Fast of Nineveh

In Syriac Christianity, the Fast of Nineveh (Classical Syriac: ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝ̈ܐBā'ūṯā d-Nīnwāyē, literally "Petition of the Ninevites") is a three-day fast starting the third Monday before Clean Monday from Sunday Midnight to Wednesday noon during participants usually abstain from all dairy foods and meat products. However, some observe the fast more rigorously and abstain from food and drink altogether from Sunday midnight to Wednesday after Holy Qurbana, which is celebrated before noon. The three day fast of Nineveh commemorates the three days that Prophet Jonah spent inside the belly of the Great Fish and the subsequent fast and repentance of the Ninevites at the warning message of the prophet Jonah according to the bible. (Book of Jonah in the Bible). [11] The fast of the Ninevites was originally observed in the Church of the East. Marutha of Tikrit is known to have imposed the Fast of Nineveh in the West Syriac Church, and served as Maphrian of the Syriac Orthodox Maphrianate of the East until his death on 2 May 649.[12]

Fast of the Ninevites
ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝ̈ܐ
138.Jonah Preaches to the Ninevites.jpg
Jonah preaches to the Ninevites
Official nameܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝܐ
Observed bySyriac Christian Churches
Chaldean Catholic Church
Assyrian Church of the East
Ancient Church of the East[Tewahedo Church]
Syro-Malabar Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch[1]
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Mar Thoma Syrian Church
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria[2]
BeginsMonday of the third week before Lent
2020 date03-05 February (Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church)
10-12 February (Coptic)[3]
2021 date22-24 February (Coptic)[4]
2022 date14-16 February (Coptic)[5]
2023 date6-8 February (Coptic)[6]


The prophet Jonah appears in 2 Kings aka 4 Kings and is therefore thought to have been active around 786–746 BC.[13] 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.[14]

As the patriarch Joseph (552–556/567 AD) (Classical Syriac: ܝܘܣܦ‎) had been deposed, Ezekiel (Classical Syriac: ܚܙܩܝܐܝܠ‎) was selected to replace him in the Church of the East, much to the joy of the emperor Khusrow Anushirwan who loved him and held him in high esteem.[15] 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 (Classical Syriac: ܣܠܝܩ ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ‎) The metropolitans of the East Syriac ecclesiastical provinces of Adiabene (Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ‎ "Ḥdāyaḇ", encompassing Arbil, Nineveh, Hakkari and Adhorbayjan) and Beth Garmaï (Classical 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[when?] 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.[16]


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  11. ^ "Three Day Fast of Nineveh". Syrian Orthodox Church (retrieved from the Internet Archive). Archived from the original on 2011-02-13.
  12. ^ Barsoum, Ignatius Aphrem I (2003). Matti Moosa, ed. The Scattered Pearls: The History of Syriac Literature and Sciences/1.jpg
  13. ^ 2 Kings 14:25
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Chronicle of Seert, ii. 100–101
  16. ^ Wilmshurst 2011, p. 59