Jonah 1:2
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
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(2) Nineveh, that great city.—The size of Nineveh is throughout the book brought into prominent notice. (See Jonah 3:2-3; Jonah 4:11.) The traditions preserved in Greek and Roman writers dwell on the same feature; and modern researches among the huge mounds scattered along the left bank of the Tigris more than confirm the impression produced on the ancient world by the city, or rather group of cities, buried beneath them. (Comp. Genesis 10:11.)

Cry.—A common word for a proclamation by a herald or a prophet. (Comp. Isaiah 40:6, &c.) The English word, in the sense of “proclaim,” lingers in the term “public crier.”

For their wickedness is come up before me.—“Every iniquity has its own voice at the hidden judgment seat of God” (S. Gregory, Mor. v. 20; quoted by Pusey). But, as Pusey remarks, the Hebrew implies especially evil-doing against others, that violence which in Jonah 3:8 is recognised by the Ninevites themselves as their characteristic sin.

1:1-3. It is sad to think how much sin is committed in great cities. Their wickedness, as that of Nineveh, is a bold and open affront to God. Jonah must go at once to Nineveh, and there, on the spot, cry against the wickedness of it. Jonah would not go. Probably there are few among us who would not have tried to decline such a mission. Providence seemed to give him an opportunity to escape; we may be out of the way of duty, and yet may meet with a favourable gale. The ready way is not always the right way. See what the best of men are, when God leaves them to themselves; and what need we have, when the word of the Lord comes to us, to have the Spirit of the Lord to bring every thought within us into obedience.Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city - The Assyrian history, as far as it has yet been discovered, is very bare of events in regard to this period. We have as yet the names of three kings only for 150 years. But Assyria, as far as we know its history, was in its meridian. Just before the time of Jonah, perhaps ending in it, were the victorious reigns of Shalmanubar and Shamasiva; after him was that of Ivalush or Pul, the first aggressor upon Israel. It is clear that this was a time Of Assyrian greatness: since God calls it "that great city," not in relation to its extent only, but its power. A large weak city would not have been called a "great city unto God" Jonah 3:3.

And cry against it - The substance of that cry is recorded afterward, but God told to Jonah now, what message he was to cry aloud to it. For Jonah relates afterward, how he expostulated now with God, and that his expostulation was founded on this, that God was so merciful that He would not fulfill the judgment which He threatened. Faith was strong in Jonah, while, like Apostles "the sons of thunder," before the Day of Pentecost, he knew not" what spirit he was of." Zeal for the people and, as he doubtless thought, for the glory of God, narrowed love in him. He did not, like Moses, pray Exodus 32:32, "or else blot me also out of Thy book," or like Paul, desire even to be "an anathema from Christ" Romans 9:3 for his people's sake, so that there might be more to love his Lord. His zeal was directed, like that of the rebuked Apostles, against others, and so it too was rebuked. But his faith was strong. He shrank back from the office, as believing, not as doubting, the might of God. He thought nothing of preaching, amid that multitude of wild warriors, the stern message of God. He was willing, alone, to confront the violence of a city of 600,000, whose characteristic was violence. He was ready, at God's bidding, to enter what Nahum speaks of as a den of lions Nahum 2:11-12; "The dwelling of the lions and the feeding-place of the young lions, where the lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses." He feared not the fierceness of their lion-nature, but God's tenderness, and lest that tenderness should be the destruction of his own people.

Their wickedness is come up before Me - So God said to Cain, Genesis 4:10. "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground:" and of Sodom Genesis 18:20 :21, "The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, because their sin is very grievous; the cry of it is come up unto Me." The "wickedness" is not the mere mass of human sin, of which it is said 1 John 5:19, "the whole world lieth in wickedness," but evil-doing toward others. This was the cause of the final sentence on Nineveh, with which Nahum closes his prophecy, "upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?" It bad been assigned as the ground of the judgment on Israel through Nineveh Hosea 10:14-15. "So shall Bethel do unto you, on account of the wickedness of your wickedness." It was the ground of the destruction by the flood Genesis 6:5. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth." God represents Himself, the Great Judge, as sitting on His Throne in heaven, Unseen but All-seeing, to whom the wickedness and oppressiveness of man against man "goes up," appealing for His sentence against the oppressor. The cause seems ofttimes long in pleading. God is long-suffering with the oppressor too, that if so be, he may repent. So would a greater good come to the oppressed also, if the wolf became a lamb. But meanwhile, " every iniquity has its own voice at the hidden judgment seat of God." Mercy itself calls for vengeance on the unmerciful.

