Ancient Nineveh

Ancient Manners and Customs, Daily Life, Cultures, Bible Lands

NINEVEH was the famous capital of ancient Assyria. Previous cities like Asshur and Calah were ancient capitals of Assyria, but NINEVEH became most famous in the seventh century BC. When King Sennacherib (705-681 BC) made NINEVEH his capital, the empire expanded and became prosperous.

Nineveh and the Assyrian

The Assyrian empire became extremely great and powerful with NINEVEH as its center, all the way until its final destruction by the Chaldeans and the Medes. Nineveh was located in a very desirable place, east of the Tigris River in a very fertile plain. Today the ancient ruins are located just opposite of the present day city of Mosul. NINEVEH was also famous in the ancient world because it was a center for the worship of Ishtar (Astarte) the fertility goddess. The size of NINEVEH is revealed in the Bible, in Jonah 3:3 and 4:11 (A 3 days journey in breadth with over 120,000 people). The classical writers describe NINEVEH as being over 60 miles wide. The city of Nineveh is described in Genesis 10:11 as having been founded by Nimrod, the hunter who built the tower of Babel and led the world into a rebellion against God. The Old Testament also mentions NINEVEH in relation to the prophet Jonah who preached judgment against NINEVEH, and afterward the city repented. The prophet Nahum predicted NINEVEH\'s destruction which came in 612 BC, and the famous city was never rebuilt. In the New Testament Jesus commended the inhabitants of NINEVEH for repenting at the preaching of Jonah, while condemning the Jewish leaders for resisting His own message.

Map of the Ancient Near East

Nineveh in Smith's Bible Dictionary
(abode of Ninus), the capital of the ancient kingdom and empire of Assyria. The name appears to be compounded from that of an Assyrian deity "Nin," corresponding, it is conjectured, with the Greek Hercules, and occurring in the names of several Assyrian kings, as in "Ninus," the mythic founder, according to Greek tradition of the city. Nineveh is situated on the eastern bank of the river Tigris, 50 miles from its mouth and 250 miles north of Babylon. It is first mentioned in the Old Testament in connection with the primitive dispersement and migrations of the human race. Asshur, or according to the marginal reading, which is generally preferred, Nimrod is there described, Ge 10:11 as extending his kingdom from the land of Shinar or Babylonia, in the south, to Assyria in the north and founding four cities, of which the most famous was Nineveh. Hence Assyria was subsequently known to the Jews as "the land of Nimrod," cf. Mic 5:6 and was believed to have been first peopled by a colony from Babylon. The kingdom of Assyria and of the Assyrians is referred to in the Old Testament as connected with the Jews at a very early period, as in Nu 24:22,24 and Psal 83:8 but after the notice of the foundation of Nineveh in Genesis no further mention is made of the city until the time of the book of Jonah, or the eighth century B.C. In this book no mention is made of Assyria or the Assyrians, the king to whom the prophet was sent being termed the "king of Nineveh," and his subjects "the people of Nineveh." Assyria is first called a kingdom in the time of Menahem, about B.C. 770. Nahum (? B.C. 645) directs his prophecies against Nineveh; only once against the king of Assyria. ch. Na 3:18 In 2Ki 19:36 and Isai 37:37 Read Full Article

Nineveh in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia
Nineveh, during the centuries of her existence, must have seen many stirring historical events; but the most noteworthy were probably Sennacherib's triumphal entries, including that following the capture of Lachish, the murder of that great conqueror by his sons (the recent theory that he was killed at Babylon needs confirmation); and the ceremonial triumphs of Assur-bani-apli--the great and noble Osnappar (Ezr 4:10). After the reign of Assur-bani-apli came his son Assur-etil-ilani, who was succeeded by Sin-sarra-iskun (Saracos), but the history of the country, and also of the city, is practically non-existent during these last two reigns. The Assyrian and Babylonian records are silent with regard to the fall of the city, but Alexander Polyhistor, Abydenus and Syncellus all speak of it. The best account, however, is that of Diodorus Siculus, who refers to a legend that the city could not be taken until the river became its enemy. Arbaces, the Scythian, besieged it, but could not make any impression on it for 2 years. In the 3rd year, however, the river (according to Commander Jones, not the Tigris, but the Khosr), being swollen by rains, and very rapid in its current, carried away a portion of the wall, and by this opening the besiegers gained an entrance. The king, recognizing in this the fulfillment of the oracle, gathered together his concubines and eunuchs, and, mounting a funeral pyre which he had caused to be constructed, perished in the flames. This catastrophe is supposed to be referred to in Nah 1:8: "With an over-running flood he (the Lord) will make a full end of her place (i.e. of Nineveh)," and Nah 2:6: "The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved." The destruction of the city by fire is probably referred to in 3:13,15. The picture of the scenes in her streets--the noise of the whip, the rattling wheels, the prancing horses, the bounding chariots (3:2 ff), followed by a vivid description of the carnage of the battlefield--is exceedingly striking, and true to their records and their sculptures. Read Full Article

Nineveh in Easton's Bible Dictionary
First mentioned in Gen. 10:11, which is rendered in the Revised Version, "He [i.e., Nimrod] went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh." It is not again noticed till the days of Jonah, when t is described (Jonah 3:3; 4:11) as a great and populous city, the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36; Isa. 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nah.1:14; 3:19, etc.). Zephaniah also (2:13-15) predicts its destruction along with the fall of the empire of which it was the capital. From this time there is no mention of it in Scripture till it is named in gospel history (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32). This "exceeding great city" lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities. Read Full Article

Nineveh in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Nimrod builded Nineveh (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 JONAH.) 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. Read Full Article

Heart Message

Ancient Nineveh

Capital of the Assyrian Empire

Nineveh, Assyria

The history of civilization is littered with the ruins of once proud and mighty cities. Nineveh was situated on the eastern side of the Tigris river just across from modern Mosul, Iraq's second largest city built on the western side of the Tigris. Without too much difficulty, one can find pictures of American soldiers exploring gates and ruins of Nineveh just like they took pictures in Babylon.

Nineveh took its turn as one of three cities to be the capital of Assyria, whose rule over Mesopotamia dates back to 2400 BC and was an incredible civilization that rose from humble beginnings into a fearsome empire that ruled much of known world until its fall in 612 BC. Because we read of the judgments upon Assyria we might tend to look upon them as some demon-possessed frothing people of whom nothing comes but evil. But the truth for Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire is true of every nation on earth. They had many kinds of people, subject to the cultural norms of the time, and doing the best they can to raise their children, survive and prosper. God through Jonah showed great mercy on its people because they repented hearing the word of God. (8th Century BC ) The Assyrians brought many scientific, philosophical and practical advances to humanity including many inventions that we take for granted today. Everyday most of us lock our doors when we leave the house, locks and keys were invented in Assyria. They also invented a system that kept time and ascribed 360 degrees to a circle. They are given credit for inventing paved roads, the first postal system, the first use of iron, the first libraries, the first plumbing, flush toilets and aqueducts. They came up with the first governmental administration of dividing of territories ruled by local governors reporting to a central authority.

The military rulers, as in many other nations, could be a brutal breed. They ruled their empire and subdued nations with absolute terror.

?I destroyed, I demolished, I burned. I took their warriors prisoner and impaled them on stakes before their cities. ?flayed the nobles, as many as had rebelled, and spread their skins out on the piles [of dead corpses]? many of the captives I burned in a fire. Many I took alive; from some I cut off their hands to the write, from other I cut off their noses, ears and fingers; I put out the eyes of many of the soldiers." (TimeFrame 1500-600 BC by Time-Life Books) Assyrian War Bulletin (1000 B.C.)
?I slew two hundred and sixty fighting men; I cut off their heads and made pyramids thereof. I slew one of every two. I built a wall before the great gates of the city; I flayed the chief men of the rebels, and I covered the wall with their skins. Some of them were enclosed alive in the bricks of the wall, some of them were crucified on stakes along the wall; I caused a great multitude of them to be flayed in my presence, and I covered the wall with their skins. I gathered together the heads in the form of crowns, and their pierced bodies in the form of garlands."

