1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
“Okay, let’s try this again….” As Jonah is given a second chance, the call to go to Nineveh for a second time.
Some say the phraseology, “word of the LORD came,” in this verse indicates that God showed up in human form, the form of the pre-incarnate Yeshua, like He did Abraham, Jacob and Joshua, to personally give him a message.
2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
Imagine face down in the sand, half dead, feeling and smelling the fresh air like throwing the blankets off of you after hiding under them from the boogie man. Dazed, coughing up water perhaps Jonah gathers his strength and gets up.
3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Scholar believe that the city was not a literal three day walk, but this verbiage means that Nineveh as one of three cities in close proximity to each other, like a triangle; Nineveh, Khorsabad and Nimrud. Nineveh is mentioned because it was the greatest of the three. We know it had 120,000 people living in it (4:11), but perhaps this was the combined population of all three cities, if indeed Jonah preached in all three cities. Now Radak on the other hand says that Nineveh was a literal three days walk across it and that Jonah walked a third of the way and delivered his message.
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
Legends of the Bible tell us that the king’s name was Osnappar.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
To Jonah’s dismay, though he did not preach repentance but impending doom, the Ninevites took it upon themselves to repent; apparently they know Israel’s God was a gracious and compassionate God. They even made their children and animals participate in this process of repentance! We don’t even make our kids fast on Yom Kippur unless they are Bar/Bat Mitzvah age.
In Matthew 12:41 Yeshua states that Nineveh would stand to condemn Israel for their failure to repent and believe in Him.
The Talmud says that the sackcloth and ashes didn’t prove their repentance, but their turning from their evil deeds did and this is what God saw moreso that the outer entrapments of repentance.
Many wonder why gentiles would heed the words of a Jewish Prophet. Rabbis and Sages of old say that the Ninevites repented because of seeing and hearing of Jonah’s miraculous salvation from the belly of a sea monster.
God’s heart broke seeing their seriousness and sincerity in repenting. But this didn’t set well with Jonah. Jonah didn’t share God’s II Peter 3:9 heart, that he doesn’t desire anyone to perish but that all repent.
The phrase, “repent from the evil” implies that God temporarily removed the calamity. Nineveh’s repentance here in the Book of Jonah delayed the Judgment upon them by approximately 100 years.