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Bible Commentaries
Jonah 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-10


[The Renewal of Jonah’s Commission (Jonah 3:1-2). His Preaching to the Ninevites (Jonah 3:3-4). Humiliation and Reformation of the Ninevites (Jonah 3:5-9) Reversal of the Divine Sentence (Jonah 3:10).—C. E.]

1And the word of the Lord [Jehovah] came [was communicated] unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto 3it the preaching [make the proclamation to it] that I bid thee. So [And] Jonah arose, and went unto [to] Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord [Jehovah]. Now [And] Nineveh was an exceeding great city [a great city to God] of three days’ journey. 4And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey [a journey of one day], and he cried1 [proclaimed], and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall 5be overthrown. So [And] 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. 6For [And] word came [had come] unto [to] the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he [omit he] laid his robe from him [put off his robe from him], and covered him [himself] with sack cloth, and sat in ashes. 7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published [and said] through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let 8them not feed, nor drink water:2 But [And] let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea [and] let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who can tell3 [knoweth] if [but that] [the] God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger 10[glow of anger], that we perish not? And [the] God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that [which] he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.


Jonah 3:1-9. The preaching of Repentance by Jonah in Nineveh and its Result.

Jonah 3:1-2. God sends the prophet, the second time, to make his proclamation—his Krîah—against Nineveh; the same that was to be put in his mouth. דֹּבֵר, part. fut. as in Isaiah 5:5. [דֹּבֵר signifies, according to the idiomatic use of the participle, about to tell, and suggests the idea of a proximate futurity.—C. E.]

Jonah 3:3. Jonah is made wiser by the chastisement which he experienced, and does not again attempt to evade the call.

Now Nineveh was a great city (comp. the Introduction, p. 9) before God [für Gott]. The ,dativus ethicus designates not an inward peculiar relation of Nineveh to God, as in the passage (Acts 7:20) quoted by Hitzig; but it corresponds to the phrase “before God,” which is applied to Nimrod, the founder of the city (Genesis 10:9), and denotes here the world-position of the city, there of the person. Men may appear great to their people; cities to their possessors, or spectators, and still not occupy a world-position. (Deuteronomy 1:28). [“עִיר גדוֹלָה לֵאלֹהִים, a city great to God. This phrase has been variously explained. Some, with Kimchi, deem it merely a superlative form; Gesenius construes the ל instrumentally, great through God, i. e., through his favor. Others consider it to be equivalent to לפִנֵי אֱלֹהִיםbefore God, Genesis 10:9. Thus the Targum קָדָם יִיָ. Of this last interpretation I approve, as it was most natural to refer the size of a city, of which the Hebrews could form no adequate conception, to the Divine estimation. I have accordingly rendered the words literally, as our preposition to is often used to note opinion, or estimate.” Henderson On Jonah.

“But Nineveh was a great city to God (le’löhîm), i. e., it was regarded by God as a great city. This remark points to the motive for sparing it (cf. Jonah 4:11) in case its inhabitants hearkened to the word of God.” Keil and Delitzsch.

Nineveh was an exceeding great city; lit. great to God, i. e., that would not only appear great to man who admires things of no account, but what, being really great, is so in the judgment of God who cannot be deceived. God did account it great, who says to Jonah, Should not I spare Nineveh that great city, which hath more than six score thousand that cannot discern between their right and their left? It is a different idiom from that, when Scripture speaks of the mountains of God, the cedars of God. For of these it speaks, as having their firmness or their beauty from God, as their Author.” Pusey.

“The phrase ‘an exceeding great city,’ stands in the Hebrew, ‘a city great to God,’ i. e., great before Him,—great as to Him, in his estimation. The Hebrews were accustomed to express their highest ideas of the superlative degree by using the name of God, e.g., ‘mountains of God,’ etc. The sense of this passage may be somewhat more specific, representing the city as great in its relations to God, and not merely as very great apart from these relations.” Cowles.

See Lange on Genesis 10:9; also the note by T. L.—C. E.]

Three days’ journey—accusative of measure, as in Genesis 14:4.

