Jonah 3


‘Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.’ Jonah 3:1-3

After being vomited out of the mouth of the great fish and landing on dry land, Jonah 2:10, God once again commands Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh. And so, after his prayer of repentance and thanksgiving, Jonah 2, Jonah obeys God’s commands.

I’m sure as Jonah arrived at the city, he would have been overwhelmed by the size of the place, the huge fortified walls, the imposing temple within and a great many people who lived there. Archaeologists tell us that the city would have been around 46 miles in circumference, this was a huge city, which took three days on foot, to get from one side to the other.

‘Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’ When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.’ Jonah 3:4-10

We can’t begin to imagine, how this one man named Jonah was feeling as he began to walk through this huge city. He is surrounded by thousands of foreigners, whose sins include, drunkenness, idolatry, sexual immorality, and a whole host of other sinful behaviour.

There’s a possibility that the Assyrians had heard of Jonah and knew he was God’s prophet, it’s also possible that they heard about what happened with the great fish. This makes sense to a degree because he doesn’t appear to get any resistance, even the king himself makes a decree and declares a national act of repentance.

Jonah’s message is simply this, Nineveh needs to repent, or they will cease to exist as a nation in forty days times.

Notice the text says ‘the Ninevites believed God,’ it’s clear that the people understood Jonah’s message as a message which came directly from God Himself. God was speaking through Jonah and the people repented because of Jonah’s preaching, Matthew 12:41.

Repentance isn’t just about feeling sorry for the sins you’ve committed, it’s more than that, repentance involves a complete turnaround from your former sinful practices, which leads to following God and His ways, 2 Corinthians 7:10. The inhabitants of Nineveh did this very thing, after hearing Jonah’s message they repented of their sinfulness.

When you think about it, Jonah is able to get this whole city to repent, but he couldn’t get his own people, God’s people, the Israelites to repent! The Northern Kingdom of Israel had become so hard-hearted, that they were actually worse than the Ninevites because it appears that the Ninevites were more open to God’s Word than God’s own people were.

That’s why Jesus says that ‘the demonstration of the Ninevites’ repentance, would rise up in judgment against anyone who refuses to repent,’ Matthew 12:38-41.

It appears that the Ninevites were shocked into action by God’s threat to overthrow the city, and so everyone fasted, and everyone wore sackcloth, which was basically a rough garment made of goat hair, usually associated with mourning, 1 Kings 20:31 / Isaiah 15:3 / Jeremiah 49:3 / Ezekiel 27:31. Sitting down in the dust, demonstrates deep mourning, when someone is at their lowest, emotionally speaking.

The good news is because Nineveh repented, God, relented from destroying them. What a merciful God we serve!

The bad news for Nineveh is that over time they would slip back into their evil ways and because they refused to repent, God would eventually destroy them as a nation. God would use the Babylonians to destroy them in 612 B.C., just as God promised through the preaching of Nahum and Zephaniah.

The Ninevites were full of evil, violence and wickedness but they repented, even the king recognised their sinfulness and understood God’s warning and he joins in, he even makes a decree. Jonah had fully obeyed the Lord’s command to preach repentance to the nation, and the people listened and obeyed.

It would be wonderful if Jonah’s story ended here on a high, sadly we know there’s another chapter to be told in his life. We must remember that Jonah wasn’t aware of God’s plans for the future, God isn’t only working on what’s happening here and now but He’s also working on His future plans for His people.

Jonah wasn’t aware of God’s future plans and he certainly wasn’t aware that he himself was actually preparing the way for God’s future plans for His people.

Because the Ninevites repented here, what God was doing was preparing them to take God’s people, the Northern Kingdom of Israel, into captivity in the future, around 722 B.C.

Remember later, when God eventually took the Southern Kingdom of Judah into Babylonian captivity, because of their idolatry and unfaithfulness, He prepared the way for this to happen by sending Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, Daniel 1:6, into captivity and He sent Ezekiel into captivity, Ezekiel 1:1-2, before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C.

Go To Jonah 4