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Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(See Genesis 10:11); Herodotus (i. 7) makes Ninus founder of Nineveh. and grandson of Belus founder of Babylon; which implies that it was from Babylon, as Scripture says, that Nineveh's founder came. Nin is the Assyrian Hercules. Their mythology also makes Ninus son of Nimrod. Jonah is the next Scripture after Genesis 10 that mentions Nineveh. (See .) Sennacherib after his host's destruction "went and dwelt at Nineveh" (2 Kings 19:36). Jonah (Jonah 3:3) describes it as an "exceeding great city of three days' journey" round (i.e. 60 miles, at 20 miles per day) with 120,000 children "who knew not their right hand from their left" (Jonah 4:11), which would make a population in all of 600,000 or even one million. Diodorus Siculus (ii. 3), agreeing with Jonah's "three days' journey," makes the circumference 55 miles, pastures and pleasure grounds being included within, from whence Jonah appositely (Jonah 4:11) mentions "much cattle." G. Smith thinks that the ridges enclosing Nebi Yunus and Koyunjik (the mounds called "tels" opposite Mosul) were only the walls of inner Nineveh, the city itself extending beyond to the mound Yarenijah..) Nimrod builded Nineveh (
The parallelogram in Assyria covered with remains has Khorsabad N.E.; Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus (Nineveh in the narrow sense) near the Tigris N.W.; Nimrud and Athur between the Tigris and Zab, N.W.; and Karamles at a distance inward from the Zab S.E. From Koyunjik to Nimrud is 18 miles; from Khorsabad to Karamles 18; from Koyunjik to Khorsabad 13 or 14; from Nimrud to Karamles 14. The length was greater than the breadth; so Jonah 3:4 "entered into the city a day's journey." The longer sides were 150 furlongs each, the shorter 90 furlongs, the whole circuit 480 or 460 miles. Babylon had a circuit of only 385 miles (Clitarchus in Diod. ii. 7, Strabo xvi. 737). The walls were 100 ft. high, with 1,500 towers, and broad enough for three chariots abreast. Shereef Khan is the northern extremity of the collection of mounds on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and is five and a half miles N. of Koyunjik. There is also an enclosure, 5,000 yards in circuit, once enclosed by a moat at Selamivah three miles N. of Nimrud. Nimrud in inscriptions is called Kalkhu or Calah in Genesis 10:11; Khorsabad is called Sargina from Sargon. At Kileh Sherghat is the presumed original capital," Asshur," 60 miles S. of Mosul, on the right or western bank of the Tigris.
Sennacherib first made Nineveh the capital. Nineveh was at first only a fort to keep the Babylonian conquests around. It subsequently, with Rehoboth, Ir, Calah, and Resen, formed one great city, "Nineveh" in the larger sense. Thothmes III of Egypt is mentioned in inscriptions as capturing Nineveh. Phraortes the Mede perished in attempting to do so (Herodotus i. 102). Cyaxares his successor, after at first raising the siege owing to a Scythic invasion (Herodotus i. 103, 106) 625 B.C., finally succeeded in concert with the Babylonian Nabopolassar, 606 B.C., Saracus the last king, Esarhaddon's grandson, set fire to the palace and perished in the flames, as Ctesias states, and as the marks of fire on the walls still confirm. So Nahum 3:13; Nahum 3:15, "fire shall devour thy bars." Charred wood, calcined alabaster, and heat splintered figures abound. Nahum (Nahum 2) and Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:13-15) foretold its doom; and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 31) shortly after attests the completeness of its overthrow, as a warning of the fatal issue of pride, Isaiah 10:7-14; Diodorus (ii. 27) says there was a prophecy that Nineveh should not fall until the river became its enemy.
The immediate cause of capture was the city walls destruction by a sudden rise in the river. So Nahum (Nahum 1:8; Nahum 2:6; Nahum 2:8) foretold "with an over running flood He will make an utter end of the place;" "the gates of the rivers shall be opened and the palace shall be dissolved," namely, by the inundation; "Nineveh is of old like a pool of water (though of old defended by water around), yet (its inhabitants) shall flee." There was a floodgate at the N.W. angle of the city, which was swept away; and the water pouring into the city "dissolved" the palace foundation platform, of sundried bricks. Nineveh then totally disappears from history; it never rose again. Nahum (Nahum 1:10; Nahum 3:11) accords with Diodorus Siculus that the final assault was made during a drinking bout of king and courtiers: "while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry ... Thou shalt be drunken," etc. The treasures accumulated by many kings were rifled, as Nahum foretells; "take ye the spoil of silver ... gold, for there is none end of the store;" the people were "scattered upon the mountains" (Nahum 3:18).
