The disobedient prophet had received a severe lesson at the hand of God, but he now profited by this lesson and was ready to undertake the commission which had originally been issued to him.
v. 1. And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
v. 2. Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, the Assyrian capital and metropolis, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee, loudly proclaiming the message which the Lord would reveal to him in due time, yielding himself in ready obedience to whatever the Lord may see fit to have him speak.
v. 3. So Jonah arose and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord, in unquestioning obedience. Now, Nineveh was an exceeding great city, literally, "a great city to God," regarded by Him as such, of three days' journey, that is, it took three days to make the round of its main sections, if a person passed through all the chief market-places.
v. 4. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, he commenced his trip through the various centers comprising the larger city, preaching wherever he found a suitable place and a fitting opportunity; and he cried and said, Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown, this threat being the climax of his proclamation, of his call to repentance.
v. 5. So the people of Nineveh believed God, they accepted His word, they were filled with a wholesome fear, and proclaimed a fast, as an outward evidence of their sorrow, and put on sackcloth, the garment of mourning, from the greatest of them even to the least of them, old and young, all without exception.
v. 6. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, into the neighborhood of whose palace the prophet had very likely progressed in his first day's journey, and he arose from his throne, symbol of his earthly power, and he laid his robe from him, his royal mantle, and covered him with sackcloth, also adopting the mourning-dress, and sat in ashes, all signs of sorrow and repentance. Cf Job_2:8; Eze_27:30.
v. 7. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, the royal heralds being dispatched in accordance with the custom of making edicts of this kind known, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything, the domestic animals being included in this order, as sufferers with the people; let them not feed nor drink water,
v. 8. but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, clothed in mourning, and cry mightily unto God, the very lowing of the cattle and the bleating of the sheep in their distress being considered appeals for mercy; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, from his sinful habits, and from the violence that is in their hands. Cf Isa_59:6.
v. 9. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, the possibility of His doing so being suggested by His interest in sending a prophet to warn them, and turn away from His fierce anger that we perish not? It was a true repentance on the part of the Ninevites and is so cited by Christ in reproof of those who, with much greater light and privileges, did not repent. Mat_12:41; Luk_11:32, even if its effects were not lasting.
v. 10. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, from the security of their open transgressions of the Lord's will; and God repented of the evil that He had said that he would do unto them; and He did it not, letting His mercy guide His actions rather than a stern and immutable justice. As God spared Nineveh when its inhabitants turned to Him in repentance, so He is ready to show mercy to all those who lay aside their obstinate impenitence and plead with Him for forgiveness.