I’ve written before of how many parallels there are between the ancient Ninevites and their brutality, and today’s ISIS members and their terrorism. From the same region as Nineveh, Assyria now comes ISIS, which one of their own leaders called/calls himself “Prince of Nineveh.” We know that the ancient Assyrians did not worship God but were pagan.
The ancient Ninevites were so held in terror and fear, and so firmly did the hapless cities which lay in their path know this, that oftentimes all the Assyrians had to do is march to a city and announce to the besieged residents a list all the other cities they had conquered, and capitulation would ensue almost immediately. (2 Chronicles 32:18)
As for their gleeful, maniacal brutality, the ancient Assyrians used to push meathooks into the jaws of captured prisoners of war and march them back to Nineveh. Others, they threw off ramparts as a warning, or skinned them alive and hung the skins over the walls to graphically illustrate the penalty for opposing them. Ancient Ninevites were brutal, bringing new meaning to the word.
ISIS is the same. From the exact region of ancient Nineveh, we see a re-emergence of that same demonic spirit. One of gleeful brutality, of worship of satanic gods, of horror and shock. We see swords flashing, heads rolling, blood-stained beaches, children fleeing, houses burning. We see exultation amid the black hooded ISIS men, and we pray for the people in their path, just as sister cities Lachish (which was conquered by the Assyrians, 2 Kings 18; 2 Chronicles 32, Micah 1:13) and Jerusalem (which wasn’t, 2 Chronicles 32:1-33, 2 Kings 19:35) endured.
|Judean captives being led away into slavery by the Assyrians
after the siege of Lachish in 701 B.C.
But God loved the Ninevites.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2)
We know from the biblical account that Jonah did not do this. He fled in the other direction. Why, we’re never quite told. Perhaps Jonah was afraid. After all, no one likes having a meathook put in their jaw and being led across the desert sands as a captive. Perhaps Jonah had had family that was killed at Lachish or some other place. Perhaps Jonah was simply afraid. We do know that Jonah resented God’s version of justice. Salvation and repentance were not for the Ninevites, thought Jonah. “Why should they get it?” (Jonah 4:1)
|The ancient Assyrian royal city of Kalhu, The archaeological site of Nimrud
was known in antiquity as Kalhu (biblical Calah). It is located just to the east
of the Tigris river, in what is nowadays northern Iraq, some 30 km (roughly 20 miles)
south of the the modern city of Mosul. Although Nimrud is now a peaceful archaeological
site in the countryside, in ancient times Kalhu was a huge and bustling city. It served
as the capital of the mighty Assyrian empire for nearly 200 years, from the early 9th to
the late 8th century BC, but was also inhabited for many centuries before and after.
Soon, Jonah needed to repent for his disobedience and hope in the LORD’s mercy be extended to himself. And it was. God delivered Jonah from the great fish and then said a second time to go preach judgment, repentance and salvation to the Ninevites.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. (Jonah 3:1-3a)
The evil, brutal people heard the LORD in Jonah.
And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)
Starting with the King.
And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:7-10)
God loves the ISIS terrorists, the folks of modern day Nineveh (Mosul) and all pagan peoples. We know this because back in the day God did the best thing possible for them: He sent Jonah to preach judgment and righteousness to them so that they may know the LORD. Today He sends missionaries for the same reason.
And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
The main lesson of the book. If Jonah so pities a plant which cost him no toil to rear, and which is so short lived and valueless, much more must Jehovah pity those hundreds of thousands of immortal men and women in great Nineveh whom He has made with such a display of creative power, especially when many of them repent, and seeing that, if all in it were destroyed, “more than six score thousand” of unoffending children, besides “much cattle,” would be involved in the common destruction: Compare the same argument drawn from God’s justice and mercy in Gen 18:23–33.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
but the persons in Nineveh whom God had compassion on were all the work of his own hands, whose being he was the author of, whose lives he was the preserver of, whom he planted and made to grow; he made them, and his they were, and therefore he had much more reason to have compassion on them, for he cannot despise the work of his own hands (Job 10:3). … That though God may suffer his people to fall into sin, yet he will not suffer them to lie still in it, but will take a course effectually to show them their error, and to bring them to themselves and to their right mind again…That God will justify himself in the methods of his grace towards repenting returning sinners as well as in the course his justice takes with those that persist in their rebellion
Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible.
We can be a part of the effort to urge mercy rather than judgment. God loves and pities His wayward people, even the brutal ones.
there is one Lord over all, that is rich in mercy to all that call upon him, and in every nation, in Nineveh as well as in Israel, he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him; he that repents, and turns from his evil way, shall find mercy with him
Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible.