From it’s very inception, Nineveh was established as an expression of rebellion against God, and it’s foundation was laid in opposition to the commandments of God. We learn from Genesis 10:11 that Nimrod, after building the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar, went into Assyria and built Nineveh. Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord, following in the footsteps of the mighty men who lived before the flood (Gen 6:4,5) and whose every thought and intention was only evil continually. This is made evident by the stated purpose of those who desired to build the city and tower of Babel:
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
The very purpose of the city and it’s tower was the exaltation of man; a very prideful and arrogant act which not only dishonored the name of the Lord, but sought to supplant his rule and authority by disobeying his commission to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Those who proposed the building of Babel were lead forward in their rebellion by Nimrod, for Babel was the beginning of his kingdom (Genesis 10:10). The audacity of Nimrod is demonstrated in his mightiness before the Lord. Not only did he have wicked thoughts and intentions of heart, but he flaunted his apostasy in the face of God. He built city after city in opposition to the command of God, and yet after he had built four cities, he could not rest until he had traveled to Assyria and continued his humanistic campaign by building Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen.
Babel was the forerunner of Nineveh, and it was Babel’s vision of exulting man and it’s purpose of supplanting the rule of God that were summarily adopted by Nineveh. Hence, we find that from it’s very foundation, Nineveh was established for the purpose of drawing people away from the knowledge and worship of the one true God. It was established with the intention of preventing obedience to God, and insisting on the idea that man’s unity secures prosperity. It’s cornerstone was laid on the doctrine of humanism—the deification of man!
The self-asserted and pompous attempt of any civil government to supplant the rule of God by establishing a social order that is in rebellion to God’s revealed will is regarded as folly in the eyes of the Lord. Psalm 2 demonstrates the foolishness of kings and rulers who take counsel against the Lord by declaring that “He who sits in the heavens laughs” at their plots and councils. The Lord proclaims “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Jesus Christ, as the ruler of kings on earth, does not concede one bit of his sovereign lordship to any other king, but has been given a rod of iron to break those nations who rebel.
The Book of Nahum clearly sets forth the rebellion of Nineveh as a city that has positioned herself against the Lord as his enemy and his adversary (1:2). Nineveh was a city that plotted evil against the Lord (1:9,11) and practiced unceasing evil (3:19). Sennacherib, king of Assyria, (whose capital was Nineveh) sent his messenger Rabshakeh to Hezekiah king of Judah to mock the living God (2 Kings 19:4, Isaiah 37:4) and boast of his defiance against the Lord (2 Kings 18:28,33–35, Isaiah 19:13,18–20). As a testimony to her own strength, Nineveh exulted herself and uttered a declaration of her own divinity; “I am, and there is no one else.” (Zephaniah 2:15)
This self assertion of divinity laid the foundation for building a social order that was at war with the law of God. It established a rule of ethics that was built on man’s reason, void of Biblical revelation, and thereby setting the basis for justifying all kinds of evil: drunkenness (1:10, 3:11), idolatry (1:14), cursing (2:13), murder (3:1), lying (3:1), theft (3:1), prostitution (3:4), and apathetic indifference among rulers (3:18).
Because of Nineveh’s unceasing evil, the Lord declares numerous times that he is against Nineveh (2:13, 3:5) and that she is an enemy (1:2) and an adversary (1:2,8). The culmination of God’s disgust with Nineveh is found in the great woe that describes her as “the bloody city” (3:1). This description is absolutely fitting because of the horrific murders that took place during her prominence. The first reference of these murders are those performed by the worshipers of Adrammelech who sacrificed their children in the fire out of devotion to this false god (2 Kings 17:31). King Sennacherib’s devotion to this false god is demonstrated by his son bearing this god’s very name (2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38). The second act of murder that is perpetrated in Nineveh is the horrific, disgusting, and unimaginable act of Adrammelech and Sharezer who struck down their own father Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38). Hence, the depiction of Nineveh as the bloody city is most fitting, and the graphic picture described by Nahum of a city of dead bodies without end that causes the attacking horses to stumble is horrifyingly accurate (3:3). Nineveh is the city where fathers kill their sons, and sons kill their fathers.
There is a second aspect to the woe that is pronounced upon Nineveh, and that is in relation to her whoring and prostitution (3:4). Nineveh was a city of sexual fornication, and thus a city that was at war with God’s fundamental institution; the family. The family unit, according to the decree of God, is composed of a husband and wife who raise up a godly seed and advance the kingdom of God over all the earth (Genesis 2:26–28). This family unit is a picture of Jesus Christ and his bride; the church (Ephesians 5:32). When men and women commit sexual immorality, they are distorting and polluting the image of Christ and his bride. This assault against Christ is thereby grounds for God to shame Nineveh (3:5) and treat her with contempt (3:6).
Because Nineveh took what God calls wickedness and turned it into something graceful and charming (3:4) God made Nineveh a spectacle that all who will look upon will shrink away from (3:6,7). As a result of these atrocities that Nineveh perpetrated against the Lord, she was made a desolation and laid waste like a desert (Zephaniah 2:13–15).
Yet, Nineveh was not destroyed by God’s wrath without being shown mercy. God summoned the prophet Jonah to call out against that great city because their evil had come up before the Lord (Jonah 1:2). This call was a decree of judgment that would come upon the city for the great evil therein (3:4). This message alerted the people of Nineveh to the punishment and consequences of sin, and upon hearing this message, they believed God (3:5) and turned from their evil ways (3:10). The people of Nineveh humbled themselves before the Lord by fasting and putting on sackcloth (3:5). Likewise the king of Nineveh upon hearing of the judgment of God and recognizing his failure to establish justice in the land, removed himself from his throne (3:6). He humbled himself by replacing his vesture of authority with sackcloth and placing himself in submission to God issued a decree that every man was to fast, call out mightily to God, and turn from his violent and evil ways (3:6).
This king upon hearing the message of judgment from God turned the city of Nineveh away from the path of destruction. He became a king of wisdom by taking the warning of God seriously (Psalm 2:10). The salvation of his city was secured by his taking refuge in and kissing the Son (Psalm 2:11,12). He submitted to God’s Word and was spared destruction. Because the men of Nineveh humbled themselves before God and repented of their evil ways, they will stand at the judgment and condemn the Jewish generation that crucified the Lord (Luke 11:29–32).
The history of Nineveh ought to be a sobering realization for my generation. Nineveh was founded and established in rebellion to the Lord, yet God was merciful and relented from destroying her when the people repented and turned from their evil ways. Even so, just a few generations after the repentance of Nineveh, she returns to her founding principle of rebellion. This time God does not withhold his judgment, and Nineveh was so utterly destroyed that for over a thousand years there was seemingly no evidence that Nineveh had ever existed.
My generation must be alerted to the reality that we see the very same reprehensible practices that were found in Nineveh being practiced today; abortion, euthanasia, sexual immorality, perverted justice, dishonoring of parents, etc.. God will not allow this rebellion to continue forever. We must call out against the evil in our land, summon men to believe the gospel, and submit to the authority of God’s Word. Only then will God relent from his judgment.