Since (comp. on Jonah 1:2) the direct diameter of the city was only a day’s journey, then the circumference is either designated by מַ‍ֽהֲלַךְ (this signification of מַ‍ֽהֲלַךְ, though consistent with the statement that the circumference of the city was four hundred and eighty stadia in extent, cannot be maintained), or the way (comp. Ezekiel 42:4), which united together the market-places of the different individual cities forming the great aggregate [complexes], and which it was, therefore, necessary to travel over, in order to go entirely through the city. Jonah 3:4, in which מהלךְ designates the way which Jonah travelled over, during the first day (יוֹם אחד, Ges. sec. 120, 4), points to the latter supposition. So certain is he of his message, and so impressed with the urgency of his mission, that he immediately begins to enter into the city, before obtaining a survey of it, and commences to preach on the first day’s journey. His sermon is short, but powerful: Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Forty days are here a round number, meaning after a short time, whose term Jonah measures by the period of the deluge. The LXX. translate it by a still more rigid formula,—Yet three days. This shortening of the time, however, would not harmonize with the facts of the case, since no time would have been left to the Ninevites for repentance,4 for Jonah required three days to go through the city. The word employed to denote the destruction is the old prophetical technical term הפךְ, evertere (Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 13:19), which everywhere points back to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. (Original passage, Genesis 19:25)

[Jonah 3:4. “Its greatness amounted to a ‘three days’ walk.’ This is usually supposed to refer to the circumference of the city, by which the size of a city is generally determined. But the statement in Jonah 3:4, that Jonah began to enter into the city the walk of a day, i. e., a day’s journey, is apparently at variance with this. Hence Hitzig has come to the conclusion that the diameter of the city is intended, and that, as the walk of a day in Jonah 3:4 evidently points to the walk of three days in Jonah 3:3, the latter must also be understood as referring to the length of Nineveh. But according to Diod. ii. 3 the length of the city was one hundred and fifty stadia, and Herod. (v. 53) gives just this number of stadia, as a day’s journey. Hence Jonah would not have commenced his preaching till he had reached the opposite end of the city. This line of argument, the intention of which is to prove the absurdity of the narrative, is based upon the perfectly arbitrary assumption that Jonah went through the entire length of the city in a straight line, which is neither probable in itself, nor implied in בּוֹא בָעיר. This simply means to enter, or go into the city, and says nothing about the direction of the course he took within the city. But in a city, the diameter of which was one hundred and fifty stadia, and the circumference four hundred and eighty stadia, one might easily walk for a whole day without reaching the other end, by winding about from one street into another. And Jonah would have to do this to find a suitable place for his preaching, since we are not warranted in assuming that it lay exactly in the geographical centre, or at the end of the street which led from the gate into the city. But if Jonah wandered about in different directions, as Theodoret says, ‘not going through the city, but strolling through market places, streets,’ etc., the distance of a day’s journey over which he travelled must not be understood as relating to the diameter or length of the city; so that the objection to the general opinion, that the three days’ journey given as the size of the city refers to the circumference, entirely falls to the ground. Moreover, Hitzig has quite overlooked the word וַיָּחֶל in his argument. The text does not affirm that Jonah went a day’s journey into the city, but that he ‘began to go into the city a day’s journey, and cried out.’ These words do not affirm that he did not begin to preach till after he had gone a whole day’s journey, but simply that he had commenced his day’s journey in the city when he found a suitable place and a fitting opportunity for his proclamation. They leave the distance that he had really gone, when he began his preaching, quite indefinite; and by no means necessitate the assumption that he had only begun to preach in the evening, after his day’s journey was ended. All that they distinctly affirm is, that he did not preach directly he entered the city, but only after he had commenced a day’s journey, that is to say, had gone some distance into the city. And this is in perfect harmony with all that we know about the size of Nineveh at that time. The circumference of the great city Nineveh, or the length of the boundaries of the city of Nineveh in the broadest sense, was, as Niebuhr says (p. 277), ‘nearly ninety English miles, not reckoning the smaller windings of the boundary; and this would be just three day’s travelling for a good walker on a long journey.’ ‘Jonah,’ he continues, begins to go a day’s journey into the city, then preaches, and the preaching reaches the ears of the king (cf. Jonah 3:6). He therefore came very near to the citadel as he went along on his first day’s journey. At that time the citadel was probably in Nimrod (Calah). Jonah, who would hardly have travelled through the desert, went by what is now the ordinary caravan road past Amida, and therefore entered the city at Nineveh. And it was on the road from Nineveh to Calah, not far off the city, possibly in the city itself, that he preached. Now the distance between Calah and Nineveh (not reckoning either city), measured in a straight line upon the map, is eighteen and a half English miles.’ If, then, we add to this, (1) that the road from Nineveh to Calah or Nimrod hardly ran in a perfectly straight line, and therefore would be really longer than the exact distance between the two parts of the city according to the map, and (2) that Jonah had first of all to go through Nineveh, and possibly into Calah, he may very well have walked twenty English miles, or a short day’s journey, before he preached. The main point of his preaching is all that is given, namely, the threat that Nineveh should be destroyed, which was the point of chief importance, so far as the object of the book was concerned, and which Jonah of course explained by denouncing the sins and vices of the city.” Keil and Delitzsch.—C. E.]

