Hearing Jonah’s proclamation of the upcoming destruction of Nineveh (Jon. 3:4), the Ninevehites responded with faith (3:5a) and repentance (3:5b-c; cf. “And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way” [3:10a]). Because they did so, God relented of the punishment that He had purposed to bring upon them (3:10b).
The people’s right response to the warning of impending judgment was brought about by the proper response of their king (and his nobles) to that warning (the causal connection is clear from the word for that causally links 3:5 with 3:6-9):
Jon 3:5 So 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.
6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
The king humbled himself (3:6) and directed that the entire city be given specific direction about what they were to do (3:7-8). In addition to fasting (3:7b), all were to cover themselves with sackcloth (3:8a), which would be an outward act of humbling themselves in keeping with their humbling themselves in their hearts.
The king also decreed all to “cry mightily unto God” (3:7c) and turn each one “from his evil way” and from their violence (3:7d). He explained that the intent of the decree was that they might not perish if God perhaps would relent from punishing them for their wickedness (3:9).
God did spare them from His judgment, and this analysis shows that He did so because they believed, repented, and prayed to Him (3:10).
Moreover, the decree by the king of Nineveh strikingly parallels the instruction that God had given to Solomon many years earlier:
|Instruction to Solomon||Instruction in the Decree by the King of Nineveh|
|“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves,||“So 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. . . .He [the king] arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. . . . , Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth”|
|and pray, and seek my face,||and cry mightily unto God:|
|and turn from their wicked ways;||yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.|
|then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).||And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jon. 3:5-10).|
This parallel shows that the truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14 was fulfilled for a pagan nation that very likely had never heard anything about that great promise of God to His own people! How much more would the truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14 be fulfilled for the USA, a country which has had far more knowledge of God than the Ninehevites ever had, were we to believe God, repent, and pray to Him, as they did!
In the hope that the amazing parallel between 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jonah 3 provides for us who are alive today in the USA, let us all humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways while there is yet time. Let us also make known to as many other people as we can the great hope that God holds out for our country if we all will believe Him, repent, and pray to Him!