Chapter 8 — The Heart of the King
As told by Japhniah-Nazdin
“The whole city is in an uproar!” the king yelled. “I have seen this man myself two weeks hence and considered carefully his ominous message. I have been troubled every night by terrible dreams, and my seers are trembling at the signs they observe in the sacrificial birds and goats. The bones and shells and even the stars are conspiring against us, and I see the fear in the seers’ eyes and their reluctance to tell me what these signs portend (indicate). Where are the omen texts I asked for?” he roared.
The assembled ministers and wise men of the city trembled before his anger. The cruel wars for which this powerful ruler was known were clearly depicted on the huge painted murals behind his throne. Prominent in the paintings were the war chariots pulled by the strong-bred horses of Assyria and the mounted cavalry charges introduced into warfare by this tyrannical monarch. Behind the huddled assembly, every wall of the king’s throne room was lined with huge upright stone slabs decorated with carved pictures and cuneiform writing, praising the nation’s conquests and victories in war with their surrounding nations. The fear of this mighty kingdom was upon all.
“O Lord Ashur, my mind is so troubled, my thoughts are confused. …” The king’s voice trailed off in uncertainty as he ran his long fingers through his elaborately curled black beard.
Throwing himself down on the enormous throne, the king bowed his head and removed his heavy mitered (tall pointed hat, creased across the top, with two ribbons hanging down the back) crown. He pulled repeatedly on the tight curls of his hair as if to forcibly wrench out of his head the troubles that weighed him down. “How can I keep up with even the most pressing affairs of state with this dire forecast of doom over our heads?” he moaned.
I watched from the far left corner of the king’s great Council Chamber where I had been standing with the other wise men, diviners, and advisors who had been summoned to answer for the present state of unrest in the city. The king’s spies had seen me often with the foreign prophet at the Nine Pillars, and had brought me here for questioning.
“Who can advise me rightly?” the king asked, standing and challenging all assembled. His black eyes flashed and glared at those closest to the throne as he approached them and pointed to them one by one. “Can you, or you?” he asked. “What says the high priest of Ashur? Have you asked of Sin, god of the moon, or Shamash, god of the sun? What guidance can I receive from the high priestess of Ishtar?” he asked, glaring at the haughty woman who presided over the great temple in Nineveh.
Each one in turn either looked down at the floor or began to stammer uncertainly. The king’s frustration grew, as he pushed aside those in front to challenge the ones lingering behind. “What do your rattling bones advise me to do? Or your diseased animal carcasses, your tortoise shells, or your stars and planets? What say Anu and Enlil? Shall we call this foreigner a madman and arrest him and put him to the torture? Shall we drive him from our city? Or shall we take heed and prepare ourselves and our people to die? Is there yet any hope? What shall I do?” As he asked each one, they could only tremble or look away from the fierce brows with their piercing gaze.
Suddenly, the king stopped, grew quiet, and slowly searched the far walls along the back of the Council Chamber. His eyes met mine and stopped, as I met his gaze unflinchingly from across the expanse of chamber that separated us.
“Approach me,” he commanded in a quieter tone. I obeyed.
“O Great One,” I said as I bowed my head and began to kneel before him leaning on my staff, “I will tell you the meaning of the stranger’s message.”
He quickly grabbed my elbow and pulled me up, turned and supported me as we walked together back to his elaborately carved throne, which was inlaid with fine gold in intricate patterns and mounted on a platform of ivory.
A slight gesture from the king caused a smaller carved chair to be placed to the side of his throne. He sat and kindly indicated I should sit in his presence. He searched my face intently and I watched as his spirit was calmed.
“Speak to me, old man,” he charged, and then continued in a voice too low for others to hear. “Who are you, and how would you advise me?”