2. to Nineveh—east of the Tigris, opposite the modern Mosul. The only case of a prophet being sent to the heathen. Jonah, however, is sent to Nineveh, not solely for Nineveh's good, but also to shame Israel, by the fact of a heathen city repenting at the first preaching of a single stranger, Jonah, whereas God's people will not repent, though preached to by their many national prophets, late and early. Nineveh means "the residence of Ninus," that is, Nimrod. Ge 10:11, where the translation ought to be, "He (Nimrod) went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh." Modern research into the cuneiform inscriptions confirms the Scripture account that Babylon was founded earlier than Nineveh, and that both cities were built by descendants of Ham, encroaching on the territory assigned to Shem (Ge 10:5, 6, 8, 10, 25).

great city—four hundred eighty stadia in circumference, one hundred fifty in length, and ninety in breadth [Diodorus Siculus, 2.3]. Taken by Arbaces the Mede, in the reign of Sardanapalus, about the seventh year of Uzziah; and a second time by Nabopolassar of Babylon and Cyaxares the Mede in 625 B.C. See on [1147]Jon 3:3.

cry—(Isa 40:6; 58:1).

come up before me—(Ge 4:10; 6:13; 18:21; Ezr 9:6; Re 18:5); that is, their wickedness is so great as to require My open interposition for punishment.

Arise; forthwith prepare thyself, and get all in readiness, and with hearty resolution set upon the work.

Go; so soon as thou art ready, set forward on thy journey, make not any delay.

Nineveh; the chief city or metropolis of the Assyrian kingdom, built by Asshur, Genesis 10:11, if that verse be not better translated thus, He (i.e. Nimrod) went out into Assyria, and builded Nineveh; so Nimrod was the founder and first builder.

That great city: it may be easily conjectured a great city which was situate on such a river as Tigris is, had continued so many hundred years, from A.M. 1119, in which it was built, unto 3124, about which time Jonah was sent to preach against it; during which long growth it may be conceived as great as it is ordinarily described, one hundred and fifty furlongs in length, that is, eighteen miles and three quarters of our English measure, and eleven miles and one quarter of the same measure in breadth.

Cry against it; earnestly and publicly preach against the sins, and denounce the sudden ruin of that city unless they repent; so cry that all may hear, or at least all may come to the knowledge of what is threatened.

For their wickedness is come up before me: their many and great sins, as it is said of Cain’s sin when he had slain Abel, Genesis 4:10, and Sodom’s sins, Genesis 18:20,21, and the sins of oppressors, Jam 5:4, cry aloud, the cry enters heaven, and justice must no longer defer; yet I will give them warning; Jonah, go thou, and tell them plainly, their great sins shall be greatly punished. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city,.... That is, arise from the place where he was, and leave the business he was about, and prepare for a long journey to the place mentioned, and be as expeditious in it as possible. Nineveh was the metropolis of the Assyrian empire at this time; it was an ancient city built by Ashur, not by Nimrod; though he by some is said to go into Ashur or Assyria, and build it, Genesis 10:11; and called it after the name of his son Ninus; for it signifies the mansion or palace of Ninus; and by most profane writers is called Ninus; according to Diodorus Siculus (m), and Strabo (n), it was built by Ninus himself in Assyria, in that part of it called by him Adiabena. It is said to be a great city, as it must, to be three days' journey in compass, and to have in it six score thousand infants, besides men and women, Jonah 3:3. It is allowed by Strabo (o) to be larger than Babylon. Diodorus (p) says that it was in compass of sixty miles; and had a wall a hundred feet high, and so broad that three chariots or carriages might go abreast upon it; and it had, fifteen hundred towers, two hundred feet high. Aben Ezra calls it the royal city of Assyria, which is at this day destroyed; and the wise men of Israel, in the country of Greece, say it is called Urtia; but, whether so or not, he knew not:

