thousands of cuneiform tablets from Ashurbanipal’s library and the ruins of the palace of Sennacherib and that of Ashurbanipal. These palaces were impressive structures. Based on his findings, Sir Austen Henry Layard wrote:
“The interior of the Assyrian palace must have been as magnificent as imposing. I have led the reader through its ruins, and he may judge of the impression its halls were calculated to make upon the stranger who in the days of old, entered for the first time the abode of the Assyrian kings. He was ushered in through the portal guarded by the colossal lions or bulls of white alabaster. In the first hall he found himself surrounded by the sculptured records of the empire. Battles, sieges, triumphs, the exploits of the chase, the ceremonies of religion, were portrayed on the walls, sculptured in alabaster, and painted in gorgeous colors. Under each picture were engraved, in characters filled up with bright copper, inscriptions describing the scenes presented. Above the sculptures were painted other events—the king, attended by his eunuchs and warriors, receiving his prisoners, entering into alliances with other monarchs, or performing some sacred duty. These representations were inclosed in colored borders, of elaborate and elegant design. The emblematic tree, winged bulls, and monstrous animals, were conspicuous amongst the ornaments. At the upper end of the hall was the colossal figure of the king in adoration before the supreme deity, or receiving from his eunuch the holy cup. He was attended by warriors bearing his arms, and by the priests or presiding divinities. His robes, and those of his followers, were adorned with groups of figures, animals, and flowers, all painted with brilliant colors.
“The stranger trod upon alabaster slabs, each bearing an inscription, recording the titles, genealogy, and achievements of the great king. Several doorways, formed by gigantic winged lions or bulls, or by the figures of guardian deities, led into other apartments, which again opened into more distant halls. In each were new sculptures. On the walls of some were processions of colossal figures—armed men and eunuchs following the king, warriors laden with spoil, leading prisoners, or bearing presents and offerings to the gods. On the walls of others were portrayed the winged priests, or presiding divinities, standing before the sacred trees.
“The ceilings above him were divided into square compartments, painted with flowers, or with the figures of animals. Some were inlaid with ivory, each compartment being surrounded by elegant borders and mouldings. The beams, as well as the sides of the chambers, may have been gilded, or even plated, with gold and silver; and the rarest woods, in which the cedar was conspicuous, were used for the woodwork. Square openings in the ceilings of the chambers admitted the light of day.”—Nineveh and Its Remains, Part II, pp. 207-209.
IN THE TIME OF JONAH
Jehovah’s prophet Jonah, in the ninth century B.C.E., declared impending doom for Nineveh because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. However, since the people, including the king, repented, Jehovah spared the city. (Jonah 1:1, 2; 3:2, 5-10) At that time Nineveh was a great city, “with a walking distance of three days.” (Jonah 3:3) Its population numbered more than 120,000 men. (Jonah 4:11) This Biblical description is not controverted by archaeological evidence indicating that Nineveh had a circumference of about eight miles (13 kilometers). Observes André Parrot, Curator-in-Chief of the French National Museums:
“Just as today, that part of London which lies within its ancient boundary is very different from what is called ‘greater London’—a term which includes the suburbs and denotes a much larger area—so it may be that people who lived far away from Assyria understood by the word ‘Nineveh’ what is now known as ‘the Assyrian triangle’ . . . , which stretches from Khorsabad in the north to Nimrud in the south, and, with an almost unbroken string of settlements, covers a distance of some twenty-six miles. . . .
“Felix Jones estimated that the population of Nineveh might have numbered 174,000 persons, and quite recently, in his excavations at Nimrud, M. E. L. Mallowan discovered a stele of Ashurnazirpal on which it is recorded that he invited to a banquet the fabulous number of 69,574 guests. Mallowan considers that, allowing for foreigners, the population of Kalakh (Nimrud) might have been 65,000. But Nineveh is twice the area of Nimrud, and thus it may be reckoned that the figure in Jonah 4.11 is indirectly confirmed.”—Nineveh and the Old Testament, pp. 85, 86; see JONAH No. 1; JONAH, BOOK OF.
ITS DESTRUCTION FULFILLS PROPHECY
Although repenting at the preaching of Jonah (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:30, 32), the Ninevites relapsed and again took to their wicked ways. It was some years after Assyrian King Sennacherib had been murdered at Nineveh in the house of his god Nisroch (2 Ki. 19:36, 37; Isa. 37:37, 38) that Nahum (1:1; 2:8–3:19) and Zephaniah (2:13-15) foretold the destruction of that wicked city. Their prophecies were fulfilled when the combined forces of Nabopolassar the king of Babylon and of Cyaxares the Mede besieged and captured Nineveh. The city was evidently subjected to burning, for many Assyrian reliefs show damage or stain from fire and accompanying smoke. With reference to Nineveh, the Babylonian Chronicles report: “The great spoil of the city and temple they carried off and [turned] the city into a ruin-mound.” To this day Nineveh is a desolate waste and, in the spring, flocks graze near or atop the mound of Quyunjiq.
DATE OF NINEVEH’S FALL
Though effaced from the extant cuneiform tablet that relates the fail of Nineveh, the date for this event, the fourteenth year of Nabopolassar, can be supplied from the context. It is also possible to place the destruction of Nineveh in the framework of Bible chronology. According to the Babylonian Chronicles, the Egyptians were defeated at Carchemish in the twenty-first year of Nabopolassar’s reign. The Bible shows this to have taken place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign or in 625 B.C.E. (Jer. 46:2) Therefore, the capture of Nineveh (about seven years earlier) in the fourteenth year of Nabopolassar’s reign would fall in the year 632 B.C.E.—See ASSYRIA.
The postexilic name of the first Jewish lunar month of the sacred calendar, corresponding to part of March and part of April. (Neh. 2:1; Esther 3:7) This month, first called “Abib,” was originally considered the seventh month and is evidently the month referred to at Genesis 8:4. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Jehovah assigned this month to be the “first of the months of the year.” (Ex. 12:2; 13:4; Num. 33:3) From then on, the distinction existed of a sacred calendar instituted by Jehovah as compared to the previous secular calendar. The name “Nisan” is believed to mean “start” or “beginning.”—See CALENDAR; ABIB.
The weather was often quite cool during this spring month and, in Jerusalem, fires were lit at night to provide warmth. (John 18:18) Snow has even fallen in Jerusalem as late as April 6, as it did in 1949. Nisan came at the close of the rainy season, and the latter or spring rains were counted on to bring the grain to fullness prior to the harvest. (Deut. 11:14; Hos. 6:3; Jer. 5:24) At this time of the year the Jordan River was normally at flood stage. (Josh. 3:15; 1 Chron. 12:15) The barley harvest began along the coastal plains, and down in the subtropical Jordan Valley the wheat was reaching maturity. (Ruth 1:22; 2:23) Harvested flax on Rahab’s rooftop in Jericho provided a place for the Israelite spies to hide about this time.—Josh. 2:6; 4:19.