“O great King of the Magnificent City of Nineveh,” I began. “I am your humble servant, Japhniah-Nazdin, who sits daily at the entrance to the Shamash Gate observing all things. I saw the foreigner enter the gate and the knowledge came to me instantly that he was a prophet of the God of the Children of Israel. I have been with him from the third morning of his preaching, and I know that what he says is true. I have in these last seventeen days learned much of the God of his people, and of the Hebrew tribes settled in the lands of Canaan. The victories and miracles their God has wrought for them in battle, in provision, in protection, and in the word of prophecy, are spoken of everywhere. Even now your armies in Syria are preparing to invade his land, and yet he comes to us with a message from his God. And by this I know that the words which he speaks are true: for the day that you, O King, did come in disguise to hear his words for yourself, he told me that the Word of his Lord had come to him, and shown him that the beggar in rags and the gang of ruffians nearby was your Majesty and your personal guards.”
The king stiffened at this news, because his disguised venture into the city that day was a carefully guarded secret. He knew now that this foreigner was a true seer. “Japhniah-Nazdin, your words stir in my heart the first seeds of hope. Please advise me. Tell me your counsel, old man, and I will handsomely reward you with whatever you ask,” the king offered magnanimously (very generous, kind, or forgiving).
“I seek no personal gain, my son,” I replied, forgetting for the moment that I was in the presence of such a feared monarch. “I am old and content to remain as I am. But I will gladly advise you, for I believe there is yet much hope for our city and our people!”
“I see that you are seeking nothing for personal gain,” the king answered, “and therefore I know you must be concerned for the welfare of your king and your countrymen. Tell me of the hope you see, for I am grieved to the depths of my soul by these dire predictions. It seems as if all the elements of both Heaven and Earth have conspired against us.”
“O King, hear the words of this prophet, and take heed if you wish to save both your people and your kingdom. For only you can lead your people at this time, but it will be at great personal cost to you and to all you hold dear.” I risked much if he felt displeasure at the words which I was to speak, nevertheless, I continued as gently as I could. “Thus saith the prophet: ‘It is for the sins of the king and the sins of all his governors and his wives, his sons, and even all of his people that this great and terrible destruction has been foretold against us. There are not even a handful of honest men in this city that make it worthy of sparing it from utter destruction. Therefore the great and holy God of Heaven and Earth has decreed His righteous judgment upon this place.'”
The king shuddered, and with a great heave and sigh he fell from his chair, trembling and shaking as large beads of sweat formed on his brow. He held his shaking hands between his knees, and ordered the guards, “Clear the room, quickly!”
The guards gave the order and the great doors swung open. All the wise men, who had been straining to hear the conversation and gaping at the shaken form of their king, were quickly dispatched, the guards following and closing the doors, leaving the king alone with me in his cavernous chamber.
The king held back till the last man was gone, then began weeping like a child. I disregarded the royal protocol which forbade a commoner to touch the king and impulsively drew the sobbing man’s head to my shoulder and stroked his hair, like a father comforting his troubled son.
“I am guilty as you say,” the king confessed between sobs. “I cannot sleep. The wrongs I have committed haunt me in nightmares, and even in the silences and shadows of the day. The eyes of many who hate me shoot knives into my back when I turn away. I never see it, but I feel the hatred of those I have wronged. I cannot possibly undo all the damage I have done. I find no rest, no pity, and have no one to talk to.”
Suddenly the king stiffened, aware of what he was confiding in me, a stranger. “Why am I telling you this?” he asked softly. “I’ve never spoken of this to anyone.” His eyes, now red and swollen, looked directly into mine.
“Son, you have not confessed your sins to me, but to the God of Heaven Who has sent me here. He has heard your words this day, He has seen your tears, He has understood the pain and terror you have brought upon your own soul, and He has seen your desire to find a place of repentance. This is the hope of our people and our land. This is the sign of hope which I came here to seek.”
“O King, hear me now,” I continued earnestly, holding his strong hands and gazing deeply into his troubled eyes. “The way is even now becoming clearer. I have spoken at length to Jonah, this young prophet of God. He is convinced that nothing will turn His God from the destruction He has foretold. If this is so, why then is such a convincing hope born in my heart? I am old, and I have seen many things. I know of judgment and truth, and I know the power of mercy and love. Who can tell what a merciful God will do? There is always hope, even if it be very slight, that if we repent of our sins and turn from our wicked and unloving ways, that God will likewise repent of the terrible judgments pronounced upon our people.”
“Do you really think there is such a hope?” the king asked, with a faint light kindling in his eyes even as he asked the question. “Has this God ever been known to change His mind or retract His spoken judgments?”
“Have you not ever yourself been moved to retract your royal judgment by much pleading and entreaty, and instead showed undeserved mercy upon a condemned man?” I asked in reply.
“Oh, yes, and not just once has my heart been touched by the begging and the grief of the man’s helpless wife and children, or by the sorrow of a widowed mother,” the king quickly replied, and then paused, looking ashamed. “But there are many more times when my mercy has been bought by gold and other large gifts.”
“If a king of this earth, who, as you imply, is not perfect, can be moved to pity and mercy by entreaty, or by gold and gifts, how much more could a righteous and perfect God be moved to mercy by sincere entreaties, repentance, and offerings?”
The king jumped up, rejoicing, his vigor renewed. “Yes, yes, of course! It must be the way to our deliverance. I will be the first to turn to the God of Heaven in repentance, and I shall issue decrees throughout the city and the countryside for every man, woman, and child to repent. Then let us see whether this Hebrew prophet’s God will hear our prayers!”
The great king of Nineveh paused for a long moment, and then asked, “But what form should our prayers take? We must hear from the prophet of God of their rites, and be sure we are performing all that this God requires. Japhniah-Nazdin, return to the prophet Jonah at once, and discover for us the proper rituals and ceremonies and prayers that we are to use.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I will go at once and send you word shortly.”
“Yes, yes, as soon as possible. We cannot delay a moment. We must begin. I must set my house in order. I am realizing so many things even now that I know I must change without delay.” The king then picked up his golden scepter and loudly hit the brass gong hanging to the left of the throne. The massive doors were opened wide at the far end of the room. “Summon Gabbilani-Eresh immediately, and with him my Council of Ministers … without delay!” he roared.
“We obey, your Majesty,” the head guard answered bowing, and quickly turned to send messengers to gather the King’s Council.
Chapter 9 — A Cry to Heaven
As told by Pilgar
Every activity in the great city of Nineveh came to a standstill. The fifteen great gates were all sealed so no one could enter or leave. Nothing like this had ever been seen or heard of before. I wandered from street to street, quietly, trying not to be noticed by the people who were crying and praying outside their houses. I passed many people sitting in ashes rocking themselves back and forth, their eyes half-closed, their cracked lips moving slightly in unvoiced prayers.
The week before, hundreds of messengers on horseback had been sent to every section of the city, reading the king’s decree from the inscribed clay tablets, which told how our ruler and all his nobles had proclaimed a national fast and time of mourning. All in the kingdom, including the king and his Council, were to clothe themselves in sackcloth and sit in ashes on the earth repenting of their cruel deeds and evil ways, that perchance the terrible doom of the city decreed by the word of the prophet of God could be averted. The king’s decree ordered that beginning on the first day of the week, every man and beast, herd and flock must cease from tasting any food and from drinking water for three days and nights. It further decreed that every man and beast cry mightily unto the God of Jonah, and turn every one from his evil ways, and from the violence in his hands, in the hope that God would turn and repent from His fierce anger, that our city and our lives would be saved.
The itchy feeling of the grain sack I was wearing annoyed me after these two days, and I was constantly scratching my sides and shoulders. The hot pavement stones burned under the soles of my bare feet. Black sweat dripped from my chin, as the ashes smeared across my forehead and cheeks melted and ran down my face. No one was talking, except to this foreign God. It would have been almost useless to try to talk because thirst had caused our tongues to swell and our lips to dry out. A sharp hunger pang stabbed me inside, and I felt dizzy.
Better to return to the house before they begin to miss me, I thought as I turned down another street that led back home. The decree for all to believe in the God of the prophet Jonah, and to repent of all wrongdoings, to cleanse our hearts before Him, to cleanse our homes and our lives in every way, was being followed by all in our district.
What strange customs he has brought us! I pondered, as I looked at everyone dressed like me in sackcloth, barefoot and bareheaded, ashes smeared on our faces, and people even sitting on ashes. Our priests fast and pray, but never like this!
Even our chickens have sackcloth tied around their necks. These may be our very last days before the judgment falls, I thought with a stab of fear that was greater than my hunger. There’s no escape–the walls are sealed. I felt trapped and doomed. Some people had gone crazy with fear and had tried to force the city gates open or tried to scale the walls, only to be brought down by soldiers who were charged to let not one person in or out.
I’d better go back and pray, too. As I walked the streets toward my house, I remembered the ways I’d teased my younger brother and sisters, and how I’d stolen some fruit a few times from a trusting merchant who didn’t watch his stall closely. I remembered the time I’d released a spider under Japhniah-Nazdin’s wide sleeve and how it had bit him and caused him to have a fever. I was so terrified by what my prank had caused that I pretended to help him, but I had never confessed what I’d done. But I need to confess it to him now, I thought. I had often disobeyed my parents’ instructions when they sent me on errands, then lied to them when I got home. I remembered how I falsely accused my younger brother of things I’d done wrong to escape punishments, and how I had thus earned his hatred. There were many other guilty memories I tried to block out, but these hours of quietness and inactivity and deprivation brought them all back to me.
Even someone as young as I am needs to change and ask God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of my family and friends. I need to take things more seriously and not do these things anymore, or I could grow up to be as wicked and unloving as so many older people I see around me. But I may never grow up now. There’s no time left for me! I thought sorrowfully as I entered the door of our home.
I slumped in a corner, my stomach aching, my head dizzy and my mouth too parched to swallow. Although this light-headedness made me weak in body, it brought great clarity to my thoughts. I began to pray aloud to this new God, the God of Jonah.
“O God of Heaven, holy and righteous, hear the prayer of my heart. I don’t want to die! I want to live and grow up. I don’t want to be a bad person or do wicked things, I want to obey You and do what’s right. Please don’t destroy our city! Please, please turn away Your anger. The king said there was hope if we pray and turn from our wickedness. So I’m praying now, and I want to change and do better. I am now going to confess to You all the wrongs I can remember doing. …”
Chapter 10 — A Change of Heart
As told by the Prophet Jonah
Crash! My staff sounded on the marble steps for the final time. My job was finally over, and I looked heavenward, expecting to see the dark clouds gather for the final terrible judgment of the Lord. I waited silently. All over the streets I could see exhausted, starving people huddled in the shade, filthy from sitting in ashes and covered with sackcloth, sweat, and grime. Lowing cows, thin dogs with swollen tongues hanging limply from between their teeth, hardy goats struggling to stay on their feet, and even fainting chickens–every moving creature had sackcloth over its back or tied around its neck.
These people have gone to such extremes in adopting our customs of repentance, I mused. Not even our own people would have done as much! Why, it’s hard to even get half the men of Israel to stop their activities and mourn when God requires it, much less the women, children and the beasts, of all things! Never have I seen such zealousness. Oh well, it’s almost over for them now. I looked up, slightly annoyed, at the cloudless sky, feeling the delicate freshness of the evening air waft over the city bringing relief instead of the promised destruction.
Where do I go now? I wondered as I started down the Ninety Steps for the last time.
The East Gate, came a voice inside that I knew to be God’s. I turned east, as a vague feeling of discontentment and emptiness rooted itself inside my chest. I walked all that evening and into the night until I arrived early in the morning at the Enlil Gate. The forty days were over. I could hardly believe it.
Why hasn’t the destruction happened? I asked myself, afraid to admit that the judgments I was expecting to endure within the locked gates of the city had not yet come to pass as I’d imagined they would.
The king’s new decree, which was even now being carried by horsemen to every sector of the city proclaiming for all the population of Nineveh to rise up and eat and drink and give praises and prayers and offerings to the God of my people, was no comfort to me at all. Life was returning to the city. People were now putting up banners and ribbons while talking of nothing else but God’s mercy and deliverance. They were smiling, hugging each other, washing themselves and cleansing their streets, animals and homes. It grieved me greatly to see these undeserving “wicked” people so happy and carefree on that beautiful summer morning.
“It’s too easy! How could it be that they should be forgiven so easily? It’s not fair. It’s not right!” I complained.
I began to feel like a fool, and with this feeling a strong anger welled up inside me. “This couldn’t be right. How can I show my face anywhere? People will call me a false prophet. How could You do this to me, Lord? How could You make such a fool of me, Your prophet? Why did You bother to speak to me in the first place? This is all just a vain exercise. I knew even when I was still in my own country that You were merciful, and that’s why I fled to Tarshish. You know I didn’t want to come here in the first place! It’s just like You to change Your mind and forgive these wicked people when they make a show of repentance. How do You know they’ve really changed and won’t start doing evil again?”
I continued to lecture the Almighty with many words. “You are making Your Own holy name a mockery by not even giving them any punishment at all. The heat wave is ended, the sky is clear, the air is fresh, the wells are full, the animals are feeding and fattening, no disease has spread, and You have done absolutely nothing. Do you think these people are going to believe in You for long, or in me? I’m totally discredited now. People down through the ages might remember me all right–as a false prophet!”
My discontent stewed until I was exploding with anger and recriminations toward God for not being true to His Word, which He’d caused me to preach for forty exhausting days. And now, instead of judging these accursed people, it looked like He was actually blessing them!
“That’s just too much!” I murmured loudly. “Do You hear me, God? I cannot bear this! I have been shamed! I want to die! If You’re not going to kill them, then kill me. I want to die!” I grumped and groaned. “No one will ever believe a word I say again. How can I even show my face here or at home after word gets out? Why don’t You just take my life from me now, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
My misery was interrupted by a loud voice crying out, “Open the city gates, by the king’s decree!” The new decree to open the gates had been issued as soon as the king was convinced the danger of destruction was truly past.
Oh great, I thought glumly.
“Open the gates! Open all the gates and let everyone in the world hear what happened in Nineveh, and about my prophecies, not one of which is coming to pass. God, I just want to die! Why did I have to go through all this, for nothing? For nothing!” I muttered as I pulled my hood tighter across my face, hoping no one would recognize me.
“O great prophet, Jonah, wait!” a voice behind me called.
Oh no, too late… I’ll never escape now, I thought as I tried to hurry through the gate. A thin hand on my sleeve caught hold of me.
“O great prophet, thank you for warning us; you have saved our lives! God bless you, young man, and may the God of Heaven bless you,” said a wrinkled tinsmith with long yellowed teeth, which were fully displayed in his wide grin.
“Yes, yes, thank you,” I replied without smiling, and turned again to leave the city.
Spying a hill nearby, I decided to climb it. “Perhaps the destruction is yet to come. Perhaps I just miscalculated something. I’ll wait up there where it will be safe and see what will happen to the city. I can’t go home in any case. I can’t go anywhere unless God keeps His Word and destroys Nineveh. I’ll have to become a hermit or a cave-dweller.”
Then my whole body shivered as I heard the Lord’s Voice clearly speak my name. “Jonah, my son, is it right for you to be so angry?”
“Yes, I have a right to be angry!” I yelled back, shaking my fist at the fair blue sky. I stalked out of the city and up the gentle hill. With the strength that comes from overwhelming anger, I worked to build a booth out of low-hanging branches to have a bit of shelter from the heat of that irritatingly sunny day. I brooded in the shadow of my shelter, sorely grieved at my fate, yet still watching to see what would become of the city.
Then the strangest thing happened. A huge vine began to grow over the entrance to my booth. Never had a vine enlarged so quickly that a man could see it growing. “What mystery is this?” I wondered.
In a few hours its broad leaves were sheltering my head as I sat in the entranceway and a large green gourd had formed and draped handsomely from the sturdy vine.
“O miracle vine,” I exulted, “what comfort and delight you are to me in my overwhelming grief! Surely it is a sign that the Lord God will comfort and prosper me, and yet bring His Word to pass!” I was extremely glad because of the sign of the gourd, and continued to wait expectantly for the destruction of the city and my vindication. I slept long and peacefully that night.
The following morning, disaster struck. I saw a clod of earth in front of me begin to move and stir from its place. The head of a giant worm emerged from the soil, whose body was as thick as a ship’s rope. I watched in horror as this despicable creature gnawed at the root of my beautiful vine, biting it in two so that it withered and died. I began to feel faint as the day’s heat beat down on my head, followed by a violent and dry wind from the east bringing in a torrent of sand, which tore apart my little booth and blinded my eyes from viewing the city. I tried to stand up, but having consumed no food for days and only a little water, I was easily blown down by the harsh wind. My head became light, and I wondered if I was going mad. These strange events became confused and seemed like a terrible nightmare.