Every empire like every human life has an hour glass with grains of sand flowing through it and when judgment had come, the city was defeated by the next emerging empire in Babylon. We all should try to look past the 'normalcy' in our own nations and our own lives, because one day our nations will pass, one day our lives will end and the only thing left to us will be our relationship with God, standing either in our own righteousness, or in the righteousness provided as a free gift in Jesus Christ.

It is mercifully interesting to note that after the fall of Nineveh, the Assyrian people did not disappear, they were simply ruled by others. Assyrians were some of the first converts by the earlier church and they became a thriving Christian community sending missionaries through out the eastern world. Today there is still an Assyrian Church with an amazing history and communities throughout the world.

Nineveh in Naves Topical Bible

-Capitol of the Assyrian Empire
Ge 10:11,12

-Contained a population of upwards of one-hundred and twenty
thousand people, when Jonah preached
Jon 4:11

-Extent of
Jon 3:4

-Sennacherib in
2Ki 19:36,37; Isa 37:37,38

-Jonah preaches to
Jon 1:1,2; 3

-Nahum prophesies against
Na 1; 2; 3

-Zephaniah foretells the desolation of
Zep 2:13-15

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Bible Study Topics Related to Nineveh


-Capitol of the Assyrian Empire
Ge 10:11,12

-Contained a population of upwards of one-hundred and twenty thousand people, when Jonah preached
Jon 4:11


-King of Nineveh, in repenting, and proclaimimg a fast
Jon 3:6-9


At the city of Nineveh
Jon 4:8


-In Nineveh
Jon 3:4-10


-One of the minor prophets
-Prophesies against the Assyrians; declares the majesty of God and his care for his people
Na 1

-Foretells the destruction of Nineveh
Na 2; 3


-A prophet and poet who probably prophesied after the destruction of Nineveh
Hab 1:1;


-Also called JONAS
-A prophet of Israel
2Ki 14:25

-Sent by God to warn the city of Nineveh
Jon 1:1,2

-Brought Ninevites to repentance
Jon 3; Mt 12:41

-Displeased with God's mercy to Nineveh

The Bible Mentions Nineveh Often

Nahum 3:7 - And it shall come to pass, [that] all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?

Jonah 4:11 - And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and [also] much cattle?

Nahum 2:8 - But Nineveh [is] of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, [shall they cry]; but none shall look back.

Matthew 12:41 - The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here.

Jonah 3:7 - And he caused [it] to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

Jonah 3:4 - And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Jonah 3:6 - For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered [him] with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

Zephaniah 2:13 - And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, [and] dry like a wilderness.

Genesis 10:11 - Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah,

2 Kings 19:36 - So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.

Isaiah 37:37 - So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.

Jonah 3:2 - Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

Jonah 3:5 - So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

Nahum 1:1 - The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

Genesis 10:12 - And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same [is] a great city.

Jonah 1:2 - Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

Jonah 3:3 - So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.


Bible Study and Faith

"The Bible is the most priceless possession of the human race." - Henry H. Halley

"This handbook is dedicated to the proposition that every Christian should be a constant and devoted reader of the Bible, and that the primary business of the church and ministry is to lead, foster, and encourage their people in the habit."

"The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts."

"Great has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, daily study. I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the word of God." - George Muller

"I prayed for faith, and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the 10th chapter of Romans, 'Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since." - D. L. Moody

-H. H. Halley "Halley's Bible Handbook" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960) p. 4, 6


Archaeological Study of the Bible

"A substantial proof for the accuracy of the Old Testament text has come from archaeology. Numerous discoveries have confirmed the historical accuracy of the biblical documents, even down to the obsolete names of foreign kings... Rather than a manifestation of complete ignorance of the facts of its day, the biblical record thus reflects a great knowledge by the writer of his day, as well as precision in textual transmission."

-Norman L. Geisler, William Nix "A General Introduction to the Bible" 5th Edition (Chicago: Moody Press 1983) p. 253


Bibliography on Ancient Images

The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008

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