Jonah may have lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, at the time of Jeroboam II (II Kings 14:25). He was sent as a prophet, not to Israel or Judah, but to their enemies the Assyrians. The capital of Assyria at that time was Nineveh, on the banks of the Tigris, in Mesopotamia.
Nineveh was a great city, surrounded by five defensive walls and three canals. The main part of the city was about 30 miles long, and 10 miles wide. The walls were said to be 100 feet high, and wide enough at the top to allow 4 chariots to be driven abreast.
Although the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and God spared them, they soon went back to their evil ways. Nineveh was taken and burned by the Babylonians ca. 612 BC. Today all that is left of Nineveh is an archaeological excavation and a grassy mound called Tell Kuyunjik, "the mound of many sheep"
Jonah 1:3 - Joppa was a sea-port on the mediterranean, and is now a district of the modern town of Jaffa. Tarshish may have been Tarsus, on the coast of what is now Turkey. To get to Nineveh Jonah should have travelled east - instead he went west.
Jonah 1:17 - note that the Bible does not say a "whale", but a "great fish", which had been specially prepared by God
Jonah 3:1 - even though Jonah had willfully disobeyed God, God gave him a second chance.
Jonah 3:3 - "of three day's journey" means that it would have taken three days to walk from one end of it to the other
Jonah 3:10 - "God repented" does not mean that God changed His mind, but that He made allowances for the changed attitude of the Ninevites
Jonah 4:5 - a booth was a shelter, usually made of branches and leaves
Jonah 4:11 - the phrase "can not discern between their right hand and their left hand" meant that they did not know right from wrong
Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved
Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130
Last Updated: April 9, 2008