Monday, January 28, 2019

Of Night Spectacles and Nineveh

Ancient Nineveh is pretty far from my usual list of topics here! But I love eclipses, and really everything God does in the sky, so watching the lunar eclipse last weekend prompted me to capture some thoughts.

Have you ever wondered why Jonah’s message to the Ninevites had such a miraculous effect? A set of cuneiform tablets discovered in the nineteenth century appears to provide a clue. Nineveh experienced a pair of dramatic solar eclipses during the time period when Jonah ministered.

The first Assyrian eclipse, on June 24, 791 B.C., covered 74% of the sun. The second, on June 15, 763 B.C., covered 98.7% of the sun. Donald Wiseman, a former curator at the British Museum and a leading expert on Assyrianology (no, I didn’t know that was a thing either!), describes how the Ninevites would have seen an eclipse as a powerful precursor of divine judgment.

According to the Assyrian writings cited by Wiseman, here’s what a solar eclipse would have meant to them: “the king will be deposed and killed, and a worthless fellow will seize the throne...rain from heaven will flood the land...the city walls will be destroyed.”… At least once when there was a total solar eclipse, the Assyrians cried, “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Why Did Jonah Have Such “Bad Blood” Toward Nineveh?


During his relatively short life, Adad-Nirari III (811–783 BC) became the scourge of the Middle East. He subjugated a long list of peoples: the Arameans, Phoenicians, Philistines, Israelites (he exacted tribute from King Jehoash), Neo-Hittites and Edomites, Persians, Medes and Babylonia, driving as far as the Caspian Sea. The first of the pair of eclipses occurred toward the end of his reign. 


After his death, the Assyrian empire entered a period of decline, experiencing a plague in 765 BC, a peasant revolt from 763 to 759 BC, and a second plague in 759. The second eclipse, the Bur-Sagale eclipse, occurred in the midst of these troubled years, in 763 B.C.

As Tom Hobson, chair of Biblical Studies at Morthland College, observes:

The Assyrian nation was weak and in chaos in the decade around 760 BCE.... They had one earthquake (one sign of divine wrath). There was a famine from 765-758 BCE. Assyria was losing battles and losing territory to its enemies. There were domestic riots.... Now was a perfect time for a prophet from far away to arrive on the scene and command a response.

We don't know the exact timing of Jonah's visit to Nineveh, but we know from the Biblical record that this was the time period during which he prophesied (2 Kings 14:25). Could it be that in His mercy, God engineered Jonah’s visit to correspond with an impressive eclipse to help convince Nineveh to repent? That could explain why He got heavy-handed with the fish, to make sure the wayward prophet arrived on schedule! 



At the British Museum. This pair of enormous winged-lion-sphinx things guarded the gates to Nineveh and probably witnessed Jonah's entrance!


Unfortunately, Assyria's period of repentance was short-lived. In 734 B.C. under Tiglath-Pileser III, the Assyrians invaded northern Israel and deported tens of thousands of members of the ten northern tribes. This would have been a few decades after Jonah's visit. 



Also from Nineveh, by way of the British Museum. A group of Hebrew captives is driven from an ancient walled city. This is believed to be a depiction of Ashtaroth in Israel.



An Eclipse: Clear Evidence of God's Design

Were the Ninevites completely out to lunch to think an eclipse might convey a divine message? I would argue they were not. An eclipse provides an amazing piece of evidence that our solar system was designed.
  • A total solar eclipse only happens because the sun and the moon appear to be nearly the same size from our vantage point. Although the sun is approximately four hundred times larger than the moon, it is also “coincidentally” approximately four hundred times further away 
  • According to space.com: “While there are planets and moons all over the solar system, only Earth is lucky enough to experience lunar eclipses because its shadow is just large enough to cover the moon completely.” The striking “blood” color occurs because selected wavelengths bend through our atmosphere, hit the moon and reflect back. If the Earth were much larger or the moon much further away, not enough red light would hit the moon to create that effect. 
Cool? Yes. Coincidence? No. Clearly it’s God-incidence!
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)

And what was God’s purpose in designing this incredibly elaborate celestial mechanism? He tells us!

