How Large was Nineveh?
It has long been argued that the Bible is wrong when it speaks of the size of the city of Nineveh at Jonah 3:3. You see, in the Hebrew Masoretic text this verse reads (according to GOD’S WORD Translation):
‘Jonah immediately went to Nineveh as the LORD told him.
Nineveh was a very large city.
It took three days to walk through it.’
Yet, archaeological evidence proves that the city simply wasn’t that large. So, was Jonah’s account wrong? Is this an error in the Bible text?
Many Bible critics seem to think so. For example, The Skeptical Review comments:
‘Realistically, we could expect Nineveh to have a walled circumference of approximately three miles, assuming that the population figures are accurate. Interestingly, archaeologists have found walls that likely were Nineveh, and they were about three miles around. So Nineveh was not a three-day journey in breadth, unless Jonah was a really slow walker.’
Actually, the error doesn’t appear to be an inaccuracy in Jonah’s account. Rather, it looks like the error is in the wording of the Hebrew Masoretic text. For notice that the Greek Septuagint text says something quite different at Jonah 3:3-4:
‘So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, just as Jehovah had told him, which took him three days (for God considered Nineveh a great city).
Then when Jonah entered the city, he spent the day traveling through it proclaiming,
In just three days, Nineveh will be wiped away!’’
So according to the Greek Septuagint, it only took Jonah one day to walk through the city while proclaiming his message, while it took him three days to arrive there from wherever he was previously!
Therefore, yet again the Hebrew Masoretic text has created an error jumped upon by Bible critics; and yet again it is resolved by using the more accurate Greek Septuagint text.
For more information on the differences between the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Septuagint texts, please see our page, Why the Greek Septuagint?