Bible Meaning: Abode of Ninus
Strong's Concordance #H5210, #G3536
Nineveh is an ancient city on the Tigris River started by Nimrod (Genesis 10:11). The city grew in population and status over the years, eventually becoming the greatest capital of the world's first superpower, the Assyrian Empire. The empire lasted for 272 years, from 884 B.C. to 612, until the capital was conquered and sacked.
The minor prophets Jonah, Nahum (Nahum 1:1) and Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:13) discuss Nineveh in their writings.
Mercy for the children
Jonah's preaching that God's judgment was upon the city was able to move the people to repent of their many sins (Jonah 3). The prophet, however, out of his desire to still see the city punished, objects to God changing his mind and sparing such pagans (Jonah 4:1 - 3)! Part of God's reasoning for sparing the city is the following he conveyed to Jonah.
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons (120,000) that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand . . . ? (Jonah 4:11, KJV).
A case can be made that the persons in verse 11 above are not adults but babies and young children in the city!
Several Biblical commentaries (Barnes' Notes, Adam Clarke's Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, etc.) agree this verse references children too young to know right from wrong. God elsewhere references children as those who do not know right from wrong in his correction of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 1:39).
A population of 120,000 young children would not only mean Nineveh was a colossal city at the time, but also serves as an example of God's bountiful mercy especially toward the innocent!
New Testament mention
Jesus chastised those of his generation for not repenting due to his preaching when Nineveh repented over the message from Jonah (Matthew 12:41).
Genesis 10:8 - 11
And Cush begat Nimrod . . . He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Out of that land went forth Asshur (Nimrod), and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah,
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Jonah 4:9 - 11
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? . . . Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured . . .
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand: and also much cattle?
And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?
Matthew 12:39, 41
But he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah . . .
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas (Jonah): and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.