Jonah 3:5. Then the men of Nineveh believed God. That the Babylonians had a great respect for divination, so that what is here related does not appear strange (Keil), may appear apologetically an important observation; but this was probably not in the mind of the writer: it was his intention to relate something extraordinary. Moreover, he would not have employed the expression “believe,” but the more common פחד, fear, or a similar word. (See moreover below at Jonah 3:8.) The word believe here, as often elsewhere, is used with special reference to the appropriation of prophetical instruction to the soul’s inner life (Isaiah 7:9; Habakkuk 2:4), without however excluding the element of justification, when confidence is exercised in the mercy of God. Its fruits, Jonah 3:5 ff., are those which are required from preaching, repentance, and conversion (Joel 2:15 ff.). And this repentance was indeed a general one, a repentance of the people, as it was carried out by bringing over to it all the inhabitants, the king, and even the beasts. Jonah 3:6 ff. is only a fuller recital of the brief historical statement in Jonah 3:5, and should, according to the context, be rendered in the pluperfect: For the matter had come to the King of Nineveh, etc, to Jonah 3:9. Our author is fond of such pluperfect adjuncts (Jonah 1:5-10). Following the natural, epic character of the narrative, we have retained the aorist in the translation. The king rises from his throne (comp. 2 Samuel 13:31), and lays aside his royal robe (comp. Joshua 7:21), puts on a mourning-dress and sits in ashes—all a sign of sorrow and repentance (Ezekiel 26:16).

The verbs in Jonah 3:7 ff. have the indefinite subject “one”: one proclaimed and said in Nineveh by the command of the king and his nobles also, etc. The royal heralds are meant, to whom the execution of the טעם (a north-Semitic word = תּוֹרָה, comp. Daniel 3:29 f.) was committed. That the beasts were included in the public humiliation is nothing unusual in the East. When Masistios fell at Platæa, the Persians, in honor of him, sheared the hair from their horses. (Herod. ix. 24. Comp. Brissonius, De Regni Persarum Principiis, II. c. 206). Horses hung with black were, in the time of Chrysostom, frequently seen at funeral processions, and they are frequently to be seen at the present day. The custom has its foundation in the lively feeling of the mutual adaptation of man and nature. (Comp. Joel 1:18, and the description of the great grief in the fifth Eclogue of Virgil [also Æneid, 11:89, c. e.].) Besides it is especially mentioned here as a reason, just as “great and small” Jonah 3:5, that not merely repentance of sin, but also compassion toward guiltless creatures should move God to spare them (Jonah 4:11). But it is not required to press to the utmost the separate applications of the royal edict, in the interest of the fides historica, otherwise we would be obliged to infer from Jonah 3:8 that the cattle were clothed in mourning and that their lowing was taken for prayer, which was certainly not so. The strength of the expressions paints the depth of the repentance, and Jonah 3:8 b shows the reason of their use by the king and by the narrator, who reproduces the edict: and let them turn every one from his evil way (Ezekiel 18:23), etc., that we perish not (comp. Jonah 1:6). It is too strongly asserted that this result of Jonah’s denunciation of doom is psychologically incomprehensible in itself (Hitzig), because he spoke as a foreigner to a foreign people in a foreign language. But the esteem of antiquity for the oracles of the gods [Götterstimmen] is known; and the fact that the limits of national worship were thereby left undetermined, in proof of which we cite the well-known fact that Crœsus consulted the Grecian oracles (comp. Ezra 1:1 ff.; Genesis 41:0; Numbers 22:0; Luke 7:0). And the more threatening these oracles were, the more certain were they to obtain belief, as is natural, since the threatenings of divine punishment have a powerful ally in the conscience of man. If one reflects on the excitement, which ruled the souls of men about the year 1000 A. D.; on the results which the discourses of a Peter of Amiens, Capistrano, and others of their time had, though delivered in a language not understood; and considers that awe in which holy men were held by antiquity, of which even profane writers afford frequent examples, then the psychological difficulty vanishes, and there is no need of bringing the affinity of the Hebrew and Assyrian languages to our help, in order to find the result possible. It is injudicious to remove, in the interests of apologetics, everything miraculous from the narrative; but it is equally so to push, in the interest of polemics, the miraculous to silliness. Another psychological motive to repentance on the part of the Ninevites our Lord indicates, Luke 11:30, when by the expression σημεῖον τοῖς Νινευίταις, he undoubtedly brings to light that the account of the wonderful events of his life formed an essential part of Jonah’s sermon on repentance. (Comp. Luke 11:32, and the Ob. of Luther on Jonah 3:4 below.)

