THEN THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO JONAH A SECOND TIME:
The writer did not clarify exactly when this second commission came to Jonah. It
may have been immediately after Jonah reached dry land or it may have been
sometime later. God does not always give His servants a second chance to obey
Him when they refuse to do so initially.
GO TO THE GREAT CITY OF NINEVEH: Which was about 600
miles to the northeast. Roland de Vaux -- noted archaeologist -- has estimated
that Israel's largest city, Samaria, had a population of about 30,000 at this
time. Nineveh was at least four times larger (Jon 4:11).
A VERY IMPORTANT CITY: "There is a lovely double
entendre about the description given here of Nineveh as 'an exceeding great
city', for literally this is: 'a city great unto God' (an example of the
occasional use of Elohim to emphasize the extraordinary, eg 1Sa 14:15; Acts 7:
20; Gen 23: 6)" (WJon).
A VISIT REQUIRED THREE DAYS: Nineveh was an important
administrative center. Based on an old Bedouin custom: one must spend a minimum
of 3 days and 2 nights when visiting such a city -- one day to arrive (when no
business can be transacted), at least one day for business, and one day to
depart (also, when no business can be transacted).
"All kinds of guesses have been made about the description of
Nineveh as 'a city of three days' journey'. Three days to cross it? Three days
to go all round it? But since Jonah 'began to enter into the city a day's
journey', this might suggest that he needed a full day in each of the three
great subdivisions of the city" (WJon).
ON THE FIRST DAY: That is, Jonah did not bother to
observe social custom (see v 3n): he began his "business" the very day of his
FORTY MORE DAYS: Christ was "sign of Jonah" to a wicked
and adulterous generation. After 40 years Jerusalem would be overthrown.
Periods of testing in Scripture were often 40 days long (cf
Gen 7:17; Exo 24:18; 1Ki 19:8; Mat 4:2.
NINEVEH WILL BE OVERTURNED: The same Heb word
("haphak", overthrown, destroyed) describes the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah in Gen 19:25. Possibly Jonah expected God to destroy Nineveh as He had
overthrown Sodom and Gomorrah.
THE NINEVITES BELIEVED GOD. THEY DECLARED A FAST, AND ALL
OF THEM, FROM THE GREATEST TO THE LEAST, PUT ON SACKCLOTH: "The people
believed in God because of the message from God that Jonah had brought to them.
Fasting and wearing sackcloth were signs of self-affliction that reflected an
attitude of humility in the ANE (cf 2Sa 3:31,35; Isa 58:5; Dan 9:3). Sackcloth
was what the poor and the slaves customarily wore. Thus wearing it depicted that
the entire population viewed themselves as needy (of God's mercy in this case)
and slaves (of God in this case). This attitude and these actions marked all
levels of the city's population (ie, the chronologically old and young, and the
socially high and low).
"Some commentators believe that two plagues that had ravaged
Nineveh in 765 and 759 BC plus a total eclipse of the sun on June 15, 763
prepared the Ninevites for Jonah's message (Hannah). The Ninevites may have
viewed these phenomena as indications of divine anger... Some commentators have
attributed the repentance of the Ninevites at least partially to Jonah's
previous experience in the great fish's stomach. They base this on Jesus'
statement that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites (Luke 11:30). They note that
the Ninevites worshipped Dagon, which -- according to some -- was part man and
part fish (Feinberg). They have also pointed out that the Assyrian fish goddess,
Nosh, was the chief deity in Nineveh. Some of them have argued that Jonah came
to the city as one sent by Nosh to proclaim the true God. However, the text of
Jonah attributes the repentance of the Ninevites primarily to the message that
God had given Jonah to proclaim. Whatever the Ninevites may have known about
Jonah's encounter with the fish, the text gives the credit to the word of the
Lord, not to Jonah's personal background" (Const).
