3:2 “Go immediately 1 to Nineveh, that large city, 2 and proclaim to 3 it the message that I tell you.” 3:3 So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, as the Lord had said. (Now Nineveh was an enormous city 4 – it required three days to walk through it!) 5 3:4 When Jonah began to enter the city one day’s walk, he announced, “At the end of forty days, 6 Nineveh will be overthrown!” 7
3:5 The people 8 of Nineveh believed in God, 9 and they declared a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 10 3:6 When the news 11 reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat on ashes. 3:7 He issued a proclamation and said, 12 “In Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles: No human or animal, cattle or sheep, is to taste anything; they must not eat and they must not drink water.
2 tn Heb “Nineveh, the great city.”
3 tn The verb קָרָא (qara’, “proclaim”) is repeated from 1:2 but with a significant variation. The phrase in 1:2 was the adversative קְרָא עָל (qÿra’ ’al, “proclaim against”), which often designates an announcement of threatened judgment (1 Kgs 13:4, 32; Jer 49:29; Lam 1:15). However, here the phrase is the more positive קְרָא אֶל (qÿra’ ’el, “proclaim to”) which often designates an oracle of deliverance or a call to repentance, with an accompanying offer of deliverance that is either explicit or implied (Deut 20:10; Isa 40:2; Zech 1:4; HALOT 1129 s.v. קרא 8; BDB 895 s.v. קָרָא 3.a). This shift from the adversative preposition עַל (“against”) to the more positive preposition אֶל (“to”) might signal a shift in God’s intentions or perhaps it simply makes his original intention more clear. While God threatened to judge Nineveh, he was very willing to relent and forgive when the people repented from their sins (3:8-10). Jonah later complains that he knew that God was likely to relent from the threatened judgment all along (4:2).
4 tn Heb “was a great city to God/gods.” The greatness of Nineveh has been mentioned already in 1:2 and 3:2. What is being added now? Does the term לֵאלֹהִים (le’lohim, “to God/gods”) (1) refer to the
5 tn Heb “a three-day walk.” The term “required” is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and clarity.
sn Required three days to walk through it. Although this phrase is one of the several indications in the book of Jonah of Nineveh’s impressive size, interpreters are not precisely sure what “a three-day walk” means. In light of the existing archaeological remains, the phrase does not describe the length of time it would have taken a person to walk around the walls of the city or to walk from one end of the walled city to the other. Other suggestions are that it may indicate the time required to walk from one edge of Nineveh’s environs to the other (in other words, including outlying regions) or that it indicates the time required to arrive, do business, and leave. More information might also show that the phrase involved an idiomatic description (consider Gen 30:36; Exod 3:18; a three-day-journey would be different for families than for soldiers, for example), rather than a precise measurement of distance, for which terms were available (Ezek 45:1-6; 48:8-35). With twenty miles as quite a full day’s walk, it seems possible and simplest, however, to take the phrase as including an outlying region associated with Nineveh, about sixty miles in length.
6 tn Heb “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” The adverbial use of עוֹד (’od, “yet”) denotes limited temporal continuation (BDB 728 s.v. עוֹד 1.a; Gen 29:7; Isa 10:32). Tg. Jonah 3:4 rendered it as “at the end of [forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown].”
7 tn Heb “be overturned.” The Niphal נֶהְפָּכֶת (nehpakhet, “be overturned”) refers to a city being overthrown and destroyed (BDB 246 s.v. הָפַךְ 2.d). The related Qal form refers to the destruction of a city by military conquest (Judg 7:3; 2 Sam 10:3; 2 Kgs 21:13; Amos 4:11) or divine intervention as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:21, 25, 29; Deut 29:22; Jer 20:16; Lam 4:6; BDB 245 s.v. 1.b). The participle form used here depicts an imminent future action (see IBHS 627-28 §37.6f) which is specified as only “forty days” away.
8 tn Heb “men.” The term is used generically here for “people” (so KJV, ASV, and many other English versions); cf. NIV “the Ninevites.”
9 sn The people of Nineveh believed in God…. Verse 5 provides a summary of the response in Nineveh; the people of all ranks believed and gave evidence of contrition by fasting and wearing sackcloth (2 Sam 12:16, 19-23; 1 Kgs 21:27-29; Neh 9:1-2). Then vv. 6-9 provide specific details, focusing on the king’s reaction. The Ninevites’ response parallels the response of the pagan sailors in 1:6 and 13-16.
10 tn Heb “from the greatest of them to the least of them.”
11 tn Heb “word” or “matter.”
12 tn Contrary to many modern English versions, the present translation understands the king’s proclamation to begin after the phrase “and he said” (rather than after “in Nineveh”), as do quotations in 1:14; 2:2, 4; 4:2, 8, 9. In Jonah where the quotation does not begin immediately after “said” (אָמַר, ’amar), it is only the speaker or addressee or both that come between “said” and the start of the quotation (1:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 4:4, 9, 10; cf. 1:1; 3:1).