Iraq In The Bible
Part 5 – The World’s Greatest Revival Was In Iraq
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 1/29/03
We have seen that many vital Biblical events took place in the area now called Iraq. In this study, we will see that…
For years, many who professed to be Bible scholars (though they did not believe what the Bible said), questioned the existence of Nineveh. All that changed when A. H. Layard and H. Rassam uncovered Nineveh between 1845 and 1854. In fact, as they excavated, they established the fact that the area had been occupied since 3100 B.C.
Nineveh was the greatest of the capitals of the ancient Assyrian Empire, which flourished from about 800 to 612 B.C. It was located on the left bank of the Tigris River in northeastern Mesopotamia (Iraq today). There are some who claim that Nimrod founded this city. In order to pull this off, they do some slight of hand with Genesis 10:8-12 "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, 12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city." In verse 11 they add an into and claim Asshur is actually Assyria, making it read like this – "Out of that land went forth into Asshuria, and builded Nineveh…"I hold that Nineveh was founded by Asshur, just at it is written in the King James Bible – "Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah." The key Bible event that took place at the city is recorded in the book of Jonah. The greatest revival the world has ever known took place there. Jonah was active in the reign of Jeroboam II (about 785-745 B.C.) so this would be the era in which this revival took place. Nineveh was a "great city." The 40 to 50 foot city wall had fifteen main gates. We see from Jonah 3:3 that it took three days to walk around the city… "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." As I read about this ancient authors disagree on the population. I have read population figures as low as 500,000 and as high as 4 million. We do know for sure that there were 120,000 young children in the city…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?" There are those, among myself, who believe that the phrase "cannot discern between their right hand and their left…" is a metaphor for not being able to tell the difference between right and wrong. Obviously young children are in focus.
You should know that Assyria was an utterly pagan nation and Nineveh, being the capital city, was in the forefront. They worshipped the fertility goddess Ishtar (Asherah) whose symbol was an erect tree trunk with an evergreen top. You still see Asherah poles through Europe today and young girls still dance around them on May Day.
To make a long story short, Jonah was a prophet of the LORD God of heaven. Turn to Jonah 1:1-2 "Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."
The problem was, Jonah did not want to go and preach to the people in that Iraqi city. He did not want them to repent of their wickedness! He wanted God to destroy the inhabitance (Jonah 4:2b). Therefore he ran away to Tarshish. Most likely the geographic designation of Tarshish is Tartessus at the southern tip of Spain. You will remember what happened then.
Jonah 1:17 "Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
Jonah 2:10 "And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."
Jonah 3:1-2 "And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee."
In fact, Jonah did go and preach to those who lived in the city and told them they only had forty days to repent or be destroyed. We can see that the citizens of the city, from the greatest to the least did repent and turn to God. Therefore the Lord spared the city (Jonah 3). All this took place in Iraq.
About a century and a half after Nineveh repented, the city was destroyed because it had gone back to its old violent and pagan ways (in 612 B.C.). Nahum was the prophet of Nineveh’s doom. He begins in verse 1 with this statement: "The burden of Nineveh." That is a general reference to the coming judgment against Nineveh that God reveals to Nahum. Nahum 2:13, 3:1a & 5-7 makes it explicit -- "Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard. 3:1 Woe to the bloody city… 5 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. 6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock. 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?"
In this era Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. Assyria was the scourge of the nations; every nation feared her and tried to win her approval. Assyria was a ruthless enemy that practiced brutality on men, women, and children. Their armies destroyed and looted; they buried their enemies alive and even skinned them alive; they impaled people on sharp poles and left them to burn in the sun. Assyria had been used of God to chasten the Northern Kingdom of Israel; that happened in 721 B.C. In 701 B.C., the Assyrians tried to conquer Judah, but God intervened and destroyed their army (Isaiah 36-37). Finally in 612 B.C., the Medes and the Babylonians destroyed Nineveh and the destruction was so complete that the ruins of the city remained undiscovered until 1842. Remember, Nineveh was in what is today called Iraq.
So, there you have it. Many of the events recorded in the Bible took place in Iraq.
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