He calls it "the city of bloods," truly (Nahum 3:1); the wall carvings represent the king in the act of putting out his captives' eyes, and dragging others by a hook through the lips and a cord. Other cities have revived, but Nahum foretells "there is no healing of thy bruise" (Nahum 3:19). Lucian of Samosara near the Euphrates asserts none in his day even knew where Nineveh stood. Its former luxury is embodied in the statue of Sardanapalus as a dancer, which he directed (Plutarch says) to be erected after his death, with the motto "eat, drink, enjoy lust ... the rest is nothing!" The language of its inscriptions is Semitic, for the main population was a colony of Asshur, son of Shem; and besides the prevalent Semitic a Turanian dialect has been found on tablets at Koyunjik, derived from its original Cushite founder Nimrod of Babylon and his band. At Nimrud the oldest palaces are in the N.W. grainer, the most recent at the S.E. The table of Karnak in Egypt (1490 B.C.) connects Niniu (Nineveh) with Naharaima or Naharaim or Mesopotamia. Sir H. Rawlinson published 1862 an Assyrian canon from the monuments.
The first kings reigned when the early Chaldee empire had its seat in lower Mesopotamia. Asshur-bil-nisis, Buzur Ashur, and Asshur Vatila from 1653 to 1550 B.C., when Purnapuriyas and Durri-galazu were the last of the early Chaldaean monarchy. Then Bel Sumill Kapi founds a dynasty after a chasm of two centuries. "Bellush, Pudil, and Ivalush" are inscribed on bricks at Kileh Sherghat, 1350-1270 B.C. Shalmaneser I, son of Ivalush I, is mentioned on a genealogical slab as founder of Nimrud. Tiglath-i-nin his son inscribes himself" conqueror of Babylon"; Sargon finally conquered it. Tiglath-inin's successor Ivalush II (1250 B.C.) enlarged the empire and closes the dynasty. By a revolution Nin pala Zira ascends the throne, "the king of the commencement" as the Tiglath Pileser cylinder calls him. Then Asshurdahil, Mutaggil Nebo, Asshur-ris-ilim (conqueror of a Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon), Tiglath Pileser I (subdued Meshech), Asshur-belkala; a blank of two centuries follows when David's and Solomon's extensive dominion has place. Asshur-iddin-akhi begins the next dynasty (950-930 B.C.).
Asshur-danin-il and Iralush III follow; then Tiglath-i-nin; Asshur-idanni-pal next after ten victorious campaigns built a palace at Calah, 360 ft. long by 300 broad, with man lions at the gateways, and by a canal brought the Zab waters to Calah; he was "lord from the upper Tigris to Lebanon and the great sea." His son Shalmaneser II took tribute from Tyre and Sidon and fought Benhadad and Hazael. A picture represents him receiving from Jewish captives tribute of Jehu king of Israel, gold, pearl, and oil. He built the central palace of Nimrud, opened by Layard. The black marble obelisk (in the British Museum) records his exploits and Jehu's name. Then Shamas-Iva, Iralush IV and his wife Semiramis, a Babylonian princess, Shalmaneser III, Asshur-danin-il II, Asshur-lush. Then Tiglath Pileser II, probably Pul, usurps the throne by revolution, for he does not mention his father as others do, 744 B.C. Under him "Menahem" appears in inscriptions, and "tribute from the house of Omri" i.e. Samaria (2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 15:29).
Ahaz enlisted him as ally against Samaria and Damascus; Tiglath Pileser conquered them and received tribute from Jahu-khazi or Ahaz. An inscription in the British Museum records Rezin's death (Rawlinson's Monarchies, 2:398,399). Tiglath Pileser built a new palace at Nimrud. Then Shalmaneser IV (not in the canon) (2 Kings 17:3-4) assailed Samaria, upon Hoshea's leaguing with So of Egypt, and withholding tribute. In a chamber at Koyunjik was found among other seals now in British Museum the seal of So or Sabacho and that of Sennacherib affixed to a treaty between them, of which the parchment has perished. Sargon ("king de facto") usurped the throne and took Samaria (he says in inscriptions) in his first year; he built the palace at Khorsabad. Sennacherib his son succeeded 704 B.C. and reigned 24 years. He built the palace at the S.W. corner of Koyunjik, covering 100 acres almost, excavated by Layard. (See .) Of it 60 courts, halls (some 150 ft. square), and passages (one 200 ft. long) have been discovered. The human headed lions and bulls at its many portals are some 20 ft. high. Esarhaddon succeeded, as he styles himself "king of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Meroe, and Ethiopia;" or Asnapper; he imprisoned Manasseh. (See ; MANASSEH.)
He built a temple at the S.W. corner of Nimrud, and a palace at Nebi Yunus. Asshurbani-pal succeeded, a hunter and warrior; his library of clay tablets, religious, legal, historical, and scientific, is in British Museum. He built a palace at Koyunjik, near Sennacherib's. His son, the last king, Asshuremid-ilin or Asshur-izzir-pal (Saracus or Sardanapalus), built the S.E. edifice at Nimrud. The palace walls were from five to fifteen feet thick, erected on an artificial platform 30 to 50 ft. above the surrounding level, and paneled with slabs of coarse alabaster sculptured and inscribed. The plaster above the alabaster wainscoting was ornamented with figures; the pavement was of alabaster or flat kiln-burnt bricks resting on bitumen and fine sand. The Nimrud grand hall is only 35 ft. broad (though 160 ft. long), to admit of roofing with the short beams to be had. The ceilings were gaily colored.
