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Read Jonah 3

Jonah Goes to Nineveh

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning 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. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Go Deeper

What an incredible turn of events today! We see God’s sovereignty and mercy on display here in Jonah 3. What stands out in this short chapter are verses 9 and 10: “‘Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’ When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”

The primary observation here is that God relents when we repent. Psalm 51:17 prays that “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” We must first recognize our sin in light of a Holy God and turn from our sinful ways. The word repent, in Hebrew, means to rue or express sorrow over one’s sin. There is also an action element implied, where we turn from our sin. We recognize our need to repent and turn from sin. That recognition leads us to brokenness over our own sin––a broken and contrite heart, as the psalmist says. We can look over our time in the Bible this year and see how God has been faithful to relent on impending judgment when those who would receive the judgment are repentant. 

The word that is translated as “God” in our English translation is actually the Hebrew word “Elohim” here in chapter 3. This word is different than what was used in chapters 1 and 2, “Yahweh.” The reason for that? Jonah appeals to the Ninevites in a way that will make sense to them, as they were a pagan nation that worshiped many different gods. By using the name of “Elohim,” Jonah was able to effectively communicate to his audience the supreme might and power of his God. Jonah experienced this power first-hand, as he was swallowed by the great fish that God sent. Nothing will prevent God from carrying out his intended plan and purpose. His ways are higher than our ways (Is. 55:8). 

Repentance is a heart posture and not a formula to follow for pursuing the heart of God. Again, it is a broken and contrite heart that God honors. The Ninevites demonstrated this for us by putting on sackcloth and ashes and mourning their sin. 


1. What stands out to you about God’s mercy in this passage?

2. How has your life been marked by repentance? How have you seen God work through your own repentant heart? 

3. What does it mean to truly mourn over your sin? What’s the balance between grieving our sin and knowing that God gives us grace time and time again?

A Quote

“It is amazing that God brought the whole city to faith (in what Jonah said) and repentance through the preaching of a man who did not love the people to whom he preached. Ultimately salvation is of the LORD (2:9). It is not dependent on the attitudes and actions of His servants, though our attitudes and actions affect our condition as we carry out the will of God.”–Dr. Thomas Constable

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5 thoughts on “Jonah 3”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    “God relents when we repent”. Wow! I’m thinking back to Amos and the stubborn Israelites who refused to hear God’s messenger and repent. Contrast that to Jonah and the pagan people of Nineveh who believed and repented right away. Today, when we hear God’s word may we respond immediately and obediently. He waits to show compassion to anyone who seeks him.

  2. Audrey Andrews

    Love this quote by Dr. Thomas Constable above! God convicts and draws His own by His Holy Spirit.

    In our obedience, God changes hearts. It is our willingness to move with Him that changes us and others. And that is so comforting!

    We do not have to be perfect because He is. We do not have to have all the answers because He does.

    Seek Him. Follow Him. Act. Trust He is working out _____.

  3. Christi Seale

    We can’t be too quick to pat Jonah on the back just yet. Tomorrow we regretfully see the old Jonah coming back. Oh how quickly we are saved by grace, then we return back to what God tried to save us from to begin with. In the first verse I noticed the words, ‘Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time,’ Jonah is a repeat offender. Yes, granted he just spent 3 days in the belly of the fish, so he was acting on good behavior today. He was reverent, obedient, and grateful to be saved. Jonah fooled the people of Nineveh, but he can’t fool God. Even though God knew Jonah’s heart, he was STILL using him to win the lost.
    The main mission I read in Jonah is to save the Ninevites—and the mission is accomplished today. God needed to use someone who did believe in Him to just go and get down to their level —show compassion(short-lived)—- for God to finish His will.
    So this shows we don’t have to have it all together. Like Jonah—We don’t have to be a saint, or feel that the person is deserving, or that they will not quickly fall back into the patterns of their sin. It is not for us to judge, period. We are not to think to highly of ourselves that it gets in the way of us winning people to Christ. We have one simple commandment Matthew 28:19-20. May we turn from not having compassion for the lost. May we meet people in their sin, and lead them to the one true, Savior. May we love one another as Christ has loved us. Forgive us, Father where we fail you. Help us to be good stewards inwardly and outwardly. In your name I pray

  4. Jonah is a refreshing look for me at how I am walking through this journey of life. I like Jonah have told God no. Not quite so blatantly but nearly. I haven’t ever read through this book, which helps in knowing the story better and not just the Sunday school version. I’m not sure about everyone else but I can relate with these first 2 chapters well. Chapter 3 is so amazing because Jonah just says believe and they do!! The people of Nineveh spread his news and the whole town repents WOW! God over these last books has so much compassion for His people, over and over He gives them opportunities. God sees our potential. He knows our hearts and capabilities to serve Him and others. I am so thankful for those times He pulls me out of the “belly” and helps me to higher ground so that once again I can, and do serve Him!!! JP’s last series on Unseen Battle is where the evil one wants us. Imprisoned in the “belly”. We have been set free!! But we keep living like we are not a part of God’s family. Chapter 6 of Roman’s is great chapter to help relinquish our old ways to God’s way. God knows and see our potential. He desires us to be a part of His family!!!

    God I thank you today for walking in the freedom of what Jesus did for me!!! God thank you that you continue to see my potential to serve and be a part of your family. God thank you for Your courage to face each moments as they come. To listen and obey the first time. To show others who you are through me and that my actions glorify You!!! In Jesus name amen

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