Commentary on Jonah 3

English Translation

1Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

6The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (ESV)

Notes

1Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2″Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

Verse 1 begins the same as 1:1 but includes the phrase “the second time”.

3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.

Jonah reluctantly followed the word of the LORD, for later he still wishes for the Ninevites to be destroyed (4:1-5). The imperial city of Nineveh was about eight miles in circumference and the greater Nineveh area was about 60 miles in circumference1. In either case it would not take three days to journey across the city. However, the three days do recall the three days and nights Jonah spent in the fish (1:17).

The Hebrew of verse 3 says literally, “Nineveh was a great city for God, a journey of three days.” Its meaning is somewhat ambiguous2.

4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The Hebrew verb for “overthrown” was used to describe the overturning of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:21, 25, 29) but Jonah uses the passive voice which has the primary meaning of being “turned around” or “transformed” (Exodus 7:17, 20; 1 Samuel 10:6)3.

5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

The Ninevites’ belief in God need not run any deeper than the mariners’ fear of God (1:16). Their actions are signs of repentance (1 Kings 21:27; Nehemiah 9:1). The king of Nineveh would have been the king of Assyria.

7And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

The inclusion of animals was unusual and may be a sign of the king’s urgency4. Jonah’s great success with the king of Nineveh can be contrasted with the other prophets’ repeated failures with the kings of Israel and Judah. Like the captain (1:6), the king acknowledges God’s freedom in responding to their repentance.

Bibliography

NIVSB: Kenneth Barker, NIV Study Bible, 1995

HCBC: James L. Mays, HarperCollins Bible Commentary, 2000

HCSB: Wayne A. Meeks, HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, 1993

1[NIVSB] 1361

2[HCBC] 658

3[HCSB] 1377

4[NIVSB] 1361

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s