and cry against it; or prophesy against it, as the Targum; he was to lift up his voice, and cry aloud, as he passed along in it, that the inhabitants might hear him; and the more to affect them, and to show that he was in earnest, and what he delivered was interesting to them, and of the greatest moment and importance: what he was to cry, preach, or publish, see Jonah 3:2;

for their wickedness is come up before me; it was come to a very great height; it reached to the heavens; it was not only seen and known by the Lord, as all things are; but the cry of it was come up to him; it called aloud for vengeance, for immediate vengeance; the measure of it being filled up, and the inhabitants ripe for destruction; it was committed openly and boldly, with much impudence, in the sight of the Lord, as well as against him; and was no more to be suffered and connived at: it intends and includes their idolatry, bloodshed, oppression, rapine, fraud, and lying; see Jonah 3:8.

(m) Bibliothec. l 2. p. 92. (n) Geograph. l. 16. p. 507. (o) Ut supra. (Geograph. l. 16. p. 507.) (p) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 92.

Arise, go to {b} Nineveh, that {c} great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

(b) For seeing the great obstipation of the Israelites, he sent his Prophet to the Gentiles, that they might provoke them to repentance, or at least make them inexcusable: for Nineveh was the chief city of the Assyrians.

(c) For as authors write, it contained in circuit about forty-eight miles, and had 1500 towers, and at this time there were 120,000 children in it; Jon 4:11.

2. Nineveh] On the E. bank of the Tigris, the capital of the ancient kingdom and empire of Assyria, and “the most magnificent of all the capitals of the ancient world.” The building of it is mentioned as early as Genesis 10:11. In the time of Jonah it appears to have been at the zenith of its glory.

that great city] See note on c. Jonah 3:3, and Note B.


