Go to Nineveh

Jill Ver Steeg

READ : Nahum 1:1-8; 3:1-7

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it. (Jonah 1:2)

Picture yourself as an ancient Israelite. Someone has come to your village with a copy of a new book, The Story of Jonah. You and your neighbors gather in a circle to hear this fresh word from the Lord. The scroll is opened, and the first words are read. Everything is in order. Then suddenly comes this outrageous statement, “Go to Nineveh.”

Hold on! Nineveh? There were two very large reasons why Jonah’s fellow Israelites would have been upset by his commission to go to Nineveh. The first was that Nineveh was foreign. Its inhabitants were gentiles, outsiders, strangers to the covenant promises. They had no right to the word of God: that was for the Lord’s people, Israel.

The other reason Jonah’s audience would have been bothered by his commission was because Nineveh was the enemy. Israel and her neighbors were like a school of little fish being threatened by a large and very hungry shark. The shark was Assyria, and its head was Nineveh. As far as the Israelites were concerned, Nineveh spelled disaster. They didn’t want God’s word to go to Nineveh. They wanted him to send an enemy army to destroy it completely (as would happen eventually in fulfillment of Nahum’s later prophecy).

The problem was that Israel had grown self-centered in its relationship with the Lord and didn’t really care about a world filled with people who didn’t know him.

It’s an easy thing to do.


Lord, let me never think your love is only for me and my kind.