The Tomb

As I have mentioned, I’m traveing this month, a combination of business and pleasure. The pleasure part will produce a post or two (as I write this I have 15 partially finished, some travel-related, others not) but those will wait for my return to Canada. In the meantime, some of my favorites from the past, including this one from 2016.

Anyplace else they would make this into a major tourist attraction. In Alqosh I didn’t see any signs to indicate what was there.

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In a ruined synagogue, open to the elements, is the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Nahum. The stone tomb is covered by a tarpaulin of sorts.

This is not on the beaten track. If you don’t know it is here you wouldn’t look for it. Once you are inside the building there is nothing to indicate what you are seeing, except for some writing on the wall that I presume is  Hebrew.

There is no admission fee, no souvenir shop. Nahum is one of what people generally refer to as the “minor prophets,” and you don’t get much more minor than this setting. Someone has put up some corrugated tin sheets to give some protection from the rain.

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Nahum died about 2600 years ago, after delivering God’s pronouncement on the city of Nineveh, the same place Jonah was sent to preach. Nineveh was old even then, one of the first cities mentioned in The Bible.

I guess because Nahum was a “minor” prophet there’s no big tourist attraction. Mind you, I don’t know that the “major” prophets, those who are better known, have tourist sites dedicated to them either. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the like don’t seem like the kind of people you would want to build a theme park around. They had a serious message from God to the people, frequently something the people didn’t want to hear. I guess that makes building a happy entertainment place in their honour less appealing.

Nahum was from Alqosh, though as I understand it some people dispute that it was this town. Authenticity is always something you wonder about such sites, but when the locals have a tradition going back a couple of millennia or more I think you can accept it. Anthropologists set a great store by oral tradition.  It’s not like DNA testing is an option. So I guess it really is his tomb.

In 2014, ISIS was stopped by Kurdish forces within sight of this location. Would they have destroyed it? I don’t know – their interpretation of Islam certainly has been a narrow one, leading to the destruction of a lot of heritage sites. Theoretically they should have some respect for an Old Testament prophet, but theory and practice can be very different. They destroyed Jonah’s tomb in Nineveh, just down the road. The town of Alqosh is definitely Christian – if ISIS had overrun it they might have spared the tomb, but they would definitely have slaughtered the inhabitants.

Nahum’s message still resonates today. He pronounced a warning of doom on Nineveh. If the people didn’t repent the city would be destroyed. It wasn’t the first time they had heard that message. About 150 years previously, another prophet, Jonah, brought the same message from God – but the people listened and the city was spared destruction.

Nineveh today is living Nahum’s prophecy of doom and destruction. In 2014 hundreds of thousands of the residents fled as ISIS conquered the city. But it is only a matter of time, supposedly, before Iraqi forces begin the battle to retake the territory. You’ll read the stories in the news and most likely will not see the name Nineveh, because the city has a modern name.

Today they call it Mosul.

There will be “Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number.” (Nahum 3:3)

The battle to retake Mosul started four months after I published this and lasted until July 2017. There were heavy casualties.

One comment

  1. Brad Darbyson · · Reply

    Interesting – thank you!
    Brad D.

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