With reference to האלהים, Jonah 3:9-10 (comp. Jonah 1:6) Burck remarks: “Non hic adhibetur nomen Jehovah, quia de populo gentili ser mo est. Jehovœ cognitio sublimior, quam Dei.”

Jonah 3:10. The Compassion. As faith expects, so it comes to pass. (Comp. Exodus 32:12; Exodus 32:14.) God looked upon the Ninevites: He turned his countenance, with kind thoughts, toward them. (Comp. Jonah 3:9; Jonah 3:1; Jonah 3:6.)

[“But however deep the penitential mourning of Nineveh might be, and however sincere the repentance of the people, when they acted according to the king’s command; the repentance was not a lasting one, or permanent in its effects. Nor did it evince a thorough conversion to God, but was merely a powerful incitement to conversion, a waking up out of the careless security of their life of sin, an endeavor to forsake their evil ways which did not last very long. The statement in Jonah 3:10, that “God saw their doing, that they turned from their evil ways; and He repented of the evil that He had said that He would do to them, and did it not” (cf. Exodus 32:14), can be reconciled with this without difficulty. The repentance of the Ninevites, even if it did not last, showed, at any rate, a susceptibility on the part of the heathen for the word of God, and their willingness to turn and forsake their evil and ungodly ways; so that God, according to his compassion, could extend his grace to them in consequence. God always acts in this way. He not only forgives the converted man, who lays aside his sin, and walks in newness of life; but He has mercy also upon the penitent who confesses and mourns over his sin, and is willing, to amend. The Lord also directed Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh; not that this capital of the heathen world might be converted at once to faith in the living God, and its inhabitants be received into the covenant of grace which He had made with Israel, but simply to give his people Israel a practical proof that He was the God of the heathen also, and could prepare for Himself even among them a people of his possession. (Keil and Delitzsch.)

Dr. Pusey expresses himself unwarrantably, when he says: “But, what Scripture chiefly dwells upon, their repentance was not only in profession, in belief, in outward act, but in the fruit of genuine works of repentance, a changed life out of a changed heart. …Their whole way and course of life was evil; they broke off, not the one or other sin only, but all, their whole evil way. Dr. P. has inserted the adjective “whole” before “evil way.” It is not used by the sacred writer. The repentance of the Ninevites was—though in some instances, it may have been more—a public confession and humiliation ordered by the “king and his nobles.”—C. E.].


See Introduction, p. 5 ff.


The repentance of the Ninevites, a model of a genuine national repentance.

1. It hears God’s proclamation and asks not why? Jonah 3:1-4.

2. It springs from faith and is accompanied by faith? Jonah 3:5; Jonah 3:9.

3. It bows itself under the curse of the common guilt, and not a single person asks: how much have I deserved? Jonah 3:6 ff.