I must have fainted, because the next thing I remembered was that I awoke to find the wind had ceased and the skies were clear again. Without even trying to rise, I moaned in the bitterness of my soul, “O God, how I wish to die. Why do You give me hope and then dash it to the ground again and again? Cease from Your dealings with me, and let me die, for it is better for me to die than to live yet one more day.”
Through the darkened haze of my misery and self-pity, the clear voice of God spoke once more, saying, “Jonah, My son, is it right for you to be so angry about the gourd?”
I answered hopelessly, “Of course it’s right for me to be angry.”
Then the Lord replied, “You have such surprising pity on the gourd, for which you did not dig nor plant nor labor to make it grow. It merely came up in a night and perished in a night. Why do you give it such great importance?”
I could not think of a suitable reply, for I did not know which way the Lord’s reasoning would turn.
He continued, “Over such a small matter, my son, you have demonstrated such concern. Even so should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than a hundred and twenty thousand souls that cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and also much cattle? How much more precious are these souls who have turned to seek My mercy than a gourd vine? These are My children whom I have created to love Me. Can you understand better now how to see these people through My eyes? My son, salvation is for all who seek it with sincerity.”
* * *
Walking slowly and deep in thought, I re-entered the city by the East Gate. I could see with new eyes. The love that God felt and had expressed for these wayward people began to warm my heart with its compassion. The warmth slowly spread and grew in me as I observed God’s children in Nineveh. There had been a change. Each life was touching the next with a newfound sense of concern and care. People who had previously fought and cheated each other were now looking at each other fondly, as every act of kindness spawned several more. It was contagious! Fathers were walking with their arms around their sons, husbands and wives were quietly smiling at each other, people everywhere were laughing, and even the animals were content.
In the few days that it took me to cross the city to the West Gate, my heart grew lighter and happier. People everywhere recognized me and came to shake my hand or kiss me in gratitude. The only fights I observed were those in jest as to who would have the privilege to feed or house me or wash my feet. I was given new clothes each morning when I awoke. I had to eat so much offered food that I began to regain the weight I’d lost during my long fast. Finally, I couldn’t help smiling and laughing, too, awkwardly using my few words of their language I’d picked up, which brought even more laughter and smiles to their faces.
“Jonah!” a familiar voice greeted me happily.
“Japhniah-Nazdin!” I replied as the old man threw his bony arms around me and hugged me tightly.
“Oh, but what are these traces of worry still lingering in your eyes?” he acutely observed.
“Well, I … I …,” I began, but couldn’t finish expressing my worries that outside the city, I might be regarded as a false prophet.
Japhniah-Nazdin tipped his head sideways to catch my lowered gaze and looked deep into my eyes. It seemed futile to hide anything from his seasoned observation of men. “Could it be … oh yes, I see,” he said as if listening to an unvoiced explanation. “Yes, yes, that’s probably it. Jonah, your God has spoken to my heart. Do you know that I’ve always heard this Voice, but until now I didn’t know whose Voice was speaking to me? Now I know that it is the Voice of the one true God, Who created this earth and all life. And He has told me your little secret,” he said with a warm smile.
“Jonah,” he continued gently, “you who are afraid that the generations to come will remember you as a false prophet, hear me. All generations shall remember you, not only as a great prophet, but also as the greatest preacher of salvation to this generation. How much better it is to have brought life and renewed love to so great a city and so numerous a people than to have brought their destruction. This generation of Nineveh will rise up and bless you for all eternity, and how happy you will be to be loved by so many!”
The kindly old seer knelt down in front of me and put his hands on my dusty feet. “How beautiful are these feet which have brought salvation and forgiveness to our people!” he proclaimed loudly to the astonished crowd that had gathered. Then he bent over and kissed my feet.
