Fast of Nineveh
|Fast of the Ninevites
Jonah preaches to the Ninevites
|Official name||ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝܐ|
|Observed by||Church of the East
Syriac Christian Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
|Celebrations||Three days fast|
|Begins||Monday of the third week before Lent|
|2015 date||26–28 January / 2–4 February |
|2016 date||18–20 January / 22–24 February |
Fast of Nineveh (Syriac: ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝ̈ܐ Bā'ūṯā d-Nīnwāyē, literally "Petition of the Ninevites"), is a three-day fast commemorating the repentance of the Ninevites at the hands of prophet Jonah according to the bible. The fast is observed for three days starting Monday three weeks before Clean Monday. The fast originated in the Church of the East and later spread to the Oriental Orthodox churches, including the Coptic and Armenian Churches.
Jonah appears in 2 Kings aka 4 Kings and is therefore thought to have been active around 786–746 BC. A possible scenario which facilitated the acceptance of Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites is that the reign of Ashur-dan III saw a plague break out in 765 BC, revolt from 763-759 BC and another plague at the end of the revolt. These documented events suggest that Jonah's words were given credibility and adhered to, with everyone allegedly cutting off from food and drinks, including animals and children.
As the patriarch Joseph (Syriac: ܝܘܣܦ) had been deposed, Ezekiel (Syriac: ܚܙܩܝܐܝܠ) had been selected to replace him, much to the joy of the king Khusrow Anushirwan who loved him and held him in high esteem. A mighty plague devastated Mesopotamia with the Sassanian authorities unable to curb its spread and the dead littered the streets, in particular the imperial capital Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Syriac: ܣܠܝܩ ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ) The metropolitans of Adiabene (Syriac: ܚܕܝܒ "Ḥdāyaḇ", encompassing Arbil, Nineveh, Hakkari and Adhorbayjan) and Beth Garmai (Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܓܪ̈ܡܝ "Bēṯ Garmai", encompassing Kirkuk and the surrounding region) called for services of prayer, fasting and penitence to be held in all the churches under their jurisdiction, as was believed to have been done by the Ninevites following the preaching of the prophet Jonah. Following its success, the tradition has been strictly adhered to every year by the members of the Church of the East. Patriarchs of the Church of the East and Chaldean Catholic Church also called for extra fasts in an effort to alleviate the suffering and affliction of those persecuted by ISIS in the region of Nineveh and the rest of the Middle East.
- Wigram 1909, p. 200
- 2 Kings 14:25
- Boardman, John (1982). The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. III Part I: The Prehistory of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Aegean World, Tenth to Eighth Centuries BC. Cambridge University Press. p. 276. ISBN 978-0521224963. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- Chronicle of Seert, ii. 100–101
- Wilmshurst 2011, p. 59
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