The Futility of the Prophets
The city of Nineveh figures prominently in the story of Jonah. Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian empire which dominated the Middle East for 300 years. But like many empires, Assyria went through periods of decline. The historical timeframe of Jonah suggests that Assyria was in one of those periods of decline when Jonah walked into town and began to preach. It would be reasonable to suggest that God set Jonah up for success by sending him to Nineveh during this period of weakness.
Jonah’s success in Nineveh stands in sharp contrast to other prophets. In fact, most Old Testament prophets saw little or no success as they tried to convince their audiences to turn towards God and away from the distractions that came between them and God. It’s a sad irony that Jonah had such success in a pagan city, while prophets like Elijah and Jeremiah were not successful in their preaching to God’s Chosen People, Israel.