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.

    • Jonathan Yau

      No, the most accurate version of the Bible is not KJV. The most accurate of the Bible is the original Hebrew Greek and Hebrew.

      • Christopher Colegrove

        The original Greek and Hebrew do not exist. The actual document Jonah penned would not make it over 2500 years. Sounds like the topic is being changed to which manuscripts (copies) are the most accurate, and there is disagreement, but I agree with the commenter: The KJV version of the Bible is the most accurate version/translation of the Bible there is” as in, IN ENGLISH. I doubt Hebrew is your native language, but if it is, then there’s a whole different conversation. Even if you do not believe that, as the original poster quoted multiple versions, even they fail to ignore the point of the verse in the KJV. So we’re back to either believing the Word of God, or trusting interpretations of archaeological diggings millennia on. I’ll trust God’s Word and try to understand what we’re seeing IN LIGHT of it, not the other way around.

    • Christopher Colegrove

      NC Franklin – AMEN! I couldn’t have said it better!

  3. Well…first of all…the KJV (or any other translation) was absolutely NOT translated from the “original Hebrew scrolls.” Those are long lost. We DO, though, have accurate copies of those original scrolls / skins / writings. And God MOST CERTAINLY did NOT supernaturally inspire the KJV as He did the original writings. Not meaning to offend…but the door was opened. If the KJV is the ONLY accurate and TRUSTWORTHY and PERFECT Bible today, then my ain’t da English folk and we ‘Mericans, etc. blessed cuz ain’t nobody else in dis whole wide world got da Word. Just us-ins dat speak English. BACK TO REALITY. The issue within genuine Bible Christianity is dealing with what the TEXT (in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) “SAYS” and how then to UNDERSTAND it when it seems out of touch with our sense of “reality.” So, the Hebrew of Jonah 3:3 says, “Nineveh was (a) city great exceedingly (a) 3 day walk / journey.” Yes, the actual, historical perimeter of the city walls was only about 7.5 miles. Hmmm. The ruins still exist just outside of Mosul, Iraq. Human logic says, “Aha!!! A mistake!!! Gotcha!!!” But FAITH looks for an answer that would make sense because we predicate EVERYTHING on the truthfulness of God and His Word. The easiest solution would be that God was NOT saying the walled city of Nineveh was a 3 day journey, but rather that the whole area that would encompass ALL of Nineveh was a 3 day walk. IOW, if you included ALL of the land for farming shepherding grazing cattle, housing outside of the walls, the “burbs (suburbs), shops, businesses, Walmarts and airports (I jest), etc., etc., etc., then it would be relatively easy to understand the WHOLE of “Nineveh” as being a 3 day journey and having 120,000 youngins’ who did not yet know their left from their right. Bottom line….My faith never wavers due to issues like this. God is true. His Word is true. If MY understanding doesn’t match up with His Word, it’s not God that’s wrong. It’s ME that has a messed up understanding…and if MY understanding is never set straight in this life, it will be when the Lord Jesus calls me home. Trust this helps!

Leave a Reply to Jonathan Yau Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>