Nineveh (Nahum 1)

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Illustration: One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh

Located at Mosul, Iraq, Nineveh was an ancient city first inhabited as early as the seventh century B.C. The prominence of this city in the Bible, however, is due to its distinction as one of the capital cities of the Assyrian empire, which dominated the Near East for most of the period from 900 to 612 B.C. Nineveh was at the height of its power under the Assyrian kings Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. Numerous important archaeological finds at Nineveh come from the period during which these kings reigned:

  • The walls of the city, nearly 13 km long, enclosed an area covering approximately 1,700 acres.
  • Portions of the place, covering three large city blocks, have been excavated. Painted, sculptured reliefs depicting Sennacherib’s exploits, including his defeat of Lachish in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 18:14, 17), lined the walls.
  • The city boasted an enormous number of parks and water gardens, which may account for the focus on water in Nahum 2:8.
  • Sennacherib’s account of his conquest of Judah in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 18:13-19:36) was found here. Hezekiah is mentioned by name in Sennacherib’s version.
  • Other records mention Manasseh, king of Judah, who supplied building materials for Esarhaddon’s palace at Nineveh and troops for Ashurbanipal’s invasion of Egypt.
  • One of the most significant finds was Ashurbanipal’s library. It contained about 1,500 different texts, some multiple copies, including archival, literary, magical, medical, divinatory and ritual tablets.

The book of Nahum, as well as Zephaniah 2:13-15, predicts the defeat and destruction of Nineveh. These prophecies were fulfilled when a coalition of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians overthrew the city in 612 B.C., as described in the Babylonian Chronicle.


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