Jonah 3

1Then the word of Yahweh came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out to it[1] the message that I give you. 3So Jonah got up and walked to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was a great city to God,[2] a three-days’ walk.[3]

4Jonah began to go into the city, walking for one day, crying out and saying, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!” 5The people of Nineveh believed God and they called for fasting and to wear sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

6The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he got up from his throne, laid his robe down, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7He proclaimed a decree in Nineveh from the king and his great men, saying, “Let neither man nor cattle, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water. 8Let man and beast cover themselves in sackcloth and cry out to God with might, every man repenting from his evil ways and from the violence which is in his hands. 9Who knows? Perhaps God will repent and be sorry, repenting of His burning anger, and we will not be destroyed.”[4]

10And God saw what they had done, that they repented from their evil ways, and God was sorry about the evil[5] which He had declared to do to them, and He did not do.

Other chapters from Jonah

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

The Grace Commentary on Jonah


  1. Up until this point, the instructions of Yahweh for Jonah are identical to what God said in 1:2. But there is a slight change here—a change of only one letter, from an ayin to an aleph. Phonetically, the word in 1:2 is pronounced halia while the word in 3:2 is pronounced alia. But the difference in meaning is substantial. In 1:2, God instructed Jonah to go cry out against Nineveh, whereas in 3:2, God instructs Jonah to cry out to Nineveh. The implication of God as an adversary to Nineveh is no longer present. Note that in 3:2 there is no longer any reference to the wickedness of Nineveh, nor any reference to God’s honor.
  2. Though most modern versions translate this word as “exceedingly,” the Hebrew is le-elohim: “to God” (cf. YLT).
  3. The text is unclear how this should be understood. Since the word “walk” is repeated, maybe it means that it took Jonah three days to walk to Nineveh. However, the phrase seems to be describing the size of Nineveh. If so, does the phrase mean that it would take a person three days to walk across the city, around the city, or through every street in the city? If the phrase is referring to Nineveh, the latter option is most likely. Archeological digs have uncovered Nineveh, and it could be walk across in an hour or so, and walked around in an afternoon. But it might take three days to walk through every street, proclaiming the message to every citizen.
  4. Note the similarity in wording and terminology between the prayer of the king here, and the prayer of the ship captain in 1:6, 14.
  5. Nobody wants to attribute evil to God, but the word used here is the same word used in 1:7-8, 3:8, and 4:2. The word can be understood as “calamity” or “disaster” but for consistency sake, and to show the development of the theme in Jonah, I have kept it as “evil” throughout. This does not mean that God is evil, or does evil. The Hebrew word does not mean exactly the same as the English word “evil.”

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