4. It is united with the purpose of amendment.

On Jonah 3:1. The Lord does not withdraw his calls. (Comp. John 21:16.) It is a great and enduring grace to be called by Him. Jonah 3:2. No one should undertake, of his own absolute power, to threaten others with the Divine wrath and punishment. Preachers, who speak from their own mind, have no right to do so. Therefore, consider well and pray for the Holy Spirit, and entirely humble thyself, and forget thyself, if thou hast in mind to, or must perform such a duty.

Jonah 3:3. Whoever feels that he is sent of God should not be afraid of the greatest city. As many a the Lord intends shall hear Him, will hear Him.

Jonah 3:4. Speak promptly and delay not. In God’s kingdom every moment is precious. The time, when He puts his word in thy mouth, is the right time; not that which thou fanciest for thyself.

Jonah 3:5. Because the Ninevites believed, they repented. Repentance comes not from the law alone; but from the law and faith. From the law alone comes death. Children are not innocent.

Jonah 3:6. It becomes a king, who takes precedence in everything, to take the lead also in repentance. (Psalms 51:0) In repentance and especially before God, all are on a level; purple is of no avail, but only a broken heart. Magistracy is of God’s appointment; but those who possess it are nevertheless sinners.

Jonah 3:7. It is a good work and belongs to the office of the magistrate to foster true piety. The state has not merely the negative duty of providing that those who observe their religious festivals [Feiertage] be not disturbed, but also a positive duty. There is no state conceivable with out having duties to discharge to religion and the church. The kingdom of God can subsist without it, but not the reverse. To repentance belongs necessarily the purpose of amendment.

Jonah 3:9. The heathen do not despair of God’s mercy, though they do not yet know Christ. It is worse than heathenish to doubt that God is gracious and ready to forgive.

Jonah 3:10. The repentance of God is included in his gracious decree. It is the harmonizing of [die Auseinandersetzung zwischen, lit., the settlement between] wrath and forgiveness, justice and love. Wrath is not the final end; but it has for its end and object, love. Law without the Gospel would be an ungodly thing: the Old Testament cannot subsist without the New. Woe to him who makes light of the wrath of God: he can never taste of love.

Luther: Jonah 3:1. It is therefore written that we may bear in mind, that nothing is to be undertaken without God’s word and command. For the first command, of God having been violated by disobedience, had not God renewed it, Jonah would not have known, whether he should do it, or not. (Comp. Numbers 14:1 ff.; Deuteronomy 1:41 f.) The Israelites at first would not fight at God’s command; afterward they wished to do so of their own accord and were beaten. (1 Peter 4:11.)

Jonah 3:2. Nineveh, the city of God. God cares also for the heathen. (2 Kings 5:1; Jeremiah 25:9.)

Jonah 3:4. He doubtless did not confine himself in preaching to these words; his proclamation is briefly reported.

Jonah 3:5. They do some things, which God does not command. Therefore He, afterward, Jonah 3:10, does not commend their fasting and sackcloth, but that they turned from their evil way. God saw their earnestness; therefore He permitted the foolish things—that the animals should fast, etc.,—to be acceptable to Him, which He would not have beheld with favor, had the earnestness been wanting. Free will, or our own power, does not produce such earnestness; but faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jonah 3:9. The king speaks as if he doubts. But he doubts not; for doubt does not call upon God and employ such earnestness. A truly penitent heart stands with fear in the contest, and fights against despair; but as it has not yet won, it speaks as if it were uncertain. If there were no faith, it would not hold out amidst such toil and trouble. Therefore, words are rather a sign that faith is there.

Jonah 3:10. Here the works are commended; what shall we say against it? Here the legalists have the advantage, yes, a fine advantage! Look at the text. It says, God saw their works, that is, they pleased Him. But what kind of works were they? The text shows: They turned from their evil way. Such works do and teach, then we will not refuse to thee the praise of works; but we will help thee to extol them. To turn from one’s evil way is not a trifling work; it includes, not fasting and sackcloth, but faith in God from the heart, and the loving of our neighbor as ourselves; that is, it requires the whole man to be pious and just in both body and soul. For God requires the whole man, and dislikes half-converts and hypocrites.

Starke: Jonah 3:1. God’s purpose and command must succeed and be accomplished; for it cannot be hindered or frustrated by any human designs. God by means of the ministry saves sinners by sinners.

Jonah 3:2. God even during the time of the Old Covenant, sought the salvation of the heathen.

Jonah 3:3. Nineveh, a great city to the Lord, should surely have been devoted to God: God had wrought for it (Jonah 4:10). Παθήματα, μαθήματα, nocumenta, documenta, poor in spirit, rich in faith (armselig macht gottselig, Isaiah 28:19). God can well tolerate great cities, if they only give place to Him and his word.

Jonah 3:4. Since God has still his own everywhere, these most likely were the first to have been awakened, and to have served as coadjutors in the preaching of repentance.

Jonah 3:5. Credidit Ninive et Israel incredulus perseverat; credidit Præputium, et circumcisio permanet infidelis. Where the Word of God is preached sincerely and purely, there it brings fruit in its season, if not in all, at least in some. (1 Thessalonians 2:13.) Jonah did in his mission, as did the Apostles. Wherever they came, they did not seek first permission from the magistrate; but they rested [their authority] upon the command of Christ.

Jonah 3:7. It is well for the masses of a community, when pious magistrates have also pious servants around them. It is a strong proof of sincere repentance for sins committed to remove every occasion to lust out of the way.

Jonah 3:8. One must prove his repentance by external acts. It is a peculiar instance of Divine justice that God suffered Israel to be destroyed by the same people, who repented at the voice of his prophet, while on the contrary, the Israelites had despised all the prophets from Samuel down. God’s decree has always a fundamental reference to conversion [hat die Ordnung der Bekehrung immer zum Grunde].

Pfaff: God does not change his commands. He repeats his calling grace. He calls the sinner twice, thrice, yea, even to the end.

Jonah 3:4 : A preacher must speak the truth frankly [deutsch], and not sugar it over and deprive it of its power by ornaments and flattery. One must plainly say to sinners that they are hastening to destruction.

Jonah 3:7. Here we find established the right of the magistrate in spiritual things; especially in regard to the externals of Divine worship and its right ordering.

Jonah 3:9-10. It is certain that God bestows his grace upon the penitent.

Quandt: Jonah 3:1. With God nothing is impossible. Truly, the heart must suffer itself to be broken, otherwise even God cannot break it by his Almighty power. The same word of God, which was rejected and despised by us in former times, is received by us with devotion, when it comes to us the second time and we in the meantime have become different persons. Many individuals and families want nothing but the cross to bring them back.

Jonah 3:3. Alas! Jonah has more followers in the way of flight than in the way of obedience.

Jonah 3:4. Three ways may be pursued on receiving such a terrible message—despair, frivolous mockery, repentance and conversion. The Ninevites chose the third.

Jonah 3:9. Faith disappoints nobody.

Jonah 3:10. That Nineveh was converted was a wonder. With us, it is a wonder, if we are not converted.

Marck: Jonah 3:1. God is so good and so indulgent to the weaknesses of his servants, that even after repeated proofs of his grace, He makes known his will to them, not once, but oftener, in order that they may have no pretext of ignorance, but may know the true object of their redemption, namely, to obey the commands of their Redeemer and to manifest his glory.

Burck: God does not utterly reject him, who has failed once; but He rather gives him a new opportunity of correcting former faults.

Rieger: To him, who comes out of trouble, danger, and sickness, God commonly permits an opportunity soon to occur, when he can pay his vows.

Schlier: In renewing the command, God says not a word about the guilt of Jonah; for Jonah is humbled. In the miracle of his deliverance he has learned what obedience is, although he does not yet know what Divine compassion toward the perishing heathen is.

Burck: Jonah 3:4. Preaching is usually efficacious, from the very first, among those who do not receive the Word in vain. There is very little hope of those, who have heard the Word of God proclaimed by the same messenger, not merely many days, but years, without becoming better, even if they should have the opportunity of hearing the same preaching a thousand years.

Marck: Jonah 3:5. There is not only a very close connection between evil, guilt, and punishment, so that they are commonly mutually dependent, but also the good is connected by intimate bonds, since from one virtue of one man other virtues of others flow, and the Divine blessing follows virtue. This is illustrated by the obedience of Jonah, with which the repentance of the Ninevites and the Divine compassion were closely connected.

