Jonah’s Obedience and the Ninevites’ Repentance. 1The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you. 3So Jonah set out for Nineveh, in accord with the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an awesomely great city; it took three days to walk through it. 4Jonah began his journey through the city, and when he had gone only a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” 5the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small,* put on sackcloth.a
6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh:* “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. 8Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. 9* Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”b 10When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
* [3:5] Great and small: the contrast can refer to distinctions of social class (prominent citizens and the poor).
* [3:7–8] Fasting and wearing sackcloth are signs of human repentance; here they are legislated even for the animals—a humorous touch, perhaps anticipating 4:11.
* [3:9–10] Scripture frequently presents the Lord as repenting (or, changing his mind) of the evil that he threatens; e.g., Gn 6:6–7; Jer 18:8.