Jonah 3:3, How Big Was Nineveh?

So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.

//Quite a sizable city for antiquity, right? Three days, it took, to walk through Nineveh! Or so we assumed from the Bible, until excavations showed the size of Nineveh to be less than three square miles. Most of us could meander across the city in less than an hour.

But the King James Version of the Bible was translated before excavations showed Nineveh’s true size, so it rendered the original Hebrew in the most straightforward fashion.

Now that we know the truth, however, Bible translators struggle to relay this verse. The NRSV continues the original tradition: “Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.” Others rewrite the verse, guessing at what the author meant, such as this NLT rendition: “This time Jonah obeyed the LORD’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.” The NIV version tiptoes even more carefully: The 1978 version claims Nineveh was so large that “it took three days to go all through it,” but six years later, the NIV revised its interpretation of the “great city” to emphasize not how large the city was, but how important: “Now Nineveh was a very important city–a visit required three days.”

Mostly, the careful wording of each interpretation reflects a willingness or unwillingness to accept exaggeration within the scripture.


1 Comment

  1. kaz nagamitz

    Author of Jonah’s story probably had not visited Nineveh when he wrote it. I say, he learned the city’s size from someone who had visited Nineveh or even a native Ninevite travelling around. Either way, people like exaggerating especially when you are serious. I wrote a novel about Jonah and in chapter III I expoudned my theory about the size of Nineveh. Hope you will give it a look:

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