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Relationship to Jonah. The relationship of Chapter 3 to Jonah as a whole is discussed at Jonah.
- Jonah 3:1-4: Jonah obeys the repeated command to preach in Ninevah.
- Jonah 3:5-9: The people of Ninevah repent in sackcloth.
- Jonah 3:10: God sees their repentance and turns away destruction.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 3 include:
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- The book of Jonah was written about forty years before the Assyrian empire conquered and erased the Northern Kingdom of Israel and nearly did the same to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In Jonah’s day the Assyrians were already greatly feared for their cruelty and were expanding in the direction of Israel and Judah. Jonah lived in northern Israel, probably near Nazareth. Jonah’s desire that the Assyrian capital Ninevah be destroyed is thus easy to understand (4:2).
- But eventually Jonah does obey the commandment to warn the people of Ninevah about their impending destruction. Ninevah is a great city of three days’ journey, and Jonah merely begins to enter partway into the city. He preaches and then leaves to see what will happen to the city (3:3-4). The missionary does not care about the welfare of his audience. But Ninevah does repent and avoid destruction.
- Jonah’s repentance while in the whale involved the religious performances of offering sacrifice and paying a vow (2:9). The people of Ninevah likewise engage in fasting and the wearing of sackcloth (3:5-8). But the Assyrian king further decrees right moral conduct: “let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands … And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way” (3:8, 10). The Assyrian repentance in chapter 3 is thus portrayed as deeper than Jonah’s repentance in chapter 2.
- It is worth noting that the Lord did not excuse Ninevah from heeding Jonah’s call to repentance just because Jonah had failings of his own. Destruction was avoided only because the people of Ninevah repented. The Book of Jonah teaches that a prophet who speaks for the Lord need not be perfect; he needs only to obey the Lord’s command to proclaim truth. We the hearers must not judge the message by the messenger, but by the Holy Ghost (see Luke 24:32; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Points to ponder
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