It is evidently the design of the writer of this Book to give prominence to the vast size of Nineveh. when he speaks of it, it is with the constant addition, “the great city,” (Jonah 1:2; Jonah 3:2; Jonah 4:11), and the addition is justified by the statements that it was “great to God,” that it was a city “of three days’ journey,” and that it contained “more than sixscore thousand persons unable to discern between their right hand and their left, and also much cattle” (Jonah 4:11). In seeking to verify this description and to identify, with some reasonable degree of probability, the Nineveh of Jonah, we have first to determine what is meant by the expression “a city of three days’ journey.” It has been held that the “three days’ journey” describes the time that would be occupied in traversing the city from end to end; along “the ‘high street’ representing the greatest length or ‘the diameter’ of the town, which ran from one principal gate to the opposite extremity.” (Kalisch.) But unless we are prepared to regard the “figures given in the text” as “the natural hyperboles of a writer who lived long after the virtual destruction of the city, and who, moreover, was anxious to enhance the impressiveness of his story and lesson, by dwelling on the vastness of the population whose fate depended on their moral regeneration” (Ib.), we shall find it difficult to accept the gratuitous assumption that Nineveh is here described as a city “about fifty-five English miles in diameter,” with a “high street” fifty-five miles long. Nor is it more satisfactory to suppose that by a city of three days’ journey is meant a city which it would require three days to go all over. No intelligible idea of size could possibly be conveyed by such a definition. Adopting, then, the more reasonable view that the “three days’ journey” refers to the circumference of the city, and estimating a day’s journey at about twenty miles, we have Nineveh here described as comprising a circuit of about sixty miles. Whether this large area was inclosed by continuous walls we cannot certainly say. One ancient writer, indeed, (Diodorus Siculus) asserts that it was, and that the walls were “100 feet high, and broad enough for three chariots to drive abreast upon” (Dict. of Bible, Article Nineveh); and he, moreover, gives the dimensions of the city as an irregular quadrangle of about 60 miles in circuit. But without relying too much upon his testimony, which may be regarded as doubtful, we may conclude that an area such as has been described was sufficiently marked out to be known and spoken of as the city of Nineveh. This vast area was not, however, completely covered as in the case of our own cities, with streets and squares and buildings. That was a feature unusual, and almost unknown, in the ancient cities of the East. It was perhaps the feature which, belonging to Jerusalem by virtue of the deep ravines by which it was surrounded, and which “determined its natural boundaries,” and prevented its spreading abroad after the fashion of other oriental cities, called forth the surprise and admiration of the Jews after their return from Babylon. “Jerusalem,” they exclaim, “(unlike Babylon where we so long have dwelt) is built as a city which is compact together.” Like Babylon, Nineveh included not only parks and paradises, but fields under tillage and pastures for “much cattle” (Jonah 4:11) in its wide embrace. The most probable site of the city thus defined will be seen by reference to the accompanying plan. It lies on the eastern bank of the Tigris in the fork formed by that river and the Ghazr Su and Great Zab, just above their confluence. The whole of this district abounds in heaps of ruins. Indeed, “they are found,” it is said, “in vast numbers throughout the whole region watered by the Tigris and Euphrates and their confluents, from the Taurus to the Persian Gulf.” “Such mounds,” it is added, “are especially numerous in the region to the east of the Tigris, in which Nineveh stood, and some of them must mark the ruins of the Assyrian capital.” (Dict. of the Bible.) Four of these great masses of ruins, which will be found marked on the plan, Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Karamless, Khorsabad, form together an irregular parallelogram of very similar dimensions to those mentioned in the text. From Kouyunjik (lying opposite Mosul) on the Eastern bank of the Tigris, a line drawn in a S. E. direction, parallel to the course of the river, to Nimrud is about eighteen miles. From Nimrud, in a northerly direction, to Karamless is about twelve. The opposite sides of the parallelogram, from Karamless to the most northerly point Khorsabad, and from Khorsabad to Kouyunjik again, are about the same. These four vast piles of buildings, with the area included in the parallelogram which they form, are now generally identified with the site of the Nineveh which Jonah visited. For fuller particulars the reader is referred to Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Article Nineveh, and to the well-known works of Mr Layard and Professor Rawlingson.Verse 2. - Nineveh, the capital of the kingdom of Assyria, is first mentioned in Genesis 10:11, as founded by Nimrod. It stood on the left bank of the river Tigris, where it is joined by the Khosr, opposite to the present town of Mosul. The Assyrians had already become known in Syria. In B.C. 854 Shal-maneser II. had defeated at Karkar twelve kings confederate against him, among whom is reckoned Ahab King of Israel. Long before his time, Tiglath-Pileser I. had made a great expedition to the west, captured a town at the foot of Lebanon, and reached the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Jehu was compelled to pay tribute to the Assyrians; and Rimmon-nirari, who reigned from B.C. 810 to 781, held the suzerainty of Phoenicia, Samaria, Edom, and