Jonah 3:1-10 – Jonah in Nineveh

Christian MölkJonah Leave a Comment

Jonah 3:1-2

  1. The beginning of the third chapter is almost identical to the beginning of the first chapter. In this way we understand that Jonah is back where it all began and is offered a fresh start.
  2. Although Jonah did everything in his power to resist God’s call, he is immediately given a second chance once he has repented. God is merciful and gracious!
    1. When God describes himself in his own words, he describes himself like this:
      1. 6b “Gentlemen! Gentlemen! – a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and great in mercy and truth,7 who preserves mercy for thousands and forgives transgression, sin and guilt, but who leaves no one unpunished, but inflicts the punishment for the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren, even the third and fourth generation.”” (Exodus 34:6-7)
      1. This self-description of God is repeated 7 times in the Old Testament (Numbers 14:18, Neh 9:17, Ps 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2), especially the summary: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and great in mercy.”
    1. We humans are not nearly as “merciful and gracious” as God is, but we should learn from God and imitate him as much as possible.
  3. The difference between the first and second call is that in the first call God told Jonah more precisely what to say to the Assyrians in Nineveh, while this time he only tells Jonah to preach “the message I give you”.
    1. We often find it hard when God gives us only minimal information, but God does so out of concern for us. When Jonah was told what to say to Nineveh, he fled, so we see what too much information can lead to. Sometimes it is better for us to know as little as possible because then we have to trust God more, while not risking becoming so afraid of the mission that we flee.
    1. If you receive a call from God, do what God calls you to do and you will receive more instructions as you go along.
[[@Bible:jonah 3:3]]Jonah 3:3

  1. In the first half of the story, Jonah escaped God’s call and ended up inside the fish for three long days, now when he follows God’s call, he ends up inside the three-day city of Nineveh instead.
    1. It was potentially just as deadly for Jonah the Israelite to enter the heart of the enemy Assyrian capital of Nineveh as it was to be inside the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea.
  2. Jonah has now learned that it is useless to resist God’s call; God gets what he wants in the end anyway.
    1. However, instead of simply writing “then Jonah went to Nineveh”, the expression “then Jonah rose up and went” suggests that he nevertheless obeys God reluctantly, like a tired old man who reluctantly gets up slowly and demonstratively out of the couch to fetch something his old lady asks him for.
  3. Nineveh, according to Jonah 4:11, had 120,000 inhabitants and was undoubtedly a very large city by the standards of the day.
    1. Presumably Jonah includes all the surrounding communities and suburbs of Nineveh in the expression “three days’ journey long”.
  4. In Jonah’s time, when making an official state visit to a king or capital, it was normal under Middle Eastern hospitality rules for such a visit to be divided into three days; the first day for arrival, the second day for business, and the third day for return. Possibly, then, the expression “three days’ journey long” can be interpreted as meaning that the city of Nineveh received Jonah as an official visitor and allowed him to speak before the king.
    1. However, it is not very likely that it is this custom that is meant, but rather the size of the city, since it says that Jonah “went a day’s journey into the city”.
[[@Bible:jonah 3:4]]Jonah 3:4

  1. The Hebrew word that we translate as “desolate” is the same word that describes what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:25).
  2. God’s starting point is that he is “slow to anger and great in mercy”, i.e. that he takes his time before executing a judgment, and if one repents, he forgives immediately. This is partly because God is merciful and gracious, but also because he loves us and does not want to punish us.
    1. When God gives a judgment, such as the one he gives to Nineveh, there is always a chance for repentance.
[[@Bible:jonah 3:5]]Jonah 3:5