Rieger: The exercises of repentance are here described for the most part by the outward circumstances that accompanied them,—quite different from what is practiced at the present day, when one would perform the several acts of repentance, devotion, and prayer, in such a quiet way as to be scarcely perceived by those who are nearest about him. But where there is genuine earnestness within, there the outward manifestation is not so readily suppressed.

Burck: Jonah 3:6. There is a difference between a court, which is a stranger to the true religion, and one that is attached to it in only a hypocritical way. The former is more easily moved; the latter, in consequence of God’s decree, is more hardened.

Bochart: Jonah 3:7. This edict, issued to the Ninevites, in order to appease the anger of God; the edict of Darius (Daniel 6:26 ff.); that of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:20), and others, were just so many preparations for the conversion of the heathen, which followed the advent of Christ. In this way God’s goodness and glory became gradually, and in a certain measure, known to the nations, which were strangers to Israel (Exodus 5:2).

Schmieder: Jonah 3:8. The understanding may call the penitential acts on the part of the beasts foolish; but the heart will seize upon them, because they show deep contrition of heart; and this is certainly the main point here.

Hieronymus: Jonah 3:10. God soon changed his purpose, because He saw that their works were changed. He did not hear words, such as Israel was wont to say: “All that God has said will we do” (Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3); but He saw works. He will rather that the ungodly turn from their evil way, than that they should die. (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 18:32).

Talmud: Dear brethren, sackcloth and fasting avail nothing; but repentance and good works. For it is not said of the Ninevites, etc.

Burck: How far are God’s thoughts removed from the thoughts of man, even from the thoughts of men, who seem unto others to be sound in the faith.

Rieger: The Lord Jesus bears testimony to this repentance of the people of Nineveh (Matthew 12:14), that, in its good consequences, it will extend to the day of judgment; and hence, in sparing them, God must have been sincerely and kindly in earnest. But because Nineveh fell back into its former sins, it was overthrown by the wrath of Jehovah scarcely a century after this salutary conversion: so also it befell Jerusalem, because it did not acknowledge and receive Him, of whom Jonah was a type.

[Calvin: Jonah 3:3. He went, then, according to the command of Jehovah; that is, nothing else did he regard but to render obedience to God, and to suffer himself to be wholly ruled by him. We hence learn how well God provides for us and for our salvation, when he corrects our perverseness; though sharp may be our chastisements, yet as this benefit follows, we know that nothing is better for us than to be humbled under God’s hand, as David says in Psalms 119:0.

Jonah 3:10. God had respect to their works—what works? not sackcloth, not ashes, not fasting; for Jonah does not now mention these; but he had respect to their works, because they turned from their evil way.

Fairbairn: “Why should God have sent his prophet to admonish us of sin, and foretell his approaching judgment, a prophet, too, who has himself been the subject of singular mercy and forbearance? If destruction alone had been his object, would he not rather have allowed us to sleep on in our sinfulness? And why, in particular, should these forty days have been made to run between our doom and our punishment? Surely this bespeaks some thought of mercy in God; it must have been meant to leave the door still open to us for forgiveness and peace.” So undoubtedly they reasoned, and, as the event proved, reasoned justly.

Pusey: Jonah 3:10. And he did it not. God willed rather that his prophecy should seem to fail, than that repentance should fail of its fruit. But it did not indeed fail, for the condition lay expressed in the threat.

Cowles: Jonah 3:10. Works meet for repentance will infallibly secure the reversal of threatened and impending doom. God’s immutability is that of principle—not of plan and action. He immutably hates and punishes sin: hence, when a sinner becomes a penitent, God turns from threatened vengeance to free pardon.—C. E.]


[1][Jonah 3:2.—קְרִיאָה, that which is proclaimed, proclamation; τὸ κήρυγμα, (LXX.); prædicatio (Vulgate).

[2][Jonah 3:7.—טַעַם = טְעֵם, Daniel 3:10; Daniel 3:29, a technical term for the edicts of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings.

[3][Jonah 3:9.—מִי־יוֹדֵעַ, who is knowing?—C. E.]

[4]For the Heb. Text are Aqu., Symm, Theodot., Syr.; also, Hieron., Theodoret, Aug. Lange, Bibelwerk O. T., 19.

[5][ [Reichsgedanken, see note, p. 20.—C. E.].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/jonah-3.html. 1857-84.
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