“Lord Jesus, as we study Your Word, open the ears of our souls and enable us to hear. Thank you, Lord.”
3 Yahweh’s word came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I give you.” 3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to Yahweh’s word. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey across. 4 Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried out, and said, “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from their greatest even to their least. 6 The news reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 He made a proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor animal, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water; 8 but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and animal, and let them cry mightily to God. Yes, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows whether God will not turn and relent, and turn away from his fierce anger, so that we might not perish?” 10 God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. God relented of the disaster which he said he would do to them, and he didn’t do it. Link to WEB
Let’s see, Jonah finally accepts God’s will and goes to Nineveh. And he prophesies that Nineveh will be “overthrown” soon. In response, everyone from the king down believes him and repents. God sees that they repent and He does not “overthrow” Nineveh.
We can speculate all sorts of things here. Let’s not. Can we just accept this at face value? Jonah was so effective as a prophet of God that the people of Nineveh understood his message. They believed him. And they repented.
Calvin and Henry go on and on… Calvin even seeking to understand why the King of Nineveh would include the animals in the fast. Well…Duh! He wanted to make sure the people understood that he was serious. He wanted them to understand that the God of the Universe should feared. “The king of Nineveh was right; the God who had threatened destruction was a God of compassion.” That’s a quote from the Asbury Commentary. What more needs to be said?
And…Calvin has to put in a jab at the “Papists”. From my viewpoint, it’s rather sad. There are so very many Evangelical Protestants who “pass by charity” and for whom “equity has hardly any place” in their worship and in the conduct of their daily business. I’m sure the same is true of the Roman Church, but I only know a few of them, and that’s because we work with the same charities…
All of this is but preface: the whole story comes to light in chapter four. Yeah…Jonah needed to explain the circumstances. In chapter four we get the whys and wherefores.
Before you go to the next lesson, a nice little “Rabbit Trail” for you:
If you remember, in the introduction to Jonah, Samaritan Israel was, apparently stronger than Nineveh at this time. But, I might add, what we actually know is that Israel retook Damascus. It could be that Israel was not actually stronger, but that Assyria was engaged in military action in many places and did not have the strength to deal with Israel at that time. What I’m saying is, ‘don’t be hasty’. God works in many different ways.
God timed Jonah’s arrival. He knew Jonah would run to the sea and head as far from Nineveh as possible. He knew about the storm and the fish before Jonah had left Israel.
If you do not know about Strong’s then let me introduce you. This is a type of concordance that provides the meaning of Hebrew and Greek words. In the Philippians Study, we looked at Mounce. But that covers only the New Testament. Strong’s covers both the Old and New Testament. Eliyah.com is one of the ‘easier’ to use sites. http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html does not require you to sign up or change you adblock settings, etc. Just pick your Bible version and enter the word you want to check; then click ‘search’. I entered “overthrown’ and found that the Hebrew word could mean “to turn about or over; by implication, to change, overturn, return, pervert:—× become, change, come, be converted, give, make (a bed), overthrow (-turn), perverse, retire, tumble, turn (again, aside, back, to the contrary, every way).”
What we seem to have is a word that could have a military meaning, but not necessarily. Which means that God could have been intending an earthquake or some other natural disaster. What we know is that Jonah does not say how God intends to “overthrow” Nineveh. He may have told them, but he does not tell us.
What’s more, “In forty days” might mean “Some time from now” that is, not tomorrow or next week but in a few months or so. I say “might” because I’m not certain. I learned, ‘forty years ago’ that the Hebrew language had an idiom, ‘forty’ plus a time period which would indicate an imprecise time frame. Spiritual Vigor http://www.spiritualvigor.com/2014/12/the-biblical-expression-40-days-and-40.html has some information on this. Today I Found Out ( http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/08/the-biblical-expression-40-days-and-40-nights-just-means-a-really-long-time/ ) also has some even less certain information.
It’s a “Rabbit Trail”. But it is interesting. We say, “In a second” or “In a minute” to mean a short period of time. Many cultures and languages have similar idioms. “Forty Days” could mean, “in about two or three months” while “Forty Years” could mean around half a century or so. I mention this to bring out the idea that, while I take the Bible quite literally, I do understand that some of the phrases, etc. may be similar to idioms and not to be taken literally. How do we know the difference? Context. Jonah was preaching for more than one day. It took three days to cross the city. He probably preached more than three days. If it is literally “forty days” then we need to know the starting point. If he used this phrase on successive days then—wait a minute—we have a literal problem.