People from all walks of life have constantly debated on why the prophet Jonah wanted God to raze the sin city of Nineveh to the ground. He was so angry that he asked God to take away his life. What is so special with Nineveh that destruction has to rain down upon it?
Nineveh was the great capital city of the fast-rising Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians had, time and again, sent their army to subjugate the kingdom of Israel because of its strategic geographic location that exerts control over commerce and trade. As a conquered people and vassal under the heel of the Assyrians, Israel was made to pay tributes and some of its citizens were carried off to Assyria as slaves or prisoners. The resulting hardships suffered by the conquered people of Israel must have made their mark on Jonah, hence, his burst of anger when God granted a reprieve and forestalled the punishment he had designed for Nineveh.
Even after Jonah, Nineveh and the Assyrians continued their dominance. King Hezekiah of Judah tasted their fury when he refused to pay tribute to the king, Sennacherib. As a result, the Assyrians laid siege to Jerusalem and reportedly took 200,150 prisoners. If not for a plague outbreak among the Assyrians that was attributed to God’s intervention, they would have eventually broken through Jerusalem’s defenses. The Assyrians influence waned with the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE.