3:1 Then the word of the LORD [God is the God of second chances] came to Jonah a second time [after repentance Jonah received second chance; God may give but does not guarantee a second chance; no indication of time period between 2:10 and 3:1]:
3:2 “[Arise and…] Go [imperative; same instruction as in 1:2; journey would have been long because Nineveh was several hundred miles inland] to the great [in significance, size, and sin] city [important to God because it was filled with people with whom He longed for relationship] of Nineveh and proclaim [imperative] to [rather than “against” as in 1:2] it [Nineveh] the message [see 3:4b] I [God told Jonah where to go and what to say] give you.”
3:3 Jonah obeyed [in contrast to his first response; perhaps obedience was part of what Jonah vowed in 2:9; obedience is the only appropriate response to God] the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city — a visit required three days [possible that “Nineveh” included surrounding villages and towns, a sort of metropolitan area (see Gen. 10:11-12), the breadth of which could be traveled in three days; may refer to the time Jonah needed to accomplish his mission].
Note: The response of the Ninevites stands in stark contrast to Jonah’s initial response to God’s word and to the response of Israel to the prophets who faithfully proclaimed God’s word to the nation.
3:4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city [“walking one day”]. He proclaimed [an eight word sermon]: “Forty more days [note of urgency; possibly indicates time period in which to repent] and Nineveh will be overturned [means judged, turned upside down, reversed, or changed; may refer to God’s judgment or to Nineveh’s repentance or change of heart].”
3:5 The Ninevites believed [from Hebrew aman from which we get our word amen] God [attests to power of God’s message]. They declared a fast [demonstration of humility], and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth [coarse garment woven of camel or goat hair; demonstration of humility].
3:6 [personal response of the king] When the news [perhaps of both Jonah’s message and the people’s response; grass-roots movement] reached the king [unnamed] of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust [indication of sincere repentance for sins and an earnest plea for mercy; indicates the king humbled himself in the presence of his people; see also Gen. 37:34 and Job 16:15].
Note: The response of the king stands in contrast to the response of many of Israel’s kings to the messages of the prophets. In the case of Nineveh, the leaders set the proper example. In the case of Israel, the leaders too often set the wrong example.
3:7 [official response of the king in vv. 7-9] Then he [the king] issued a proclamation [indicates the urgency the king felt after hearing the news of Jonah’s message] in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink [a total fast includes abstaining from food and water].
3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth [external signs of humility]. Let everyone [personally/corporately] call urgently [with strength] on God [in repentance]. Let them give up [description of repentance; inner change with outward expressions] their evil ways and their violence [moral wickedness; aggressive violence toward others — individuals and nations].
3:9 [compare with 1:6] Who knows [no presumption, only hope]? God may yet relent [repent; decide to act otherwise] and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish [see 2:9 — “Salvation comes from the Lord.”].”
3:10 [Ninevites repented and so did God] When God saw what they did [talk is cheap] and how they turned [action rather than mere talk got the attention of God] from their evil [destructive, wicked, immoral] ways, He had compassion [change on the part of the people resulted in change in the action of God] and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened [unfortunately, this revival did not last beyond this generation; Assyrians later destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel].
Note: See Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:30-32. Jesus’ words indicate the repentance of the Ninevites was true and genuine.