Did You Know?
Why was ancient Nineveh called “the city of bloodshed”?
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. It was a mighty city with magnificent palaces and temples, broad streets, and massive walls. The Hebrew prophet Nahum referred to it as “the city of bloodshed.”
That was an apt description, for reliefs from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh attest to Assyrian cruelty. One depicts a torturer wrenching the tongue out of a prisoner who had been pinned to the ground. Inscriptions boast that captives were led by cords attached to hooks piercing their noses or lips. Captive officials were made to wear around their necks the severed heads of their kings, like grotesque necklaces.
Assyriologist Archibald Henry Sayce describes the barbarities that followed the capture of a town: “Pyramids of human heads marked the path of the conqueror; boys and girls were burned alive or reserved for a worse fate; men were impaled, flayed alive, blinded, or deprived of their hands and feet, of their ears and noses.”
What was the purpose of putting a parapet around the rooftops of Jewish houses?
The Jews were commanded by God: “In case you build a new house, you must also make a parapet for your roof, that you may not place bloodguilt upon your house because someone . . . might fall from it.” (Deuteronomy 22:8) The parapet was a necessary safety measure, since Jewish families in Bible times made good use of their rooftops.
Most Israelite homes had a flat roof. The housetop was an ideal place for people to linger in the warmth of the sun, enjoy the air, or do domestic chores. In summer, it was a comfortable place to sleep. (1 Samuel 9:26) A farmer would use the rooftop to dry grain prior to milling or to dry figs and raisins.
The rooftop was also used for worship, both true and idolatrous. (Nehemiah 8:16-18; Jeremiah 19:13) The apostle Peter went up to the rooftop at noontime to pray. (Acts 10:9-16) If shaded by vines or palm leaves, a housetop must have been a pleasant retreat.
The work The Land and the Book says that Israelite homes had a stairway or ladder to the rooftop, “outside of the house, but within the exterior court.” So a householder could leave the rooftop without having to enter the house. This may explain Jesus’ warning about the urgency of fleeing a doomed city: “Let the man on the housetop not come down to take the goods out of his house.”