What does Jonah 3:1-10 really mean?

Jonah 3:1-10 is about the power of repentance and redemption, demonstrating that even the most sinful and unlikely individuals can find forgiveness and salvation through genuine contrition and turning back to God.

1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,
2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.
4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,
8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.


Setting the Scene for Jonah 3:1-10

In Jonah chapter 3, we find the prophet Jonah receiving a second chance from God to deliver a message to the people of Nineveh. After initially fleeing from God’s command to go to Nineveh, Jonah finds himself in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights. It is in this desperate situation that Jonah repents and prays to God, who then commands the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

As Jonah stands on the shore, covered in seaweed and fish bile, he is now ready to fulfill his mission. The scene is set in the bustling city of Nineveh, known for its wickedness and cruelty. The streets are filled with merchants, beggars, and soldiers, all going about their daily lives. Jonah, a reluctant prophet, walks through the city streets, his appearance a stark contrast to the opulence and decadence surrounding him.

As Jonah proclaims the message of God’s impending judgment on Nineveh, the people, from the lowliest beggar to the mightiest ruler, take heed. They repent of their evil ways, from the king to the commoner, fasting and putting on sackcloth as a sign of their remorse. The scene is one of humility and contrition, as the entire city turns to God in repentance, hoping for His mercy and forgiveness.

What is Jonah 3:1-10 about?

Imagine the power of one person’s words when they are spoken with conviction and purpose. Jonah, a humble prophet, delivered a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh, urging them to turn away from their sinful ways. Despite his initial reluctance and attempt to flee from his duty, Jonah eventually fulfills his mission with courage and determination. His message of repentance is embraced by the people of Nineveh, who recognize the error of their ways and choose to change.

The story of Jonah and Nineveh reminds us of the transformative power of repentance and the mercy of God. It shows that no matter how far we may have strayed, it is never too late to turn back to God and seek forgiveness. We too can find redemption and renewal through repentance, just as the people of Nineveh averted destruction by heeding Jonah’s words. The story serves as a timeless reminder of the importance of humility, faith, and the belief that change is always possible.

Understanding what Jonah 3:1-10 really means


The Book of Jonah, a captivating narrative in the Old Testament, presents a unique account of a reluctant prophet’s journey. In Jonah 3:1-10, the focus shifts to Jonah’s mission to the great city of Nineveh and the remarkable response of its inhabitants to his message of impending doom.

Verse Breakdown and Commentary

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time,” highlighting God’s unwavering persistence and mercy in granting Jonah another opportunity to fulfill his divine calling. This echoes God’s initial call to Jonah in chapter 1, underscoring the theme of God’s willingness to work through flawed individuals and offer them second chances.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you,” emphasizes the crucial aspect of obedience to God’s specific instructions. This directive mirrors the timeless call to all believers in Matthew 28:19-20, known as the Great Commission, emphasizing the universal nature of spreading God’s message.

“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh,” showcases Jonah’s change of heart and the transformative power of obedience. This aligns with James 1:22, emphasizing the importance of not just hearing but actively living out God’s word as a demonstration of genuine faith.

“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown,” signifies a period of testing and opportunity for repentance, drawing parallels to other significant forty-day periods in the Bible, such as the forty days of rain during the flood and the forty years in the wilderness.

“The Ninevites believed God,” underscores the profound impact of genuine belief and faith, leading to a transformative response. This aligns with Hebrews 11:6, emphasizing the necessity of faith in pleasing God and experiencing true change.

“A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth,” symbolizes the communal act of repentance through fasting and humility, as seen in Joel 2:12-13. This act demonstrates a genuine turning away from sin and a collective plea for mercy.

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented,” showcases God’s boundless mercy and readiness to forgive upon genuine repentance, echoing the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 of healing and restoration upon repentant hearts.

Relevance to People Today

Reflecting on Jonah’s narrative, we are reminded of the enduring themes that resonate with our lives today. Stories of second chances, obedience to God’s call, and the transformative power of repentance serve as poignant reminders of God’s grace and the opportunities for redemption and change available to all.


In conclusion, Jonah 3:1-10 offers profound insights into the themes of second chances, obedience, faith, and repentance. As we ponder these lessons, may we be encouraged to reflect on our own lives, seek God’s guidance, and embrace His boundless mercy. Let us offer a prayer for those on a journey of repentance and transformation, trusting in God’s unfailing love and grace.

How can we respond to God’s message today?

We can respond to God’s message today by being willing to heed His call and obey His instructions, just like Jonah eventually did. We should be open to repentance and turning away from our sins, seeking forgiveness and mercy from God. We can also learn from the story of Jonah that God’s love and compassion extend to all people, and we should strive to share His message of salvation with others, regardless of their background or circumstances.

It is important for us to remember that God is patient and merciful, giving us opportunities to change our ways and turn back to Him. We can trust in His faithfulness and rely on His grace to guide us in living a righteous and obedient life. May we be inspired by Jonah’s story to be bold in sharing the Good News and to be humble in receiving God’s forgiveness and love.


Let’s dive into Jonah 3:1-10 and witness the Ninevites’ profound change through repentance and obedience. Just like them, let’s embrace the significance of leaving behind wrongdoing and seeking God’s mercy with all our being. Take this lesson to heart and respond promptly to God’s plea for change within ourselves. Will you answer God’s call and embrace a new beginning with sincerity today?