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Jonah 3 Part 2: Jonah Preaches in Nineveh
Jonah 3:3-4 - A long walk followed by a cry to the people of Nineveh
“So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.””
Jonah 3:3-4 NASB1995
Jonah obeys God the second time around. According to the map above, it likely took him one month to get to Nineveh from his home. There is nothing to indicate that he was transported from the sea creature directly to the gates of Nineveh, so this is the more likely scenario. He returned home and God speaks to him again.
Once Jonah arrives at this great city in the Mesopotamia region (God called it “great” in Jonah 3:1-2, if you recall), it is apparently a three-day walk just to get through the greater metropolitan area. Here’s some insight on Nineveh from Precept Austin commentaries on the book of Jonah (scripture link goes to Biblia):
Until 1841[A.D.], all that was known of Nineveh was gathered from the Bible and a few scattered fragments of Assyrian history; [therefore] some looked upon Nineveh as a myth. But since that date, the excavations have continually been proving the truth of the Bible account. The city is great in its antiquity, founded by Nimrod [Gen 10:8-11]. It was great in its size. Three chariots could drive abreast on the top of its walls. ''A city of three days' journey,'' Jonah says; and the excavations prove its walls to have enclosed a circuit of sixty miles, just about three day's journey in its circumference. It evidently enclosed a good deal of pasture land besides the actual buildings, which agrees with Jonah's words ''much cattle.'' As it contained 120,000 little children, too young to know their right hand from their left, the total population would not have been far short of a million. Nineveh was great in its palaces, its fortifications and temples, and in its marvelous works of art-- its great stone lions and bulls, with wings and human faces. It was great in its high civilization, and it was great, above all, in its wickedness.
Jonah cries out to the populace as he starts a first day’s journey into the city: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Not being a Hebrew scholar in any way, shape or form, I am relying on the Blue Letter Bible lexicon to help me understand the word “overthrown”. According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, the word נֶהְפָּ֑כֶת as used in Jonah 3:4 is the “Niphal participle of the primitive root word haphak”. Ok, that’s as clear as mud, so looking at this a little bit more, the “Niphal” definitions of this word are as follows:
to turn oneself, turn, turn back
to change oneself
to be perverse
to be turned, be turned over, be changed, be turned against
to be reversed
to be overturned, be overthrown
to be upturned
So Jonah is essentially telling the people of Nineveh that they have 40 days until they will be turned over or upturned or overturned or overthrown by God. Here is what Enduring Word commentary has to say about this pronouncement by Jonah:
Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown: Jonah emphasized to the people of Nineveh what would happen if they did not repent – the city would be overthrown in judgment. Undoubtedly, this was not Jonah’s whole message to the people of Nineveh; but clearly it was his emphasis.
We see that Jonah preached this message with earnestness. “And such earnestness becomes a ministry that has to do with immortal souls, asleep and dead in sin, hanging on the brink of perdition, and insensible of their state. The soft-speaking, gentle-intoned, unmoved preacher, is never likely to awaken souls…. But this earnestness is widely different from that noisy, blustering, screaming rant, that manifests more of a turbulence of disorderly passions, than of the real inspired influence of the Spirit of God.” (Adam Clarke)
So how does this wicked city respond to this lonely prophet from afar crying out to the people? My next devotional examines the response of Nineveh (repentance) found in Jonah 3:3-9.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Help me to be aware of the signs of impending judgment on humans, by studying the ways you had a single prophet preach to a city of thousands centuries ago. Help me to be as courageous as Jonah in warning others about Your judgment. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.