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It appears that the city of Nineveh extended its length along the eastern banks of the Tigris, while its breadth reached from the river to the eastern hills. According to Diodorus, it was of an oblong form, fifteen miles long, and nine broad, and consequently forty-eight miles in circuit. Its walls were 100 feet high, and so broad, that three chariots could drive on them abreast, and on the walls were 1,500 towers, each 200 feet high. The reader must not imagine, however, that all this vast enclosure was built upon. Like Babylon, it contained parks, fields, and detached houses and buildings, such as may be seen in the east at the present day.
This representation of the greatness of Nineveh corresponds with the notice given of the city in Holy Writ. the days of the prophet Jonah, about B. C. 800, it is said to have been "an exceeding great city of three days' journey," Jonah i. 2; iii. 3; which most probably refers to its circuit; for sixteen miles is, according to Rennell, an ordinary day's journey for a caravan. The population of Nineveh, also, is represented as being very great; it contained more than six score thousand persons that could "not discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle," Jonah iv. 11. This statement is generally understood to include young children, who are usually reckoned to form one-fifth of the entire population, which would thereby give, 600,000 persons as the population of Nineveh, which is by no means extraordinary for a town of such extent. Pliny assigns the same number for the population of Seleucia, on the decline of Babylon; and London, in 1831, contained not less than 1,776,500 persons, within a circle, with a radius of eight British miles from St. Paul's cathedral.
It was while the city of Nineveh enjoyed this high state of prosperity, that the prophet Jonah was commissioned to proclaim to the inhabitants this startling message, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown," Jonah iii. 4. The monarch and the people believed his word, and warned by it, by a general repentance and humiliation, averted the blow. The king of Nineveh " arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 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: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the
violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, and they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not,' Jonah iii. 6-10.
How long the inhabitants of Nineveh continued repentant is not recorded. It is probable that when they saw the danger past, they returned every one to his evil ways-that their goodness vanished as the morning cloud that passeth away. It is certain, indeed, that the generation that followed them were notorious for their wickedness. Hence, the prophet Nahum, about fourscore years after, or B. c. 721, was commissioned with "the burden," or "doom," of Nineveh.
But still mercy kept the sword of justice sheathed one hundred and fifteen years before the catastrophe occurred. Another prophet, indeed, foretold its doom before its downfall. See Zeph. ii. 13-15. But these warnings were unheeded; the people went on sinning with a high hand against the Majesty of heaven. How great their iniquities were, may be inferred from the advice given by Tobit to his son Tobias, shortly before his death, and which is here offered to the notice of the reader, as illustrating an historical fact, and not as an inspired record.
"Go into Media, my son, for I surely believe those things which Jonas the prophet spake of Nineveh, that it shall be overthrown; and that for a time peace shall rather be in Media. And now, my son, depart out of Nineveh, because that those things which the prophet Jonas spake shall surely come to pass," Tobit xiv. 4, 8.
The sword that had been thus long hovering over Nineveh, at length fell upon the devoted city. It was taken by the Medes and Babylonians under Arbaces, about B. c. 606, in consequence of the river demolishing part of the wall, where it is said to have been destroyed. Like the city of Babylon, however, the utter ruin of Nineveh was the work of ages and successive spoilators were engaged in its demolition. And here, again, it may be profitable to trace how beautifully the predictions concerning Nineveh harmonize with historical facts, and the testimony of travellers.
The prophet says,
"But with an overrunning flood
He will make an utter end of the place thereof,
"The gates of the rivers shall be opened,
And the palace shall be dissolved.
But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water."-Nah. ii. 6. 8.
Diodorus Siculus relates, that the king of Assyria, after the discomfiture of his army, confided in an ancient prophecy, "that Nineveh should never be taken till the river became its enemy;" but that after the allied revolters had besieged the city for two years without effect, there occurred a prodigious inundation of the Tigris, which inundated part of the city, and threw down the wall for the space of twenty furlongs. The king then, he adds, deeming the prediction accomplished, despaired of safety, and erecting an immense funeral pile, on which he heaped his wealth, which with himself, his household, and palace were consumed.
The prophet says—
"For while they be folden together as thorns,
And while they are drunken as drunkards,
They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry."-Nah, i. 10.
"Woe to the bloody city!
It is full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels,
And of prancing horses, and of jumping chariots.
The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering
And there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; And there is none end of their corpses-they stumble upon their corpses."-Nah. iii. 1—3.
Diodorus Siculus says, the king of Assyria, elated with his former victories and ignorant of the revolt of the Bactrians, had abandoned himself to inaction, had appointed a time of festivity, and supplied his soldiers with abundance of wine; and that the general of the enemy, apprized by deserters of their negligence and drunkenness, attacked the Assyrian army, while the whole of them were fearlessly giving way to indulgence, destroyed great part of them, and drove the rest into the city.
The prophet says—
"Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold:
The historian affirms, that many talents of gold and silver, collected from the ashes of the funeral pile and the rubbish of the burned palace of the Assyrian king, were carried to Ecbatana.
The prophet says
"There shall the fire devour thee."-Nah. iii. 15.
And as Diodorus relates, partly by water, partly by fire, it vas destroyed.
As regards the predictions which refer to the utter desolaion of Nineveh, how awfully have they been fulfilled! The prophet says
'He will make an utter end of the place thereof.
What do ye imagine against the Lord?
He will make an utter end:
Affliction shall not rise up the second time."-Nah. i. 8, 9.
"She is empty, and void, and waste."-Nah. ii. 10.
"And he will stretch out his hand against the north,
And destroy Assyria;
And will make Nineveh a desolation,
And dry like a wilderness.
And flocks shall like down in the midst of her,
All the beasts of the nations:
Both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it.
Their voice shall sing in the windows:
Desolation shall be in the thresholds:
For he shall uncover the cedar work.
This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly,
That said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me :
How is she become a desolation,
A place for beasts to lie down in !"-Zeph. ii. 13—15.
In the second century, Lucian, a native of a city on the. banks of the Euphrates, testified that no vestige of Nineveh was then remaining, and that none could tell where it was once situated. According to Abulfaray, and the general testimony of Oriental tradition, most modern writers suppose Nineveh to have been situated on the left, or east bank of the Tigris, opposite Mosul, and partly on the site of the modern village of Nunia, or Nebbe Yunus, which contains about 300
The utter ruin of Nineveh was expressed by the prophet Nahum, under this emphatic figure:
"Make thyself many as the cankerworm,
Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of heaven:
Thy crowned are as the locusts,
And thy captains as the great grasshoppers,
And their place is not known where they are."-Nah. iii. 15-17.
The extent of the desolation here denounced will be better understood if the figure is explained. It is supposed, that by the "great grasshoppers" here mentioned, are to be understood locusts before they are in a condition for flight; and, certainly, the insect in this state of its existence could not fail to have been matter of sad experience to the Hebrews. The description, indeed, is perfectly analogous to the habits of these devouring insects. The female lays her eggs in the autumn, amounting, some say, to 200 or 300, and she makes choice of a light earth, under the shelter of a bush or hedge, wherein to deposit them. In such a situation, they are defended from the winter's blast, and, having escaped the rigour of the cold, they are hatched early in the season by the heat of the sun, at which time the hedges and the ridges swarm with them. Their ravages begin before they can fly, consuming, even in their larva state, the roots of herbage which spread around them. When they leave their native hedges, they march along, as it were, in battalions, devouring every leaf and bud as they pass; till, at length, when the sun has waxed warm, about the middle of June, their wings are developed, and they flee away, to inflict on other places that utter desolation to which they reduced the place of their birth.
This figure, therefore, implies that the desolation of Nineveh should be so complete, that its site would in future ages be uncertain and unknown; and that every vestige of the palace of its monarchs, of the greatness of its nobles, and the wealth of its merchants, would wholly disappear.
The supposed remains of ancient Nineveh have been examined and illustrated by Rich, in his "Second Memoir of the Ruins of Babylon." He says: "Opposite Mosul is an enclosure of a rectangular form, corresponding with the cardinal points of the compass, the eastern and western sides being the longest, the latter facing the river. The area, which is now cultivated, and offers no vestiges of building, is too small to have contained a place larger than Mosul, but it may be supposed to answer to the palace of Nineveh. The boundary, which may be traced all round, now looks like an embankment of earth or rubbish of small elevation, and has attached to it, and in its line, at several places, mounds of greater size and solidity. The first of these forms the S. W. angle, and on it is built the village of Nebbe Yunus, (described and delineated by Neibuhr as Nimia,) where they show the tomb of the prophet Jonah, much revered by the Mohammedans. The next, and largest of all,