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Gen 1:14)
The heavenly bodies were put in place for us! Our wonderful loving Heavenly Father put this entire celestial timepiece in place to:
  • Furnish us with seasons 
  • Delineate time 
  • Give us a sign of His presence 
In recent years it seems eclipses have become a pretty regular occurrence. But here’s something I haven’t seen talked about much. Check out this diagram: 



Thanks to Meranda Devan for highlighting this. The bottom half of the diagram shows the ten lunar eclipses centered around the famous “Blood Moon Tetrad” that took place in 2014/15. Note how the timeline of these ten blood moons displays perfect symmetry, to the day, around the date of 1/5/2015. According to Meranda’s research, no other tetrad since 3000 B.C. has displayed this kind of perfect symmetry.

Further, the solar eclipses in 2011 and 2018/2019 display the same strange symmetry–around the same date. Why that date? I don't know. What exactly does it mean? I'm not sure--although I do have a theory. But is it a coincidence? That seems unlikely to me.

The eclipse that cut a swath across the U.S. last August 21 was exceptional. Yes, solar eclipses happen regularly, but this one was seen by an estimated 220 million people—perhaps the largest audience for a total eclipse ever. The blood moon of July 27, 2018, was also exceptional. First, it was the longest blood moon of the century, and it was a bullseye over Jerusalem. The moon speaks of Israel, while the sun speaks of the nations. So such a stunning blood moon directly over Jerusalem... one hundred days after Israel celebrated its seventieth birthday on April 18... would seem to me to be significant.


But is it Biblical to watch for signs in the heavens? I think so. Look at these verses:

  • “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matt 2:2)
  • “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,..." (Luke 21:25)
  • A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; (Rev 12:1)
  • Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. (Rev 12:3)
Heavenly signs marked the beginning of the current age. And according to Jesus, Joel, Peter and John (Luke 21:11,25, Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:19, Rev 12:1-2), they will mark its end.

The eclipse we witnessed last weekend was the last in this mysterious string. While some dismiss the idea that the current lineup of eclipses has prophetic significance, I see them joining a growing list of signs that we are reaching the last of last days. (See this post for my personal “Top Four list“–signs in the heavens are #4.)




The Plum Blooms in Winter | Linda Thompson

The Plum Blooms in Winter

 My Doolittle Raid novel is finally here! And I'm thrilled (and humbled) by the reviews it's receiving.
“A taut, crisp debut achievement that colorfully evokes the Pacific theater of WWII. Start this one forewarned: it's a stay-up-all-night read."
-Jerry B. Jenkins--21-time New York Times bestselling author (Left Behind, et al)
A Prostitute Seeks Her Revenge--In 1942, Miyako Matsuura cradled her little brother as he died on the sidewalk, a victim of the first U.S. bombing raid on Japan. By 1948, the war has reduced her to a street-hardened prostitute consumed by her shame.

A Doolittle Raid Hero Finds His True Mission--Dave Delham makes aviation history piloting a B-25 in the audacious Doolittle Raid. Forced to bail out over occupied China, he and his crew are captured by the Japanese and survive a harrowing P.O.W. ordeal. In 1948, he returns to Japan as a Christian missionary, determined to showcase Christ's forgiveness.

Convinced that Delham was responsible for the bomb that snuffed out her brother's life, Miyako resolves to restore her honor by avenging him--even if it costs her own life. But the huntress soon becomes hunted in Osaka's treacherous underworld. Miyako must outmaneuver a ruthless brothel owner, outwit gangs with competing plans to profit by her, and overcome betrayal by family and friends--only to confront a decision that will change everything.


I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. I'm so excited to work with the all-star team at Mountain Brook Ink to launch my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, on December 1! Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest winner. The novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese prostitute who targets him for ritual revenge. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!


I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with our daughter, our son and daughter-in-law, a brand new grandson, and a small platoon of housecats. When I'm not writing, you'll find me rollerblading--yes, I know that makes me a throwback 😊--or catching a moonrise, or dreaming of my next trip. Next up: Wales, then Israel.

4 comments:

  1. Thought-provoking! Thanks for the post!

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    1. Hi, Connie! Thank you so much, always, for reading and commenting! <3 You are a blessing!

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  2. Linda, thank you for your very interesting post. There is definitely order in the heavens as on earth, but no one knows what they all mean.

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    1. Hi, Marilyn! Yes, I'm absolutely fascinated by the order in the heavens--and I think it tells us a great deal about our Heavenly Father! And whenever I watch the ordered dance in the sky, it makes my own problems feel pretty insignificant! :)

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