"The transformation that took place was breathtaking in its
magnitude and comprehensive character. But it is not unlikely that the impact of
the message of such an extraordinary man as Jonah would be reinforced by the
considerable reputation of those other notable prophets of the Lord, Elijah and
Elisha. It may be, too, that Jonah's campaign went on for all the forty day
period which was Nineveh's time of grace. However it happened, the
transformation in those Ninevites far surpassed the effect produced by John the
Baptist in Jewry, and of all the prophets there was none greater than he (Mat
11: 11). And after John the Baptist, Jesus was to hold up to the same people the
example of this city's repentance: 'The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment
with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the
preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here' (Mat 12: 41). The
message of John was: 'Yet forty YEARS and Jerusalem shall be overthrown!' (AD
30-70). Those Ninevites changed their lives so dramatically because they were
led by the good example of their ruler. What a lesson was held out here to Judah
and Israel, with their sequence, rarely interrupted, of unworthy kings, so often
downright wicked. The narrative here is careful to specify 'the high and the
low', appropriately reversing the phrase: 'both small and great' (Jer 31: 34),
this latter form being more usual because God has greater regard for the humble
than for the proud" (WJon).
"God delights to do the impossible, and never more so than in
turning men to Himself. Instead, then, of denying on the grounds of its 'human'
impossibility the repentance that swept over Nineveh, let us see it as an
evidence of divine power. For this, not the episode of the sea monster, is the
greatest miracle in the book" (Gaebelein).
WHEN THE NEWS 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: "There is something affecting in the picture of this Oriental
monarch so swiftly casting aside such gorgeous robes and taking the place of the
penitent. He had the virtue of not holding back in his approach to God"
DO NOT LET ANY MAN OR BEAST, HERD OR FLOCK, TASTE
ANYTHING...: Not that the animals were regarded as capable of repentance,
but that their treatment and actions reflected the spirit of their
LET THEM GIVE UP THEIR EVIL WAYS AND THEIR VIOLENCE:
"Clearly the Ninevites connected the impending judgment with their own conduct.
They felt that by abandoning their wickedness they could obtain some mercy from
God. The Heb word translated 'violence' ('hamas') refers to the overbearing
attitude and conduct of someone who has attained power over others and misuses
it (cf Gen 16:5). Assyrian soldiers were physically violent (Nah 3:1,3,4; cf 2Ki
18:33-35), but so were the Chaldeans (Hab 1:9; 2:8,17) and others who because of
conquest could dominate others. Discrimination against minorities because they
are less powerful manifests this sin. We must not forget the violence of our own
times and society.
" 'Violence, the arbitrary infringements of human rights, is a
term that occurs in the OT prophets especially in connection with cities: urban
conglomeration encourages scrambling over others, like caterpillars in a jar'
"This reference to violence recalls Gen 6:11,13. God had
previously destroyed the world in Noah's day because it was so violent. Now
Jonah became the bearer of a message of judgment on another violent
WHO KNOWS? GOD MAY YET RELENT...: "Who can tell? Nearly
two hundred years later Jeremiah could tell: 'If that nation, against whom I
have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought
to do unto them' (Jer 18:8). The words are almost a direct quotation of Jon
"This problem of God's 'change of mind' meets the reader of
Holy Scripture not only here but in a variety of other situations... Clearly
there is a paradox involved here. If God is omniscient and knows the end from
the beginning -- a timeless God -- how is it possible for Him 'to repent' or
'change His mind'? There are more examples of this than is commonly realised.
Here are a few, to be going on with: Num 14:30-34; Acts 7:25 (cp RV) and Deu
9:24; 1Ki 20:42; 21:19,21; Isa 38:1 (Hezekiah did not die!); 2Sa 24:15,16
(plague stopped on first day!); Gen 2:17 (Adam and Eve did NOT die on that
"It is agreed that the concept of a God who 'repents' or
'changes His purpose' is one not readily acceded to by a mere human mind. But
then, ' My ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts My thoughts, saith
the Lord' (lsa 55:8). Then ought we not to stop trying to reconcile seeming
contradictions in the ways of God? If Holy Scripture repeatedly talks about a
God at work in this strange fashion, is it not because He wants His creatures to
think of Him in this way? 'You small beings can no more understand those things
than you can understand or even guess at the processes behind Creation in Gen 1.
What you are being told in the Word of Truth is what is best for you to believe,
whether you can understand or reconcile or not'.
"The sheet anchor is Jer 18:6-10. It is a Scripture to be
believed, not explained away" (WJon).
HE... DID NOT BRING UPON THEM THE DESTRUCTION HE HAD
THREATENED: Indeed, Nineveh did not experience overthrow until 612 BC, about
150 years later.