The portals were guarded by colossal human headed bulls; thence was an ascent to a higher platform, and on the top a gateway, sometimes 90 ft. wide, guarded also by winged bulls; inside was the great door, opening into a sculpture adorned passage; then the inner court, then the state apartments. There may have been an upper story of sun-dried bricks and wood, for there are no stone or marble columns or burnt brick remains. The large halls may have been roofless, a ledge projecting round the four sides and supporting an awning as shelter against rain and sun. However Zephaniah 2:14 mentions "the cedar work," cedars from Lebanon may have reached from wall to wall with openings for light.
The chambers were built round the central hall. In Nahum 2:3 translated "the chariots (shall be furnished) with fire flashing scythes," literally, "with the fire of scythes" or "iron weapons." No traces of such scythe-armed chariots are found in Assyria; either then it applies to the besiegers, or "the chariots shall come with the glitter of steel weapons." The "red shield" (Nahum 2:3) accords with the red painting of the shields and dresses in the sculptures. The king, with beardless eunuch behind holding an umbrella and the winged symbol of Deity above, appears in various carvings; he was despotic. Kitchen operations, husbandry and irrigation implements are represented also.
Religion. The man bull and man lion answer to Nin and Nergal, the gods of war and the chase. Nisroch the eagle-headed god and Dagon the fishheaded god often appear in the sculptures. The sacred tree answers to Asheerah, "the grove" (2 Kings 21:7). The chief gods were Asshur, Bel, Beltis or Myletta, Sin the moon, Shamash (Hebrew shemesh ) the sun, Vul or Iva the thunder wielder, Nin, etc. "Witchcrafts" and "whoredoms" in connection with Nineveh's worship are denounced by Nahum 3:4. The immense palaces, the depositories of the national records, were at once the gods' temple and the king's abode, for he was the religious head of the nation and the favorite of the gods.
Language and writing. Clay cylinders pierced through so as to turn round and present their sides to the reader, bricks, and slabs are the materials inscribed on. The wedge (cuneus from whence "cuneiform") in various forms and directions, upright, horizontal, and diagonal, is the main element of the 250 distinct alphabetical characters. This mode of writing prevailed for 2000 years B.C. in Assyria, Babylonia, and eastern Persia. The alphabet is syllabic. Determinatives are prefixed to some words, as
↓ - prefixed marks the word as a man's name;
↓↓ - marks the plural;
↓← - marks the dual.
It is related to Hebrew, thus, u "and" is the Hebrew ve; ki is in both "if"; anaku or Hebrew 'anoki "I"; 'atta' in both is "thou"; 'abu or'ab (Hebrew), "father"; nahar in both is a "river." Feminine nouns end in -it or -at; Hebrew end with -ith. Sh is the shortened relative pronoun "who, which," as in later Hebrew; mah in both asks a question. The verb as in Hebrew is conjugated by pronominal suffixes. The roots are biliteral, the Hebrew both biliteral and triliteral. Μit , "to die"; Hebrew muth . Sib , "to dwell"; Hebrew yashab . Τiglath means "adoration." Ρal , "son," the Aramaic bar; sat "king"; ris, Hebrew rosh , "head."
The northwestern palace of Nineveh has the longest inscription; it records concerning Sardanapalus II. Sennacherib's inscription concerning Hezekiah, on two man-headed bulls from Koyunjik, is the most interesting. Bas-reliefs of the siege of Lachish accompany it. (See.) By a tentative process recurring proper names were first deciphered by Grotefend, Rawlinson, Hincks, Fox Talbot, Oppert, etc., as in Darius' inscription at Behistun. Parallel parts of the same inscription in snorter language (as the hieroglyphics and Greek on the Rosetta stone enabled Champollion to discover the former) verified the results, and duplicate phrases brought, out the meaning of words.
Tombs. Chaldaea is as full of tombs as Assyria is void of them. Probably Chaldaea was the burial place of the Assyrian kings; Arrian (Exped. Alex. 7:22) states that their tombs were in the marshes S. of Babylon.
Art, Commerce. Egyptian art is characterized by calm repose, Assyrian art by energy and action. Egyptian architecture is derived from a stone prototype, Assyrian from a wooden one, in agreement with the physical features of the respective countries. Solomon's temple and palace, with grand hall and chambers, paneled with slabs sculptured with trees, the upper part of the walls painted in various colors, the winged cherubim carved all round, the flowers and pomegranates, correspond to the Nineveh palaces in a great measure. Silk, blue clothes, and embroidered work were traded in by Nineveh's merchants (Ezekiel 27:23-24; Nahum 3:16). The Chaldaean Nestorians in the Kurdistan mountains and the villages near Mosul are the sole representatives of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians.
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Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Nineveh'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/n/nineveh.html. 1949.