During the time of the prophet, Jonah, Nineveh was an important and bustling city. With a big and growing population of more than 120,000 inhabitants, it served as the capital of the Assyrian Empire that was still bent on expanding its territories.
The Assyrians and their formidable army had gained a reputation for ruthlessness. Enemies were trampled underfoot and slaves from sacked enemy strongholds were carried off with impunity to Nineveh. It was not a place that a foreigner who values his life would dare set foot in. Yet, Jonah did. Despite his initial reservations, God yanked him away from his place of refuge to deliver a message.
The Doomed City of Nineveh
God had set His eyes on Nineveh and Jonah was the chosen bearer of his anger. Upon arrival, Jonah immediately upbraided the residents for their wicked ways and declared that God will destroy the city in forty days. It was not a message to be taken lightly for both Jonah and the people of Nineveh. The inhabitants’ pride and sensitivity at being rebuked by a stranger could easily have gotten Jonah killed. On the other hand, failure to listen to a prophet whose stature as a messenger of God has been well-established and accepted could spell doom and disaster for the great city. It was the moment of truth for Nineveh.
Lessons from Nineveh
Nineveh represents God’s power over empires. After years of imposing its might and spreading cruelty, God was bringing the Assyrians to heel. We can reflect on the lessons to be learned from the experience:
- What goes up must come down. No one can expect to be on a pedestal of glory forever. It is always best to prepare for the eventuality of the fall.
- The misery imposed on others will come home to roost. When you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind.
- There is a greater power that oversees and balances the equation, and that is God.