Philistia. Jonah, therefore, knew well what his country might expect at the hands of this people. That great city. It is thus called in Jonah 3:2, 3; Jonah 4:11; and the epithet is added here in order to show to Jonah the importance of his mission. The size of Nineveh is variously estimated according to the sense attached to the name "Nineveh." This appellation may be restricted to Nineveh proper, or it may comprise the four cities which lay close together in the immediate neighbourhood of each other, and whose remains are now known as the mounds of Kouyunjik, on the southwest, directly opposite to Mosul; Nimrud, about eighteen miles to the southeast; Karamless, twelve miles to the north; and Khorsabad, the most northerly, about the same distance both from Karamless and Kouyunjik. Khorsabad, however, was not built till some hundred years after Jonah's time (Schrader, 'Keilinschr.,' p. 448). These cities are contained in an irregular parallelogram of some sixty miles in circumference. The following account of Nineveh proper is derived from Professor Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:252, etc.: "The ruins consist of two principal mounds, Nebbiyunus and Kouyunjik. The Kouyunjik mound, which lies nearly half a mile northwest of the others, is very much the more considerable of the two. Its shape is an irregular oval, elongated to a point towards the northeast. The surface is nearly flat; the sides slope at a steep angle, and are furrowed with numerous ravines worn in the soft material by the rains of some thirty centuries. The greatest height above the plain is ninety feet, and the area is estimated at a hundred acres. It is an artificial eminence, computed to contain 14,500,000 tons of earth, and on it were erected the palaces and temples of the Assyrian monarchs. The mound of Nebbi-yunus is at its base nearly triangular, and covers an area of nearly forty acres. It is loftier, and its sides are more precipitous than Kouyunjik, especially on the west, where it abutted on the wall of the city. The mass of earth is calculated at six and a half millions of tons. These two vast mounds are both in the same line, and abutted on the western wall of the city, which was some two and a half miles in length. Anciently it seems to have immediately overhung the Tigris, but the river has now receded to the west, leaving a plain of nearly a mile in width between its bank and the old rampart which evidently once followed the course of the river bank. The western wall is joined at fight angles by the northern rampart which runs in a straight line for seven thousand feet. At its other extremity the western wall forms a very obtuse angle with the southern, which impends over a deep ravine, and runs in a straight line for about a thousand yards, when it meets the eastern wall, which is the longest and the least regular of the four. The entire length of this side is sixteen thousand feet, or above three miles. It is divided into two portions by. the Stream of the Khosr-su; which, coming from the northwest, finds its way through the city and then across the low plain to the Tigris. The town is thus of an oblong shape, and the circuit of its walls is somewhat less than eight miles, and the area which they include is eighteen hundred acres. This, at the computation of something less than one hundred inhabitants per acre, would ascribe to Nineveh a population of one hundred and seventy-five thousand souls" (Rawlinson, 'Anc. Men.,' 1. ch. 1). Cry against it. The message is given in Jonah 3:4. Thus the knowledge of the true God is made known among the Gentiles. Their wickedness; i.e., as Pusey notes, their evil doing towards others, as in Nahum 3:19 (see Introduction, § I.). Is come up before me, and appeals for punishment, as Genesis 4:10; Genesis 18:20, 21; Septuagint, Ἀνέβη ἡ κραυγή τῆς κακίας αὐτής πρὸς μέ, "The cry of its wickedness is come up unto me." Judah. - Amos 2:4. "Thus saith Jehovah: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I shall not reverse it, because they have despised the law of Jehovah, and have not kept His ordinances, and their lies led them astray, after which their fathers walked, Amos 2:5. I send fire into Judah, and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem." With the announcement that the storm of the wrath of God will also burst upon Judah, Amos prepares the way for passing on to Israel, the principal object of his prophecies. In the case of Judah, he condemns its contempt of the law of its God, and also its idolatry. Toorh is the sum and substance of all the instructions and all the commandments which Jehovah had given to His people as the rule of life. Chuqqı̄m are the separate precepts contained in the thōrâh, including not only the ceremonial commands, but the moral commandments also; for the two clauses are not only parallel, but synonymous. כּזביהם, their lies, are their idols, as we may see from the relative clause, since "walking after" (bâlakh 'achărē) is the standing expression for idolatry. Amos calls the idols lies, not only as res quae fallunt (Ges.), but as fabrications and nonentities ('ĕlı̄hı̄m and hăbhâlı̄m), having no reality in themselves, and therefore quite unable to perform what was expected of them. The "fathers" who walked after these lies were their forefathers generally, since the nation of Israel practised idolatry even in the desert (cf. Amos 5:26), and was more or less addicted to it ever afterwards, with the sole exception of the times of Joshua, Samuel, David, and part of the reign of Solomon, so that even the most godly kings of Judah were unable to eradicate the worship upon the high places. The punishment threatened in consequence, namely, that Jerusalem should be reduced to ashes, was carried out by Nebuchadnezzar.
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