Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

Jonah 3:1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,

2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

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?

10 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.


MEMORY VERSE: The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. —Luke 11:32


CENTRAL THOUGHT: During the time that God called after His own chosen people to return to Him from idolatry and wickedness, He also extended mercy to the Assyrian people when He sent His prophet Jonah to their capital city, Nineveh, to warn the king and the people of His impending judgment. The Ninevites fasted and prayed for God’s mercy, and God answered by withholding His destruction, an example to which Jesus referred when He rebuked the proud Pharisees who rejected Him.




Jonah 3:3 “Three days’ journey”: probably the circumference of the city rather than the diameter; “Herodotus variously reckons a day’s journey at about eighteen or twenty-three miles (v. 53, iv. 101), and the circuit of the irregular quadrangle composed of the mounds of Koujunjik, Nimrud, Karamless, and Khorsabad, now generally allowed to represent ancient Nineveh, is about sixty miles” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers).

Jonah 3:4 “A day’s journey”: or as far as he could go throughout the city in one day. “Overthrown”: overturned, or destroyed from the very foundations. “The word applied to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah” (Keil and Delitzsch).

Jonah 3:5 “Believed God”: believed in God, or in the Word of the Lord, with trust and hope for His mercy, which, as Jesus said, God’s own people were slow to do. This “condemns the men of the Gospel generation” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary). “Put on sackcloth”: a ceremony “very usual in mournings, private or public, in those countries, and a token of their true mourning; this all did, great and small, rich and poor” (Matthew Poole’s Commentary).

Jonah 3:6 “His robe”: his large, costly, upper garment (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible).




The story of Jonah and his mission trip to Nineveh is a familiar story in the Bible. Jonah’s call, his attempt to run and hide, and God’s dramatic intervention—the ship and sailors, the storm, the great fish—are all found in the first two chapters of Jonah. Chapter three contains the part of the story in our lesson.

Nineveh was the capital of the ancient kingdom and empire of Assyria. It was located 250 miles north of Babylon, on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. Its name, meaning “Abode of Ninus,” comes from the name of that Assyrian deity who supposedly corresponds to the Greek deity Hercules. It is described in Genesis as being one of the cities built by Asshur, who is thought by some scholars (there is disagreement on this point) to be the same as Nimrod, a mighty hunter who established kingdoms: from Babylonia in the south, to Assyria in the north, where he built four cities, the greatest of which was Nineveh. Micah referred to Assyria as the “land of Nimrod” (Micah 5:6). Nineveh was not mentioned for nearly fifteen centuries, until, when in the 8th century, B.C., it was described by Jonah and Nahum as an immense city with more than 120,000 children, probably amounting to over 600,000 people.

“It contained ‘much cattle,’ and numerous parks, garden groves, etc. Its inhabitants were wealthy, warlike, and far advanced in civilization. It had numerous strongholds with gates and bars; and had multiplied its merchants above the stars: its crowned princes were as locusts, and its captains as grasshoppers. With this description agrees that of the historian Diodorus Siculus, who says Nineveh was twenty-one miles long, nine miles broad, and fifty-four miles in circumference; that its walls were a hundred feet high, and so broad that three chariots could drive upon them abreast; and that it had fifteen hundred towers, each two hundred feet high” (ATS Bible Dictionary).

Jonah was sent more than eight hundred years before Christ, and Nineveh’s repentance at that time secured safety from the destruction of Jehovah, at least until 753 B. C., when it was taken by the Medes. One hundred and fifty years later it was taken a second time, fulfilling the prophecies of Nahum 3:13, 16, and 18, and Zephaniah 2:13-15. Nineveh’s destruction was so complete that for centuries infidels denied the entire story of its existence and destruction.

