Sunday, January 4, 2015

Islam, Assyria, and Nineveh; There is nothing new under the sun



The recent atrocity in Pakistan in which 132 school children were slaughtered to further the cause of Islamic fundamentalists barely caused a ripple in the daily news cycle. Those waiting for denouncements and objections from ‘moderate Muslims’ on this barbaric cowardice are not paying attention; no sentiment of horror or revulsion ever follows because none exists. In Iraq, near the modern city of Mosul, lie the remains of Nineveh, an Assyrian city that served as the capital of that empire around the seventh century BC. If you have a cursory knowledge of the Old Testament, you know that Nineveh is the city that God instructs Jonah to travel to with a message of impending destruction because “… wickedness is come up before me.” Jonah 1:2 KJV What exactly qualified the Assyrian people of Nineveh an envoy from God?  Most people remember Jonah’s story because of his surviving 3 days in the belly of a great fish while the stated purpose for his journey tends to get overlooked.

The Assyrian empire was feared and reviled because they were ferocious in battle and masters of siege warfare; surrounding a city and starving the inhabitants into submission, they are acknowledged for mastery in the art of war. For well-prepared cities with walls and wells, they developed siege towers and battering rams. The Assyrians did not leave empty handed.  Women and children of conquered cities or tribes would be assimilated as slaves and typically relocated far from their homelands. Vanquished men were put to the sword, a practice common to the cultures of this time period. Assyrian cities were grim testaments to their cruelty and cunning, surrounded with the corpses and skeletons of the vanquished, impaled, crucified, and flayed; a grisly warning to the world as to the true nature of these people. The macabre spectacle would surely cause the newly captured to abandon any thought of escape or rebellion.

One of the ancient monuments discovered in the ruins of ancient Assyria has this inscription by King Ashurnasirpal II (reign began in 883 BC.) of a conquered city:

"Their men, young and old, I took as prisoners. Of some I cut off the feet and hands; of others I cut off the noses, ears, and lips; of the young men's ears I made a heap; of the old men's heads I built a minaret."

Hawlinson's "Five Great Monarchies" vol. 2, p85, note.



When the prophet Jonah is instructed by God to travel to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, his reluctance is understandable. The thought of traveling to that people to deliver a message of impending doom must have filled him with dread and challenged his understanding of who God really is. Knowing the true nature of the warring Assyrians enables us to grasp the prophet’s decision to proceed immediately to the nearest port and book a cruise. It should also give us an appreciation for the courage and selfless obedience of today’s missionaries who answer a calling to work in the Middle East. The crux of Jonah’s incredulity at his assignment is revealed later in the final chapter.

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10 NIV

4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3 NIV

Jonah understands the heart of God to be large enough to forgive the people of Nineveh for ‘evil’ if they will acknowledge and repent of it. It is the offer that God extends to all people, of every age. In Jonah’s human understanding, there is no forgiveness afforded to a culture that is founded on violence, oppression, and barbarism; attributes that are antithetical to the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob. Jonah is angered by the repentance and delayed justice for Nineveh and the book ends with God attempting to explain His reprieve to the sullen and brooding prophet. If you have never read the story it is worth the time; though very short relative to some OT books, it is full of revelation about the character of God, obedience, and repentance.

Before we come forward to ISIS, Islam, and the war on western culture, I want to address those who portray God as being the fictional crutch of weak minded and lesser men. Richard Dawkins covers all the bases with his extensive list of descriptors from his book, The God Delusion, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” To be sure, there is an abundance of evil perpetrated upon individuals, tribes, and cultures in the historical account of the 10 centuries preceding the birth of Jesus Christ. Much of what is recorded in the Bible’s Old Testament is corroborated by archeological proof and non-biblical records. The Old Testament is the record of God’s on-going attempt to reveal himself and His nature to mankind. As the source of truth, morality, and love, God is incapable of subjecting humanity to the crimes that Mr. Dawkins charges Him with; as the source of law and order, He is required to judge and punish sin. There is neither time nor space to detail the ignorant and dishonest railings of an expired scientist whose refusal to consider information theory in the intelligent design school would be laughable if it were not so sad.

The judgments visited upon the people in the days of Nineveh were because of unrepentant and prolonged evil; sacrificing children to idols, bestiality, sexual perversion and deviance, murder and rape, their cruelties and inhumanity were legendary at a time when war and destruction was the default life for most. God didn’t destroy people for their skin tone or tribal practices but He did judge and eliminate cultures of depravity and violence that had abandoned the basic tenants of humanity. The Ten Commandments and Levitical laws were given to the Israelites because they were surrounded by cultures that had abandoned the fundamentals of human conduct and civility.

The myriad facets of Islam have something in common with their ancestors that populated the ancient kingdoms of what is now Iraq and Iran. Whether they are affiliated with the Taliban, ISIS, Hamas, or the PLO, their culture requires that they destroy those will not convert to their beliefs. They are warring people whose god requires death to unbelievers; a truly misogynistic tribe that sees women and girls as property, with no restraints placed upon their treatment. The oppressive condition of women in Muslim culture is not much removed from the life they had 3000 years ago; they exist in the shadows of a disparately patriarchal culture of repression and bias that finds parents stoning daughters for being raped. There is no coexistence with Islam; bumper stickers that assert we can would be amusing if not so blatantly myopic and ignorant.

In America we distract and amuse ourselves with any and everything that our culture of glitter and wow affords while Europe is being sacked by the crescent and the sword. The misogynistic disregard for women and young girls by immigrants in England and other European countries is startling due to those countries unwillingness or inability to confront it. The American media silence is equally telling. Progressive correctness prevents truth from being spoken, laws from being enforced, and native born citizens from being protected as immigrants and refugees assail the host countries that have offered them a new life. When the citizens do speak out and dare to confront the hate and division espoused by clerics, they are charged with hate speech or have their freedoms further restricted. Angela Merkel denounces her people for demonstrating against the encroachment of Islam in Germany; immigrants who come not to assimilate, but to subjugate and establish their culture upon the host country that has afforded them refuge. You know that things are truly upside down when governments insist straight-faced that pointing out hate speech is in fact ‘hate speech’.

As has been their practice, dutiful followers of Allah are now bent upon destroying what remains of the city of Nineveh, just as they have torched, defaced, and maimed antiquities of other faiths when they take control. The existence of such sites is deemed an affront to their god and must be destroyed lest they lead anyone to doubt that their cause is just and true. How ironic that these warriors would see no value in preserving a monument to their genealogical origins, a city that declared the superiority of the Assyrian nation to all unfortunate enough to be within its range. Such is the power of love and forgiveness that a shattered remnant of a place where God issued a reprieve and withheld His righteous judgments would pose a threat to a false religion that is spread by fear and intimidation. Perhaps Jonah saw the legacy of Nineveh and the Assyrian people and realized then the veracity in God’s word that truly there is nothing new under the sun.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
  Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)