  1. By foregoing food and dressing in simple and poor clothing, the people of Nineveh show that they truly repent of their sin and ask God for forgiveness (Dan 9:3).
    1. Genuine repentance is always wholehearted and the repentant is ready to give up everything to come to terms with God.
    1. Simply saying that you are repenting without being prepared to radically change your life is not true repentance.
  2. It is never explicitly stated in the text that the people of Nineveh repented, but their actions show that they did.
    1. Just saying that you are repenting is just empty words as long as your words do not also lead to action and that you are repenting in practice as well.
  3. The conversion of the people began with “believing God”. Just because one stops sinning does not necessarily mean that one has also repented.
    1. An alcoholic who stops drinking alcohol is not saved just because he has stopped his problems, he is saved only when he turns to God and believes in him.
  4. This conversion would never have happened if Jonah had not preached the word of God to the people.
    1. Genuine revival always starts with people hearing God’s Word, realizing their sin and repenting.
      1. A so-called “revival” that is based on a gimmick, or that only attracts people with miracles without preaching the Word of God, may attract a lot of people, but will never lead to repentance.
  5. What made Jonah such a good “revivalist” or “prophet of doom”? Perhaps there were people in Nineveh who initially didn’t want to listen to Jonah because he himself had sinned, but that failure only made Jonah’s message even stronger because he knew what he was talking about. He had repented himself and knew what that meant.
    1. Often it is the people who have failed in life that God can use the most. When God restores and forgives a person who has sinned and failed, that person becomes a living billboard that proves that the message being preached is true.
  6. Nineveh escaped God’s judgment this time, but was destroyed 150 years later, in 612 BC, by the Chaldeans and Medes (Zeph 2:13-15).
    1. After the total destruction of Nineveh, the city was forgotten and first discovered by archaeologists in the 1840s just outside Mosul in modern-day Iraq.
      1. That the city was forgotten is consistent with Nahum’s prophecy, “This is what the Lord has decreed about you: no one will carry on your name.” (Nah 1:14, Bible 2000).
      1. A curious fact is that many scholars and scientists in the 19th century were very sceptical about the reliability of the Bible because no archaeologists had found any extra-biblical evidence that King Sargon, mentioned in Isaiah 20:1, had ever existed. But during the archaeological excavations of Nineveh, led by the Frenchman Paul-Émile Botta, they found not only inscriptions with King Sargon’s name but also a description of the Assyrian conquest of Samaria (2 Kings 17:5-6).
        1. The believer trusts that the Bible is correct, even when there is no evidence, but the unbeliever will always find alleged “errors” in the Bible. Until scientists find evidence that the Bible was right after all.
    1. There are also archaeologists who believe they have found evidence of two shorter periods of monotheism in Nineveh roughly contemporary with the prophet Jonah (7th century BC).
[[@Bible:jonah 3:8]]Jonah 3:8

  1. That the animals were also clothed in sackcloth follows the pattern of the book of Jonah that God is the God of all the earth, not just Israel. God is the God of all people, not only the Israelites but also the Assyrians. God is not only the God of Israel but also has power over the sea and the storms, over the fish of the sea and over the animals of Nineveh. God is the God of the whole universe and even cares about the animals.
  2. This is the heart of what repentance means, turning from one’s evil ways and crying out to God with all one’s might.
  3. Based on the book of Jonah, repentance can be described as follows:
    1. Faith in God (verse 5a)
    1. Show your repentance (verse 5b)
    1. Cry out to God with all your might (verse 8a)
    1. Stop doing evil (verse 8b)
    1. Hope that God will forgive you (verse 9)
[[@Bible:jonah 3:10]]Jonah 3:10

  1. When we humans are to judge a murderer, he will receive his punishment even if he repents. When God saw how Nineveh repented, he refrained from the punishment that in the name of justice they should have received for the sins they committed. It is fortunate for us humans that God gives us grace instead of justice when we repent.
    1. Because Jonah spent three days and three nights in the depths of the sea preaching repentance to the Gentiles, they repented and received God’s grace and were spared God’s judgment. In the same way, Jesus was dead for three days and three nights so that all who believe in Jesus and repent will have their sins forgiven and be saved from judgment.
    1. It is important to remember that God does not punish the one who has repented. We should not accuse ourselves unnecessarily and feel bad about something that God has forgiven.
      1. On the other hand, God can allow us to go through a period of transformation in the context of our conversion. But this is not as a punishment but as a way for God to make a fresh start in our lives and get rid of the sins we have committed and instead give us something new in life.
  2. When God gives a judgment, that judgment always includes an offer of grace, if one repents. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says:
    1. 7If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.(Je 18:7–8)
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