How happy it made me to hear such encouraging words! My worries fled at this special word from my God. How amazed I was to see Him speak through a man who was not of my people, yet touched by God’s Spirit and filled with great love and compassion for his own people. I remembered with some awe that it was he who had gone to the king, and he who had such faith in God’s mercy–much more than I did. I bent over and pulled on his arms to bring him to his feet. He opened his arms and I fell into his frail and loving embrace.
He held me at arm’s length and looked deeply into my eyes. “Jonah, stay here in Nineveh with us. Let our home become your home. Let our people become your people, just as your God has become our God. You will lack nothing. Stay and live with those who love you, and continue to speak God’s words unto us. Only say the word, and the king will send his servants to bring your wife and children to join you here. Please, Jonah, stay with us.”
* * *
And do you want to know something?–I did! I lived happily in Nineveh for many years, caring for my adopted people as a shepherd cares for his flocks of sheep and goats. The king, at Japhniah-Nadzin’s request, sent gifts with his soldiers to the northern borders of Israel, and arranged for messengers to bring a letter from me to my family, and to provide them safe escort to Nineveh.
I discovered so much that I liked in my wife when we were reunited. I was astonished that I had known so little about her, and had been so unaware of her intelligence and talents. She said I’d changed so completely in the year we were apart that it was like being married to another man! She explained how her bad temper had been largely due to her frustration and depression at such a confined and monotonous life in Israel, and at the fact that she was given in marriage to a man who seemed indifferent to her needs. But now, transplanted here in Nineveh, with an appreciative husband and an enormous ministry, she grew like an oak. Her quick tongue proved exceedingly useful in learning this new language, and she quickly took in hand all the women and children who came to her for advice and teaching in our beliefs and customs. I couldn’t have begun to shepherd so many thousands of people without her efficiency and hard work.
I did make one trip back to Israel when word reached me that Elisha had died. I took along my older children so that I could find husbands and wives for them, and a position among our own people. I returned by way of the coastal city where Jorma lived, and saw him again, now a grandfather, playing with Milcha’s children in the nut grove near the seashore. I brought a long warm tunic of the finest wool to him, and small gifts for everyone in that humble village. Everyone knew my story about the great fish by heart, and the welcome of this humble village overwhelmed me.
I was never happy about traveling on water, but my children were eager to try it, so once more I was launched out into the great sea heading south to Israel. My children laughed at my seasickness, but did their best to make me comfortable as we sailed. I walked once more the coasts and inland cities of Israel, asking God if He had any work for me here. But seeing His Word carried out by other younger prophets, and feeling the press of the needs of my adopted people of Nineveh, I decided to return. I felt called to return to the mission where God, in His wisdom, had placed me.
And so I returned to Nineveh, and there I lived until I was very old and my days had come to their end. When I passed from this earthly life, my body was buried with great honor and ceremony in the heart of the city, surrounded by the people I had come to love as my own. A time of mourning only surpassed by the death of an Assyrian king was decreed, and a large mound was built over my tomb. This mound remains to this day as a holy shrine of the people living along the Tigris River.
As the ages passed, unbelievers scoffed at the idea that there ever was such a grand and glorious city as Nineveh, proposing that it was just a legend. But God in His mercy allowed the mound erected over my tomb to be discovered, and once again I bore witness against the multitude of scoffers in these last days, as this discovery was the key to the unearthing of the great city of Nineveh and all the records buried in its palace library. And as to my worries about being remembered as a false prophet?–God’s Own Son, Jesus the Christ Himself made mention of my ordeal in the belly of the fish and of my preaching, as a foretelling of His Own death and vigil in Hell, as well as His resurrection. God was merciful to me as He was to the Ninevites, forgetting my sins, my disobedience, my doubts and murmurs, and remembering only the good and speaking only well of me. His mercy and love for us, all of His children, the work of His tender hands, is unfathomable, is it not?
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P.S. Did you like this story? Whas it an enlightenment to your soul? Would you or a friend or acquaintance be able to translate this page into a language a majority of Muslims speak like Arabic, Farsi, French, Hindi etc.? Would you be able to and would you like to help enlighten the Islamic world and be a tool in this for God to use for His glory and for the spreading of His Good News? May God bless you and make you a blessing to many!
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