Sunday: Our Excuses: Fear

Daily Lesson for Sunday 29th of October 2023

Read Nahum 1:1; Nahum 3:1-4; and 2 Kings 17:5-6; 2 Kings 19:32-37. What do these verses reveal about Nineveh and the relationship between Assyria and Israel? How might this relationship have impacted Jonah’s decision to go to Tarshish instead?

One of the reasons Jonah may have been unwilling to go to Nineveh was fear. The Assyrians were a formidable foe, and Nineveh served as the capital of the kingdom.

“Among the cities of the ancient world in the days of divided Israel one of the greatest was Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian realm. . . . In the time of its temporal prosperity Nineveh was a center of crime and wickedness. Inspiration has characterized it as ‘the bloody city, . . . full of lies and robbery.’ In figurative language the prophet Nahum compared the Ninevites to a cruel, ravenous lion. ‘Upon whom,’ he inquired, ‘hath not thy wickedness passed continually?’ Nahum 3:1,19.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 265.

Nineveh was a magnificent city. Historians tell us that Sennacherib greatly expanded the city, including building the huge southwestern palace that alone measured 1,650 feet by 794 feet. (503 by 242 meters) and contained at least 80 rooms. He also built 18 canals to bring water to the city from as far away as 40 miles (65 kilometers). Its size alone would have been intimidating.

But the Assyrians were also ruthless. In his account of the conquest of Babylon, Sennacherib boasted that he filled the streets with the corpses of its inhabitants, young and old, and relief carvings found during excavations depict scenes of soldiers impaling victims. These were not people you wanted to cross; they were not averse to using violence, and gratuitously cruelly, too, against those they didn’t like. Indeed, at the thought of walking among the masses of people in Nineveh, Jonah must have quaked with fear.

In spite of all of this, we often read Jonah’s story with disapproval for letting fear get in the way of carrying out God’s instructions. What we fail to realize is that we can do the same thing (i.e., allow ourselves to be controlled by our fears rather than by God).

Image © Darrel Tank at

Think back to a time when you felt strongly that God was directing you to do something that you, out of fear, really didn’t want to do. What lessons have you learned from that experience?


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