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. 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:

  2. NC Franklin

    The KJV version of the Bible is the most accurate version of the Bible there is; being translated from the original Hebrew scrolls. When we elude to following the “guessings” of man’s “new” translations today, we run the risk of “adding to” and or, “taking away” from God’s word. There are no exaggerations in the original Bible. Exaggeration and error is found in the assumption of man and his vanity of relying on his own knowledge and asserting his truth above what the Word of God says. Excavations cannot discredit what the Word of God says. You see, when what we believe does not fit with God’s Word, then there is something wrong with our belief; and we should seek to examine our belief and adjust our thinking and discoveries, so that it conforms with the Word, and not the other way around. God’s Word cannot be manipulated to fit what we contrive to be truth. We are not perfect, but God is. So, it is we who are given to making errors, not God. His Word is perfect as He too, is perfect. The Bible warns of adding to and or taking away from His Word. (Rev. 22:18-19). Obviously, some have disobeyed this warning which is evident by the many different “versions” of the Bible some contradicting others, and some even being contradictions of it’s own earlier version as in the NIV 1978 version and the later version 6 years later. I suggest that everyone belive in the original KJV of the Holy Bible and stop trying to manipulate God’s Holy and perfect Word to comform to man’s secular and imperfect desires, beliefs, and findings. We should conform to God’s Word; He should not, and does not, conform to our word. Amen.

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