In 1841 archeologists began excavating the natural hill-like mounds and discovered temples and palaces in an area fitting the ancient size and location of Nineveh. Inside the buildings were bas-relief sculptures and inscripted slabs—including Sennacherib’s grandson’s entire library of 10,000 flat bricks or tablets—providing illustrations and written documentary of Assyrian history and customs. These finds have aided in the interpretation of Scripture and confirmed the Biblical accounts in the Kings and Chronicles, such as Sennacherib’s own account of his invasion of Palestine and the tribute Hezekiah was required to pay. There are also mural tablets with images corresponding to Ezekiel’s account in chapters 23 and 26. The ruins also show evidence of destruction not only from human foes, but also from water and fire, further confirming the truth of the Biblical prophecies.

Jesus referred to the repentance of Nineveh—the first mention of the city in over six hundred years—as an example of the kind of repentance God respects, which would stand to condemn the unbelief and apathetic response the Jews gave to the Gospel.

Might not God have dealt thus with the Ninevites, so as to show His own people, the Jews, around the time of the second Jeroboam and Joash, their own sins of unbelief and their great need of repentance and His great mercy?

—Angela Gellenbeck



  1. Briefly fill in the gap of the story between Jonah 1:1 and Jonah 3:1.
  2. Give an explanation of “three-days’ journey.”
  3. Share the response of the people and the king to Jonah’s message.
  4. What living creatures did the king make a part of the fast?
  5. After Nineveh’s eventual destruction many years later, who referred to this story as an example of true repentance?




Why did God single out the city of Nineveh from among the nations? What wickedness had “come up” before Him to cause Him to cry out against it? In studying about the founding of the four cities, of which Nineveh was the greatest, I found comments concerning the nature of Nimrod, who is supposed to have been the founder. He was said to have been a great rebel against the Lord. He was a strong leader, who gloried in his domination and oppression of others.

The prophet Nahum, crying out to Nineveh after the time of Jonah, calls the city “the bloody city,” “full of lies and robbery” (Nahum 3:1). In verse 19 of Nahum 3, some translators define the word wickedness as cruelty. “The cruelty of the Ninevite régime is illustrated, as Kleinert remarks, in the sculptures, ‘by the rows of the impaled, the prisoners through whose lips rings were fastened, whose eyes were put out, who were flayed alive’” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers).

In other places in Scripture, we find that the kind of cry that “went up” to God occurred with violence and bloodshed, such as the time Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:10), the oppression of the Hebrews in Egyptian bondage (Exodus 3:7), and the fraud and oppression of laborers mentioned in James 5:4.

Can we suppose that God turns a deaf ear to the cries of the oppressed today? He surely sees and will judge the oppression of certain ethnic groups of society, the murder of innocent, unborn babies, and the violence against women that is part of false religion. Let us learn a great lesson here, that unless there is repentance, there will be Divine retribution for violence and bloodshed. God’s people are not called to participate in activism that promotes counter-violence and vengeance; Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the LORD is the governing rule of our passions.

Let us also be challenged by the faith in the message of God’s Word and the genuine repentance demonstrated by the Ninevites at this time.

—Angela Gellenbeck




In the book of Genesis we read that there were a couple of other wicked cities that the Lord dealt with: Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18:20 says, “And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it.” Was there a plea from the victims? Did the cry come from children? Those two cities did not repent and the Lord pronounced judgment by fire; complete annihilation.

The last verse in the book of Jonah mentions 120,000 inhabitants that did not know their right hand from their left. We can assume that these were the children of the city, innocents caught in the midst of this wicked and immoral society. Once again, was there a cry from the children that touched the heart of God?

There is a certain parallel pointing to the same wickedness that is pervading our world today. Last year, the World Health Organization estimated that over 1 billion children were the victims of violence. Children are being subjected to exploitation, physical abuse, neglect and mental abuse. The WHO also reported that there were more than 42.6 million abortions performed globally in 2020. The Lord is mindful of these innocent children and he hears their cries. Jesus said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” The Father does not forget. The continued abuse of children in our day and time will bring down the vengeance of God over the entire world, not just a few cities. Beware, for the day of his wrath is approaching.

—LaDawna Adams