Let me quickly introduce you to some of great cities of the Assyrian empire. The one you are looking at right now, is called Nimrud. In the Bible it is called Calah.
The French discovered the ancient capital of Sargon II north of Nineveh. He was responsible for taking the ten tribes of Israel into captivity in 722 BC.
Nineveh was of course the most important of the four major cities. In 612 BC it was totally destroyed by Astyages, king of the Medes from Ecbatana. Nabopolasser and his son Nebuchadnezzar were part of the coalition.
The city of Assur was the home of the god of war. Before the Assyrian kings went out to war, they came here to consult with Assur. He usually gave them permission to do so.
For three hundred years the Assyrians kings went out to war on a yearly basis. But then something strange happened. It was
A moratorium was placed on war during the reign of king Adad-Nirari III.
This was unusual. But another strange thing also happened. He introduced a monotheistic religion.
The Assyrians worshipped many gods but now they were told to only worship one god. How does one explain this strange phenomenon? Let’s read a verse from the Bible:
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.
When I walked amongst the ruins I could almost hear the prophet Jonah proclaiming the word of the Lord. It was the most successful evangelistic campaign ever recorded.
Jonah gives us the following report:
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.
It’s quite an experience to stand next to these Assyrian bulls with human heads. They represented the power of this mighty nation.
Who do you think took the lead in the religious awakening in Nineveh?
Verse 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.
What a statement. He left his mighty throne and descended to the ashes of repentance. One day in heaven I want to meet Adad-Nirari III and listen to his conversion story.
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:
When I studied about the history of Adad-Nirari II thought of the decree he passed on fasting. Maybe one day we will discover more about this incidence.
I like the following statement by the king:
Jonah 3:8-9 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
How did God respond to the king’s conversion and his plea for mercy?
Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
If God could change cruel Assyrians to kind Assyrians, He can do the same for you and me.
If there is a little hatred, a little cruelty, a little indifference in your heart, please ask the God of Johan’s time to do it for you. He is still the same.