient Assyria, called by the Greeks and Romans "the great Ninus;" situated on the east bank of the Tigris, opposite and below the modern Mosul. Its origin is traced to the times near the flood. See NIMROD . For nearly fifteen centuries afterwards it is not mentioned. In the books of Jonah, and Nahum it is described as an immense city, three days' journey in circuit, containing more than one hundred and twenty thousand young children, or probably six hundred thousand souls. It contained "much cattle," and numerous parks, garden groves, etc. Its inhabitants were wealthy, warlike, and far advanced in civilization. It had numerous strongholds with gates and bars; and had multiplied its merchants above the stars: its crowned princes were as locusts, and its captains as grasshoppers. With this description agrees that of the historian Diodorus Siculus, who says Nineveh was twenty-one miles long, nine miles broad, and fifty-four miles in circumference; that its walls were a hundred feet high, and so broad that three chariots could drive upon them abreast; and that it had fifteen hundred towers, each two hundred feet high.

Nineveh had long been the mistress of the East; but for her great luxury and wickedness, the prophet Jonah was sent, more than eight hundred years before Christ, to warn the Ninevites of her speedy destruction. See also Isaiah 14:24,25 . Their timely repentance delayed for a time the fall of the city; but about 753 B. C., the period of the foundation of Rome, it was taken by the Medes under Arbaces; and nearly a century and a half later, according to the predictions of Nahum, Nahum 1:1-3:19 , and Zephaniah 2:13 , it was a second time taken by Cyaraxes and Nabopolassar; after which it no more recovered its former splendor. Subsequent writers mention it but seldom, and as an unimportant place; so complete was its destruction, that for ages its site has been well-nigh lost, and infidels have even denied that the Nineveh of the Bible ever existed. The mounds which were the "grave" of its ruins, Nahum 1:14 , were covered with soil as to seem like natural hills. But since 1841, Layard, Botta, and others have been exploring its remains, so long undisturbed. The mounds chiefly explored lie at three corners of a trapezium about eighteen miles long, and twelve miles wide, and nearly sixty in circumference, thus confirming the ancient accounts of its vast extent. The recent excavations disclose temples and palaces, guarded by huge winged bulls and lions with human heads. The apartments of these buildings are lined with slabs of stone, covered with sculptures in basrelief, and inscriptions in arrow-headed characters which have been in part deciphered; and these sculptured memorials of the history and customs of the Assyrians, together with the various articles made of glass, wood, ivory, and metals, now brought to light after a burial of twenty-four centuries, furnish invaluable aid in the interpretation of Scripture, and most signally confirm its truth. Our surprise is equal to our gratification, when we behold the actual Assyrian account of events recorded in Kings and Chraonicles. Not only do we find mention made of Jehu, Menehem, Hezekiah, Omri, Hazael, etc., and of various cities in Judea and Syria; but we discover Sennacherib's own account of his invasion of Palestine, and of the amount of tribute which king Hezekiah was forced to pay him; also pictures representing his capture of Lachish, 2 Kings 18:14 , and his officers, perhaps the railing Rabshakeh himself, presenting Jewish captives to the king, etc. (See cut and details in SENNACHERIB .)

These mural tablets also furnish a graphic comment on the language of the prophet Ezekiel; and as he was a captive in the region of Ninveh, he had no doubt heard of, and had probably seen these very "chambers of imagery," as well as the objects they represent. We there find reproduced to our view the men and scenes he describes in Ezekiel 23:6,14,15 , etc.; Ezekiel 26:7-12 : "Captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously," "portrayed with vermilion," "girded with girdles upon their loins," "exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads." The "vermilion" or red color is quite prevalent among the various brilliant colors with which these tablets were painted, Ezekiel 23:14,15 . Here are "horsemen riding upon horses," "princes to look to" in respect to war-like vigor and courage; and their horses of high spirit, noble form, and attitudes, and decked with showy trappings. Here, in fine, are the idols, kings, and warriors of Nineveh, in various scenes of worship, hunting, and war; fortresses attacked and taken; prisoners led in triumph, impaled, flayed, and otherwise tortured; and sometimes actually held by cords attached to hooks which pierce the nose or the lips, 2 Kings 19:28 Isaiah 37:29 , and having their eyes put out by the point of a spear, 2 Kings 25:7 . For other cuts see NISROCH, SENNACHERIB, SHALMANEZER, and WAR .

The Christian world is under great obligations to Layard and Botta for their enterprising explorations, and to Rawlinson and Hincks for their literary investigations of these remains. To the student of the Bible especially these buried treasures are of the highest value, and we may well rejoice not only in this new accumulation of evidence to the truth of the history and prophecies of Scripture, but in the additional light thus thrown on its meaning. How impressive too the warning which these newly found memorials of a city once so vast and powerful bring to us in these latter days and in lands then unknown, to beware of the luxury, pride, and ungodliness that caused her ruin.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Nineveh'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ats/n/nineveh.html. 1859.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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